Wisconsin’s Tuscobia Winter Ultra brings frigid-weather racing to the everyman
Racers on the Tuscobia Trail. Photo courtesy of Chris Scotch
“I grew up in northern Minnesota,” says ultrarunner Chris Scotch, 36. “Cold and winter was normal for me, so I didn’t realize other people didn’t like it.”
Maybe that’s why Scotch, only six months into his ultrarunning career, decided to run the Tuscobia Winter Ultra (which offers 35-, 75- and 150-mile distances) in 2010. It was the race’s second year, and only one other runner hoofed the full 150 miles.
In the 60-some hours it took him to finish, Scotch learned a lot—like just how very long it takes to finish a frigid ultramarathon on snow, as well as the hardships that such extended time in the cold can wreak on the body. “I was sleep-deprived and my feet had swollen a few sizes by the time I was done,” he remembers, “but I was really learning on the run."
The following year, after Tuscobia’s race director nearly cancelled the race, Scotch and his wife, Helen Lavin, also an endurance runner, decided to pick up the responsibility of race directing. Though they now reside in Los Gatos, California, they loved the winter ultrarunning scene and wanted to keep the event alive. Says Scotch, “It’s a slower pace, more of a man-versus-nature experience than other 100-milers and ultra races. You just need to adjust your mindset.”
The race offers multisport options—participants can opt to either run, bike or ski the course—and takes place on the 75-mile Tuscobia State Trail in Wisconsin, a path laid over an old railroad line. 150-mile racers go out and back on the trail, while 35- and 75-milers take a bus to their starting respective points and race back.