For every massive 10K like the Bellin 10k there are probably dozens of small community 5k and 10k runs that attract dozens or a few hundred runners. Musky Days is the annual celebration of Musky fishing in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin – the Musky capital of the world. One of the weekend events is the Musky Fun Run, a collection of races (10k, 5k, 1k kids, and 100m kids).
Musky Fun Run History
I have run at least two previous Musky Fun Runs (maybe even three) when I was living in Boulder Junction. I don’t recall my finishing times, but recall the race was small and there were a couple of long stretches where it was common to not see any other runners. My best memories of those races were the Musky Fun run t-shirts – same logo every year, just a different color t-shirt.
Pre-Race Hype (Personal)
Based on the typical low turn-out for the Musky Fun Run (usually less than 40 10k runners) I had aspirations that given the right turn-out of middle of the pack runners I could win the 10k race. I didn’t search the archives but I felt a time in the low 40s could be a winner depending on who showed up on race morning. 5k races usually attract college and high school cross-country runners so I decided I had a better chance of winning the 10k.
The Musky Fun run fell at the end of week 4 of my 16 week marathon training program and on day four of a family camping trip in Boulder Junction. I ran my weekly long run (20 miles) on Wednesday before our trip up north. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday I packed with family bike rides, a personal ride on the Lumberjack trail, swimming, canoeing, and a tempo run Saturday morning. Not an ideal pre-race taper, but every minute of silent sports in the northwoods is joyful. Saturday night I carbo loaded with a walleye wrap and fries from the Boulder Beer Bar for lunch and then tortellini and scrambled brownies for dinner by the campfire.
I rode my bike from the campground to the start line (about 3.5 miles) so my family could have the car to get to the top spectating spot and to the start of the kids race. It was a relaxing ride through the fog on a cool August morning.
Within minutes of arrival my hopes of victory were dashed as I witnessed several gazelle like runners warming up in their fancy singlets and racing shoes. If they were all doing the 5k I might be OK but one of the lithest looked to be in his mid 40s and I marked him as a 10k runner.
The crowd at the start line was a mix of ages and fitness levels. The all-comers welcome of a 10k is part of the allure for me. Every runner/walker can strive for their own goals while participating together in family friendly event.
I toed the start line at the door step of the Boulder Junction Chamber of Commerce with the fast cross-country runners at my side. When the gun fired they launched from the start line as if they were at the end of a long rubber band snapping back to its resting position. They were gone around the first turn before I had shifted from lumbering to slogging. After a few hundred meters I found my stride and even realized I needed to ratchet my tempo down a notch.
The 5k is an out and back. The 10k follows the same starting 2.5k before continuing past the 5k around point. The 5k runners started passing me on their return trip at about the 2200m mark. They were flying. Fortunately most of the people running in front of me made the turn at 2.5k. I knew for sure there was one runner ahead of me, maybe two or three, but he(they) were long out of sight. After leaving Boulder Junction the route twists through the Northern Highland State Forest on old Highway K. The road is roughly paved and has a steep camber from the center line so I mostly ran the center line. Running on a camber is hard on my ankles and shins so I always steer towards flatter terrain.
Before the 3k mark I closed the gap on a stouter, shorter, and older runner just in front of me. Just when I thought I would breeze by him he picked up his pace and we marked each other, shoulder to shoulder, southeast on Old Highway K. At about that same time I looked back and saw one other runner in the distance and thought, “that guy will never catch us.” Well he did, just before the 4k mark. He breezed by and seemingly with plenty of breath asked how many runners were in front of us. He gradually pulled away from us over the next couple of kilometers.
I continued to run side by side with the other runner in the Journeys Marathon t-shirt. In a race where it is common to not have another runner within 500 meters it was odd to run shoulder to shoulder with another runner. It may have been part of his strategy to get me talking but all I learned was that he was 47, from Eagle River, a very strong runner, and that the 40-49 year old age group is hard-core. I am enjoying my final months in the 30-39 year old age group.
At about the 5k marked we turned west on to new Highway K. This is a long straight stretch. Two spectators informed us we were 3rd and 4th overall at the 4 mile mark. Fortunately I had a secret power-up waiting for me at the end of Highway K.
Just after the 7k mark the route turns north onto the bike path that runs along County Highway M. At the turn my kids and wife were waiting for me. I could hear them yelling for me a quarter-mile out. My good friend Mykl was handing out water at the turn. Although I declined the water it was great a power-up to have a cheering section. We also learned were 6 minutes (!!) behind the leader and that there two runners ahead of us. As I rounded the corner I managed to put a few steps on the other runner.
The bike path winds through the woods and follows the natural terrain of the forest. On the steep and short downhills I would add a few steps to my lead on 3rd place. On the equally short and steep uphills he would regain those steps. By the 8k mark I was nearing max effort and still not putting any distance of the other runner although I could hear his breathing getting louder and more frequent. We were both loving the chase.
We burst out of the woods at the right field line of the baseball field at the Boulder Junction chamber. The final tenth of the mile is on the track around the outfield. I poured it on for the final bit to the finish line without ever looking back.
I finished 3rd overall and 1st in the 30-39 age group. Three of the four top finishers were in the 40-49 age group. I definitely ran the Musky Fun Run faster in my 30s than I did in my 20s, but I will need to add even more speed if I expect to be competitive after I turn 40.
Mile Splits (from my Forerunner 305)
- Mile 1 6:47
- Mile 2 6:50
- Mile 3 7:03
- Mile 4 6:55
- Mile 5 6:51
- Mile 6 6:49
- Finish 2:01
Watch time: 43:19
Note: the Musky Fun run is hand-timed. I did not see my “official” race time. My watch also tells me I ran 6.33 miles for a pace of 6:51. I think the final 0.2 was a little longer than .2 because I was going top speed (watch says my max pace was 5:03/mile) for much of that time. I have recently run 400 meter intervals as part of a speed workout in 1:33. I ran 42:49 at the Bellin 10k in June.
The best part of the day was watching my kids run the 1k kids race – three laps around the baseball field. One of them took a DNF after two laps and the other finished all three laps before proclaiming, “I need lots of water right now!” I am very proud of my future Musky Fun Run runners.
Musky Days 2012
To participate in the Musky Fun Run in 2012 and for more information on Boulder Junction, Wisconsin.
I ran the Musky Fun Run in a pair of Hi-Tec V-Lite Infinity shoes I was given by Magnum Boots USA. The V-Lite is a stiff and lightweight trail running shoe. Although better suited to trail running I felt good running in these on pavement. I also protected my head and eyes from the sun with a great headsweats running hat from Road ID. I was also running, as I always do, with my Road ID Elite identification band. Road ID product information for first responders.