Glacial Trail 50 Mile Race Report

Rob was with me for all 50 miles

Sunday I ran the Glacial Trail 50 Mile Race in Greenbush, Wisconsin. It was cold. It was beautiful and a great race, but mostly it was cold. I got to the firehouse just after 5:00am and reorganized my drop bag and my crew bags. Made sure I had everything I needed, shoes, gus, rain vest, headband, headlamp and picked up my bib. At 5:59 we all headed out front to the starting line and a few seconds later we were heading down the road to the Ice Age connector trail. It was one of the quietest race starts I have ever ran. The nervous buzz usually present at a race start wasn't there, just the sound of the rain hitting the pavement. The line of headlamps ran silently down the town roads, along the wide connector trail and then spread out along the Ice Age Trail. It never gets old to see the line of headlamps at a race start and I couldn't help but think how Rob would have loved the sight. Everyone filled with hopes and ambitions for the day, nerves and excitement for what was to come over the next miles. Sunday though it was mostly heads down as we all plodded along, everyone slightly worried about how the torrential downpour would affect the day.

I had read several race reports before I hit the trail, but wasn't sure how to interpret them. Everyone said how technical the trail was, but to be honest from my background the trail was not technical at all. There were roots and a few rocks scattered on the trail, but nothing like the trail around Turquoise Lake in Leadville. I didn't see anyone fall or any evidence of people having fell throughout the day which was impressive with the deteriorating trail conditions. From the race reports I was also expecting much more elevation gain, but my Garmin only showed a bit over 3,000 ft of gain, most reports said 5,500 ft. Personally I thought the trail was great! It was extremely runnable and absolutely beautiful. The connector trail was wide and long enough that by the time we hit the single track Ice Age Trail everyone had spaced out enough that there weren't any bottlenecks. I know I was tentative on my foot placements for the first hour as it was still dark and I was expecting more roots and rocks. I kept a fast leg turnover and this seemed to be very effective, at least I was able to stay upright for the whole race.

Finally the sun began to rise and the trail was easier to follow and foot placements became more steady. The trail itself was easy to follow and well marked, although at a few intersections you had to stop and really check for flags to make sure you were going the right way. This was a common complaint I had read about. I heard of a few runners getting off course, but I didn't have any trouble. I cruised through the first AS at Hwy 67, mile 7, filling up on water. At this point I was right on pace 1:10 and was out of the AS in less than a minute. As I continued down the next section I fell into pace with another guy who had ran the race the year before. He told me about an area coming up that was absolutely beautiful. And at about 10.5 miles in I saw what he was talking about. We ran across this ridge, it may have been an esker, but I'm really not sure without a closer look at the geology. But on either side were huge kettles covered in brilliant red, yellows and oranges. Fall colors had peaked the week before but I was still a breathtaking site and a good reminder to why we were out running. I could feel Rob tapping me on the shoulder, reminding me to look up and enjoy everything around me, to enjoy every moment of the course.

Butler Lake was the next AS at mile 13 and you could see the lake for a couple miles before you actually got into the AS. In Colorado you don't get to run around too many lakes so I loved watching the mist floating above all the lakes I passed. Coming into and out of Butler Lake AS are sets of stairs which were not as daunting as I had imagined them. I quickly ran down the stairs, grabbed some more fruit straws and gus from my drop bag, a cup of coke and filled my water bottle with Heed and was off. I was now about 5-10 minutes off my estimated pace and knew if was unlikely that I would make the turnaround by 4 hours, but I was still running strong. Now I was running alone and this is how it would continue for the next 37 miles. Just me, the songs running through my head and my own stream of consciousness thoughts.

The section to Mauthe Lake was fast and runnable. And to be honest about all I remember is I just kept running and running. I also kept wondering when there was going to be a mountain to climb up, I mean there had to be a solid section of hiking coming up right? I mean no one really runs a whole 50 miler, that's just silly! At Mauthe Lake I grabbed more coke and headed out. By this point in the race my stomach had completely deteriorated and I wasn't sure how much longer I was going to be keeping food down. Up to this point I had been trying to get as much food down as possible knowing stomach issues would be coming. I also kept Heed in my handheld after Butler Lake outbound to make sure I was getting calories there.

Mentally this was an easy part of the race. It was 5 miles to New Fane and then 5 miles back to Mauthe Lake, easy sections to knock out both physically and mentally. Plus I knew at this point I would get to see the leaders and see where I stood. At the start I thought about 3-4 women started ahead of me and I thought I passed one, so I thought I was in 3rd or 4th. Around mile 22 I saw the lead men, but no women. I kept waiting and waiting wondering where they were. Just before I came into New Fane I saw the first woman. I got into New Fane AS, mile 25 at 4:27 and was feeling great. My Dad and some family friends were there and let me know I was in 2nd behind by about 6 minutes. Based on where I saw the woman I figured it was more like 10 minutes. I grabbed some more fruit straws and a pack of Honey Stinger chews, a couple cups of coke and some Heed and was out of the AS in less than 5 min, my longest stop. I ate the Honey Stinger chews at this point and knew immediately I was not going to be getting any more food down. I kept a fairly good pace back to Mauthe Lake but I knew I was slowing. I had run nearly the entire 25 miles to New Fane, which is significantly more than I typically run in an ultra so I wasn't sure how I was going to handle the back 25 miles. At mile 26 I began to question what was wrong with marathons. I mean nearly everyone in the greater midwest had run a marthon the weekend before and that was still a great challenge. 26 miles is no easy feat, so why did I think 50 was a good idea? Just the night before Dan and I were chatting about how gerat 50s were. You just got to go run all day, sleep in a bed at night and you didn't have the logistical planning that's needed for a 100.

After another short stop at Mauthe Lake AS and a couple cups of coke, my stomach started to settle, but I didn't dare try any more food. I was still managing fine and not feeling like I had a deficit of calories so I decided to continue with this plan. From Mauthe Lake to Butler Lake I know I slowed a bit more and was now really starting to get cold. I debated grabbing dry clothes from my drop bag, but figured it was futile. So when I got to Butler Lake I just grabbed my drop bag and threw it in the finish pile. That's when an angel decended upon me offering me a cup of chicken broth! I'm not going to lie I had been dreaming about a steaming cup of chicken broth for the last couple miles so a lukewarm cup of anything was wonderful.

13 miles left. 13 long miles left, but only 13 miles left. I kept repeating this to myself as I mindlessly left Butler Lake. Remind me why I wanted to run the Leadville 100 again? AFter only 37 miles I couldn't imagine another 63! I knew after Mauthe Lake I had to just keep moving myself forward and get out of each AS. After leaving Butler Lake I knew I had one more AS before the finish. Now I was really getting cold though. At mile 40 I started shaking pretty uncontrolably. I had been soaking wet for 39.75 miles and it was really starting to set in. The more I worried about it and got my heart rate up the more I started shaking so I reminded myself to control my breathing and keep drinking Heed and I would be fine. By this point the trail conditions had deteriorated considerably as well.  There were sections with several inches of standing water, of course you're feet weren't dry so it didn't matter if you avoided the mini lakes or not. Which by the way despite running 50 miles with wet feet I didn't end up with a single blister! Gotta love drymax socks! The downhills were also quite treacherous. Each step was more of a slip and slide and you would just sink several inches into a thick mud. Its a miracle I stayed on my feet the whole race.

Miles 40-43 were the hardest, some of the hardest miles I've ever ran. With only 10 miles left it doesn't seem so bad, but then you start thinking about how long that will take and realize that you have at least 2 more hours of running to get to the finish. I kept wondering if my crew would be at Hwy 67. I thought if I see them I'll just drop and be done with this mess. But then I thought about the note on the back of my vest, "Climb On Rob" and thought about how many times had Rob been more cold and wet, in much worse conditions and I was sure he didn't just push on he did so with a smile. So I pushed on, not with a smile though. At Hwy 67 I grabbed two cups of coke and didn't look up, didn't stop, nothing other than some huge thank yous to the volunteers who had to be even colder than I was. I knew if I stopped for even a moment I might never get going again. I also kept repeating to myself "The best way to end pain is to finish the race," Ken Chlouber you are brilliant!

2nd place finishers swag
Its a strange mental thing, but as I was only a couple steps out of the Hwy 67 AS I knew it was the finish line or bust. Leaving an AS, even if its only a few steps is a huge mental breakthrough. I immediately felt warmer, stopped shaking and most importantly I knew I was going to finish. There was no where to drop anymore, I had to finish. I had 7 miles left, probably an hour and a half and it would be over. I would be warm, in dry clothes, and drinking beer! I looked up to the grey sky and silently thanked Rob for pushing and pulling me forward. I wasn't going to let him down, but now could I hang onto 2nd? I had no idea how far behind me the next woman was and had no idea how fast I was going to be able to continue, so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I kept telling myself the more I ran the faster I would get to the firehouse. Then before I knew it I was on the connector trail. I was almost there, the pavement would be coming up soon. Then I hit the asphalt and the town of Greenbush, half a mile left. Half a mile and a ginormous looking hill, okay maybe more of a slight incline. A huge grin broke out on my face. I just kept pounding and ran up the hill, made the left turn and followed the cones down the road to the firehouse. I did it, I finished, I held onto 2nd and I came in under 10 hours. 
Finishing line

My goals for the race were to go under 9:30, place in the top 3 women, and to work on my mental toughness during the low points. My results: I ran my fastest 50 mile time by 91 minutes and took 2nd which was great. I didn't whine, at least not out loud, and I didn't quit, although I definitely thought about it several times. It wasn't a perfect race, but I definitely improved upon my performance at North Fork in 2011 and Leadville this year. I cut down my time at AS which hurt me in North Fork and I was much more on point with my nutrition. Even though I had stomach issues I didn't bonk. I also ran at least 45 of the miles, which is more than I've ever done before. As a mountain runner a 50 miler usually means you're going to spend 15-25 of those miles hiking. This race was a huge test of my mental toughness and while I certainly didn't win that test, I finished much better than I have before.

Finishing in under 10 hours also qualified me for the Western States 100 lottery. This would normally not even be a thought (as in of course I would enter the lottery), but its the same day as the Leadville Marathon next summer. Dan said I would be silly not to enter the lottery, that Rob would say I was ridiculous for even considering not entering. I can see the look on his face that I would think about not trying. He would probably even offer to skip the marathon and pace me! By Monday afternoon he would have sent me a million WS100 race reports, course descriptions, video links and probably daily pictures of the buckle to remind me what I'd be missing by not entering the lottery. The lottery opens November 10th so I have some time to decide. Its definitely not an easy decision. It was great to finish another ultra, to test myself in some pretty rough conditions, and I owe it all Rob. These 50 miles were for you! They may not have been fast, but I ran them hard and I laid it all out there. I know Rob was there the whole time, but especially at the end, because when I finished not only was I ginning ear to ear, but I couldn't wait to do it again!

Week October 8 - 14

Miles Running: 60.1
Hours Running and Hiking: 13


  1. I cannot even BEGIN to imagine. You are a rockstar!!!

    1. Thanks! I can't wait to hear when you're going to run your first marathon! You'll rock it!

  2. I would agree that there is only @ 1.5 miles of semi-technical, although I have run the whole (old) Leadville course and found Leadville about the same or on average a bit less.

    In WI we often walk up the little hills, just for a break from running. At Glacial I ended up have wo walk some downs also - But that is what I get for never owning trail shoes.

    Congrats on the sub 10 and for overcoming the mud and rain.


    1. Congrats on a great race yourself! I agree Leadville's not technical, although in my opinion, the trail coming around Turquoise Lake had many more rocks and roots scattered about.

      Glacial was a great race I'd love to run again, but I'll have to change up my training a bit to get a better run/walk plan. Trial shoes helped, but late in the race there wasn't much that was going to help with the mud.

      Good luck in your next race!


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