Race day did not disappoint. Upon showing up to the packet pick up the snow flakes were massive and beginning to collect rapidly on the ground. Just to reiterate Spring has officially begun - or not! At the start of the race there about an inch of snow cover made for wet conditions. Prior to the gun going off we sang the National Anthem as a group which was a nice touch. Before I knew it we were off and the miles began to pile up. The temperature throughout the morning hovered around 30 degrees, not to shabby. Thankfully I grabbed a hat before I left home and was able to keep most of the flakes out of my eyes. Sadly though my shoes were soaked before we even finished the 1st mile.
This was one of the more interesting and diverse courses I have every run. We began by running down several cities streets within Waukesha for a few miles then turned onto a paved path. This was a nice surprise - I love not having to worry about cars, however, with the falling snow it was difficult to see what was in front of us so we have to keep our guard up at all times to not stumble on the cracked pavement. All in all there was about 3 inches of accumulation, but it melted with the consistent temps and runners moving through the area. I will say even though snow is not ideal it sure was beautiful as it coated the trees along the path.
Around mile 12 we turned abruptly to the right and headed down a ditch to emerge onto the famed Ice Age Trail. This is where things got TOUGH! With the snow the trail was a muddy mess. Each step required careful placement and constant awareness of our surroundings. There were a lot of tree roots and rocks to navigate around. The most challenging part was the squishy mud. To push off to take another step you 1st had to pull out your foot. Several times I wondered if my shoe would pop off and remain in the mud, luckily I had tied my laces tightly. After 2 miles we emerged from the trail to a set of stairs, yep...I said stairs. You would think that what goes up must come down which eventually it did but not before we had to climb a watch tower. Now I am deathly afraid of heights, like panic attack type of fear! Time to suck it up and get moving. The awesome volunteers at the tower had a ton of refreshments and food prepared for the runners. I was super glad that I wore my Orange Mud HydraQuiver vest and could easily drop off my bottles to get filled before taking on the tower to ring the bell. Being the big wimp that I am I grabbed the railing, closed my eyes, and put one foot in front of the other as fast as I possibly could. At the top I did not mess around...one picture to prove I made it up there alive and back down I went. This point in the race was a little over half way, which was a awful realization...I was tired and there was a lot of miles left to cover. Returning to the Ice Age Trail was harder on the way back now that several runners had covered the same route. Sloppy was an understatement. One mile took 20 minutes. The paved path was a welcomed friend, but by no means easy. My legs were tore up and sore! The last 1o miles were a struggle that required lots of mind tricks and games to keep moving. By mile 20 I was reduced to a walk/run strategy in order to finish. The weather did change around mile 22, the snow stopped but the temperature dropped and the wind picked up.
Water stations were well placed and stocked throughout the course with fantastic volunteers. My fingers were so cold at one of the stations that I could not open my Tailwind sticks to refill my bottle and as sweet volunteer kindly helped me. Each mile was well marked with big orange cones and arrows once we returned to the city streets. Despite the terrible weather this was a really enjoyable, unique race. One runner described it as his favorite "shitty race" - the medals are cheap and the shirts uninspiring (I bed to differ...I thought the shirts were nice, the option of a mug super cool, and the medal comparable to other races). The staggered start (marathon 8am, 1/2 marathon 9:30am, and 5k 10am) aided to keep the course from getting congested or dangerous. The after party was staged in a building feet from the finish line with a buffet of goodness - beer, coffee, bagels, cookies, and so much more.
Tons of runners stuck around and swapped stories after the race, but I cut out after a few minutes due to the unpredictable weather and the 2 hour drive home ahead of me. The walk back to my car was a wake up call, holy cow was I stiff and exhausted! This race beat me up. I typically bounce back after 2 days and am ready to rock. Not so much after the Trailbreaker. I was sore for several days and had to take my time getting back out training. It was a great reality check that trails need to be respected and I have to build up my strength before the Ice Age 50k in May! Back to the drawing board to dial in my training and introduce"Tire Tuesday" to my routine. Bring it Ice Age Trail - I'll be ready for you next time we met...now I know you mean business!
#BeHappy #BeKind #BeActive