Well the weekend is worn off finally so I am going to get this race report down before I start forgetting some of the details.
The Tuscobia Winter Ultra is held in northern Wisconsin in early January every year. They have two options for the race- 160 Mile and 80 Mile distances. In those you can choose to travel by bike, ski or on foot. I did the 80 mile race on foot. This was a race that had been on my radar all summer, especially on really hot humid days. There is a lot of things about this style of racing that was alluring to me. One of the biggest though is that you pretty much have to be self sufficient throughout the entire race. For the 80 you have one aid station that you can stop at 35 miles in to warm up a bit, change and get some food and hot water. When on foot most everyone pulls a sled called a Pulk. This is the best part about this race, you get to have as many comforts as you can carry with you. Obviously weight is something you have to consider but for the most part clothes don’t add much so you can bring a few layers which will likely save your life if you need them. The weather for the weekend was looking good and bad at the same time. The good- Trail conditions were perfect. The bad- It was cold, bottom falling out of the thermostat cold. At one point I heard -15…
Going into this race I was not mentally prepared. 2017 has been pretty challenging already. My head was not in the right place. I reached out on social media for some support, I asked for people to send me some love before and during the race and I was blown away at the response I got. I was alone for around 19 hours of this race and those messages carried me through all of the lows. So thank you again, from the bottom of my heart I am eternally grateful to all of you for your love and support.
Friday I headed up early to try and calm my nerves and maybe get a nap before check in. Once it got close to check in time Joe Osterberg showed up and we re packed our sleds one last time before heading to check in. Everything went well at check in. I forgot my headphones but we had time to grab another set, which did me no good in the long run!
That night we had dinner with friends and headed back to get some much needed sleep.
Race morning we packed up and got out of the hotel after some breakfast. We headed to the race finish to load our sleds on the bus and start the 2 hour ride to the start in Park Falls. On the bus ride I realized I forgot my race vest and instantly was crushed. It had my anti chaffing stuff in it as well as my headphones and it was my way of carrying water so I didn’t have to access my sled every time I needed a drink. This is a crutial piece of equipment. The rest of the bus ride I was extremely nervous. Stuff like this gets in your head and the slightest bit of bad can become race destroyers in an ultra. These races are finished on mental fortitude more then they are on physical strength. Luckily for me I have met some great people over the last year and one really helped me out. Julio Salazar of Defeat The Stigma helped me out a ton by lending me his vest to use for the race! This helped turn my attitude around really quickly. If you have a minute check out the cool stuff they are doing with Defeat the Stigma.
Finally it was time to get the show on the trail. Race start was uneventful and the first few miles flew by. The sun was shining and it didn’t feel too cold out. Within about 5 miles I could feel something funky going on with my feet. I adjusted my gate and carried on. I was flying the whole first section. I got a few messages and was able to keep my head up most the day. There were a few lows but nothing major in that section. About 5 miles from the aid station I ran into a good friend who was running the 160 mile race and he looked great! This was a huge boost!
Once I arrived at the aid station I was happy to see Joe Osterberg was still doing good and I got to see another friendly face Erik Raivo. After getting my stuff from my drop bag out to warm up I charged my watch and began to inspect my feet. They were in bad shape. I had some trench foot going on, probably because I over did the Anti Chafe on them because I wasn’t sure how the stuff would work that I used. Now it was time to sit back and relax, let my feet dry out then try another new approach. I ate some soup and a couple cookies, added a pair of pants over my tights and grabbed new gloves and a new buff. I recieved some motivation from my wife and sucked it up. I treated my feet with Gold Bond Powder through on new socks and shoes then headed out into the cold night. I texted Amy . She again motivated me to keep going.
It was now much cooler then it was in the morning but I was moving quickly still. Eventually I came upon another runner. We talked and played leap frog for about 5 miles before coming into the town of Birchwood. It was 2 am and we needed to warm up. Luckily there was a bar there that was still open. We went in and ordered hot chocolate, coffee and pizza. This place was a lifesaver and we were sure to tip appropriately, the bartender was great! We met another runner in there and decided to track out together as long as we could.
It didn’t take long until I needed to slow down. They made sure I had what I needed and headed down the trail. I was happy to be alone. I enjoyed their company but this race was more then a “hurry up and get it done” race for me. I needed to struggle and gain perspective for other areas of my life.
I spent the last chunk of the race completely alone. It was hard, but it was exactly what I needed. There was more on my mind in this race then any other I have ever done. The distractions were nice but it was time to face my fears and digest them.
I was relieved when I finally saw the finish line. I went in, thanked the RD and congratulated my friends on their finishes. I ended up in 5th place overall. I was very happy with this as my ultimate goal was just to finish.
This was a great race and one I highly recommend to anyone curious on the winter ultra style of racing.