The Tuscobia Ultra was first held in 2009 on the 75-mile Tuscobia Trail between Rice Lake and Park Falls in northern Wisconsin. As word spread of this unique event, the number of participants increased in 2010, including four guys in the 150-mile run division. Participants consisted of both curious winter first timers and experienced cold weather adventurers.
Unfortunately in 2011, the previous event director was unable to continue the event and therefore, with a month to go, we decided to take it on. Event HQ (including the finish line) was moved to a local establishment, the Chequamegon Canoe Club (CCC) at the gracious offering of its proprietor, Greg Broome. Greg was able to rope two more Park Falls locals into helping us, Mike and Gail Boushon. The three of them recruited a few more volunteers, to which we added our merry band of volunteer friends. With everyone chipping in we were able to pull off the event! Things were very low key that first year. 54 participants started in 2011 with less than ideal snow conditions for the weekend, making for quite a challenging time on the trail. Despite, or more likely, because of this, we had a lot of satisfied souls at the finish line.
In 2012 we decided our way to give back to the Ultra community would be to continue the Tuscobia tradition into the foreseeable future. The event name was officially changed to the Tuscobia Winter Ultra. There were no course changes but by popular demand, the “50k” was renamed the 35-mile. The CCC again stepped up to provide the best HQ and finish line possible, and Mike and Gail were back to act as our boots on the ground in Park Falls, providing countless hours of prep and planning and acted as our liaisons to the City of Park Falls. This was especially helpful with us having moved Out West in mid-2012. The Tuscobia Winter Ultra 150-mile became a qualifier for the Iditarod Trail Invitation (ITI) in Alaska. Additionally, Tuscobia sweetened the pot by offering one paid, guaranteed entry to one of the winners of the 150-mile distance. With more time to plan and with the growing interest in winter events, we saw an increase in registration and had 147 entrants between the three distances. But with the help of all our volunteers and friends, we were able to continue our goal of providing a fairly simple event with a community feel. Trail conditions were again very tough in spots, but who wants to do an easy winter ultra anyway?
The event continued to grow in 2013 and 2014/2015. In 2016 we decided to drop the 35-mile distance in an effort to focus on the longer distances. We miss the shorter event and the chance to give people an introduction to winter endurance events – but we hoped someone else out there would see this an opportunity to organize a new event somewhere in the Northwoods… and this came to be in 2019 with the addition of the St. Croix 40 to the winter calendar. Also in 2016, the event switched directions and now the finish line is in Rice Lake – adding a few miles to officially create the 160/80 mile distances. Logistics went well in 2016 and so the January 2017 kept the same format.
The event took place a second time in 2017 as we moved it back to the last weekend of December. Another exciting change was the relocation of the 160-mile turnaround to the “Park Falls Gastropub” – formerly the CCC – where it all started!
2018 saw no major changes for the course or logistics except that we no longer provide cups or bowls at the the checkpoints. This means participants need to carry a vessel for beverages/soups.
In 2019, we are made the event simultaneously easier and more difficult – we dropped a few of the required gear items but also removed the drop bag for 80 milers.
As we approach each year, our goals for the Tuscobia Winter Ultra remain the same:
- Provide a well organized and well executed event for a variety of winter endurance athletes.
- Foster a “family” atmosphere that is supportive of all involved: participants, volunteers and members of the communities along the trail alike.
- Remain accessible to a wide variety of people, by offering different event distances and modes of transport, while also keeping entry fees and gear requirements as reasonable as possible.
- Support the local communities along the Tuscobia Trail, as well as local efforts to maintain the trail.
- Encourage people to give back.
- Have fun!