A few weeks ago a friend asked me to join in the fun at a brand new race, Mindy Creek Trail Runs. There would be a half marathon and marathon on the Ice Age Trail out of St Croix Falls. I was intrigued. As I looked further into the details I learned that each race would be held to 25 people, there would be masks at the start and at aid, the aid stations would be unmanned, bottled water, prepackaged snacks and gels. It sounded really great! I entered and waited for race day.
Race day was gorgeous. I awoke early and headed for WI. As I pulled into the lot I realized that it felt as if I had stepped back in time. There weren't miles of cars, a zillion people, an assault of the senses. It was quiet, no lines..but everyone had on a mask and that felt kind of weird at first but quickly faded into the background.
We all kept our distance at the start and listened to Jeff give us the lowdown on markers and what the covid expectations were of us. We should wear masks at aid if others were around, wait our turns, etc. Just be nice caring people!
The course was just beautiful. There were many hills, singletrack, woods, rocks, roots; but also gently mowed grass sections, mountain bike trail, etc. It wasn't very muddy, only a few sections-a beautiful course. I only came across a few people and I felt like I was running back in time to the early 2000s when a handful of people were entering ultras and knew everyone. I didn't know all of the entrants this time around but the race held that same old time vibe. I was running along the trail and was recalling my early races-how much I loved the peace and quiet, the anonymity, the newbiness I felt of it all. I felt tears of gratitude well up into my eyes and then down my cheeks. I realized I how much I missed all of that. As much as I know we needed growth in local ultrarunning, we need new people to build the sport-I still miss the smallness of it, the intimacy of the race. I miss those people I ran with, I miss the small entry, I miss the wide spaces without anyone else on the trail. Selfish, right? It is, I know. I still enjoyed it immensely.
I took a small detour on the first loop. I was running back toward the start and noticed the two flags to my left. There was a mountain bike trail inbetween the flags and for some reason I ran inbetween them and continued on for a mile. Oops! I realized I didn't recognize where I was and that there were no shoe tracks anywhere on the trail. I back tracked the mile and popped out back where I needed to be. Crazy.
With my extra mileage I made it back to the start in just under 3 hours, tapped the start tent and moved on back out for my final 13 miles.
I only came across one other runner on my second loop. I filled up my hydration bladder with bottles of water at the self service aid station, grabbed a few gels and moved on. The silence of the woods overtook me, I ran along taking in the beautiful sights of rock, river, lakes, so thrilled to be right where I was. I enjoyed this race so very much. It really helped to remind me how much I enjoy aided long runs by myself in the wilderness. I don't need the races for the social stimulation but I sure enjoy them for the long run and aid. It was a blast.
Looking forward to throwing my name into Tuscobia 80. I ran the earlier versions of the race in 2009, 2010 at the 35/50 mile distance but never the 80/160 mile. It gives me something new to try and figure out!