Alec and Cathy Muthig started their little 'adventure race' six years ago with a mission to challenge the Wyoming running folk to even tougher conditions than they already have to deal with up there in the land of the frigid wind. The course is an 11 mile snow loop around the Twin Mountain massif; flotation devices and whining are grounds for disqualification.
Blades being pulled alongside I-80 and heading to the wind farm to harness the awesome power of Wyoming's brutal wind.
Last year we had significant wind, but the snow levels were considered manageable compared to 2008 when 'runners' were wading through waist-deep snow. This year, the snow was definitely worse than '09, but we had a picture perfect morning: zero wind accompanied by glorious sun. With three layers on top, I was overheating within five minutes of the off.
Whereas last year a good 20-30% of the course was dirt, this year there can't have been more than a hundred yards of dirt and it came at you in patches of one or two steps: worthless. Undoubtedly the running was harder, but for the weather we had it was a fair trade.
A record 39 runners toed the line, with 14 - including myself - signed up for the double loop. Unlike last year, however, I wasn't committed mentally to the second loop from the start, instead I went in with a wait-and-see approach ... er ... the-second-loop-probably-ain't-gonna-happen approach.
Our small band of hardy souls got out at a trot from Alec's 'off' and I was soon breaking trail with a couple of other Fort Collins'ites: Ross Kontz and Mike Hinterberg. My first of many spills came early with a foot unexpectedly sinking knee deep into the abyss, followed by a face plant into the sugary snow. Pull yourself back up and start trudging again, that essentially was the MO for the remainder of the run.
By the time we hit Devil's Loop and the south side of Twin Mountain, I was losing interest in any thoughts of two loops and trudging in general. Ross had taken off and was soon out of sight, my energy levels were low, my foot was starting to hurt a bit, but hey, at least the wind wasn't blowing. The south side of the run seemed to take forever and the snow was unrelenting: crunch, crunch, posthole, stumble; crunch, crunch, posthole, fall.
I finally made the climb out of the Devil's Loop, missed a couple of turns and then was back up through the rocks and into an area with more exposed views. I caught sight of Ross a couple of minutes ahead and figured that I would give chase. My thinking went that if I could catch him by the end of the first loop, I could stop and still claim a win for the short course without having to go two loops for a win and a perfect January - all the incentive I needed.
With a couple of miles to go, we hooked into a snowmobile track that had crusted over nicely: finally some firm footing that was reliably runnable. I caught Ross with a half mile to go and cruised into the finish, happy to call it a day after a total of 110 race miles in January. Ross came in a half minute behind me, grabbed a couple of cookies and then proceeded to put me to shame by heading straight back out for his second loop. Alec had beers to hand, so the shame was soon forgotten.
I passed a good couple of hours shooting the breeze with the fine folk of the southern Wyoming running community and those that had come up from the Front Range, before heading back south with Alex and Michael to the comfort of a 48 degree Fort Collins afternoon.
On a side note, Patrick Eastman added a couple of growlers of Library IPA and porter to the post-race beer pool. If you ever find yourself in Laramie, be sure to stop in at the Library Sports Grille and Brewery to check out the brews - really good stuff.
So another fun run outing in Wyoming, and great to see so many people coming out to enjoy the silliness of Alec and Cathy's trudgeathon. Three more years and I earn the jacket.