20 July 2009

vermont 100 miler race report

I've been thinking about this race for SO long...I can't believe I finished it. I truly did it - I ran 100 miles!

I woke up Saturday morning at 2:30 a.m. I ate a peanut butter and jelly on a bagel, stretched a bit, and off to the start. The race started at 4 a.m., and I started with my old headlamp that is very uncomfortable. I didn't wear it on my head, but wrapped it around my wrist (good tip if your headlamp is bothering you) and ended up leaving it with the volunteers at the first aid station at mile 7.

I began running and chatting with Toby, who I'm also following on Twitter. We shortly joined up with a few other runners - Jon from AZ (who I'm also following in Twitter!), Paul from Arkansas, Shane, future Navy Seal (if things work out well for him, which I believe they will), and many others. We had a good group of us, chatting, swapping stories (including weird fishing techniques, eeek!), dishing out the ultrarunning gossip. I love meeting other ultrarunning nerds and talking about ultrarunning.

Mile 9 my stomach required a pitstop and I hoped my race wasn't over. My stomach was hurting me on and off throughout the race - an unfortunate theme throughout this race. When I packed, I had speculated I'd eat 20-24 gels; I ended up only eating 3. The idea of eating a gel was repulsive and as I dry heaved at one point, I decided not to push it. Throughout the race, I ate pretzels, animal crackers, watermelon, gummibears, mini snickers, and other assorted random foods.

After my Portapotty 3 minute rest stop, I caught up to my friends after a few miles. We continued chatting and having fun. We couldn't think, "Only 82 miles to go" or whatever - you can't think like that in an ultra because it becomes too demoralizing. You have to think, "Only 2 more miles to the next aid station."
At Pretty House, mile 21.1, I met up with Mecca (my pacer for the last 30 miles!) and Bill (my handler). They were great throughout - handing me pre-filled (with ice and water) water bottles, handing me food from my bags or aid station tables, helping me get in and out of the aid stations as quickly as possible.

Leaving Pretty House, my stomach was bothering me but I kept running. Our group numbers changed throughout - we'd stop to pee, and some people would pass us, we'd catch up, we'd get new people, lose them - but it was mainly Jon, Shane, and I. We had a great time chatting and keeping our whining down a minimum. My stomach was bothering me, and there were times I wanted to walk, but if I did, I might be alone. So I kept on trucking.
At the first weigh-in at Camp 10 Bear, I was the same weight. Yay! Good news. I saw Bill again (who oh-so-awesomely got me a yummilicious coffee cake muffin), and he sprayed my scalp with sunscreen. Mecca was napping so she could run all night with me. I ate some watermelon and headed out to the trails with Jon and Shane.
Margaritaville was great fun. Rumour has it, if you drop out here, you get a margarita. My joke was, I don't like tequila (and thus, margaritas) so I couldn't drop out there! I saw Bill again as I devoured some absolutely delicious home-baked cookies (cinnamon chip cookies! chocolate chocolate chip cookies!). Shane had taken off ahead of us, so it was just me and Jon, chatting, running, struggling, but persevering.

It was sometime after Camp 10 Bear that I began drinking too much water. I drank almost an entire bottle in between each aid station, and since the aid stations are 2-5 miles apart, this wasn't the best thing. I was peeing nonstop, but luckily Jon was too b/c we kept stopping alongside the trail. By the end, we weren't even looking for bushes. Just, "I'm stopping here to pee." Jon would move up 5 feet and pee there. Ultrarunners like to talk about "food, running, and pooping," Mecca quipped in the car ride up. Add peeing to that list too.

We headed back into Camp 10 Bear just as it was starting to get dark. When I got weighed in again, I was four pounds heavier. I also attribute this to eating more solid foods. We thought a sub-24 hour finish would be impossible, but were informed that while it would be tough, it was possible. I changed in a dark corner, put on new socks and shoes, sipped a little cold broth, and prepared to leave...just as I did, I started feeling violently ill - freezing cold, nauseas, and dizzy. I sat for several moments in a chair and finally decided we needed to leave.

Mecca accompanied me as I hobbled back to the course. I almost started dry heaving immediately, but then we walked for a while. My feet were KILLING me - they felt like they were so swollen they could barely fit into my shoes. After a while, the nausea subsided and we began very slowly running and walking. Very important ultra lesson: you will often feel worse if you stop, but start walking; eventually you'll feel okay enough to start running again.

We ran into Jon again who was ahead of us with his pacer, and he said he wasn't feeling so well. We stuck together for a while, and I made everyone exchange first kiss stories. Of course the guys said they couldn't really remember, but Mecca and I had many details.

Jon and his pacer held back and Mecca and I continued. When we got to West Winds/Spirit of '76, I was in good spirits. I ate a bit, chatted with the super-duper friendly volunteers (btw, this race is SO well-organized and the volunteers are great and friendly, I recommend it to anyone!) and took off. My feet were hurting me more.

I had been worried a lot about night running. I only slept 6.5 hours the night before (My sleep was punctuated by waking up to look at the clock, or waking up due to Bill's snoring), and I was worried I'd fall asleep or get lost. I put 5 Hour Energy supplements in my bag, along with caffeinated sports jelly beans. My headlamp was really bright, and the course was very well-marked. There were glowsticks every so often, and Mecca and I ran towards the glowsticks hanging from the trees. I started to get sleepy at one point when my feet were hurting me and we were climbing a lot of uphills, and told Mecca to tell me some stories. She's a great storyteller, and really helped keep me awake.

And my feet continued to ache with each and every step. I didn't know what was going on. I typically don't have a problem with blisters, so I wasn't sure what was going on. "My feet hurt so bad, Mecca," I whined, too many times I'm sure. We ended up walking a lot more than I wanted to.

At Mile 88, Bill's Barn, I ended up stripping my socks to change my socks - and saw the scariest feet ever. My feet should've been in a horror movie. They were covered with red splotches, bumps, and yeah, lots of blisters. Later, the podiatrist at the finish line determined that my rainbow-patterned Injinji socks (which I LOVE and feel great and I've worn in a 100k and 50 miler - though this was a new pair) gave me an allergic reaction. My feet broke out in a rash and swelled up, and because my feet were swelling, I got blisters in between and underneath every foot - and in some other spots as well. The woman that was fixing my feet at mile 88, was like, "Oh my god. You're not going to continue, are you?"

Yes, I am!

We rested there for a while - they put me under a blanket because I was shivering and I tried to convince them I'd be okay to run again. I drank some hot tea, rested, let my feet dry. I eventually stuffed my feet into my sneakers (a shoehorn probably would've been helpful as my feet were SO swollen) and Mecca and I hobbled off onto the trails.

The last 12 miles took forever, or it felt like that. I was conscious of the pain with each and every step, and we walked a lot more than I wanted to. I wanted to cry - the pain was that bad. The glowsticks stopped being our guide as the sun came up, and we kept moving. I was so disappointed looking at my watch, seeing a sub-24 hour race impossible, and seeing the time I was out on the course much more than I had thought.
But I finished. I kept going. When I was the "1 Mile to Go" sign, Mecca said, "I hate that sign. I'm going to kick it for you!" She kicked it for me, and we ran as strongly as I could to the finish.

29 hours! Far from the sub-24 hours I had secretly hoped for, but I did it! I finished a 100 miler! I had so many adventures along the way, met a lot of really fantastic people, saw some astonishingly beautiful Vermont calendar perfect scenergy...and really put my limits to the test.


Steve said...

Congratulations on your finish, Cherie! Sorry to hear about your foot problems.

As you noted, need to be careful about drinking too much water. Your chills, nausea, dizziness...perhaps all signs of hyponatremia. The weight gain all but confirms it. If you're interested in learning more, I found this very informative article on the subject. Might be worth a read for future reference.


I'm not a doctor or anything, just thought you may be interested.

Congrats again!!

Stephanie Case said...

Wow, Cherie, what a race!!! I had no idea you had been through such hell when I saw you before breakfast - you looked just as chipper and fresh as ever, and THAT takes work, girl! Congrats!! I'm glad we finished our first 100 milers at the same event :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Cherie.
Thats AWESOME that you gutted it out. I ran it with my cousin, Jeremy and we ran with you for a while towards the beginning and also just before Ten Bear. We both DNFed and passed you by car in the middle of the night on the way back to the finish. We got lost and thought we were only 1/2 mile from the end when we passed you in the dark. I leaned out of the car and congratulated you for getting a Buckle. I had NO idea where you were and felt horrible when I realized you were still a ways out.
Anyways, it was SO cool meeting you and all the other folks out there. What a fun time. Great job!!!
Jeff Hansen

Ultra Steve said...

Congrats Cherie! You rock!

Ultra Steve said...


Anonymous said...

Great job Cherie, you're awesome! What an accomplishment.

Betsy said...

Cherie, it's Betsy from NBR. Great job! How are you feeling now a couple of days later? What did you do immediately post-race? What was your recovery like?

I think that's amazing and you're totally an inspiration to me! I'll think twice about bitching during my next half marathon.

cherie said...

Betsy - I'm feeling pretty drained and beat still. I've been trying to eat good, sleep lots, am taking recovery supplements - Recover - Ease. This weird foot allergy has really bummed me out, and I want to do another 100 already.

Someone, lock me up!

A Million Words said...

So happy and excited for you Cherie! I miss running with you and think about you every time I do. I love you and you are such an inspiration! You must be so proud of your self, I know I am!

Mike said...

Cherie - didn't get the chance to meet you at the race, but outstanding race report and even better perseverance and finish. Way to go!

Recovery well - see you on the trails.

Mike (Chili Pepper Shorts dude)

Anonymous said...

Great report, cherie. I was thinking about you during the event. Congrats on the finish. The weeks leading up to your first 100 are super-stressful - the relief you must feel after successfully completing it must be amazing.

Reading about the allergic reaction to your socks really drives home the point that became apparent to me in the (much less serious) difficulties I had with my race this weekend: that there are so many things that can go wrong in an ultra. This is especially true in a 100. Seriously - you suddenly became allergic to your own socks! How do you anticipate something like that? What could you possibly do about it? You can finish despite the problems. Really impressive. I'm so happy for you.

Lakewood said...

.congrats on your great finish. I ran with you for a while early on. I'm even in that first photo you have posted ;-)


I'm sure I'll see you down the ultrarunning line somewhere

take care,


Morrissey said...

wow--- congratulations cherie. i could never think of doing a 100miler. let alone a 50miler! you crazy girl! 100 miles...im speechless, you practically are made out of iron or steel!

Pat said...

Congratulations cherie. That is one amazing story. You are amazing! Just take care of yourself!

Paige said...

Congratulations on your finish, Cherie! Sorry, I spelled your name wrong in my blog, I'll fix that :)

It was great to meet you! May your recovery be speedy! My left foot is so swollen, it's ugly...my right foot is too, but not as bad as the left. Ah the joys of ultrarunning :)

Anonymous said...

Way to go Cherie. VT100 was my first 100 and dear to my heart. You women are incredible. Pain is something you can just put on the back burner and keep on going.

Randy Miller
Friend of Lisa Madden.

Donald said...

Thanks for sending me this link, and congrats on your 100M finish! Very strange stuff with the Injinjis, that's for sure.

Excellent job to hang in there on a tough day, under extreme conditions, to get the race done. Recover well, and good luck with future exploits.

marky mark said...

That was awesome Cherie, I loved reading about it. Seems like we've been talking about ultras for years and particularly ones like this and longer it's just so great to see that at least one of us decided to actually go the distance.

And as with all good running stories I feel inspired to run some more :)

Good Job!