I ran this last year with my wife and had a blast – even despite a dray 2015 summer. From my recap:
Over 200 runners took over the main street in Detroit on a pleasant and clear morning. I ran this event a few years back and had vivid memories of it being a murky post-apolocolyptic wasteland. This year, low 60’s temperatures and blue skies were evident. Race director, Gary Terlecki, had obviously been putting in solid work creating something out of what could have been nothing. And he pulled it off.
The first 3/4 mile was a straight and slow descent on paved roads to get to the lake. Following a short trail section, we entered our first little venture onto the lake bed. This was, unfortunately a bone dry section in what was once covered by tons of water. It was over a mile before we got our first real taste of a technical challenge. Gary had warned about needing to create an entirely new course, and for runners to be prepared to cross the Breitenbush River “about a half-dozen times”.
The trail gave way to big rocks and we entered the river for our first in a series of switchbacks. The water was cold, but the footing was surprisingly sturdy (or I just became more coordinated since the last time I went wading through water). Over the next mile or so, we crossed over and back 9 times (by my count, though a running partner of mine counted 7 – we were both too tired to think straight). The outer banks of the river were a combination of large stones and some sections of dirt and sand. Regardless of the terrain, my steps were slow and deliberate and I’m sure everyone’s pace suffered as a result. No sense spraining an ankle 1/3 of the way through a tough race.
At mile 3, there was a pretty solid vertical climb. It was short, but with waterlogged shoes, it felt worse than it should have. We then took to some roughly maintained trails (I hope that there was no hidden poison oak), for a bit. A short pit stop at the aid station was in order before a steep decline down to the lakeshore. This was one of the areas that had actual standing water and muddy banks. The course flags had us steered mere feet from the shore, though footprints showed a pretty even split between those in the trenches and those who opted for a dryer traverse a few more feet away from the water. I said “the heck with it” and took on the mud in full glory.
Within two steps both legs were knee-deep. As I tried to pull up my right leg, my shoe briefly came off, as the suction now had me stranded. So this is what quicksand feels like. People started passing me as I struggled to free myself. I managed to do so inch, by painstaking inch. A few more calf deep mud plunges and I then opted for higher ground. Unfortunately, even though the mud section was relatively brief, the strains of freeing myself left me zapped of energy. The final few miles were more a test of will than anything. While the terrain eventually became less and less muddy, I trudged along with a smile on my face, and mud in my shoes. The last section was that initial paved trail back to the start.
This year, despite the same race course, the event will likely have a different feel to it due to the lake level has been higher than over the past few years thanks to a wet winter and spring. This should bring back a little more of that muddy struggle that I remember from year’s past.
Proceeds from the event benefit the local Detroit community and helps promote tourism to the small city. I highly recommend checking out this unique event!
If you are interested in RWA’s other events (and you should be), please pay mind to the following:
Silver Falls Trail Runs (Sat/Sun November 5-6) – Race is full and sold out, but volunteer opportunities are still available that guarantee free early entry to next year!
Shellburg Falls Trail Run (Saturday December 3rd) – Online registration is now open! 5.2 Miles of amazing scenery and trails 20 miles east of Salem! Limited to only 250 runners.