The Trudge update from Alec Munthig on Jan. 2 stated, "Less than two weeks to the Trudge! I hope all of your training and mental preparation is going well, as this year may very well prove to be one of the toughest yet." Despite his warnings, 42 people showed up at Blair-Wallis this morning to trudge 11 or 22 miles through the snow. I've run this race the last two years and it has always been tough, but today's run was far and away the toughest. After less than half a mile on the snow crusted dirt road, the course veered off in to shin to knee to thigh deep snow and other than the occasional wind swept clearing, it continued this way for the next 10 miles. Little of the course was runnable due to the depth of the snow and much of it was difficult to even walk in. It was a clear morning with only slight winds as we set off and I realized I was overdressed in the first mile. I stopped and pulled off my jacket and fleece and ran the rest of the race in only a capilene long sleeve top and snow pants. I trudged along at about 20 minutes per mile hoping that the trail would hit a more runnable section, but soon realized it was only going to get tougher. I was passed by Sam and later Jen who had arrived at the start a little late after being redirected to a new start location a well meaning group at a gas station only to get there and find out that it was a ski race. I made it to the aid station at about 4.6 miles in about an hour and a half. I grabbed a handful of pretzels and a lemon cookie (which was really good) and I passed on the frozen shot glass of whiskey. From the aid station the course headed up the steepest climb and then off on to the Devil's Loop. This was the hardest and slowest section of the course and my pace slowed to 25 minutes per mile. At the top of the climb out of the Devil's Loop, the wind picked up to gale force speed and the temperature dropped drastically. I knew I should put my jacket back on but I also knew the finish was less than 2 miles away and I really didn't want to stop and pull off my pack and take off my gloves so I trudged on as quickly as I could. I made it to the finish line in 3:26, a full hour slower than last year. Cherilyn finished just moments later looking strong and smiling. Jen and Sam decided to forgo a second lap which seemed like a wise choice. Two brave runners did head out into the snow and wind for another rip around the Twin Mountains. They turned out to be the only ones to go for the 22 mile distance and as I sit here typing 5 hours later, I hope they are now finished and warm and dry. Brian and Marie finished their first trudge together in just over 4 hours. Marie said that this was one of the hardest races she has ever done which is a strong statement from someone who has run several of the toughest 50 and 100 mile races around (Big Horn, Leadville, Wasatch, San Juan Solstice, just to name a few.) We drove back to Fort Collins sharing stories of our struggles and the joys of spending the morning on the snow covered trails of Wyoming.
With the snowshoe race last weekend and the Trudge today, I have had enough of running in the snow for a while. I am looking forward to a nice long run on the roads and the bike paths tomorrow with promise of high 40s and little to no wind in Fort Collins.