Chippewa 50K Race Report: 2014
The first race of the year is always an exciting one. The past few years I’ve been focused on marathons in the spring so I have usually kick off the year with a half marathon or 10k but as my focus is aimed at the Grand Slam(4 of the old 100 trail races) this summer, so my “tune-up” race this year was the Chippewa 50K.
This was my first time out at Chippewa but I’ve heard that it is a great course and well run race so I was anxious to get out there and really test how well my training has been going. It was cool out, around 40 degrees at the start, but the sun was shining, it was great running weather. Pulling up to the Start/Finish there were a bunch of familiar faces that I hadn’t gotten to see since the last race I was at last year. I wish I would have gotten there earlier so I would have had some more time to catch up with everyone. Unfortunately I arrived about 20 mins before the start so I had to hurry to get everything ready, grab my bib and head towards the start.
As far as the competition for the race I was excited to see some familiar names and was pretty sure there would be a competitive group. It was great getting to run with some of the fast local runners from around the area. Chris Rubesch (@crubesch)and Alex Kurt (@apkurt) were running and course record holder Rasmus Hoagmeister (Course Record 3:51:27) just to name a few. As we gathered towards the starting line and received our last instructions from Jeff Allen, one of the race directors, I was feeling surprisingly relaxed. I think it was simply due to not really having specific expectations for the race. My goal really was to go out there and let it rip. Just run a hard race and see how the training I’ve done so far this year has paid off. It’s difficult to keep a steady pace on trails but knowing a little of the course and seeing some of the past runners and their times I was hoping to keep my pace roughly around the 7:30-8:00 min/mile pace. Though not having run the course it’s difficult to really know what to expect.
Jeff lined us up and we were off and we bombed down the first hill. I shoot out towards the front not wanting to get caught up in the herd. Chris, Alex and 4 or 5 more runners and I lead the pack around the first mile or two until we hit the single track trail. There Chris took the lead with Alex in second and me in third with a pack close behind. We kept this order for a mile or two then I jumped in front of Alex and followed Chris who was keeping a solid pace. I was content with hanging with him. We settled in for a mile or two then another runner who I didn’t know at the time, Scott Weispfennig, jumped out into the lead. The top 4 or 5 runners were still packed closely in and with the single track trail it was a bit tough to do a lot of passing. Scott put a bit of distance on Chris and I and the pack thinned out a bit. At around the 5 mile mark Scott was starting to put some distance on us and though I felt comfortable staying with Chris I decided that I wanted to push it a bit and snuck pass him. Over the next few miles I chipped away at Scott’s lead. Somewhere around the 7-8 mile mark I caught up to Scott, who immediately took a left turn off of the trail and headed down towards the lake near the trail. I wasn’t quite sure what he was doing but I he didn’t look hurt so I kept going. I later found out that a gel had exploded on him and he had to go wash it off his face in the lake. At this point I was leading the race, which was exciting but this early on meant that I would have a pack of fast runners hunting me for 22+ miles. After about a mile or two Scott caught back up to Chris and I as we approached the second aid station,right before mile 10. Scott and Chris both made a quick stop and I ran right through putting a few seconds on them. I had started with 3 gels and 20 oz of gatorade and I still about 1/2 of my gatorade and 2 gels left at this point so didn’t see the need to stop. The cool temps kept me from sweating and I haven’t been having to fuel much for my 30 mile training runs so I was content with gels, gatorade and later Heed.
After a few mile Scott caught back up with me and stayed right on my tail. We were moving at a pretty strong pace and hitting just under 8min miles all the way up to the 3rd aid station and the turnaround.
As we pulled into the turnaround I was still feeling good and quickly refilled my handheld and grabbed 3 more gels and I was out again. I think I spent a total of 10 seconds in aid stations during the entire race. Scott took a bit longer in the aid station as I didn’t see him behind me as I left. I soon came upon Chris, Alex and Rasmus who couldn’t have been more than a few minutes behind me. It was be a sprint back to the finish and that I wouldn’t have much room for error. Now with Scott not right behind me I felt like I had a bit of breathing room but was not about to let up. I was feeling strong still and it was energizing getting to see all of the other 50k runners as I met them on the trail. I think almost everyone of them gave words of encouragement which I tried to return when I was able to muster out a few words in between my panting. Miles 16-24 were a bit of a blur of seeing the other runners and trying to maintain my pace and stay out of the crosshairs. My goal from now on is to just maintain, not do anything stupid and continue to push and build on the thin lead if and when possible. I continued to drink my, now Heed and take gels about every 4 miles and my hydration and fueling seem to be holding up without issue. I continued on having built up enough of a lead to not see Scott or any of the other runners behind me but I knew that they wouldn’t be far behind.
Lost in the Woods
Approaching the just over a 10K left I was feeling confident, mostly because I still felt good and I didn’t see any sign of the other runners. Still not allowing myself to let up as I was also starting to close in on the course record I was continuing to push. At this point I will have to say that the course has been very well marked the entire way with orange flags, signs and the trail markings. At no point did I ever have a question of where I was supposed to be running. However, no matter how well you mark a course there is still some idiot that will get lost. Well on this day that was me. I was motoring along and noticed a bunch of orange ribbons that were marking another trail that went right off of the one that I was currently on and I just kept following the orange. This is exactly what I didn’t want. Well I ended up going about a 1/4 of a mile on another trail before I realized that this was not right. I doubled back and headed down the main trail again, but I didn’t see any flags and started to get worried again. So I started jogging back and ran into Ramsus and Alex, both looked pretty tired. I asked them if they thought we were on the right trail and Alex thought we were good reminding us that we followed the 10K course for the last few miles. I turned around and headed out and no more than 100 yards later I saw flags. I gave a quick yell back to Alex and Ramus that we were good and took off.
I don’t know if it was the bit of a break wondering around the woods or the just taking out some of my frustration with myself for getting lost but I was moving. I didn’t know if I was still in the lead or second, third or what. Seeing Rasmus and Alex I sort of thought that Scott and Chris were ahead of me but I couldn’t see anyone so I just had to put me head down and run. Passing the “4 Miles” left sign I knew that if I was going to catch anyone that there was not a lot of time course left to it. As I pulled into the last aid station with just over 3 miles left they told me I was in second place and that the next runner was a few minute ahead. Well at least I now knew I was in second but making up a few minutes on with roughly a 5k left would be ambitious to say the least. With my handheld empty I gulped down a cup of Heed and a cup of water and vamoosed. As I labored up the what seemed gargantuan hill at mile 29, a girl at the top with a watch said that I was 1:45 behind the next runner. I was trying to guess what pace he was running and realizing that I had to run roughly a minute faster than him for the last 2 miles if I was going to catch him. This news was a bit daunting but at least I was within striking distance if only by the longest of long shots. I motored on and after that last hill I was mostly just ready to be done with the race. As I crossed a small walking bridge and headed up a short hill I looked up and saw Scott. He was…walking up the hill. I was suddenly infused with adrenaline and thundered ahead. Scott saw me and started jogging but as I got closer I could see he was hurting. As I approached him he waved me on saying ‘”You got this,” and that he was cramping bad and had fell and lost his handheld. I didn’t have anything to give him and asked if he was good. He again waved me on and kept kept moving. With just over a mile left I figured he’d be ok and I didn’t ask him twice. I turned and bolted. I was pretty sure Alex and Rasmus were not going to catch me with just over a mile left and Scott didn’t look like he was in shape to sprint for the finish but I was not going waste the opportunity.
Making My Way Up The Last Hill! I was in the lead and agonizingly close to the finish line but I was not going to ease off until I had crossed the finish. I propelled on and popped out of the trail near the bottom of the hill were the finish was. Jeff was there directing me and cheering. I made the roughly mile loop around the Chippewa Moraine Center(Start/Finish) which seems to taunt you the entire time. Finally made the it to the last hill just before the finish line, which is a cruel way to end a race, and dragging myself up the last hill and across the finish line.
I crossed the line at 3:58:34 good enough for 1st place. Other than a slight wrong turn I had a phenomenal race which is a great confidence boaster and affirmation of the training and work I’ve put in this year. I felt really strong the entire race despite not doing a ton of trails this spring my legs held up well. Chippewa is a gorgeous course but deceptive in that there are not obstacles on the course and you can run the entire way. However, over the course of 50 kilometers it eats away at you and takes it toll on your legs. All in all this was another incredible event with fantastic people organizing, volunteering, running and cheering. Thanks again to all involved in making events like these possible.
Sunnto GPS Data: http://www.movescount.com/moves/move30382492
Pre-race fueling: 1.5 cake donuts 10 oz of orange gatorade.