A Great Race for Big Miles and Fast Times
Running by Clint Cherepa
The tBunk Endurance Challenge is a 9-mile loop with 1500 feet of gain. Sound easy? Run the loop ten more times and you will have run 100 miles. Or even better, try for 21 more times and you can walk, or limp, away with 202 miles to your name. That is what Liz Bauer, a 57-year-old ultra-veteran did on Nov. 5-7. Bauer has a tome of ultramarathons of 100 miles and longer to her name.
The race is named after an ultrarunning legend, Tom Bunk, the mentor of many Midwest runners. The website says, “Tom went far beyond being a role model for ultra-runners, showing everyone he encountered the right way to live life. All proceeds from this event will be donated to the Tom Bunk Memorial Fund.”
The race director, Robert Wehner, was a good friend of Tom. Wehner has a deep running history.
“I’ve been a distance runner for about 40 years, starting with cross-country and track in high school. Since 2002, I have done primarily trail ultramarathons, completing 92 of those; distances range from 50K to 100 miles. In the winter, I add in cross-country skiing, with 22 Birkie and 18 Noque finishes,” says Wehner.
Wehner also is the race director of the John Dick Memorial 50K run, the Bunk House Trail Runs (50K, 30K, 10K), the Badgerland Striders 24-12-6 Hour Runs and the Glacial Trail 50.
The tBunk was inaugurated in Nov. 2013. The event was named in honor of Tom Bunk and not in his memory.
“With Tom’s passing in Sept. 2014, and working with the DNR to find a suitable project, the idea of the Tom Bunk Memorial Fund was started. The first project for this fund is building a shelter building at the Scuppernong trailhead. We are getting close to having the funds required, and expect construction to start in the near future,” relates Wehner.
Why 22 Laps?
Wehner explains, “From 2009 to 2012, I helped Craig Swartwout on a number of his adventures; in 2010 he completed 22 Blue loops at Nordic for 200-plus miles. Others expressed interest in doing something similar, and Craig and I had talked for some time about co-directing an event. Ultimately, we decided on basing the event at Nordic, using Craig’s 22 Blue loops as the template. We felt that since there would be only limited interest in 200 miles, we would have to include other distances to make the event feasible. So it was not a case of including the longer distances, but the other way around; shorter distances would have to be included to have a sufficient number of runners.”
The low key vibe at the tBunk makes it a great place to cut your teeth on your first 50-, 100- or 200-mile attempt. Push through the first 5-mile grinder of incessant climbs and descents and you can coast for the second half to finish a loop. There are benefits of running an ultra on a loop course. One is that you subconsciously memorize the ruts and rocks, twists and turns and other idiosyncrasies of the course. This prepares you for the night running and challenges of trying to keep upright physically and mentally while running in the dark. Another plus to running a loop course ultra is that it easier to break the long distance into digestible sections.
For these reasons and others, the event has had a great reception.
“Runners have embraced this event, and there are a number who have done it every year. Entries were up slightly from last year, and we plan to continue the race on an annual basis,” shares Wehner.
What does the future hold for the tBunk Challenge?
Wehner says that, “Once the shelter is built; we will work with the DNR to identify other projects, continuing to give back, and support the trails and facilities of the Southern Kettle Moraine.”
“Events like these are not possible without many other volunteers on race weekend. I hope that runners are aware of this, and that they give back as well, by volunteering at races when possible,” adds Wehner.
Tips: Your First Ultramarathon
• Base Training- Building your base is relatively simple. It means slowly adding miles to your daily, weekly and monthly runs. Follow this rule of thumb: increase weekly mileage by no more than ten percent. The minimum weekly mileage for many ultrarunners is in the range of 30 to 40 miles per week. Base weekly mileage will vary from one ultrarunner to the next.
• Slow Going- A crucial aspect in ultrarunning is pace. It is true that the elites can be seen flying down the trails. But, in the beginning, speed is not a good idea. Instead, practice slow running. Many ultrarunners walk up the hills or take timed walking breaks. Remember: it is always better to go slow and finish, than not finish at all.
• Train Specifically- Ultramarathons can be hilly, rocky, sandy, wet, muddy, flat, etc. Check out the race’s website and research the course. Training on the actual course is ideal. At times this is not possible, so it is advisable that you train on terrain that mimics the race course.
• Back-to-Back Long Runs- To simulate the tiredness of race day, the back-to-back long run plays a vital role. This means running long two days in a row. For example, running ten miles on Saturday and then running fifteen miles on Sunday. Running long two days in a row trains your body and mind to keep going, even after you may feel you have nothing left.
• Eat on the Run- The energy you need to keep running hour after hour is supplied by the calories you take in during the race. It is vital to eat during training to prepare for eating on the run during the ultramarathon. Most ultras have aid stations throughout the race course. It has been found that it is best to aim for three-hundred calories an hour.
• Recovery- Never overlook the value of recovery. After long training runs, it is best to take the next day off, or run a short easy run. Your body needs to recover to avoid injury.
• Motivation- A never-to-be-overlooked step to running an ultramarathon is motivation. Reading about ultrarunning is one source of motivation and inspiration. It is motivating to see what others have accomplished and how they have succeeded as extreme endurance runners.
Robert Wehner– firstname.lastname@example.org
The tBunk Endurance Challenge will be held Nov. 3-5 in 2017. Details can be found here: tbunk.blogspot.com/