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!!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Nutty New Year on Peanut Island

Mary Gorski's Race Report...

I have often wanted to do an "across the years" sort of race -- one that started on New Year's Eve and ran across into the new year.  When my friend Nikki Seger suggested that we join her at the inaugural Peanut Island run, it didn't take much to convince me.  Recently relocated to Florida, she hoped to entice a few friends from the north to visit.  The Li'l Mister and I, along with Bonnie Busch and her Li'l Mister, started to make plans.

We made those plans back in early fall.  At the time I had a bit of a nagging back-ham-hip thing going on that had brought my running to a halt.  It would be a couple of weeks before I was on my way to diagnosis and treatment.  "Sure, I'm not running at the moment, but whatever this is, it will clear up in plenty of time.  No problem! " I thought.

Eventually I learned why I felt like I had a Sports illustrated shoved into my butt cheek -- I had an SI joint dysfunction, along with a side serving of related maladies.  Gosh darn it, I had no idea that I even HAD an SJ joint!  So a bunch of PT work, massage, chiropractic whatnot  and their own side-servings of co-pays.  November 1 -- still no running.  But by Thanksgiving I was able to start -- ever so tentatively -- to lace up my shoes and do a bit of running.  It was truly something for which to be thankful!

Peanut Island was only a month out from my tentative return to running but it was the perfect format for runs of a tentative nature.  The course was a 1.25 (or so)-mile loop.  Do as many loops as you can in 24 hours.  As long as I did one loop, I will have done the run.  Even the Li'l Mister -- usually my personal sherpa and crew person -- signed on to do the race.

I had been bragging back home that we were going to Florida over New Year's.  "Enjoy the lousy weather of Wisconsin, I'm headed to the sunshine state!" I said.  And then I humbly ate my words as we touched down to an unseasonable cool front.  Florida news was filled with stories of freezing fruit and chilly tourists.  But Mother Nature smiled, and while temps weren't tropical, they did become pleasant -- 60s and 70s during the day.  Perfect running weather.

Our little gang caught the ferry for the short ride to Peanut Island on New Year's Eve morning.  To be honest, from shore the island didn't look like much, but as you got closer and the boat slid into a quiet cove, its beauty pops out.  Sandy beaches.  Manatees lounge under water by the pier.  Fish wander between them.

We hauled our load to race central and set up our tents.

Race packets were distributed in  burlap peanut bags.  There were a few serious runners, but most seemed to have a relaxed approach to the race.  In our group expectations were mainly unexpected.  One person had a significant health concern that had just come to light; others were tentatively testing mechanical rebuilding.  I had only been running a few weeks -- would I be able to do more than just  a few miles?  Would it be smart to even try?

We lined up at the start and RD Bob Becker sent us on our way.  During the next 15 minutes (or so) we'd tour the rest of the island on a cement-bricked beach path.  Pros of the path?  Easy footing, generally flat, lighted at night, beautiful views night and day, lots of bathrooms with REAL flushing toilets and the companionship of fellow runners.  The distance was perfect -- long enough for variety but short enough to always give you a feeling at the start of each loop that "I can muddle through another," regardless if you are feeling tip-top or not.

The downside of the path?  Those concrete bricks felt brutal after awhile.  I enjoy pavement runs but there was something about those bricks that made my feet feel like bricks themselves.  Soon after starting, my feet felt tight in their shoes.  I tried another pair.  Same hassle.  I'd only run-walked three hours and my feet were already out-growing the largest shoes I had.  A few others noted similar issues.

Nikki offered to lend me her larger shoes but I decided to just try going without shoe inserts and that did the trick.

Speaking of Nikki, one of the highlights of my race was having the opportunity to sing, banter and solve the problems of the world with her during most of my loops.  Dealing with a significant health issue, she wasn't sure what her capabilities would be on race weekend but she held up well, often leaving me behind for a loop as I lounged and re-grouped now and then.

She passed 50K, and then I did as well.  She passed 50 miles, and I did too.  I was ecstatic for both of us.  I didn't know how long I'd hold up and  had fully expected to spend most of the 24 hours cheering runners from the sidelines.  This was a wonderful surprise.  Nikki was tentative as well but moving strong.

Eventually, my body started to remind me that it hadn't been on its feet for hours on end in a very long time.  Back in September I had hoped to pass the 100-mile mark during the 24 hours.  Now, I was thinking that a 100 was still a do-able idea, but that I'd opt for the more frequently used metric system.

I passed the loop that gave me my 100K (actually, 101 or so) and sat down with Nikki to celebrate.  She had already surpassed my 100K by then and decided to continue to see what more she could do.  Away she went to pile on the miles.

Meanwhile, our friend Bonnie Busch was doggedly plowing through the course, loop after loop.  While many of us took some time at midnight to toast the new year with champagne and enjoy the fireworks of Palm Beach, Bonnie kept on running.  In the end, her determination paid off and not only did she surpass 100 by several miles, but took the woman's top spot in the last hour of the race.

The Li'l Mister enjoyed enough laps to tire out his feet and earn his sweatshirt.

Awards distributed, tents packed, and back to the ferry dock we headed.  We left the mainland in 2010 and returned in 2011.

What a fantastic event with fantastic friends.  Lots of international runners as well.  Thanks oodles to RD Bob Becker, his volunteers and race timing guru Mike Melton.  The final race results are up at:

A few photos of our little group are at:  Susan Donnelly also has some great pics at:

Happy New Year!