2014 DWD Devil’s Lake Race Recap + Video Highlights
Third stop of the 2014 Running Fit Dances with Dirt (DWD) series was held this past weekend (07/12/14) on the beautiful rolling Baraboo hills in Merrimac, Wisconsin. If you have never been to this area of Wisconsin you SHOULD find the time to get there. The course is nestled in the foot hills of the Parfrey’s Glen State Natural Area. The race will take you onto the Ice Age trail and to some incredible 700+ foot views of Devil’s Lake below you from the East Bluff State Natural Area. At one point there is an aid station on an exposed rocky cliff that you can refuel your gear as you look over the gorge below. The overall course starts with a 5 mile loop up, around and down the Devil’s Head Ski Resort (double black diamond, just saying) then you head out to the Ice Age trail that connects into a double loop pattern (for 50 milers).
This race was also a family fun weekend as just 30 minutes north of the event is the Wisconsin Dells and home to the largest gathering of water parks. Yes, my kids and wife were really excited about this trip. Quick blurb about where we stayed…Wilderness Resort. This water park had an amazing amount of pools, slides (indoor & outdoor), arcade games, zip lines, laser tag, golf, go-carts and anything else you could think of. We highly recommend staying here!
Plans for the race were to run it at my hundred mile pace and work on nutrition. A couple of friends of mine (Derek Lewis & Peter Burrill) were also running the 50 miler thus we all decided to hang with each other as much as we could. For Derek this would be his first 50 mile so Peter and I thought that we would just chill on the pace and keep him company for most of the day. The forecast for the day called for overcast, possible rain and temps hanging in low 80s.
As I mentioned before the first 5 miles is basically a ski mountain adventure. First you’re taken out on some golf cart paths along the golf course then onto what appears to be some services roads for the ski resort. This will wind up to the top of the mountain (fair to call it a mountain for this Michigander with 500+ ft incline for roughly 2.5 miles) and then a onto some traditional DWD style of trails (deer trails), then just past some ski lifts you begin your decent to the base. This will definitely warm up your quads for the remainder of the day. As we passed our first aid station off we rolled onto the Ice Age trail and to what will be some AMAZING trails.
For the next 40 miles we would be doing a double loop section that would involve some long ups and downhills (definitely some good power hiking time) but some decent flat sections that you could ease into a good pace now and then. Included in this section you hit up the beautiful East Bluff Nature Area trail that overlooks Devil’s Lake. You get to tackle this section twice if you’re running the 50 miler. Along this area you encounter many stair like rocks that are an adventure to traverse through plus given the day’s humidity which made these pretty slippery as the day went on.
At the 20 mile aid station there is a short out and back (roughly a 1.5 miles). Peter had a great idea to ditch the vests for this short section. After running 20 miles with a vest plus soaked in sweat this short section felt GREAT to cool off. The aid station was also the gear drop for the day and we’d see it again at mile 36. I packed another pair of shoes in case I needed to swap out but so far my new Salomon Sense Pros were treating me well so I decided to keep the pit stop short, chug down some sweet tea, and grab up as much food from the aid station that I can carry for our walk out. As we headed back onto the grassy trail the sun was starting to peek through the clouds which was good but that also started to bump up the temps plus the humidity. Once we rolled into the tree covered trail the shade did help keep the temps down a bit.
At the end of the second loop a much-needed stop at the loo, I refueled up with some delicious pretzel M&Ms (my favorite) and reloaded some water into the bladder. Derek kept moving forward at this point when we stop as he felt good and we told him we’ll catch up. From here on out it was seeing the same loop again but there was definitely nothing boring about it. I was excited that we got to head back up to the bluff. At this point the three of us were starting to feel the day’s humidity. Derek was starting to feel the 50 mile fatigue and the humidity was definitely putting a bump in Peter’s stride. We let Derek make the call on when to walk on the ups and then Peter helped determine the pace on the flats. I was feeling pretty happy with myself at this point as I didn’t feel the fatigue yet as I have in my past races this year.
When we completed our out-n-back from the 36 mile aid station we lost Derek on the 2 mile up hill climb. Peter and I stopped a few times to see if we could spot him but we never did. We had to make that call of do we head back and find him or do we keep pushing on. At this point we were definitely wanting to get the day over with plus Peter was starting to show signs of possible dehydration and I knew that we still had some more climbs ahead of us. So we choose to keep moving forward. Leading up to now I never really once tracked my time from my watch as I wasn’t out there to race but to just get in a long training run in but as we reach the top of the climb (around mile 40) I looked at our over time and did some quick math. I knew that Peter wasn’t firing on all cylinders but one thing I learned about him is that if I give him a possible goal he tends to focus on it and maybe it would get us in earlier. We were at a point that if we could start to push the down hills at an honest pace we may be able to cross the finish line under 10 hours and maybe closer to a 9:30 finish. So I pitched the idea and BOOM off we went. For the next 5 to 6 miles we truly pushed through the flat sections and power hiked fast on the up hills. As the next couple of aid stations came up we made our stops efficient and didn’t waste any time. From here on I didn’t capture any more photos or video as it was mission time to finish.
At one aid station a volunteer mentioned that we were almost to the finish site but not to be too excited as we’ll need to finish the same 5 mile loop that we did at the beginning of the race. This threw me a bit as I was doing some math based on my mileage from my watch and it would mean that based on Garmin distance we’d be running more than 50 miles for the day (would be 51.3 at the end).
The volunteer was right. As rolled by the start/finish line aid station we were routed back to the 5 mile ski resort loop so away we go. At this point Peter had enough as the humidity took a huge toll on him. I think it was a combination of our hard push and the humidity. He kept telling me to go on without him but I wouldn’t have it. We started this together and we’re finishing it together. If that meant we walked the entire 5 mile loop, we walk it. Time was not a factor any more and just getting him across that finish line was my mission.
As we ventured on the loop we encounter a swarm of mosquitoes that seemed to never leave us. We both had head buffs that would turn into our weapon of defense now. Unfortunately this loop didn’t have any aid stations so I made sure Peter was drinking enough to try to stay hydrated. Once we made it to the top of the ski mountain I kept encouraging him to try to start-up a slow shuffle and let gravity of the decent get us to the finish. After a mile of decent we could see the finish line. I was incredibly happy with my run that day but more so proud and amazed of Peter for sticking it out and getting it done. As we crossed the finish line together Peter collapsed and I knew he put it all out there on the line. I quickly ran over to the finish line tent and called for a medic to come over as I grabbed a couple of bottles of water plus a hand full of ice. I knew he was over heating so I jammed the ice down his singlet and started pouring the water over his head. Pretty sure the shock of the cold water sparked some life back into him. After some time in the med tent he was back to his ole self and ready for the next race. Congrats buddy. In the end we rolled through the finish line at 10:38 and some change. This time put me 3rd overall in my age group. Didn’t expect that! 🙂
So are you wondering how Derek did? As soon as we got Peter into the med tent I was talking to Derek’s fiance about when he might be coming in and I was honestly just about to head back out to see if I could run with him in. But I didn’t need to. Derek made it and he was just minutes behind us too. Congrats Derek on your first 50!
With my 3rd DWD 50 miler under my belt and the 4th 5o miler for the year, I was really looking forward to some quality time with the family back at the water park for a couple of days of relaxation. Although I have to admit the hundreds of stairs you have to take to get to the top of the water slides is a killer but a great recovery work out.
I’m looking forward to heading back to Devil’s Lake in 2015 and taking on the 50 mile course again. Meanwhile it’s time to focus on some double up weekend runs as the Run Woodstock Hallucination 100 is just around the corner (Sept. 5) and that sub 20 hr is looking more and more doable. If I don’t see you at Woodstock, I’ll see you in Hell. Hell, Michigan that is for the 4th and final stop of the DWD Ultra Challenge Series.
Gear on the Run
- Salomon Sense Pro
- Socks – Wrightsock Double Layer
- Bottoms – Salomon Short Tight
- Top – INKnBURN Acid Rock Tank
- If you haven’t tried them yet, you need too. Read about my gear review blog here.
- Headbands used – INKnBURN Rock’n Rock Tech Tube, INKnBURN Run or Die Tech Tube, INKnBURN R2D2 Tech Tube
- Watch – Garmin 910xt
- Backpack – Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek Vest 2.0 (love, LOVE this vest!)
- Bladder – Camelbak 70z Antidote Reservoir
- Glasses – Rudy Project Rydon
- Camera – GoPro HERO3+ Silver with SP Gadgets POV Pole
- And I can’t forget my Wilderness Water Park wrist pass! Yes, I left it on ALL weekend. Heck I see have it on.