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More on the First White Pine Stampede

Thu, Jan  26, 2006 - By John Paul

Ernie - Read your article about the first White Pine Stampede on and really enjoyed your recounting of that memorable event. I was proof that you can dress the part but that doesn't really mean anything (I've been doing that for the past 28 years in banking!).

A couple of comments. First, the skis were Toppen. Haven't seen much about them, but I still ski on them every winter and they will be there for the Retro 10K Classic on Feb 4 (assuming we get some snow between now and then....actually, I may just go to where the start line was to be even if there isn't any snow and just stand there that morning if things get canceled).

I still have the 1979 WPS stickers on the skis and they are in remarkably good shape (did have to glue one tip back on a couple of years ago). The black and white one piece/knicker suit is still hanging on the rack. I intend to prove this year that yes Virginia, you can pack a 235 pounds into a 175 pound suit. Ugly, granted but how many times does a 30 year anniversary come around?

Great description of the "wall" and Gus getting stuck at the top. That remains one of my most vivid memories...that and seeing (hardly) the tiny tops of the Swix flags they had planted on the course. Without those, there was absolutely no way to tell where the course went, once the winds came up. I also remember how we all kidded around at the start about being over dressed 'cause the sun was shining and it seemed warm.  Man, how far off were we about that!  

It was some sort of warm blueberry drink.  I vividly remember watching some of the guys at the check points trying to drink that stuff with frozen jaws...a lot of blue stained bibs and sweaters.  Were you one of those guys??

As for nutrition during the 50 k, I was fortunate to meet Mike McManus on the trail. Do you remember "Iron Mike"?  He had these things called "Traubenzucker", a "Raspberry (sic) Flavored Dextrose" from W. Germany.  Man, what a shot that provided...better than frozen candy bars.  I still have a package of those, although at 30 years old, I'm guessing they probably have lost some of their umph... Maybe that was the first doping case for the WPS?  I wonder if that stuff is legal?

Oh, well. Hard to believe we had those sizzling times.  My how things have changed. Though if I were to do 50K again it would probably still take me 5+ hours.

One of my more vivid memories was finishing a hill climb and waiting for Kevin to get to the top. As he got closer, it looked like his eyes were kind of rolling up into his head. At that point I took off to get to the next check point and let them know something was wrong.  I didn't know what hypothermia was (heck, I had on cotton long underwear for cryin' out loud), but when I went back and skied in to that check point with him, they pulled Kev, got him in the car with the heater turned full blast (remember when those old American made "boats" had heaters that would immediately get you to about 200 degrees?).
I think you and I met the same ski patroller. I had hit that last road crossing just before the open field and the run to the finish. He had spotted some frost bite on my left cheek and said I was to be pulled. There is not a doubt in my mind. Your response and mine had to be almost identical. I had skied what, 48K at that time and he wanted to pull me????  Geez.  That's when the old football training came into play (one of the advantages us fuller figured guys have) and I pushed through him, crossed the road and that was that.
I also wanted to whole-heartedly agree with your comments on the finish! Without a doubt, that was the absolute best finish I ever remember. Maybe it was cause I was near being delirious, couldn't believe what I had just done, or why I had just done it. You know, that's still what's incredible to me.  None of us ever had any idea how far 50K really was.  Jack was right. It's a miracle that nobody died.
I also want to second your comments about the volunteers and Jack. They make this a great event.  I probably see it more so, only because over the past 10 years I've only been an occasional participant.  But the one thing I've observed coming back sporadically, is that it will always be a first class experience.  It still feels like family after all these years.

So, look for the original WPS skis, the black and white suit adorned with the first GRNST patch (only have to lose about 25 pounds between now and the first of February), the Traubenzuckers, an Adidas cap (the old red Fischer bit the dust long ago) and some vintage Excel poles on 2/4.  I'm only doing the 10K for a couple of reasons.  First, I'm launching off on a new career with the Bank of Northern Michigan by starting a bank in Traverse City.  Second, the new titanium shoulder is working pretty well, but I'm not quite ready to test it with too much distance.  We'll be back north quite a bit this winter so maybe we can hang some spoons off our noses together sometime soon!