Matt Aro discusses his race at the Zumbro 100 April 13-14, where he finished second to Bob Gerenz by a mere two seconds, 21:16:04 to 21:16:06.
On how the race unfolded:
The race was six loops and, as I recall, I ran the first loop with Bob and about 4-5 other people (Joe Boler, Matt Lutz, Jason LaPlant (sp?), Ed Sandor). One or two other people went off the front right away, but I didn’t feel a need to stick with them – they were going too fast for me. After this first loop, Bob went ahead of me and I never saw him until about 1/2 mile from the finish. I ended up running most of the remaining five loops alone.
I usually start out a 100-miler quite slow, so I was comfortable just sitting back a bit. As usual, it took me forever to loosen up and feel comfortable. I didn’t feel very good during the first two loops, but I knew from experience that I had to be patient and, most likely, things would improve. Sure enough, I started to feel much better on the third lap.
Starting the final lap, my wife (crew extraordinaire!) told me I was in second place and was about 12 minutes behind Bob. Until that point, I didn’t know for sure what place I was in. Coming in to the last aid station (about 2.5 miles from the finish?), my wife told me that Bob’s lead was shrinking a bit and that I could possibly catch him if I tried hard.
I ended up catching Bob without about 1/2 mile to go. I didn’t even realize it was him when I caught him. I came up behind Bob and his pacer and they stepped aside on the singletrack to let me pass. He asked what loop I was on, and I told him it was my last loop. I asked him the same question, and he also said it was his last loop. So, that’s when I first realized that it would probably come down to Bob and I going for the finish line.
On the sprint finish:
Bob’s pacer took the lead on the last 1/2 mile stretch and I simply followed him and Bob. The pace kept increasing to a pretty level, but I was able to say with both of them. However, coming into the final stretch, we went up a little hill and Bob opened up a little gap on me and I couldn’t close it. I definitely tried to win, but Bob outkicked me in that final stretch. I would consider the finish competitive as we were both definitely sprinting to the finish line. He had a great race and I’m very happy for him!
Overall, I’m extremely pleased with how my race went. I had the inevitable low periods, but it never got that bad.
On running alone in the woods for the better part of 21 hours:
As previously mentioned, I basically ended up running five of the six loops alone. I enjoy that much more than being with a group of people for long stretches of time. I’m happy that I didn’t even know my relative position until the start of the final loop. I feel that I get too anxious if I know where the other runners are and how far up or back I am compared to others. When crewing, my wife knows that I don’t like her to tell me my relative placing or time compared to others until near the end of the race. I don’t like to feel that I’m “competing” with other runners because it makes me very uncomfortable. That’s why I ask my wife to not share any of those details with me until late in the race.
On his background and how he ended up on the start line at Zumbro:
I did a lot of mountain bike racing in college. I also did a lot of xc-ski racing in the winter. Then I transitioned to triathlons for about 5-6 years. I did five Ironman triathlons and two double Ironman triathlons, but I eventually got burned out on triathlon training – there was too much gear to worry about, scheduling conflicts, etc. Then I started to just run; I enjoy running because it’s so simple. I don’t need to find a pool and I don’t need to worry about keeping a bike tuned up. Plus, I can do it anywhere (such as when I’m traveling for work). Ultra running is a much more solitary sport, too. I really enjoy that aspect of it.
I did Zumbro the last two years because having that on the schedule was a good motivator for me to run through the winter. Plus, John Storkamp and his crew always put on a great event!
On plans for the rest of the season, returning to Zumbro, and the future of the race:
I don’t plan too far ahead, so I don’t have anything specifically booked for the rest of the season. I may do some of the regional ultras this summer and, perhaps, a 100-miler in the fall. However, it’s just speculation at this point. I’m hoping to start on a Ph.D. this fall. If that happens, my ultra running will probably be less of a priority for a few years – so, it’s likely that I won’t be back to Zumbro next spring. But, time will tell.
I think Zumbro’s course record will get smashed very soon. There are a lot of good runners that could come there tomorrow and go well under 19 hours, if not faster. So, in my opinion, if the race gets greater visibility (which it seems to be doing), the course record will probably get beaten up pretty good, probably next year.
Matt Aro ran the second-fastest time in course history at the 2012 Zumbro 100. His time of 23:03:32 from 2011, then the second-fastest time on the course, is now fifth all-time.