Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Frozen Otter - 2011

Julie Treder's Race Report...

Decisions, decisions… Indulge in delicious foods and countless drinks around a nice, warm fire, surrounded by all your friends.  Kick back and cheer on the Packers along their road to the Super Bowl.  Or spend countless hours running through calf-deep snow in below zero temps for nothing more than personal satisfaction.   A normal person would obviously choose option 1 or 2.  Unfortunately, I’m not normal… and I went with option 3.

A little background on the Frozen Otter… this event is more of an adventure, than a race.  There are checkpoints along the way… manned spots every 8 miles and unmanned spots in between the manned stations.  You are required to carry a specific list of gear, for your own safety… shelter, cell phone, lighter, fire starter, extra set of clothes, emergency blanket, first aid kit, and headlamp/flashlight.  Being caught without any of the gear would cost you a 30-minute penalty.  The point of the race is to cover as much ground as you can in the least amount of time.  But to be counted as an official finisher, you have to make it back to the start/finish area under your own power.  You cover the whole Ice Age trail segment in the Northern Kettle Moraine area… starting at Butler Lake, doing a 30-mile out and back heading north, then, if you are signed up for the full distance, completing a 34-mile out and back to the south.

I have signed up for this race twice before, 2008 and 2010.  Always signed up for the full, 64-mile option… but always called it quits at the half distance.  In past years, my mind was never fully into the race (plus the 20 below wind chills made my decision to pull out a little easier in 2008!).  This year, my mind was all over completing this darn thing.  If I was going to miss the LPTR Christmas party AND the Packer game, I wasn’t going to run a measly 30 miles.  No way!!

This year, thankfully, I was joined by two others from the LPTR crowd… Brad and Aaron.  Misery LOVES company!!  But, not only were these two guys out there, but another familiar face was doing a training run at the same time, Pastor Kurt.  Perfect!

The full distance entrants were off at 10:10 on Saturday morning… let the fun begin.  There was a fresh snowfall from the night before, so the trails were covered in light, fluffy, calf-deep snow… with drifts up to your waist in spots.  It would be tough going, but the sun was shining, the trees were all blanketed in snow, and we all had lots of energy… so it was really enjoyable to run through this winter wonderland.  Brad, Kurt, and I had a great pace going.  Kurt packed inspirational messages in snow on trees for us along the way.  Someone even left a message for Brad and I in the snow at a road crossing, reading “Go Julie and B”… before running out of, ah, fluids (thanks Joel!!).  Things were going great!  We were running consistent splits along the way… averaging 4 miles per hour.  Heck, I even ate a whole pack of Clif Blocks on this loop.  When darkness fell, the moon was out and was so bright, you could see shadows reflected from the trees.  Beautiful sight!  I was still feeling strong back at Butler Lake.  Life is good!  Just change shoes and socks, put on an extra layer of clothes, pick up the headlamp, mix up a new batch of Gatorade in my Camelback… and I’m good to go for the next out and back!

Well, the second loop is where the problems start.  It’s dark by the time Brad and I get back to Butler Lake (around 6:20PM)… and the temperature is going down.  Silly me was futzing with my camelback at Butler Lake so long (cold hands don’t really work that well, I’ve learned), trying to refuel my Gatorade.  After finally getting everything all organized, I was off… but I forgot to do one important thing:  blow the fluids out of the tube of my Camelback to prevent freezing.  Five minutes out of the aid station, I try to take a swig… no luck.  Tube was frozen solid!  Brad had the same problem, himself.  Putting the Camelback underneath my jacket didn’t do the trick of thawing out the tube for me… but luckily it worked for Brad about halfway to the manned station.  All I had to do is make it to the next manned station to melt the ice chunk that formed in the tube, over the fire… 8 miles away.  That’s all I had to do.

Calories give you power.  Cold weather saps calories.  No calories, no power.  No power equals mental breakdown.  That 8-mile stretch was a LOOONG stretch for me.  I resorted to eating snow (I really didn’t care what color it was!)… and occasionally stealing a few sips from Brad’s working Camelback.  It’s one thing to not eat or drink because you aren’t hungry or thirsty… but it’s another thing to want to eat or drink, but nature is preventing you.  I was running out of steam, getting frustrated, hyperventilating a little bit… just breaking down.  It was a rough, rough section for me.  Luckily, 2 ½ hours later… we got to the aid station and I got what I needed – a working Camelback.  Gatorade never tasted so good… it was a relief to have the stuff flowing through my veins again.

The cold temps had definitely settled in.  We had gotten reports from volunteers that their thermometers had read 13 below.  13 frickin’ below!  Good thing for us there was no wind… otherwise it could have been pretty brutal.  It was cold enough for both Brad and I as it was.  Ice had formed on everything!  Eye lashes (me), facial hair (that would be Brad), face covers, everything.  Hands weren’t functioning.  (Good thing for volunteers and their ability to zipper up clothes.)  Toes were frozen, thanks to the umpteen hours of running on snow, in snow, and through snow.  Noses were frozen, because our masks weren’t staying up due to the weight of the ice constantly pulling them down.  It was just darn cold!

It was a real blessing to see the final manned aid station at Mauthe Lake.  Not only to come to civilization again and to know there was less than 8 miles to go of this event, but we also ran back into Aaron Schneider.  The LPTR contingent regrouped, thawed out, and were on our way back to Butler Lake and the finish line.

Knowing you can count down miles left in races on two hands is a mental boost for me… giving me a little extra bit of energy.  Brad and I took off with visions of huddling around a fire in our minds… ah, warmth!  This 8-mile segment which I just STRUGGLED through on the way out was MUCH more tolerable this time around.  I just couldn’t wait to finish!  Up hills, down hills, across meadows… we were moving (in my head anyways!).  You can only imagine the joy I felt as we came along the top of the hill heading into Butler Lake.  A weight was lifted off my shoulders as we descended the stairs… I finally finished this thing that has been looming over me for the past few years.  Brad and I crossed the finish line just prior to 6AM on Sunday morning… with an unofficial time of 19:47.  What a relief!!

Great race director and volunteers (how you can find people to give up their weekends to stand out in the freezing cold to wait on tired runners is amazing!!), the best burgers you can imagine at the finish line, amazingly tough course/conditions, excellent company.  If you are looking for a winter challenge in a beautiful location, this is the race for you!!


  1. Great run and great run report Julie!!!! I chose your first two options for the weekend -- food and drink with friends, along with the Packer game. Know that you, Brad and Aaron were missed at the party!

  2. Oops, I hit the wrong account when I signed the above. "SCJ Communications" is one of my aliases (my day job). That was Mary Gorski posting the first comment.

  3. Great report Julie. Congrats to you and Brad both for posting the fastest time to cover that 64 miles course!
    It was great to be able to run with you guys.

  4. Congrats to Julie, Brad and Aaron! Nice report Julie, I really enjoyed reading it. I am glad you conquered the race this year!One less thing to worry about!lol You never cease to amaze me!

  5. Life must be good without a frozen otter on your back Julie. Congrates to everyone. jacques