When a thunderstorm wakes everyone at 2am, most runners with a race scheduled for the next morning would cringe. However, when the same thunder storm rolls through the night before the Cliffrunner 10k, it only adds to the excitement of my favorite trail run of the summer! A little extra mud only adds to the adventure.
Lisa and I hit the road to High Cliff State Park, ready for an adventure. This was the 3rd year in a row running this race for me – and it also just happens to be the 3rd year they have run it… yup, since we’ve started a tradition, no sense in breaking it! The streak must continue! This was the first year for Lisa – and also he first real trail race!
Thankfully the race doesn’t start until 10am, so the early morning storm was already long gone, but of course, it had to rain even more as we were driving to the park. This was going to be a muddy morning!
Just after we got to the park, it finally stopped raining so we headed over, picked up race packets and kicked back for a while, chatting we a few friends that showed up for mud fest also! Once again, this year’s race was sold out, but the awesome thing is, they cap it at only a few hundred runners, so that the trails are not too crowded! It also makes packet pick up, parking and all that “fun” stuff so much easier! The guys have a fabulous crew that comes out to help them make this a fun event! Thanks guys!
With the end of the rain behind us, and pre-race rituals complete (the usual… bathroom stops… pinning Lisa’s race bib on… again… shoes tied), it was time to head to the start line! We knew that there was not more raining coming out way, but the storms that rolled through in the last 8 hours had already left their mark! There was going to be mud. LOTS of mud. but that didn’t bother me. My concern was how slippery the steps were going to be as we were making our way down the one section of the course!
I think everyone that runs this race will agree, the most challenging part of the course is the first half mile! After heading out from the start, it is a short run through the parking lot, out to the road and then straight onto the park service road… UP a huge hill! Only the craziest, most hard core trail runners can make it up this hill running. I am NOT one of those runners. There is no way that I was going to be able to run all the way up it! Once day, yes maybe I will be able to run this hill, this was not the year! A few other ladies that I was with when we approached the top of the hill mad a comment about taking 5 minutes to go .3 miles – and part of that was the stretch through the parking lot at on the road. Yes, the hill is tough, but then again, there is nothing easy about this race, so may as well start out with a challenge!
Once you get past the crazy hill at the beginning, it’s time to enjoy some of the beauty of these trails! High Cliff State Park gets its name from the limestone cliff of the Niagara Escarpment, which parallels the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago (the largest lake in WI). Today, these areas were filled with mud, water and everything in between!
The trails winds you through the natural beauty of the area, which makes this the perfect place for a trial run, for those runners looking for a little extra challenge, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. There are a few points during the race that you pass right near the campground and the smell of breakfast cooking is almost enough to make you stop and join those camping nearby!
But then it’s time to head down to the lower part of the course, along the Lime Kiln trail. To me, this is the most fun part of the course! After you pass the set of stairs, (where at the top of the beloved water station that you will pass 3 times during the race) you will wind up and down wooded trail, over rocks, around trees… true trail running at it’s finest! This section of the course is mostly downhill, but has it’s fair share of climbs along the way!Once you reach the bottom of the hill, it’s time to recover and enjoy running along the shoreline, with the waves of the lake just a few feet below you.
After cruising down the last section, this “flat” section is a nice place to recover and soak in more of the green and trees around you. But don’t get too comfortable! Bear Crawl hill is up around the next corner! This is the hill that separates the men from the boys, the true trail runners from the road runners! Once again, running up this beast is tough. but you signed up for the challenge – just keep moving forward!
It was right around bear crawl hill that I started running with a few other women that were keeping right about the same pace. We spent the next 3 miles keeping each other going, comparing race adventures and enjoying a few laughs. I was grateful for their company as it was definitely keeping me going on this tough course. We headed out and around the loop at the south end of the course and headed back to the water station and stairs! Yes, it was time to run down the fun section of the course again!
Once I reached to bottom of the fill and made that final right turn, I realized the the other gals were not far behind me. I slowed up and bit and waited for them to catch up. We may not have started this race together, but we were going to finish it together! And finish together we did! When we hit the parking lot, it was a race to the finish! We pushed each other to empty everything that was left in the tank!
We all crossed the finish line together, with smiles! And if you notice, in the above photo, we all are literally flying! What a perfect way to end one of the toughest races ever!
Every year, the post race party always seems to get better. But when you have pizza, beer (and root beer) at the finish line, as well as door prizes and adorable puppies! Yes, this year, runners were greeted by the unofficial mascot of the Cliffrunner 10k! 10 week only Monty, soaked from playing in the puddles and rain, happily greeted runners as they crossed the finish line. Thank Ann for sharing Monty with all of us! I think I can speak for many runners when I say his happy little (wet) tail was a highlight of the morning!
Once again, Cliffrunner did not disappoint! To quote a tagline on their website…
We punish runners
Challenge trail runners
And humble extreme sports enthusiasts.
Each and every year, over the course of these miles, I swear at the hills, curse the rocks, ask myself why I am doing this to myself AGAIN… and then wait (im)patiently for registration to open again for the next year. This year, was more of the same. The only difference was the addition of the puddles, mud and slippery spots!
In the end, the climbed some hill, slid down a few more and had a super fun morning! According to Lisa’s tracker, over the course of the 6 miles we just completed, we covered 64 flights of stairs! Yes, you read that right. 64 flights. No wonder why my legs were on fire by the time we finished!
What about Lisa you ask? She survived her first trail race, didn’t fall on her butt and finished ahead of her anticipated pace, crossing the finish line with a smile on her face. First thing out of her mouth after she got her medal?
“Can we do that again?!?!”
Yes Lisa, we can! Only a few months and registration will open for 2017 and you can be guaranteed that we will be ones of the first ones that sign up!
So until next year, thank you to all of the runners that makes this event so much fun! And super big thanks to Patrick and Rob for making this race one of the weekends that I look forward to every year! Your passion for extreme trail running is addictive and you know I’ll be back next year… and as always, I’m bringing friends!
Will you be joining us next year??