Sunday, April 13, 2008

Chippewa Vasaloppet Report

I will start this one out with some memorable quotes.

Phillip Gary Smith "I am the only sensible one out there, I am wearing snowshoes"

Ryan from Green Bay "That was a Birkebinder start"

Wynn Davis "the course might be a little slow today"

Steve Quick "so what happened to that 4:15 you were going to do?"

Brent Bjerkness "I thought Goretex was supposed to stay dry"

Robert Frost "Two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less traveled." I guess he was a trail runner. I should have heeded this advice, because the road less traveled was the correct one! Luckily I only adventured 5 minutes or so off course. I will explain later.

I reflect back to my days as a car salesman. I sold Pontiac for a few short months, so I had the opportunity to sell a few Trans Ams. When somebody test drives a TA, the test drive it. They ride it hard and put it away wet. So, when one is about to buy a TA on the lot, they see it has 150 miles or so on the odometer. I always thought "yeah, that is a serious 150 though. Those are some painful miles for that car"

That was yesterday. Although it was a 50k (31 miles), those were some serious miles.

It began with the short trek to New Auburn. Heavy rain and wind on Friday afternoon. Upon arrival, it had just started snowing. Heavily. I saw Larry Pederson in the parking lot. He had that happy look and thinking "finally, something hard for the runners to deal with".

After the pick up, I headed back to Chippewa falls with Carl Gammon (room mate). I saw the foreshadowing of a tough day to come with many cars in the ditch from the sudden heavy rain to snow transition.

Carl and I had the classic Ultra trail runners pre race meal, Pizza and Beer. Sorry Adam, no sprouts and lemon juice (although, he did kick our butts). We turned in early.

We awoke to....

Snow. It did not look too bad. What's a couple of inches, right?
Our trek back to the start was slow, more foreshadowing of a long day ahead.

We were lucky to arrive early enough to get some prime parking spots. I was able to get some pictures of many of the dead runners and UMTRA members.

We started in a small field of snow. I took the opportunity to throw a few snowballs at the competition.

And they were off. How bad could a couple of inches be.

The first loop seemed deeper than a few inches. It had to be 6 inches in many spots. For some reason I thought it would thin out. I quickly set in behind someone who looked like he was going to run the same type of race I was. After a short conversation, we realized we knew each other. He was Brent Bjerkness, open masters winner at Superior 50 last year. Our wives got to know each other at SHT 50, so we took this opportunity to do the same. A third guy was hanging in there behind us, but something did not ring right about him. I think this was his first Ultra and trail run. He did not look prepared, and was running too fast based on his breathing. We were at mile 1. He was in for a long and painful day.

Brent and I blew through the first aid station as we both had been stocked not to need it. I had not looked at my watch yet, but hit the lap button.

I was putting my low heart rate training to the test, and was curious where I was, but did not want to get preoccupied with it.

We were a little back from two runners, man and woman, who were set in a pace. The woman had awesome form, taking each hill effortlessly. It was intimidating to watch her conquer those hills effortlessly. Once we caught up, we learned she was from Yellowstone National Park. That's a hike.

We hit the 5 mile aid station and finally looked at my watch. 1 hour. Are you kidding me? 5 miles per hour? I guess 4 hours and anything was out of the questions. We were on an over 6 hour pace. Oh well. Great opportunity to now run by feel, and not time. I was already doing that, but now I had no worries. This snow seemed kind of deep though... 8 inches?

The next stretch I heard was beautiful. I would not know as I was looking down the whole time. Boo hoo.

8 mile aid station. Planned refueling spot. Others blew by while I refilled drink and food. Why such a hurry? Are you guys in a race?

A short hop to the next aid station, then a long haul out to the turn around. That is when it got.... special.

Right outside of that short stop aid station the snow got deep. Over a foot deep in many spots. The trail was not packed in the least, so I was just aiming for existing foot steps. Often I was going knee deep. Where it was not deep, it was slushy. After a half hour of that, I said "this is getting quite annoying". Uh no, was I whining? That was grounds for DQ. I better shape up.

Soon after we say the elites coming our way..... wait, no, "we are off course." Figures. We all turn around. One guy kept going. He was looking for that river in Egypt - de Nile.

Our crowd was only 5 minutes off, or more, but I could not let it get to my head. I figured the lead packers made the mistake, and we all followed. I will find a way to get revenge on those boys (and girl).

It was a beautiful stretch, more hills, and long board walk over a river, a wooden fence I contemplated hurdling, then the leaders coming back. Adam was taking a stand, and still looking strong. Joe was just steps behind, as well as Eric and others. John Storkamp looked quite relaxed as he was not dragging a sled. Jim R. looked pissed off. Can't unleash a world of hurt in deep snow.

Finally the turnaround, and some much needed familiar faces. Keith, Tom, Nancy, and Wynn were the only faces my brain registered.

Again, I took the time to properly load up and refuel. Then back to the start. Brent took off quickly so I was alone.

It was great to see everybody on the flip. Some looked better than others. Carl, you looked great. Karen Gall was toward the back, but getting ready to open a can of whop ass. Her gas tank was full.

Phillip must have been dropped on his head as a child, because he was seriously doing the whole thing in snow shoes! I thought he was kidding at the start. You are one tough dude Phillip!

Then it was lonely. Nobody for a long time.

I was happy to see Keith and another person taking pictures later on, as I knew I was close to the aid station. They took pictures in a tough spot. I tried to smile. But I was starting to loose my attitude.

I eventually kind of caught up to Brent and hung on (kept him in sight).

I was buried somewhere in there by the #2 woman, Molly, making this look like a walk in the park. She was happy, relaxed, and moving quick.

She had tech problems after a while, and shortly after, She, Brent and myself formed a pack.

We stuck together for the remainder of the race. The stretch from mile 23 to 26 was long. We were getting quiet, except for Molly. She was chipper. Looking back, that helped a lot, although she claimed she was hurting too.

The next hour was one of those true "runner boding experiences". We all needed each other but were not doing anything for each other. We all kept each other going.

Mile 26 to 29 was about a 10 mile run. The slush, snow and now serious mud was getting to me. I am sure glad I had that last long training run. It was holding me together.

We made it. Just 2 miles to go. Two long miles. We picked up the pace, but some dude blew by us like we were walking. We started running hills again, we were in pain, but nobody was going to pass us any more.

We knew Molly was holing on to the #2 woman spot, so we told her that was our mission, and Brent and I would tackle any woman who dared try and pass. Boy was I loosing my mind.

When we finally saw the end, it was still 1/3 mile to go. A glorious final stretch. When we hit the road, we made Molly take the lead and bring us home. She helped get me there, so she was going to lead her in.

That was a finish line I will always remember. 50k in snow. 5:59. 1:45 off my goal of 4:15. Oh well.

The finish area was great. Great bonding great people, great food, beer, and live Bo Dean tape. Only thing better would have been Bodeans in person. Maybe next year Wynn.

I saw Adam (#2 stud) varying his lemon diet and drinking a Leine. Look out for this guy as he is still getting stronger.... and lighter...

Did my low heart rate training pay off?

Yes. I ran almost even splits. 5 minute differential from out to back.

Last year Brent beat my by 45 minutes at Superior. I hung with him on this one. But, I had no tempo or speed work. I had three hill workouts (afton) where I walked hills.

Now I will put in 1 tempo or hill workout per week. Long runs might be faster.

All in all, an awesome day.

Wynn ran a flawless race. Nice job Wynn.

4 weeks to Ice Age. Updates to come.


phillip said...

Great Title.
Can I steal it? :)

Your description of the 10 mile run from 26-29 really was spot on.
Never ending . . . .

Also, there was a sign just before mile 30showing .2 miles to the ranger station which, then of course, we got to continue on around for another distance to the finish.
That 2/tenths seemed more like 2 miles.

You looked very fresh on the trail; you're gonna have a good season.
Phillip Gary Smith

aharmer said...

Great report and great race! I was trying to find a lemon to put in my Leine but no luck;)

mwrunfar said...


Great report, I agree with your description of the 26-29 mile stretch, it just kept going and going. I was also glad to see how much your time was off, I couldn't believe how slow I was and your comment means I wasn't alone.

keith said...

Now everyone's going to be doing the low HR training and putting lemon in their water ;-)

Great job, Matt!

Karen G said...

Matt, Great report of the race. You looked good out there.

Wayne said...

Way to go, Matt. Lots of training, NO PAIN, and a good 50K... you're off to a good start this year! Nice race report, I like the quotes.

Bryan said...

Awesome job on the race! And great report.

WynnMan said...

John Storkamp told me at the turnaround "I've done Arrowhead, but this is F**** nuts."

gOOD work out there Matt. And thanks for everything!