Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dances with Dirt - Devil's Lake style - Julie Treder's Race Report

It has been a few years since I've run a Dances with Dirt race... so it was great to be back.  Once I heard that their race was at Devil's Lake State Park, it wasn't hard to convince myself to sign up.  Many a summer Saturday in my youth was spent climbing the boulders with my family... and the park especially holds a special place in my heart ever since my Dad saved me from plunging to my death after I sliced my knee open and passed out on a rock ledge.  Ah, the memories!
Since last years race was cancelled due to all the flooding plaguing the state, this years edition was the inaugural race.  There were a number of different distances for every runner to choose from... half marathon, marathon, 50k, 50 mile, and a relay.  Wanting to be the most bang from my buck (and having the weird obsession of always wanting to do the longest distance offered at a race!), I signed up for the 50 miler.
Mother Nature had her say in what the course should be.  Due to some recent winds, a power line toppled over and forced the RD to alter the course at the last minute.  Mother Nature can be pretty evil, as I think the revised course was probably tougher than what the original course was going to be.
The race started at 5:30 am, just outside Devil's Head resort in Merrimac.  With some final instructions (follow the pink ribbons from this point to that point, then white from here to there, then connect back up to pink, look out for the different colored ribbons, since they are for the relay, blah, blah...), we were off.  The course is set up to run a 5-mile loop, then 6 miles to the start of the loop around Devil's Lake, follow the 14-mile loop twice, hook back up to the 6-mile section, then finish with the 5-mile loop.
The 5-mile loop takes you up the ski hills at Devil's Head.  You get to check out many of the different ski runs there, like Devil's Alley, Nosebleed Way, QuadKiller Run, etc.  My opportunity to run and chat with Craig Swartwout was pretty short-lived, as he bolted off fairly quickly on his great run (finishing in 9:45).  This section was pretty rugged on fresh hegs... I was definitely not looking forward to how it would be on 45-mile legs.
After finishing the loop, we are sent on the Ice Age Trail towards Devil's Lake State Park.  Never having run the IAT in those parts, I was loving it... despite finding every single thorn bush strategically placed along the trail.  (I must have looked pretty rough, as the aid station workers were frantically looking for band-aids and antiseptic wipes to clean my wounds.)  It was at this time that the marathoners and 50K runners started and passed my by with ease.  A buddy of mine, Matt "the Hurricane" Schrader was running the marathon and quickly caught me.  He was kind enough to keep me company through the next 18 or so miles... despite having the speed to go much faster.  The conversation was great and seemed to make the miles fly by.
The 14-mile loop not only took you up and down the east and west bluffs of Devil's Lake State Park, but it also included the typical random trails (usually game trails) that I associate with Dances with Dirt races.  You don't follow any trails, you follow from flag to flag... wherever that leads you.  For me, that lead over a downed tree that seemed to be booby trapped with a rusty old fence.  The good news was I was able to move the barbed wire from the trail... bad news was that I moved it using the skin on my right leg.  Ah heck, I needed to get up to date on my tetanus booster anyways...
You connect back up to the hiking trails on the bluffs.  Each time I ran those sections, I kept thinking of all the poor souls who were expecting to enjoy a nice relaxing time at a peaceful state park... but instead were constantly overcome by these stinky runner looking to pass by on those narrow trails.  Most of them were good sports about it, thankfully!
I was able to maintain my composure through the second loop and the return trip on the IAT... but still dreaded what was to come -- those final 5 miles on the ski hill.  But I just practiced my power hike on the uphills, enjoyed the awesome overlooks of Devil's Lake in the distance, and finished with a smile on my face... not only because of the sight of the finish line, but of Brian cheering me in to the finish.  Phew!  I survived it!
The race was a blast... chatting with the always helpful and friendly volunteers, enjoying the beautiful scenery along the way and at Devil's Lake, meeting up with some tough runners (like marathon-man Matt, Ironwoman Diana from Lodi, and determined Terri Hayes from South Carolina), and soaking up the perfect weather (warm, but with low humidity).  Am I looking forward to going back next year!!

Note :  LPTRunner Bruce Udell  finished the 50K in 4:44:44 placing 2nd overall and first in his age group!

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