Having not been back to Wisconsin to visit my family for over a couple years, the Ice Age Trail 50 seamed like a great way to come visit. The next day was my Dad’s birthday combined with Mother’s day. This trip allowed me to spend some quality time with my family and as long as I was at it, run 50 miles. Why not, I haven’t raced a 50 miler for 2 weeks and I thought it would be fun.
The weeks prior, I raced Lake Sonoma and Leona Divide 50 milers. In my training lead-up to Western States 100 on June 23rd. Karl Meltzer has been quoted to say that a 100 mile race is like three 50 milers in a row; maybe I took that advice a little too literally.
The first two races went well. I was a little banged up and did not expect any great performance. My family was excited to see me race so I figured I would go out with the leaders and just see how I felt. I was really interested to see the landscape of the Ice Age Trail and Kettle Moraine Forest. I grew up in Wisconsin, but sadly never visited that area. Running 50 miles of it seemed like the appropriate way to get a good look.
Photo: Hannah Olson
After a great couple days with my family and some camping with my Dad the night before the race, I was up and ready to roll Saturday morning. The first 9-mile loop of the race is this super-smooth and soft carpet of a path that glides up and down a couple feet here and there. Easy to run fast, but the front pack did not seem to want to go out too crazy, thank God. It was a nice way to start the morning and fun to chat with some of the local area runners along the way. We cruised those 9-miles in about an hour and then we’re guided on to the Ice Age single track. Eventual winner (Zach Bitter, Congrats on a stellar run!) and myself ran the next handful of miles together with a few behind us just a minute back. It was nice running with Zach who went to college in Stevens Point (close to where I grew up) and also uses Vespa like myself. We were able to chat about friends we both knew and the amazing benefits of using Vespa.
The single track was a lot of fun to run. There was not really much climbing or descending which I’m more used to, but there were enough roots and rocks to add some flavor and make it interesting as the miles went on. Wisconsin’s state bird, the Mosquito, surprisingly did not devour our flesh all race, which was a treat. But passing a few marshes, I was treated to some mouthfuls of little nats which for some reason tasted a little like goo. We made our way over a couple road crossings and back onto the trail and as we were getting closer to a turn around point (mile 22) Zach had a 30 second to a minute lead on me. We were under course record pace and my legs were not feeling too bad.
Photo: Hannah Olson
Then the race got a little interesting. I’ve been battling some chronic Plantar Fasciitis for many months. A few factors keep contributing to this: I keep twisting my left ankle, which puts a little extra pressure on my right foot. My right foot is where the PF bothers me the most and lately the non-existing movement in my calcaneus and talus joints are causing extra torque on the plantar. This problem exaggerated to a point in this race where every step was more painful than it normally is. So I decide to step off the gas a little bit and see if I could get a smidge more movement in the joints. The problem persisted to keep jamming into my Tibia, which brought up the idea of dropping out. I don’t like to stop; I’m stubborn. My running pace slowed, my body and mind ached and I was not sure what to do. I kept fumbling with the idea of stopping, but after an hour+ it felt like I wasn’t doing permanent damage and I wanted to see more of the trail.
This was probably not the best idea, but the bright purple wild flowers, thanksgiving-sized jumbo turkeys and sweet rolling trails kept me occupied. It was a little painful, but by the end I was happy that I pushed on. Through my training, I callus my body and mind to adapt to what may happen on any given day. This was not a super fast day, but my family was happy to see me finish and it felt good to persevere through some adversity and still keep a smile on my face.
Photo: Hannah Olson
I used to let things bother me just a little too much. Sometimes…correction…a lot of the time the day does not unfold as planned. Life is how you react to each situation. I have the choice to be a grump or stay positive and remember all the fun things in life. Running is good all the time, right? Ya sure ya betcha (in a deep Wisconsin/Scandinavian accent). I try to remember to always keep my head up when life gets rocky, and just enjoy the scramble.
It was a delightful time, being back in Wisconsin. I was able to see and catch up with all my family and enjoy some of their gorgeous trails along the way. Ice Age RD Jeff Mallach puts together a great race, which I plan to try again someday. Wisconsin hospitality is one of the finest and when you combine it with the trail/ultra running community its bound to be a great time.
Photo: Hannah Olson
I eventually slogged my way to the finish in 7hrs for 9th place. Not to shabby for three 50 milers in 4 weeks, back to back. One good part about taking it easy, is that my legs feel great. Once I have my Chiropractor friend, Kelly Lange, tune me up a little, I should be back to some solid training in no time before I embark on the Western States 100 miler coming up soon.
A HUGE thank you to my family for all their love and support! Thanks to OKHardwarestore.com, my old employer back home, that has been family owned for 53 years, for funding my race and trip. It was a blast to see you all and I look forward to the next time. Until then, it’s back to the mountains for me and sleeping back in my own bed.