The first thing I heard in the morning was Luau’s voice saying “Doug! It’s 4 O’clock! Get up!” Shiiiiit!!! My alarm didn’t go off! For the first time EVER I actually slept soundly without a care or worry in the World the night before a race. For once I didn’t get up, every hour on the hour, incessantly checking my alarm gripped with fear and I paid the price. We planned on being on the road by 4. We had at least a 30 minute drive ahead of us and we were told that we had to be checked-in by 515 for the pre-race briefing. Yes, we had time, but considering there would be 1300 participants with one single lane road in to the start area, there was bound to be traffic.
So, after a brief tirade in which I think I linked together more expletives than have ever come out of my mouth in one sentence, I scrambled to the fridge for my first of three bottles of “Boost” (at my coaches behest, I’ve been using it for my pre-race and long run fuel which was now about an hour behind schedule, but oh well). I got dressed in a hurry and packed my spare bag with warm clothes and other items I might need for my crew to bring with them. Thank God that Dave heard me running around and got up to help. I ran out the door, put the bag in my truck and jumped in the back of Luau’s vehicle without saying goodbye to Dave or even kissing Lex goodbye!
As soon as we got on the road, Luau looks at me and says “this one’s for you!” And puts on his iPod…
“Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted, in one moment, would you capture it? Or just let it slip?” – Lose Yourself, Eminem
My boy Luau knows me. Part of the reason that he agreed to run Vermont with me was to make sure I hit my “A” goal of sub-11 hours in order to qualify for entry into the lottery for the Western States Endurance Run. “Lose Yourself” was one of my training theme songs for this race. There was simply no better way to start the day! I was starting to feel an overwhelming sense of kismet. We jumped on the highway and we were off!
That’s when sheer terror set-in as I realized I had left both of my handheld’s behind. Not only were they to be my only source of hydration, but they were stocked with my nutrition (Honey Stinger gels and chews) and electrolytes in the form of Nuun tabs… Aaaaargh!!! A quick call to Dave on Sarah’s phone (I left my iPhone behind intentionally) and I discovered he was already on top of it.
In fact, he said that as soon as he walked back in the house he saw the bottles sitting on the chair, grabbed them and came running out the driveway after us. He said he actually caught us and got his hand on the bumper just as we turned onto the road. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to catch our attention. He was already in his truck on the way after us. We turned around and headed back one exit and met him at a gas station right next to the exit. Let’s try this again! This was NOT at all how I had envisioned the morning going.
Luckily we still hit the road at a good time because there was little traffic and we had plenty of time to spare. We checked-in and milled about for a while trying to keep warm until the pre-race instructions were given, which were basically “respect the land and the landowners, “here’s your signs” (to look for), have a great race!” I grabbed a coffee and rounded up the group to head over to the pre-appointed meeting area. That cup of coffee was probably the best coffee EVER! Actually, it could’ve been total crap (i.e. Marine Corps coffee) and I wouldn’t have cared at that point. I hadn’t had caffeine for almost two weeks! I cut it out so that it would have the desired effect when I needed to use it during the race. Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed that cup of coffee!
Everyone eventually showed-up on the patio outside of Cunningham’s except our fast friend Nancy. We started taking pictures while we waited and listened to all of the mountain biker divisions start. Around 630 they made an announcement of “5 minutes until all 50-mile runners start,” so we made our way over making sure to keep an eye out for Nancy in her ACS Determination singlet, but to no avail. Only much later did we find out that she showed-up late, jumped right into the start and took off, literally (finishing 24th OA, 4th Female and 1st AG with an AMAZING time of 8:30:13)! We were sad to have missed her but realize we would’ve just slowed her down! She ROCKED it! Below is the best of the pre-race pic’s of the group, we (most of us) were SO clueless! LOL!
At 635 am local time we were off! Approximately 375 of us 50-miler’s going down the road toward 9000 feet plus of elevation on a course (re-routed in several places to avoid washouts from the hurricane flooding about a month earlier) that would take us over 50.5 miles according to the RD (which is better than the 54 miles that the guy with the maps told us about yesterday). The first couple of miles took us downhill and out of the Ascutney Mountain Resort.
We were all chatting away about our expectations and goals for the race, trying to avoid thinking of the first climb. We were told that the first climb had been re-routed and was going to be much steeper than originally planned. Instead of 1000′ over 1.6 miles it was now over just under 0.5 miles. Luau and I decided that of course our “A” Goal was a sub-11 hour finish (a Western States Qualifier), but our “B” goal was to finish before the 12-hour cutoff, our “C” goal was the standard “do NOT shit yourself,” and we added a “D” goal for this race of “just don’t die!”
The first big climb that we were
dreading anticipating ended-up being immediately coming out of the first aid station. I learned a few lessons at the first aid station. First, I needed to have my bottles open coming into the station. Second, just grab some food and move on or our trail boss (Jeremy D) would start barking at us… DON’T DAWDLE!
Being that this was my first race running with two handhelds, I fumbled around in the water line trying to get the tops off until a kindly volunteer offered to help me and I got them off, filled-up, grabbed a pb&j and some chips ahoy and started moving toward the trail head. The climb was no joke. It was over 1/2 mile, steep as hell, and wading through 6-8 inches of slippery mud that had already been torn-up by 800 mountain bikers in front of us. I spent the first 100 yards or so fumbling with my left-hand bottle again because I forgot to drop my Nuun tabs into it. D’oh!
The next 8 or 9 miles into Skunk Hollow Aid Station (our first meet-up with crew/handler’s) seemed like a relentless series of short and fast downhill runs followed by long steep climbs. It seemed that our group was already spreading out much like I’d imagined it would. Only, I figured that the 2 Jeremy’s would pull-away out front, Luau and I would hang in the middle and Sarah and Adam would bring up the rear. At this point though, The Jeremy’s and Luau were setting the pace out front (and personally I thought they were pushing a bit too hard for my taste), I was alone in the middle (but making friends), and Adam and Sarah were behind me. At one point I waited at the top of a climb to hook-up with Sarah and Adam because I was tired of being by myself.
When we rolled into the second aid station, I had my bottles open and electrolytes in, filled them, grabbed some food and moved out. I think I had it down now! Next thing I know I looked around me and realized I was out in front of the rest of our group, but I knew they would catch me with all the climbs ahead. The last mile or so into Skunk Hollow was a long, steep, muddy downhill that Jeremy D and I just bombed down until we came out of the woods into a HUGE mud pit that slowed us down a bit going into the aid station.
I have to say my crew was awesome! I handed my bottles off to Lex and she filled and restocked them, while Dave helped me change. My feet were pretty wet, so I lubed them up with vaseline, and put dry socks on before putting them back in my shoes. I chose to run the first 30 or so miles in my Saucony Peregrine’s and so far they were working-out well. I decided not to change my shirt, grabbed my bottles, kissed my wife and headed back out…