Chippewa Moraine 50K Race Report

On April 15, 2008, in Uncategorized, by Meghan

The trail upon which we ran was appropriately named for the weather; on a chilly, snowy, mid-spring morning, we raced along the Ice Age Trail. I probably wouldn’t have looked twice had a mammoth or a sabre-toothed cat ambled across the trail, signaling a real return to the Ice Age.

Friday’s weather in the Twin Cities was anything but pleasant. Thus, my mother and I decided to make the short jaunt into Wisconsin on Friday evening in an effort to get to the race venue before the weather turned truly foul. Incremental rain, sleet, and snow accompanied us on our journey to New Auburn, Wisconsin, and the Ice Age Trail Interpretive Center, the race’s headquarters. When the interpretive center emerged into view atop the tallest knoll around, my mom remarked, “Oh, what a nice setting for a visitor center.” I simultaneously said, “Oh, what a killer finish line.”

At the visitor center, my mom refused to get out of the car on principle. “I will not walk around in snow in April. I just won’t.” Little did we know how much April snow she’d be shuffling around in for the next 24 hours! I made my way into the visitor center, met and chatted with Wynn, the race director, and picked up my race packet. Afterwards, we had a fun evening of soaking in the local flavor at a restaurant and hotel in a nearby town about 15 minutes away.

On the way back to Saturday’s race start, I got us lost. This is amusing because we had made the identical drive only 12 hours before. I tell you, those snow-covered Wisconsin roads all look the same! Luckily, we pulled into the parking lot at 7 am just in time to line up at the start.

The course was out-and-back, 15.5-ish miles along the permanently rolling Ice Age Trail. This is what the course was like: 1. Climb up to the top of a mini-moraine through the forest; 2. Run along the curving crest of the moraine; 3. Look at a frozen lake one or both sides below you through the trees; 4. Dive off a moraine and make a beeline for the next one somewhere ahead of you in the woods; and 5. Repeat 7200 times, and finish the race. Oh wait, I forgot the rolling field in the middle of the race and a little river out there somewhere. It was a gorgeous course, but I couldn’t possibly discern for you the difference between mile 3, mile 15, and mile 22.

The trail was pretty snowy on the way out. At times there was 3 inches of snow, just a light and pleasant padding underfoot, and at other times there was 12 inches of snow, and I was running through the post holes of the people in front of me. Some of the snow was new with great traction, and some of the snow was that old, ice-skating rink slippery, sugary snow. However, bless the lead runners who blazed a track where there was none; and, bless the last runner, a snowshoe-er who packed the trail beautifully for everyone’s return trip.

The people out there were amazingly friendly. I think about 370 people asked me if I was from Wyoming, Minnesota (a small Minnesota town) when I told them where I was from. Of those 370 people who learned that I was from Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, approximately 369 of them had been on vacation there and proceeded to tell me a funny story about their trip. I absolutely loved chatting with everyone out there.

I got a little lost. Well, myself and the whole group of men I was running with got momentarily off the route. We were all galloping along in a long train, and we took the wrong trail. The entertaining part about this was that we were running through pristine snow marked up only by the lead pack of men in front of us. Evidently, the lead pack forged a trail the wrong way for a short distance before righting themselves. And, like little lemmings, our second pack followed their errant course as well. It was a 5 minute maximum divergence from the race course, which, by the way, we found perfectly marked when we returned to the route.

About 7 people probably think I’m a snotty bee-yotch. At the 15.5 mile turnaround aid station, my mom was there to restock my supply of nuun and vanilla Powergel. Bless her little heart, but she was so focused on trying to get her camera to work (It was working very slowly because of the cold weather.) that she was unknowingly holding my supplies hostage. I had to ask several times before I eventually grabbed the bag out of her hands. It was a rather close race among the women, and I was anxious to get back on trail! My mom understood my grabby hands, so I’m hoping those 7 bystanders gawking at me also do.

I felt like I was working steadily, and I settled into my eventual finishing place with about 9 or 10 miles to go. I got real complacent at this point, and for this I’m a tiny bit frustrated at myself. At the aid station marking about 8 miles to go, race director Wynn told me that the next girl was just in front of me. I pushed until I was within sight and sound of her, and then I backed off just a bit. I repeated this cycle a total of 3 times, count ’em, 3 times in those last 8 miles. I never tried to overtake her, though, for fear of her having like 17 more gears with which she would hammer me into the ground. How complacent am I? That was not cool and also a little wimpy. Maybe she did have 17 more gears, and maybe I did, too. I never found out, though, because I never pushed the issue. Wimpy!

The finish line was a true killer, a 1/2 mile steady uphill, up the lovely knoll with the interpretive center on top. I immediately forgot all about the final hill because I was greeted by a lot of friendly faces, including my mom, warm clothes, a fireplace inside the interpretive center, and a million calories worth of homemade food served by the friendliest of volunteers. The finish line was a lot of fun, and it was great to share war stories with other folks from the trail. I saw Sea Legs’ SR and their baby, and we chatted until Sea Legs herself shortly arrived, looking like she’d just been out on a walk around the block, rather than a 31 mile jaunt through the snowy woods.

Inclement (and uncontrollable) weather included, the race was fabulous. Great course; lovely race director and volunteers; superb aid station support (Those aid stations saved me because I was not quite prepared to run an hour longer than I had anticipated for this race. I hearted the peanut butter and jelly squares!); and fun runners to run and chat with. I would love to run this course again under dry conditions, as I think it’s a fast course. Better weather next year, hopefully?


13 Responses to “Chippewa Moraine 50K Race Report”

  1. WynnMan says:

    Meghan! Great report, I am so proud of you and your accomplishments. I am glad you were able to experience a taste of the gnarly trails here in the Upper Midwest, I can assure you that they only get more nasty and beautiful as you work your way northward. Maybe next time you can take in the Superior trail races on the Northshore. I hope you can come back again to the Chippewa course when it is faster and warm.
    Please visit the race website for photos, results, report and the race blog to see a recap and youtube of the spangled banner.

    You looked great on the trails and you were definitely playing it smart in holding back a bit and gauging Helen’s progress, however the beauty of racing is the uncertainty. I think both you or her could have been the victor that day. Sometimes you have to take risks and just go to the wheelhouse. Sometimes it backfires and sometimes it does not.

    Do you mind if I have your site linked to mine.. Thanks for a memorable run and plan to be out west in Targhee soon.

    recover well! Glad you liked the hills, a.k.a. “silent killers”

  2. Bob Gentile says:

    Awesome Re-Cap Meghan and great race time, looks like about 15mins from the first place winner–CONGRATS!!!

    … You did Fantastic!

    OK now I feel like eating some peanut butter and jelly squares 🙂

    Have a great recovery Week!

  3. Danni says:

    Awesome!!! The Ice Age 50, run on the same terrain, is my only DNF and I really want to get back. Reading your report brings me back to New Auburn and makes me long to run that trail!!! Except for the snow part. Sounds like an awesome race. As for not overtaking the second place woman, hindsight is 20/20 — you weren’t feelin’ it right then and so you did the right thing for you right then. And third is pretty awesome!!! You’re speeeeeeeeeedy lady!

  4. Beth says:

    Yeah Meghan!!! Sounds like really ROUGH conditions. I can’t even imagine racing in snow, let alone snow so deep you have to find others’ foot markings! You ultra runners are crazy!! But either way, congrats for a job well done! Sounds like you and your mom had a great trip!

  5. Backofpack says:

    Wow, that snow sounds tough! Have you ever heard what CREW stands for? Crabby Runner, Endless Waiting. Chances are the bystanders know that!

  6. Audrey says:

    The weather sounds way harsh. WOW. Good thing you train in EVERYTHING!!

    I love that your mom got out there to support you. She is mom of the year for real 🙂

    Another aventure under your belt!

  7. Sunshine Girl says:

    Snow?? No Problemo for you! You have had 6 months of winter running foreplay!

    Way to run out there superstar, don’t be so harsh on yourself, I say embrace your inner wimp. hey-hey. I’m a path of least resistance type girl.

    Running or in this case RACING in snow for 50k doesn’t sound to wimpy though….
    Hope you had some quality mom time!


  8. JeffO says:

    Great race report!
    Sounds like great trail conditions! I love snow!
    As for holding back – I’m still not forgiving myself for the DNF at Moab. I could have done it, maybe. But the “maybe” is why I went out there! Why did I quit?!!
    You did way excellent, and it’s not exactly equal to compare your great 3rd place finish to my DNF, but racing is supposed to be about “going for it”. They’re just races – it’s not a big deal, but I can relate to your type-A musings. Coulda-woulda-shoulda!
    In the end, the most important thing is the people, the camaraderie, your own growth, and likewise inspiring others to be more each day than they were before. You do the latter well.
    Glad your Wisconsin journey was good and puncuated by this awesome race.

  9. olga says:

    You ran very smart, and you had a great time! I think it counts for a beautiful day:) yay for Meghan!

  10. Runner Brewer says:


    I ran behind you a large portion on the outbound. You looked like a force to be dealt with.

    I was in the group of 3, one being the woman you were trying to catch in the last 8 miles.

    She saw you coming at her in the last mile around the lake, so the other guy and me said we would tackle any woman who tried to pass.

    Molly did not have 17 gears, but about 16. She was chipper as a kid on Christmas. The last 6 miles I was thinking “does this girl tire?”

    It was great chatting with you.

    That was a race for the history books.

  11. Meghan says:

    Thanks, everyone, for such nice comments. I’m super appreciative of your kindness!

    Wynn- Again, great job race directing. I can’t imagine the volume of time and effort you put into the race! Thanks for the event!

    Bob- Thank you! Food tastes so much better when you’re on trail, though, doesn’t it? The PBJ squares were like a fine chocolate in those moments.

    Danni- It’s so unexpectedly pretty there. One minute you’re in some farm fields and the next minute you’re in gorgeous glacier country. You should go back; I will someday, also. Thanks!

    Beth- Thanks! It’s funny, because the conditions were exactly what I run on here in Yellowstone all winter long. Almost identical.

    Michelle- Let’s hope they know your great definition. Thank you so much!

    Audrey- My mom is the best. It was amazing to have her out there with me, cheering me on from under 2 million layers of clothes! Thanks!

    Leslie- Thanks for the props, I appreciate your thoughts. Hindsight is 20/20, you know?

    JeffO- You’re so right. The more I participate in these trail events, the more I realize that it really is all about the people. The community created through racing trails almost surmounts all the other benefits of the effort. Thanks!

    Olga- Thanks. I do think I ran soft, though. On the way out, I was telling myself, “Take it easy now, and go for it on the way back if you feel good.” And then on the way back I felt fine, but I only pushed for short increments of time. More knowledge for next time, though.

    Runner Brewer- Thanks for reading and commenting! It was fun chatting with you guys out there on the course. I saw the 3 of you 3 times, but I think you only saw me at the very end. You did great this weekend!

  12. Journey to a Centum says:

    So when I was at Yellowstone in the lodge I heard this guy whining about how horrible his shift was. The voice sounded familiar, as well as the complaining. I turned and sure enough it was a guy I had worked with at a company in Washington. He wasn’t happy in Washington and he wasn’t happy in Yellowstone.

    OK, there’s one of my Yellowstone stories.

    I kept expecting a sentence like “My toes were frozen and eventually turned black”, but I didn’t hear any complaints from you! Don’t second guess yourself on your efforts to catch that other woman runner. You did what you did based on how you felt at the time. Don’t go what-ifing yourself into making this great run any less than it actually was!

    It’s too bad someone couldn’t have gotten a snow mobile into the trials to pack em down some before the race.

    I have not checked the result of the race but based on wynnman’s comments it sounds like you did pretty good!

    Take care and have a safe journey home!

  13. Journey to a Centum says:

    Third overall woman! Your shorts must have been on fire! Woooo Hoooo SPEEDSTA!

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