Treasured Haven Farms 12 Hour Run

Ever since I changed my running philosophy this year, I’ve been much happier with where I’m at. I’m not stressed about “the next big race” because I don’t actually have any races planned. I’m just doing things when I feel like it. Case in point, the Treasured Haven Farms 12 Hour Run that I did on Sunday. My wife had signed up for this run a long time ago, so I knew I would be there, but I didn’t decide to join in until 9 days before the race. It was another moment where I said, “what the heck, that sounds fun.”

Treasured Haven Farms is one of the hidden gems of the trail race world here in Minnesota. It’s a small organic farm that opens up their property to trail races a few times throughout the year. We’ve done a 7 mile race there before and it’s a lot of fun. This is old-school trail racing at it’s finest. No chip timing, no big fanfare, just a bunch of land with trails on it, and a clock at the finish line.

When we arrived we were greeted by a few other UMTR friends who had also made the trek. They had opted to do the 3 and 6 hour version of the race, which was probably smart given the predicted high temps for the day. This was going to be one of the hottest days of the year with temps reaching into the 90s. We also found out that besides my wife and I, only one other person had signed up for the 12 hour race. This factor would be key later in the story.

img_2720At 7 am the race launched and I started out at a decent pace figuring I should, carefully, bank some miles while the air was still cool. I locked in to an 11:30 pace, which under most, flat, circumstances is my “go all day” pace. The loop that we were running was 3 miles long around the edge of the farm fields, with a couple jaunts on to some beautiful wooded paths. These wooded areas became sanctuaries throughout the morning as the temps started to climb and the sun started beating down hard.

The first couple of hours melted away pretty quickly for me. Just over two hours in I had a solid 10 miles on my legs and was feeling pretty good. After three hours I decided it was time to move to a run/walk strategy to help conserve energy and survive the climbing temps. By this point the 3 hour runners were finished up, however our amazing friend Ann, and another friend’s husband DuWayne (she was running the 6 hour) decided to be our crew for a while.

Every time we came in from a loop they were right there making sure we had everything we needed, throwing away our trash, and generally taking care of our every need. They stuck around for a lot longer than they needed to and treated us amazingly. We were humbled and grateful for how wonderful they were to us. Another friend of ours, Bob, showed up with trail running fixture, Pearl the dog. He lives near the farm and so he stopped by a couple times to encourage us. That was a huge surprise and really lifted our spirits as the day wore on.

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Pearl! pc: Bob

As the race continued I caught up to my wife who was a loop behind me. We would occasionally stick together but usually one of us would move ahead of the other as we were feeling good. As the loops wore on I ended up spending a lot more time at the main aid station, taking my time as I felt like it. I went in to this race with very minor goals, and so I wasn’t pushing too hard to do anything phenomenal. A few days before the race I thought it would be amazing if I could get 100K or 50 miles, however as the weather report got hotter and hotter, I decided that if I could bang out a 50K I would count that as a success. By 5 hours in I was already at 20 miles, so I knew a 50K was pretty much in the bag.

As the 6 hour run was finishing up a huge blessing rolled in, in the shape of clouds and a light rain.  Suddenly everything started to feel right in the universe again. There was a breeze with the clouds and the temps dropped in to the 70s. It was a little bit of heaven. Granted I had still been running for 6 hours and was feeling all that pain on my legs. I had a major blister on my right big toe that I got covered up, but it still was an irritant. As the hours wore on it also became apparent how lonely the rest of this day was going to be. After the 6 hours folks finished up, the only people left were myself, my wife Lisa, and another runner named Eric.

Eric was crushing the course, lapping us repeatedly as he racked up miles. He was a solid runner and a super nice guy, however, it sounded like he was just doing this for a training run and that the only reason that he bumped up from the 6 to the 12 was because only my wife and I had signed up for it. One of the times he was passing us he mentioned, “Hey if you guys want to call this early just let me know, I’m cool stopping whenever.” At this point I think we were all feeling a little silly having just three runners keeping a race open for an extra 6 hours.

My wife and I talked about it and decided to keep going for a bit longer, but that if any one of us decided to drop that we’d all probably call it a day. At the eight hour mark I took a solid 15 minute break as my wife and I talked about things. She was hurting bad and just wasn’t feeling confident that she wanted to go on any further. The rain had stopped a long time ago, and the sun was coming back out. The temps were predicted to climb back into the high 80s before we would be done. She decided that she was done. I looked down at my watch and realized I was at 30 miles, so I opt’d to go out for one more loop and knock out a solid 50K.

33781994_1983613511649334_4959292251567030272_oAs I headed out for this final loop I found my body working really, really well. Maybe I had just adapted to the pain, but I felt like I could run again. I ended up running almost all of that final loop and knocked out a 35 minute 3 miler. That was almost as fast as my initial loops early in the day. Since this was going to be my final loop, I decided I had better leave everything out there on the course, and so I pushed myself to sub-11 minute pace as much as I could and crossed over the finish line with a few minutes before the 9 hour mark to spare.

With ~33 miles and 9 hours under my belt I decided it was a good day, and I was more than happy to join my wife in calling it done. That’s the beauty of a timed race like this. You can stop whenever you want and if you decide you’re done earlier than the bell, that’s totally up to you. I clocked in my second 50K of the year, only 4 weeks apart, which is light years beyond where I’ve been in previous years.

I probably could have gone on another three hours and finished out 40+ miles, but I wasn’t out there with anything to prove. I kept moving for 9 hours, completed a solid distance, and even found a second wind late in the day that propelled me to some solid running on tired legs. That’s one of the biggest ‘wins’ that I took away from the whole day; proving that just because you’re in pain at one point in a long race, doesn’t mean you’ll be in pain the entire race. Pain is temporary, and our bodies are often able to do a lot more than we think they can.

img_2721I’m incredibly happy with how this race turned out. I don’t know what is next for me, as I’m not doing any long term race planning this year. I’ve got my favorite 5K (Endless Summer French Park 5K) coming up soon, but other than that it’s all up to whatever I feel like. That’s one of the best feelings I’ve had as a runner in a long time, and it’s made all the difference in my attitude and enjoyment of running overall this year. Low pressure and running for fun. It’s what trail running is supposed to be about.

 

Race Report: Chippewa 50K

One of my goals for 2018 was to get back into shape enough to tackle an ultra distance race again. I had a great streak of races at the end of 2015 and into early 2016, but then everything fell apart, and in 2017 my longest single run was 19 miles. I knew that part of it was needing a mental break, but I also needed to focus on running smarter and making sure I kept myself from getting injured.

I approached 2018 with the idea in mind that I would not sign up for anything until I was ready. I have given a lot of money to races in 2016 and 2017 that I never even started because I was sidelined, and I didn’t want to repeat that this year. I started out my year with a typical training plan for a 50K, but wasn’t able to follow it exactly because of illness and weather. Eventually though, the miles started to rack up. I decided to target either Chippewa 50K or Chester Woods 50K as my return to ultras, but didn’t commit to either until I felt like I could be successful.

IMG_2456.jpgA few weeks ago, my friend Mike and I went out for a 22 mile run around Elm Creek, and at the end of the run I felt great. That afternoon I decided to take one of the few remaining spots in the Chippewa 50K. I knew that if I was feeling that strong after 22 mile, I could tackle 9 more. Despite this confidence, I found myself approaching race day with anxiety and dread. For some reason, I was irrationally nervous about this race, and I couldn’t figure out why. Even my friend Matt told me that I looked like s*%! at the start line, completely wrapped up in some mental struggle.

The race is about 2 hours away, so we had to get up very early to get there on time. We arrived about 50 minutes early, and started checking in and talking with friends. My wife would be volunteering for part of the day, after she went out for a solo run herself. We also had the UMTR banner with us, and had to make sure we got some shots of the series participants to post on social media. Soon though, it was time for me to line up and get to it. I was still nervous, but getting in to the start corral seemed to help a bit.

At 8am we launched and proceeded to work our way down the huge hill that starts and ends the race. The Chippewa 50K is an out-and-back course that begins with a toilet bowl spiral around the trail visitor center You then do some miles on some spur trails, before joining up with the main Ice Age trail for the majority of the race. As luck would have it, weather conditions were perfect on Saturday. The sun was out, and the temps started in the 30s and climbed into the 50s. I wore a light long sleeve shirt and shorts, and was completely comfortable.

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PC: Greg Leciejewski

As we rounded around the backside of the visitor center, 2 miles in to the race, I handed off my gloves and buff to my wife, as I already knew I wouldn’t need them anymore. The trail was in pretty good shape and I felt like I was making decent time right off the start. I had been on this section of trail a few years ago when I did the Chippewa 10K, and my memory reminded me to watch my feet, as the first couple of miles are very rooted and rocky.

I hit the first aid station at mile 3, grabbed a small bite to eat and hit the trail again. I locked in a really good pace and found the miles ticking by easily. Eventually I got to the section where the 10K splits off and began a journey on trails I had never seen before. One of the more interesting things that I saw, just after the split, was that someone had vandalized the course the night before, and posted hardcore porn on some of the trees. Someone actually wasted money on a porno magazine and ripped out the pages to tack them up on trees. My wife, who was just doing a casual run, managed to clean up a bunch of them so the runners didn’t have to see them coming back. Apparently there was also a note about some local sports shop with all kinds of lewd comments, so this must have been some kind of local grudge.

IMG_2530.jpgOnce the “entertainment” was out of the way I noticed very quickly that the Ice Age trail is really well maintained and built. This particular section of trail is amazingly runnable, with clear paths and only small rolling hills. You pass by beautiful lakes and prairies, which distracts you from the fact that you’re involved in a long footrace. I managed to lock in a solid pace, that in retrospect was faster than I should have gone, but felt completely comfortable on this terrain.

One of the first cutoffs you encounter in this race is the turnaround at mile 15.5. You must be through that checkpoint in 4 hours. This is despite the fact that you have 9 hours to do the entire race. I think that this cutoff time got in my head a bit more than it should have, and I ended up pushing harder than I should in the first half. However, the first 10 miles were really pleasant and runnable, so I didn’t think much about it.

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PC: Mike Wheeler

I hit the second aid station at mile 10 determined to get moving quickly so that I could hit the turnaround with plenty of time to spare. However, what I didn’t know is that the middle 11 miles of this race are the toughest. Right out of the aid station I discovered the muddiest portion of the course. There was absolutely no way to keep your feet dry and clean in this section. The mud was relentless for almost a mile. Eventually, you get back to dry ground, but with that dry ground comes a lot of climbing. Chippewa doesn’t have any big mountains, but it has a relentless up and down of smaller hills that shreds your muscles without you even realizing it.

Despite this difficulty, I pushed hard and made it to the turnaround in 3:31. My last 50K race I completed took me 7:40, and so I was feeling really optimistic that Chippewa could be a PR. I even thought that perhaps a sub-7 hour race could be in the cards. It was at that point that I started doing math. Never do math during an ultra.

I headed back on the trail, saying hi to friends as we passed each other, and thinking about what lay ahead. Almost immediately after thinking I could pull off another three and a half 15.5 miles I calculated what that meant. There was simply no way that I could pull off that type of speed (13:30 min/mile) on the way back. The torment of the relentless hills, and the thought of the mile-of-mud, started to beat me down mentally.

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PC: Mike Wheeler

I managed to catch up with my friend Erik and we ended up spending a few miles together. He was coming off of Zumbro 100 a few weeks earlier, and so he was moving at a similar speed to me. We chatted about life for a while and then eventually he caught a second wind and started to move stronger, pulling away from me. I started doing more math. I thought that if sub-7 couldn’t happen, I could at least try for 7:30. Then my watch beeped and told me I just did a 17 minute mile through the mud section. 7:30 was probably out the window.

I hit the 4th aid station and did what I could to get some calories in me. Unfortunately, the race had decided to stock this product called “Silver Star Nutrition” which is some weird milk protein based energy drink. It tasted blah and felt weird on my gut (I know many people complained of stomach issues later on), so I ended up just sticking with water. This is one time in my life I actually craved HEED.

I got in and out of the station and started the plod back to the finish. It was in this section that I really got beaten down mentally. Ultras are just as much a mental challenge as a physical one. You have to keep moving forward, despite everything your mind tells you about how you should quit. As I passed mile 22 and entered the “easier” portion of the trail I attempted to run, but struggled to keep moving faster than a hike. All I wanted to do was lie down and take a nap and call my wife to come pick me up. As the miles clicked by, I realized that even a sub-8 hour finish would be hard to accomplish. I got sad.

I had been feeling so strong in my lead-up training that I felt like I should be able to tackle this with ease. In retrospect, my nervousness at the beginning of the race was most likely due to my mind knowing that this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park, but wrestling with the denial of it all. I wanted this to be easy. I wanted this to be “just another long weekned run”, but in the end, it wasn’t and it couldn’t be.

When I look back at the elevation data from Chippewa 50K I realized just how tough this race actually is. My 7:40 50K at Surf the Murph was 50% of the elevation of Chippewa. The 22 mile training run I did was 50% of the elevation of the first 22 miles of Chippewa. Nothing I had done yet this year had the level of mud that I encountered in mile 10-11/20-21 at Chippewa. This wasn’t just some random Saturday run. This was a race, and a challenging one at that. However, that’s way more math than a person can do at mile 25 of an ultra, and so I just had to deal with my disappointment.

Since I knew I was going to come in after 8 hours, I decided to take care of myself a bit more. At mile 26 I stopped at a bench and pulled out my clean socks. I could feel my feet starting to have bad things happen to them, and decided a change of socks would feel good. It didn’t matter that I only had 5 miles to go, I wanted some comfort. Needless to say, the new socks felt heavenly. It was well worth the 5 minutes it took to put them on.

I hobbled around the final 3 miles after the last aid station and discovered that this section had become a mud bath as well. All the traffic from all the racers had chewed up the trail in the warm sun. I ground up and down the final hills until I reached the prairie near the visitor center. I ran as much as I could, but anything faster than a 15 minute mile was just not happening. I practically crawled up the final hill to the finish and did my best interpretation of what a sprint should should like as I crossed the timing mat.

IMG_2533.jpgI was beaten, in pain, and depressed. But then, as I crossed the finish (8:08:41), there was Wendi and Matt. They were cheering and congratulating me as they handed me my award print. I went over to the grass and laid down as my wife got me some food. Everyone around me smiled at me and told me how great a job I had done, and within moments, it was all OK. I stripped off my muddy shoes, drank a warm beer (that tasted like perfection) that Erik gave me, and savored the moment.

This certainly wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever done. My 50 mile at Zumbro was objectively more difficult. However, this race had such mental baggage associated with it, that overcoming that was the biggest victory. My last real 50K attempt was the Spring Superior 50K, where I DNF’d 7 miles from the finish. I signed up for Marquette 50K twice and never ended up going because I knew I wasn’t in shape enough to do it. Chippewa signaled my return, and I wanted it to be glorious.

In reality, Chippewa was exactly what it was going to be, a tough 31 mile race. From a physical standpoint I ran it well. I was nowhere near last place (159/195), and now, two days later am able to run just fine. Perhaps I should have controlled my pace a bit more on the way out, and taken the section to the turnaround a bit slower to conserve some energy, but it probably only would have saved me 10-15 minutes or so. Considering my abbreviated training through the winter, and how quickly I ramped up for this race, I have nothing I should be complaining about.

This race was mainly a mental test for me. Going in I thought I needed to prove my physical toughness. In fact, what I needed to prove was that I could handle the struggle with my own mind. I had to prove to myself that I could overcome my DNF and DNS’s. I had to engage that inner struggle between the part of me that wanted to stop, give up running and go back to just playing video games on the couch all night, and the part of me that knew I was better than that. Running, and specifically trail and ultra running, has had such an impact on my life that I can’t just walk away. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

I feel that I still have more to prove to myself, and Chippewa 50K was the first step towards discovering more of who I am and what I’m capable of. I’m in this for a lifetime, and sometimes we forget that life it hard. Chippewa 50K was tough, but maybe, just maybe, I can be a bit tougher.

My crazy running friends…

The group of runners that I hang out with here in the northwest metro are a… special bunch. Or maybe I should say they’re “interesting” in that Minnesota “interesting” sort of way. Granted, I’m one of them, so I guess this could also be self-analysis, but what a couple of them came up with for yesterday brought it to a new level.

They decided that it would be wild to run a marathon… around a baseball diamond. That means 384.55 laps around the bases, all in the same direction. Hence, the inaugural Sandlot Marathon was born. I hadn’t planned on running it myself, as I felt like I needed more traditional training at this point in my build up. However, I figured I’d show up for my recovery run and get a few miles under my belt. Jacking up my back on Friday meant that any miles I did at the sandlot would be walking.

IMG_2361.JPGI arrived just as they were launching. My friend Brian did a lap in a T-Rex suit before stripping it off and sprinting to get back into position. For most of the time, the main group of guys stuck together, with an occasional person deciding to sprint for a lap to gain a slight advantage. I grabbed my coffee and started some laps, deciding to try and get in at least two miles of base walking.

IMG_2367.JPGAs the day warmed up the snow on the diamond melted and deformed. Shelly, Amy and Julie worked with shovels and rakes to get things smoothed around, and since I was walking, I decided to drag the rake behind me as I lapped around. It was actually a lot of fun, and hopefully it helped keep things a bit smoother for the crazy folks.

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PC: Shelly

After my two miles were done I took a break and hung out for a while. I then got a text from my wife that she was finishing up her 25 mile run and was only 3.5 miles away. At that point I decided to hang out for a bit longer and wait for her. Since I was going to be there for a bit I decided to keep moving and managed to knock out another 2+ miles of tiny baseball diamond loops.

Eventually Lisa arrived and we needed to get going to get to the MN United FC home opener game (another amazing part of this weekend!). I bid farewell to everyone and walked back to our car. Throughout the day I kept tabs on progress, and sure enough all of the guys who started the race managed to finish a full marathon around a small baseball diamond. This is an amazing, and crazy feat, and I’m proud to call these guys friends. A little bit of crazy sometimes makes life fun and enjoyable, and these guys brought it in spades yesterday. Congrats Tim, Mark, Andy, Brian and Matt!

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PC: Tim

 

Tuscobia Winter Ultra Volunteering

For the past year I’ve been fascinated by the trend of winter ultras. These are long, self-supported, races that are descended from survivalist races in Canada and Alaska. Participants must get themselves through grueling conditions, with only their wits, and their equipment. There are two big races in the area, Arrowhead 135, and Tuscobia 160. This past weekend the wife and I went down to the Tuscobia race to help out and see more about what this crazy event is like.

CFNetworkDownload_YajTMH.jpgOne of the first key differences with winter ultras is the amount of gear that participants have to carry. It doesn’t matter if you’re running, skiing, or biking, you need to have enough equipment in your sled to survive in frigid temps until you can be rescued. That means bivy sacks, and sub-zero sleeping bags, as well as enough calories to eat well, yet have some left over at the end. When we arrived on Friday night, gear check was in progress, and runners (well, mostly walkers) were fidgeting with their bags, making sure that they had everything that was on the mandatory list.

We had the opportunity to meet up with many of our friends who were doing the 160 miles on foot or ski on Friday night. The 160 bikers would leave Friday morning, along with the 80 mile participants from the turn-around point of the trail. We gave hugs, met the race directors in person for the first time, and soaked in the atmosphere.

DA7493DE-8515-4E39-A8CE-26B521F3F0C4.jpgThe second key difference with these races is the culture. This isn’t just a laid back trail race. It is something different. It’s about your ability to survive, and your determination to just keep moving no matter what. You need to believe in yourself and your ability to even attempt something this crazy. This is a race where a 20% finish rate is a good year.

CFNetworkDownload_0U1wLc.jpgMany of the people here are repeat offenders. They love coming out to these races and testing their winter cred. I saw so many happy reunions that I knew something special was going on. Out on the trail you cannot receive help from anyone but volunteers and other racers. More often than not, another racer has saved the day for another, and that creates a lasting bond. When you’re all alone in the wood, with just yourself and other crazy people, it’s good to know that you can rely on the other folks in the asylum.

Once the pre-race meeting wound down my wife and I headed to our hotel room for a night of sleep before the start. The next morning we showed up and cheered as the 160 mile run/ski racers left Rice Lake, WI. We would not see any of these people for more than 24 hours.

IMG_1988.jpgOnce they had cleared out, we decided to go change and get in a short run for ourselves. The temp was zero, with zero wind, and zero gusts. It was a big zero kind of day! We did a fun 3 miler on the trail and then returned to the hotel to change and get packed for our trip to Park Falls, the site of the 160 turnaround, and our home for the next two days.

The drive to Park Falls was cold, but beautiful. There was an eerie frost on the trees during one segment of the drive, that reminded up of something out of a fantasy novel. Every branch was delicately covered in a thin layer of white. It was beautiful and surreal, and a harbinger of the cold that was about to befall the racers.

6305810701433284122.jpgWe arrived in Park Falls and got a bite to eat before relaxing at the hotel. The turnaround opened at midnight, but we knew that we could watch the check-in times of the racers to see when they’d actually be arriving. As evening approached it became apparent that it would be a long night of waiting. We hit the sack and set an alarm for 2AM to check again on the leaders progress. We sent another alarm for 4:30AM before getting up and heading to the gastropub that would serve as the race checkpoint until midnight Saturday night.

We arrived about an hour before the leader, Paul Schlagel, was visible down the street from the pub. It was dark, so I headed out to meet Paul and walk the final block in with him and see how he was doing. I was shocked at how positive he was, and how high his spirits were. I asked him how he was doing, he said fine, and then proceeded to talk to me about my interest in maybe (maybe) attempting one of these someday. When Paul finally asked me how many people were already at the pub, and I told him he was the first, he couldn’t believe it.

IMG_1998.jpgWe found him a spot at a table, fetched him is bag, and proceeded to get him whatever he asked for to get himself ready for the return 80 mile trip. Soon more people on foot arrived, and we began tending to their needs as well. Things quieted down a bit until early afternoon when the lead 160 mile bikes arrived. They started at 6AM Saturday, and the two leaders were cruising. Ben Doom and Dan Lockery came in together, had a quick bite of soup, and were back on the trail before we knew it. Little did we know that this would not be the norm for the rest of the evening.

IMG_2007.jpgBefore this though, we had to get the 80 milers launched. I left the pub and headed over to a nearby school to help get things organized for a 10AM lunch of all of the modes of transportation. There are a lot more 80 mile racers than 160, so it was a bit of organized chaos getting everyone and their gear where they needed to go. The local church was awesome, and opened their doors to us, and gave out donuts for the racers. Everyone headed out to the start line in high spirits, and before we knew it, they were off.

IMG_2001.jpgBack at the pub, soon more bikers and walkers arrived, and the pub began to fill with racers who were trying to decide how to recuperate before the return trip, or call it a day. Many people just needed a couple of hours of sleep on one of the beds upstairs and were ready to head back out. Many other though were done the moment they walked through the door. This is not an easy race, and slowly, the -18 degree overnight temps and periodic wind, started to take it’s toll. We called in many drops over the next few hours, and helped folks find rides back to the start line.

By evening were waiting on the final racers to arrive, and all but 2 decided to call it a day. One of these two was tremendously inspiring. Jennifer came in as the final runner, but she wasn’t despondent or emotional. She was a bit confused about why it took her so long, but she felt fine and wanted to head back out. After a short rest, she decided to at least fulfill a lifelong goal of getting 100 miles. I was pleased to see the next morning that it looks like she made that goal, before finally succumbing to the race against the clock, and calling it a day.

IMG_2009.jpgOut of the final group of bikers, only one headed back out into the cold dark night. The rest decided that they just couldn’t handle another 12 hours of -18 temps, this time heading in to the wind. We helped them get warm again, and eventually arranged for some transport for them back to the start. By this time it was close to midnight, and although we had a wonderful time, we were also quite exhausted. My Garmin informed me that I had enough steps to be the equivalent of 10 miles, and I wasn’t even one of the racers.

We headed back to our hotel for a nice night of sleep before the 3.5 hour drive home on Sunday. Thinking back to our experience as volunteers at this event, it was obvious that we were witnessing something unique. This wasn’t anything like we had done before, and the participants were amazing people to watch, even when they didn’t succeed. They were inspiring and determined, but also the most humble people you’ll ever meet.

IMG_2005.jpgNo one was in this race for the glory. This wasn’t something you do so that you could brag about it at work later. This was about you, your body, and your ability to mentally handle days alone in the woods. If you could keep putting one foot in front of the other, or turning over one more revolution of the bike crank, you’d slowly make your way home. It was about survival, and accepting the world for what it is. No one chose the overnight temps that we go, but they embraced them as part of the experience. When you live in a climate such as ours in the Great North, you either accept the cold winter, and learn to embrace it, or you hate it and leave. There is so much beauty in the cold and snow, and once you learn how to survive it, it becomes a magical playground.

For three days this weekend, amazing people did amazing things in this playground. They created a story for themselves that will not soon be forgotten. The persevered and triumphed; they learned their limits; but above all they discovered who they are and what they’re capable of. There were no quitters or failures at Tuscobia. There were people who embrace hardship, learn from it, and grow, despite setback and disappointment. If there is only one thing I learned this weekend, it is that success doesn’t happen at the finish line. It happens as you take that next step, and then the next one, over and over, as you discover what you’re truly capable of.

Icebox 480

On Saturday the wife and I drove down to River Falls, WI to participate in a wonderful end of season race, the Icebox 480. Many of our friends have run this race in years past, and we decided this year was the year we were going to join in as well. Icebox is a timed race, meaning that you can run as much or as little as you want in 8 hours. The course is a 6.3 (advertised as 7) mile loop around some mountain bike trails. There’s a nice mix of mild elevation, rocky/rooted terrain, and quick rollers to keep you on your toes.

Unfortunately, my wife is dealing with a toe injury, so she came along just to volunteer. When we arrived it was dark, and it was somewhat funny how you’d maybe bump into people you knew, but unless you turned your headlamp to all sides you could end up standing next to a friend and not even know it. At 7:30am we launched, and since there was no hurry I waited for a bunch of people to go before heading out. There was still a bit of a conga line for about half of the first loop, but it wasn’t too bad.

I settled into a comfortable pace, which meant that my time running with friends was somewhat minimal. Many of them are in much better shape right now, and so we would chat for a bit, and then they would move on ahead. I wasn’t upset or frustrated though, since I was enjoying myself and felt like I was doing quite well for where I’m at. I finished the first loop in about 90 minutes, and was happy with my time. I ran most of it, and felt strong. I could feel my body getting tired though, so I decided that my goal for the day would be three loops.

I grabbed some food at the aid station, and started out on my second loop. I took it a bit easier this time around, and I found myself walking more and more. When I got to the second aid station at mile 4, I asked my wife if she could meet me at the start/finish area with my coat. I decided that my third loop would be a hiking loop. As, I had talked about earlier this year, I decided to focus on shorter distances this year. That meant that even three loops of the course would be the longest run of 2017 for me.

IMG_1786.jpgI headed out for a nice leisurely third loop, enjoying a nice fall day. We had gotten a bit of snow this past week, but there was none to be had on the entire course. It was a bit overcast and windy, but thankfully, when you were in the trees the wind was a non-issue. I slowly made my way around the course, and when I arrived at the aid station again I told my wife to go ahead and meet me at the finish in a bit and I’d call it a day. Of course, as sometimes happens, there were lots of friends at this aid station. I think it took me a good 10 minutes before I left to finish out the loop.

I eventually arrived back at the start finish and started chatting with folks. My wife met me there and helped Robyn’s mom with some IT band issues. Eventually though, we decided it was time to go, and we headed over to the Rush River Brewery right next door. In hindsight I wish I had come back after the brewery to see people again, but with this 19 mile run being my longest of the year, I was wiped. We arrived home and I showered and fell into bed for a solid 2 hour nap. That’s not something I do very often at all.

I can tell that I’ve lost a lot of my endurance over the course of this year, and it’s something to look at building back up in 2018. I’m pleased with what I got done at Icebox though, and I can certainly see coming back next year. It’s such a nice low-key end to the season, with no pressure for how far you go. I can see why this one is such a favorite of runners in the area. I loved seeing all our friends, and getting to spend some time with great trail people. It was a great day outside, and a wonderful event with a wonderful community of people.