I'm not sure why this should be surprising but I LOVED the Half Voyageur! I had an absolute blast! Thanks a billion to Gene and all the volunteers for putting on such an awesome race. All the aid stations were great and it was wonderful to have mowed trails to run on since 26 miles of unmowed would have been much less fun.
I had no idea what kind of a pace to do once we started. It was so hard to restrain from wanting to sprint around the single line of walking that happened right away! I knew things would clear up soon enough and this was 26.2 miles, so there was plenty of time and no use fretting since no one else was. Just so strange feeling, though! So once we cleared that, we headed out on a nice wide gravely trail/road for a while. It was hard, again, to figure out the right pace. I knew the trail was going to throw plenty of nasty at us and worked about to find something comfortable. I was passing a lot of people but I figured I might as well stretch my legs out a little and find a nice pace while I could even if people ended up passing me back.
There's only a couple of spots along the way that I hadn't run before and the beginning was one of them. I didn't have a very good idea of HOW we got from the zoo up to Skyline and was going along when I found myself thinking "Gee, this looks a lot like the Rolling Stone course. But it can't be, we're much too far away, still." And then we came to the river crossing and we had, in fact, been on the course! I couldn't believe how close we were to it!
I have to say, I felt like we were cheating - getting up to Skyline should have involved some MUCH steeper climbs. I was very happy to find it all relatively easy. I walked part of a hill in there that wasn't too bad (on the Rolling Stone course somewhere, I think) but decided I would walk hills over X grade with the idea that walking when I chose early on might keep me from walking when I didn't choose later on. I think it worked pretty well.
So I loved all the nasty stuff. Jarrow's Beach was great. I had nice people in front of me who let me bounce around them, so I wasn't slowed down beyond what the course does. I wasn't expecting what it was, though - it's basically a ravine that you run in. This ravine's botton is covered in large, irregular and sharp moss covered rocks that are pretty much not runable. You just sort of bounce from rock to rock while super thankful that it's not raining because it would be so super dangerous wet. Then you come out on nice flat trail before heading right back up Skyline. On unmowed snowmoblie trail. Through what would have been knee or higher deep mud had we not detoured around into the woods. Which meant cutting your own trail and getting rather scratched up. Huzzah!
In Zapp's Loop, I passed a guy in white that I would end up playing tag with quite a bit. It seemed he was a bit stronger at the uphill and I was stronger at the downhill. I lost him for good after the Power Lines (capitalized!) and didn't see him finish so I hope I just missed him since I wasn't paying close attention.
I loved the Power Lines. I was with my guy in white and a group of three other guys came up behind us and we all went through it together which made it pretty fun. I'll admit, I was worried on the first one and had to remind myself that the rest aren't as bad. How to describe the Power Lines to those who haven't run them? The first one you are more or less on all fours for and can't believe that you'll still have something like 10 miles to go after trashing your quivering quads. They are hills you wouldn't ski down. They're scary to 'run' down, though it's more of a semi-controlled falling. After what I thought was the last one, I let out a loud holler that made my friend in white looked back at me rather like I was crazy so I explained that it was the end of the Power Lines. I was wrong. When I ran the course with Lisa, Ron and Shaun earlier, we had missed the turn back in and I didn't realize there was more. My friend (damn, I wish I had asked his name), also being a newbie to the race, didn't correct me and, in fact, told me to go around him since I seemed to have energy :) I felt so bad when I came out to see one more hill to go down and up! I was sure I'd have a chance to apologize since he was stronger on the uphill but he never caught me again. So if you're reading this, friend in white with a backpack water carrier, thanks for the fun and I'm sorry to have mislead you!
Coming up that last Power Line hill, I had a Northwoods teamie tell me I was in third! Third! I wasn't even thinking about placement (beyond being excited when passing a woman on the way up Zapp's Loop) so I was shocked to hear it. I decided to be happy but try not to dwell on it and keep doing my thing.
Here I am at the Grand Portage aid station (just after the Power Lines) saying "Did you say frozen grapes?!" They were amazing, by the way. How Eve managed to keep them frozen is a mystery but I loved them! I had decided to throw water on my head at this station after the heat of the Power Lines (no shade!) only to have the grapes make me forget :)
I didn't mind the miles and miles of up after the Grand Portage aid station too much. It was very pretty and I tried to focus on making the conscious decision to walk instead of letting the course beat me into walking without noticing. Coming into the next aid station, I knew I needed some sort of salty stuff. I tried a cracker but it wasn't good so I just poured some salt straight into my hand and licked it up. Mmmmmmmmmmmm. More frozen grapes.
I think I was mentally the worst off on the ski trails right before coming onto the Munger the first time - something about a ski trail makes a slow pace feel so much slower and more painful. I felt like I was putzing along and barely moving and luckily came up on Shane then. I was sad to see him since it meant he wasn't having a good day but it was nice to know that other runners struggling at that point, too.
Then came Forbay's Lake! Right after entering the trail on the other side of the road, I felt like throwing up. I was 100% sure I was going to - the saliva in the mouth, the fake heat, all of it! But nothing. I tried to run but it just jiggled everything and was miserable. That whole section the ski trails was rough - I could barely run downhill and was excited for uphill since that meant I had 'permission' to walk. It was in here that a woman went by me, putting me in 4th. I think she might have passed me even had I not been nauseous, though, because she was moving pretty strong. I think her name was Amanda? We chatted back on Jarrow's Beach and she's super nice. Sadly, I was not very coherent as she went by me here but I at least managed a "good job" I tried to take a gel but it just wasn't happening which makes me think maybe my body was over-carbed? I've read that taking in more than your stomach can handle can cause you to feel like hurling. I think I need to scale back to every 45 or 50 minutes instead of every 40. I found Kyle as my stomach was settling back down right before Jay Cooke but I handed off my opened gel since I didn't want any anymore. I still had a couple in reserve, so I figured I'd be fine.
Well, I probably should have made myself take another gel because those last 3 1/2 miles were sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo long. Holy man. Well, I thought it was only 3 miles so that made it worse, too. In hind sight, I think a good deal of my stumbling about was a sign of needing more food and I ended up with 2 left over gels not counting the one I didn't really take when I should have only had one left over (I threw in an extra in case something happened and I was out on the trail much longer that I anticipated). Which means I should have taken one somewhere and completely forgot. It turns out to be harder than expected to keep track of taking fuel when you don't have a water station every couple of miles to base it off of. I think I added up my 40 minutes wrong somewhere in there, too, which is rather embarrassing to think about. Perhaps setting my watch timer to go off isn't such a bad idea.
So those last 3 1/2 miles had lots of stumbling and trying to run in between rocks and roots. Thinking to myself "Okay. 5th woman is running right now. YOU have to run." Which is the only time I was at all trying to be competitive. In fact, right before Seven Bridges (about half way in), I ended up in-between my guy in white and another women (guess I was second woman at that point) and I realized "Hey. This is making me race and I don't want to race right now. I want to enjoy this." So I let her go by and had a great time by myself on the trails. In fact, with a rare exception, every time I started hurting I took a look around and remembered how awesome trail running is and it helped me enjoy again.
I came in smiling (with eyes closed, of course!) and collected my awesome 4th woman mug. Also! A women kitty-corner from the finish had her hose hooked up to a shower head-like attachment and was letting runners take showers, which was fantastic. I really had wanted to go swimming as I was stumbling along next to the river but this was pretty good too.
Only one complaint about this race! Shirt size options were large and extra-large. I tried in vain to shrink my shirt so I might have to turn it into a bag.
I'll be back next year for sure! I was so happy the whole time that I decided to do it. I'm afraid I might be hooked on longer trail races!