Chris Locke just sent me this write up of the Tuscobia Winter Ultra Race. I'd never heard of this race before, so it's awesome to have met a guy like Chris who takes on challenges like this. Part of the race is on the Tuscobia trail, which was the back breaking section from the Skull-n-Bones Gravel challenge. Enjoy Chris's report!--Ben
In the spring of the year I registered for the Tuscobia Winter Ultra 35 mile race. I started preparations right away. I did modifications to my bike putting larger tires and buying gear for the race. Boots, Gators, Hat, Gloves, The 35 mile race has much lower requirements then the 75 or the 150. Basically all you need is a bike, headlight, food, water, reflective vest and 3 blinking lights 1 front 2 rear. Everything seemed under control and I was confident with my decisions. Then after doing a few 100 mile rides throughout the summer I thought the 35 sounded a bit anemic. The result was 2 weeks before the Tuscobia I upped my distance to the 75 mile event.
Then the rush began. I needed to find more gear, -0 sleeping bag, bivy sack, sleeping pad, etc. My bike went quickly from a 30 pound set up loaded for the 35 mile race to a 50 pounder loaded for the 75. The mandatory gear list is the same as the Arrowhead 135 and to be honest the planning and packing was some of the best fun I had in this entire experience. I'm a gear guy. I love all the little things and gadgets you need to carry to survive harsh conditions. You are required to carry extra fuel for your camp stove and 3000 calories for safety. Just in case you needed to bivy down for a couple of days till someone discovers you along the trail. This way you don't need to eat your own leg for survival.
The day before the start of the 150 bike and 75 race there was a gear check and dinner in Park Falls. The town really seemed to be behind the event. Streets were well marked and the drive through gear check was a well oiled machine. The parking lots were easy to find and well marked with easy to see signs. The provided lasagna dinner was delicious and it was a good way to get to know your fellow winter ultra enthusiasts. Then there was a very informative meeting going over all the rules course specifics and door prizes. After that we were turned loose till the breakfast at the CCC and bus ride to Rice Lake in the morning.
The morning of the race I was up early after a restless night of sleep. The moon was so bright all night that it was hard to get to sleep. All I could think was how great a night it would be out on the trail. I always get worked up before an event like this. I need to find a way to get a good night's sleep before one of these some day. Fatigue is such a big part in not finishing one of these races which means a good night's sleep is essential to your success. When I got to the starting line of the 150 at almost 6:00 am. the racers were all lined up. I had my gear on my bike and was ready to be put on the trailer. The racers started after a count down and pealed out of town heading west toward Rice Lake where they would turn around and return to Park Falls. The bus was packed tight with racers, sleds and skis. The bikes were packed securely on 2 open trailers with PVC racks witch seemed to work really well. The bus trip was long and chilly and you couldn't see out the windows because they were all frosted up. But we pretty much talked the entire way there. There are always lots of new friends to be found at these events. I sat next to a man who was an experienced mountaineer and he had lots of interesting stories to share. When we finally arrived at the trailhead in Rice Lake we had about an hour to get the rest of our stuff situated. After a brief talk from the race organizers and the DNR we were set loose at 10:00 sharp.
The trail was a hard packed groomed masterpiece we rolled out fast and made it to Birchwood in about 2 hours. I was shocked when I met the first 150 miler at the Checkpoint. He made it from Park Falls in the time it took us to drive to the start and ride 14 miles. I stopped and checked in at the Birchwood motel and I was out about half an hour later. Back on the trail I started meeting the rest of the 150 milers. The trail was beginning to soften and it seemed to be all a continuous up hill grade. By the time I got to Couderey I had already talked myself out of finishing. I didn't have it in me after that. It took me another additional 2 hours to make it to Radisson. I had about another 14 miles to get to Winter and the second checkpoint where I was going to take a 3 hour nap but I was spent. Walking down the trail with my eyes closed taking trail naps was not working and I was making no time that way. I got to the gas station at Radisson and called it quits. It wasn't till I got home that I realized I had made it 35 miles into the 75 mile race witch was my original intended distance any way. I feel like I had a great learning experience this year and I intend to return next year and rock the 75 again. Thank you to all the great volunteers that made this event possible. There was so much support out there at the checkpoints and in Park Falls. The snowmobilers were curtious as well and seemed to be fine with our presents on the trail. Finally thanks to the DNR and the race organizers for making this event possible. It's a great adventure and if anyone has the time and the fortitude I encourage you to try this event. See you all next year.