Goal is golden for Gardner at Voyageur Trail ultramarathon

CARLTON -- A black, plastic bracelet on Chris Gardner's right wrist reads: 7:00. It's a simple message signifying seven hours, a time he sought to better in Saturday's 29th Minnesota Voyageur Trail Ultramarathon 50-Mile race. Gardner, 33, from Du...

CARLTON -- A black, plastic bracelet on Chris Gardner's right wrist reads: 7:00.

It's a simple message signifying seven hours, a time he sought to better in Saturday's 29th Minnesota Voyageur Trail Ultramarathon 50-Mile race.

Gardner, 33, from Duluth, used the bracelet as inspiration since March and made good on his goal by winning the rugged run in 6 hours, 55 minutes, 52 seconds on a muddy trek from Carlton High School to the Lake Superior Zoo and back.

He became just the third runner in Voyageur history to finish under seven hours, joining six-time champion Roger Pekuri, who ran 6:48:05 in 1987, and course record holder Scott Jurek, who ran 6:41:16 in 1998.

"No matter how bad I felt in my training this spring, I would look down and see 7:00 and I knew why I was out there," said Gardner, a structural engineer for LHB, Inc. "My family, my wife and two children, are definitely the top priority in my life, and they allow me to fit running into my schedule.


"Winning this race means a lot to me, and I'm so honored to be part of a group with two other great runners."

Duluthian Kim Holak added to her race legacy by winning a fourth women's title, the second-most in Voyageur history behind Debbie Bennett's five championships (1993-95, 2000, 2001). Holak, 40, was first in 8:30:09, while Connie Lutkevich, 42, of Duluth was second in 8:44:08, rallying in the last half mile to overtake Angie Radosevich, 35, of Appleton, Wis., third in 8:44:43.

There were 159 entrants, matching last year's race record, and 139 starters at 7 a.m. Conditions were decent at 66 degrees, cloudy skies and calm winds as runners headed out to Jay Cooke State Park and Fond du Lac State Forest.

Trail star Dusty Olson of Duluth, in his fourth Voyageur, set the early pace, but by four miles, Gardner, who wore No. 1 as the top seed, gained the lead and reached the halfway mark in about 3:23 and was alone the rest of the way.

Runners got doused with water for about an hour from 11 a.m. to noon, making the course especially slippery on the severe uphill and downhill power line sections, which Gardner called "an absolute demoralizing nightmare."

Marathoner Chris Lundstrom, 34, of Minneapolis came on to finish second in 7:13:14 and former champion Olson, 37, recorded a personal best on the course in 7:26:14.

"Running a trail ultra race is a nice change from big city road marathons, which are so crowded," said Lundstrom, who has a 2:17:34 marathon best. "I've always enjoyed running in the woods, and these races are very laidback with a friendly atmosphere."

Olson was slowed a bit by stomach distress and because he wore road shoes and not trail shoes, which provide gripping power. He figured he fell about 20 times in the slick conditions.


"I didn't walk one step, but it was tough to keep my footing," said Olson, a self-employed construction worker and sales associate for Rossignol Skis.

Holak was given a scare with about 15 miles to go when told her lead had shrunk to about 200 yards. Radosevich, in her 50-mile debut, was right behind. Despite having the power lines yet to negotiate, Holak had little choice but to pick up the pace.

"When someone is trying to reel you in, you start running scared," said Holak, a previous course record holder who had won in 2004, 2005 and 2007. "The good thing is that I really felt strong on the hills and then hit some rolling, single-track trails and ran well. I was able to make up some time in the last few miles."

She had just enough time to wash off some mud and head to a 4:30 p.m. shift as a waitress at Superior's Thirsty Pagan Brewing restaurant.

Gardner, 5-foot-8 and 135 pounds, was met at the finish line by his wife, Christy, and daughters Ella, 3, and Isabel, 10 months. It was his second victory of the season, adding to a title in the Superior Trail 50-Kilometer near Lutsen in May. He was second in the Trail Mix 50K in April in Bloomington, Minn. Gardner's next race is the Vermont 50-Miler on Sept. 26 in Brownsville, Vt.



Carlton to Duluth to Carlton


Saturday's Results


1. Chris Gardner, 33, Duluth, 6:55:52; 2. Chris Lundstrom, 34, Minneapolis, 7:13:14; 3. Dusty Olson, 37, Duluth, 7:26:14; 4. Brian Peterson, 25, Minneapolis, 7:52:51; 5. John Storkamp, 30, Hastings, Minn., 8:15:18; 6. Barry Fischer, 38, Remer, 8:48:01; 7. Jason Lachowsky, 30, St. Paul, 8:51:09; 8. Bob McGrath, 47, Wyoming, Minn., 8:52:22; 9. Tony Stensland, 39, Duluth, 9:00:58; 10. Robert Mitchell, 31, Rochester, Minn., 9:06:20.


1. Kim Holak, 40, Duluth; 8:30:09; 2. Connie Lutkevich, 42, Duluth, 8:44:07; 3. Angie Radosevich, 35, Appleton, Wis., 8:44:43; 4. Valeria LaRosa, 34, Minneapolis, 8:57:34; 5. April Cole, 25, Hammond, Wis., 9:40:36; 6. Kim Martin 9:50:23; 7. Michelle Andres, 33, East Gull Lake, Minn., 10:09:29; 8. Tracy Hoeg, 31, Naestved, Denmark, 10:34:51; 9. Christina Stavig, 30, Minnetonka, Minn., 10:49:55; 10. Arika Hage, 34, Lakeville, Minn., 10:55:52.

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