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Minnesota Marathoners - Seventh Weekend

March 11, 2004

Tour of Anchorage

By Justin Pavlish

Like most of our other race weekends, this one began with a large amount of pre-race traveling. Fortunately, only about 15 miles of it was in my truck with myself as the driver and one of the other guys acting as a navigator. The other 1000+ miles from Bozeman's Gallatin Field to Anchorage was taken care of by the pilots and copilots of the airplanes Pat and I flew in. For the first time, we had the luxury of sitting back and relaxing while someone else brought us to the next ASM race. After flying for most of the day Pat and I arrived in Anchorage late Thursday afternoon and were followed shortly thereafter by Evan who was on a different flight out of Bozeman. As luck would have it, all of our bags and skis arrived at the same time we did without any mysterious damage.

Also much like most of our other race weekends, Peter Hale of Alpina/Madshus came through for us in the days leading up to the race and found us a friend to stay with while we were in Anchorage. That friend was Tobias Schwoerer, who skied for the University of Anchorage and now skis for Alpina/Madshus. With Peter's help and Tobias' generosity, we had an excellent location for relaxing and waxing prior to the Tour of Anchorage.

Arriving in Anchorage late on Thursday only allowed us to have two days to ski and look over the racecourse before Sunday. Friday we chose to ski the first portion of the course, and left the finish for Saturday. Much like we had heard from others who had skied the Tour of Anchorage before us, the first 10km has several challenging climbs before settling into the slightly rolling and flat terrain found throughout the remainder of the 50km racecourse. We decided that we should take the first 10km a little conservatively and then pick up the pace once we made it through to the flatter sections. After five marathons in six weekends, all of us are starting to feel a little worn out so we definitely didn't want to blow all of our steam at the beginning of the race.

On Saturday we took off from Tobias' place to check out the last 10km. Unfortunately, we never made it to the finish line. A bull moose who decided to lie down and rest on the middle of the trail stopped us about 6km from the end. This was only the second time I have seen a moose (the first was on Thursday night when we saw one walking down the street near Tobias' house) so we had no idea if we could approach it or how aggressive it would be if we tried. Taking advice from a couple locals who were also skiing that part of the trail, we decided to turn around and ski back the way we came. That night we sat around Tobias', filled up on pasta and cookies, and waxed our skis for the race. Most of the racecourse was covered with a base layer of old, dirty snow and a two-inch layer of fresh snow that was mixed with the old once the trail was groomed Friday night. The air temperature reached the 30's on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, so there was quite a bit of moisture in the snow pack. With this moisture and the dirty snow in mind, we dug through our wax boxes and chose to use Swix HFBD 6 mixed with a little Swix LF 4 (the temperature during the race was forecasted to be between 10 and 15 degrees). We would have used Swix HFBD 4 instead of the LF 4, but we didn't have any with us in Anchorage.

Sunday morning Tobias took us to the start of the race a little early because we had yet to pick up our race bibs. While Pat, Evan, and I were doing this we had the chance to meet the race director, P.J. Hill. I would have to say that P.J. is definitely the brains behind the Tour of Anchorage operation and he does an excellent job getting the course ready and the race off to a smooth start. As busy as he is, he also takes the time to meet and greet the competitors and he takes care of any concerns that arise prior to the race. In fact, P.J. personally made sure we were entered into the first wave even though he received our registration forms only three days prior to the start. Thanks again P.J.!

The race itself was one of the finest on the series. After the first 10km, the race enters Anchorage and travels along bike trails, through city parks, and around private residences. The middle 30km of the trail was consistently lined with spectators and ski fans. I have never before seen this much support during the middle of a marathon ski race. Obviously I would recommend the Tour of Anchorage to anyone considering the trip.

As much as I enjoyed the racecourse, I did not finish exactly where I wanted. I was able to join a group of three other skiers that broke away from a larger group that contained Pat and Evan about half way through the race. We kept the pace up and widened the gap to about three or four minutes, but with less than 20km's to go I fell off the pace and lost them. From there, I struggled to keep a decent speed going and as many skiers behind me as possible. By the time I reached the 45km marker, I had completely bonked. I could hardly ski, let alone keep people from passing me. With 2.5km to go, Pat caught me and gave me the rest of the HammerGel/water mixture in his water bottle. After a minute rest, we took off for the finish line. I don't know how I looked from there on, but I imagine my technique wasn't pretty. Maybe next year I will hold myself together better.

Pat Lorentz: 27th out of 253, 2:38
Justin Pavlish: 29th, 2:39
Evan Pengelly: 44th, 2:44


Tour Of Anchorage…My Last Race??

By Pat Lorentz

Justin and I loaded a plane in Bozeman last Thursday morning followed shortly after by Evan, in pursuit of our sixth marathon, the Tour of Anchorage. Before flying to Anchorage, however, we had a two-hour layover in Salt Lake City. While in the airport Justin and I decided to buy a couple of books for the flight to Anchorage. I picked up a book called "It's Not About My Bike, My Journey Back To Life" by Lance Armstrong. I read the book for the entire five-hour flight except for the times when the turbulence was so great that I could not hold the book steady. Armstrong's book is very motivational and I would highly recommend it to anyone, athlete or not.

I knew that I had arrived in Alaska when on the way to Tobias's house I ran into a large moose walking down the middle of the road. The moose looked at the car and slowly lumbered into a nearby front yard. He grazed on the homeowners trees while we took pictures of him. When we got to Toby's house he told us that the moose are all around Anchorage. Later in the week we had to cut our workout short because we ran into one on the ski trails. I found Anchorage to be a beautiful city, something every outdoor enthusiast should check out. Anchorage has everything, to the west you can look out over the ocean and if you turn to the east you see mountains. To the north of the city is Mount McKinley.

On Friday we checked out the first 10K of the ski trail late in the afternoon. As I was standing about a third of the way up this mountain we were skiing on I looked to the west and watched the sun set. At the same time I could look over my other shoulder and see a full moon equally high in the sky. I had never seen anything like this before, it was like the sun and the moon were facing off for a showdown. It was just "crazy."

On Saturday morning Evan, Justin, and I went to downtown Anchorage for the ceremonial start of the Iditarod. I have never been to a dog sled race before but I have always been interested in dog sled racing. If I had more time and any money I would think about getting into dog sled racing, but as it turns out I can only feed the Nordic ski habit at present. At the start line we were greeted by hundreds of people and the howling of some very excited sled dogs. One-by-one the teams left Anchorage waving to the people lining the streets. That evening we just layed low, waxing and eating, the usual night before the race routine.

Race day came and the weather was quite nice, mid-twenties and clear skies. Evan, Justin, and I warmed-up and took to the start line. My plan was to take the first ten kilometers, the hilly section, easy and then work from there. All three of us got out of the start clean and soon we tucked into a nice pack, somewhere in the teens. I just tried to stay smooth on the skis and not work too hard. Just before the start of the first set of climbs I took the lead so I could control the pace. I was worried that Evan and Justin would ski the hills harder than I liked and I did not want to lose them early in the race. I took the hills very easy and was a little surprised that nobody tried to take the lead. As we started our descent from the mountain some of the skiers in our pack started making pulls and trying to break up the group a little. Evan, Justin, and I stuck with a group of about eight other skiers. Evan and Justin took a few pulls at the front and I noticed the pace pick-up every time they pulled. I hung out at the back of the pack just trying to stay relaxed and ski easy. Around 15K there was a right turn on a downhill, nothing too difficult, but as I went into the turn another guy in our pack ran over my skis trying to cut the corner tight. I went down and had to work for about 5K to catch the pack again. Just as I caught up to the group Evan was dropping off the pack, stating that his legs were cramping up. Justin kept skiing at the front of the pack and pulling and he was doing some damage to the rest of the group. A few guys could not handle the pace and dropped off.

At 25K or so there is a fairly tricky s-turn. It would not have been so bad but the tour skiers in the earlier races had snow plowed the turn down to solid ice. I did my best to stay on top of my skis but to no avail. This time when I got up I had lost some of my motivation. I lost sight of the pack and it didn't look like I would be able to reel them back in. I skied easy for about a kilometer a little pissed at the two spills I had taken and then I decided that it would be a long race if I didn't snap out of it. I decided that I would ski the best I could and hope that some of the guys would come back to me. I skied by myself for a long time. Skied over highways and under tunnels with the mountains and the ocean in the background. At about 35K there was a long open stretch, I looked up and could just barely see the pack I had been skiing with, they looked like ants chasing each other. At 40K I started to fell pretty tired but kept my head up and looked for anyone falling back. By 45K I was starting to get real tired. My legs were starting to cramp every so often and I noticed that I was starting to get real hungry. At 47K I looked up and I thought I saw a red suit and white hat. Is that Justin? I squinted as hard as I could but I still could not tell. That cannot be him I thought, but as I got closer I realized it was him. I picked up the pace as best I could to get up to him and at first I thought about just blowing by him. I was thinking when I caught him I would say: "Guess who's back, back again, Lorentz is back, tell a friend." But when I got up along side of Justin I could tell he was really hurting. He had that dead man's gaze in his eyes and I knew he needed some help. I asked him how he was doing. He said: "Do you have drink," pointing to my water bottle. I stopped in the middle of the trail and gave him my water bottle. He drank and then I did. I told him to hang in there and then went on my way. I finished in 27th place overall (out of 253), not too bad, but the real excitement was our Alpina/Madshus teammate Tobias had won the race.

That night Tobias, Evan, Justin, and I went to the award ceremony and then to a local establishment with skiers from the other ski teams (Subaru, Rossi, etc.). We told some war stories and enjoyed the hospitality of the locals. All in all I would rate this race at the top of the races we have done thus far. I strongly recommend checking out this race.

And then there was the title. Evan, Justin, and I got back into Bozeman late Monday night. Tuesday morning I woke up with a sore throat and a stuffed up nose. Wednesday my throat got a little worse. This morning I started coughing up green bile from my lungs. I figure it is either a sinus infection or a lung infection. As of Thursday night I am about 95 percent sure I will not be doing Yellowstone this weekend. If I wake up Saturday morning and I feel great I will ski the race easy, but right now it's not looking too good. I said in my first write about this trip that the key would be to stay healthy. I almost always get sick once a winter, in a way I am surprised I did not get sick earlier. I did race once before when I was this sick. Three years ago at the Birke I was coughing crap up and felt awful. I decided since it was the last race in the season I would tough it out and do it. After the race I had to get escorted to the first aid tents, the only time that has happen to me. I was sick on and off the rest of that spring, summer, and into the fall. This fact is weighing heavy on my mind because should I decided to do the race and have the same health problems afterwards it is going to be a serious financial burden on me. Three years ago I was a college student with full medical coverage under my parents, today I have my own insurance with a deductible that is high enough to be of help if I die basically. Insurance, God bless it.

I started this trip out with one simple goal for myself, finish each race. However, I also have another code I hold myself too. In the ten years I have been racing I have done hundreds of running and ski races and no matter how bad I have hurt in a race I have never dropped out, ever. For right now I just hope I can get healthy soon and be prepared for the Gold Rush. Well that is about all for now, thanks to our sponsors: Alpina, Madshus, Rottefella, and Swix. Thanks to PJ Hill in Anchorage for letting us into the race and to Tobias for letting Evan, Justin, and I crash with him. And finally, thanks to our fans who have followed us all along. Take care,

*ski with red!

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