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Mullin's Icebox 480 Race Report


About two months ago while visiting a running specialty store between a wedding ceremony and reception, Starr and I saw a poster for this race.  I gave her the elbow nudge trying to get her interested.  At the time she didn't seem too thrilled with the idea.  Fast forward a month and Jim Thanig posted on Facebook that he was doing it.  With the idea of having other people there as added ammunition I got her talked into this crazy timed race thing.

Aren't all races timed you say?  Sure, but most races have a set distance and they time how long it takes you to get there.  Not the Icebox.  This is a timed ultra event where there is a set time and you see how far you can run.  In this case 480 minutes, or 8 hours.

The race is held on the single track at Whitetail Ridge in River Falls.  For the first 6.5 hours you run full 7 mile laps.  Starting with an hour to go they open a one mile loop which you can do instead.  The key is that you only get credit for completed laps.  If you start a 7 mile loop and run 6.5 miles but aren't back when the horn sounds, you don't get credit.

To say I was trained for this race would be a lie.  Sure I ran a 50k in April in a hair under six hours.  Sure I've had a few 4-5 hour bike rides in the last month or two, I even had a 9 hour day on the bike during the Gravel Conspiracy.  But I'm not even quite averaging 8 hours a week of total aerobic effort.  With the wrap up of bike season and the transition to ski season I'm probably only running 20 miles a week.  So to think I was prepared to go out and run for eight hours on technical trails would be silly.


I wasn't going to let being unprepared stop me though.  I did set a few goals ahead of time.

  1. Don't get injured - ski season will soon be upon us and the Birkie was only 105 days away.  There was no way I was risking ski season for a silly running race.
  2. Have fun - I certainly wasn't doing this to win so I better have fun.
  3. 32+ miles - Assuming I wasn't risking injury or having fun, I wanted to set an all time distance record for running.
A late entry to the goal list came when Adam Lushanko threw his hat in the ring on the Wednesday or Thursday before the race and said he wanted our traveling trophy back.  So adding goal number four was beat Adam, or at a minimum, make him earn it.


Having only one other ultra under my belt, the Chippewa 50k this past spring, I'm still not quite sure how to prep for these types of things.  The lap style race made it easy to pack lots of things in your "drop bag" and have it waiting for you once every 7 miles.

The start temp of 32 degrees had me really wondering what to wear.  Ultimately I decided on my ski tights, a long sleeve base layer under my CyclovaXC tech t.  I wore my FITS socks I picked up at the Birkie Trail Marathon.  I opted for the stylish buff instead of a hat.  In my drop bag I put shorts, another shirt, a couple of hats, a few changes of socks, my cycling jacket, and two pairs of shoes.  In the end I changed my shoes once, and wore everything else all day.

Nutritionally I got a little crazy.

OK, half of that was for Starr.  I did pack a ton of that, and I even carried two of the GUs for the entire race.  But I ended up consuming two packets of Tailwind and the rest from on course Hammer Gels and then a few chips, a pickle, and some grilled cheese on the last lap or so.


The race starts in the parking lot and within 100 yards dives into the single track.  The race relies on some courtesy and self seeding to not cause too much traffic in the opening miles.  Besides, you've got 8 hours to run, you probably aren't going to win just because you got the hole shot.

I started somewhere in the middle I think.  It was easy to get anxious right away with someone right in front of you.  But despite a few offers to let me by I just took it easy for a while until there was daylight between them and the next group up the trail.

The first lap passed with a moderate amount of passing and being passed.  I was feeling fine, but the thought of running another three, four, or five more laps was a little daunting.  At the end of the first lap I grabbed a gu, dropped my gloves off, made a quick trip to the port-o-potty, then refilled my bottle and kept moving.

Right at about the first mile you pass by the start lap area again before heading up the big hill.  It is one of several areas on the course where you can see people some distance behind you or ahead of you.  I was a little surprised to see Jim and Katie starting into their second lap but not see Adam yet.  As I was getting to the lap I saw him walking back up from the port-o-potties.  His lack of urgency to get back on the course had me a little worried that he had checked out mentally.

Waving to the camera less than a mile into the race.
By the end of lap two I was starting to feel the run.  I was now at 14 miles in about 2.5 hours which was my longest run by distance or time since the Chippewa 50k back in April.  Starting into the third lap the hills were starting to get bigger.  I was keeping my HR really low and I found it harder to keep it down and was doing more hiking.  People were getting more spread out on course too and I was spending longer periods of time alone on the trail.  One of the sections where you can see back a ways on the course I saw Adam chugging along.  I gave a nice shout out to get his attention.  He seemed in good spirits.  It was hard to tell exactly how far behind he was at that point.

As I finished the third lap things were starting to be pretty uncomfortable.  I was having some aches and pains that I was mentally trying to judge if I was just hurting or if I was getting injured.  I decided to change shoes at that point.  For a little while the new shoes felt like I was running on clouds.  It only lasted a mile or two, but it was nice for a while.

As I was nearing the end of lap four, having now run a marathon so far, I was starting to think about when to call it a day.  I was serious about not wanting to get injured and wanted to be safe rather than sorry.  I thought I might be catching up to Starr so I thought maybe I would run until I caught her and then finish out the lap with her.  That didn't work out so well.

Putting on a good smile for the camera.  This is either lap four or five so the smile is taking some effort.
I ran, I shuffled, I jogged, but I never caught up to her.  Around mile 6 I was really starting to shuffle and decided I was absolutely done at the end of the lap.  Not that the pain was too much to fight through but I really wanted to not cause injury.  Remember, I was now approaching a run 3 times longer than anything I had run since May.

So with a mile to go I told the folks I was power hiking behind that I was done at the end of the lap and was going to run it out and started really running, not shuffling.  Wouldn't you know it but my legs felt WAY better.  My heart rate went almost immediately to threshold level effort, but my legs felt great.

At 6 hours and 33 minutes I ran into the lap area having completed 5 laps and 35 miles.  My longest run ever by 4 miles and only 33 minutes longer than my 50k.

I rolled into the lap area just after Katie and Jim which surprised me because I thought Starr was behind them.  Turns out she had just run up the big hill about a mile into her fifth lap.  Obviously I hadn't caught her.

Jim and Katie were among the growing crowd hanging around between 2 and 2:30 for the 1 mile laps to start at 2:30.  As much as my inner competitor wanted to use that last hour and a half, or even just wait and use that last hour for short laps, I stuck to my guns and hobbled to the car to change into street clothes.  Could I have run farther?  It doesn't really matter because I didn't.  I ran 35 miles and I'm pretty proud of that.
Jim and Katie logging a few extra miles.
Katie and Jim started cranking out 1 mile laps at 2:30 and rocked out 4 of them to bring their daily total to 32 miles.  Adam finished his fifth lap some time shortly after 2:30 I think.  I told him I had the trophy in the car and he should go crank out a few more laps.  He did just that putting in another 3 miles to get his daily total to 38.  I got a little nervous waiting at the finish for Starr.  There was under 15 minutes to go and I wasn't sure where she was at.  Thankfully with about 9 minutes to spare she finished her fifth lap to make 35 miles.

Adam going for the win.
Neil Soltis also did five laps to join the 35 mile club.  One person I didn't even realize was at the race until I saw them doing the 1 mile laps (they must have passed me while I was at the aid station or something) was Steve Clark.  He was an absolute animal and took tenth overall with 46 miles.

Relief evident as she finishes 35 miles.

So I easily met my original 3 goals.  Almost a week out from the race now as I write this I feel fine.  I have only run once but I have no lasting injuries.  The day was pretty fun.  And 35 miles is definitely an all time PR.

Adam accepting the traveling trophy.
A little while after the race finish we had a little awards ceremony next door at the Rush River Brewing Tap Room.  Since I called my day at 35 miles I was only able to make Adam work for the trophy, not hold onto it for myself.  I have to really hand it to Adam on this one.  He will freely admit that one of his struggles is usually going out too hard and fading.  Adam really paced this one well and had plenty of energy left at the end to crank out those extra miles to take the win.  I'm going to have to watch out for a smarter racer when we toe the line again... assuming I can convince him to race again now that he is holding the trophy.

Mullin's What's Next

What's next?  That should be obvious.

OK, there are a few things before then.  I might run a Thanksgiving 5k.  The Dash and Dine 5k by Front Runner starts less than a mile from my house.  I'm curious if I've got any extra gears from the higher training load this summer.

But then, seriously, it is ski season.  Workouts are cranking up, ski specific fitness is the focus, let it snow!

A pair of happy 35 milers.

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