While looking for a late season race, I came across the T Bunk Endurance Challenge which takes place in Southern Wisconsin in the Kettle Moraine State Forest. They have several distances from 200 miles to 50k. The race is run on the Nordic trail system of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. The 50k runs three blue loops (9.19 mi) and one green loop (3.66) for a total of 31.23 miles. I went to college at nearby UW-Whitewater, and was excited to go back and run a race in that area. I hadn’t been back in over 10 years, so I was looking forward to reminiscing about my college days.
My training was a mix of the plans I used for the Cellcom Marathon and the Voyaguer 50 this year. I incorporated the speed work of the marathon plan, with the distances of the Vogaguer. Since this was a 50k, I did scale back some of my mid week and longs runs. My weekly mileage was down considerably vs the last few races I’ve ran, but the quality was better. I was hoping that all the miles I put in during the spring and summer would carry me through as long as I hit my key speed work days and long runs.
The race is small with 43 registered participants in the 50k. I ran the first few miles with three other runners, but I separated and ran the rest of the race solo. The only people I saw during the race were some of the 100 mile runners that were still on the course. No music, no podcasts, just solitude in the woods. Since it is a loop course, Sarah and the kids would go to the hotel and then come back to the start/finish area after each loop to check it.
There is one one unmanned aid station around half way, and then a full aid station with drop bag access at the start/finish line. This made my nutrition plan easy. I decided to carry one handheld bottle filled with tailwind and a few gels, and restock from my drop bag after each loop. This worked out perfectly. I ate a few small PB&Js from the aid station, but mostly just used the tailwind and gels.
We’ve had unseasonable warm weather this fall, and race weekend was no exception. On race day it was sunny with very little wind. At the start of the race it was mid 40’s with temps climbing to upper 60’s in the afternoon, ideal conditions to have a good race.
The trail is mostly smooth Nordic ski trails with some rolling hills and a few short/steep climbs. There are a few sections with some rocks and roots, but I was surprised how much of it was flat and runnable. Much easier than the trail system in Baird Creek where do I most of my training.
My race plan is always to try to negative split the race. Since it is a loop course, I had goals for each loop. My goal was to run the first two loops in about an hour and thirty minutes, which is right around 10 minutes per mile pace. Then if everything was feeling good, I wanted to run the third loop faster, and then run the final green loop as fast as possible.
I was very happy that I was able to execute that plan almost perfectly. My first loop was 1:31, 2nd loop was 1:30, third loop 1:28, and the final smaller loop was 36 minutes. I felt good most of the race, with only slight stomach issues during the 2nd loop, but nothing too bad. I finished with plenty of energy and still feeling good.
I finished with a final time of 5:05:10 which was good enough for 4th place and a 50k PR.