SkinnySki.com January 11, 2005
By Matt Aro

Matt Aro won the grueling 24 Hour Solo Freak Division for the second year in a row, in one of the closest races for the title since the event began. We asked Matt to tell us his race story ...

It was indeed a good race for me and I'm quite happy. I really wanted to win and felt that I had trained properly to give myself at least a decent shot at it. I really want to thank Mark Howard (who won the 12 hour solo!!) as we did a lot of long rollerski and ski workouts together starting in September to get ready for this event. It really helps to have a friend to get through some of those long training sessions....the time goes quickly!

My good friend Harry and his wife Meghan, my friend Ross, and my parents came to the race to cheer me on and to provide pit support. I really couldn't have been successful without all of their help. Someone was there every lap all night long to help me with anything that I needed (clothes, food, etc.)

Matt Aro at the 2004 Birkie
My original plan was to ski 4 hours and then take an approximately 30 minute break to go in to my hotel room (at Telemark Lodge) to dry my boots and mittens, put on dry clothes, and eat some warm food, etc. The 4-hour mark rolled around and I felt good so I told Harry that I didn't want to "stop a good thing" so I kept going until about 6 hours or so. I went inside and ate some food and got dry gear and clothing.

The first hour or so of skiing after a break is tough for me-I had the chills and my stomach was full so I was trying to ski and digest lots of food at the same time. This made for a somewhat 'blah' feeling. After it got dark I feel that my pace slowed to a certain extent as some of the fast downhills were tricky at first in the dark. The focus was to stay as steady as possible and keep a steady intake of calories. For about 4 minutes or so of each loop we pass by the Lodge and made a loop near the horse barn and across the bottom of the old ski hill....there was pretty decent ambient light so for those 4 minutes I turned my headlight off. Staring at the white spot on the snow from my headlight gave me a headache so turning the light off was very welcome.

I had learned from Harry that the field was thinning out and it was down to myself, Chris Ransom, and Jason Cork. I skied a little bit with Jason around the 9 hour mark of the race and I could tell things weren't going well. From what I hear he unfortunately got sick and had to drop out. So now it was down to Chris and myself.

The hours just kind of passed until my second break around the 12-12.5 hour mark or so. I went inside for the same routine. Beef jerky really hit the spot! When I started skiing again I noticed the fatigue and sleep deprivation setting in a little. I was told by Harry that I had a little lead on Chris with about 7 hours to go.....here's where things got very interesting for me. I saw Chris pass in front of the Hytte building as I was skiing in the opposite direction......he was skiing pretty fast; actually too fast! I had a pretty bad feeling thinking that he was coming to get me. And I was right; I was told that Chris was starting to bang out 18-19 minute laps and I started to freak out. I skied two laps pretty fast (relatively speaking) and that put me under. I was cooked trying to play keep-away from Chris and I was forced to take another break at about 18.5 hours.

I regrouped and headed back out on the trail and learned that Chris had taken a little break too. But I still knew he was tough and was going to go to the end. My original plan was not to start on the caffeine until about 19-20 hours for fear of having a sugar crash too early in the race. So, according to plan, I started drinking watered-down Coke at about 19.5 hours but I really didn't get much help from that. On to the Red Bull......one can of that really had me buzzing for about a lap. I have to say that Red Bull really did save me; it's effect was amazing and extremely welcome. From 20-23 hours all I could do was keep moving. Everytime through the pit area people were cheering me on and it was absolutely wonderful and a great motivator!

I couldn't try to ski fast to keep away from Chris...that wasn't going to happen. It wasn't until about one hour to go that I was fairly sure that I had it wrapped up (as long as I didn't stop). I stopped right before the finish line with the clock reading about 23 hours and 59 minutes. I had time to do one more lap but, agains the cheers of the spectators, I had to decline. I had enough and was happy to be done. So I crossed the finish line just a few ticks after 24 hours.

So, it was a great race for me and a very cool experience. It was fun racing against Chris but pretty scary at times knowing he was so close to me for so long. I guess I got lucky.

The 11th Annual • January 8-9, 2011 • cable, wi