Feb 4, 2013

A Winter Wilder Foot Race

The air temp over lunch was Fahrenheit five, 15 below counting the prickle breeze.  The hardest part of a run is the first stride.  Or maybe back in the locker room, mind doing a face palm and coughing up excuses:  skip the workout fool, stay inside and eat BBQ instead.

But I force it knowing a brisk trot feels good at the end, plus it throttles up metabolism to help push through the two o'clock slump at work.

I hook daily with the SCRC group, a real-feel below zero punches the IOW (Idiots of Winter) ticket.  Each January we attempt cold weather feats of long distance stupidity.  Sometimes we create our own winter marathon.  Riggs once covered 26.2 miles in two hours forty minutes, with bits of steel drilled into his Sauconys to stick iced tarmac. 

This year, three of us descended on the inaugural Winter Wilder Foot Race in Spring Valley, Minnesota.  The forecast cooked a steady state 30 MPH wind and high of 15 degrees.

It would be an authentic Idiots of Winter event.

Free entry, self supported with nadda for water stops or course markings.  Just us and a hand drawn map, nature and a dusty set of Kinvaras.  No gimmicks and the antithesis of colors runs...this is my kind of event.

It started with a Friday early out from the office and three hour fog soup with Morgy and Tony from Des Moines to Rochester.

Morg's fond of hard rap, XM belted gansta expletives.  I learned some new beeping words.  Morg had never tried Vietnamese, Tony wanted an Asian pork chop.  We tinkled and picked GU packs at Dick's Sports before pulling into Pho Chau in Roch'.  Yelp showed a 4.5, crusty on the outside with dragon tatt's beside, scrumptious inside.

Tony's marinated chop won.

Morgan wimped and did chicky Pad Thai.

I drew the short stick on việt thịt lợn xúc xích, roughly translated to "special tiny charred boar weenie."

They mocked my little meat.

We installed two or three dozen dragon/Smurf/My Little Pony tattoos from the joint next door, then a foggy 40 minutes to Spring Valley for an overnight in a threadbare roadside 'tel.

Up and at 'em Saturday morning, we grazed the motel's free breakfast:  gently used bagels, powdered coffee and wrinkled cinnamon oatmeal packets.  Then layered synthetics and balaclava for Mother N's day of reckoning.

The run starts at the end of pavement, rolling on gravel through 20 miles of farms.  An informal, small event, a spanxed cluster of 30 circled the school parking lot for final instructions. 

Two minutes ahead of the gun, race director Dustin briefed the runners:  "If you get in trouble and need help...well, figure it out."

Wind chill beneath zero, outdoor workouts are always coldest at the start, warm on the finish.  Tony and Beard are in decent shape, Morgan hadn't trained a long one over 8 miles.  There was a fair chance he'd ball up into the fetal position in a ditch calling for mommy by mile 14.

A random person yelled GO!  In 800 meters the blacktop trickled into gravel and civilization be gone.

All fun and games at first, before 2.5 hours of winter and a 2,000 calorie burn buffets.

My fingertips were already numb needles, the 30 wind chuckled at two layers on the hands and slowly gnawed.  After 20 minutes, the body warms and internal muscle temp reaches 130 degrees.  My digits slowly came back online, everything's going to be all right.

Pancake fields soon rippled into hills, I unzipped the nylon shell a few clicks and let the north wind dry the pits.

I didn't run with a camera, worried the temp would jack the CCD sensor.  So there's no digi' dump of our miles of Minnesota countryside.

A set of bald eagles circling overhead for rodents.
Painted horses whinnying and trotting beside.
Farmer idling past in his beater Chevy pickup.  Country folk always nod and wave.
Four miles, silver clouds mute the sun, it looks like the moon.
Man in his 50s steps with us for a mile.  We greet, breath ragged on an off-canter climb. He falls off.
Tony checks the wrinkled map, we turn right, I peel gloves as strong tailwind turns everything silent.
Morgan's waist-pack water bottle holder is loose and flopping around like badonka butt.
Ten thirty in the morning, past halfway and time to face the wind.
Just the three of us, I take a hit off the bottle that's turned to slush.
Sport Beans are frozen, we need a shove of sugar.
Mile 15, Morgan's nearly out of gas, Tony walks beside and encourages.
Breath freezes on contact, shards of ice swing from my beard and brows.  My boogers freeze.
Sweat leaks through the synthetic cap, Winter flicks with knurled fingers until it's frosty white.
Cold, blah blah, we made it and finished together.

Bottle strapped to my back turned to ice, still slushy after thawing for 30 minutes at the bed-bug-'tel:

We degunked and beelined for the downtown bakery.

1950s interior, similar prices.  Loafs of monkey bread for $2.50 and apple crunch strudels for a buck.  We emerged with sacks of pastries, Morgan's wife warned to bring sweets home or else.

Across the street was the post-race party at Johnny Ringos Saloon.  A dozen tough looking blue collars stared us down when we stepped in.  We were waiting for the record player to scratch to a halt and a pool cue whack across the back.  Nah, just out-of-towner city slickers stepping on their turf.  The scrawny runners were cordoned off in the side VFW room.  The local A&W catered salty broasted chicken and beef-chunk chili.

We thanked Dustin for organizing this rugged beauty of a run.

He threw us custom snot hankies for crossing first.

Then we went back to the bakery. 

And home.

Why run in the cold for 20 miles with a couple buddies?  Because life feels just a little more lived.  And that pastry shop.



  1. Great restaurant choice ... but not our fav in Roch. Sounds like a rough run .... for a few brave men!

    1. Thanks again for the lodging offer. Peeps, Cheri might be able to help you out if looking for a stay in Rochester.

  2. So, Beard, that's your idea of a good time! I lost you on that sub-zero run, but I caught right back up with you on that detour to the bakery. Hearty stock you Iowans. I lived in Davenport for five years when I was a little girl. I remember that C-O-L-D and snow!

    1. Bix 7 in Davenport, did you ever catch that when you lived there? Ran it in high school, hard to believe they pull in 20,000 runners for a 7 miler.

    2. Oh, and Hostess used to sponsor the Bix race, served Twinkies and Ding Dongs at the finish. Was funny watching fit people stuffing their face with that junk.

  3. So cool! Sounds like a great experience!

  4. I'm right there with Hera. Pick me up at the Bakery part of the tour. Mmmm...


Thanks for the note, check back for my response!