As long as we run, the challenges are always changing. What never changes is the excitement of preparing for the next challenge, the anticipation of attempting things where success is not certain and the thrill of achieving the things we could not be sure were possible.
Gary Cantrell Ultrarunning Magazine
Signing up for and running the VT100k was about trying something out of my comfort zone. 62 miles was a long way to go. The prep work was done. It was time for the acid test.
Hubby made his way into the woods around 3:30am. Five hours was too long to hang around on my feet. I shuffled to our tent, headlamps cutting across the dark field in all directions. Once the full 100 was off, I tried to relax. I opted to stay away from his start so I could maintain some composure. I’d gotten so nervous waiting for the 50k at the VT50 last year after hubby left I’d almost gotten in the car and driven away.
I did actually catch a few Zzs. A big part of me wanted to see him off. Some other race, though.
My ‘plan’, if you can call it one, was to finish the 100k distance. Just finish. Whatever that looked like. Run if I can, walk if I have to, crawl if I must, just keep moving. But my secret plan was to finish sub 16 hours. A 15 minute per mile pace seemed doable, with so much dirt road. Even though this was twice as far as I’d ever run, I mapped out my triumphant fast finish. I’ll run some 12s and 13s, walk all the hills and get in and out of the aid stations in under a minute. Everyone knows things always go according to planned in an ultra.
Pre race, the 100k’ers walk, as a group, up Silver Hill Road. The formal start was at the crest of the road. My nerves were calmed by moving. A simple Go signaled we were off.
Within minutes of the start I linked up with Helen. Helen and I chatted and ran and trotted and walked. Both of us wanted to keep our heart rates low in order to sustain for the distance. I was so grateful for the company. I thrive when I have company for the early miles. And thrive I did. I felt amazing for hours.
Blissfully, the first 4ish miles were downhill. I was clocking 10s and 10 1/2s. Wayyy too fast. But the pace felt easy. I’d never experienced trashed quads…would I, slapping the downhills, today?
Being so nervous, I was grateful for the dirt roads, vs trails (say what?). I tried to breathe and settle in. Dear God, I was really doing this.
Mile 6 is Lillian’s, our first aid station. Quick in and out. This were we join up with the full 100. Ah, and famed Agony Hill. This is a two mile climb. Some trail, but mostly dirt road. It is truly steep. And I live here. The roads in West Windsor area are steeper than the rest of VT. I power hiked it in its entirety. It hurt, but I knew once it was done, it would be one less hill to climb.
Running with horses and riders was such a blast. I loved as each beauty went by. It was super easy to make way for them to pass. They were a welcome distraction.
Mile 12 was our 1st time in and out of Camp Ten Bear. I hugged Dr Rick and some friends and made my way.
By the way, I broke a cardinal rule of racing. I was wearing sort-of new shoes. Two weeks before, I bought a pair of Hoka Bondi 3s. They fit just like my Mafate from last fall. No problem. This is my 6th pair of Hoka. I ran about 18 miles in them the week prior. Should be okay, right? Around Camp Ten Bear, my right pinky toe started to hurt, but no biggie.
Second time through Ten Bear. I weighed in. I gain two tenths of a pound. Picked up Paul, my pacer.
The 1st 32 miles went by in the blink of an eye. Actually, I was on target for a 16 hour finish. It was 5:06pm, about eight hours at the 50k mark. Everything from here on out was new territory, mileage wise. I felt great. My stomach was good. Let’s do this.
It was hot, but not awful. Volunteering last year it was 90° and humid. I’d been expecting the worst. This year, it was in the low 80s. It got VERY humid at dusk. Prior to that, it was breezy. Almost idyllic. Thank you, God, for giving this newbie some easy running conditions.
Around mile 40, I got to see my friend Susan at Spirt of 76. This is important. One, cause Susan is awesome and I’d forgotten I’d be seeing her. What a lift this gave me. And two, cause Zeke Zucker runs this aid station. And it was the best. Two awesome volunteers radio from the bottom of a big hill up to the actually station your bib number and have your drop bag waiting for you at the top. Such a small thing makes a HUGE difference to a tired runner. At the top, I hugged Susan, almost cried tears of joy, and was encouraged to eat and keep moving.
Dusk settled in. I was getting tired and cranky. I had pictured wanting to talk and laugh and crack jokes for the second half of the race. My pacer and I had a game plan to have a ball.
This is NOT how things went. I repeat. I was in no laughing mood.
I didn’t want to talk, let alone laugh. I think it was a disappointment to both of us. It took all of my energy to focus on the ever increasing trails.
And my darn feet. Just after Spirit of 76, some part of my little toe felt like it exploded. No joke. I knew it wasn’t broken. But it wasn’t good. Actually, it was bad. This is where running became challenging. It’d be another 10 miles before I looked at it.
I’m still here.
I know I said no bargaining. But this is starting to suck. Can you take over?
Any running after dark was easy on dirt roads. Easy footing and glow sticks allowed me to focus on the basics. Drink, eat. Go to the bathroom. Step step step. Repeat. Running trails in the dark was challenging. Even with a headlamp and handheld flashlight, I worried about going a** over bam box.
At Bill’s, mile 53, we weighed in again and did a sobriety field check. It was late, I think 11pm. I’d been at Bill’s in 1991, when it’d been the old finish line. It looked nothing like I’d remembered. My memory of it had been covered in two decades of gauze and dewy fondness. In reality, it was powerful. But, I’d been expecting a tearful reunion of sorts arriving there. It was not. I had work to do. And all I could focus on was pushing through to my destination. Eyes on the prize.
Mile 49 to 62 were SLOW. My quads were trashed and my rotten toe was causing me to limp. After five miles of fast walking, I slowed to a crawl and some 22-25 minute miles. I knew the sub 16 was slipping away. Really, it was already DOA. Limping was all I could muster from here on out.
At Polly’s, I sat for the 1st time all day. Five lonely little miles were all that separated me from the finish line. I run that everyday. But an injury and tired at 1:30 in the morning five miles feels like an eternity. Sitting felt good. I checked to see if hubby was okay. He’d been running so fast all day. I wondered if he had somehow passed me in the dark. Turns out he’d dropped at his mile 60. My heart sank. I thought about stopping. I took off my shoes and saw the sad state of my feet. Yeah, now I understand why folks quit so close to the finish. I was a mere 5 miles, and I wanted to quit.
Run your race.
Well, walk is more like it. Walk I did. I Thanked God for picking me up and sending me back out. Cause I sure didn’t do it.
I whimpered. I trudged.
For those who haven’t run this course, please note that the last few miles bring you within earshot of the finish, then send you mercilessly back out into the deep woods. Hearing the dwindling voices turn to nothing is such a killjoy at mile 97. I would have screamed if I had the energy.
The last 1/4 mile is lighted by glow sticks submerged in clear gallon milk jugs. Such relief. My watch had died a half hour ago. I had no sense of time at 2:30 in the morning. Seeing them, I knew I was there.
Glowing green was replaced by the red neon cast of ‘Finish Line’. Oh, Good God, Yes.
18:17:59. Someone put a finisher’s medal around my neck.
I grabbed on to my waiting gorgeous hottie of a husband.
Can I stop now?
Things That Worked
100 Calories of Tailwind per hour. No stomach issues whatsoever.
100 calories of fruit per hour, like watermelon and banana.
My Ultimate Direction SJ pack. It’s super comfy. All day. I love it with Hydra Pak soft bottles.
Seeing friends, like Lorinda, Julie, John Jenkins and Dr Rick during the run.
Meeting New RD Amy Rusiecki. She is awesome. AND she remembered my name!
Meeting Jimmy Dean Freeman. Who, I’ll add, is such a gentleman, he stopped running to shake my hand.
Running with ultra runners. You are all inspiring.
Things That Didn’t Work
New Shoes…blisters Everywhere. My feet took two weeks to heal.
New Shorts. Ugh. Seriously.
Not wearing gaiters. I had huge friction burns from the dirt in my shoes. I could have saved my feet a bit by using ‘em.
Not taking the time to change my socks.
Taking course pictures. I failed at multi tasking.
Not laminating my aid station sheet. It turned to paper pulp early on.
Frozen smoothies in drop bags. They didn’t stay frozen. Taking a sip of a turned Spirulina smoothie is never okay.
A big THANK YOU to everyone who helped me with this race.
HUBBY! You’re winning the 100 next year.
Paul, my pacer.
Julie, my crew.
Krista, hope you had a great date night. Can we go running now?
Deb and Terry Shearer. Thanks for having us. AND for coffee at mile 57! You, Deb, are the coolest.
Fish and Jeremy, Jonny’s crew and awesomeness.
Dr Rick. I’m so grateful you’re the new Medical director.
Julia O’Brien, who didn’t help me personally, but is a pretty cool lady.
Lorinda. I loved seeing you EVERYWHERE!!! What a treat.
Susan. Thanks for the inspiration.
Ben Pangie. Great to finally meet you. I hope everyone checks out his blog. He’s a super star.
VT100 volunteers. The best volunteers anywhere.
Everyone who prayed for us. Especially Cindy G. It worked. Truly.
Steve Bradish, this one was for you. I love you.
Thanks for running with this grateful girl,
PS I lost my 1st toenail!