Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Ice Age Trail, Straight Lake Segment 40 mile Lard Ass

A "Fat Ass" is the name given to a low-key, by-invitation run without fees, awards, aid, course marking, guarantees or zombies.  It can be a race, or just a social event.  A course, a date and time, and some friends.  But, if I have no friends, is it still a "Fat Ass"?  Maybe then it's a "Lard Ass" or something.  I guess I'll use the time I have left to make some friends I think.

I guess I don’t care, I’m doing one anyway.

Due to sucky budget issues, I’ve pared down this year's race schedule to the bare minimum, which leaves 16 weeks between Afton and Surf theMurph.  I can’t train 16 weeks for a 50 mile race, I would die a training death of a thousand screams, or go bananas from being so bored.  Soooo, instead of taking the next 8 weeks off, I've planned a 40 mile run along a segment of the 1000-mile IceAge Trail in northern Wisconsin at about the end of August.  I’ll treat it like a race, with base build up, heat and speed training, an injury or two, and a taper.  Also, my wife Beth will provide the mobile munchy wagon, meeting me at key road crossings.

The route I've selected includes about 40 miles of very hilly singletrack on the trail.  This trail travels along the furthest extent of the last ice sheet to bother Wisconsin in the last 10,000 years, and as such, is full of many interesting terrain features, such as eskers, drumlins, kettles and kames.  Read here for more on my experience running the southern portion this trail.  The section I will be running will be Leach Lake Road (mmm, sounds inviting) to the StraightLake State Park parking area.

The Driftless Area

As a side note, just as interesting as the ice sheet boundary in Wisconsin is, the region the glacier missed is even more incredible.  The southeast corner of Wisconsin is known as the “Driftless Area”, or “Paleozoic Plateau”.  Take a look at a terrain map of Wisconsin, and you’ll see what I mean.  River valleys are deeply dissected (up to 650 feet), and are characterized by steep coulees.  The area is so rugged, a portion of it is known as the Ocooch Mountains, with exposed 1.6 billion year old monadnock (not the disease. it sounds like a disease. or a prescription medicine that can cause frequent urination).

The Driftless Area begs for a Superior Hiking Trail-like corridor, but alas, is pretty undeveloped.  In fact, maybe it’s better that way.  If you are interested in visiting this area, I would recommend the following points of interest from personal experience:
  • Camp at a state park:
    • Devil’s Lake – reserve your spot early, this is the largest and one of the most popular of the Wisconsin parks
    • Wyalusing – get one of the bluff tent sites, incredible view, especially at night
    • Wildcat Mountainthe wildcat did growlll
    • Governor Dodge – big and beautiful in the fall, a family favorite
  • Boat the Wisconsin River, east of Mazomanie – camp on a sand bar (no bugs), fish the river (always a huge variety)
  • Bike the Elroy-Sparta – bring a flashlight, this is one of the best rails-to-trails in the country with awesome scenery and several loooong tunnels
  • Canoe the Kickapoo – lazy, winding, beautiful, and a great swim too; lots of outfitter options
  • Have dinner at Di Sciascio’s in Coon Valley – this place is the proverbial “hole in the wall”, the exterior looks like a bar, but the food is fantastic; you won’t believe me when you see it and will be tempted to move on; don’t!
  • Spend the night at the Westby HouseB&B – this is probably the best B&B in the Driftless Area.

But, back to my Lard Ass (run)
I’m not sure what to expect, or how best to prepare, so I think I’ll take a cautious attitude:
  • Since we do not know this area very well and I may miss an aid drop (or get really lost), I’m thinking a hydration pack would be smart, over my usual 20 oz bottles.  Maybe a few iodine pills and Kool-Aid too.
  • Due to patchy logging and some private land crossings, the trail might be difficult to follow in some areas.  I am getting the latest Ice Age Trail Atlas and Companion Guide from our library.  I do NOT want to get (too) lost.
  • I’ll bring my smartphone for sure.  Other than the talky thing, this will be good for pictures at least, and I can use a breadcrumb app to track my progress.
  • Should I go fast or slow?  Slow makes for a more enjoyable journey, but fast equates the race for which I’m pretending to prepare.  Maybe a combination; fast when I feel like it, and then slow when I want to take a picture of a squirrel or enjoy some scenery or something.

Should be a fun adventure no matter what happens!

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