The Vermont 50 has come and gone for another year… and I am thrilled to report another successful finish. I have been running through the day in my head since race day…. here goes my attempt to summarize this day!
|Race morning check-in. Yes, I’m wearing a raccoon ear-flap hat|
The day started out like it always does… dark and early! For those not familiar with the race… there is a mountain bike race with 600-ish competitors who go off in waves starting at 5:30 or so, ahead of the runners. The 50 mile runners start at 6:25 AM. The weather forecast had been threatening leading up to race day, with a “chance” of “showers”… The morning started out drizzly and misty, but comfortable. I spent the hour trying to relax, catch up with some running friends, and not think TOO much about what I was about to do for the next 10-11 hours. This might be the point where I mention my plan for the race ahead… If a plan existed. Truth is, I had no other plan than to keep moving until I was under the “FINISH” banner. Run until running became as slow as a hike (particularly uphill), then hike until I could run again. Rinse and repeat. Over and over. For hours. Yup, that’s about it. Oh, and eat and drink something in there. That about sums it up.
|Crowd mulling around the tent waiting for the start|
|At the start…. It’s almost GO TIME!!|
|Weather at the start… gloomy in them hills|
|Me, Stu, and Gary parading toward Skunk Hollow|
The first 12 miles were awesome. I settled into a comfortable pace, moving along with a group of friends to keep me going. I knew I had to be somewhat conservative, yet push it at the same time. It was tough, because I had no idea how the rest of this was going to go. How safe do you play it at this point? There’s no real way to know. I decided the best “plan” would be to run as much as I could at this point, to keep up a decent pace (11ish minute miles, for those who are wondering what that means) for as long as possible without pushing it too much in the early stages. We cruised through the early aid stations, stopping only to refill bottles and grab a quick bite to carry on. These sections are a nice mix of dirt roads and some double/single track through the woods. We ran a large amount, walking up steep hills on dirt roads, surrounded by the serene Vermont landscape. Expanses of fall colors framed rolling pastures along the way. I was feeling strong, and so HAPPY! I was back. Back to doing what I loved through the woods of Vermont at the event which started all of this for me. It was an awesome feeling!! I cruised into the skunk hollow aid station at mile 12, refilled my water, grabbed a quick snack, and headed onward into the hills.
|View from Garvin Hill in 2011|
I continued to plug along, through winding dirt roads and trails headed up, and up, and down, and up, and up, steep hills, through a gray foggy mist. I think it was at some point in here that the rain started, lightly at first and then progressing to a steady soaking drizzle. I was soggy but still moving forward at a reasonable pace, drinking a bottle between each aid station and using (bleh) gu to supplement my aid station snacking (which was limited to bananas, oranges, and salted potatoes for much of the day – my stomach was not cooperating well and I was experiencing some queasy GI upset, which I usually don’t have when running. It made it really difficult to get enough calories in). We wound through the fields and woods, through the maples snaked together by their sap-collecting systems and up the grassy switchbacks that lead to Garvin Hill, one of my absolute favorite places on the course. On a nice day (see above), the views from up here are breathtaking, a panorama of blazing foliage and the farms below. Today, it was soggy fog. But we made it up there, thanked the volunteers, grabbed some snacks, and it was onward! I looked at the time and was happy to see that we were still averaging roughly 5 miles per hour, almost 20 miles into the day. Not too shabby at all. I cruised through the winding single track, across the dirt roads and through the woods to the next station. I was really happy to be still feeling relatively well at this point, but knew there was a loooong way to go. I came into the 22 mile aid station happy to see two friends (thanks Sam and Stu!) waiting for me there. The company was much appreciated and gave a great motivation boost.
|“Running” into mile 31 aid station|
After leaving the mile 22 aid station, I felt my energy level start to falter. Things were getting tight, and my legs were really starting to feel the strain. It was raining steadily, and getting pretty cold! To be honest, I remember little about the terrain during this part of the course. Mud? Hills? Trails? Ya, I guess I did some of that. But mostly what I did was huurrrrt. I had been expecting the ball to drop. I was expecting to hit a little “wall” at some point. I was running 50 miles on bare minimum run training, after all. What I didn’t expect was to slam face first into the Great Wall of Vermont, which apparently someone had built right across the trail I was running and didn’t tell me. Man, I have done some tough events, but I can not recall a low point that even approached what I felt out in those soggy woods that day. Everything hurt, in alternating intervals. Burning glutes, tight calves, quads that wanted nothing to do with going up OR down. I tried hard to keep up with the guys ahead of me, but just couldn’t do it at this point. I was in survival mode, slugging down gu and shuffling forward. Trying desperately not to think about the fact that I was ONLY. HALF. WAY. THERE. This was not a pretty time. I came into the Margaritaville aid station at mile 27 to the sounds of Bob Marley, though this was a far cry from a Jamaican beach. I took my hand out from around my handheld water bottle and it stayed in a stiff, cold, claw-like appendage that, despite much coaxing, didn’t really want to do much of anything. I thawed it out enough to slurp down some warm noodles and broth (BIG thank you to the aid station volunteers for this little cup of steaming salty goodness), stuck my cold paws in my armpits, and shuffled on. The next aid station was at mile 31, where my “crew” (aka Anthony) would be waiting for me. I crept along the dirt roads and mud-soaked trails, and I’m pretty sure that my thoughts ranged in complexity from “this sucks” to a 30 minute daydream about lounging in a hot tub. But, I kept going. I maintained a pathetic, haggard shuffle through the woods, out onto a dirt road, and into the aid station at Greenall’s, Mile 31(ish).
|Greenall’s Aid Station, Mile 31.|
|This? is not a pretty picture. This is haggard exhaustion. Mile 31.|
|Headed back out from Greenall’s and into the trails|
|Emerging from the woods, into the homestretch 5k|
|Heading into mile 47. BIG smile. Almost there!|
My time was not overly impressive by any means… but, given the quality of training I have had for most of the year, I was MORE than thrilled with it. 10:55? I’ll take it. And run with it. And beat it next year! Without the emphasis on stability, strength, and quality movement I gained through working with Kurt and Coach Al Lyman at Pursuit Athletic Performance, I would never have been able to do what I did out there on those trails in VT. Yes, the potential is within me…. but without their guidance, I wouln’t be coming close to realizing it. Now? The future is wide open.
A million thank-yous to everyone who helped me get back to doing what I love this year. I have the best friends and family in the world – thanks for keeping me going by being my training partners and supporters (and for tolerating me, knocking some sense into me when I needed it, and kicking my ass into gear when I needed that too. There are too many names to name, but you know who you are, and I love you all! (Of course – special thanks to my husband Anthony, who dutifully puts up with me at my best and worst, and who is willing to chauffer me to races, stand in the rain waiting for me for hours, and support me through all of these crazy endeavors. Love you!)
Next up? The Bimbler’s Bluff 50K in Guilford, CT. Should be fun!