[ A long email, but an important read if you are running, thanks in advance for taking the time. It will take you about eight minutes to read. ]

Given all of the challenges of this past year, I didn’t know how excited I would be as we closed in on Zumbro, but I am pretty dang excited! I cannot wait for you all to see the revised course that I, and others, have been working on for the past few years.  I am also excited for the challenge and opportunity to usher back Zumbro, and Rocksteady Running events in general – safely, responsibly, respectfully.

The last 60 days have been a whirlwind. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (for good reason given the dynamic nature of the pandemic) will not review a permit application outside of 60 days.  Once we were within 60 days and our application and Covid plan was submitted and approved, there were a lot of things that had to fall into place in very short order. In order to fit our visions, we had to leverage our registration provider UltraSignup in a way it has not been used before (registrants able to choose their own start times, 80 registration options in total, the event being spread out over four days). We invited those individuals back first who had been subject to previous Zumbro cancellations – the fact that you all have maintained as much enthusiasm for Zumbro as you have, it humbles and energizes me.  Myself and our team of very talented volunteers have completely reimagined what a Rocksteady Running event is, can and will be, in order to provide the safest and most enjoyable experience possible, this has been no small task. Soon we will get to see how it all works, and whether or not everyone likes what we have come up with.

Before I dive in, I wanted to take a moment to comment on why I think it is important to be moving forward with our first event in the Covid era, and why now – decisions I did not make lightly.  I also want to ask you all to be my partners in making Zumbro a model event for the other RSR races that will hopefully follow as the year progresses. We are in the early days of the recovery. Recovery is something that happens over a period of time – it means that things are not just going to snap back to normal all at once. We don’t just go from where we have been with all of its associated trauma, to ‘recovered’ – there is going to be an in-between time and it is going to be uncomfortable at times. Anything that truly resembles normal as we knew it, well that is a long ways off. Adjust and adapt; respectfully, safely and intelligently – create systems and protocols for safely holding events. That is what we are all tasked with at this first RSR event back – me, our volunteers, and you our runners (many of which are also oft volunteers, donors and more). I don’t want to put pressure on anyone, but the stakes are high. Running, races, events – they are obviously not the most important things in the world, but just think of the impact that they have had on you in your life – the world still needs it, in some ways maybe more than ever in the years to come.  I think mostly we are going to have a really fun, safe, light-hearted and extremely low key and low-stress event (I still don’t think runners and volunteers alike realize how low key it will be), but I also want you all to realize the great opportunity and the great responsibility that we all have before us, to usher in what are going to be many new norms for us, for the foreseeable future.  I have all the confidence in the world in all of you, as the ones who will help us shepherd in these changes.  Your main job as runners, is to know what is expected of you, which you can find HERE if you already read it, awesome –  please read it again.

Next, and finally, I am going to run through a handful of key reminders that I really want to hit home and that will be it – we will watch the weather and then we will see you down at Zumbro.

• If between now and the event you contract Covid, are exposed to someone that is Covid positive, begin not feeling well or have any symptoms, please do not come to the race.  Please contact me and we will get you squared away.

• As mentioned several times previously, you are guaranteed the time slot / window that you signed up for.  You have not been charged yet, and we will not be charging the card you provided until Wednesday April 7 – probably right away in the morning.  If I wake up on April 6 and the meteorologists are certain we will be getting a blizzard, well, we will cancel and you will not have been charged and we can try again next year.  Otherwise, you will be charged on Wed and you will show up to run on Thur, Fri, Sat or Sun.  Regardless of Covid, this is a likely model for Zumbro in the years to come due to past (and potential future) weather challenges – and yes, we tried getting the date changed again this year to no avail.

• Many safety protocols are laid out via the link provided above, in a nutshell; don’t come if you are sick, maintain physical distance, keep your hands clean and wear your mask when you are not running.  As it sits today, there will be no more than 200 people at Zumbro (racers, volunteers and non-race related users) per day, and we will be spread out over a 4,000 acre site.  We are poised to have a very low contact and very safe event.

• You can check in up to 15 minutes before your start time / window, no sooner. Then, starting at the time you signed up for, you have up to 15 minutes to enter the start area, then start your run, example: if you are signed up for 8:00AM, you can start anytime between 8:00AM and 8:15AM.  We will not call or gather runners together on the start line, we will not yell “go”, you will just walk up to the start line / flag, make sure the timers see your number, cross over the timing mat and you will start your run, either alone or with your friend / family member from your bubble that you signed up with (I noticed a lot of that – it is awesome).

• There will be no food / nutrition / calories or cups on the course.  We encourage you to carry enough food and water to run an entire loop, unaided. There will be water stops you can use if you run short on water. You will need to hand-sanitize, fill up your container, then hand-sanitize again on your way out.  We will also be beta-testing some foot-activated / hands-free water dispensers we have engineered, feel free to try those as well – we hope to have one at each stop.

• For those in the 34 (two loops) who are familiar with Zumbro from years past, you will not come all the way through the start / finish area as multi-loop runners (50MI and 100MI) have done in the past, you will instead be diverted to your next loop just shy of the start / finish are (similar to Afton if you have done that), don’t worry, it will be obvious – this is where you will place your drop bags ahead of time and where the water stop will be.

• A note about the private property we run in the race. The family that is letting us cut across their farm for the race are just awesome people, I have gotten to know them well. At about mile 11.5 you will climb the (laughably) steep and rugged Paddy’s Hill (new to the race), right after you top out, the course markings will dip hard-right into the woods (approximately at mile 12) and soon you will find yourself running field edges, dipping back into the woods, back to field edges, etc – this goes on for about a half mile until you are spit back out onto a minimum maintenance gravel road and public property.  Please note that this is the private section and please, if you ever come on your own to train at Zumbro in the future, do not use this section of the course – we have made a specific map for training at Zumbro that avoids this property – it can be found on our website.

• A note about the course in general.  It is pretty dang challenging. Per loop you get 13 miles of SAND, mud, hills, rubble and repeat totaling over 2100FT of elevation gain in those first 13 miles.  From there, the run-in from Aid Station 2 / Central to the finish is about 4 miles of pancake flat, which will be hard for many to take advantage of after what they just went through… again, it is a heck of a course.

• When you finish, make sure that the timers can see your bib number, rotate your shirt or shorts or your body so they can clearly see it.  Timing will be more challenging this year than normal as everyone will have a unique start time and a unique finish time, even though we are chip timing like normal, for our backup we want your help in making sure that your number is manually recorded.

• After you cross the finish line, catch your breath, pull your mask up and make your way out of the finish area.  The start / finish area is generally the cabled area / (and wood posts) surrounding the start / finish area, pavilion etc.  After your run you are welcome to go spread out with friends / family that are already in your bubble anywhere on the 18 acre site, just please do so well outside of the start / finish area and away from others.

• As a reminder, in order to not charge anyone in advance, shirts and medals will not be available on race day.  We will be producing them after the race and mailing them to you – this will take up to a few weeks.  Note that the medals are a new design that allow us to ship them more easily than the old design – I am stoked about them.  Also note that not everyone may receive the same color shirt, as Covid has created supply chain issues in the clothing world – regardless, we think you will like this year’s shirt and medal.  You can check out this year’s shirt design HERE

• Results will be available on our website within a few days of the event concluding, maybe sooner but no guarantees.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me. We will all have masks on and I won’t be on the ladder starting the races as usual, but I will be lingering and let’s say hi from a distance.  You all are awesome and I am grateful for you.  We will see you soon.

Thank You,

John Storkamp
Race Director
[email protected]