It’s been almost 10 years since the Saturday that I ran three Black Loops at Lapham Peak (training for a marathon), and I still remember the reaction: “Are you insane?”
The response was a testament to the epic status of the 6.7-mile trail that climbs and descends and climbs and descends the highest point in Waukesha County. Skiers training for the American Birkebeiner go by the aphorism that if they can ski three black loops at Lapham, they are ready for the 30-mile effort in the north woods.
Given that backdrop, word that Russ DeLap and the InStep Running Centers have set up a marathon – four black loops at Lapham – rightly drew gasps among the runners who had just completed the 20K Bear Trax on April 30.
It was a collective thought: “That’s gonna hurt.”
DeLap, the cross-country and track coach at Concordia University, had every intention of making the race a challenge.
“I always felt that as a runner, and I’ve coached a lot of people and trained them out there, that if you can go out there and train you can go anywhere and race and be prepared,” he said. “It will be a challenge for anybody, form the most experienced runner to the person who has never been out there to run.”
The test: DeLap wheeled the black loop and measured it at 6.7 miles. Trail maps have listed it anywhere from 6.5 to 7.
It’s roughly 300 feet uphill from the start area off the Evergreen Parking lot to the ridge where the Lapham Peak tower sits.
Elevation gain on the full black loop is 1,250 feet. Runners will add another 45 feet when they climb the tower on the first lap.
Thankfully, they can skip that effort on laps two, three and four, but will still tackle more than 5,000 feet of climbing on the day.
Veterans of the Lapham loops know that the downhills are equally brutal.
“I think it would be the equivalent effort of an ultra marathon,” said Dan Held, the 2000 USA 50-mile trail champion from Pewaukee. “It not only will deplete you, but it will beat you up. When I run an hour out there on the black loop, my hips and quads are all out of whack.”
Aaron Nodolf, a two-time winner of the Bear Trax 20K, predicts the marathon will be “deliciously painful.”
“While inherently a difficult course, I appreciate the apparent goal of savoring the environment to its fullest and making it a great challenge to the mind and body,” he said. “A simple metaphor that comes to mind when I think of the proposed course – you have the ingredient (i.e., the black loop) for the greatest meal (i.e., the mental and physical challenge Lapham provides) possible, why not cook with it?”
From my experience, the InStep Lapham Peak Trail marathon will be the toughest 26.2 miles in the area, if not the state. Thankfully, there will be half marathon and 10K options.
“It’s not for your typical weekend runner,” DeLap said. “It really isn’t. On the other hand, for those who have not been out on the trails or to Lapham Peak, I’m hoping it will be a good experience for them.”
Details: Race date is Sept. 8. Registration is open here.
Charity: Proceeds from the race will be donated to the Jenny Crain Make it Happen Fund, providing money to support Crain’s rehabilitation from injuries she suffered when a car hit her in August 2007. Crain was training for an Olympic bid at the time of the crash.