50 Mile Ultra Run
5/29/19 – 5/30/19
Tom drove down from Duluth, MN to pre-run the 50-mile ultra course on the weekend of 5/29 and had an enhanced adventure.
I planned on two solid (long) days to cover the course, so I packed up my 40-liter pack and drove from Duluth, MN back to the YOOP where my love for trail (hiking) running began. It was a perfect morning, clear skies and 38 degrees. Why is 38 degrees perfect? It kept those pesky little black flies (gnats, whatever you want to call those blood thirsty little creatures) at bay for at least a couple hours. The first day I was able to cover 28 + miles in 13 hours with 3,199 ft of elevation. I’ll break down day one into three sections.
Tom’s Essential Gear List:
- Bug dope
- MSR Trailshot Pocket-Sized Water Filter
- Avenza Maps app – Down load the free: Upper Peninsula NCT MI – 034 to NCT MI – 041 maps, you can run this app on airplane mode on your smart phone to conserve battery usage
- Did I mention BUG DOPE (insert laughing emoji)
Section 1 – 6.6 miles: This will be the most challenging in my opinion. It’s very technical with terrain and navigation. Side note – If you take anything from this recon report be FAMILIAR with your navigation equipment because you do not want that learning curve out in this desolate area of the UP!
Section 2: 10.5 miles of the same very technical terrain but navigation is a much easier. However, you still need to be aware of the many twists and turns of the trail. At this point you may be asking yourself how technical? I’ll put it this way, times it by Pi (3.14), and then add in massive beaver dams (or 4) that flooded the section of trail so that you now have to either build a make shift bridge (yes, you’re welcome for at least one of those), wade through, or walk way around to higher ground to avoid knee deep water. There is no shortage of hills on these first two sections either. Oh yah, when the black flies and mosquitoes wake up, they are extremely happy to see you! At the end of section two, I saw numerous moose tracks and lots of moose scat so be on the lookout for large animals in that area! Now for
Section 3: You literally drop way down to a large section of land that was clear-cut about five to seven years ago, so if the sun is shining, like it was for me, it’ll be pretty warm down there. This section is all 2-tract road, but before you contemplate dropping the hammer to make up lost time from the past 17 miles, be aware these 2-tract roads have sections of loose beach sand to water hazards that I had to use garbage bags as makeshift waders because it was flooded on both sides (insert laughing emoji!) Also, I saw the largest wolf tracks ever on this section! After 13 hours of rigorous hiking with a 30 lb. pack I found a nice spot off the road in the Jack Pines to pitch my tent and get some much-needed rest before day 2!
Broke camp and was back on the road/trail at 6:00 a.m. To summarize this 24 mile stretch into sections would be difficult only because the 2-tract to trail, back to 2-tract to trail interrupted any flow I tried to maintain. I know the word “2-tract” in a trail race doesn’t often sit well with “hardcore” trail runners, but I guarantee that these “2-tracts” are in fact “enhanced 2-tracts” so I’ll just leave it at that because I can’t give it all up and ruin all the wonderful surprises you’ll experience. The features of the back half of the TC-50 did not disappoint my thirst for challenging terrain and beautiful views of Mother YOOP! There were times I told myself: “self, I’ve seen all there is to see here in my homeland only to be slapped in the mouth by Mother YOOP when she says, “hold my beer you funny YOOPER!’’
I don’t have a 50-mile trail race on my resume so I can’t say how this might stack up to other 50-mile races. What I can report is that you’ll be challenged by the relentless terrain of rocks, roots, leaves, fallen trees, swampy areas, mud, beaver damn obstacles, various weather conditions, numerous insects, trail features, and even more enhanced trail features. I left out navigation earlier only because I want you to listen to this very carefully: There is NO CELL PHONE COVERAGE in a majority of this course. You might see someone out on a crossing 2-tract, then again you may not. Be familiar and proficient with your navigation tool/s. Study the course carefully with all the wonderful tools of the internet because that helped me plan for where I could filter water when I needed it and trust me, I needed it a lot! You will experience an adventure of a lifetime in this event because that is what happened to me out there on the trail for two solid days. I will end my recon report with this, if you can honestly say you were not challenged in any aspect of the TC-50 Trail Adventure, I will personally refund your money out of my own pocket!