The three degree air hit my lungs as my walk from the door step turned into a slow jog down the side-walk. It was only a mater of time before everything would go numb. It was the transition that was by far the worst. A mile later I cut into the woods and onto the single track trail. A packed trench in the snow wound its way along the half-frozen river proving that I was not the sole user of the city escape. The evidence of the well-traveled path lay still and silent, today the trail was all mine. The recent cold spell that finds Wisconsin every winter was finally upon us. It had been a mild winter up until this point leaving the trail surface covered in mud more often than packed snow. I crossed over the pedestrian bridge to the far side of the river and pulled my yowie down off my face. The gentle yet bitter wind was now at my back and the emedeate changed in comfort brought a sigh of relief to my now numb body. I looked forward to the stretch ahead, 4 miles of beautiful trail before I would cross back over the river to the east side. My pace quickened as I ripped down the technical trail, with the absence of my yowie my breath was now visible and hang in front of me. Up ahead a startled squirrel sprinted down the packed trail in an attempt to out run my constant pursuit. He sensed my closing speed and hooped off the trail and on to a bent tree that leaned out over the trail. As I ducked under the tree he scampered across sending a shower of fresh fallen snow into my face. I guess he got me in the end. The trail snaked along smooth and fast for a few mile before climbing up a ridge that over looked the river. Now out of the woods the wind once again nipped at my leather face. The front of the yowie was completely frosted over along with my mustache and eye lashes. My face would take the brunt of the bite for the remaining miles. The sun had disappeared leaving twilight and I to face the night. As I crossed back over the river darkness seeped throughout the bare trees engulfing the trail in darkness. I often thought the transition to simply be time it’s self unfolding before me, steady, beautiful, relentless. The contrast of black forest on white snow fascinated me, surrounded me, consumed me. I slid under the dark blanket and over the white sheet. The only sound was crunching snow and my own breath as my crosslite’s ripped at the packed trench. Miles and mile in the frozen in-between, a trail runners winter.
I am excited to bring you one of our first athlete interviews on the blog. Timothy Olson has just came off a huge win at this years Bandera 100k down in Texas which served as the USATF Ultra Championship for the 100k distance. Timothy ran a gutsy race taking it out hard with Dave James before James dropped around the 50k and Timothy opened up an 11 minute lead on race favorite Dave Mackey. Dave was the defending champion and curent cores record holder having run a 8:16:48 the previous year. As the race wore on into the late miles the heat started to take a toll on the runners and Timothy was able to out last Mackey’s late charge crossing the finish line ten minutes in front of the defending champion with a time of 8:28:38. Below are a few Q&A’s catching up with the Wisconsin native and National Champion Timothy Olson
How did you discover ultra marathon trail running?
What was your journey like from mid pack D3 high school cross-country runner to 100k National Champion?
You made the move to Ashland Oregon which is known for its running scene and beautiful trails. How has that move benefitted your training and involvement in the sport?
You have finished near the top in a lot of recent major ultra’s but haven’t gotten a win until today. How were you able to get over that hump? Did you change your training at all? Did you have a different race strategy going into it?
You have really proven you belong in the top group of U.S ultra runners over the past couple of years and have started 2012 off with the big win. What are your goals moving forward in the season?
A radio tower at the top of Suring hill has loomed over my parents house for as long as I can remember. In between the house and the tower flows the Oconto River and about 5 miles of cedar swamp, river bottom, hardwoods, and a few farmer fields. Last week Josh called me up and was excited to try a trail blast straight to the tower. No roads, no trails just running as the crow flies. The thought intrigued me and on Christmas day we decided to put some of our new running gear to a late December test. It was the perfect time of year to make such an attempt. Most of the underbrush was down making the forest floor runnable and the swamp mud frozen and harmless. A quarter mile from the house we darted into the woods like deer and made a beeline towards the cedar swamp. Dodging branches and hurdling down logs as we went the pace was slow and steady.
Several small open water creeks wound through the swamp and slowed us for a moment as we chose the a spot to make the jump across. Finally we popped up on to some higher ground and out of the swamp, the going became much easier. We found a good deer trail, which is about as close to a single track as your going to get in these parts. It lead us across an open field and into the hardwoods. A deer jumped up from his mid Christmas day slumber and darted down the trail in front of us. The deer trail lead into a series of winding four wheel trails that kept us guessing at if we were still going the right direction. It dumped us out on to a gravel road that confused us a bit. We thought we knew every back road in the area like the back of our hand. Josh wanted to go right but I was certain that we needed to go left and that the gravel road probably would lead down to the river. I could not have been more wrong. We ran down it for a mile before deciding to take a four wheel trail that ended going down to the river. We knew going into the run that the river would be our biggest obstacle and when we arrived our predictions proved to be correct. There was no way across unless we wanted to go for a late December swim.
A bald Eagle sat staring at us from the opposite bank seemingly mocking our helplessness. A heavily traveled deer path headed north along the river bank.
We took it keeping peeled eyes for a large down tree or boat to cross the river. A few miles later still no luck and our trail made a drastic turn away from the river. Staying on the trail it ended up leading us back out on to the gravel road. This time we went with Josh’s instincts and a mile or so later we were trotting over the Suring bridge. Now at the base of Suring hill the tower loomed over us. After taking a side road away from the highway we darted back into the woods to climb the ridge line and make our final push to the tower in the sky. Naked blackberry bushes ripped at my bare ankles as we plowed up the hill.
All of the sudden we burst through the tree’s and into the clearing. We had made it to the base of the Suring tower. Thus fulfilling a very small yet satisfying life long ambition. It took an hour and a half, eight miles and whole lot of rambling but we had made it. After making the decent down from the hill we decided to stick to the snowmobile trail and roads on the way home. With a new found runners high we finished out the 13 mile run with back to back 6:30 miles. Well I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and if you got any new running gear get out there and put it to the test!