Monday April 15th 2019 8:15PM CST

[The following communication has been broken into two parts. We ask that at a minimum all runners and volunteers read Part 1. Both parts are long – Part 2 is extremely long.]

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Part 1

 

Dear Friends,

I want to thank you all for the (quite literally, because I read and responded to each one of them) hundreds of emails, social media posts / comments and text messages of support that you have sent regarding our decision to cancel the 2019 Zumbro Endurance Run. Emotionally, the decision to cancel the race was so unbelievably hard to make; analytically, it was the only responsible choice that could be made. After seeing how the weather and conditions played out between Wednesday and Saturday, I am so grateful for those friends / advisors and pillars of our local trail community that joined me on countless calls and in-person meetings to work through what was ultimately a decision to cancel the race.

The full version of this communication is going to be long. As you know, my notes to you often are. This is a result of my love and passion for what I do, for Zumbro, for our runners and volunteers (read; friends). I do not necessarily expect you to take the time to read both parts in their entirety and understand that doing as much may not appeal to you. So I have divided this communication into two parts. At a minimum please read ‘Part 1’ as this is the most pertinent information for those that were registered to run and volunteer. If however, you consider yourself a part of the trail community or if Zumbro was to be your initiation into the trail community, I think Part 2 will be informative, enlightening and provide you with some history and context to this thing that we call Zumbro: what it means, what it stands for, where it came from, why this year was canceled and where we believe it is headed.

Should you only choose to take the time to read ‘Part 1’, please know that I want and welcome you all back next year. Please keep in mind that the race was held from 2009 to 2017 without any modification or cancellation, and although it has happened two years in a row, April storms like this are still the exception versus the rule in our region (there are some interesting stats in Part 2). As endurance runners, we move forward. Because we know that it is worth it, because the Zumbro family asks us to do as much, and because we always have, even though it has not always been easy. All of that said, I certainly understand if signing up for an event that has been modified or cancelled two years in a row is a risk that you are unwilling to take in future years. If you know that you could not withstand another cancellation – then I would encourage you to not sign up in the future as I cannot predict the weather. If you choose not to join us in the future I would gladly point you in the direction of several other great early season trail / ultra races in our region that are not as big in scope and do not take place in as formidable country as Zumbro and as a result, may have better chances of being held in any future years that we get such extreme weather, additionally a couple of them are a couple of weeks later. Some of these awesome races (a couple of which are put on by good friends of ours, that volunteer for us) include but are not limited to Trail Mix, Chippewa (Jeff Allen) and Willow (Chris Swenke). If you are one of the people that is super disappointed that you could not run in the extreme Winter conditions that we were presented with, you might consider a Winter ultra such as the St Croix 40, Tuscobia, Arrowhead or Frozen Otter. These races have a lower field limit and are set up specifically to be produced / run in those extreme conditions.

Below are a few key points that I want to address up front. These in no way, shape, or form are intended to sound harsh; we simply want to be as clear and upfront with everyone as possible:

In order to complete your registration for the race, runners had to agree to and initial the following:

“The Race Director reserves the right to modify or cancel the race or course for safety concerns, trail condition concerns or natural disaster. In such cases there will be no refunds of race entry fees. Each athlete must accept any such risk of their entry fee paid. There is no complimentary race entry to a future race. Entry fees collected are used to develop and produce the event, starting well in advance of the race date – including course preparation, race supplies, permits and administration. We will make every effort to produce a fair and safe event for all participants. Any decision we make that impacts the race date or potential cancellation is carefully considered and based on the overall event safety, sustainability and manageability. Please consider these factors carefully before registering.”

• Per our published policies, we will not be issuing a refund for the cancellation of the 2019 Zumbro Endurance Run. We will not be transferring or deferring entries to next year’s race or any other Rocksteady Running (RSR) events. We will not be giving credit or offering a discount to next year’s race or any other RSR events. Nearly every single expense to produce Zumbro needs to be paid in full, in advance of the event and none of these expenses are refundable. To offer refunds would cripple our organization and would at best, severely impact our ability to produce future events and at worse, result in us not being able to produce any future Zumbro or RSR events.

• We will not be rescheduling this year’s canceled races for another date later in the year. The nature of the Zumbro River Bottoms area is that there are very narrow windows in which it is possible to get the event permitted and run the race. This is due to a myriad of other uses that take place in the management unit, including hunting, logging, other non-running events and other primary uses which would conflict with a running race. Additionally, attempting to reschedule the race would incur a new set of costs which would be prohibitive if not impossible to absorb. On top of that, the entire field of registered runners would not be able to attend due to scheduling conflicts and it would be hard to attract and assign enough volunteers to pull off an event on short notice. We have already seen quite a number of impromptu Zumbro cancellation get-togethers / fun runs and fat asses organized by small groups of friends – I cannot tell you how cool this has been to see. It speaks volumes about you as individuals and our community as a whole.

• We will be mailing each and every registered runner and volunteer their race shirt. For those of you who are new to Zumbro, Rocksteady Running, or our trail / ultra scene, it may sound funny to receive and wear a shirt for a race that you did not run or finish. Yes, Zumbro is a race. But that is just a fraction of the story. Zumbro is an experience, a mindset, a community and a culture. It is not defined by finishes or race times. Rather it is defined by an amazing group of people and a spirit of community and togetherness that is unmatched. While we are always proud to rejoice in our victories, we also wear our scars with pride, for they equally make us who we are. If you do not care for the shirt, you can donate it and somebody in need can get good use out of it.

Should you have specific questions about why this year’s race was cancelled, this has been very well documented. You can review the three emails we sent leading up to this year’s scheduled races which document the “why’s” as they unfolded throughout the week as we went from a sunny 70 degree day on Tuesday to a blizzard and impossible conditions that did not abate quickly enough to pull off this year’s race. “Part 2” of this communication also, in part, speaks to the challenges we faced this year and the ultimate decision to cancel.

https://www.zumbroendurancerun.com/2019-zumbro-endurance-run-weather-update-1/

https://www.zumbroendurancerun.com/2019-zumbro-endurance-run-weather-update-2/

https://www.zumbroendurancerun.com/2019-zumbro-endurance-run-cancellation/

Here are some photos of the race site and the storms aftermath https://photos.app.goo.gl/Md71eyuEHXua3cXQA

There is also a FAQ regarding the cancellation after Part 2 should you like to review it.

You put your heart and soul into your running, training, racing and most importantly, our trail community. Cheri and I do too – we eat, sleep and breathe Zumbro during the months leading up to it. We are all beyond disappointed. That said, we know that the disappointment we feel now would pale in comparison to how we would feel if we attempted to hold the race and someone got seriously hurt, or worse. No race is worth that. We hope to see many of your names on the start list and volunteer list again next year, but also understand if that is not in the cards for you.

Sincerely & Respectfully,

John Storkamp
Race Director
Zumbro Endurance Run

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Part 2:

For those of you that are still reading, you opted for the long version… settle in.

I’m going to go back, way back. The arc of this story is certainly not meant to be about me, it is about the runners that embrace Zumbro, the meaningful relationships that have been built, the memories that have been made, and the spirit / spirituality that has been cultivated through the collective human experience that we call Zumbro. That said, I begin this story around the time that my own trail and ultrarunning began as this was around the same time that Zumbro was conceived. I think this will provide some valuable insight and context to Zumbro as we know it today. I started running marathons in 1996 at the age of 16. My running was born out of a chaotic childhood, mental health issues, alcoholism and narcotics addiction. Running and recovery saved my life. Having run marathons from 1996 to 2003, I made some connections into what was then a very small and relatively anonymous community of trail and ultrarunners in Minnesota. I found these kindred spirits via word of mouth as the internet was not the ubiquitous force for making connections in the trail / ultra world that it is today. I started running with other trail / ultra runners, participating in the local races, volunteering when I was not running and eventually went on to direct my first race, the Afton Trail Run. Larry Pederson was an early friend that I made in the trail / ultra world. Larry directed races and he loved doing it – in short order, I committed myself to him as a lifelong volunteer. Larry ran his first marathon, Paavo Nurmi Marathon in Northern Wisconsin in 1976, three years before I was born – this is one of many reasons why this is an annual race on my own race schedule. Larry had run, then went on to direct, the Superior 100 mile trail race. He also directed the In Yan Teopa 10 Mile Trail Race and held an early Spring getogether / Fatass Run in the Zumbro Bottoms Management unit each Spring. Larry started inviting us all down to the “Bottoms” because he wanted to show off his stomping grounds; this little known, incredibly rugged and forbidding place called the Zumbro Bottoms. It was always a treat and special occasion to run in the “Bottoms” – it was so different from all of the other places that we ran. This is where Larry did the majority of his own training for races like Superior 100, Massanutten 100, Umstead 100, and Western States 100, along with the other races that he ran. A small group of us would congregate there in the Spring. Larry, having marked some wicked route through the woods, would sit and cook brats on the fire as we went out and navigated his sadistic course, completing loops and returning to the start / finish with increasing numbers of lacerations from the briars and Prickly Ash. Larry, as sadistic as he could be, did not want anyone getting shot, so he held the Fatass the weekend before Turkey hunting started each Spring – the same weekend that the race is held today and for the same reason. You see, the Zumbro Bottoms Management Unit is just that, a forestry management unit, the chief historic use of the land – logging, hunting and today, horse-back-riding for a portion of the season. This is not a state park, there is little infrastructure, and the back half of the course is equally landlocked between the river, river bottoms, farm fields and private property. Access is tough. The Bottoms encompass a huge tract of land within the massive one million acre Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest. For these reasons Zumbro not only feels it, but truly is wild and rugged – it feels “out there”, it is “out there”. Couple this with the fact that Zumbro Bottoms are solidly part of the “driftless are” the unglaciated portion of our region, where the soil beneath your feet is literally millions of years old (as opposed to tens of thousands just to the North)… this place has a unique energy and power and certainly informs the vibe of the race. Larry was always scheming and dreaming when it came to trails, and races and fatass runs. He wanted to share these places with others, and while not extremely extroverted, Larry was always inclusive. This ethos of sharing and community was one of the main reasons he would go on to help found the Upper Midwest Trail Runners group as he welcomed all comers, of all abilities – you did not need to be an ultrarunner to be a trail runner. For these same reasons of inclusivity and community, in 2009 the inaugural Zumbro Endurance Run was created – we invited people from “outside” of the immediate circle.

That first year, we had 11 people finish the 100 and 7 finish a shorter 100K version. We had few more than a dozen volunteers and a handful of spectators. The fatass, then that first race… the seed was planted, a legend was born. Each year thereafter, Zumbro grew exponentially. With such a relatively small community in 2009, exponential growth from 2009 to 2010 still did not really net that many souls on the course. 2010 was the year that I ran the race. Zumbro had the same effect on me that it had on just about all who had come before and those to follow – from those early fatass runs to 100 mile finish in 2010, I was a Zumbro “lifer” – it had a hold of me just like it did Larry. Later that year, just weeks after directing the Superior 100, a freak Fall rain event lead to a historic “1000 year flood” of the Zumbro River. Larry lived in Zumbro Falls, not far from the race, on the banks of the Zumbro River. His house, the entire community, lives submerged in dark black silt, sand and sludge – many homes in town flooded up through their second floors, roofs just peeking out above the surface of the murky water. Volunteers from the trail community spent weeks and Larry and his closest friends and family months, trying to clean up and put their lives back together from the disaster. It is a little known fact that most of those that direct races of any consequence are living life on the edge; on the edge of financial security, family relationships, being able to honor commitments to their employers etc. There is not a single thing about directing races that is easy. The flood, the cumulative stress of years of selflessly directing races – it was time for Larry to let go. Myself and a merry band of brothers and sisters had been by Larry’s side for quite a few years. As much as I loved trail / ultra racing, I never ran the Superior 100 as I had made a commitment to Larry, to always be there. I was the young guy, the tough guy, the Arrowhead 135 guy, the prodigy – or maybe that is just what they pumped me up with so I would step up and take the reigns of another couple of races and carry on where Larry would leave off. The community is not the races but they do act as the family reunions – nobody wanted to lose that. At that time, for the first time in my life, I was having financial success, doing sales for and excelling in the area of project management for a large construction firm. But when asked to step up and carry on the great tradition of several of the states biggest trail / ultra races – I had a feeling, like few other times in my life, that I was the best person for this job at this time. I excelled in project management and had previously run a music / concert production company and I could scrap. There were early indications, just tremors of the growth and boom to come in the trail and ultra world and I knew it. I knew that it was going to need to be managed in a way that it had not been managed previously if the community were to stay intact. With some trepidation, I left a successful career, cashed out my retirement, took on a myriad of part time jobs, rented out my house, moved my wife and young daughter in with my parents and turned our lives upside down. To this day, Rocksteady Running consists of my wife Cheri and I, and our friends / volunteers that support us. Everything is run out of our modest home, and I still work a myriad of odd jobs to make it all work.

The exponential growth that I had sensed was coming… it in fact came. Like a freight train picking up steam. The emergence of the internet as a clearing house and aggregator of all that is ultra knowledge and soon with an influx of new runners, Zumbro was selling out. The other races I directed having much the same fate at even faster rates, a couple going to lottery. For Zumbro, we worked with our permitors, pushing the field limit higher, but always careful to be sure that we could deliver; the experience, the fun, the safety, the responsibility, the stewardship of the trail that we had always lived up to in years past – our team nailed it year after year. Zumbro reached cult status. There were dry years, warm years, wet years and muddy years. For sure there were a couple of years where a couple of inches of snow fell during the race, we made due, no problem. To be clear, they were all challenging years. Zumbro is as tough to produce as it is to run. Enter 2018. Normal prep, normal setup but with a forecast showing the potential of a significant Winter Storm. We did not ignore it, but could not see canceling before a single drop of rain or flake of snow had fallen – we were ultrarunners afterall, we do hard shit, we don’t back down. We had contingencies in place, we could reach our participants quickly via the internet should it be required. Thursday packet pickup, Friday race start, all good. Then the snow, the wind… the historic April blizzard of 2018 hit and for the first time in well over a decade of directing races, with valuable input from my core team, I canceled the 17 mile race. Truthfully, we made it out of there by the skin of our teeth that weekend, thankful and lucky that nobody was hurt (you can read the full story about the 2018 race HERE https://www.zumbroendurancerun.com/2018-zumbro-17-mile-race-cancellation/ ).

3.875 inches. 136 years of available weather data and the average April snowfall total for the Twin Cities area is 3.875 inches – and that is for the entire month [Source: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/climate/historical/acis_stn_data_monthly_table.html?sid=mspthr&sname=Twin%20Cities%20Area&sdate=1884-07-01&edate=por&element=snow&span=season&counts=no ] The Zumbro Endurance Run takes place about 70 miles Southeast of the Twin Cities, so generally, these are the same numbers experienced in the Zumbro valley over that same time – if anything perhaps a little less. If you would have bet me that we would get a blizzard a second year in a row, I would have called and raised. I could hardly believe my eyes, a week out and the forecast was calling for a second historic storm in two years. Armed with the first-hand experience of the previous year, I knew what a Spring blizzard at Zumbro meant. I knew the implications, and on an analytical level I knew how to manage the risk. We held out hope. The plan was simple: keep marching forward and should the writing appear on the wall – I knew I would recognize it. This time the forecast was for the weather to hit before the start of the hundred mile race as opposed to the previous year where the storm came mid-race.

Monday night, I sent an email to runners and volunteers putting everyone on notice that if we got the mean or max of what was predicted, that there was a good chance the race would have to be canceled. We decided to front-load our work as much as possible and after doing the majority of the loading of trucks and trailers early in the week, headed down to Zumbro on Tuesday with one heavily-laden aid station supply trailer in tow. We marked 4-½ miles of the race course. The conditions: 70 degrees and sunny. These were some of the driest and best trails I had seen at Zumbro in years. Sitting there in a t-shirt, admiring the emerging Hepatica, it made no sense in that moment what was forecast to come. Tuesday night, I sent another email to runners and volunteers that the forecast had not abated, the storm was coming but the National Weather Service was careful to continue making the same few points they had been making all along; they did not know the exact track of the storm, and they did not know how much precipitation would fall as rain versus snow. All we could hope for was that we would get the minimum of what they said, that the majority of the precipitation would fall as rain versus snow and ice, and that we would get lucky and have a few windows of good conditions to get everything setup and participants and volunteers down safely.

Wednesday we were back to mark the balance of the race course with our team of volunteers. Usually all of the setup gets done on Thursday but with the impending weather we planned to spend as much time as possible getting things setup on Wednesday before the real weather moved in. So what if we spent the day in the cold rain, that is pretty standard at Zumbro in April. We marked the trail, it was cold and cloudy, you could see the front slowly moving in. I waited for the cold rain to start, but it was too cold for rain… just as we finished marking, the snow started. There was no easing in, no buildup. Immediately it was coming down in earnest, the wind picked up and within an hour, we were in full-on blizzard conditions. With the snow falling at an alarming rate and the wind howling – my heart sank. We frantically filled water jugs and prepped to pull the trailer to the staging site from where ATVs would have to transport race gear deeper into the Bottoms and Aid Station 2/3. The roads were already too bad, the heavily loaded trailer could not be pulled up the hills without getting stuck, and even if we could, would almost certainly jack-knife and push us into the ditch on the way back down as the hills were a mix of snow, slush and increasingly glare ice. We mobilized what we could in pickups but also knew we better get all the volunteers out of there safely for the day, before the roads got too bad. By the time we left in the early evening, 5 or 6 inches had already come down, the winds persisted, visibility was super low, the roads were in terrible condition and we saw car after car after truck in the ditch on the way out of there. In total, about 8 or 9 inches of snow fell in that first wave. This was the wave that we needed to be mostly rain in order to have a shot at holding the race.

Just as I stood by Larry’s side for his tenure as race director of many of Minnesota’s historic races – Larry was at Zumbro on Wednesday at my side as we pushed forward in accumulating snow and gale-force-winds. He fought alongside me and the other volunteers to try to make this year’s races happen. Later that night, after a harrowing drive home (returning home for any final communication and to pick up the main supply truck), I stared out my window, wind blowing horizontally under the streetlight. After an evening of discussions with our team, I woke Larry with a call just before midnight. We had the hard conversation about the cold realities of the day, the forecast and all of the people in our care, of our responsibilities and the decisions that had to be made. I hung up with Larry and typed the email to let runners and volunteers know that the race was cancelled. I read it, made revisions, reread it and stared blankly at the screen, a lump in my throat – eventually, I hit send.

Thursday confirmed what we knew on Wednesday night. The storm continued, the winds howled at 50 and 60 MPH, rain, sleet, ice, snow, thunder and lighting, cars, trucks, even a snowplow was sighted in the ditch. Setup would have been impossible and was going to be impossible for a few days. A friend that was signed up for the 100, who lives near the racecourse in Plainview, sent me a note and later publicly posted the following…

“I live in Plainview. I was at the race start last night (Thursday), if this race had been held it would have been a disaster. I totally agree that the damage to runners would have been life threatening not just challenging. My buddy Scott put up his tent and it collapsed overnight. If you were there last year you remember Scott’s warm tent (that 16’ X 26’ heated tent may have been the saving grace of the entire 2018 event). It survived all that weather last year and could not survive this year (collapsing under the weight of the snow and winds). That will help explain the situation. When Storkamp mentions gear being impossible to set up he is not jacking around. We woke up this A.M. (Friday) to the worst combination of weather I have seen in my near 15 years of Plainview living. Be bummed about the cancellation but be happy you are safe! Leadership is making hard choices.”

Later Friday we also learned that many large trees and limbs had fallen on the race course due to the high winds, heavy snow and ice. A couple of the notorious “ridge sections” of trail from last year again had drifts up to three feet, and large swaths of course markers had been buried. It was reported that conditions out on the race course were in fact worse than the 2018 conditions.

Through the events of the week, in those times when it was hard to muster the required optimism and in the moments of self-doubt, a thought kept nagging at me. Maybe it is time to disassemble Zumbro, take it apart piece by piece, shut it down, dig a hole and bury it. Maybe once it is in the ground and its ghost is gone, somebody could show up with a group of buddies, they could throw some brats on the grill while a few folks did loops out in the woods. No matter how bad the conditions on the odd year of a blizzard, surely you could get a dozen trucks in the West Assembly. And so what if you couldn’t setup the aid stations – those few people could carry packs and prove their mettle. So few people would equal much less risk. No matter the weather, no matter the conditions, Zumbro could perhaps be guaranteed to happen each and every year, but just for a few – no longer for the many. No longer for the community. No longer for the extended family. No longer for you.

I would then come to my senses. Larry had a vision. He took Zumbro from being a fatass to a race for the sole purpose of sharing something special with more people and in turn planted the seeds for the community, the movement, the spiritual experience that is Zumbro, that is Rocksteady. It was about being inclusive, it was about embracing newcomers and welcoming them into the community and thoughtfully and compassionately managing the increased popularity of the sport. Inclusivity, perhaps the single greatest asset of our community. Something you find in so few places. A conversation that is always easy to strike up. What is that worth to you in a world of so much division?

We love Zumbro because of its other-worldly feel and because of the challenge it presents us as runners, volunteers and organizers; the long drive there, remote country, steep valleys, towering bluffs, minimum maintenance roads, lack of cell coverage, the rustic campground, little infrastructure and rugged trails, and when we get there… the best part of all, our people.

April is the cruelest month. Perhaps the weather or climate is changing too. Maybe Zumbro can only happen some of the years. I have history here. Many of you do too. Larry and I and our friends plan to keep cooking the brats as long as you keep planning to come and do loops in the woods. Heck, even if you don’t come, we will still be here – we always were afterall. To stop would deny who we are and where we come from. We are not going to disassemble Zumbro, but if it shrinks or ebbs and flows that is just fine. And if it is a blizzard, I guess we will stay home, and that will give us an opportunity to reflect and be grateful just as I have done here today.

Finally, I have said a lot here and you should note, I have not mentioned anything about regrets.. but I do have one. This year was supposed to be about two of our Zumbro runners that we lost this past year, Logan P. and Randy K. I promise you this, we will celebrate their lives when we get together next year, or the next time Zumbro allows us safe passage. Until then.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

John Storkamp
Race Director
Zumbro Endurance Run

 

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FAQ

Why was the 2019 Zumbro Endurance Run canceled?
The 2019 Zumbro Endurance Run was cancelled because of a Winter storm that at periods rose to the definition of a blizzard. A blizzard is defined as a severe snowstorm with high winds and low visibility. The Zumbro Endurance Run takes place in a very unique, rugged and unforgiving corner of Minnesota. The paved high country roads above the Zumbro valley / leading to the race site traverse farm country and as such, there is little to no tree cover and are susceptible to whiteouts, icing and drifting snow. When the roads turn, they are near impassable, and sometimes… truly impassable. The immediate township roads surrounding the race site are so steep that in this respect they are more akin to trails than roads. Many of these roads are one classification away from Minimum Maintenance and as such have last priority for plowing after a snow event and are extremely treacherous under winter conditions. 4-Wheel drive vehicles have a hard time climbing to the top when snow and ice are present. The storm that forced the cancelation of this year’s races dumped around 8 or 9 inches of snow on the race course and drifted up to several feet in places in a short period of time between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. This initial round of snow was followed up by more snow, rain, sleet, ice, hail, thunder and lighting and 50 – 60 MPH winds that at one point were being forecast to potentially reach 80 MPH. This weather persisted through Friday mid-day. Meanwhile, the storm was just as bad or worse in other parts of the state. Locally, portions of Highway 52 and 35 were temporarily shut down due to accidents. Not only could runners traveling from all corners of the state (and beyond) not safely make it to the race for the start of the 100, volunteers that we needed to set-up for the entire race weekend could not safely make it either. The storm ultimately made it impossible to do the required setup for the race and made it impossible to carry out many other core functions that would allow the race to be held. Even as the weather and the surrounding paved county roads started to improve late Friday, immediate gravel roads, minimum maintenance roads, access trails and the race course were not safely navigable – by runners, volunteers and the race organization. The parking area that needs to be able to accommodate all of the vehicles of runners, their crews, pacers, families and volunteers could only be navigated with higher clearance 4WD vehicles. Even if everyone had this type of vehicle, we would have damaged the campground that other user-groups use throughout the year. These conditions at the West Assembly area persisted through Saturday in the form of deep slush and snow and the ground that appeared bone dry just days before was soft and mushy. This area cannot be plowed as it is turf and not a gravel parking lot. This area is sufficient for parking in all other conditions and is used in this capacity throughout Spring, Summer and Fall. Additionally, portions of the course saw sevearl large downed trees due to heavy snow and ice and the some of the ridge sections of the course were buried in up to 3 feet of snow with large swaths of the course markers buried in the snow. The 16 foot X 26 foot tent that was the saving grace for cold and wet runners in 2018 collapsed under heavy snow loads and high winds. Even if it had been possible to somehow get setup and muscle through these conditions it would have done a great disservice to what would have certainly been a skeleton crew of volunteers as many could not have made it due to conditions throughout the state and had their own issues to attend to at home as a result of the storm. While some participants would have welcomed the opportunity to try to run amid such challenging conditions, these conditions would have been beyond the ability or margin of safety for most of our runners – remember our goal of inclusivity, and welcoming runners of all levels of ability and from all walks of life. If something were to happen to someone on the course it would have been dangerous to attempt to reach them. Getting to them would have taken exponentially longer than normal. Additionally, it would have been negligent to proceed with a recreational event especially if something happened where emergency services would need to be called in, when services were already strained by the needs of surrounding communities and on local roads due to the weather event. The unique attributes of where Zumbro is held are what make it such an appealing race to trail / ultrarunners. These same attributes make the race impossible to hold in Winter and blizzard conditions. While we are all extremely disappointed to have to cancel this year’s race, we are grateful for our ability to see the risks clearly and make the right decisions along the way. No race is worth putting our runners, their friends and families and our volunteers at risk.

Can I get a refund or discount for a future race?
Per our published policies, we will not be issuing a refund for the cancellation of the 2019 Zumbro Endurance Run. We will not be transferring or deferring entries to next year’s race or any other Rocksteady Running (RSR) events. We will not be giving credit or offering a discount to next year’s race or any other RSR events. Nearly every single expense to produce Zumbro needs to be paid in full, in advance of the event and none of these expenses are refundable. To offer refunds would cripple our organization and would at best, severely impact our ability to produce future events and at worse, result in us not being able to produce any future Zumbro or RSR events.

In order to complete your registration for the race you had to agree to and initial the following:

“The Race Director reserves the right to modify or cancel the race or course for safety concerns, trail condition concerns or natural disaster. In such cases there will be no refunds of race entry fees. Each athlete must accept any such risk of their entry fee paid. There is no complimentary race entry to a future race. Entry fees collected are used to develop and produce the event, starting well in advance of the race date – including course preparation, race supplies, permits and administration. We will make every effort to produce a fair and safe event for all participants. Any decision we make that impacts the race date or potential cancellation is carefully considered and based on the overall event safety, sustainability and manageability. Please consider these factors carefully before registering.”

Are you going to reschedule the race?
We will not be rescheduling this year’s canceled races for another date later in the year. The nature of the Zumbro River Bottoms area is that there are very narrow windows in which it is possible to get the event permitted and run the race. This is due to a myriad of other uses that take place in the management unit, including hunting, logging, other non-running events and other primary uses which would conflict with a running race. Additionally, attempting to reschedule the race would incur a new set of costs which would be prohibitive if not impossible to absorb. On top of that, the entire field of registered runners would not be able to attend due to scheduling conflicts and it would be hard to attract and assign enough volunteers to pull off an event on short notice. We have already seen quite a number of impromptu Zumbro cancellation get-togethers / fun runs and fat asses organized by small groups of friends – I cannot tell you how cool this has been to see. It speaks volumes about you as individuals and our community as a whole.

Why don’t you just move the race to another date?
136 years of available weather data and the average April snowfall total for the Twin Cities area is 3.875 inches – and that is for the entire month [Source: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/climate/historical/acis_stn_data_monthly_table.html?sid=mspthr&sname=Twin%20Cities%20Area&sdate=1884-07-01&edate=por&element=snow&span=season&counts=no ]. The Zumbro Endurance Run takes place about 70 miles Southeast of the Twin Cities, so generally, these are the same numbers experienced in the Zumbro valley over that same time – if anything perhaps a little less. This is to say that blizzards in April in Minnesota are not all that common. Secondly, the nature of the Zumbro River Bottoms area is that there are very narrow windows in which it is possible to get the event permitted and run the race. Turkey hunting always starts the Wednesday directly after our race. After turkey hunting a myriad of other uses take place in the management unit; including other hunting season, logging, motorized events, the equestrian season and other primary uses which would conflict with a running race.

Will you be mailing out the 2019 race shirts like you did for the 17 milers in 2018?
Yes. We will be mailing each and every registered runner and volunteer their race shirt. For those of you who are new to Zumbro, Rocksteady Running, or our trail / ultra scene, it may sound funny to receive and wear a shirt for a race that you did not run or finish. Yes, Zumbro is a race. But that is just a fraction of the story. Zumbro is an experience, a mindset, a community and a culture. It is not defined by finishes or race times. Rather it is defined by an amazing group of people and a spirit of community and togetherness that is unmatched. While we are always proud to rejoice in our victories, we also wear our scars with pride, for they equally make us who we are. If you do not care for the shirt, you can donate it and somebody in need can get good use out of it.

What did it look like down there?
Here are some photos of the race site and the storms aftermath https://photos.app.goo.gl/Md71eyuEHXua3cXQA

I could have finished the (100, 50 or 17 mile) race in these conditions. It is not fair of you to have canceled.
Setting all other considerations aside (which you cannot actually do, but if you could)… We feel that running 100, 50 or 17 miles at Zumbro is enough of a challenge in itself. Running it in tougher and more extreme conditions does not make us “more”. It should not be dangerous or put others at risk and as soon as that is the case – we will cancel the race. It does not need to be more extreme than it already is. If you need that, then seek out a race that is setup to be that extreme. The Zumbro Endurance Run is one of the larger trail and ultra races in the country. It is specifically setup to be inclusivee of people of all abilities within the three, already extremely challenging distances. We know very well and appreciate that there are many people that could finish in extreme weather conditions. The Zumbro Endurance Run race director is a 14 year veteran of the Arrowhead 135 – many of the people that are on our team have run 100’, 200, 350 mile races in all conditions. This is not the point of Zumbro – as soon as it is unsafe for our people (and their people), we will make the tough calls.

I don’t believe it, I think the race could have been held.
If in spite of all of the evidence presented, you feel that the race should not have been canceled, please take a moment to scroll through the photos on the homepage of our website https://www.zumbroendurancerun.com/ – they tell a story. We have been at this for a long time. We put our heart and soul into this. We don’t set up races to cancel them. In fact, in over a decade of directing many events each year, this is the first time that we have ever completely canceled an event, and last year’s 17 mile was the first time we ever had to cancel a distance as part of an event. Many of the people that run the races are like family to each other – it is our favorite time of year, our favorite thing to do, it is the family reunion after a long Winter. It is significantly more work to cancel a race than it is to hold it. We will always make the best decisions for the many even if it is to the disapproval of the few.

Zumbro 2020

The 2020 Zumbro Endurance Run has been scheduled for Friday April 10 and Saturday April 11, 2020.  Registration will open on Friday November 1, 2019.

Before registering for this years race, we are requiring all runners to read the following disclosure and acknowledgement in its entirety https://www.zumbroendurancerun.com/zumbro-2020 -  It will take you about 7 minutes to read. It covers the following key points.  

1.) Zumbro was partially cancelled in 2018 due to an abnormal / early Spring blizzard. 

2.) Zumbro was completely cancelled in 2019 due to an abnormal / early Spring blizzard. 

3.) Zumbro is not immune to a third such weather event. In the event that we must cancel the race for any reason, there will be no refunds and the race(s) will not be rescheduled.  

4.) Those intending to register and run in 2020 should be fully aware of significant course, aid and access changes.  

5.) Zumbro does take place on the Friday and Saturday prior to Easter Sunday in 2020.

Given the weather these past couple of years, we totally understand if you do not want to take the risk of signing up for Zumbro and are certainly not asking you to. There are a lot of other great races that you can sign up for in the Midwest and North later in April and in early May. We are totally fine having a smaller event. Whatever you decide is totally, completely, 100% fine with us.  We wish you the best of luck with whatever you run this coming Spring.  We thank you for your ongoing interest and support. 

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Zumbro Endurance Run
100MI, 50MI, 17MI Trail Race(s)
Theilman, Minnesota
April 10 & 11, 2020
• 100MI Friday 8:00AM
• 50MI 12:01AM Saturday (Friday Midnight)
• 17MI 9:00AM Saturday

Registration:
Opens Fri Nov 1, 2019 – 12:01AM CST
Closes Fri April 3, 2020 – 11:59PM CST
*Or once the field limit has been met
Complete Registration Details HERE

Directions to Race Start:
Zumbro River Bottoms Management Unit
West Assembly Area
(Near Theilman, MN)
Google Maps Directions HERE
Written Directions HERE
(Approx 1:45 south of Minneapolis, MN)

Terrain:
The course consists of a mix of rugged single and double track trail with rubble, loose rock and sand along with minimum maintenance gravel roads.  The race is primarily concentrated in two large valleys within an expansive hardwood forest.  There are four significant, short, steep climbs (approx 300FT) per loop with small hills in-between along with some significant stretches of flat valley floor running.  Be sure to see maps, elevation charts and stats provided on this website HERE.

100 Mile:
6 x 17 mile loop = 102(ish) miles
Elevation Gain 13,500 FT
Elevation Loss 13,500 FT
NET Elevation Change 27,000 FT
17 Aid Stations
34 hour time limit
Complete 100MI Info HERE

50 Mile:
3 x 17 mile loop = 51(ish) miles
Elevation Gain 6,750 FT
Elevation Loss 6,750 FT
NET Elevation Change 13,500 FT
8 Aid Stations
18 hour time limit
Complete 50MI Info HERE

17 Mile:
17 Mile Loop
Elevation Gain 2,250 FT
Elevation Loss 2,250 FT
NET Elevation Change 4,500 FT
2 Aid Stations
9 hour cutoff
Complete 17MI Info HERE

More About the Area:
The Zumbro Endurance Run 100MI, 50MI and 17MI trail races take place within the Zumbro River Bottoms Management Unit in Southeastern Minnesota’s Bluff Country – just outside of the tiny village of Theilman, MN approximately 1:45 from Minneapolis – St.Paul, MN.  The races start and finish at the West Assembly / Horse Campground Area.  Generally speaking the Zumbro River Bottoms Management Unit lies within a portion of the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood Forest – an expansive 1.7 million acre tract of Minnesota hardwood forest on the Northern edge of the Driftless Region which is mainly characterized by its tall bluffs and deeply carved river valleys. This “bluff country” is rugged, hauntingly beautiful and provides the perfect venue for 100, 50 or 17 miles of trail running.