Jon 0, Vermont 1 -- My Vermont 100 DNF Report | Posted: 2009-07-20 21:09:59 | 5923 hits | View in Hi-Fi Mode

... at what point does it seem like a good idea to run 100 miles?

Geez. I don't know. That run was madness. Probably one of the most fun things I've ever done.

I dropped out of the race after 77.1 miles.

... I know, right? After 19 hours of endless hills and mud, I just could not proceed any further. So, on one hand, I dropped out after 77.1 miles. On the other... holy crap! I ran 77.1 miles!

As I write this, I'm sitting on an airplane -- managed to snag the exit row, so I can stretch out a bit. Good thing, too... 'cuz, man, I am messed up. Not too bad -- don't get me wrong -- but I'm... uhh... having a little trouble walking.

The damage doesn't look like it'll be permanent and it's not like I can really be, "Geez? How did that happen?" My left leg is totally swollen beneath the knee. It's like 50/50 whether I'll lose my right toenail. The bottoms of my feet are covered in blisters.

Other than that, surprisingly, I feel just fine. I know that sounds crazy -- “other than my legs and my feet it's all good” -- but given all the terrible things than can go wrong with a run like this, I feel like I emerged relatively unscathed. If it wasn't for whatever horrible thing I did to my left calf, I bet I could have finished that thing, no problem.

I can't say enough good things about this race.

This is one of those events where the whole community gets involved. Literally everyone I encountered around the town seemed to be involved in the race somehow, just a total point of civic pride. Remember, this is VT, long-settled territory. It's not like The West, where we can traipse hundreds of miles through National / State parks. Putting on an event like this in New England requires the cooperation of dozens of land owners, not the mention the hundreds of volunteers.

So many nice people!

Whoever designed this thing, though, was a total sadist. That course was totally relentless... with 14,000 feet of climbing on jeep roads through the backwoods of Vermont, there were almost no flat parts -- it was all ups and downs. I can't imagine a better way to experience New England.

So... the race started at 4:00 am under a light drizzle. I quickly fell in with the crew I would tag along with for the next 70 miles. Our main group was me, Cheryl, a librarian from Brooklyn, and Shane, a college student with a serious desire to become a Navy SEAL. The race itself is a blur, but we cruised along at a comfortable pace together for hours and hours and hours, chatting, laughing, telling funny stories... People are meant to run with the herd. Other runners came and went throughout the race and occasionally we'd get passed by folks on horseback on horseback -- they actually do a horse race concurrently to this one. Everyone was totally friendly, encouraging each other on, talking about other races we've done and how we got ourselves into this crazy sport. Met a bunch of folks from twitter, obviously those guys are pretty cool. I'm so bad with names anyway and that race kinda fried my brain, so you'll have to forgive me if I can't really give everyone I met their proper props. Suffice to say, as far as I'm concerned, you guys are all pretty bad ass.

Vermont is just adorable. I mean, how can you not love covered bridges and trees and sprawling farms and big red barns? Totally cliched, but so awesome and peaceful. Temps only got into the mid 70's, so while it was a little more humid than us AZ residents are used to, it was very comfortable for running.

The miles just kind of peeled off as we found our rhythm. It's a weird thing to hit mile 50 and go, "Oh cool! I'm halfway done!"

The sun went down right before we hit mile 70. That's where things started to get kind of ugly. Stanley, a local kid who just graduated from high school, was my pacer assigned by the race folks. He hung on while I refueled and had the medical people pop my blisters. Super super nice guy -- he actually hung out all day -- sorry I wasn't able to drag him along the course for the next 30 miles.

We did give it a shot, though. As we headed off into the darkness following a trail of glowsticks through the endless hills in the woods (totally surreal!), I knew that things were getting progressively more dicey. Every step started to hurt... and not just in an “ouch ouch ouch” way of blistered feet. That I could have dealt with. Something more alarming was going on. I could barely walk.

When I reached the aid station at 77.1, I was done.

You know what? I've got no regrets about dropping out whatsoever. It wasn't a tough decision at all. I do this stuff for fun... and while I love the challenge, there's no way I'm going to totally hurt myself in some serious way just to complete a race. Not too many people can say they know the absolute limits of their endurance... but I know mine: 77.1 miles.

... at least on that particular type of surface under those conditions. All these races are different... even different year to year.

Lessons learned? Next time I do a race like this -- and there will be a next time -- I'm gonna recruit someone to be on my crew, especially if the weather is unpredictable. There was no reason for me to carry a rain jacket that I didn't need all the way to 40. Seemed like a good idea at the time since I couldn't get it again during the race if I dropped it, but that's an awful long way to carry a piece of gear like that. Plus, as far as supplies during the race went, with 30 aid stations, I really only needed a hand bottle and some pockets, not the full carrying capacity of the Camelbak.

Also, tend to blisters and stuff early. It's worth it to take the time to tape and repair. I'm convinced that the reason my leg is so trashed is that I changed my gait, trying to avoid further flesh wounds on my feet. Extra socks probably would have helped, since the course was pretty wet. I changed shoes at mile 30, but now I'm wondering if I should have stuck with the New Balance 790's instead of switching to the Brooks Cascadias, given the relatively mild terrain on the course. It's a lot different running in Vermont than AZ -- no rocks -- and I'm not convinced the Cascadias fit as well as they could. I guess that really matters.

Finally... I've gotta stop trying to rely on Gu and that kind of stuff -- it just gets to be too gross to eat those artificial sugars after more than about 12 hours. For the record, though, I didn't have any trouble with weigh ins... I kept popping Endurolytes, so I was able to compensate for the sweat / humidity, no problem. Next time, all pretzels! (Ummm... maybe.) I ate a ton of fresh fruit on the course and found that it really agreed with me. Watermelon, canteloupe... ym. PB 'n' J... not so much. I should probably look for a reliable source of protein... I guess that's why people like Perpetuem, right?

So... right. If you know me, you know I'm a glutton for this particular kind of punishment. This ultra running stuff is totally in my blood now. I've gotta battle my Mom in the Portland Marathon and a bunch of my idiot friends in the AZ IronMan, but then I'll be back on the hunt, looking for my next challenge.

I'm not sure if I'll do the Vermont 100 again, but it really is an amazing race, incredibly well organized and executed. The course was very well marked and the aid stations, well stocked. Thanks! I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it as a first hundred to anyone who really wants to find out what they're made of.

Before I wrap this up though, I just wanna give a shout out to the GAC ultra running crew, out of Boston -- I met 'em in the bar the night before the race. Totally awesome people. They were all over the course, cheering everyone on.

What a way to spend my birthday, eh?


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