Monday, February 14, 2011

Blood, Sweat, and (Near) Tears

Julie Treder's Psycho Wycho 50k Race Report:  

Brad and I took a road trip down to check out the trails at Wyandotte County Lake Park for the “Psycho Wyco” Run Toto Run 50K.  The website looked appealing, with a “no whiners need apply” feel to it… and I’ve never run in Kansas before – so why not give it a go!!

The only word we kept hearing pre-race is “screwed”.  People were hustling around to put screws in their shoes prior to the race.  BUT temps were expected to be in the mid-40s and there were also a good handful of people walking around in shorts… so who needs to put screws in their shoes if it will be that warm???  Brad was one of the people running in shorts and I haven’t run with screws all winter… so why should we start now?  Good decision or not… we’ll see!

The race consists of a 10.35 mile loop that us 50Kers do three times.  Shortly after 8AM, the 50K and 20-mile races started.  That meant a couple hundred people were off competing for a spot on the single-track trail a quarter mile ahead… bounding across this field of calf-deep snow of sand-like consistency.  Visions of the John Dick 50K floated through my head.  Can I deal with a race with this type of terrain a second weekend in a row???  Ugh!

Due to all the snow at the park, the trail was truly single-track.  Unless you wanted to trudge through deep snow to pass, you were in whatever position you were in once you hit the trail.  Not a lot of opportunities to pass, so there was a long line of runners zig-zagging through the woods.  Brad was able to hit the single-track quickly, so he had room to move.  I wasn’t as quick to hit the trail, so I was in the midst of a lengthy line of runners.  This was probably the best thing to happen to me, allowing me to get my running legs under me… and able to finish the race strong.

A few miles in, we hit the first aid station… and the curviest trail I have ever seen in my life.  Run five strides this way, turn left.  Six strides that way and turn right.  Repeat a couple dozen times.  I don’t think we ran more than 10 strides in one direction without some kind of turn.  It was crazy!

Just before the half-way point of the loop, you came out of the woods into what looked to be a lunar space.  A wide open expanse of snow.  No trees, no brush, just an open prairie of white.  Where the prairie inclined up and ended, the sky began.  It was such an unusual sight after running through tons of trees.  You had to run across this prairie (of deep snow!), then up this rock ledge to the third aid station.

After this aid station, you ran (or, if you were like me… walked!) up this long, steeper paved road for about a third of a mile.  This next trail section was a bit hairy at the start.  The next mile or so was where screws would have come in very handy.  Downhills, followed by hairpin turns covered in ice… not a good combination for non-traction shoes.  I did learn one thing.  Falling in snow?  Not so bad, given the extra layer to buffer the fall.  It was the ice-covered rocky, rooty section that made me the most nervous… but luckily there were trees to grab hold of to keep you upright.  You knew that once you made it to the bottom of a long, gradual decline that life would be good and the worries would be less.

Mile 6 is where the race took an unexpected turn for me.  Locked in within a group of runners, I was not paying too much attention to what was around me.  I was focused on the ground to make sure I would not slip off the trail.  Unbeknownst to me, all the runners in front of me ducked as they ran.  I didn’t… and ran smack-dab into a tree terribly placed at forehead level.  The impact was so hard, the runners behind me cringed in horror.  The good thing was I didn’t lose any teeth with the punch… the bad thing was I got a big knot on my forehead (which unfortunately, my hair does not cover!!) and a very bloody nose.  Blood and bruises everywhere… but no tears!!  Who said this is a non-contact sport?!?  A nice gentleman held up his race to make sure I was conscious and able to continue.  You gotta love this sport… nice people everywhere!!

The last five miles of the loop were marked in half mile increments.  This was good for me throughout the race, since I was feeling good… but could have been very demoralizing if I were having a bad race.  Ultras need to be broken up into segments to get through them… having half-mile markers out there seemed to make those last miles fly by.

You come down a nice hill into the finish-line area/aid station, load up on fluids… and hit the trail for loop two.  One of the nice things about loop two is that the temperature was rising, so all the sand-like snow on loop one was packed down pretty nicely at this point, so you could finally get some traction.  One of the bad things about loop two is that the warmth also softened some of the previously packed down snow… making the trail rather slick.  On some hills, you used the step-and-slide method… take a step and slide a few feet, another step and slide a few more feet.  You got down hills fairly quick that way, but for me, I typically just slid down the hills in the crab-like position.  Another bad thing was that more of the ice that was previously covered by snow, was now exposed… making some sections pretty treacherous.  Luckily, I made it through the loop on my feet… but, more importantly, without any more head trauma.

Loop three, I felt great.  My nose started bleeding and draining again, but my legs felt pretty strong.  The trail by loop three had deteriorated pretty badly.  Slush was the main form of trail for the majority of the loop.  If it wasn’t slush, it was soft snow that offered no traction.  Would screws have helped??  Who knows!  The downhills were made interesting by the soft snow, though.  Where I was able to maintain some balance and use my feet as skis and my fists as ski-poles to make it to the base of the hill… word had it that Brad wasn’t as lucky as he toppled to his butt at the top of the hill and proceeded to the bottom in the butt-as-sled method.  Where were the cameras for that???

The finish was great!  Downhill, through the finish chute, greeted by the race directors… pictures taken.  Salted over from all the sweat (temps reached 50!), bruised noggin, bloodied camelback vest, black and blue nose, but still smiling… I can only imagine the shot.  Great way to end this memorable adventure!  

Friday, February 11, 2011

2011 John Dick Memorial 50k

Race Report:  From Race Director, Robert Wehner...

How are the conditions?  This was the one question on everyone’s mind, after a record setting blizzard blew through the mid-west a few days before the race.  Depending on where you were, 14” to 20”+ of fresh snow came down, whipped around by 40-50 mph wind gusts.  Snowmobiles out on the trails we use for the course started packing down the snow in the days before the race, but there was no way to know how the running would be on Saturday, February 5th, for the 23rd annual JD 50K.

By race day, the winds had died down, and with temps in the teens, the weather would not be an issue.  But the footing was another matter.  Within minutes of starting out, it became apparent that today was not going to be a PR day for anyone.  Despite the grooming done, there just had not been enough time and cold temps to firm up the snow.  There was no consistency in the footing, and at times you felt like you were just stumbling along trying to stay upright.

We all knew it was going to be a tough day, but it didn’t become apparent how tough it really was until one looks at the finish times.  Leading for most of the race, Albertus Rohling steadily pulled away from everyone, winning in 5:37:39.  This was the slowest winning time in the history of the race (by 40 minutes), and was an hour and 37 minutes slower than Albertus’ winning time in 2009.  This was the case for everyone, with finish times up to 2 hours slower (or more) than usual.

In the women’s race, Julie Treder ran steady all day, taking the lead half-way through the final lap and winning in 7:36:49 (13th overall).  How tough the conditions were is also reflected in the finish rate.  While not everyone comes out intending to do the full 50k, the finish percentage is usually in the 70-75% range.  This was not to be a typical year however, and soon runners started to drop like flies.  In the end, out of 74 starters, 24 runners stuck it out and finished the full 50k, for a finish rate of only 32%.

Whether runners completed the course or not, everyone was welcomed back to the finish shelter, greeted by great volunteers, a warm fire, and plenty to eat and drink.  We also had a great crew manning the aid station, so despite the difficulties out on the course, smiles were plentiful.  Afterwards, I came up with another positive point from the race.  When I’m asked next year “How are the conditions?”, I’ll have a ready answer: “Better than they were in 2011!”

Robert Wehner, RD

Monday, February 7, 2011

John Dick Memorial 50k...Cobbie's Race Report...

There are several different ways that I've heard the footing during yesterday's John Dick Memorial Crusty 50k described.  Like running on baking soda.  Like wet sand after several horses trampled through it.  LIKE CRAP!!!  It definitely was more  sloppy than it was crusty. I started running an hour early just as the sun was coming up, because I predicted that I would be the slowest runner to finish, a prediction that came true.  Once again I wasn't well prepared for this effort, yet well enough that I knew I could finish in about 7.5 to 8 hours.  That prediction did not come true.  Judging by the fact that over two thirds of the field did not make it to the finish line, I was not alone in making erroneous predictions.

Consistency has been a problem for me since running the ice age 50 mile last year.  However, thanks to some new running friends I actually have run a fair amount over the last four weeks, averaging 20-30 miles a week.  Twenty miles a week isn't a lot, but enough for me to try my hand at a long run to gauge whether I should volunteer or participate.  I felt pretty good after churning out 21 miles at Lapham Peak, and so I pushed my chips onto the table: I was going to run and finish.

The early start was a good decision not just because it gave me a greater time cushion (volunteers should not have to wait just for one person), but also because it gave me a view of the trail before the other runners decimated it.  The trail was freshly groomed, and if you stuck to the sides and took small flat footed steps, you could stay on top of the snow.  However, the middle was soft, and your feet sunk in about 2 to 3 inches with every step.  As I made my way back from the first aid station, I noticed other runners passing me had numbers written on attached tags.  "Hey," I thought, "I got one of those... but what did I do with it?"  Left it back at the start is what I did with it!  At the second aid station they were just putting out drop bags.  Drop bags?  I thought we were headed to the start finish between laps?  Mistake number two.  See what happens when you assume?  Robert had offered to make sure I had gotten all the necessary information just before I headed out, and I had waved him away.  So after the first lap back to the start finish I went.  That stop was a long one:  text Joy, change shoes, change shirts, change jacket, put together a drop bag, grab food, put away head lamp, and.... go!

The second lap, was nothing like the first.

Short strides helped a lot on the straights. The down hills weren't bad---you only had to concentrate on keeping your feet under you.  For the uphills I found that a wide ape like waddle worked best.  By end of the second lap things were getting better again.  There were some places where people had packed the snow down to something that resembled a path---and then the snowmobiles came through.  I found that running the snowmobile ski tracks gave me more support, but others to whom I suggested this strategy to didn't seem very convinced.

The end of third lap was a mental challenge.  There were so many unanswered questions.  Was I fit enough to finish under these unexpected conditions?  Would I have enough time?  Was I going to stay warm enough?  Yet I knew that I was more than half way, and that all I had to do was hang tough and do two more laps.  Only two.  After singing "I got two more laps" to the tune of "I got sunshine" and they didn't seem so bad anymore.  I spent most of the 4th lap meticulously planning my last lap, every incline, every decline, and what nutrition I would need to get me to the end.  RD Robert Wehner seemed to be everywhere, and gave me encouragement that he was going to let me finish.  "Just keep moving, you can do it," he said, "and don't worry about time."  Robert's was one of the few faces I knew amongst the small batch of new faces that were still left on the trail during my fourth lap.  At the second aid station of the 4th lap came something that I hadn't planned for: HOT CHICKEN BROTH!  YUM!

After multiple laps of soft mushy snow, the final lap felt more like a victory lap, because I knew that there were no more laps to come.  I said goodbye to the landmarks I had met along the way, the roads, the amazing toadstool covered tree, and each and every little hill, incline, and decline.  At the final aid station I realized that if I hurried I might break 9 hours.  "Don't fall into the yellow snow," I heard behind me as I took off, almost falling into yellow snow.  I missed 8:59:59 by a couple of seconds, but that just meant I had several more seconds of fun 
than I otherwise would have had.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

LPTR Battle of the Skis...

Robert's Race Report...

No, this report isn’t about the upcoming cage match between Todd, Kevin, and Troy (though my money is on Troy; that guy just doesn’t go down!).  Last weekend a LPTR group again headed up to the UP for the Noquemanon ski marathon.  The Noque is a 50K point to point course from Ishpeming to Marquette, and our group included Ron Bero, Joel Lammers, Tony Cantrall, and Deb Vomhof.  For me, this was Noque number 13, but for Deb this was to be her first time on a rugged and challenging course.

A light snow fell Friday night, and on race morning there was about an inch or two of fresh snow on top of the groomed course.  This may not sound like a big deal, but remember those paper snowflakes you made as a kid?  They had lots of points and sharp edges, just like real flakes, which are not conducive to great glide.  This was going to add to the effort needed to reach the finish.

In addition to battling the fresh snow, all of us had to deal with the hundreds of other skiers on the course.  Passing in running races is nothing compared to trying to pass in a ski race.  Everyone has 2 long boards bound to their feet and long poles with sharp ends strapped to their hands; gets kind of hairy at times.
 I ended up doing a hard face plant on a downhill after knocking skis with someone.  At another point, Joel did a complete flip off of the trail, landing upright in the deeper snow in the woods.  Nicely done, but he ended up with a broken pole (ski pole that is).  When Ron came through the halfway point (where a shorter race starts), he was ambushed by a pack of classic skiers just starting out, and got spun around in the process.  I don’t have a total count, but I think Tony and Deb ended up getting dusted too.

Despite the challenges, we all made it to the finish line intact, although 10-15 minutes slower than last year.  Ron led the way with a 3:16, followed by me in 3:18, Joel in 3:25, Tony in 3:47, and Deb in 4:17.  Complete results can be found at