Friendly volunteers, great race organization, kick-ass fun aid stations with great selection of food, oh-so-beautiful, tons of access points for your crew.
This is my favourite race.
But it's not easy.
The course is a combination of dirt roads, some gravel roads, jeep roads, trails, and a little paved roads. This year, lots of rain led to the new addition of LOTS OF MUD. UGH. Oh well. Keeps things interesting, right?
This year, I was really excited because I had two amazingly eager and awesome crew members/pacers. Kristen (K.P.) has run a bunch of 50ks and Shane has never run an ultra, but they both were eager to see me dry heave and cry. They were an amazing team and I barely had to do anything at an aid station if they were there.
You have to show up the day before for medical check (They weigh you and take your blood pressure.) and go to the pre-race meeting. I was a bundle of nerves. Post-meeting, Kristen and I headed to a random restaurant where we ate dinner and joked around. I sorted through all of my stuff and then had trouble falling asleep at 8pm. I finally fell asleep close to 10pm...and woke up at 2am.
When I woke up and began to get ready, I realized I had no running socks...except for the ones in my drop bags, which, you know, I had dropped off the night before. I had cotton ones with little hearts I had slept in the night before...so I started with those. Oh crap. Bad idea on a course with lots of mud....ugh.....
You start at 4am on a grassy field out onto some windy dirt roads that make this New Yorker panic with how tiny and windy they are (for driving, that is; for running, so fun!). It was a good fun excited crowd, everyone chatting, catching up, still having fun. I had forgotten my headamp, so I borrowed my pacer's (Kristen's) and it either needed a new battery or was just pretty weak because it wasn't too helpful.
The course is beautiful - but hilly. The worst part is mile 31-62. That is SO hard. It was way harder than the 50miler I just ran. Just lots of punishing ups and downs.
I ran out pretty hard - looking at my Garmin, I see my first mile was 7:42. Wow. Lots of 8ish minute miles in the beginning. I was having FUN. It was beautiful, there were nice runners, and oh, how I loved it.
Mile 22.5 I got to see K.P. My feet were already soaked and muddy and I ran with her to the car and then I sat in the driver's seat and changed my socks. Ahhhhh....much better but I already had a blister. Not being a big blister person, I attribute a lot of it to the socks. And oh yeah, all the mud there was no way I could avoid running through.
I ran on. It was pretty, fun, I chatted with lots of people. My nutrition felt pretty good. Mile 26.2, I shouted, "We just ran a marathon! YAY!" And of course, kept going. Because this is an ultramarathon and we're too stupid to stop at 26.2.
I surprised myself to see my 50k split as 5:34. Pretty good, actually. I was hauling ass up the mountains. Push, push, push. I ate gels, my chewy shot blocs, and drank water. It wasn't that hot - it was SO incredibly humid.
Stage Road Aid Station was mile 31.4 and Shane was there for the first time and amazingly was in the role. Him and K.P. ran around, fetching me ice for my coconut water, feeding me gels, cleaning and lubing up my feet as I changed socks and shoes. They both seemed cheerful and I was sad to not see them until Camp Ten Bear.
And then, crap, wait, SHANE, KP - take ME WITH YOU! THE NEXT 30 MILES SUCK, PLEASE, PLEASE, Oh....they left....oh crap...I have to run this.
You run down the road (stuffing pretzels in your face if you're me) and then you go up this steep muddy (There goes those clean shoes....) trail, and it gets steeper, and steeper, and oh crap, this sucks, it's hot, it's humid.....
But then - oh my god - the meadows....most runners call it "The Sound of Music Meadows." It really looks like. I began singing it and this guy joined it. It was this beautiful harmony and we began running together, singing various songs from The Sound of Music. Unfortunately, I began getting a weird stitch in my stomach from running too fast downhill so I slowed down and let the songs live on in my head.
I love the covered bridge. I was so happy and then I was even happier to see my friend Tammy, who had just run Badwater. I shoveled some chewies in my mouth and ran on. To an uphill for 2 miles. That sucks. That is horrible.
The entire time I felt like I was going to vomit. Horrible. I swallowed tears and pushed up but it sucked, sucked, sucked. I couldn't eat.
The aid stations felt further apart than ever before - but there are 29 aid stations so I know I was just wimping out. But seriously - did they make this course 200 miles instead of 100? It felt double as long....
Finally, shortly after 43, I started feeling less horrendous. I wasn't ready to eat anything, but my tummy didn't feel like I was going to vomit everywhere.
|Help, get me out of here, this hurts...|
Camp Ten Bear. Oh, glorious. I weighed in - SAME WEIGHT. Let's celebrate with a grilled cheese sandwich, coconut water on ice. I changed my socks and headed out on a nice jaunt. Wait, hills, what, I thought we were done. WHAT?
I ran with Keith Straw. I ran with Ironpete. I ran with strangers, new friends and old. I sang aloud. I sang in my head. I struggled with the hills.
Mile 50. Sub 10 hours. Not bad, not bad.
They slightly changed the aid stations this year - Seven Sees was a new one for crew. It began raining, and then pouring as Pete and I ran into the aid station. I moaned, "I don't wanna run. I hate the rain." I changed my running skirt; my liner was causing some horrendous chafing.
I put on a rain jacket; I ran out with Otto, who was having tummy troubles, and Pete. The rain stopped. I ran into Margaritaville, which sadly had no cookies but which of course was playing Jimmy Buffet's "Margaritaville." Shane brought me my sewing bag by accident which I had left in the back seat of the car and I teased them, "Look at this fabric; could I use this in a 100 miler?" I needed KP's industrial strength hospital grade lube and Shane screamed, "Lube, get the lube!" and KP ran to the car. I changed my soaked socks and drank more coconut water and ran on.
I ran with Keith Straw a little as we pulled into the next aid station. I kept having to pee but actually had trouble peeing - it took FOREVER. (See the Ultra List for my question and the answers, ha!) And then...wait....yes....CAMP TEN BEAR AGAIN!
I got weighed in and oh crap....I lost three pounds. Not a big deal but I needed to make sure I ate and drank lots. "My, you're looking skinny, Cherie," KP told me as I began to fully change my humid sweat-and-rain-soaked outfit for a brand new outfit. I stuck my tongue out, ate more of the more gourmet delicious grilled cheese, pulled on my headlamp, and set out with Shane.
I didn't know Shane that well, but of course, in true ultra style, we began blabbing away like we were BFFs soon. He seemed really intrigued with everything, and we talked about running, school, friends, growing up. The time flew, although the miles did not. I had such painful blisters and my feet were so swollen. Despite having changed my shoes to a half size bigger, my feet were nearly bursting out. I begged some volunteers for Ibuprofin and it helped a bit.
Spirit of 76. Shane and I got to see the lighting of the paper bags on the steps. It was SO pretty. I began screaming at how it was my favourite ever aid station and I ate some grilled cheese.
We left and 89 felt really far. Bill's Barn. We ran through windy trails and while Shane was completely normal, I saw monkeys in the trees. I didn't tell him how many hallucinations because to be frank, I didn't want to freak him out and I was kind of freaked out. Run forward. Run. Run. On his first introduction to an ultra - "Oh yeah, man, she was on crazy drugs. No one could act like that." Ha, I wish. At an aid station, I begged for morphine but no one heard me.
Bill's. I weighed in and I weighed 3 pounds more than my original weight - which was 6 pounds more than less than 19 miles earlier....ummmmm...that's kind of a lot. I told KP when I left and she burst out laughing.
I changed my socks at Bill's, said goodbye to Shane and I got up. Everything looked fuzzy and black. "Kristen, I need to walk," I said, unable to see the world clearly. I felt like I was on some sort of weird drugs. "Sure, Cherie." We walked. "Oh, this is the field I hallucinated in last year. That was a nice hallucination." "Sure, Cherie." And I saw a ghost and I saw...
The hills...OMG. Down hurt like up. Why was I going SO slow? WHY? WHY? I had been on pace for sub-20 and wtf is wrong with me? Why was I dragging slow? I might not even make sub-24. Push ahead...push ahead...OMG my blisters...my feet....dry heaving....ugh...so tired...energy shot...chew a shot bloc....what am I doing out here? Why does this hurt so much? Oh, this is pretty...wow, this is scary....I have to pee, ugh, it takes so long to pee...look at these roots...try to not face-plant...I wonder if I'll get home in time for Margaret and Joe's party...wonder where my other friends are, like Carlos and Hiroshi and oh my god, I don't even know anyone else's name anymore...that girl with a, her name starts with a letter...uh....why does this...ugh, it hurts...it was so fun earlier...at least it's not hot or cold. Kristen kept talking, complaining, gossiping, talking, I don't care. She told me the story of a messed up relationship, I told her one.
Polly's. OH MY GOD. Shane was there and it was so nice to see him. 4.1 miles to go. OMG. YES!
I hobbled away, K.P and I running to the finish. It took forever. It was actually more like 41 miles there. I saw the gallons of water with glow sticks lit up close to the finish. And the signs that said "1 mile to go" and "1/2 mile to go" - that as per tradition, KP kicked for me.
The finish line. The finish line. THE FINISH LINE! I crossed it, SO happy. Far from my goal time, but sub 24. Best of all, I had fun. I saw pretty spots of Vermont. I sang with strangers. I made new friends. I had a blast. And you know what? ONLY ONE MORE VERMONT 100 UNTIL I GET MY 500 MILE BUCKLE. (And six more until I get my 1,000 mile buckle...)
Shane and KP had so much fun they are already planning next year...and decided they are going to take on another pacer/crew. Those interested in applying must follow through with a rigorous application process.
Postscript: After Shane brought me a grilled cheese sandwich, we all collapsed in the car...and our car got stuck in the muddy field. Shane tried to push out the car, dig out the car, use bales of hay. KP got stuck in knee high mud. I hallucinated in the back seat and dreamed of taking a shower. In the end, a tractor pulled us out. It was a surreal end to a bizarre day.