On Sunday it was close to 70 degrees in Milwaukee.
On Monday, it was not.
But the first running of “Jim’s Fabulously Fun Efffin’ 50K Run” in and around Devil’s Lake State Park was to be on Monday, not Sunday. Instead of 67 and sun, we had temperatures that seemed afraid to rise too far above 20 lest they’d be blown back down by the wicked high winds that also joined us for the run.
Jim even invited a few snowflakes for his effin’ 50K run. What’s a few more flakes; we were already a pretty flakey crew before the snowflakes joined us.
So how did our little group of flakes find ourselves running for eight-plus hours on the coldest day of autumn?
Most Mondays there is a group that does a long trail run in the Kettle Moraine. Led by Jim Blanchard, it’s a mix of people whose schedule leaves them with their Monday mornings free. Evidently they got to talking a few weeks ago and decided that on one of their Mondays they should enjoy a bit more than their usual adventure.
Why not make a road trip to Devil’s Lake and do a Fat Ass 50K run? No fees, no wimps, no whiners.
I got wind of it and decided that it would be an excellent way to commemorate Veterans Day. Brenda Bland from Madison decided the same. For awhile, it looked like we would have about a dozen runners joining us. But broken toes, cranky knees and a few scheduling conflicts reduced our ranks to five on race morning. I like to think of ourselves as the Fabulous Five: Jim Blanchard, Brenda Bland, Dawn Chavez, Deb Vomhof and me.
We started at the Parfrey’s Glen trailhead near Devil’s Lake where we jumped on the Ice Age Trail and headed toward the park. As we prepped in the parking lot we debated jackets, glove thickness and the sort. We all figured that we would be cold at first but soon warm up. I weighed the options: jacket or vest? Finally I decided to take both.
And I finished with both on and fully zipped.
Was my memory slipping? Hadn’t it been less than 24 hours since we last saw temps in the upper 60s? Didn’t we have the windows open on Sunday morning?
I thought about this as I tried to get fluid out of my hydration pack. “Hmmmm… the tube must be twisted, nothing is coming out.”
“My bite valve is frozen!” said one of the Fabulous Five. Criminey! My tube wasn’t twisted it was frozen. I pulled my jacket over it and in a mile it warmed back to life. Unfortunately, later in the run I got a bit lazy (forgetful) about maintaining the line and it froze for good with about four miles to go.
But all a part of the adventure. The trail was gorgeous and gave us a little bit of everything: rocks and roots under a blanket of leaves, open fields, ridge lines, some easy running on two-lane ski trails in the woods and hard running on twisty single track. We crossed bridges, ran down roads, and even, to the dismay of a few, did a bit of boldering as the wind whipped at us on the exposed cliffs over Devil’s Lake.
It was a beautiful view if you had the guts to turn your head around and look at it while climbing. Most of us took Jim’s word for it though and waited until the top to see what we were hoping not to fall off into.
The view didn’t disappoint. When we got to the top we realized that we weren’t the only ones enjoying the day. A bald eagle was perched on a tree enjoying the view as well. He probably had a good laugh watching us muddle up the rock climb, quietly whimpering along the way.
Jim’s effin’ 50K course took us primarily on the Ice Age Trail through the park to another trailhead where we had supplies stashed. Some filled hydration bladders. Some emptied other bladders. And off we went.
Coming back into the park we began to discuss the wisdom of down-climbing the bolder field we ascended to get to the top of the bluffs. Brenda, who is more familiar with the park than the rest of us, suggested a detour that would take us down to a mile-long section of railroad track. We could jog along the tracks and rejoin the Ice Age past the rock field.
With light snowflakes making the rocks a bit more treacherous we grabbed on to the idea. That is until we were in the midst of the train tracks in a path of loose rock that was definitely not designed for foot traffic – running or otherwise. Run? Walk? Nothing seemed to work well. Undulating rocks. Nothing in the running magazines about how to traverse those. Add headwinds that made it nearly impossible for us to hear each other; but then there were words coming out of some people’s mouths that really weren’t worth hearing.
Or maybe that was just my own mouth. Effin’ 50K run… effin’ fun? Effin’… oh, never mind.
We waved to the railroad workers doing track maintenance (who returned our waves with looks generally reserved for those waving out the bus window that is taking them back to the asylum after their day trip to the city).
Back on the Ice Age and the last ten miles or so of the day. The hours on our feet were starting to catch up with us and we found ourselves walking more than running. Our banter became quieter.
And then Jim saw the sign that indicated only 4.2 miles back to Parfrey’s Glen. Back to the car. Back to the food. Back to the down jackets and big wool hats.
He was the proverbial horse closing in on the barn. I latched on behind Jim but lost him now and then has he leaped over fallen trees (which I stopped and stepped over) and zipped around sharp turns.
About a dozen times we thought that the parking lot was just around the next turn.
And it wasn’t.
But finally it was, and upon seeing it Jim hooted and hollered and crossed the invisible effin’ finish line in first place. I came in and soon after so did the rest. However, the one and only award of the day (a serving platter with “Devil’s Lake” emblazoned upon it) went to Dawn for her bravery in overcoming her fear and making the climb up the bolder field.
Job well done Dawn!
Actually, a fabulous effin’ run by everyone. An effin’ good way to spend Veteran’s Day.
Thanks for your sacrifice and service, vets!