Sunday, April 12, 2009

Zumbro 100k Report

My rules of ultra running

1 - Run your own race
2 - Never make any decisions about races (like "I will never do this again") the 2 days after a race..... or while you are running the race.
3 - No whining
4 - Don't test stuff on race day
5 - Things will get better
6 - Never underestimate any race

I violated rules 1,3, and 6 yesterday. I am not sure anybody heard my whining, but I was thinking it. I was sure #5 was false.

All said and done, I had a great race. I can actually say race, because at mile 57, I was chasing the 1st place male. And, for the first time ever, I led the race (for 20 miles). Was it stupid to do that? Maybe. But, it was a fun change for me. One runs a different race when you know two kids (Justin and Eric Youngblom) are on your ass, and one woman (Kim Holak)who is a force to be reckoned with. All the while not knowing the eventual male winner (Matt Long) was running smart and waiting to put the hurt on at mile 50.

How this race evolved in the 100k, and how it ended, made for a great and fun experience. I hit bottom, a couple of times, but this was just a long training run for Kettle 100..... right?

Zumbro Bottoms

This place is out there. If you want to experience a different part on Minnesota, check it out. I am glad I drove down during daylight hours, because the staging area was down a maintenance road, past what seemed to be a third world country.

I did not sleep well Thursday night, and only had a 1/2 hour nap on Friday. I was hoping to get a quick nap when I arrived, but I was not tired at all. I guess coffee was going to play a major role in this race.

You know it is an alternative race, when the pre race hang out is sitting around a fire telling stories. Boy, I felt like busting out a beer and relaxing!

The pre race meeting started at 11:45 (pm) and Larry described the course.

Midnight hit, and we were off. Because these were 20 mile loops, the 100k started by going down a flat, dirt road for a mile and coming back.

The course

The course consisted of a 5.7 mile loop, then a 14.3 miles loop with 2 aid stations in there roughly 6 miles apart.

First loop

I would describe this as a war torn forest, weaving around the Zumbro River. Since we saw this at night first, my impressions of it were 5'x5'. I was surprised by all of the downed trees. It was very runnable, with a few sand spots to slow you down. The Youngbloms took the lead, and I fell in behind Kim and Andy Holak. They are the husband and wife super stars of ultra running. Andy was "pacing" Kim, but I think it was just an excuse to have fun. I knew I would likely end the race behind her, but the question was by how much. I decided I wanted to see how these better runners ran these races, so I tried keeping her in my sights.

The rest of the course

The rest of the course is a mix of everything. After coming back to the start/finish aid station we were off for the rest. I held back from Kim, and the Y-Boys were pulling away. The first part is a long stretch of an easy rolling road. Easy, but a brain drain. After that, you climb a few hills with some sand spots in there (the beach). It was between 1-2 am. My perspective of the course was still through my headlamp.

We started climbing some radical hills with rocks. At one point, we turned to climb a steep hill, directly into the moon. I started howling. (I could get "bark at the moon" out of my head). Pretty soon, we were running around what appeared to be a lake. I could see the boys on the other side the lake (it was actually a field), coming back at us, and Kim and Andy were not too far ahead.

Then came the first "Big Hill". It went on forever. At the top I thought "That one is going to suck on the 3rd loop". The runners ahead lost me.

Then came the down hill. This was an insane down hill. I think it was actually a deer trail, covered in leaves. The trail here was rather subjective, and only the flags gave me clues as to where it was. I decided to let gravity be my friend, and I bombed it. Somehow, this brought me right behind Kim and Andy, with the boys just ahead of his coming into Aid station 2.

I did not need anything there, as I was already munching on some shot blox. I filled one bottle with Heed, and said "let's go". The boys insisted I go first. This would mean I would be in the lead. I said "no, you first". They said "no, you first". So I said "here is the one and only time I have ever led a race".

The next leg starts somewhat flat for a few miles, then climbs up a killer hill, with a lot of up and down ridge running. I remember thinking we were about to go down to the bottom, then it was up again, and up again. Eventually we hit the spot where we would go down to the bottom. This down hill section was harry. Lots of rocks, logs up above.... just like a Bond movie (you know the skiing sequence). I just let her rip, for it would take more energy to hit the breaks. I hit the bottom of the hill alone. The rest of the section I just kept thinking "what the hell am I doing up front?"

The next aid station came. I refueled, but still didn't need any supplemental food. I felt great. As I was leaving, I saw the two lights of the Youngbloms coming in. They were right behind me.

The last leg of this big loop is only 2.7 miles, but starts by climbing straight up a massive rocky hill/mountain. I saw Scott Meyers, who was at that point leading the 100. Dallas was at the aid station right behind, and was planning his battle. They were on loop 4 of 5. I was on 1 of 3.

That hill did not seem bad, but it would come to haunt me later.

Once at the top, its all ridges until another psycho downhill with rocks. Once again, no breaks. One wrong foot placement here and its game over. I don't know why I bombed this one as well, but down hills is my strong suit. If I can't use them to my advantage, this what's the point?

Eventually this led to the road back to the start finish. I came into the start finish in the lead. I told Larry "make a note of this, it is the one and only time you will see me leading one of your races".

I recall heading right back out on the first loop, knowing I would be back here in an hour to make any gear/food/etc adjustments and changes. It was quiet there.

I went out for the loop, and it was lonely. My hands were really cold, and I was starting to get tired. It was past 4am. All I remember of that section was, at one point, I did not see any flags. Crap, did I miss a turn. I ended up back tracking 1/4 all to find I was on the right track. Oh well.

I came back into the aid station in good spirits, but feeling cold. I though the forecast said overnight low of 29 degrees? It felt colder than that.

Zach's wife, Jen, caught a few pictures me coming in. John was giving me a re-tie on my shoes, as my fingers weren't working anymore.

I left for the next loop still in the lead, and I still felt pretty good. It was past 5am.

I just tried to keep a good pace through the easy stuff. I kept looking back to see if lights were behind me. Nothing. I swear I could hear them. I was feeling better. I was cruising. At about 30 miles, I felt like I could do this for a long time.

My hands were getting really cold. What's the deal?

I arrived into the next aid station in great spirits. This is where I took the lead 20 miles earlier, and I still had it. Wayne was there to help, and it was great to see a familiar face.

I was off for more.

Damn, its getting colder! It was getting light out. yeah! It should be warm in a matter of minutes (i was wrong).

I switched to cruise control. I was in great spirits. I can't believe I still up here. Things were going great.

I missed a turn.

Hmmmmmm. Those flag markings don't make sense...... (I was off course and came upon a section I had just run.

Gosh, I swear I just saw this part. It must have been the last loop. I don't remember it being flat for this long of this section. Suddenly.... Oh @#$%, I just ran this section! #$%@!!! I am running in circles! @#$%!

I was furious. I stopped paying attention, and I blew it. It did not take long for me to find the spot where I missed a right turn. It was well marked. There is no reason I should have missed it. Now I know how Steve Quick felt up at Superior around Finland.

I spent the next 1/2 hour trying to get a grip on my metal state. I don't remember the next sequence of events, but I found myself

* freezing
* mentally in pieces
* feeling queezy

To make things worse my water bottles were freezing! The nipples were frozen and I was sucking on slush. Even the Heed was freezing. I lost all motor skills in my hands, so I could not retrieve s caps or eat my shot bloks. I couldn't even hold my bottle properly. I was quickly going south.

What seemed like 3 years later, I made it to the next aid station. They told me Kim and the boys had come and gone a while ago. I figured as much. I told them I took a wrong turn, as there would be concern when the Youngbloms arrive at the s/f station having never passed me.

I calmed my nerves and made it through the next section. I was still cold. I decided I would switch to the back pack for the remainder of the race as my hands were useless.

I finished the loop, came into the start/finish area with and explanation of my wrong turn.

Bill Pomerenke was there to join me for the last loop. Bill is new to the ultra seen, and I knew would be good company. He helped me get geared up and we were off.

By that time, I was over my frustration. I kind of knew I would not be able to hold that lead, but I would have been close to the top based on where the others were at that point.

Bill was very positive and encouraging, making me focus on just keeping a pace going. He claimed we were still in the race. During that loop, we saw Val and John Gustafson. I was afraid John was going to catch us. I was less worried about catching up to anybody. I remember having to walk some. But I knew things would get better.

It wasn't cold anymore. It was actually warm.

I changed at the aid station, and were were off for the final big loop. I remember keeping a slow running pace for a while, but Bill would probably say we were walking.

I still had enough energy to chat, so Bill took my mind off stuff.

On the psycho down hill, we passed Steve Quick on his final 9 miles of his first 100 mile finish. He did not say anything. He had a LONG 9 miles ahead of him (so did I).

We eventually made it to the next A/S, and there was my hero Lynn Sarri. She started the 100M with her husband, Daryl. She dropped out when she realized it was not her day. We were off. I showed Bill where I missed a turn. I am sure he though "The only thing missing from that turn were bells and flashing lights" It was well marked.

Going up the hill we saw Pierre Oster. Pierre is even Steven. He was finishing his umteenth 100mile.

Not long after that Bill says "Runner behind". Someone caught up to us. ?????

It was Matt Long. I did not know him, but I knew of him. He passed us. 100k runner. I was now in 5th. Where did he come from? Why was he holding back? He is a far better runner than I. I guess he was much smarter too!

I don't know if I said anything at that point, but I was feeling punished. Crap!

I am now in 5th and counting.

Not 30 seconds later we see the Youngbloms. What? They said "major issues". We passed.

I said, "Bill, I am in third, with 2nd place in sight" It was mile 57 or so. This is a race!

That lit a fire in me, and I was going again. I bombed that killer downhill, and we chased Matt Long to the next aid station. I thought I had a chance, but I spent a lot getting to that A/S.

20 seconds at that station and we were off.

That hill which did not seem bad in the first loop killed me. Bill kept asking me how I was doing, and I did not even have enough energy to answer. My recollection is looking down at the trail. I felt like puking.

At the top, we could see the finish area, waaaaaaay off in the distance. We will never get there.

After a few ridge climbs, we caught another view. I looked like we were not at all closer.

Finally, we made it to the last killer down hill. I decided to walk it. My legs were beyond toast.

All I remember is making it down, and then tasting the finish line. That is where I got the last bit to run it in.

I crossed in 14 hours and 11 minutes. 3rd overall, second male.

Larry congratulates me and gave me a plaque for winning the Male 30-39 age group. I thought about this for a second, and said "wasn't I the only male 30-39 out there?" He said "yes, but it still counts". I will take it.

Kim ended up burying all of us at around 13 hours. Matt Long took second, and I have no idea how far ahead. All I can say is, I had no chance of catching him.

A special thanks to Bill for helping in that last loop.

At the end I found that Zach Pierce finished in 29:30 for his first 100. An awesome time for that course. Well done Zach!

I got to see Steve Quick come in for his first 100M finish. He put that one to bed.

I got to see the remaining 100k finishers (both of them), as the Youngbloms decided to pull the plug.

Great job to Val (don't recall her last name) and John Gustafson for finishing out the 100k.

9 started the 100k, 5 finished.

If you want to challenge yourself, this race is a good one to bring you to the edge.

Larry Pederson and his wife Colleen made it epic. Thanks to Londell, John, Wynn Davis, John Storkamp, and all of the volunteers who stayed up all night helping out. I know there were more, and many I never saw.

I am glad I tried to race, instead of just pacing. I learned something about myself, and I had a great experience. I think the final splits were

2 mile out and back = about 18 minutes
loop 1 = about 3:42
loop 2 = about 5 hours
loop 3 = about 5 hours 10 minutes

Not bad for a training run.....

Next up... Ice Age 50 Mile.


Carl Gammon said...

Yipee! Great job and nice race report.

Zach said...

Awesome job man! I was bummed to not see you finish, based on your time I think I left minutes before. I would have loved to hang out and soak up the finish line atmosphere for awhile and see some more finishers, but Jen and my friend Jesse had already spent 16 hours there and I felt obligated to take them home :)

In the end, Kim was the only 100k'er to beat me to the finish, but I didn't feel she would have appreciated me following your pre-race instructions :D

I was grabbing for any motivation that last loop, one of the many inspirations was "don't let Matt catch you or you'll never hear the end of it!"

Andrew said...

Great job, sounds a bit like a dream.

Chippewa said...

congratulations on a fine finish Matt. Fun report. Way to keep after it.

Londell said...

Great Job... You looked solid each time I saw you but left before you finished. Matt Long was coming in just as i was leaving. It was great to have you at the start of the night around that campfire... Great laughs.

Runnin-From-The-Law said...

Congrats on a fabulous finish. First place in your age group. Way to go!!! ;-)

Sounds like it was physically and mentally challenging.

Great start to the season.

RunWesty said...

Congrats, a nice start to your year and way to keep it together when things didn't go as planned.

Great race report.

Joel said...

Matt, Great job. You're ultra running is really taking off.
I wish I could have been there this weekend. Your report is really well written and made the run sound brutally enticing.
No Trail Mix or Chippewa?

Kel said...

I got to sweep the main loop and it was my first foray on to the Zumbro trails. I was expecting Afton South, but it was more like Son of Superior. Tough course!

Way to stick it out when things didn't go as planned.

johnmaas said...

Way to go, Matt!
Impressive run and great write-up.
Sounds like the wrong turn cost you quite a bit (in both time and mental approach).
It must really be different starting an ultra at midnight and finishing mid day.
And no hornets or bee bubbles??
Rest up a bit, you deserve it.
You are going to have a great 2009 season!!

Scott Mark said...

You don't get a medal just for toughing it out, but it's the better reward! What a great experience, sounds like you guys had a great weekend. Maybe next year I'll at least pace someone to check out the course.

Great job!

Julie B said...

Great run, I mean RACE, way to do it Matt! Receiving a plaque for your training run for Kettle..awesome!

Helen said...

Awesome run Matt! And a great report - you captured the essence of this race. Looking forward to seeing the rest of your season take shape.

Andy said...

Hey Matt! Nice race report. It was fun running with you at the start. Bummed about your missed turn. Would have been a tight finish if you hadn't missed that turn. See you on the trails!

SteveQ said...

If I could bomb those downhills like you - in the dark, never having seen how treacherous they were in the light - I think I'd be unstoppable (in two very different senses). Now that you're racing, a good rule to follow is to not be an hour ahead of Kim Holak early, because you know she's paced it right.

Justin had really bad leg problems when I passed him just before he quit.

You now know a little of what I went through at Superior, but there's a world beyond you only glimpsed. Hope you never see it clearly.

Wayne said...

Way to go, Matt! It was great to see you out there, and I'm glad you stuck it out during the tough times. Another great experience to draw on later.

keith said...

Great race, Matt! I know it will not be long before you lead another race.