Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chippewa 50K Race Report

I know, I did not run it, but I got to see the whole thing unfold and come together from a totally new perspective. So here is a report from an observers point of view.

First off, I did not know I would so much fun helping at a race rather than running. For those of thinking of trail running or ultra stuff, come spend a day with the race. You won't regret it.

Friday brought beautiful weather. It was a spectacular drive to New Auburn, and it seemed Spring was finally here.

I arrived to find Larry making his special electrolyte drink for the runners.

Warning to other race directors - Don't leave Larry and me unsupervised for too long. Enough said.

We packed the race bags, allocated the aid station stock, and just hung out and traded stories. A good time.

I had this pipe dream that I was going to go run the whole course that night. I headed out at 4:30 pm with my pack full of water. I returned to the parking lot at 5:30pm totally spent. It was hot, but my legs were just not ready for anything. Oh well.

It was a good thing I quit, because right after getting in my car, heading down hwy M, I was blasted with hail. Then rain, .... etc.

I stayed at the Four Seasons in Chippewa Falls with Bill Pomerenke. He was preparing for his second ultramarathon ever, as well as second in 8 days. I think I told him "It's a little harder than Trail Mix..... but not by much". "but not by much" could be the Larry creeping into my vernacular.

I awoke early and got to the race early so I could assist. Dang.. it's cold! Will the rain hold off (it was lightly raining when I arrived).

We loaded up the Chippewa Recovery Drink for after the race

Wynn's family had everything under control, so I started interviewing racers. I have posted some already, and will post more later. Stay tuned. And, in case you were wondering, I did not doctor any of the race footage whatsoever. cough cough. Okay, I will fess up. I heavily edited Adam's Race Predictions clip. I couldn't resist.

The night before when I went out for the run, I quickly realized the new start had an interesting twist. A KILLER DOWNHILL! Also an uphill at the end.... What goes down, must go up.

I decided to get some live footage at the bottom hoping, just hoping I would witness a NASCAR like pile up.

Bryan Cochran had the same idea, and he was at the same spot ready to capture hill bombers.

I hear the cowbell ringing, and new the race started. And they started coming.

I think it was Matt Howard who I hear say "We don't have to go back up this" when he was at the bottom. You can here me on tape saying "Yes you do!"

Andy Holak said it best "Do we have to go this way to the finish line? That's kind of a nasty finish"

I gave out some minor heckling and enjoyed watching people with smiles.

Hey, there is Steve Quick! I thought after not seeing him before the race, he got smart and bagged it (two weeks ago he ran Zumbro 100 Mile, and Trail Mix 50k last week). What was I thinking?

After everybody passed, I charged up the hill to see the runners at the 2 mile point. Half way up the hill, I started walking. Damn, this hill is tough. They are going to LOVE this one after 30 miles.

We soon saw the runners coming through at the 2 mile mark. The lead pack was about the same, John Storkamp, Matt Howard, Andy Holak, Chris Gardner, Erik Kaitala. Joe Zigenfuss and Adam Harmer were close behind.

On a funny note, when Matt Long came through, he had about 20 people right behind him. I guess they heard what happens when you try to run a race ahead of Mr. Long (see my Zumbro 100k report). I told him he was clogging up the pipeline.

I also realized I very well could be dubbed the "Slowest Matt" soon. Look who I have to contend with

Matt Howard
Matt Aro
Matt Long

All incredibly strong, smart, and experienced runners.

Once they passed, we just chatted, and then went off to the our duties.

Having camera duty, I decided to go to mile 8. By the time all of the runners came through 2, I didn't think I would catch the front runners at 5.

After a few scenic detours (euphemism for missed turns), I arrived at Town Line rd A/S. I met Gina (Geena?) Howard. She was watching her husband (fiance?) Matt try to take the gold. We saw them come through, and you can see the results on the previously posted video "the race unfolds".

As I wanted to see the leads at the turnaround, I didn't stay too long (I still had duties at the finish line).

At the 25k turnaround, Julie Berg, Londell Pease, Daryl and Lynn Saari were firing up a party. Donny Clark and Bonnie Riley were there too (the marked the trail, and were set to sweep it at the end). They are the glue which holds these races together.

I caught some video, and got a short workout in. Two runners came into the aid station from the road. They missed the final markers taking them through the woods, so they went through someones back yard.

I ran with them to find where they missed.

It was well marked, but I refrained from judging. The markers I missed two weeks prior were way more visible than these.

Side note-
A handful of runners said to me that the course was not well marked.
Knowing who marked it, and this being a trail race, I have this to say respectfully in response

* Part of a trail race is understanding the course, and paying attention. You can't rely on the course to guide you in lieu of you not paying attention. It is INTERACTIVE. Once you become passive, you are doomed for mistakes. All of my missed/wrong turns in previous races were a result of 1 - me not paying attention 2 - assuming the people ahead of me are paying attention. In my opinion, this element makes trail running an even more interesting sport.

The trail was well marked.

My guess is those who were upset, were rather new to trail running. Show me a trail runner who has never missed markings, and I will show you a trail runner who has not run a lot of trails.

Nuff said - If you feel I am off base, email me directly. Then go run the Superior Hiking Trail.

I heckled some people at the turnaround.

"Hey Steve, it's okay to run a 50K in over 5 hours"

"Hey Molly, this isn't social hour.... get your butt back on the trail" (I was also afraid she would start attracting bees"

"Hey Bruce, you are dry"

Donny Clark said it best "This course is showing more blood than mud"

I figured I needed to get back to the start soon. So I was off.

We all gathered at the 2 mile mark, waiting for someone to come through. Based on what we knew, at the 3:42 mark, we figured sub 4 hours was almost out of the questions until we saw Andy Holak doing the "hand on quads" hill climb. We told him it was going to be close for a sub 4 hour.

Not far behind, a serious race was brewing. Matt Howard was power walking the hill. Chris Garnder decided to show us who was boss by running it. John Storkamp decided to get his dark side on and threw his shirt to the ground. He was mad, and wanted this one.

On the other side, we could see them coming from a far. Andy had a good enough lead, but that last hill was a serious X factor. It was funny to watch Andy looking over his shoulder every few seconds as he was crossing the last field. He ended up holding the boys off and brought it home in 3:59:40. He ran the last part of the hill after Wynn said "you have 1.5 minutes to break 4"

Gardner, Howard, and Storkamp followed shortly after. They all had comments on "The Hill"

Adam Harmer's buddies came to watch, so I told them to give him crap at the 2 mile mark. At the final hill, they gave him more crap, so he ran part of hill. He finished not far behind Joe Z.

I planted myself at the top of the hill, yelling at runners. I think I said "This is not a fun walk, it's a run".

Helen came through with a repeat win. Here is an interview with her.

Following in second was Karen Shoenrock. She had a smile the whole time up the hill. You can't see it here, she's just concentrating.

I probably stayed at that hill for at least 2 hours. It was a blast.

Bill Pomerenke came up the hill without a word. After I found him at the finish line, all he had to say was "That F#$@%ing hill!"

Wynn liked that. It is now named.

I ended up taking chair duty and recording names until the end. All I knew were numbers, no names.

I met with Wynn's mom after she "fired" him from kitchen duties next year. We talked ideas for next year. I am looking forward to taking kitchen duty.

Wynn's family is the true success behind the success of this race. His mom was greeted with hugs from the center crew. His dad and sister did so much, without any need for recognition. They rocked big time.

The only bad note from the day was after arriving home, I found a tick had bit me on the ass. Who knows how long it was on there. I guess that's what I get for heckling runners.


SteveQ said...

I think you've set the standard for volunteer reports; I'll see what I can do with Runnin' in the Ruff this weekend.

Everyone had ticks... maybe snow is good for something; there weren't any last year.

I have to apologize to Bill P. I told him that Ice Age is even worse. That was cruel.

SteveQ said...

As for people missing the markings, there were two places where it occurred, both where there was a wide easy path (wrong) or a deer path (right). The most common mistake was taking the logging road after the fence climb on the way back; they should've quickly seen they weren't on the same course they'd already run. It's wishful thinking, mostly, but also being too tired to stay aware of markings not straight ahead.

Kel said...

Fun report Matt - and thanks for helping to put on an awesome race!

PS> I came perilously close to sweeping this course too ;)

trailrunners said...


Nice report! Was I really looking over my shoulder? I seriously don't remember doing that.

As far as course marking goes - the course was marked superbly as it always is when Donnie is on duty. Once you got on the Ice Age Trail is didn't even need additional markings. All you had to do was follow the yellow blazes on the trees and it would be impossible to get lost. Just have to pay attention and it certainly can be done - even when there is a rabid pack nipping at your heels (i.e. Storkamp...Ha!). Thanks for all the video footage and editing. Love the race as it unfolds editing. Gets me psyched up for my next race! Makes me want to do one right now! Great work man!


nwgdc said...

"John Storkamp decided to get his dark side on and threw his shirt to the ground."

Did he get DQ'd, too? Not that I'd blame you for letting it slide for him. He seems pretty intense :)

Carl Gammon said...

Matt, thanks for helping with the race. It was fun having you out there and then seeing all your videos afterwards.

As to course markings, I had to redirect a few people going off course during the run. Coming back less than a mile from the turn-around there's a place where you can go straight or make a sharp left. The sharp left is the Ice Age trail and there's a big yellow arrow and marker on the tree. A bunch of people with heads down just trudged straight ahead.

RunWesty said...

Nice report

As for one who ventured off course, I have no complaint with the markings I simply made the wrong choice as I had other issues going on. Actually, I am not even sure where I went off course. I do know its not where the others did. Heck, I think part of me wanted to do it as I was always kind of wondering how I would deal with it.

Anyway, Thanks for helping to put on a great event. See you next year.