Sunday, September 27, 2009

from the archives: 2007 vermont 50 mile race report

here is the follow-up to yesterday's post, the 2006 vermont 50k race report. what a difference a year made, in terms of trails and ultras run since the 50k! i ran a few more trail runs and ultras since the 50k in 2006, so when i lined up for the 50 miler in 2007 - plenty of familiar faces at the start and finish of the race!

Vermont 50 Mile Endurance Run
Brownsville, Vermont
Sunday, September 30, 2007

Last year I ran the 50K version of this event while my friend Rob took on the 50 miler. This year my friend Emmy wanted to run the 50 miler, so I agreed to tag along. As it turned out, we waited until the last possible moment to our finalize plans. We arrived at the Ascutney Mountain Resort just after 6 o’clock Saturday night and registered for the race with less than 2 hours to spare. When I got inside the first person I ran into was my friend Nick, who I knew was registered for the race. Then I ran into Emmy’s friend Hugo.

The temperature had dropped at least 20 degrees from the time we got into the car at 2 p.m. and when we arrived at Ascutney that night. I was dressed in only shorts and a tee shirt. I quickly added a long-sleeved shirt and windbreaker since we had to go back to the car and prepare drop bags. Nick and Emmy were leaving bags at 12.5 and 35 miles. I opted for only one to be left at mile 35, since I expected to carry a fanny pack. Logistically, as it turned out, I could have used one at Skunk Hollow, mile 12.5, just so I could leave some extra clothes there. As for an overall time goal, I wanted to finish in ten hours.

Race morning was foggy. It made for some spooky driving conditions. Last year on my drive to the start I actually had to let a small herd of sheep cross Route 44 before I reached Ascutney! On the drive there Saturday, we caught sight of the sheep. But it was early enough on Sunday that they were still asleep. It was dark when we arrived and there was a line of cars inching its way into the parking lot. I had a drop bag with some dry clothes for the end of the race with me as I checked in. When I headed inside to leave the drop bag, Emmy was there and the first thing I noticed was that in the darkness outside she had managed to pin her number on upside down! While quickly corrected, that was priceless!

The front of the Cunningham Building was teeming with bikers. I made my way to the line for the porta-johns and spotted Meredith there. Her husband, Eddie, was in the bike race and she was doing the 50 miler. She kidded me about still wearing glasses and not contacts. The memory of having broken my glasses at the Finger Lakes was now a distant memory. Then I grabbed a couple of bagels and chit-chatted with Nick and Hugo for a while. Emmy had found her friends Jill and Kim, both of whom were about to embark on their first 50 milers. After the various bike waves set off, we made our way down to the start. Jill’s boyfriend, Joe, still in recovery mode from the injuries he sustained from a nasty spill at the Nipmuck Trail Marathon in June, took some pictures.

While some forecasts said the temperature could drop into the low 30's, it was more like the low to mid-40's. It was chilly enough for some extra layers at the start. I wore a long-sleeve tech shirt over a short-sleeve one. I also had on my windbreaker and gloves on for the first few miles. But by the first aid station I had the windbreaker tied around my waist and the gloves tucked onto my fuel belt. I wore a fanny pack that had a Starbucks expresso shot drink, some chocolate covered expresso beans (a surprise treat that Nick broke out on Saturday night), and a couple of packs of Tylenol. I had planned on taking my camera with me, but decided against it.

Along the dirt roads to the first aid station I met a nice guy from Alabama, Wren, who was planning to run the length of the state, from north to south, with his buddy next summer to raise money for a charity he’s associated with. Their plan is to alternate the days of running between the two of them; he runs one day and is off the next while his friend runs that day. What a great adventure that sounds like! I would periodically run into him along the course, until we reached the aid station at Garvin Hill, mile 20.6 - where we finally exchanged names!

I didn’t stop at the first aid station at mile 4.3, reaching it in 41 minutes. I was still full from the pre-race bagels. During that first stretch Hugo and I ran together for a while. Now during this second stretch on the trail, I found myself running with Nick. At one point we came upon three bikes just off the path, and further along we fell in behind the EMS responders taking a biker off the course in a stretcher. It was pretty sobering stuff. The EMS ambulance passed us with lights and sirens on as we made our way down the road to the second aid station.

I reached the second aid station at mile 8.6, in 46:24, now 1:27:53 into the run. The next aid station was just short of 4 miles away and I reached it in 39:59, 2:07:53 into the run. I spent some time there looking for Emmy’s drop bag so I could leave my windbreaker. Then I had some grapes and more fluids before setting off on the next leg which would be the longest stretch between aid stations on the course. For some inexplicable reason, it was 8 miles until the next aid station! Just before the aid station I drank my Starbucks doubleshot for a caffeine boost. Reaching Garvin Hill at mile 20.6 was great - not only was there great food (I loaded up on some all-natural peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) but the views were awesome.

A few miles out of Garvin Hill I suddenly felt the need make my first pit stop and that would be a preview of the ills that befell me for the next 15 or so miles! It was a pain to not only take off my fuel belt, but the fanny pack as well, to take care of that little emergency. But I bounced back pretty quickly and cruised into Cady Brook, mile 27.5, 4:37:18 into the run. However, less than I mile out of Cady Brook my troubles returned. This was a beautiful stretch along a brook, and all I could do was look for a place to stop. No sooner had I done so - and gotten back on my way - than the need to step off the trail walloped me again! It was almost laughable at this stage. But I really had no idea what was causing me this distress.

Even so, after those two back to back stops I managed to bounce back and reach the Smoke Rise aid station at mile 31.9, in 1:11:29, for a cumulative time of 5:48:48. Amazingly, that 50K+ split was an hour better than my 2006 Vermont 50K result! I thought I had my intestinal problems behind me, so to speak, because the next stretch, to Dugdale’s Aid Station at mile 35.2 went by in 44:42, for a split of 6:33:30. My ten hour target was still doable. I ran a good portion of those miles with Nick, who had caught up to me at Smoke Rise. At Dugdale’s I ate some turkey and cheese sandwich quarters, switched into a dry hat, and left my fanny pack in my drop bag. I left my remaining Starbucks doubleshots in the drop bag untouched.

Once again, however, I was found myself battling intestinal problems. After the long switchback climb out of Dugdale’s I found myself having to step off the trail a few more times, each one more demoralizing than the previous one. By the time I reached the long string of switchbacks and twisty trails, I was starting to lose it mentally. From a biomechanical point, I still felt great - but I just couldn’t keep it together intestinally?! I reached Fallon’s at mile 39.3 in 1:21:57, for a cumulative time of 7:55:27. The ten hour goal started to seem out of reach now because I was having too much trouble bouncing back from that last wave of pit stops.

Midway to Goodman’s at mile 42.5, probably at mile 41, Emmy caught up with me and we
ran the rest of the race together. I was so happy to have her company! Amazingly, the 59:12 it took to reach Goodman’s seemed like an eternity. I was probably seriously dehydrated at this point. I wolfed down nothing but watermelon, washed down by coke, before we set off on our way to the last aid station. At 8:54:39, I was getting discouraged - but wasn’t about to let the race slip away. It took us 1:29:35 to reach Johnson’s at mile 48, for a cumulative time of 10:24:14. We walked the big hills in that stretch, but we did manage to run the flats and downhills.

The most discouraging part during that interval, which was a repeat of last year for me, was seeing the “5 miles to go” sign - since I was sure we were much closer to the end than five miles. Last year, there was an unmanned aid station set up with water and gatorade just before that point. It was absent this time around. That discouragement was quickly wisked away when we ran into Joe as he waited for Jill. Each time we ran into him he was ready with a smile and encouragement. He said we were less than a quarter mile from Johnson’s - hurray. While with him, we stopped for a couple of pictures with us holding up the hand signs he had with him.

Emmy couldn’t believe that there were still 3 miles to go after Johnson’s. That would work out to 51 miles. Afterwards, as we sat around in Cunningham’s after the race, Jim Hutchison, the race director for the Vermont 100 and a volunteer at the 50 miler, would say it was exactly 50.625 miles. Aside from plucking an apple from a tree, the last miles were all business. We finished up those 3 miles in 51:50 - and I finished 20 seconds after Emmy, in 11:16. What a long day! It turned out that Nick had not only won his age group, but he won a raffle as well and netted a bike helmet in the process.

We three watched and cheered as Jill, Hugo and a handful of others finished up the run. When I noticed the food tent being taken down I went over to grab something to eat - luckily, some food was still there. No luck on the drinks, which were all gone. Emmy found the time to take a shower (despite the lack hot water available!), and we met back up at Cunningham’s. On the way back she had run into Meredith outside and learned that she had been pulled from the course at 48 miles! In fact, a few minutes later Meredith and her husband came inside and we commiserated for a bit. Apparently, 12 other runners were also pulled from the course. What a bummer. While I was a little disappointed at missing my time goal, I was very happy to have finished strong - and with my glasses intact! In fact, the entire day had been a perfect one to be outside.


CTmarathoner said...

hope everyone does well in VT today...think this was Tammy's first time at the VT 50K, and forgot that Nick was running the 50 miler!! He told s all about the course change this July.

ExSoccerGuy said...

Great blog! I'll need to come back again when I have mnore time. Cheers, ESG (aka, Ron)