February 2nd marked not only Groundhog’s Day, but also the 25th running of the Badgerland Striders winter ultra. The 2nd also happened to be Paul Gionfriddo’s birthday; he would be out on the trails celebrating his 90th!! So while Paul wasn’t planning to do the full 50k, it was great having him there, showing all of us that we should continue to stay active no matter what.
Over the years of the race, there has been one constant: the weather and trail conditions will always be different! In the week leading up to the race, southeastern Wisconsin had record high temps (60 degrees), with large amounts of rain. This melted most of the snow cover, and left large areas of standing water. By Wednesday the temps started to drop, and the rain changed over to snow. On the night before the race, another 3 inches of light, powdery snow fell.
The temps also continued to drop, with overnight lows below zero; most of race day would remain in the single digits. So we modified our standard course to keep the manned aid station by the start/finish shelter. This helped keep volunteers and runners (and fluids) from freezing solid. Out on the trail, the additional snow compressed down easily, and the running conditions weren’t too bad, but runners carrying bottles had to deal with frozen nipples and drinking slushies!
Last year we saw a big jump in runners, from the usual 70-80 to 153 starters. Numbers held steady this year, with 140+ entries and 139 starters. Thanks to the DNR for helping create more parking space, and to our great group of volunteers for handling the larger crowd with ease.
Kevin Grabowski had a solid race, leading from the start, and winning with a PR of 4:01:40. Kevin finished about 20 minutes in front of the second place runner, Mike Dietz. In the women’s division, Tina Heil ran smart, moving up steadily throughout the race and winning in 5:25:36. Tina narrowly edged out Jennifer Rolfing, who was less than 2 minutes back. Overall, we had 79 runners complete the full 50k.
While the colder temps may have chased some of the runners off the course early, many of them stayed long afterwards, enjoying the post-race spread and the warm shelter. So long in fact, that we ran out of chili for the first time ever. They also did a good job polishing off Paul’s birthday cake, along with the other goodies. All in all, it was a good start to the 2013 racing season.
Robert Wehner, RD