This is about as "party" as we could make it :)
Hanging out at the pre-race briefing / supper:
Several of the runners who are working toward a Grand Slam, having finished Western States. After this comes Leadville and Wasatch. Good luck you crazy guys!
It was nice to spend some time with Steve from Albany before (and after) the race. Ready to get this show on the dirt road:
We were treated to a fireworks display at 3:55 a.m.! How cool is that. An hour later there were some loud "booms" reverberating through the woods and we eventually determined that they must have repeated it for the start of the horse race. I'm not sure I would have appreciated it quite as much if I were sitting atop a horse.
At least John is in focus for this shot, just before the start:
Kip was much further toward the front of the field - apparently he led the race for a few feet at the start, go Kip go!
We headed off down the dirt road for a ways, up another road, and then started up a narrow trail. I used a micro-light and mooched off the bright lights around me. That worked up to a point, until I wanted to climb a bit faster and had to jump ahead to another group with good lights. So maybe I could have carried something just a little brighter...
My original goal for this race was to try for even pacing throughout the day and night. I also wanted to focus on climbing well, taking it easy on the downhills, and doing some "zen" on the occasional flat sections. Then I got caught up in how good I felt on the uphills and actually pushed the pace a bit more than perhaps was prudent.
A bit more trail and then we were on roads, mostly uphill, past a couple unmanned aid stations, and eventually into Woodstock. I tried to be careful on the long paved downhill into town. My legs felt a lot better than at this point last year, so I thought that was encouraging. I was making up about 2-3 minutes per aid station section compared to last year as well. Thoughts of a PR (personal record) drifted into my head.
Kip is all smiles as he greets John in Woodstock:
I actually look like I'm running! That might be a sign that I'm moving too fast... Hi John!
I still felt pretty good through the Taftsville Bridge aid station and along a flat-ish road to the next set of climbs back into the hills. My climbing legs were happy so I was happy.
The fields and farms were beautiful in this section - this is where I always have the mental energy to notice things like that. Also this sign which made me laugh:
A short section of double-track trail felt really nice. Then some more road and on to the first crewed aid station where we would see John. Yay John!
Marcy running in to Pretty House:
Kip arrived over 20 minutes before I did, nice work. I was doing well vs. my 2012 splits and I tried to get through the aid station quickly. There was a bit of wind and sprinkling rain, ah that felt great. I asked John if he could get us some more of that, and he said he would work on it.
John noticed this license plate and got a photo for me - thanks John! Funny thing was the same guy appeared near me later on the course to take pictures of the gorgeous field around mile 46 and I also noticed the plate. I can hear George Takei in my head...
The first couple miles out of Pretty House I remembered well from last year, including a couple rather steep uphills. Then I lost track of where we were, and the U-Turn aid station seemed like it was in a completely different place. Here's the first split where I lost time compared to 2012, and although I was thinking that the course might have been rerouted, I didn't remember how the mileages compared and it seemed like I was losing ground.
More trail that didn't look familiar. Finally we crossed a small road and things started looking like I remembered. Ah yes, here's the big wide open field on top that people call "Sound of Music Hill" - very pretty! We had great views again.
Big downhill, several steep downhill spots where my knees asked me to take it easy. No problem, try to stay smooth. The road down to the next aid station seemed shorter than I remembered, that's always nice. My total time, however, didn't seem to reflect the extra work I had been doing compared to last year. That was slightly disappointing.
Kip running down the hill to Stage Road - looking good!
I arrived a short time later. Happy to see John! I sat for a moment to drink some Gookinaid and Ensure. I asked about a porta-potty but didn't feel the need to backtrack a short ways off the road to use it. OK, good to go, see ya honey!
The steep climb up the next meadow was memorable in several ways. Here is where I first remember running into stinging nettle around my ankles, ow. This was while trying to avoid the big mud puddles that had a ton of horse and runner footprints through them. I was partially successful in at least keeping my heels dry (they were well taped after last weekend's issues but I didn't want to stress it). Also, I saw a few raspberries and managed to find a good one - Berry Quest complete!
Finally into the woods, a few more mud puddles that were easier to avoid, some nicer trail, a road down to route 12 and a manned aid station. I believe I started eating pieces of fruit here, starting with some yummy cantaloupe. Later on the course I found watermelon (awesome!) and even a couple cherries. Back up into the woods.
I mixed and drank a half serving of Spiz at the Vondell Reservoir. Also finally found an alternative to the few-and-far-between porta-potties with a spot in a field, much better...
A bunch of folks were out cheering for a runner ahead of me on the road to the covered bridge, that was fun to watch. I was still running quite a bit of the downhills, flats, even the gentle uphills. It was great being better trained this year, although I might have taken that for granted and pushed too much when I felt good early on.
Finally the uphill started to get just a bit difficult on the long steep climb to Barr House. That climb takes a while to get started but then doesn't seem to ever end. Did I mention that it's steep? Steep is not usually my forte. Finally... phew.
I felt fine on the long downhill to the paved road, gradually passing people while still trying to take it easy. A whole herd of guys followed me out of the next aid station and proceeded to leave me in the dust on the paved climb along the busy road. I don't blame them, I was happy to get that "zooming cars" part over with too.
A couple horses passed me on the next narrow trail, and I saw a few more horses coming up from behind. I decided it would be nice to get to the dirt road before they caught up, so I worked hard on the uphill to stay ahead. As might be obvious, I was continuing to make the mistake of pushing too hard too early in the race. All the while I kept comparing my splits, amazed at how well Jason and I had moved through this section last year. I thought I had been doing better, but I was running basically the same time.
I love the big view across the farmland in the last couple miles before Camp Ten Bear. So pretty. It was turning warm and humid as we expected it might, but I got lucky with some clouds in most of the open field areas. I got a bit of ice and soda in a cup, drank the soda, then put the ice in my hat. The dripping cold water felt great on my head.
Happy with my split into Camp Ten Bear, happy to see John again. He told me that Kip had just left - wow, I was surprised to have almost caught up to him. My weight was down 2 pounds from the Friday weigh-in, that seemed OK. John fetched a bunch of ice for my hat (wow, that was pretty cold on my head) and I drank as much of the Gookinaid and Ensure as I could, although it seemed a bit more than I wanted.
Time for the big Ten Bear loop...
It started off so well, so very briefly. I felt good running the flat road and saw Kip up ahead. I caught up to him in the first part of the trail and we had a good time chatting. I slowed way down for the steep uphill in the sun (no luck with the clouds on this one) and told Kip to go on ahead but he waited for me as other people passed us. Kip was trying out trekking poles and really liking them for the uphills.
Eventually we found more runnable trail, and at a downhill I was back to being faster than Kip so I moved ahead a little. He had been having issues before Ten Bear, whereas I was just starting to feel really slow. The steep uphills were taking a lot out of me, and there is no shortage of those in the Vermont 100!
Occasionally we would go through some vegetation and then a few seconds later my ankles would start stinging. I thought I was still running into stinging nettle, but eventually I figured out that anything rubbing on my skin caused it to start stinging. Not sure what was up with that, but it was rather painful and annoying.
The section between Pinky's and Birmingham's I didn't remember at all, but it including another long climb where many people passed me again. I was starting to think that "climb strong" had not been a good strategy at the start of the race. My legs did so well at that for 50 miles. Too bad this race is twice that far.
The wind picked up and then it started raining on the way down to Tracer Brook. Oh yeah! Bring it on! Thank you for the rain, John! It felt so good, I smiled on my way past the aid station table. Finally the temperature felt good again. It also helped clean off whatever was irritating the skin around my ankles.
Hmm, maybe I should have clarified that I wanted only a short rainstorm...
On the long climb to Seven Sees the rain did stop, no worries. And there was John coming down the road - hi sweetheart!
Coming into Seven Sees:
This was a new aid station, a nice big tent next to a large field. Jason and I had assumed this was an aid station last year so it's only right that it became one eventually :)
John helped me get my stuff together and I finished the Ensure I had started at Camp Ten Bear. I was adding very little water to my hand bottle, trying to get my stomach to start processing what was already in it. Normally this just takes some time, so I was willing to keep taking only small sips on my water bottle to keep my throat moist while I waited.
John walked me out of the aid station, keeping an eye behind him which was good because Kip pulled in right as I was leaving. John sprinted back yelling to Kip that his drop bag was under the tent. Good thing one of us was still capable of running fast.
Uphill a bit, then the spot that I was waiting for - a downhill where you look across to see another huge climb. At least I was mentally ready for this one even though physically I could have done without it. Slow, slow trudge upward. Cows stared at me. Yes cows, we are the dumb ones today.
Kip had a nice uphill pace going and he caught up to me. It was great running with him for a couple miles, chatting some more and agreeing on how the rain had been awesome. We were now both having issues with the downhills. My muscles seemed to have all decided at the same time that we should be done by now. It felt like all the wheels had come off.
We approached Margaritaville to see John driving toward us (it's a long drive vs. a short run). Kip got something from the aid station table and continued on. I stopped to fill a Spiz baggie and decided to wait for John to park and run over.
Will this Spiz help? Who knows... The Vaseline will definitely help, I can tell you that much. Lots of chafing management going on.
Will the wheels go back on? Who knows.
The next few miles were about recovery and keeping moving and altering my plans and goals. I learned that if I ran a few steps in the middle of the uphills (as long as it wasn't too steep) I could keep my legs a lot looser so they weren't completely tied in knots for the next downhill. I did some deep breathing and worked on my posture. I planned for the next round of Vaseline application. Slowly, slowly, putting wheels back on.
It wasn't the smoothest of rides after that - still in need of alignment and probably a lot more. And the long downhill run back to Ten Bear was slow but manageable. I continued to get passed by runner after runner.
At the turn back to the aid station a couple runners were coming toward us, apparently having missed the turn and finally figuring it out. Now THAT would be an awful infinite loop. They argued with the woman in front of me that the arrows were wrong (despite the 4 left turn arrows I could see right in front of me). I let her commiserate with them and kept my opinions to myself. Got enough issues over here.
John had been busy shopping while we were out on the course - apparently he found a rummage sale that had not just one but TWO ducks and that got him started on all the funny things he could buy for us. A bouquet of flowers (aw), a truly hideous painting of puppies that looks cute at first until you look at it closer, and three entertaining books in case we wanted to sit and read for a while. Too funny!
Monty Python, Homer's Iliad, and Jeff Foxworthy - quite a selection to pick from:
Hey, it's John Geesler! I am honored to be captured in a picture with such a running legend, and we even have a similar stride going:
Happy to sit for a minute. My weight had dropped another 5 pounds (!) but they only asked how I felt and then let me walk away. Still not really wanting to drink anything but I tried.
Oh yes, I want to change my socks! John helped me carefully remove the wet ones (my heel tape was still looking good, yay) and slide on some heavenly dry ones. I should have changed my whole outfit here to reduce the chafing issues but instead continued to resort to lots of Vaseline at regular intervals.
Erg, time to shuffle on. I told John my only goal was to get to the Spirit of '76 aid station. Sounds like a plan. I took a light and started out. The next steep climb actually didn't seem to go that badly. I even passed another runner, a surprise to me. At the top I checked my pace sheet just for kicks (I had stopped looking at it) and was shocked to see that I was still on the same total time as last year. What the heck? I thought I was way slower by now. OK well, I can work with that.
As it got dark I got back to work, passing several more folks including Steve from Albany - hi Steve! I enjoyed the singletrack trail and following glow sticks as nighttime kicked in. I was actually feeling decent at the Seabrook aid station and I was the only one there at the time so they really took care of me (thank you!). I debated on getting some soda but decided I had had enough of the high fructose corn syrup and went with a piece of banana instead.
I remembered the trail into Spirit of '76 as being windy and twisty and hard to understand, and yep, that's what it was. It was odd being completely alone in there this time instead of watching headlamps move in all directions. Soon I was at the road and greeting John again. Up the hill, quick sit, more Vaseline, OK see you at Bill's!
The trail out of '76 was a lot more frustrating. Down, up, down, up, switchbacks that were flat and then really steep at the corners (they shouldn't even try to make switchbacks in Vermont), glow sticks all over the woods. One comfort was seeing a light high up in the trees and realizing it was the moon so at least I didn't have to go way up THERE.
Where is the dang road? Finally, there it is. I tried running down it but that wasn't any fun either. At the bottom it flattened out to a slight downhill and this seemed like something I could try to jog.
I thought that was going half-decently, but then suddenly my stomach said "enough of the jiggling!" I tried to find a spot to squat to poop but my legs were having none of that. A tree maybe? As I was fumbling with a tissue, bent at the waist, my stomach finally calmed down. Deep breathing, stand for a moment.
I started walking again, pulling my waistpack (which was pretty light but still apparently too much at the time) away from my stomach. I passed up the Goodman's aid table, still not needing any more water. At least the next section was mostly uphill and not too steep.
The long uphill trail went OK, just slow. I had just turned onto the dirt road when I heard something in the field. It sounded like a large cow or horse was trying to rush the fence and get out? Oh, it's just that set of horses coming up the trail behind me again. I had been seeing the same set of horses and riders the whole day, passing them in their rest stops and getting passed on the course. It was odd seeing horses this late in the race.
I shuffled down to Cow Shed and put enough water in my bottle for the next Spiz baggie. I was supposed to drink it here but really didn't want to. I sat for a couple minutes and managed to finish a pack of Stinger Chews. Finally with no reason to just sit there, I got up and moved slowly down the hill.
There were a ton of cars driving back and forth in here so I was glad when the course diverged to a quieter road. Here I decided I really needed to mix and drink the Spiz, otherwise I would regret not at least trying. It went down and stayed down, so that was something. My stomach still felt full and sloshy, same as it had felt for hours. Normally a liquid diet (especially the Spiz) works so well for me, I wasn't sure why my stomach was not working today. I should be at least a little hungry by now but I wasn't.
The gentle downhill was great. I could run a ways, walk a few steps, run some more, walk some more. Gentle uphills were fine too. Flats were great. There was fog in the nearby fields, so peaceful and quiet and cool. Glow sticks way up ahead, but they didn't take overly long to reach.
So I thought things were not all that bad, until I crossed the road and started along the last couple miles to Bill's. Here the steep hills started again, and my body was having NONE of it. My legs almost refused to walk uphill. I had no energy. I thought about lying down on the side of the road. I recognized it as bonking, which wasn't all that surprising considering much of my caloric intake that evening was probably still sitting in my stomach.
Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. Dang steep hills. Why are you so steep? I realized that my jog bra had been rubbing a line along my midsection because it was still wet, so I folded it up and fixed that problem. At least I could deal with one issue. The lack of energy thing was something else though. My splits were finally actually getting a lot slower than in 2012, for real this time.
Argh, a steep downhill - but so short that it should have been nothing. Another uphill. Again very short, then there was Bill's. Oh thank goodness. A couple spectators tried to give me instructions at the same time - what? - they tried again but still kept talking over each other. Or maybe I was the incoherent one? I gave up trying to understand and continued on.
Hi John! I'm not doing so well. I got on the scale, half expecting to get pulled for being more than 7% down in weight compared to yesterday. But it showed 2 pounds more than Camp Ten Bear, so I suspect something wasn't quite right with at least one of those scales.
I sat and tried to explain to John what was going on. The Medical guy came over and tried to help with suggestions for ways to get my stomach working. I tried drinking some broth and some Ensure but nothing helped. I cried because I was pretty sure I was in a deep hole. Eventually I agreed to try lying down on a cot, but when I stood up to walk my legs completely seized up. I had been sitting for 40 minutes, really too long to expect my legs to just get up and start working again.
So I called it a day. 89 miles, a really good first 50 and a tough last 39. We went to Polly's so John could help Kip get through quickly. Kip was pushing hard to try to break 24 hours and he knew it was going to be close. Go Kip go!
We drove to the finish line and John carried me (aw!) to where I could sit and watch for Kip. With less than 5 minutes to spare before the 24-hour mark, there he was! Wow! Way to go, that was an amazing effort!
Up-to-the-minute results at the finish line:
A celebratory drink for a proud runner. Kip had an incredible comeback after some rough patches, impressive finish on a difficult day.
And we're outta here!
I later started wondering about the Gookinaid, because it seemed to possibly correlate to the times I didn't feel as well early-on compared to drinking Spiz on the course when I felt fine. The powder had been around for a while and I wondered if it might have gone bad. Then I found some icky funk in the bottle we were using to mix it. Ew. I guess it wasn't enough to actually make me sick but maybe enough to cause problems?
Or maybe some combination of starting too fast and the heat/humidity, I don't know. Still frustrating, but at least I can solve the "bad Gookinaid" problem.
On the bright side, no blisters, no knee issues, no foot problem, no shin pain. My quads are taking their time in recovery but that's OK because it's all in the name of "good training".
We went to the Sunday BBQ and awards ceremony and it was fun to talk with Steve and Jenny.
Congratulations Steve on your 500 mile buckle!
And Kip has another belt buckle, nice!
It was a fun weekend, capped off by seeing Mom and Renee Sunday night/Monday morning. Now everyone is back home and it's time to start training for the next Big thing :)