A special year for a special race! The Ice Age Trail 50 was the first 50-mile ultramarathon in the Midwest. And now, 35 years later, it stands as one of the oldest, continuously running 50-mile races in the country.
If you haven’t already heard the story, the Ice Age Trail 50 was conceived by ultrarunner Tom Ulik and Badgerland Strider’s President Glenn Wargolet in a Milwaukee tavern back in 1981. Focused more on the logistics of staging a 50-mile race (an unusual distance at the time), Glenn (RD 2005-09) imagined a one-mile loop course in a Milwaukee County park. Tom (RD 1982-86) had a different idea. He invited Glenn to a run in the Southern Kettle Moraine Forest — and that’s all it took. The first Ice Age Trail 50 happened less than a year later.
All three of the Ice Age runs take you through scenic, historic, and geologically fascinating areas with natural features left when the glaciers finally retreated from Wisconsin more than 10,000 years ago. The courses pass by sites that provide a glance into the lives of the area’s first settlers and climb Bald Bluff, a place revered by Native Americans and the location of the Black Hawk War, the last major Indian war in Wisconsin. Included among the 3,500 soldiers who camped beside the bluff were two future US Presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Zachary Taylor.
If you like fast company, you’ll find it at Ice Age. In 2014, Max King from Bend, Oregon ran the 50-mile race in 5:41, smashing our 26-year old course record by 12 minutes — and Kaci Lickteig from Nebraska bettered the women’s CR by four minutes, running 6:41. In fact, four runners ran under six hours in 2014, which is remarkable in that only five other runners had run sub-6s in the preceding 32 years!
The 2016 Race!!
Let the fun begin!! In celebration of the 35th year of The Ice Age Trail Race the Badgerland Striders are offering a $5,000 cash prize to any runner (male or female) who can set a new course record, & $200 prize bonuses for age division records in the 50-mile race. This year while the competition for course record may not be as deep, it will no doubt be fast! There is also a great side story this year showcasing longevity in the sport and with this race, with 1 runner aiming for his 30th finish (1st in race history), and 3 more going for 25 (Currently there are 3). There are also 8 previous winners of the 50 mile race returning to the event to run various distances and partake in the after party sharing stories of the past! Lets take a look at the front runners and those looking to showcase lifetime endurance!
Men Front Runners
Tyler Sigl (Wisconsin Runner/USANA Health Sciences) – A WI native who is no stranger to speed, he has a current marathon PR of 2:17, a road 50k PR of 3:09, and a trail 50 mile PR of 5:27. To say he has the leg speed and the mental strength to not only win Ice Age Trail 50 mile, but to crush a course record and walk away with $5,000 would not be a stretch. He recently ran that 50K PR so he is fit. He has experience running these types of trails as he has won 3 consecutive North Face Endurance Challenges in Southern Wisconsin. As long as the course co-operates and the competition can help push him it should be an exciting show to watch!
Devin Clark – Illinois native Devin is young and newer to running ultras but not new to running fast. While only 20 years old he holds a 5k PR of 15:19, and has run a 6:59 50 mile and 3:39 50K on the trails. He is currently being coached by Chris Vargo, who believes he has the current fitness for a 2:16 marathon. If that is truly the case look for Tyler and Devin to spend quite a bit of time on the trails together.
Chase Nowak – From Minnesota Chase is another runner who has run a 4 ultras, winning 3 and taking 2nd in the other! With a 3:30 trail 50k PR and a win at the superior trail 50 mile, he not only has the speed to kill the flats but the strength to really push the hills. Whether he decides to hang with an aggressive pace early or hang back and close hard will shape the picture of the race.
Kevin Grabowski (LPTR) – A local runner Kevin has been running fast for a long time. Kevin managed to run himself into the top ten at Ice Age in 2014 when Max set the CR. Around that time frame he also managed to run a 7:17 100K at the age of 45! Kevin has run a lot of Ultras and rarely will you see him out of the top 10, if not the top 3. Lately he has been training hard towards an early summer 100 miler and his fitness is good. At the turns if Kevin is hot on the heals of any the front runners, they better not let the gray hair fool them, he will close hard and fast!
Joel Lammers (LPTR) – To speak of running fast, racing a lot (of Ultras), and consistently winning or standing on the podium in Wisconsin is to speak of Joel. At the age of 53 Joel has run over 100 ultras and he continues to not only place but win them. Joel last won the Ice Age Trail in 2008. Since then he has finished 46 ultras, won 6 of them and podiumed at 16 of them. Consistency is Joel’s strength, look for him to start out slower and run faster as the day goes. He is strong, knows the course, and should the tables turn for those in front of him he will gobble them up.
John Knudson – Coming from Illinois John, took a bit of a break from the ultra scene. But when he decided to come back last year (2015) he managed to win the 50k he ran and take a 3rd place (behind Tyler) at The North Face 50 mile WI. John has some experience and the strength to push with the front group, look for him to show up strong!
Ross Salinas – Living in Iowa Ross has had a chance to really perfect himself at the 50K distance, in fact if you look up his results (quite a few) he is either winning them or on the podium. The 50 mile distance has been a little rougher for him, but if he can really pull this one together expect to see him near the top.
Adam Dohm - A runner from Minnesota has run 3 ultras and podiumed at all of them. He recently ran a 3:53 50K at The North Face in DC. If that was a training race for Ice Age look for him to be able to bring a bit more speed to his second 50 mile attempt.
Women Front Runners
Larisa Dannis (Hoka One One/INKnBURN) – Now living in California, Larisa is an athlete best known for having an awesome time on the trail while making running fast look so easy! Prior to the last time she raced Ice Age, in 2014 where she took 3rd place, Larisa had already won several big Ultras. That 3rd place earned Larisa a ticket to race Western States 100, a race where she took second. She then went on to absolutely crush the Door County 50 mile race in 5:59. Shortly after that Larisa became injured and did not race again till the latter half of 2015, where she won almost everything she ran, including a 3rd place at The North Face Championships in CA. If Larisa is feeling good, look for her to be running happy, and if Larisa is running happy she can be scary fast and may just snag not only a win but $5,000!
Janessa Taylor – Coming from Oregon Janessa has run 23 ultras and won a lot of them. Most recently Janessa took 2nd at the Bandera 100k in 9:40 and won the Antelope Island 50 mile in 7:18. She dipped under the 7 hour 50 mile time last summer with a 6:51. Janessa has the speed and she knows how to win. If Janessa and Larisa can run together in the beginning look for a strong battle for the win and a hard push for that CR bonus!
Becky Kirschenmann – Becky last ran Ice Age in 2005. Then she decided to move west and crush very long hard races. In the last 2 years alone Becky has one the Desert Rats Stage Race 148 miles (twice), Trans Rockies 120 miles, Pine to Palm 100 mile, and the Zion 100k. Recently Becky placed 5th at the Run Rabbit Run 100 mile. She has also been able to creep under the 8 hour mark at the Siskiyou Out Back 50 mile. Becky obviously has the endurance and lungs to hang with the front end of the race, it will only be a matter of the pace her legs need to go. With her determination, and ability to win, look for her to be on the podium.
Christine Crawford (Pearl Izumi/LPTR) – A local Wisconsin runner Christine has been at the Ultra game for 15 years. In that time frame she has managed to run almost 100 Ultras and win or podium in almost all of them. Most of those wins were so fast she also podiumed overall and won a few outright! For a long time there were very few men in the Midwest who were not scared of Christine showing up at a race, for it surely signaled they would be chicked. In the last few years Christine has battled through some injuries, but is now back to running fast and having fun doing it. Christine has won Ice Age 3 times, so she not only knows the course but how to win on it! If she is having a great day and really smiling, look out because at the young age of 46 she can run all the young girls and most of the guys down!
Meghan Kennihan – Meghan is an Illinois runner who ran to a 5th place at last year’s Ice Age. She followed that up with a win at the Kettle Moraine 100k and the Cry me a River 50 mile. Meghan knows how to win and how to run hard. She has the endurance to hit the podium and depending on the day crash the party and win the race!
30 Years 1500 Miles
Andy Arena – Andy Arena is the ironman of the Ice Age Trail 50 mile race. This year, at the age of 65, Andy will be going for his 30th finish! That’s incredible! Andy has a long history with one of the oldest trail ultras in the country. He has seen every running fad in the last 40 or so years come and go, and he’s still running. We wish Andy all the best and will be cheering loudly for him at every aid station.
25 Year 1250 Miles
Parker Rios – At the age of 49 Parker has Ultra finishes and Podiums going back over 25 years. When things get really tough and brutal (think Badwater 135 or Arrowhead 135) Parker really shines. To really demonstrate this toughness in 2014 Parker took 2nd in the Iditarod Trail Invitational, where he pulled a sled across a frozen Alaska for 5 days! Unless Parker dies on the course we should all be able to cheer him in for his 25th Ice Age finish!
Tom Balzola – At the age of 72 most people can barely fathom running 50 meters, yet Tom is not only thinking about running 50 trail miles he is doing it! We Wish him all the best and cannot wait to hand him his 25 year buckle!
Andrew Klapperich – the 58 year old Wisconsin native has consistently finished the Ice Age 50 mile since his early 30’s. Expect no less from him this year and congratulate him when you see him at the finish, holding his new 25 year buckle!
Here are a few of the races winners who have won multiple times and are joining the fun at different distances. If you see them pre, during, or post race, hit them up for some incredible stories you wouldn’t even believe possible regarding the beginnings of the race and trail ultra running in this country!
Steven Szydlik – Steven won The Ice Age Trail and astounding 8 times!
Bob Telfer – A decade ago in 2006 Bob was the 1st individual to reach 25 Ice Age finishes!