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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Voyageur Trail Run - an exercise in survival

On July 30th several of us ran one of the most difficult races we have ever encountered, The Minnesota Voyageur Trail Run. Every year for 30 years a crowd of crazies from around Minnesota and beyond have gathered to run over hill and dale (by "dale" I mean rocks, roots, streams, boulders, mud holes, ski hills, and clay slicks). They start the crowd moving around 7 am and then sit back and chuckle as the flood of fools hustle past with whoops, hollers, and grins on their fresh faces. Seven hours later the first of crowd emerges from the brush with sweat running down his face, cramps in his side, and a frighten look on his face as though he is being chased by Sasquatch's brother.
This year, on the 30th anniversary, the race found three new participants. Dad, Chris Close, and I made the trip to Carlson, MN and joined the pack. The night before we feasted on spaghetti and power aid, topping the pre-race power up with campfire pies at Chris H's campsite. We spent that night dozing in our tent at Jay Cooke Campground dreaming of the race's highs and lows.
Five in the morning found us packing up our tent, lacing up our shoes, and jittery with nerves. We joined a few of the racers for a pancake breakfast which would supposedly hold one over during the following test of survival.
We started off after a few timely words from the race coordinator concerning those who drop out, have medical problems, or might get lost. The count down finished and the races took off. What followed was about 13 miles of great scenery and lively chatter, and then a whole lot more miles of misery. Until you run the race, you really can't appreciate what one is tackling.
I, for one, had no idea what should be involved in preparing for a race of this scale. Not only must one know how to navigate trails with stream crossings and mud pits, but you must also know how to pace yourself, walk up hills, recharge while running down hills, and cleverly slip rocks into your running partners shoes so they have to slow down (this must be done in a secretive manner otherwise harsh words can be exchanged and cruel acts such as "adjusting" course markings can be employed).
Out of the 160 participants this year, about 50 had to drop out. I also know of one person in particular who seriously harbored thoughts of the same for nearly three hours (True store, but I won't share who this may be for it would greatly damage my pride).
At the end, after the finish line had been crossed, the shoes pulled off my screaming feet, and more nutrients had been poured down my throat a strange happening occurred, I actually had a thought that started with "for next year's race I am going to…" I'm telling you, they're a bunch of crazies.

An article about the winner can be found here (FYI - it wasn't me this year)

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Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Philippians 3:8)