This past Saturday (Jan 18th), local business owner Bryce Haessly and his running partner, Shawn Smith, competed in the “Frozen Otter” winter ultra-marathon. The team finished the 64-mile run in 21 hours and 55 minutes–over 2 hours under the 24-hour deadline.
They were two of only 6 of about 125 participants to complete the race within the deadline.
This was the third year that Haessly, co-owner of the Main Street Market (Piggly Wiggly), has participated in the event. Despite experience and continued training, he said that this year was the most difficult–because of the weather. There was no snow on the ground for the 2018 event. In 2019, the conditions were “like running on an ice rink”.
This year we got dumped on, so we were running through about eight inches of fresh snow. At certain points, on ridges, we were in drifts up to our knees. And then at one point I heard the Race Director send out a message saying it was about negative nineteen with the wind chill.
More Than Running
A traditional marathon requires running 26.22 miles–typically on paved roads in warm weather. The Frozen Otter is an “Ultramarathon” of 64 miles–run in a forest in the middle of the Wisconsin winter.
In addition, Haessly pointed out, the runners must “carry their calories”. The average time for a marathon is around four and a half hours. Runners can stock up on calories before they start and make it through the race. The Frozen Otter is 64 miles and–on average–only 20% of participants complete the distance within 24 hours. This means that runners need to carry food to get them through the race. Checkpoints along the course supply water, but they do not guarantee to have food.
It’s something I’m not necessarily encouraged to do by my wife and my family [but] everybody needs something to [strive for], I guess. There’s these mental barriers that you break down, and you feel like “if I can do that, I can accomplish just about anything”.
A Lodi native, Blaze attended the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay where he graduated with a degree in theatre technology & design. He has traveled extensively throughout the United States and the world–including a 6-year stint in China. He has been a teacher, a writer, a designer, and is the founder of the Redleaf Consulting Group.