Race Report: From Race Director, Robert Wehner...
How are the conditions? This was the one question on everyone’s mind, after a record setting blizzard blew through the mid-west a few days before the race. Depending on where you were, 14” to 20”+ of fresh snow came down, whipped around by 40-50 mph wind gusts. Snowmobiles out on the trails we use for the course started packing down the snow in the days before the race, but there was no way to know how the running would be on Saturday, February 5th, for the 23rd annual JD 50K.
By race day, the winds had died down, and with temps in the teens, the weather would not be an issue. But the footing was another matter. Within minutes of starting out, it became apparent that today was not going to be a PR day for anyone. Despite the grooming done, there just had not been enough time and cold temps to firm up the snow. There was no consistency in the footing, and at times you felt like you were just stumbling along trying to stay upright.
We all knew it was going to be a tough day, but it didn’t become apparent how tough it really was until one looks at the finish times. Leading for most of the race, Albertus Rohling steadily pulled away from everyone, winning in 5:37:39. This was the slowest winning time in the history of the race (by 40 minutes), and was an hour and 37 minutes slower than Albertus’ winning time in 2009. This was the case for everyone, with finish times up to 2 hours slower (or more) than usual.
In the women’s race, Julie Treder ran steady all day, taking the lead half-way through the final lap and winning in 7:36:49 (13th overall). How tough the conditions were is also reflected in the finish rate. While not everyone comes out intending to do the full 50k, the finish percentage is usually in the 70-75% range. This was not to be a typical year however, and soon runners started to drop like flies. In the end, out of 74 starters, 24 runners stuck it out and finished the full 50k, for a finish rate of only 32%.
Whether runners completed the course or not, everyone was welcomed back to the finish shelter, greeted by great volunteers, a warm fire, and plenty to eat and drink. We also had a great crew manning the aid station, so despite the difficulties out on the course, smiles were plentiful. Afterwards, I came up with another positive point from the race. When I’m asked next year “How are the conditions?”, I’ll have a ready answer: “Better than they were in 2011!”
Robert Wehner, RD