by Jason Rice
Funny how you never really know what you’ve got until the end.
The Beargrease Mid-distance teams are stacked up at the lovely Finland Community Center, some 33 miles from their objective on the Sawbill Trail. We can see a few things – actually quite a few – from poring over the numbers of today.
The order they will leave in the morning, along with approximate time they are eligible to depart and their speed trends:
- Greger – 5:29am – slowed 1.1 mph
- Schouweiler – 5:38 – slowed .5 mph
- Altemus – 5:46 – faster .4 mph
- Bestgen – 5:47 – faster .3 mph
- LaBoda – 5:51 – holding at 9.9 – no gain/loss
- Redington – 6:00 – FASTER .7 mph
Truman Obermeyer, Nick Turman, Joanna Oberg and Natalie Harwood round out the top 10 – they’ll have about an hour disadvantage to Greger, but they deserve respect for staying very competitive against a tough field. They’re all well poised to be “in the money”.
There are some clues we can take from this info. First – there is no “unexpected” winner… unless all the teams above have sudden meltdowns. The closing leg of the Mid is only 33 miles – not long, but the first several miles are a bear. The trail is punctuated by multiple hills that even snowmachines groan about. The crowning glory may be one particular climb called “Heartbreak Hill”. It’s a long trek, fairly straight, but unfriendly long. My prediction – the hills, and Heartbreak in particular, will be the scene of several position changes. Our leader, Jenny Greger has posted good times and will have a 9 minute head-start on Martha Schouweiler…and 17 minutes ahead of Altemus and Bestgen.
But look closely at the trends. Altemus, Bestgen, LaBoda, and Redington are holding their speed or getting FASTER into the race. Joanna Oberg is really impressive, posting 1.4mph FASTER speeds tonight on the much more hilly run into Finland than the somewhat flatter opening leg. That is a sign that her team probably has more to give…same with some of the others. If Greger’s speed just holds where it was in the last leg, she will have a hard time holding off Schouweiler, Altemus, Bestgen and LaBoda. Redington is a reach to overtake her, but not impossible. In years past I’ve watched 2 teams that I felt were faster than mine completely melt down… camp out. Meaning: the dogs hit a combination of mental and physical block and they basically lay down. It’s got to be a heartbreaking feeling, but you learn from it and hopefully come back with a new resolve to never let that happen again. This brutally jagged run makes that happen, and the warmer the weather – the more likely it is to happen.
They’re running on the razor’s edge: fast enough to win versus too fast to maintain. ETA for the winner at Sawbill: 9am.