News & Stories

Surly Trail Loppet Recap

On Saturday, the Wirth Woods were abound with a human migration of sorts, a journey of over 700 individuals who trotted, strided and sprinted their way in and out of the forest to the finish line. Following the dipping and meandering paths of Eloise Butler, the Quaking Bog, and wooded offshoots in and around Wirth Lake, participants in this year’s City of Lakes Trail Loppet were in for several race day treats: a lingering summer day with blue skies and temperatures in the high 80’s, a forest understory full of blooming goldenrod and aster wildflowers, and the ultimate motivation for many: a brimming cup of cold Surly Beer waiting for the them on the other end of the finish line.  “I started thinking about that cup at mile 2,” said one half-marathoner as she willingly took a glass from the Surly tent after the race, “and never looked back.” All racers were treated to a wooden coin that got them one of four beer varieties on site, including the coveted SurlyFest Brew that the company usually reserves exclusively for SurlyFest.

With Omar Ansari, the owner and founder of Surly Brewing Co. at the starting gate firing athletes up on the mic before joining the ranks or racers himself, the participants had only a half marathon standing between them and the foaming brew, that is, thirteen miles of winding single track paths, open fields, rocks, roots, woods and climbs: nearly 2,000 ft of collective elevation gain, about the height of two Empire State buildings. Jeff Van Wychen, compared the course to other trail runs he’s done remarked, “This one is a lot more “trail-y” than most.” At one point on the course, the path diverged with two signs pointing to “ick” and “no ick”. “Ick” was through a sinking muddy sludge pool, and “no ick” involved ducking and running through the bramble and log debris to the right of the mud; the choice was yours.

The menu of events on Saturday was not limited to the Half-Marathon, and athletes showed up to compete in 5K, 13K and Nordic walking events. Participants ranged from middle schoolers on the Anwatin Ski Team, to members of the Loppet Run-Club, to Surly fans, to recreational runners, to some of the best cross-country skiers in the state. There were a total of 715 registrants, 150 more participants than last year. In addition to age class awards, the grand prize was presented to the winners of the Hoigaard’s Challenge: Bearskin Lodge accommodations for those athletes who competed in all three Loppet events (City of Lakes Loppet, Tri-Loppet and Trail Loppet) with the fastest times throughout the year.

Trail running is a newer phenomenon, but slowly catching the eye of many road racers. “You get to run along beautiful trails, it’s better on your knees, and half the time you are thinking of forest and the path as opposed to the rest of your race,” said David Bitner who helped facilitate the Loppet Run Club sessions this year. Many athletes are drawn to trail running because there is an element of surprise, beauty, and interest on the trails. “What is great about having a race at Wirth, is that you can train on these trails throughout the year. You can see them through the seasons, and get to know them inside and out,” said Race Director John Munger who often describes his trail runs through Wirth as meditation.

With its own “heart break hill” in the last half mile of the course, the City of Lakes Trail Loppet was a challenging course, even for some of the best cross-country skiers in the state. However, the gentle hum buzzing from the ranks under the dappled summer light represented the lightheartedness, joy and spirited energy associated with this run. “Do you hear that?” said longtime Loppet Trail Run participant Mary Vancura at the start line. “There are people talking. People never talk at the beginning of road races. I love this.”