Badgerland Striders F/X 24/12 Hour Run 2001 – Race Report by Bonnie Busch
The home team was ahead, 47 to zip with just a few minutes remaining in the game. The visiting team did not look as bad as the score indicated, but a few minutes as a spectator hardly qualified me to render an opinion. This was the new location for this 12/24 hour run. After years of parkways and parking lots, this race was back on a cushioned 400 meter track, the home of the Wauwatosa West Trojans. And this was their junior varsity team having fun on a Saturday morning. Within 15 minutes of the final whistle, the few spectator parents, teams and officials had cleared the field and the preparations for a 12/24 run were well underway.
Partly cloudy sky, 75 degree high and 45 degree low predicated, light breeze, no rain predicted – great weather, a noon start time.
Quietly the runners/walkers/crew/race organizers gathered. No point in lengthy hellos, we would have lots of time to talk later.
Five of us lined up haphazardly for the traditional “go” from the Race Director, Marty Malin.
We were wearing a computer chip on our shoes and manual lapcounters armed with sharpened pencils waited for us to return from our loop around the 400 meter track. We scattered around the track, each in our own little world wondering what the day would bring. Nervous eye contact and a quiet wave at the lap counter when the buzz of the scanner picked up the computer chip, one more lap done. I almost felt guilty as I headed back down the track, there were more lap counters or race setup people than runners. Heading away from the setup area, we were facing an Interstate highway, close enough to count the cars and hear their whizzing speed, but far enough away to ignore it if one chose to. Labor Day traffic and a Harley Fest down the road brought what seemed to be an endless stream of bikers – a great reminder to me that I chose to be where I was, despite many other good options. After turning the corners on the Interstate end of the track, we were headed back to the setup area, grassy soccer fields and rolling knolls cuddled around the track. 55-75 mph at one end of the track and probably no better than 3-8 mph on the other end of the track.
An hour later the 12 hour day race would start with five more people, doubling the number of participants. By then, I think we were all ready for some conversation, maybe now we would introduce ourselves, say out loud what goals or hopes we might have for the day, and shared our pleasure with the soft track that greeted our feet.
The Roberdeau family would be spending the weekend together on or near the track. Dan, his daughter, son, and daughter-in-law would pay the entry fee and run or run/walk, while wife looked over the family from trackside or by joining them for a lap. Alone the family accounted for 60% of the 24 hour participants, 30% overall, and I don’t recall any group discounts!
Terry Hawkins, in his 14th year at this event, usually has the whole family along, but this year it would be a son’s girlfriend that would attend to Terry’s needs until his son could get there later. We would miss Terry’s cheery wife, but noted that the girlfriend was a real keeper when she would deliver food and drink to the track as well as give massages to tired cranky muscles. And that once small boy that would accompany the family on such track side weekends had grown into a tall, nice, young man.
Roy Pirrung would provide the role model for the first half of the race. Roy was chasing age group records and it was fun to watch! We tossed words of encouragement at him, but he didn’t seem to need motivation, he knew what he needed to do. What seemed to be the perfect temperature for 5 mph can be a bit more uncomfortable at greater than 8 mph. The cloud cover had given up to the sun and the wind pushed us around. Roy would slow just momentarily as he realized that the age group 50k record would not mathematically happen and set his sights on the age group 50 mile record. Would Roy outlast the sun and it’s warmth? The rest of us would run a little, walk a little, eat a little, drink a little as we watched.
Chris and Shelby Roberdeau would periodically show off their speed with some fast track miles between their walking and wondering what an all night ultra was about. Jennifer Roberdeau seemed happy with her switch to the 12 hour race from her debut last year at 24 hours, she already knew what it was about.
For the rest of us, it was walk a little, run a little, wave at the lap counters.
Roy would outlast the sun and managed a 4+ minute victory over the age group 50 mile record that he was chasing. He took a well deserved break and now decided that warm clothes were needed as he slipped into tights to effectively cool down during the reminder of his 12 hour race. He kept us company by practicing his walking and feeding conversation.
Cooler air quickly settled in as the sun dropped behind the trees. The duty of keeping the track reasonably lit was up to the full moon, good thing there were no clouds! At midnight, the night 12 hour would overlap the day 12 hour and the track would be at it’s fullest with 13 participants – some actually running. Fast, fresh legs of these runners reminded us of what our task should be – if we could. Beth Simpson had one stated goal – qualify for Western States, and the other two night participants would also push our leisurely pass a bit. Tom Zack comfortably clicked off laps of 2 minutes each. Vince Varone, off of a
finish at Western States, seemed happy not to worry about cutoff times or course markings.
A change of direction every three hours and new lapcounters every so often reminded us that time was passing faster than the miles. Lapcounters were bundled in blankets, walkers in jackets and pants, runners in shorts and shortsleeves. Somewhere near 5:00 a.m. the moon would slide far enough down the sky to dip below the trees and the sun would not have yet raised it’s shining face to greet us. This was a sleepy, quiet hour that a fuzzy, tired mind would let you find a comfortable chair and a blanket. I welcomed the day light and the life it might bring my tired body.
New lapcounters, waking crew members, a hot cup of coffee and warm sunshine filled the Sunday morning. The newness of the day wore off quickly, too much time left to call it quits. In fact it was time to get busy before the rising temperatures and returning winds would suck the last ounce of energy out of a weary bodies and planted doubt in tired minds.
Tom had family commitments and left the track, Beth was closing on her goal of 50 miles, and Vince seemed to be getting faster. The rest of us decided that 24 hour runs are about 4 hours too long. Beth would reach her goal with roughly an hour to spare and celebrated shortly afterwards with a fresh shower and a comfortable pair of jeans, all well before the end of her available 12 hours.
Just before the end of the 21st hour (and several years), I finished 100 miles. Dan surprised himself by persisting through for over 76 miles, setting the watermark for the Roberdeau family. John Brophy made the longest trip to get to the race, coming from Canada, a move he made in the last year. Rick Gretenhardt finished his first ultra when his work schedule allowed him to do the day 12 hour instead of the night version. Kevin Magin, on a self-described less than adequate training base, used his many years of experience to march to over 47 miles.
Congratulations to race organizers Marty and Lise Malin and Mike Proctor for finding this wonderfully soft track for us to run on! Most of us hung around for a group lunch and the awards ceremony that always features some home-crafted, one of a kind, personalized art work from Lise Malin. To them and their volunteers for babysitting with us as we indulge ourselves into exhaustion.
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