The Skinny: Big Balls of Winter Edition

Polar vortex, schmolar schmortex. What better time and place than the heart of winter in the upper Midwest for two of the country’s longest footraces?

Jim Wilson, wearing every piece of clothing he owns, finishing at Tuscobia
Jim Wilson, wearing every piece of clothing he owns, finishing at Tuscobia. Photo: Wilson’s Facebook page

Tuscobia 150, 75 and 35

A handful of athletes trekked to Park Falls, Wisconsin to burn off their holiday pounds on December 27. A lot of them took until December 29 to finish. The race featured ski, bike and foot options, and full results for every category can be found here.

135: There’s a new course record courtesy of Jason Buffington, who won the 150-mile race in 45 (hours):55 (minutes). Second overall was first female and also a new course record holder, Sue Lucas, who finished in 54:30. Not to diminish the record – it’s a stout time – but Sue also deserves some props for being the first woman ever to finish the 150 on foot.

Co-RD Chris Scotch had this to say:

“[Buffington’s time] is silly stupid considering the conditions.  He busted his arse so hard for the better part of 36 hours that he actually had to rest on the trail for a about an hour only 9 miles from the finish line.  Pretty amazing given the overall finish rate in the 150 mile and the ever changing conditions.  It was too warm, and then cold, and then too warm and then real cold and windy.”  

Also noteworthy in the 150 was Roberto Marron becoming the only person ever to have finished the longest iteration of Tuscobia all four years of its existence. He actually completed it twice last year, prompting Phillip Gary Smith to write this. Scotch was the only other person to have gone 3-for-3 but did not race this year.

75: Another course record went down as Brandon Purdue finished in 15:46, almost five hours ahead of second. Especially stout when you consider he was pulling a sled and a trough of required gear. The women’s race was co-won by Laurie Tulchin and Bonnie Busch, who ran the whole race together and finished in 29:00, right alongside Larry Sandhaas, who I assume was trying to get in the winners’-finishing photo.

35: The reliably speedy Wynn Davis won the “kids’” race in 5:20, 48 minutes ahead of runner-up Gregory Danowski. On the womens’ side, Faye Lopez won in 7:57, good for 10th overall and 23 minutes ahead of runner-up Linda Britz.

Arrowhead 135

We move now to International Falls, for an event so dull MPR decided to cover it ( But seriously, they have some stellar pictures and I appreciate this niche sport going mainstream. Or they covered it because it’s a freak show. Either way, thanks MPR.

The event isn’t dull per se, but I imagine pulling a sled for 135 miles in the place that regularly records the coldest temps in the United States requires – or imposes – a sort of dulling on participants’ mental state.

Add to that the fact that we were in one of those polar-vortex, exposed-skin-will-become-frostbitten-quickly, my-god-think-of-the-children kind of days when the race started…and that it went on for 60 hours.

Full results aren’t up yet, but we know that Scott Hoberg took the win in 43:26:00, followed by local RD and friend of Ultra MN John Storkamp in 46:30:00. Alicia Hudelson was first gal and third overall in 47:59:00.

Other notes

Back to Tuscobia for a second – Scotch has alerted me to a potential legal battle brewing with the State of Wisconsin that could threaten the future of the race. It seems the state does not allow camping outside designated state parks, and the race’s requirement that participants carry sleeping bags is seen as an encouragement to break the law. Of course sleeping bags are required for safety purposes, and the approach by WI seems like an overreach – am I not allowed to keep a sleeping bag in my car in case it breaks down on a cold night and I have to hunker down? It would be a shame to lose the race over something like this – if a battle ensues, we’ll put the proper routes for advocacy up here.

The Rocky Raccoon 100 is this weekend in Texas and serves as the 2014 USATF 100-mile trail championship. Two Minnesotans that I know of – Mike Bateman and Arley Anderson, both of the TCRC race team – will toe the line with my onetime bedmate in a Managua hostel, Ian Sharman. Sharman is the prohibitive favorite but since he’s a Brit, the US title will be up for grabs. God save the Queen.

Finally, the Minnesota Masochist title for this round (this will be a title bestowed irregularly to members of Minnesota’s ultra community who display noteworthy, er, cajones) goes to Edward Sandor, who first attempted the brutally technical HURT 100 in Hawaii (he was forced to drop around mile 67) and returned to race Arrowhead (135) about nine days later (he finished 10th in under 56 hours…57 if you count the time penalty he weirdly acquired for warming up in his car instead of the designated shelter a few feet away). I think I speak for everyone in saying kudos for attempting probably the toughest double – race-wise and weather acclimation-wise – out there, you sick son of a bitch.

For reference:

Sandor at HURT. Photo: Rob Lahoe
Sandor at HURT. Photo: Rob Lahoe
Ten days later. Photo: Alicia Sandor
Ten days later. Photo: Alicia Sandor

3 thoughts on “The Skinny: Big Balls of Winter Edition

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