"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

2008 Chippewa Moraine Race Report

April is the cruelest month
Wynn put on a great race, having complete mastery over the details in his first race as director. Only the weather refused to co-operate; a late season storm left 6-18 inches of snow and slush on what appeared to be a beautiful course, when one could take a moment to look up from watching one's step. Next year's race will be later in the spring, so Wynn's trying to control the weather as well. One year of bad weather can kill a race - I've seen it happen many times - but I expect this one will reach its entry limit early next year.

How not to run an ultra
I had a very bad race on a day of personal tragedy. I trained wrong, I dressed wrong, I raced wrong and I paid the price for my mistakes. But this day was not about me. I didn't even manage to fall in the water (that was Bruce, who just shrugged it off. That's ultrarunning!)

Check out Bryan's description of the race. It was his first ultra. His first ultra was a 50K so hard it took the winner (Joe Ziegenfuss) 5 hours to finish! On the car ride back home, he was marveling over how it didn't seem like 7 1/2 hours that he was there. Do you veterans remember that heady feeling, when you ran distances and times that you still couldn't quite conceive, before a marathon was just a training run?

Then compare Adam's description of the race. He led a good portion of the way, finishing second. When I listed my favorites for the race, I intentionally left his name out, though I knew he'd do well, given that he trained on a tough (and snowy) trail of his own devising and has a keen sense of his own abilities. I thought he'd do best if flying under the radar, which he won't be able to do much longer.

Speaking of runners getting notice, Helen won the women's race and it won't be her last win (look out Susan Donnelly at the Superior 100!) I discovered her blog by accident months before we met and thought then that she was someone to watch. When Wynn predicted the women's race to be between Rochelle and Meghan (Eve hadn't signed up yet), I sent him an e-mail saying Helen was a dark horse. It may be just a case of "a broken watch is right twice a day," but I'm glad I got that right. Helen caught me at the half-way point - I camped out there 15-20 minutes thawing a frostbitten toe and changing socks (what volunteers! I had a choice of footwear when I called out, asking if anyone had a spare set of woollies) - and saw Meghan, Karla and another woman were close behind her. I started off again, hard, passing 12-15 runners in a mile to catch up to Helen and give her a scouting report. She didn't need it. She was obviously running stronger than they were, so I dropped back to try to save my toe, camping out another 15-20 minutes at aid stations (thanks for the chemical hand-warmers, Kate!). I ran for a while with Meghan, who knew me by name, while I was trying to figure out who she was - talented, attractive women who speak to me is a short list - she must be a reader of this blog. [Hi, Meghan]

Wait, this isn't about me!

It's about Phillip, who snowshoed (yes, snowshoed in April) the course just under the 11 hour cut-off. It's about Matt, who vindicated the low heart rate training method, even if his 4:15 prediction was just a wee bit off. It's about the fringe dwellers of sport, those who leave the comfort of a warm bed for a romp in the woods, that merry band who revel in adversity and will tell tales of the slushfest that was the 2008 Chippewa Moraine 50K. I was just lucky to be there.


Steve said...

Steve, you commmented that you trained, dressed, and raced wrong. How would you have done each of these differently as a point of advice to us ultrarunning noobs? Thanks! Hang in there. Life is a series of tests that we must face and learn from, including personal tragedies and losses.

SteveQ said...

Steve: first, I ran a very hard run the Saturday before, then added 12-14 miles per day for the next few days, completely killing myself. Also, due to problems with frostbite, I avoided snowy trails, which were exactly what the course was. Second, I stayed up all night the night before the race, eating greasy and salty foods. Third, I needed waterproof shoes and socks. Fourth, I should've worn some sort of traction (I'd brought YakTrax). Fifth, I should've worn tights, rather than the windproof pants, which got hot and heavy. Sixth, I went out too hard. Seventh, I ran either alone or with someone who was also having a bad day (sorry, Tom). There's more...

Londell said...


Do not know the person you who past in a previous post but I can empathize. Almost two years ago my training partner for the 50 mile was killed while training on a bike ride. I almost decided against running the 50 and I was down, but I know she wanted me to keep on with the goals. Keep up the good work, keep your head up and remember, a bad day just makes the good ones look so much better...

Matthew Patten said...

Great to see the post Steve.

I bring my late best friend, Roger, on many runs and races with me. I often feel his presence and it gives me peace.

Thanks for the vindication comment. I have a feeling it will take years to live down...

I would rather have people holding me accountable, though.

I look forward to you crushing me at Ice Age

Adam said...

You've identified the issues and will improve on all of them. The only one out of your control is out of the picture until late this fall (hopefully). Good luck at TM, I'll be there cheering.

Jean said...

I can't imagine what a difficult day that must have been, Steve! My congratulations to all who persevered and made it through that race in those conditions.

All the best!

phillip gary said...

Whether weather can kill a race is problematic, but in the Chippewa Moraine case the snow storm set up an epic day whose tales will last, and grow, with the test of time.

This "Wild Bunch" of 134 will be back again next year just to see what else the paths of Ice Age can throw at them . . . and the historic nature of the day -- a once in a lifetime type of day -- will grow in legend over time.

Others will regret not having had this experience and will clog the trails in the '09 race just to get a taste.

But only the 2008 alumni of the the College of Chippewa-Moraine Trail will have their degree stamped 'Finisher.'

Phillip Gary Smith

Bryan said...

Steve, as far as traction goes, I think the conditions were perfect for traction not to have made a difference and potentially to interfere more than they helped.

One thing I noticed training on the snow the past several months is that the spikes would be ineffectual in a particular type of snow that is soft, wet, heavy, near-melting, and tending toward slush; the traction grabs the top layer of snow but that top layer just slides across lower layers with no change in outcome.

This was all the more true at CM50k on Saturday where there had been several days of rain before a new layer of fresh, warm, wet snow was laid down over it.

I found in these conditions the main effect of the spikes is just to adhere some of that wet, heavy snow onto the bottoms of your shoes and add weight to your feet as you run, as well as even make the landing impact of each footfall unpredictable because of the changing shapes of the adhering snow. There were a few spots of really hard-packed snow on this course where traction would have helped, but not enough of those spots for traction to have helped overall.

That's why I decided in the end to leave the spikes in the car, which I was glad of as I ran. I don't think traction would have helped you. I also don't think waterproof shoes would have made much difference -- I was wearing Gore-tex Blurs but there were enough places where the water or wet snow was well over ankle-deep and able to drop in around the ankles that it didn't make much difference.

On the other hand, actually tapering before the race probably would have put you in the top ten.

Bryan said...

Does Le Corbusier say anything about a trail being a machine for running on?

WynnMan said...

Chippewa Moraine takes no prisoners. Great race Steve. Saturday was all about finishing. You have the Print to show for it. Next year will be a warmer and faster course. 5hrs will be shattered for sure by someone. Despite the harsh conditions I think this epic year for an inaugural only fueled the fire and like you said I suspect well over 200 registrants next year and who knows maybe even reach the 300 cap. Our Midwest version of WAY TOO COOL! More like the WAY TOO ICE COOL BEER.