'I can't be disappointed'

'I can't be disappointed'

Eric Vetter of Champaign skied the 29-kilometer (18-mile) Kortelopet race in northern Wisconsin last weekend, the first winter in 11 years he’s raced in a cross-country ski race or even skied on a groomed trail.

He trained for the hilly race at the American Birkebeiner, the largest cross-country ski race in North America, on mostly flat country roads surrounding Champaign, and he only skied on snow a handful of times before the race.

Blog PhotoVetter trained on roller skis on a 12-mile loop northwest of Sadorus, on a 7.5-mile loop with some rolling hills near White Heath and, a couple of times, on hilly country roads near Charleston. He rollerbladed on a 2-mile loop around the new Carle development near Curtis and Staley roads.

Vetter also joined the University of Illinois wheelchair track team on a couple of long road workouts, using his rollerblades.

“I couldn’t quite keep up with the front group, but it was still nice to be able to work out in a team atmosphere and be out on the roads with other people,” he said.

Vetter raced the NorthShore Rollerski Marathon in Duluth, Minn., in September, averaging 17.5 mph on roller skis with racing wheels, and a hilly 9-kilometer roller ski race with 1,000 feet of elevation gain just west of Madison, Wis., in October.

This winter, Vetter rode his bike on an indoor trainer, worked out on a rowing machine, did some running and continued to roller ski when the roads were clear. When there was finally a snowfall sufficient for skiing, he skied for two hours one evening, covering 13 miles on a half-mile loop in a park near his home.

Three weeks before his race at the American Birkebeiner, Vetter finally raced on snow again in a 24-kilometer cross-country ski race in Wisconsin, finishing eighth overall.

Race day for the Kortelopet (held on the Friday of race weekend, a day before the 50-kilometer Birkebeiner race) was nearly perfect, Vetter said, sunny and warm following a period of cold temperatures and enough snowfall for a good base. Vetter had some leg cramping in the second half of the race, but his finish time was almost exactly what he had predicted: 1:45:59, for 12th out of 59 men in his age group and 184th overall among nearly 1,500 skiers in the race’s skate division.

“Considering I live in central Illinois and the flatlands, and what I’m doing for training here with hardly any snow, I can’t be disappointed,” he said.

Illinois Track and Field Club Relays

Vetter returned home immediately following his ski race for the Illinois Track and Field Club Relays on Saturday at the UI Armory, where he is the facilities coordinator. The meet, in its 11th year, is organized by a UI club team of serious runners who aren’t on varsity teams but still want to compete.

Most of the 30 teams with 730 athletes at the meet were club teams from Division I universities. Illinois’ club meet “functions as way to peak at the end of the indoor season for most of these clubs,” said Sean Frintner, a UI junior, a member of the club and the meet’s coordinator.Blog Photo

There were also a few clubs not attached to colleges. Champaign-Urbana’s Second Wind Running Club had 14 runners in the meet.

Randy Stearns of Champaign ran the 3,000-meter race in 11:53. He likes what distinguishes track from road racing.

“You’re looking at time, trying to run even splits on laps, jockeying for position,” he said. “I just like to push myself. You get other people in the race -- most of guys are a lot faster than me and I know that -- but having other people around and pushing hard and having people in the stands, that’s what I like about track.”

Nicholas Heller of rural Lexington ran the 3,000 meters, the mile and the 1,600-meter relay. He’s training for a March ultramarathon, so his training runs are long and relatively slow. Given his lack of speedwork, he was pleased with his 9:50 in the 3,000 meters.

“Going through the first mile at 5:16, that’s better than I thought it was going to go,” he said.

Heller also ran 5:02 in the mile race.

For Emily Floess of Urbana, the most enjoyable events for her during high school track were relays. She ran the 1,600-meter relay and the mile (7:09) at the meet.

“I really like that they invite all runners regardless of ability and are very welcoming,” Floess said. “I was the last runner for the 4x400 and was the only person on the track for the last lap, but everyone was really cheering me on!”


Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner and triathlete. You can email her at jheckel@news-gazette.com, or follow her at twitter.com/jodiheckel. Her blog is at www.news-gazette.com/blogs/starting-line/.


Photos: Top: Eric Vetter with his wife, Carmen, just after he finished the Kortelopet ski race at the American Birkebeiner on Friday in Cable-Hayward, Wis. Photo by Jeanette Vetter.

Bottom: Second Wind Running Club members competed in the Illinois Track and Field Club Relays on Saturday at the University of Illinois Armory. Runners in the women’s 1,600-meter relay are, from left, Emily Floess, Janet Slater, Ali Ball and Anna Fedders. Photo by Laura Owen.


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