Trekking Up & Down (A Whole Lotta Ups & Downs)

The Birkie Trail Half Marathon.  This race takes place on the Birkie trail in Wisconsin which runs from Hayward to Telemark.  It’s home to an incredibly popular 55km cross country ski race (9,000+ participants), mountain biking, hiking, and running.

Steph found this race for us a few months back.  I’m not sure how, but I have a feeling she was browsing through the ‘Masochists Guide to Hell‘ catalog she gets in the mail.  Isn’t that usually how these things start?

We’ve both run half-marathons so doing a trail one seemed like a logical next step.  Prior to the race, we were looking at temperatures that we thought would be in the low 40s and rain.   On the plus side, the course wasn’t going to be dusty.  Race morning turned out to be perfect – 50s, little wind, clear skies.   Everything perfect.  All that was left was to deal with the course itself.

Yeah, about that … here is the course elevation from my Forerunner 405 :

Birkie Elevation - Click to enlarge (it's the only way to really see it)

Elevation Grade - Click to enlarge (for all the nitty gritty details)

That’s +1,967 feet up, -2,103 feet down.  4,070 feet of elevation change with a max incline of 45 degrees and decline around 30.  Anything within 2.5 degrees either way is considered flat and you’ll see that there are almost no places where that happens.

This course is hard.  Two days before we showed up, the area received 4+ inches of rain in a 24 hour period plus a smattering afterward which made the all grass route (not even a trace of gravel or beaten down dirt) slick and treacherous.

It’s also a hell of a lot of fun.

I was well prepared for this race and to be honest, the distance didn’t bother me. The hills, on the other hand, that’s another story. Whatever screwball injury I did this past week to my Achilles tendon made  it very difficult to push off with my left foot.  On flats and downhills, not a problem.  Uphill … well, that’s another story.  Usually that technique requires both feet.  The end result was that I slowed down dramatically on every uphill.  Kind of sucked.

I made up the time on the downhills.  This technique involved just letting go and not caring if I made it down on my feet or just fell and rolled.  Heck, if that happened, I’d get to the bottom without using nearly as much energy.  The ground was wet and soft enough that it wouldn’t hurt.  Too much.  I got a second wind in the last three miles and was able to really push it to the finish line.

I finished in 1:43:45, a full seven minutes under my goal of 1:50.  Overall, I ended up 33rd and 13th in my age group.   Steph came in at 2:01:39, 85th overall and 13th in her age group.  Pretty respectable, I’d say.

The only thing I can ding them on was the lack of water at the finish line.  We had to go up another hill (fer chrissakes people, enough with the hills!) and hunt it down.  But all in all, a really fun race with incredible scenery.  Yeah, I think we’ll probably do it again.  Though next time maybe I’ll wear some spikes or something.

But for now, I relax … and try not to climb up any hills.

Over the Hills and Through the Woods (Click to Enlarge)

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