Words I thought would never come out of my mouth,
"I am going to hold back until mile 30, then I will put my game face on to see what I can do".
Put this in context with 2 years ago, at my first Ice Age as well as being my first 50 Miler.
Mile 30 something:
Me - "I want to walk off this cliff and end this now...... Where is that damn aid station? (it was still a few miles away)"
Ice Age last year
Mile 30 something - "I am crashing, but I know I will get though this.... the question is... when?
Mile 40 something - "This sucks... and is getting worse.... I don't think I will rebound before the end.... damn this is taking forever."
Ice Age 2007 - 9:09
Ice Age 2008 - 9:02
And.... I finally ran A GREAT race. I never crashed. I could have kept going at the end. I guess I ran the race I SHOULD HAVE.
The "party cabin" was back this year, with one new participant (Bill P.). Bill was to run his first 50 mile race. Steve, Bryan, Wilson, Bill, and I hung out at the "PC" getting ready for the race.
The forecast looked perfect (for me), 40 - 50, rain, wind, overcast (I could do without the wind, but the course is well protected).
No late night arrivals this year. Got enough sleep to take the edge off (better than Zumbro).
We arrived at the start around 5:10 am. Kind of dark. Rain. Wind. Cold.
Saw a few familiar faces. Put the drop bags in their places (I am finally down to limited stuff in drops - and I still had 2x as much as I needed). And just sat until it was time to step into the elements.
Bryan shot the start for us. Not too exciting, but here it is.
Once we were off, it was all about the plan. I knew I should run the first 9 miles at or slower than I did last year. I was afraid I was going to run it a lot faster.
The first 9 is called "The Nordic Loop". It is basically like running up on the prairie at Afton, but with rolling hills. It is easy, and easy to drain the bank. I ran with Steve the whole loop, heckling him with how many beers we were apart at any given time (-.00025 - +.0001, etc.).
I was surprised at about .5 miles, we were probably in 50-60th place (maybe more). I knew from experience that we were starting out around an 8 hour pace. The last 2 years, 8 hours would have given you a top 10 finish. So, I smiled and knew, "I will get to pass this year, instead of being passed".
We ran a little with Kevin Grabowski (Steve's brother). I had a feeling he would take off, as he HAS run this in 8 hours. I met Dave Dehart who at the age of 47 ran 7:20. What was I doing with this guy? He and Kevin are smart runners. They were on the same plan.... take it easy, then step it up.
Steve and I actually got passed by quite a few people on the Nordic Loop. Many were running the hills. I decided if I were going to run up any hills, they would be after mile 30.
We finished the Nordic Loop around 1:22, almost 5 minutes slower than I did last year. Did I do this too slow? 5 minutes is easy to make up, but I was already questioning myself.
One nice thing I did was limit my gear to one hand held bottle, and no belt. I had 1 pack of shot blox and 1 Hammer Gel pack in the pouch. Refills were in my drop bags.
Because it was so cool out, and I topped off my water (no sports drink yet) halfway through the Nordic Loop, I didn't even stop at the end of the loop. I think I said to Steve "okay... time to lite her up", and phase 1 of the race was on.
The first leg after the Nordic Loop takes you on the Ice Age Trail down to Rice Lake and back. It is single track, but not too technical. I decided to slowly pick off runners and pass them. I found one guy "the blue shirt guy" that I would try to catch. He kept up the pace though... I kept losing him. I did slowly pass people. One dude was already crashing (mile 12). I could see it in his gait. I was surprised to catch Roy Purring at about 12. He said he was "just taking it easy today". I think Steve said he was in Italy last week for a 24 our timed event and got injured. I told Roy "the only way I could pass you is on one of your easy days".
A nice advantage I had was knowing the course well. I knew where I could pick up the pace a little without any ill effects. I continued to pass some runners.
Close to hwy 12, I got passed by a runner during a bio break. Once I pulled in behind him, I could tell this guy was experienced and knew what he was doing. He was Ted Niemann from Columbus, OH. Nice guy. We were close to each other for almost the rest of the race.
I ended up running a little with Gene Bartzen from Leadville, Co. This guy has done a lot. Real nice man, fun to run with, and get this.... at the end of the race he said "If you ever do Leadville, you have a place to stay". I must develop this friendship. I will have to put this guy on the Christmas card A-list and send him some home brew. One has to keep his contacts in important places happy. My wife did not like this part of the story. "you are not doing Leadville!" (she says)
The turnaround came and went as planned. I decided to figure out my distance between me and Steve, and when I saw him I shouted "1 beer". He looked in good spirits.
Wilson looked great. He heckled me.
Bill looked happy when I saw him on the way back. He was running smart for a first 50 mile.
I paid close attention to the section before hwy 12, as I wiped out there last year. This whole section from hwy 12 to Rice Lake and back is a bit rocky. It is not hard, but will trip you up if you are not paying attention.
I rolled into hwy 12 on the return trip at about 4:18. Coincidentally, this is the marathon point. I said to Ted on the way out "I guess we should be happy with a 4:18 trail marathon". He looked good, I felt great. Much better than last year.
The sections were going by quick. I hit the aid station at about mile 30, and felt real good. I decided it was time.
I slowly picked up the pace again. I slowly passed a few and just focused on getting to the next aid station.
The mile 31-32 aid station is where I have made mistakes in the past. 2 years ago, I left it without a full bottle. This time, I topped off my bottle and that was it.
The next section is the toughest section of the course. Some decent size hills, and longer between stations. I powered up Bald Bluff, the biggest climb, without any problems. In fact, at the top I felt energized, so I lit it up, and bombed down the back side.
This is where I crashed 2 years ago. I decided to take revenge by killing this part. I ran some of the uphills, bombed all of the down hills, and before I knew it, I was at the next aid station "horseriders". I couldn't believe it. I over came a major mental block and put it behind me.
Barb Meyers, Scott Meyers wife said hi to me at horseriders. I was so focused on what I had to do.... I gave her the blank look, even though I had talked with her a few weeks back at Zumbro. I guess ultra brain was setting in.
The next section is somewhat easy, but I was getting a little tired from hammering the last section. I backed off a little, and tried to recover.
The next aid station is mile 40, and the turnaround to go back to the finish line. I had to take care of some serious bio business, and I think that was also slowing me down. I "TCB" in a flash, and headed back out. But, I had about 5 dudes on my heels. One guy passed, and picked it up. I never saw him again "was he a sandbagger?". Ted was right behind me, as well as a few familiar faces.
I suddenly was feeling good again, so I pushed on. I knew there was one Matt ahead of me (Matt Aro), and he was quite a ways ahead of me. No chance in catching him. I was just hoping there was a Matt behind me, so I would not be "the slowest Matt".
Halfway back to Horseriders, I saw Steve. I think I said "square root of pi". He was starting to feel the effects of 4 ultras in 5 weeks. He looked better than I have seen him at this point, so I guess he just had too many race miles on those legs. That's what you get for being a Gnarly Bandit.
Horseriders came quick. Barb helped me move my gear... Thanks! and as I headed toward the trail head, something happened. I felt "the game face" get on. There were only 7 miles left, a tough section ahead, and I still had gas in the tank. I decided to put on the heat.
I powered up the hill, and then ran. Wilson looked great. He was still heckling me. Bill P looked great, and he had a smile.
I was running. I think I caught 3-4 people in this section. I was especially surprised to catch up to Larry Hall. He is a veteran and kind of a legend. I told him I was the heckler from Chippewa, and he laughed.
Coming up to the final part of that leg, I caught 2 more guys. One was "the guy with the blue shirt" I tried to catch 30 miles before. I got him! He gave me encouragement going up Bald Bluff. At the top, I gave a primal scream and then ran as fast as I could down that hill.
I topped off at the next aid station so I could skip the last one. There was less than 3 miles left. I continued to hammer it. I ran the whole next hill. Stupid, because when I finally made it to the last 1.5 miles on the Nordic Loop, I was trashed. I ended up doing a couple of 30 second recovery "speed walks".
I finally heard the cowbells and crowd, and put on the last blast.
Timo, the RD from Kettle 100, was at the final stretch giving high fives and that is one I had to take.
I crossed in 8:40 and change in 29th place, and was on top of the world. No Bonks!
I told Timo I was coming back in 4 weeks to settle some unfinished business. He said to me "YOU, ran a great race". I knew what he meant.... what a great thing to say.
I got to hang with Ted at Kel at the end. Kel ran her 2nd 50k in 3 weeks, second ultra ever. Great job! Missed her goal by 1 minute.. It's all relative.
Lynn Saari won some hardware for the 50k. She place in her age class. Her husband Daryl did the 50M, and finished looking like he had just gone for a walk in the park.
Steve Quick came through somewhere between the square root of pie, and pie for beer consumption. So most of you nailed that guess.
Jim had a great race. Bill P pulled a muscle in the final 100 yards, and limped across the finish. He got it done! 1st 50. Rock on.
Wynn Davis finished 2nd in the 50 Mile with a killer 6:46:19. Zach Gingerech ran a stellar race in 6:23:53, taking the win. Those are FAST times. The winner last year was 7:11, I think. I heard Zach put in some pretty high mileage weeks. Miles which are hard to comprehend.
I got home to check the race results all to find that the guy 1 place ahead of me was named Matt! WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THAT.
I woke up this morning to find, after Zach pointed it out, that....... I won my age group! This time it's legit. I wasn't the only one in my age group.
It's a good think I did not know this Saturday, as I would have made the boys put the plaque on the dash of the "green hornet" on the way home.
So that's the story. I finally won something.... after almost 30 years of running.
Now I have 4 weeks to recover and get revenge at Kettle 100 mile.
Time to put that baby to rest.
Thanks to everybody for the support.
Oh yeah..... The WAS one more Matt behind me.
I was the second slowest Matt. Yeah!