Dances with Dirt Devil’s Lake Trail Half Marathon Recap

Devil’s Lake is one of the crown jewels of the Wisconsin State Park system.  I had hiked there many times but the idea of running there seemed pretty crazy!  Dances with Dirt Devil’s Lake was a race that was definitely outside my comfort zone.  But I have the goal to run a 50K and pushing outside my comfort zone is something that I needed to do.

This was my 5th half marathon of the year and my 3rd trail half marathon of the year. In that respect I felt fairly well prepared.  My goal was to run it at about easy pace and walk up the hills if I needed to.  My end goal is a full marathon in September and I didn’t want to impact my training for that.  The main goal was to stay upright and enjoy the run!

I reserved a campsite at the Northern Lights campground in the park.  Sites do fill early at the park regardless of whether there is a race.  There are also several private campgrounds close by.  The closest campground at Devil’s Lake to the race start/finish is the Ice Age Campground.  From there it is about a mile walk on a trail directly to the start/finish line.  Northern Lights is a little over a mile walk to the Ice Age campground.

Besides the half marathon there is a 10K, full marathon, 50K and 50 miler.  Packet pickup was the day before and also the morning of the race.  Things seemed very hectic the morning of the race, with people picking up bibs right before race start.  I picked up my bib the evening prior to the race and had no issues.  Participants also had to sign a waiver that was turned in while picking up the bib.  Race starts were staggered for the different distances.  Parking at the site did not appear to be an issue.  There was no gear check, though drop bags are available for runners doing the longer distances.

The start of the race was divided into a few waves based on pace.  Passing was not an issue for the most part, as little of the course is single track.  I thought the course was well-marked and was confusing at only one point.  But I am also a trail newbie!  Water stops provided water, Gatorade, and a variety of GU packets.  The first water stop is 4.5 miles into the race, right before the big hill up the bluff.  The day of the race the humidity actually dropped and temps were decent.  Otherwise I may have opted to carry water.

The course is a nice mix of grassy wide trail (mostly unshaded), shaded dirt trail, paved road through the Ice Age campground, and a concrete section on the bluff.  There are a lot of rocks and roots on the dirt trail.  Total elevation climb was about 1500 feet, the majority of it in the big hill at mile 5.  Views at the top of the bluff are spectacular and many runners stopped to snap photos.  There were professional photographers on the course at a few different locations, photos are available for purchase.  There are several road crossings but it was not a problem getting across the roads.

I finished the race in 2:23:45, 12/37 for AG and 288/564 overall.  I figured anything under 2.5 hours would be a win for me!  Besides not falling down.  🙂  Race swag included a finisher medal, tech tee, a beer, and food.  There was water, cookies, and fruit available immediately on finishing.  I took the opportunity to return to my camp site and wash up before getting food.  The food choices were a brat or hamburger.  There was also a post race party advertised that started at 2:15 but I did not return for that.

Overall I thought the event was well-organized.  Devil’s Lake is a challenging course, but doable.  I am considering returning to do one of the longer races.  We stayed another night at Devil’s Lake and there are a couple beaches there which is good for relaxing after the race.  It is one of the more crowded parks however.  There are a lot of activities at the park to keep family occupied as you run the race.  Always a bonus when you are dragging the family to races!  🙂

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