artwork Marcel Uttech|
I heard of this race before and my buddy Cody had done it the few years prior. Initially, I planned on going out to volunteer and watch the runners this year because knowing it was only two weeks after Zumbro 50, I decided not to sign up for it on the black-Friday special for $15 or whatever ridiculously cheap price it was. Drove down to Chippewa Falls on Friday w/ Edward, Alicia, Andy and Jake and stopped to eat at a restaurant with Tony O. and a couple others. After eating a super-cheesy Calzone and having some having some local brew, we headed to Jake’s cabin which was just 15 or so minutes from the race start. Once arriving, we illuminated the cabin with kerosene lanterns and everyone got situated for bed right away. It was a nice homey cabin and it felt good to lay down. While I was quickly falling asleep, Tony and Edward were talking about Arrowhead 135 and it reminded me of the Ultra Podcasts I listen to before going to bed at home, only the people were right there! Woke up in the AM and had a bagel, banana and a cup of coffee. Drove to the course with Tony and got to hear some cool stories about how he grows and cans most of his food..living up in International Falls. So cool. While listening to him talk about all the fresh fruit and veggies he grows, I found myself wondering why the heck I’m not doing that right now. It’s convenient to buy the food I get now from Cosco, but it would be much more rewarding growing it yourself, and eating food that you understand how it came to be. It seems kinda late in my life to start wanting to do that but got to start somewhere.
We got to the course and Jake and I registered for the race for $70(ouch!). Saw Cody with one of his buddies getting ready for the race, along with many other of the usual faces of people who show up to all these events. Pretty cool how small of a community it is of people who do these events and each time I get to meet more of them. However for this race, there seemed to be more people than usual at an ultra event with 181 finishers.
The course was an out-and-back on the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin. It was my first time being on that trail and hope to make it back out there soon. Found out the Ice Age Trail actually runs 600 miles through Wisconsin.
After a quick race briefing, we started the race. Jake and I began to run together and it was coincidentally comical how much we have ran together (in race miles) the past couple weeks (beer mile, Zumbro 50, and now the Chippewa 50k). Started things off super slow and had to hop around people on the single track trail. Probably could have started a bit closer to the front but we were just chillin’. Became amused at some of the people complaining already about how “bad” the trail was. The course was surprisingly still pretty snowy but worlds apart from what Zumbro was like. Had I had fresh legs, it would have been fun to see what kind of pace I would have been able to keep. Because it was getting warm already, we took our shirts off just a couple miles into the race and the weather felt just perfect, however later on it began to heat up quickly.
Jake and I ran the first 8 miles together until he got a kick of energy. I expected to not catch him as my legs were not how they should be feeling at mile 8 of a 31 mile race. Thankfully, many of the sections of the course were still covered in snow so I was able to grab handfuls of it and put it all over me quickly cooling things off.
Running through the course, I kept having giddy moments from how beautiful the scenery was. Thankfully, I was by myself during some of these moments so I could wiggle my arms and let out noises to express the excitement and gratitude of being able to experience what I was. Some vivid memories on the course were running through half frozen streams on wooden boardwalks and seeing multiple lakes quickly icing out as the fast warming sun beating down on them. This might be the first time I’ve ever embraced having wet feet in a race before. Most times in the past, I’ve gone entirely out of the way to keep my feet dry, but with this course not leaving any option but to get your feet wet, just accepted wet feet and even began to look forward to the sloppy parts. Feet were feeling hot during the sections that didn’t have ice puddles so it would be nice to get the cold water back in the shoes again (never thought I’d say that before). It was actually pretty warm and without the snow everywhere to cool off, it would have been a much tougher race. Didn’t carry a handheld for this race although the aid stations were getting close to a distance where I might have benefited from having one. Ate Nutella sandwiches at the aid-stations and grabbed 2/3 gels to consume on the trail (another function of the snow that day was it made it possible to get a little bit of water when eating the Hammer Gels). Counted 10 gel wrapper tops in the pocket of my spandex after the race.
Getting closer to the turn-around, kind of got confused which way to go and started running the wrong way up a pretty steep dirt road. Saw another person coming back from where I was supposed to head and thankfully was able to reroute myself before losing much time/effort. The course had us jump over a wooden fence thingy which was fun. Towards the turn-around I began to have a second wind of energy and tried to conserve it as much as possible. It was cool seeing the faster people run past us as they were on their way to the Start/Finish. Surprisingly, many of them said words of encouragement and even attempted to get out of my way on the trail. If only bikers on River Road could take the same selfless attitude…
After the turnaround, I began to see many others making there way towards it, which got me excited. Still was feeling pretty good but tried to not waste too much energy with still nearly 15 miles left. Tried to keep whatever pace I thought was manageable and the miles went by pretty quickly. Got to see the same beautiful sites again and slosh through the well ran trail. Came up to Jake who was unfortunately having stomach problems. Was slowly catching people which was fun and for a few miles was trailing a guy with long leg protectors. Think he heard me sloshing behind him so he sped up a bit. Was fun to hang out at his pace and watch how often he grabbed snow to cool himself off. Talked with him for a bit and told him we needed to keep reeling people in. We did pass a few more people and I began out ahead of him. Passed a few more people that apparently had crashed and were slowed to either a walk or a slog. Was in good spirits for the remainder last miles and although the legs were pretty tired, didn’t feel like I was slowing down much. Tried to conserve a little in the legs even towards the end because didn’t want to feel crippled like right after Zumbro. Had a little mix-up near the end when I couldn't tell which way to go in the open field area. There was a 1-mile sign with a little orange flag next to spot we could turn left. Went left for a bit and didn’t see any flags so turned back and headed straight. Saw the 6-mile sign for the 10k runners and a orange flag on the right side, so though I was going the wrong way again..getting a little frustrated but just to the point where it made me laugh. Waited for another runner who I had passed probably 5 minutes earlier to come and we debated which direction we thought we should go. Continued straight and ran together for a bit until I started giving a little more effort. Made the loop around the open field area and got to the final hill. “Jogged” up the last hill and with the legs fried and heart pounded finished the sucker up. It was surprising how many people were cheering at the finish.
Had some wild rice soup, chips, cookies, a sandwich and beer at the finish. It was such a cool hang out spot at the top of the hill watching the other 50k runners loop around below us and finish coming up the hill. What a feeling hanging out w/ spectators and other finishers in the warm sun. The sun was beating down and think it was above 70 degrees. Saw many friends finish and caught a ride back to the cities with Edward’s friend Rigel. Forgot my keys in Edwards Suburban and hung outside the apartment waiting for a roomy to get back and open the door. Went back to Crystal for James’ bonfire and caught up with some friends from high school while over indulging in adult beverages.
Enjoyed the weekend and I keep having second thoughts about going to Japan for a year. Just had a bad dream yesterday that I was miserable over there. Trying to enjoy the limited time to fullest now so if anybody is reading this, I expect invites for a run soon!