Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Glacial Trail 50: Pre-Race Interview with the RD, Robert Wehner

LPTR Steve Poulter's Pre-Race interview with Glacial 50 RD and fellow LPTR, Robert Wehner...

As an LPTR special reporter,  I was able to snag a few minutes of busy Race Director Robert Wehner’s time today to chat about the approaching Glacial 50 this Sunday, October 9.  Robert is busy with final preparations but was kind enough to humor me with some history and commentary on the race. (Note that I furiously took notes and therefore had to summarize Roberts comments and add some narrative).

Robert running the John Dick 50k, one of
three races he is currently the RD for...
SP: How did you get involved with the Glacial Trail 50, did you run it before you became RD?  How did you become RD?
RW: I started running ultras in 2002, and the Glacial 50K was my second ultra (5:40:52).  I ran that again in 2003 (5:04:21), then moved up to the 50 miler in 2004 (8th overall, 9:18:39).  At the time Tom Bunk was the RD and was looking for someone to take over.  I ran the 50 mile again in 2005 (5th overall, 8:37:00) and became the RD starting in 2006.  This is my 6th year as RD.

SP:  This is the 25th year of the race.  Is there any history of the race that is of interest?  Any plans for anything new this year?
RW: When the race started, it was a 100K that went down to Hwy H.  Sometime in the 90’s the 100K died out, I don’t know the full story, but it might have been due to the longer cutoff, it started and ended in the dark, and might have been hard to get volunteers.  Back in 1999/2000 there was only the 50K.  Tom was RD from 2001-2005 and added the 50mile.  The fire station is obviously newer, and hasn’t always been the exact start/finish of the race.

We created a different finisher award this year for the 25th anniversary, it’s a ceramic medallion that is a little unique.  Tom or a previous RD started the tradition of the race sweatshirt for the runners, and at the time cycled through about 6 colors.  Last year I switched to a different style sweatshirt to open up the color options, it seemed to be popular so that is back in a different color this year.

SP: The course is relatively technical due to the rocky trail.  Any advice for first timers or those transitioning from the 50K to the 50M this year?  Any general feelings about how low key the race is and if you intend to keep it that way?
RW: People have always commented on the technical nature (rocky/rooty) of the Ice Age Trail in the area.  One time a runner sent me an email complaining and said they wouldn’t be back.  I didn’t respond.  Every race and trail has its own character, there are plenty out there if people don’t like this trail.  I really like the rustic, low key, wilderness,  fewer and farther apart aid station aspect of the race.  I intend to keep it this way.  The 50 mile race starts at 6:00 am and runners will need a light.  We have a drop box at the Hwy 67 AS (mile 7) for headlights and jackets, so you don’t have to take them on to Butler Lake AS (mile 13.3).

SP:  You commented on the Aid Stations (AS), they are somewhat farther apart compared to some of the other local ultras (IAT50, NFEC), any advice for the runners to prepare for those gaps (hydration packs, double bottles, etc.)?
RW:  The last year I ran the race, I was at about 5 miles in and running with another guy.  He asked where the aid station was and he didn’t have any bottles.  The guy was not prepared, he didn’t read the course description or know anything about the location of the aid stations.  My advice is to read the course description and know where the aid is located.  The forecast this year looks nice, it will be sunny and 70 and you will be sweating a lot.  We will have Hammer products (Heed), Hammer gels, ice available, and lots of other food available.

SP:  The AS volunteers are great, are there any long-standing volunteers that keep coming back year after year that make the AS special for the runners?
RW:  (*editor’s note: I lost names in this conversation, sorry about that…) Kristine Hinrichs and John run the Butler Lake AS, New Fane AS is run by some folks* who live close and have repeated, HWY67 has always been a mix because of location and that it is an all-day AS since its first / last.  Jeff Mallach will run it in the in am this year, Angela Barbera will run it in the pm.

SP: Anybody talking to you this year about favorites or coming with the intent to take home a win this year?
RW:  I don’t really get into or have time to study the entrants and make projections on the front runners.  I do try to give the #1 race number to a previous year’s winner if they come back.

SP:  I see there are 58 people signed up for the 50 miler and 104 signed up for the 50K.  Any final comments on the registration process or your expectations on final count?
RW:  Registration is growing, especially since NFEC moved their race to September.  Race day registration is available.  Historically, we have set a 200 runner limit but never hit it.  It’s funny, I get emails as early as June asking if the race is full.  I expect about 170 runners this year.  You can switch races before the race starts, but not once it starts.  All volunteer slots are full so I won’t need to send out a last minute call for help.


  1. I love it! Robert is such a great guy and i thoroughly enjoyed Glacial Trail 50 mile last year when i ran it. He is also the RD at Badglerland 6-12-24 hour track run which is a blast as well. Thanks for the great blog post.

  2. This was my second 50 miler and wow, the Glacial Trail race just kicked my butt everywhere but I finished!

    Not sure I'm in agreement with him on sticking with the relatively long distance between aid stations, I carried a bit, drank a lot at the stations, but in the heat, the runners near my as well were complaining about it.

    He certainly puts on a good race, but adding water stops, even unmanned would be really welcome.

    All said, I'm glad I did it, I doubt I'd run this one again, but feel good that I managed to finish a really tough one.

  3. Big congrats to Robert this year for pulling off another awesome race! It was great to see all the familiar faces and to run on those scenic trails this time of year...I carried a camelback this year and had plenty of water...even wished I had done the 2 bottle thing instead. I ended up dropping due to an IT issue at mile 37 but will be back next year...this is one not to be missed!