Tuesday, July 21, 2009

2009 vermont 100 mile endurance run: race report

this was my third consecutive time at the vermont 100 mile endurance run. in 2007, with emmy pacing me, i finished the tough, grueling course. it was my first hundred mile race! in 2oo8, i dropped at camp ten bear, mile 48. it was my first dnf at a race of any distance. now, in 2009, with rob pacing me, i bounced back and finished it once again! this year was especially memorable (i hesitate to employ the word "fun" until i can again walk normally) because after 26+ hours of leap frogging each other, emmy and i crossed the finish line together!

but, i get ahead of myself. on thursday night, as a result of my habitual procrastination, i found myself scrambling to put together drop bags. katie not only helped pack, but labeled them as well. all together there were three drop bags, for four aid stations: stage road at mile 30, camp ten bear (twice) at miles 48 and 70, and bill's at mile 88. at the pre-race briefing i would add a change of clothes to include in hugo's mile 20 drop bag at pretty house. this was way more gear than i'd actually need but, given the rainy forecast, i wanted plenty of dry clothes.

at the pre-race briefing, it was a reunion of sorts with so many familar faces: nick, john, yuki (running her first hundred), hiro, christine, joe, tammy, scott, mark, lydia, admas, and anthony to name just a few. also met for the first time jamie, bob, and yuki (who had just run western states). b.u.s friend ira had to pull out at the last minute because of medical reasons. that, in turn, resulted in his pacer, nick, running with emmy instead! the weather forecast for race day, as related to the assembled crowd by zeke was very bleak - kicking off with thunderstorms in the morning and tapering to just plain rain for most of the day.

while it rained throughout the night, and briefly during the first hour of the race, thankfully it was dry from then on! instead of rain, we had to contend with early morning humidity and lots of mud and muck on the trails. my plan was to run the race from aid station to aid station - and periodically change into dry socks, shirts, and hats along the way. i wore a fuel belt with 2 small water bottles, and a fanny pack that included my camera, along with sundry items (such as glide and gu).

i started off with a small handheld flashlight instead of a headlamp. by 5 a.m. it was light enough to run without it. the first (unmanned) station was at 7 miles, which we reached in just over 1:20 - drenched from a combination of rain and humidity. during the stretch up to pretty house at mile 20, i ran on and off with emmy, yuki, and yuki. at pretty house i had tucked some dry clothes into hugo's drop bag (actually a plastic box) and switched into dry clothes. joe and john were there, along with carrie's family (w/her children as crew)!

the next stretch, leading up to stage road at mile 30, included a climb up to mountain meadow - some of the most beautiful vistas of the entire course. again, at stage road i took the time to switch into dry clothes (especially socks). hiro was there, but had missed yuki's arrival since she had zoomed in earlier than expected. anthony was there waiting to meet up with bob. exiting stage road, said hi to john once again. then came the climb up suicide six! i had spent too much time (15-20 minutes) at stage road, but was recharged for the next leg.

as happens in many of my longer races, i usually hit a down patch in the late 30's. this race was no different, and i found myself falling into a mental rut for a 3-4 mile stretch. between lincoln covered bridge (the second covered bridge on the course) at mile 39.2 and barr house at 41.2 was an unrelenting uphill road climb! along this stretch we witnessed a horse receiving first aid (iv solution) from an ems team, and a runner puking pretty badly at the unmanned aid station at the barr house! in between, emmy not only spotted a tiny orange salamander on the road, but insisted on "rescuing" it! as i watched in amazement, 3 other runners joined in to move it off the road!!

the high point of mile 41.4 was notching another decade mark on the road to finish. as expected, by the early 40's i had gotten my second wind and made it into camp ten bear in good spirits. my mood was boosted even further when katie ran the last quarter mile down the road with me to the weigh-in! at check-in, my weight was a remarkably high 177 - almost 12 pounds more than what weighed on thursday!! i thought the number was totally off, but it was what it was! after 10:36 hours on the road, i weighed in at 172 - a 5 pound drop! i changed into dry clothes once again, but passed on the food pat and katie had brought. once again i stayed way too long (20-25 minutes) in the aid station!

emmy and i left camp ten bear together. in the understatement of the race, she remembered an easy 3 mile stretch coming up. what neither of us knew (and didn't realize until nick told us later that night) was that agony hill (a brutally challenging 1 mile uphill on rocks and mud) had been inserted as part of the course modifications! what a rude awakening that turned out to be! but just after mile 51, pinky's aid station, i fell into another mental rut. this time my legs started to ache. i made it to tracer brook and took some advil. with a 3 mile uphill road climb ahead, the advil had plenty of time to kick in during the power walk!

by prospect hill, mile 60.2, i was in good enough shape to run again - and managed to run margaritaville. my mild disappointment at not finding real live margaritas was wiped out with real live cheeseburgers! hiro was at this aid station, waiting for yuki and yuki. they, along with emmy, were right behind me. emmy and i ran the next stretch, to brown's school house at mile 65 together. the grateful dead motif was uplifting - and i learned for the first time that mountain dew had more caffeine than coke! i was in serious need of a caffeine by that time.

we had out our flashlights for the five mile stretch back to camp ten bear, but made it back before dark. out of brown school house, i met up with shane - who had been at city hall with me last november, when marshall ulrich finished his run across the united states! then, on yet another long muddy stretch, doug - who was running the 100k - caught up and passed us. when i got to ten bear i expected to just meet up with rob - but was blown away to see katie there! at my weight in i had gained a pound to 173, and once again couldn't eat the food pat and katie had brought me. i went for the coffee instead - and changed into a long-sleeve shirt, and grabbed my headlamp.

again, too much time at the aid station (20+ minutes), before the 4 of us (nick, emmy, rob, and me) set out for the final 30 miles! we had a muddy, ugly climb out of ten bear - and encountered atv's on the course, not once but twice, on the stretch heading into west winds, mile 77. i hit my lowest point in the race just after 80 miles (the high of notching another decade mark didn't last long). fatigue and exhaustion had overtaken me - and i couldn't stay awake. i was literally fighting the urge to fall asleep standing up. i could have curled up into a ball and slept right on the road.

somehow rob kept me going and the three of them practically dragged me thru the five miles from cow shed to bill's at mile 88! this stretch mirrored the difficulty i had in 2007. at bill's i got another second wind - and was surprised to meet trail pixie in person! she was going to pace a friend to the finish. i changed my clothes for the last time, and off we went - with nick in the lead. while i had just gone thru the toughest mental patch, the toughest physical climb was the uphill climb to keating's at mile 92 once we left the meadow.

the final 8 miles were a mix of pain (blisters on the soles of both my feet) and pure determination to just get this thing over with. i don't know what possessed me, but somehow managed to run most of the last 5 miles. in the last mile - as we climbed up to the radio tower, emmy and i decided to cross the finish line together, the perfect way to end that long roller coaster ride up and down the hills of vermont. we finished in 26:15:14!

after a shower and couple hours sleep, we all regrouped for the post-race festivities. i must have said this was my last - positively last - trip to vermont a hundred times during the race. now, with the blisters healing and swollen feet recovering, 2010 doesn't seem too unreasonable :D

check out emmy's race report.
check out tammy's race report.


Morrissey said...

wow, congratulations on the 100Miler. that's just amazing. so i guess escarpment is a piece of cake this upcoming weekend frank!

Runner Tammy said...

Hi Frank,

Very nice race report!

I did not know (or ignored) the race modification but sure did think there was a significant challenging hill after Camp 10 Bear the first time.

You looked really great when I saw you at the finish and I was so happy to hear that you and Emmy had run a good portion of the later part of the race.

Good friends on a long run definitely make it go faster.

And I love how Katie helped you pack. That is really neat.

Now, go rest and relax and savor your accomplishment!


UltraBrit said...

Way to go Frank! I'm amazed that you can run 5 miles with blisters on the soles of your feet. Ouch! Way to go Katie for helping you out and to Emmy for her great performance and for saving the salamander! ;o) I am constantly amazed and inspired by you. Congrats!

CTmarathoner said...

I am definately 'thinking' about going back next year --think that between stage rd, camp 10 bear at miles 47 and 70, could have saved an hour easy!! But I'd be hard pressed to ever break 24 unless I really worked on my miserable downhill running -lol...Personally, I did not need to change socks, shoes or clothing...it just goes to show you how well we really ran when we did:)
The volunteers and other runners is what makes this race special..I did luck out by getting Nick, a seasoned ultra runner, to pace me. and am so happy that we finished together.

DawnB said...

congratulations Frank , you first 100 miler outstaning. Very inspirational.

Just_because_today said...

I'll never say never but....oh, reading your report, it seems amazing and difficult! funny that you get into a mental rut at mile 30, we all have those mental ruts at every distance but you pulled out of it and finished. Great that you all finished together

ChickenUnderwear said...


I often think of you when people congratulate me for finishing a marathon.


Scott said...

Excellent job! Congrats! I recommend sleeping in middle of dirts roads. It does wonders. :)