It was something that not many could accomplish, but area residents Ryan Costello and Beau Oestreich prevailed. They finished The Frozen Otter in the Kettle Moraine on Saturday, Jan. 19, and became two of the Frozen Few.
The Frozen Otter is a grueling race through the Kettle Moraine State Forest-Northern Unit. You have 24 hours to trek 64 miles through the forest on the Ice Age Trail. According to the website, only about 20 percent of those who start the race complete it.
Oestreich and Costello finished in 19 hours and 30 minutes. They came in 14th place. This race is not just physically tough, it is mentally draining. Much of the trek is done in the dark, which poses its own issues. “We did most of our running in the dark with headlamps,” Costello said.
The weather itself was something they also had to contend with. Temperatures with windchill that day were around -5 to – 10 degrees. “There was an inch of ice and snow on top of that,” Oestreich said. Costello added, “Everything was numb by mile 30.” The cold also wreaked havoc on their water supply.
They had a tank in their backpack with a hose and mouth piece. But, because of the cold, the hose would freeze and they couldn’t get water. Other participants suggested they put the hose in their shirts to help keep it thawed from their body heat. The ice and the snow kept them slipping and sliding on the trails as they were going.
A few times they tumbled a little bit, but their walking poles helped keep them steady. “I don’t know if we would have been able to do it without those,” Oestreich said. The race starts out at the Mauthe Lake recreation area and travels back and forth on the Ice Age Trail in the northern unit of the Kettle Moraine.
You go up and down hills with a few very brief spots of level terrain. Costello and Oestreich estimate that less than eight miles of the course are on flat ground. The two learned of the event, which got its start in 2007, from Oestreich’s mother, Carol. “My mom’s tried this a few times,” Oestreich said. “I was actually going to do this with her.” Then, his mother was invited on a trip of a lifetime and couldn’t participate this year.
That didn’t stop Oestreich, he knew who he could call to take on this challenge with him. Oestreich and Costello have been friends since they were younger, wrestling together in the Campbellsport programs. Now they continue to workout together and have been planning marathons and possibly Iron Man competitions together. “I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anyone else,” Oestreich said. Costello agreed, “I know there’s no one else I would have wanted to do this with.
Plus he didn’t really give me an option.” They didn’t do a lot of training for the event. Both are physically fit and workout on a regular basis. After completing the race, both agreed that they wouldn’t know how to train for the Frozen Otter. “There’s really no way to train for this,” Costello said. “We did pretty good considering we didn’t do a lot of training,” Oestreich said. As far as the race, they wanted to keep a good pace and not burn themselves out. “We kept a really good pace,” Oestreich said.
Costello added, “We happened to have a really good strategy.” One of those bits of strategy was something they decided part of the way through the race. At the check points, there was a fire and place to sit down and rest for a little bit. They decided not to spend too much time at those check points. Both realized that if they sat down for too long, it was too hard to get up and get moving again.
This was especially true toward the end of the race when their bodies were getting very tired. During this race, you don’t take time to sleep, just short breaks to eat. “We didn’t stop moving for 20 hours,” Oestreich said. “I’ve never jogged or walked for almost 20 hours straight before.” “The hardest part was just the duration of everything,” Costello said. As they were getting toward the end of the race, they were seeing fewer and fewer fellow racers. Many dropped out before the last stretch.
The last couple miles were a little tough for them. They knew the end was coming, but they just weren’t sure how much longer they had. Other participants told them the end was just around the corner from the church. As they went past the church, the two were not seeing the end of the race and were starting to get a little frustrated.
A little further into the course, they realized one funny fact. “There were two churches,” Costello laughed. Once they were past the second church, they still had a little bit to go but they could see the lights from Mauthe Lake.
They crossed the finish line at exactly 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 20. As they crossed, they could see both of their fathers waiting for them and cheering them on. “We sprinted that last bit,” Oestreich said. After 19 hours and 30 minutes of continuous walking, jogging and running, they were ready to hit the warming shelter and sit down.
The only problem was, they still had to drive home before they could lay down and go to sleep. “We spent more time recovering than training,” Costello admitted. “Both of us took off that Monday. I have black toenails from it yet. You really push your body.” Oestreich added, “We went to the Y to recover for the steam room and the pool.” In the end, they are glad they did it.
They are not sure if they will do it again but said it takes a really special kind of person to take on this challenge and complete it. “I think we were out there with some crazy people,” Costello said. “You have to be really motivated. It would take a special kind of person to finish it and I am so glad we did it.”