I try not to go into long races, especially winter ultras, with too specific of goals. So much can happen over the course of the race that my goals are constantly changing as the miles fall off. For this years Tuscobia 150, now 160, I did have a goal, and that was to do better than the previous year. Last year I had just recovered from being sick and suffered most of the 21 hours it took me to finish. I had the training, wasn't sick, felt pretty good, and the conditions seemed like they would be ok...race time!
The course is different this year. We started in Rice Lake instead of Park Falls. We used the Wild River State Trail to connect to the Tuscobia trail, hence the extra mileage. I loved the course this way and the new check points. I hope it stays this way.
At the start it was chilly but not crazy cold, about 9 degrees according to my Garmin. As we took off I was in 3rd spot. It was pretty casual so I jumped to the front and set a solid pace, but not too hard so I'd sweat a ton. At the junction to the Tuscobia I jumped to the side to let others pass. I was surprised to see about 12 riders still hanging on. Sitting in the back was great! The other riders provided a great path! Eventually we came to some of the only hills on the route and that helped bring the group to 7-8 riders.
Around mile 20 my hydration pack froze up. I have the HydroHeater but opted not to use it. I still had a small thermos in my frame bag, but that was hard to drink from while riding. I tend to use this at the check points as I have a Skratch Labs cocktail (Lemon Lime and Rescue Hydration) in there. With still 25 miles to the first check point I was a bit nervous but started to take small sips off my thermos. Around 5 miles left to the Ojibwa check point (#1) we picked the pace up. At times going 15 mph, which is pretty dang fast on snowmobile trails! About 4 of us pulled into the check point first with a couple others not far behind. I wanted to take my hydration pack off and thaw the hose but I knew most of the riders would be in and out. So I checked in and out, grabbed one gummy worm, slammed some fluid from my thermos and was on the bike...less than a minute. Todd McFadden, Charly Tri, and I seemingly got a small gap on some of the other riders as we couldn't see them anymore. That was short lived as Ryan Atkins and Dan Lockery soon joined our train. Charly was having some back issues and pulled off to stretch while the rest of us continued on.
Despite the temperature predicted to drop throughout the day it climbed (once again according to my Garmin) to about 12 degrees. I was sort of warm and really wanting to drink the water that was sloshing around on my back. Not much is more frustrating as being thirsty, having the water, but not able to drink it. I was now out of my thermos supply and hoped I could make it to the turn around at mile 80 and check point 2. About mile 70+ Ryan asked if I had a pump. I can access it while riding to I handed it to him. Shortly after that I stopped, took off my jacket, took off my hydration pack, opened the fill hole and drank until my head hurt. So good! Here Todd got away from me and Dan passed me. I started pedaling when Ryan got back to me. Very worth the stop.
Todd got into check point 2 first with Ryan, Dan, and I shortly after. I set right off to the sink and hot water. I was able to thaw the hose and I filled it back up with hot water. I also filled the thermos and added more Rescue Hydration. Ryan took off first and I scrambled to get my pack and jacket back on. I grabbed two half grilled cheese sandwiches and ran out the door with Todd, about 8 minutes. Dan would leave a couple minutes later. About two miles down the trail I realized I forgot my thermos on the counter. Damn. I was then pretty consistent taking drinks from my hydration pack every 15 minutes or so...and yes I blow the water back out each time.
Todd and I could see Ryan but never really made any ground on him. Eventually we started running in the 80 mile runners and some bikers making it hard to see how far ahead Ryan was. Todd and I found our pace and just continued on. Later on I would find out Ryan thought Todd was in front of him so he was chasing trying to catch up. His efforts weren't for not as he put the hurt on us!
Todd and I rode to the Ojibwa check point (#3) alone. Ryan was already in and out and Dan joined up shortly.
Again I topped off my hydration pack ate more grilled cheese, chips, lots of soda, and really anything...I was really hungry. The temp was dropping and my clothes were kind of wet so I added another base layer and a wind vest. I also swapped out my gloves, neck gaiter, and headband for dry ones. Dug out the head lamp and hesitantly headed out the door as I was cold! It didn't feel like 28 minutes but that's what the time sheet says we were there. My goal was 15. Check points can be such a trap!
Once again Todd and I would ride together for quite sometime. My hydration pack froze again but I was able to warm it up to get water out again. It would freeze up for good later on, with about 15+ miles yet to go.
Dan caught up to Todd and I right before Birchwood as Todd and I took a final pee break. I chased and caught back up to Dan. I could see Todd's light gaining and figured it would be a matter of time before he was back with us. Dan had a pretty solid pace going through the hilly section past Birchwood. Slowly the mile markers were ticking by. Dan and I swapped being at the front, keeping the pace solid. Dan put in some hard efforts so I felt he was feeling really good and strong. With about 2 miles or less on the Tuscobia trail I was back in the lead. When we jumped onto the Wild River State Trail I had a tiny gap on Dan. I kept waiting for him to jump past me but I kept the pace pretty hot, or it felt like it after being in the saddle all day.
In the end I was able to grab 2nd place with Dan finishing 30 seconds or so behind me. The results say 2 seconds and I keep getting asked if it was a sprint finish. Luckily it wasn't! But no one was standing at the finish in sub zero temps so by the time we got to the building and off our bikes we essentially walked into together. Todd finished about 3 minutes after us while Ryan finished 40 minutes ahead of me! I was bookend by Canadians!
I finished 160 miles in 15 hours 47 minutes (total time). 10 miles longer but 6 hours faster than last year...goal met!
Huge thanks to Chris and Helen Scotch for putting on such a great event and to all the volunteers running the check points.
Onto the Arrowhead.
Note: I wrote this quickly and have to jet off to work so, per usual, disregard misspellings and grammar mistakes!