|From a field of 65 down to 23 nuts|
The Twin Mountain Trudge is a race put on by Alec Muthig of Journeymen Adventure Enterprises. He bills it as an adventure footrace, not a trail race, through a lot of snow up near the Happy Jack rec area in Wyoming. The trudge around Twin Mountain seems to represent the only foot traffic of the winter in this area and completing one 11 mile loop of the course often requires anywhere from 2 to 5+ hours. Conditions can vary from year to year, best illustrated by Alex's times which in 4 years have ranged from 2:18 to 4:09. There are big snow years and there are years that Nick Clark is willing to show up. 2011, my first year was a non-Nick year. Other than 1/4 mile at the start and finish the snow was knee deep or higher. That Trudge consisted of moving your feet from foot hole to foot hole left by the racers in front of me. I finished in 4:20, besting my marathon PB by 8 minutes. The 2012 race approached without the ominous snow warnings that Alec sent out in 2011 so at first I thought it might be a faster course this year. Over the 2 weeks before the race though we were informed otherwise.
|Best marked course you'll ever find, if you run in back at least.|
In 2011 I was prepared for wind, as Wyoming is the word for wind in some language I am sure. 2011 spared us from a lot of wind, though there was some at the end for us one loopers, and a lot for the 2nd loop of the two loopers. 2012 had winds howling from the get go. So much so that the race was actually postponed 1 week due to 70 MPH winds (not gusts) forecast the original date. 30-40 MPH greeted us as we got out of the truck at the starting line, sitting exposed on top of a hill. With the wind it was chilly, and I briefly wondered just what I was getting in to. Once we starting running I warmed up quickly though and the first turn had the wind mostly at our backs. By mile 1.5 I had stopped to shed my thicker coat in favor of my light wind shell. It's not so bad I thought, as there was already way more of the course that was runnable than in 2011 due to windswept trails without a ton of snow on them. Eventually it dawned on me that wind at my back now meant I would pay for it at the end of the race, but I buried that thought and enjoyed things while I could. Mile 1 was my fastest of the day at about 14:30, and mile 2 was a 16:something. There was a crust on top the snow and it was hard enough to hold you up much of the time so far in the race. The toughest conditions so far, I thought, was the sugary snow that was shallow enough you thought you should run through. This snow flowed and was slippery so every step your foot would slide what seemed like feet (but probably was just 4-6 inches). Regardless it made for hard work.
Mile 3 things started to get deep and there was some climbing too. We were in the trees though so the wind wasn't bad. Mostly the snow was knee deep but a few of the waist high drifts Alec warned us of were there. Though the moving was slow it was a bright sunny day out and the scenery was wonderful. There are a lot of really cool rocks up that way. I hit the site where the aid station is in years that it's accessible for the aid crew, about mile 4.5, in 1:50. I was making good time and having fun. I made the fence line climb and pushed towards the Devil's Loop, meeting up with course photographer Wendy (who was snowshoeing the course backwards to take pictures of us) just before heading down into it. Here there were lots more thigh and waist deep snow patches and a lot more breaking through the crust.
This year an 8 mile course would have been about perfect. I hit 8 miles in 3.5 hours and while tired was doing OK overall. Here climbing and becoming more exposed to the now headwinds with every step the going got tough. Wind in your face, waist high drifts you occasionally had to crawl out of, and very slippery sugary snow when you could run. The last 3 miles took me 100 minutes to complete including an 18 minute mile "sprint" straight into the wind for the final 1/4 mile. I swear I was running with track interval intensity and barely moving into that wind. Half way through I made the mistake of telling Wendy I thought it was easier this year than last. I paid for that braggadocio for all of the last few miles. Over the second half of the race my devolving goals went from sub-4:00 finish to beat last year's 4:20 to beat my first ever marathon time of 4:58. I crossed the line in 4:56, which was why I was putting so much energy into that "sprint".
I crossed the finish line, stopped running, and was handed a shot of Scotch. Things seemed better. Though I wondered what I was doing a few times during the last couple miles I never got to the point where I thought about not coming back in 2013. I'll be back, and I'll enjoy it, mostly. I like things like this, a challenge mentally and physically, success not 100% dependent on how fast you are, something that most people would not do.
|Halfway through, having fun|
|2 miles left, just want to be done|