Man, I really don't know where to begin. What a race, what a weekend, what a trip. What great friends to share it all with.
We had a nice flight into Boston, found our Explorer for the weekend and drove into Woodstock, VT. I was surprised that the vegetation/foliage in the area of VT where we were was much like Minnesota. There were white pines, maples, birch and in the yards were hostas, day lilies, shasta daisies; it felt like I was at home although I didn't see any lakes, instead I saw the mountains.
I enjoyed arriving Thursday as I didn't have to begin feeling quite so nervous and didn't have to think 'oh boy, tomorrow I'll be running'. We had all of Friday to check out the aid stations, look at the course a bit, attend packet pickup and chill out. I needed chilling out. I was a nervous wreck, really. I didn't know what to expect. I knew I would be doing a ton of climbing and downhill running; were the ski hill repeats I had been doing going to be enough? I was afraid the answer would be no, but at least I had done them, I had been training on gravel road, for this I felt grateful.
Tom and Nancy were celebrating their 4th year wedding anniversary. They had ventured out to VT 4 years ago to be married and Tom ran the 100 while Nancy paced and crewed for him. They knew where to shop, where to eat, where some cool views were and pretty much knew the route, although it had been changed a bit. They took care of Alicia and I very well!
Tom was pacing Alicia and Nancy was crewing for her. I would be using drop bags with no pacer. I was hoping to catch Tom and Nancy at a few aid stations, it is so nice to see a friendly face along the way! This would be Alicia's first 100! My plan was first to finish, and if things went very well, maybe I could get 28 hours. Because I had never run in the mountains, I wasn't sure how my quads would hold out. I didn't know if 28 could be a reality. I'd soon find out.
Packet pickup just makes me plain nervous. The inevitable is approaching, I'm a pile of nerves and I just don't like it. We had to have a blood pressure check. I took a deep breath as she cuffed me. Wow. 104/80. She commented: 'well, you must not be too nervous; there are MEN here that would love that pressure' What is that supposed to mean? MEN? I was a bundle of nerves.
I didn't recognize many faces, however, Damon from the Precision Nutrition board was at pickup and we talked a bit. We even ran some miles together in the beginning of the race; he ended up running a PR. Good job!
Friday night we set the alarm for 2AM. I slept well, before I knew it, it was time to rise and shine. Here we go!
I ate my pre race always: peanut butter sandwich, banana and HEED. We ate, got dressed and were out the door by 3. Oh boy, the reality is approaching..
Race start and I was all jitters. I didn't want to talk, I just wanted to climb into a cocoon until we could run. I waited in line for the porta potties. I was freezing. I hadn't taken along a jacket or long sleeved shirt. It was 55F but felt chilly standing around. I couldn't wait to just begin running.
Pretty soon I heard 123, start. OK, we're off to whatever this race holds for us. Who knows? I had a flashlight with me, it was very dark, but the stars were out and they were beautiful. Alicia and I ran together for a while, then I had to stop to potty again so lost her. I just plodded on, thinking about what the day may bring, and how fortunate I was to be able to be here..in Vermont..running the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run. There were over 200 people entered and like 40 women! I've never run a race with so many women entered. How cool. All of the training I had been doing on gravel roads and the hills, would it be enough? I hoped that my road shoes were a good choice. Most of the people who I had asked about whether I should wear trail or road shoes stated road. Too late to worry about it now.
I had 4 drop bags along the course. I had socks, foot potion, gels, cliff blocks and beans in each bag plus in my night bag I had a jacket, long sleeved shirt, flashlight and headlamp. I hoped that I had packed enough drop bags.
The weather was forecast to be a beautiful day. Mid 70's, low dew points, sunny with a breeze. Perfect for running. It had rained since we arrived Vermont but the trail wasn't muddy. It felt pretty good.
There were two unmanned aid stations with water and HEED before we came to the first aid station with food at 15 miles. I filled up my bottle with HEED at each of the aid stations. The sun was coming up, I was able to turn off my flashlight and get a view of what it was I was running upon. We were on a gravel road, pretty wide, meandering through farm areas. It reminded me of the gravel roads near our cabin on Lake Vermilion, much of the same type of trees, but here there were lots of farms with cows and horses.
I was wearing a new pink pair of Xy Weiss' gaiters and a pink top. I must have a dozen pink running tops. Yes, I love pink. Everywhere I went people would call me pinky! "Hey Pinky, nice socks", Hey Pink! Love your shirt"! It was funny. I'd laugh and smile and agree.
I was becoming hungry; I ate a Hammergel espresso each hour until we reached the aid station Taftsville Bridge at 15.3 miles. I was starving. I grabbed a PBJ sandwich and headed off as quickly as I could. I could see Alicia up ahead of me, but couldn't catch up to her. I was a bit worried as someone told me I was running a 22 hour pace. Shit; I didn't want to be going this fast. I needed to slow down.
This race is held with a horse race. They run the same route, beginning an hour later than the runners. There were 13 horses entered. They have to take mandatory 30 minute breaks and vet checks along the way. As they first approached me I became nervous. I didn't want to get run over, even though everyone said they were very friendly. Still. They were big. And fast. Eventually I became more at ease with the horses and even asked a woman if I could take a picture of her and her horse. I wanted to make sure it wouldn't spook the horse. She told me sure, if I could do it on the fly. I was glad I took the picture then, as it was the last time I saw the horses on the course.
The uphills were definitely long. I would climb, climb, climb, for what seemed like forever, then down, down, down we'd go. My legs felt strong, but man, it was early yet. I was worried for my quads and knees. Would they hold up on this flatlander girl? We'd see.
There was maybe a total of 2 miles of flats. Honestly, it was up or down. Just as my climbing muscles would tire, I could switch into downhill mode. I was enjoying this run very much, but was surprised at all of the road sections. It was almost ALL road. I was thankful that I had been training on gravel road and ski hills. Thankful I decided to wear road shoes. This was a road ultra.
As I was approaching Pretty House aid station, the first crew access, I was hoping that Tom and Nancy would still be around. Alicia was in front of me, so they could have already left, but since the next crew access was in 10 more miles I thought they might be around. They were! I was so excited to see them. Pretty House had a porta pottie I could use. Tom and Nancy had my drop bag ready for me. I grabbed some more gels, some cliff blocks and some cliff beans. I had some watermelon, grabbed a PBJ and was off to hit the trail. I felt great, but worried that I was going too fast. I was on 23 hour pace and figured I had no business being there. My goal was 28-to finish under 30 and 23 hour could kill me. I didn't want the end of this race to be a death march. I tried to slow down.
I was just amazed at how much road there is in this race. Even though I read that there is lots of gravel roads, even though I had on my road shoes, I still didn't think there were be so much road. I was also surprised that the views looked just like home. I could have been running in my neighborhood. The same perennial gardens, the same trees, it was crazy!
I felt fantastic. My worst section was between 7 miles and 15 miles, while I was worrying about being hungry and finding my groove and all, otherwise, I felt really strong. Nothing hurt, I didn't feel any hot spots on my feet, I was eating and drinking, all systems go.
I was wearing the Krissy (Moehl) Vest (thanks Krissy!) from Nathan and loved it! No hydration system, just a vest with pockets. It was perfect for all my gels, iPod, flashlight, etc. I used one handheld and that was plenty. I was sure to drink 24 oz each hour. I just don't like anything hanging on my waist. I was having zero problems.
The prettiest view ( in my opinion) was before the 30 mile aid station. There was a mountainous, grassy area full of clover with great look out views. As I was climbing, climbing the mountain and getting to the top, out popped Alicia from the woods! It was wonderful to see her again. We talked about how great we were feeling, how nice it was to be off of the road during this section and how pretty this view was. We looked around a bit and then began to run toward the next crewed access aid station. I was happy to be with Alicia, and happy to know that I'd be able to see Tom and Nancy soon.
I didn't have a drop bag here so I had my bottle filled, grabbed a PBJ, said hello to Tom and Nancy and goodbye to Tom, Nancy and Alicia. I headed out as they helped Alicia get set . I was still worried about my pace. The guys I was going out of the aid station were all excited because we were on 23-24 hour pace. I was happy that it wasn't a 22-23 hour pace anymore.
This next section was a ton more of road, I pulled out my iPod and rocked and rolled along. I felt so good. I felt euphoric. Then I felt afraid that I was so damn high, the crash would come soon. God, quite worrying, will you? Just enjoy! It was 17 miles to Camp Ten Bear so a good long time before I had a drop bag and crew access. I didn't know if I'd see Tom and Nancy, it depended on where Alicia was. I couldn't believe all of the road running I was doing. This was a road 100, not a trail 100 is what I was thinking.
My legs were holding out just fine. My quads felt strong, my knees felt great. I found that I'd pass people as I'd climb, then get passed as I ran downhill. I was afraid to let go and run downhill too fast, afraid that I'd hurt my knees or something. I didn't feel comfortable running real fast, bombing down the hills, I figured I'd save that for the last 20 miles!
OOOHOOO Camp 10 Bear and 47 miles in. I couldn't believe it. I felt high on endorphins. I saw Nancy waving and taking pictures and I was SO happy to be alive, to be running this race, to be feeling good, and holy shit, I was already almost half way done. Time was flying by! Nancy took off my vest for me, took my bottle and ushered me into the scale to be weighed. I was down 1 pound for the packet pickup weigh in. The Dr. asked how I felt: euphoric, high...wondering when I'll crash? He told me I didn't have to crash, just eat, drink, be merry! I was merry alright! Tom had my drop bag, helped me get my gels, a baggie of endulalytes and Advil, which I never needed (the Advil) during the race, asked me if I needed foot potion and socks, I didn't! My feet were fine! First time ever! I left the socks and potion behind, grabbed a PBJ, my bottle of HEED, Nancy helped me with my vest and I was out of there, enjoying every step.
I had been running with Joe and Terry. Terry from IL, and coached also by Lisa, and Joe from the Pitsfield races with Andy of McNaughton. It was really nice to run with these guys; I went back and forth, playin leapfrog with them until near the end of the race. They kept me very good company. Each time they would come upon me I'd hear "PINKY!" I knew it was them. I wasn't alone too much during the day. On sections that I was by myself I'd start up my iPod and enjoy the music. The views were pretty much the same during the whole race. I had heard how beautiful Vermont was, and I suppose it is, but pretty much what I get to see every day. Minnesota is every bit as beautiful although the rock fences around the properties in Vermont is very cool, very beautiful.
I ran road for what seemed forever and a day, eventually this long long downhill into Tracer Brook at 57 miles. I saw Tom alongside the road, wow, I got to see he and Nancy again! How wonderful. They told me Alicia was back a ways, but doing well, holding her own, that I was still on 24 hour pace. I finally let it go. I was no longer going to be worried about going too fast. Hell, maybe I could crack 28 hours? 27? 26? I didn't want to get too excited, there was so much race left. I didn't have a bag here so just grabbed a sandwich, a hug and kiss from Tom and Nancy and climbed and climbed and climbed our of Tracer Brook. On road. Again. More road. This was a long climb. Just as my climbing muscles were tired, down I was able to go. No flats here.
I got to Margaritiville much earlier that I planned. A line of spectators yelled "GO PINK" I laughed and smiled. I was having so much fun!! The volunteers at all of the aid station were so friendly, always asked right away what I needed, what could they do to help, etc. They were wonderful! I certainly didn't need my lights and night clothing. It was like 630 or so for 100K. I was wishing I had my lights at the next drop bag-where we run through Camp 10 Bear again. Oh well. I put my head lamp and long sleeved shirt into my vest, I left my jacket in the bag, I was warm in a sleeveless shirt and didn't think I'd need it. I filled my bottle, grabbed a turkey sandwich and headed out with a thank you, a smile and a wave.
As I was running along a guy came upon my, he told me the guys in back of me wanted to buy me a bottle of champagne. I looked at him like 'what the hell is your deal' and kept running. He kept running alongside me and said, no really, they told me to catch PINKY. I started laughing. Oh, it's Joe and Terry again. Sure enough, it was. I had been alone for quite some time so was happy to hook up with them again. They had a few pacers at Camp 10 Bear and told me I could probably use one if I'd like. Yeah, I'd like! Now I had the 24+ hour on the brain, knew I could crack 28 and knew a pacer could get me there. Heck, maybe a pacer could get me to 24. Yeah, I'd love a pacer!
Into Camp 10 Bear, Tom and Nancy were there! It was 730 PM, 15 hours in, at 70 miles. I NEVER anticipated I'd be this far, this early. I couldn't believe it. Nancy had told me earlier she didn't think they'd see me again. Tom was getting dressed to pace Alicia in a while, Nancy took some pictures, I was weighed-up like 6 pounds-and I headed out with the boys. Out of Camp 10 Bear was really pretty, there were rolling hills, pretty big estates with the horses, the big beautiful barns, the landscaped yards, lots of money in these homes. Very pretty. We ran along, eventually having to turn on our lights. It was getting dark. Two pacers came along with me, Terry and Joe. Terry decided to drop back, he was struggling a bit, so the pacer with him kind of came up to me, then the other pacer ended up pacing Joe in. "My" pacer hadn't run much before. His knees were killing him, he had to remove his inserts; I was amazed as I watched him pull TWO inserts from each shoe, then he carried them in his hand and ran along. Eventually I noticed he didn't have a light. I asked him if he had a light, um, no, he had a cell phone though that had a light. OK then. At the next aid station I heard him tell the aid station volunteer that he was done, his runner had smoked him. Oh well.
Joe and his pacer took off like two crazy men. I didn't see them again, and I couldn't keep up. They looked like they were flying. I kept hoofing along, it was late, it was dark, I didn't see hardly any other runners and felt very alone.
It was kind of spooky running along, all alone, in the areas of homes. It was Saturday night, I could hear a party in the distance and was hoping that some of the cars whizzing by me weren't drunks. I knew most of the traffic was probably crew people.
I was running a ton of road into Bills aid station. It seemed like to took forever and a day to get from 81 to 88 miles! I was SO happy to see people again, to have someone to talk to. I had to be weighed here, was down 5 of the 6 I was up. I stayed at the aid station about 3 minutes, then headed back out into the darkness.
Now I was tired of all this. I just wanted to be done, I was tired of being alone and carrying this vest on my back. My light was giving my a head ache but I kept telling myself if these are my only complaints I'm doing pretty fricking well! I'm 88 miles in, feeling damn good, insanely tired and worn out, but in one piece, still running, and holy shit I'm going to finish in the DARK! That blew me away.
I came into Polly's at 95.5 miles and couldn't believe it. I was still high as a kite, although a worn to the born, tired kite. I was shuffling, just telling myself one foot in front of the other..I filled my bottle, grabbed some gummi bears and said over and out, I'm on my way home. The aid station guy asked if I was going to try to crack 24 hours. I told him no, my goal was 28 hours. I'm golden with 25 hours, I can do 25. Oh my gosh, I couldn't believe it. He looked heart broken for me that I wasn't going to get a buckle at 24. Here I am, telling him it's OK, a buckle wasn't ever in my plan, then I realized WHY AM I EXPLAINING THIS TO YOU??? I have a race to finish and no, I never wanted 24 hours as a goal. I shuffled on out, waiting to reach the 97.8 mile unmanned station. That was the next goal. One aid station at a time.
I was finally on trail. Sure, now I'm on trail and it's dark so I can't see the trail anyway. Oh, but I'm glad it's dark. Oh my god, I'm going to finish in the fricking dark, that never crossed my mind, finishing in the dark, I thought I'd get stronger with the sunrise, now I don't have to wait for the sun rise. Be stronger now. Wow. Dark at the finish. Holy frickin' shit. Oh a rock. A fence. A rock fence. I have to crawl over it. Oh man. Put my bottle down on the other side, heave the leg over and crawl over the frickin' rock. Oh my god, this is the ONLY rock on the whole 100 mile route. Superior is all rocks. Oh my god. Superior. Superior is so much more difficult. So much harder. All rocks. Oh god, 24 hours in and I'll only be 70 miles in at Superior. Don't worry about Superior now worry about finishing this. Maybe I'll do the 50 at Superior instead. I don't want to be out there for 38 fricking hours. Don't worry about Superior now, worry about finishing this! Ok, Ok, yeah, finishing this.
Here's Sargeant's! 97.7 miles! Oh my god, I'm going to finish before 25, I am! Here comes a girl and her pacer. "How can you run this without a pacer? I could never run this without a pacer" her pacer "maybe after I finish her, I can come back and get you" runner "NO YOU WON'T, I need you at the finish" pacer "oh, maybe not...." That was about the 10th person that asked me how I could run this without a pacer? I don't know..same as you..one foot in front of the other..
Where the hell is the finish? It has to be soon. Sure, nice trail and it's dark. Can't see a thing. It's steep. It hurts my blisters. I can feel them. Squish, squish, my legs are tired, they hurt, they want to be done, my brain is tired, I want to be done done done. Where is the finish? Bats are flying right in front of my face. Maybe if I sing they will leave me alone. They do!
Lights in milk jugs..must mean I'm close. I don't hear anything. God, I have to be done. I can't take anymore.
Oh my gosh, there is the banner. I'm done. Before 25 hours! WOOHOO! I scream WOOHOO! Nancy yells JULIE? Yes! I'm done! It's still dark and I'm done 24:41. Woohoo!
Nancy is there, she takes a picture of me, with her camera, with my camera, the timer guy is there and a girl and a few people waiting for their runners. It's wonderful. I rocked 24:41. Never in my wildest dreams.
Nancy wraps me in a blanket, I sit in the chair and talk about the race. Alicia is out there somewhere with Tom, we don't know where. Nancy gets me hot Ramen noodles, it tastes wonderful. My legs are already stiffening up on me. My body is done. The race is done for me. Thank goodness.
We wait at the finish line, wrapped in blakets, eventually I go and lay down in the tent on a cot. I tell Nancy if Alicia comes in to scream loud for me to return. I keep on having bad coughing fits in the tent and I can't fall asleep. I'm in my sweaty running clothes but cold. I never wore anything but my sleeveless shirt, it was that warm. Now I could use a jacket or something. I'm freezing.
I walk back to Nancy and the finish line, the sun rises, we watch the finishers arrive; it's wonderful to watch. To watch each and every finisher, cross that line, a changed person. Leaving so much on the trail, but picking up so much more of themselves.
Nancy gets me a Diet Coke. I'm too cold to take my unsleeved arm out of my blaket so she puts the can to my mouth and I drink. I feel like a two year old, but I let her take care of me. She's wonderful. It was so wonderful to have her at the finish line for me. What a treat. What a friend. I love her.
We begin to worry about Alicia and Tom, but know that Alicia is strong and determined, she will finish and Tom will get her to the finish line.
He does. Alicia finishes her first 100 mile run. What a celebration. We are 100 mile finishers. Oh yeah. Alicia was awesome, she is a 100 mile finisher.
There is a fabulouse post race meal. Grilled chicken, fruit, salads, ice cream. We eat a ton and are awarded our plaques. We are exhausted and ready to shower and rest. Tom and Nancy take such great care of Alicia and I. They carry all of our gear, get us into our motel, they do everything for us. They are such good people. They are so kind. We are so grateful.
What a weekend. What a race. What great friends I have.
I'll have pictures up soon. I took a load of pictures along the course.