Monday, February 1, 2010

Twin Mountain Trudge 2010

The Happy Jack, Wyoming, area is known for some great cross-country skiing, with numerous groomed trails through the trees. In the summer and fall, these same trails make for some great mt. biking and running. But who would think to run on the trails in Winter?

Well, some enthusiastic runners in the Laramie/Cheyenne area, that's who. Hence, the Twin Mountain Trudge.

The Trudge is a mini sort of winter adventure race, with the course and logistics set up by Alec Muthig and friends. The course is just under 11 miles nominal distance (if you follow the snowshoes and flagging correctly), with an extra credit option of doing another loop.

This race was brought to my attention by local trail-runner Nick Clark, who also offered to carpool up to the race, along with another local runner, Alex May. I appreciated the chance to carpool and meet both of these guys. Nick has been on a bit of a hot streak of late, having won two competitive races in January already (in addition to having won the Trudge last year), so it would be interesting to see how he did in this one.

Por moi, my "goals" were simple: I was looking to get in a good race early in the year to motivate further training; spend a few hours on some new trails; and meet some new folks. In short, mission accomplished! Time-wise, or distance-wise, I had no idea what to shoot for. Due to the carpool, I made one promise: if Nick stopped after 1 loop, so would I; if I were 20 minutes or more behind Nick, I would stop after 1 loop. Else, I had a decision to make, based on conditions and how I felt.

We arrived sufficiently early for the pre-race briefing, etc., and lined up. Honestly, there were folks of all shapes and ages out there to have fun...and we were off. I enjoyed the first part of the course, a moderate climb over dirt and light snow. Thankfully, traction wasn't a problem, and it was all runnable. We headed off into singletrack, though, and the post-holing began! At this point, I was surprised to see that there were just 4 of us within site of each other; effectively, two groups of two. I tried to stay within sight of Nick and Ross, mostly to watch where they ran so I knew where the terrain traps were! I thought that it would be easier to run in their footsteps, but I found that to be more difficult than I anticipated. I looked forward to short bursts of dirt, when I could start running again; but trudging slowly in the snow still kept the heart rate up. We hit a short but steep section of a fenceline climb which necessitated walking, followed by the "Devil's Loop." Devil, indeed. I lost site of Nick and Ross, as this truly became a trudge-a-thon of much walking, for me at least. Soon, Brian M. caught back up with me, and we got a chance to chat a bit. At the deep end of the loop, there was a hole-punch to prove that we did the loop -- I nearly missed it, but Brian pointed it out, and another runner caught up to us. He was looking good and started pulling away.

I looked forward to finishing the Devil's Loop, but finally learned a few techniques that made trudging easier. First, I took long, sliding, reckless strides on the downhill, as the snow was deep enough to cover all the rocks. Also, on climbs where there were sufficient steps from the Alec's snowshoe tracks, it was definitely easier to take quick, light steps uphill than it was to walk. Still, immediately after the Devil's Loop, I had no thoughts of doing a 2nd overall loop.

But, the course became mostly runnable again after the Devil's Loop, and really became fun again. I took the time to look around and enjoy the warm sun and open views on this part of the course. Soon, 3 of us were at the 8-ish mile aid station in the middle of nowhere, but I didn't really need anything (and forgot about the Scotch that was there!) I kept going and hit the downhill fire road and let it fly. I saw Ross coming out for a 2nd loop, and he offered a gamely "Nice job!" at the same time I did -- but didn't see Nick, yet. This part of the run was fun enough that I was contemplating the 2nd loop.

I reached the finish-line a few minutes over 2 hours -- a nice, even number that would have been nice to hit, but c'est la vie. I saw Nick there, and said "Thank God!" My decision was made, Nick was satisfied enough with winning the 11-miler. More miles would've been fun, but so was hanging out, eating soup, chips, and M&Ms, and drinking beer.

Yes, the sun came out even stronger, and with no wind, it was quite enjoyable. I enjoyed chatting with several of the Wyoming runners, and cheering on Alex as he came in strong. I also talked a bit with Amber Travsky, who's a great resource for southern Wyoming cycling and skiing, I've read several of her articles. I also learned that the RD, Alec, is getting ready for next year's Arrowhead 135.

He made it to Mile 41 in a previous race -- on snowshoes (the slowest method of travel allowed in a grueling, freezing race). Having spent some time in Minnesota and enough other time out in the cold for various reasons, I was eager to hear about Alec's previous lessons and future plans for the race. I think he's got a solid plan in place and knows how to handle logistics and training, so I look forward to seeing how he does in the Arrowhead next year.

And, I look forware to next year's Trudge!

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