Subtitle: Mudfest 2011
Cast of Characters:
- Jeremy D. – The Trail Boss
- Luau – The Marathoner
- Jeremy B. – The Newbie
- Sarah – The Ultrarunner with something to prove
- Adam – The Everyman
- Lex – My Wife and Crew Chief
- Dave – My Best Friend and Crew
- Jenni – Adam’s Wife and Crew Chief
- Gene – Sarah’s Crew
Wow! Just wow! Seriously. The Vermont 50! A Montrail Ultra Cup race? Did I really choose this as my first ultramarathon? What was I thinking?!?! Well, it turned-out to be an amazing day spent in an amazing place with an amazing group of people. My “team” was made-up of a group of runner’s that I met and peer-pressured into running with me through twitter and the dailymile community. What else can I say? I couldn’t have asked for a better experience for my first ultramarathon. Well, maybe I could’ve asked for a little less, mud, but…
Part of the reason that it has taken me a couple of days to sit down and write this recap is that I’m still trying to digest what I’ve just been through. It’s so hard to get my head around it. Running the Vermont 50 was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Subsequently, I think this recap is going to be incredibly hard for me to write, partly because I really don’t want it to be a novel (and frankly, I’ve written novels about 5k’s before so this is going to be a challenge), and partly because I just don’t know where to start…
Shortly after finishing my first Boston Marathon in 2010 I decided I wanted to try my hand at running an ultramarathon. You see, it was then that I determined that I am simply not fast enough to ever be competitive (even in my AG) in the marathon. For me to even qualify for Boston I have to run a 7:30 mile x 26.2 (even though I made a valiant effort at running a BQ in my second Boston, I fell way short). However, one thing I realized is that I seem to be built for endurance. I mean, most of the time I feel like I can run forever!
So, I did some research on the interwebs and decided that I would to make the Vermont 50 my first and set my eyes on 2012 (I had a feeling if I went for it in 2011 I might end-up in divorce court). Why the Vermont 50 you ask? Well, the obvious answer is that it is in Vermont, d’uh! I love the Green Mountains, it’s a fairly inexpensive race and considering it would be a road trip with several campgrounds nearby, perfect! I immediately set about recruiting my “team.” I talked-up the #VT50 all over twitter and dailymile as much as humanly possible and as soon as I received an inkling of interest from anyone, I ramped up the pressure until they agreed to run it with me. At one point I actually had around 20 people that were “seriously interested” or “contemplating” it.
The first solid commitment I received was from my
buddy good friend Luau. He opened-up his mouth and said “if I qualify for Boston at Smuttynose, I will run Vermont with you!” Guess who ran the Smuttynose half marathon on almost no training just so he could be there to witness said BQ, and make sure he kept his promise! I even took everyone’s favorite picture of the fist-pump crossing the finish line! Afterwards we were chatting-it-up over post-race beers he agreed to do it. As a kind of “collateral damage” Adam said he “might be” interested in doing it as well, and besides “they have a 50k too, in case I can’t do the 50-miler, right?” Right Adam, 50k.
Shortly after that I recall a conversation between Luau, Sarah and I, in which Sarah agreed to come out and crew/pace for us. Eventually the herd thinned out, people who were going to run with me dropped or couldn’t for one reason or another, crew member’s came and went, but you know how these things go. In the end I’m really happy with the way things ended-up shaking-out. At one point I thought I’d lost Luau to a last-chance BQ time trial-style marathon and it was even up in the air until the last minute whether or not Sarah would make it, let alone run, but things like this always seem to work out the way they should in the end…
The week before the race was filled with preparations and multiple facebook messages about race strategy, shoe choices, anticipated weather and trail conditions, what to put in our drop bags, etc. Jeremy D was an invaluable resource to the rest of us rookies, and incredibly gracious with his knowledge and opinions. At times I felt that we must’ve been really annoying with all of the questions, but Jeremy fielded them all without so much as a terse answer. He’s definitely a great guy and we were so incredibly lucky to have him with us on this journey!
It rained all week before the race, so on Friday I called the campground to check on the conditions. The guy who answered the phone said “it’s pretty rough out here and not expected to get much better for the weekend.” Lex and I agreed there was no way we would be able to do this while camping-out in the mud and rain all weekend. So, at the last minute, I called Luau who had offered us floor space at his buddies house (where he was staying) if we needed it. A quick call to his friend and it was done. I also found-out that he was picking-up Sarah and she would be staying with us too. So it would be one big happy family and I would be cooking our pre-race dinner (I knew Luau’s and my own stomach’s disdain for tomato sauce before big races) to reciprocate for our night’s lodging.
Saturday morning I woke-up early and scrambled around with packing and all of the final preparations. I checked and double-checked all of my gear and clothes. Once the truck was fully packed we were just waiting for the in-laws to come to take over kid duty for the weekend. Once they arrived we went-over the three page list of instructions Lex wrote for them and we were off! I planned on leaving between 10am and Noon, so, Noon it was!
It was a beautiful 2hr and 40min drive, during which I remembered that I forgot my toothbrush and our camping chairs (for the handler’s aid stations). I called Dave and thank God he didn’t forget his chairs! It’s “peeper” season and the colors are just starting to change around here so it was a magnificently beautiful drive. Every place in the World has it’s “thing.” The blue waters of the Carribean, the Pipeline in Hawaii, the Northern Lights, the glaciers in Antarctica. The fall foliage in Northern New England (especially Vermont) is a sight to behold! Fall is my favorite season and this was going to be a great way of kicking it off! I was getting pumped!
The only thing bothering me was a pain in my ass (literally). I’ve had this right glute/leg issue developing since a couple of weeks before Boston this year. I don’t know what it is, but it makes sitting in the car (mine especially for some reason) extremely difficult. The discomfort/pain starts in my right glute and the longer I sit, the more it spreads down into my hamstring, knee, calf and even ankle at times. It had never really bothered me during a run until about 3 weeks before Vermont (my 70 mile week) when it started bothering me on my 2 long runs. This pain is partly the reason I wasn’t interested in running much during my taper, I was hoping with rest it would heal and go away. It didn’t.
Despite running behind we were still the first of the group to arrive. I went down, registered and milled around while waiting for Dave to get back from his adventure. He arrived a couple of hours earlier and using the pics sent to us through the blog by the RD, he decided to drive around town and figure-out where all of the handler/crew aid stations were (Skunk Hollow @ 12.6 miles, Dugdale’s @ 31 miles, and Johnson’s @ 47 miles). Luau and Sarah were the next to arrive. After they registered, Luau and I went back and packed our drop bags. It took us forever because we both seem to have the same type of OCD!
After we dropped our bags we found Jeremy D and shortly after that Adam showed-up. We all hung around for a bit and discussed what our strategy was going to be during the race and we decided we’d stick together as much as possible and Jeremy D would be in charge of pacing and keeping us from dawdling too much at the aid stations. Our cell’s had really poor coverage on the mountain, but in a counterintuitive twist of fate, the two people with AT&T had full bars of service while those of us with Verizon were screwed. Apparently, if you have AT&T you can ONLY get coverage out in the boonies where nobody else can. But if you’re anywhere in the modern civilized World, forget about it!
We waited for a while for Jeremy B and our other twitter/dailymile friend Nancy to show-up. However, we got a message from Nancy that she wasn’t going to get there until after 6 and Jeremy B was running behind too. So, we let everyone know that we were going to meet on the patio outside of Cunningham’s (the only place that us Verizon customer’s could get a little service) immediately following the pre-race meeting in the morning. We headed back to Luau’s friend’s house in W. Lebanon, NH (about 30 minutes away). I cooked us an awesome meal of tri-color rotini with olive oil, fresh garlic, red, yellow and orange peppers, onion, parmesan and fresh basil.
After dinner the runner’s decided to turn-in early. Only, of course, I had to stay up another hour obsessing over my gear being laid-out properly and making sure everything was perfectly in place to make the most efficient use of time in the morning. I set the alarm on my iPhone (the first time ever) for 3:30 and went to sleep…