I had always wondered what it would be like to do a distance race at Lapham Peak.
I’ve run the trails here a few times, and the hills are absolutely killer. Not necessarily any huge climbs, but they keep coming. And some are super steep if you hit up the Black route (about 6.8 miles of hill hell).
The folks at Silver Circle Events always have a top notch race day, and since they were hosting a 5k, 10k, and Half event at Lapham, it seemed like a good opportunity to give it a shot.
In a nutshell, the 10k and Half courses followed the Black Diamond trail (the Half running it twice) along with a detour to take you up and down the Watch Tower (again…twice for the half). For those running 13.1, this would net you a solid 2,000 feet of elevation gain, which is no joke.
Things began to turn a little for me during the week. I didn’t mention this in my recap of the Trailbreaker, but I was definitely getting sick that weekend. The illness really came and got me on Tuesday, and just put me down. I knew then that running the trails at Lapham would have an added challenge of flu recovery.
Then the forecast started to turn as well. A winter storm that dropped about 5 inches on the area (and over 3 FEET north of Milwaukee) was rolling in. Cue the wind (50 mph gusts), rain, and wintery mix. In light of this, the race altered the course for all three races.
Now the 5k would be one loop (a different one than before) effectively following the Blue loop around the park. The 10k would do the loop twice. The Half (now technically a 20k) would be done 4 times. Multiple loops in a forest in mud and rain? Did someone say the Barkley?? Kidding…this isn’t on that level.
I knew to keep my expectations super low. Coming in off of the flu. The weather. And the fact I hadn’t run double digit miles since crumbling at the Music City Ultra.
The only thing I didn’t like about the race was that the 5k, 10k, and 20k all get going at once. So it’s super easy to get sucked in to a pace you don’t want. And if you’re doing four loops, Lapham will make you pay.
The altered course started us out on some nice grass and mulch as we got going on a gradual climb to start our day. Here is where I’ll say that the start of each loop was one of the hardest parts. The hill gets some solid elevation gain, but it isn’t steep enough to walk it, so charging up was a drain each lap.
By the first mile (roughly) I had stuck to what I thought I could run when healthy in good conditions at Lapham. So not recovering, and bad weather pace. Oh well. At this point, I was buried probably around 20th place or so. That lasted until we hit the hills in the back half of the loop.
Here is where I went full (conservative) trail runner. Walk the hills and demolish the downhills. Lapham is a perfect place to fly on any downhill section, and I took advantage. After weaving into the top 10 of the Half, I ran with a guy from IL for a while, before he left me behind on a uphill.
I was able to clip off a few 5k runners in the final stretch across a prairie (super windy here) before turning to go out on lap 2. Per the usual, I stopped to grab water at the aid station and got repassed by a runner in a singlet and shorts.
A brief tangent here into my battle with him. He passed me pretty early in the first loop, and was looking strong. However, I knew a few things. One was that he was running up all the hills. Couple that with the fact I knew (pre-race eavesdropping) that he hadn’t run Lapham before. That’s a mix for disaster. Sure enough, I passed him for good on the second half of lap 2.
I ran the remainder of that lap, and all of lap 3 alone. Occasionally passing a 10k runner on my way. I knew I had someone in back of me, though, who was gradually reeling me in as the race went on. Sure enough, he caught me at the start of lap 4. We chatted for a bit before he dominated some of the early hills and left me behind.
Didn’t see another runner the rest of the way (I had 5 minutes between me and the next person) and rolled in for the finish.
Turns out, despite all of the hurdles, I notched 8th overall and third in my age group. And technically a 20k PR…I suppose. Not a bad day, all things considered.
I would like to make a quick shoutout to the dude who won. He ran a 1:35 out there. Firstly, that’s the course record by 6 minutes; and done on a sloppy day no less. Throw in the fact that not only did he dominate the 20k, but he also completed the first loop before any 5k runners AND the first two loops before any 10k runners. Basically, he won all three races. Most impressive.
Now that this race is in the books, what comes next? That’s the next blog post, so stay tuned!!