November 18, 2009

Review of 2009 Trail Races

Hard to believe that the 2009 trail racing season is over - at least, it is for me! This was my first year of doing ultras, and I pretty much hit the deck running! It also turned out to be a year of pulling some volunteer time and doing more travelling to races, so I got to see some new trails :)

Got to see the Zumbro River Bottoms for the first time in mid April - swept the course as a volunteer. Since the kid's race was a 100K that started at midnight, I simply wasn't qualified to toe the line. First year for the official 100K and 100 Mile event - I think this one will be another Minnesota classic!

First race of the year for me was the Chippewa 50K in late April, my first ultra run ever! The first race of the year is always fun, if for no other reason than I get to see many of my running buddies after a long winter :) I'd never run any part of the Ice Age Trail before, and this is a gorgeous trail even when there aren't any leaves on the trees. Goal was to finish, avoid attracting buzzards, and have fun. Goal accomplished!

The next weekend was a fun little 10K that I'd run last year: Runnin' in the Ruff near Milaca. Always fun. Always get to see bald eagles since there is a nest right on the course. Always muddy. Tight and twisty single track. Good stuff!

The weekend after that was my second ultra ever, just 2 weeks after my first: the Ice Age 50K. This race is held near the eastern end of the Ice Age Trail, not too far from Milwaukee. Just missed breaking 7 hours by a little over a minute - dang! Easier than Chippewa, this race was only partly on the Ice Age Trail and then had us doing 2 loops of a wide, roller coaster nordic ski trail. If I ever go back, it will most likely be to take a crack at the 50 mile rather than a repeat of the 50K.

After a few weeks of rest, it was time for the Chester Woods 10 Mile near Rochester. This was also a race that I had done last year, and it's another fun event. I mean - dill pickles at the finish! Burma shave mile markers! And a Big Dam Hill near the end! There is a strong chance that I will miss this one next year since it is the same weekend as the Kettle Moraine races. We shall see.

The Afton 25K was on the Fourth of July this year, and the humidity took a toll on me even though the temps were actually quite nice. This is a sentimental race for me since it's where my trail running started just a few years ago - and another social event that brings out the less frequent runners as well as the regulars.

Grand Island Marathon was another road trip - almost like going back home. I lived in the U.P. for 4 years during college and drove right past Grand Island more times than I can remember, so it was nice to actually spend some time there. Beautiful course! Rather unique event that includes getting picked up at your hotel by buses and then a boat ferry ride to and from the island. Oh! And running right on the sand beach - not once but twice! Who knew Lake Superior had 12 mile long white sand beaches?

Days of Old Track and Trail 10K was another race in the MN Trail Run Series that I included mainly to try to get 6 shorter runs in, and it was a nice sharpening run before my first crack at 50 miles a week later. Half of it is run on a nice single track trail, but the other half is gravel road and running along the shoulder of a highway - probably won't do that one again.

Next up was my "big" vacation trip and my first crack at 50 miles, the Lean Horse Half Hundred. Unfortunately, this was the race where I learned a valuable lesson about the difference between oil based and water based sunscreen. I also got my sooner-or-later DNF out of the way. Had a nice trip anyway :) And my legs were fresh as a daisy after imploding at 24 miles, so I was able to climb to the top of Harney Peak and do other Black Hills and Badlands hikes.

Did some volunteer time at the Superior Trail Races, then did another old familiar favorite, the In Yan Teopa 10 Mile near Frontenac. Such a pretty park, and I always forget to bring my camera.

I was finally able to get the monkey off my back by completing my first 50 miler at Surf the Murph on Halloween!! My greatest running accomplishment to date, by far! And I had a blast doing it! What an awesome park only a few minutes from home :)

Capped off the official racing season with the Upper Midwest Trail Runners awards banquet this past Saturday. Wish I'd had more time to get around to socialize with all of my running friends - hopefully I'll still get to see them out on the trails before the 2010 season rolls around. There were awards for each age group for the MN Trail Run Series as well as the Fab Five Fifties Ultra Series, and Darryl was the first ever "Gnarly Bandit"! Awesome stuff! Wayne and Helen in particular both received much deserved awards - I'll let them tell their stories ;)

I'm still ponderin' what's next for me: possibly the Fat Ass 50 near Hell, MI which is tentatively the day after Christmas and I may be in the area. If you're new to trail/ultra running and are wondering what the heck a fat ass run is - here is a brief history. Not sure if this one is the same course as Dances With Dirt, but it sounds like a blast!

Thanks to everyone who shared the trail with me this past year - let's do it again soon!


SteveQ said...

Quite the year!

I also dropped from Lean Horse at 24 and climbed Harney Peak - but within 90 minutes of each other. Not exactly the original plan.

This is my favorite time of year; not the looking back, but the looking forward. What will 2010 bring?

Bill S said...

Wow. That is one hell of a lot of participation. Good Job!

Wayne said...

Nice recap, Kel. You had a great year and are in a good position to have even more fun next year!! See you out there...

Jean said...

Oh my, it is time for year end recaps already? Where did the year go? :)

What an awesome 2009 for you, Kel! Congratulations on all the you achieved. I hope you have a nice off season, and continued success in 2010!