On Saturday, runners came from across the Midwest to participate in the notorious Ice Age Trail Races. Founded in 1982, this race is one of America’s classic ultramarathons. Distances of 50 mile, 50K and half marathon are offered, but spaces are extremely limited. All distances sell out in a matter of hours every year, so if you want to race this, you have to watch for registration announcements on their social media pages and website.
Registration for the 2018 races opened on Sunday, December 10, and all races filled quickly. Each distance opened at a different time throughout the day on Sunday and I did not experience any difficulty with the server being overloaded. I hopped on right at 6 p.m. and registered for the half marathon.
This is one of my favorite races of the year and I was not disappointed. The race is staffed entirely by volunteers who work hard to ensure a great race experience. Multiple emails came from the RD before the race providing updates on course conditions and race day instructions.
Each distance began at a different time throughout the morning with the last race start at 9 a.m. for half marathoners. By the time I arrived, we were being pushed into overflow parking, which was still extremely close to the start line. I grabbed my packet and headed to the start line for a cross country type start.
The course was a 6.5 mile loop that intersected with both the 50 milers and 50K-ers, although we did not see other distance runners until the end of our second loop. Although the race staff, volunteers and fellow runners are incredible, what really makes this race special is the course. The race website describes the course below.
“The race is held within the boundaries of the 18,000 acre Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine Forest. When the Wisconsin glacier receded about 13,000 years ago, its glacial ice and melt waters shaped the Kettle Moraine landscape. The race course you run is a living museum of the imprints of the last glacial advance, with its glacial boulders, steep ridges, knobby hills and kettle depressions. Land forms known as drumlins, eskers, kames and kettles predominate the landscape.”
“The irregular distribution of materials gathered by the advancing glacier and the myriad ways in which the sun strikes the ever changing topography created a multitude of interesting habitats for plants and animals. For a temperate climate, the Kettle Moraine boasts an amazing variety of species. Your running journey will take you through pine and hardwood forests, wet and dry prairies, along high ridges overlooking wetlands and lakes, down to the lowlands only to charge up another hill. There are literally hundreds of hills, small and large that you will traverse on your running adventure.”
The morning began rainy, but by the time I hit the course, the rain had subsided and cooler temps helped runners tackle the hilly, technical course. There were minimal water stations, but runners were fairly warned and encouraged to carry their own hydration. Finishers received a super cool Ice Age keychain made from heavy metal and a long-sleeved technical knit t-shirt. If you are looking for a fun, unique, tough trail race in May, check this one out next year. Just remember you’ll need to register early in December of 2018 if you want a spot!
Race results were unavailable at the time this article was written.