On July 4th, I ran in the Jan Horak “Tofte Trek” 10k Wilderness Run in Tofte, MN.
The race is headquartered at the Birch Grove School in Tofte, and is the kickoff to the town’s annual 4th of July celebration. This is the "second annual" race, but it is in its 27th year, because last year they named the race after Jan Horak in honor of his 25 years of service as the race director (so he finally gets to run in this race to see the monster he has created!).
Run entirely on trails at the base of Carlton Peak, the Tofte Trek has a reputation for being a brutally difficult race, and also for being rather muddy. Last year, both of those things were certainly true.
There were a few less runners this year than last for some reason (135 according to the local paper), but that did not detract from the fun at all. I enjoy races like this because the crowd is really loose. Nobody is there to set a personal record or anything. They are just there to have a good time (and to perhaps have a few brewskis at the beer garden later!).
At the starting line (check out the glare coming off of my bald head!)
The race starts, and immediately you begin to go uphill. The course consists mostly of single-track trails, and you keep going uphill for the first half of the race! Let me tell you, this is slow going, and it is very steep in some spots. You really begin to wonder if you are ever going to start going back downhill!
Whereas last year there was a lot of mud, this summer has been fairly dry up in the north country. There was only a little bit of mud in some of the swampy areas, so the course was a lot faster this time around.
Eventually you do reach the top, and you are able to make up some time on the descent. There are some tricky boards on some of the trails, and some loose gravel as you make your way down. And, the section of trail that was knee-deep in water last year was only muddy this time around, so you could blast right through it.
Sucking air near the finish!
Make no mistake about it, the race was hard! This is still one of the most difficult races I have ever done. But I was able to take advantage of the better conditions and shaved more than 8 minutes off of last year’s time, finishing in 52:11. I think I finished something like 6th or 7th in my age group. Hey, what chance do I have when I am in the same division as the winner, Greg Hexum of Duluth, who was written about in Trail Runner Magazine last year?
Trading stories with other runners
I even had a cheering section waiting for me at the finish, consisting of Mom and Dad, as well as our good friends, Marland and Nancy, which was a lot of fun! It is always nice to have some support, and they were all able to get some great pictures, too. That is, when the lens cap is open, right Mom? :)
It was a great race, and a gorgeous day. The evening was capped off with smoked Polish sausages with all the fixings, and a little bit of beer. Not a bad way to spend the 4th!
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