VT100k 2014 Part II

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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

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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.

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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.
God?
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.
Okay, God.
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?

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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 Shoes.
New Shoes.
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.
Aggie Baggie.

Steve Bradish, this one was for you. I love you.

Thanks for running with this grateful girl,
Astrid

PS I lost my 1st toenail!

VT50 Race Report

I did it! I ran my second ultra! Unbelievable! The Pokey Trail Runner runs again. And it was incredible.
Where to begin?
I spent the entire weekend on Ascutney where the race takes place. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. 72 and full sun! After hearing about some muddy conditions the past few years, I felt really blessed to be dry and tan.

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Saturday was packet pick up and a vendor extravaganza. I checked out some Salomon shoes and ate samples. It was an awesome day of socializing with my most favorite people…trail runners. Talking about trail running. So many people to learn from and swap stories with.
The pre race dinner was the standard fair of pasta and desserts. No GF pasta for Jon, so the poor guy had to have steak. Too bad.
Race morning, our alarm got us up for a 3am wake up. Ugh. We live close, but Jon’s race began at 6:35 and a pre race meeting at 5:30. So, we needed the requisite hour to gather last minute items. href=”https://vttrailgirl.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/20131006-201958.jpg”>20131006-201958.jpg

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We arrive about 5am, amidst hordes of mountain bikers and a few runners. The race is 2/3 mountain bikes, doing the full 50. The bikes begin a staggered takeoff before the 50 mile runners set out. By the time Jon's start took off, I was having the mother of all panic attacks. The race officials had yelled go! about 15 times by 6:30, and I was a nervous reck. I said goodbye to hubby who had teamed up with Tom from NY at the start line. Tom is an old friend of Jon's. It was such great fortune for him to have some racing company at his first full 50. I finally found my good friend Joy at the start line, hugged her quickly and waved my goodbyes to all. Now, an hour and a half of waiting. More ugh.
It's funny, I hadn't been this nervous for Pineland at the start. I fully contemplated getting back in the car and driving home. End of story. No drama here, my brain was simply in flight mode. This was my first meeting with my Obie Wan brain, trying some Jedi mind tricks on my softer self. 'You needn't race today. This isn't the race you're looking for'. My awesome crew of Tara and Mallory turned me back to the start line. No disappearing act for this kid.

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Mile 1-13

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The race begins at the resort, and heads down to the main entrance to a short stretch of paved road. We quickly hook a right onto the first of many gravel roads. It continued to be foggy and chilly.
I think at mile 2-3, the first climb begins. It's still gravel road at this point, but we climb about 1200' in two miles. More ugh. I expected the climb, so it felt doable. Non technical hills, psychologically, aren't terrible. We'll save that kind of pain for later.
I can't remember, but I think we entered trails after 4 or 5 miles. I was never bored. But, ready for an uphill power hike. The first 13 miles are fast. I felt great and was 32 minutes ahead of my projected time. Wow. Okay.
I was glad when folks wanted to chat, no music. No headphones allowed. Such a bummer. I did get some company here and there playing my iPod softly (sort of) stashed in my hydration vest. One woman ran with me for a bit so she could listen along. That happened to be my fastest mile of the race, while she encouraged me to keep up so she could hear more! I think I ran a10:30 minute mile then. Coon Club, Ralph's, and Margaritaville were all awesome and well stocked aid stations. M-ville is also on the VT100 course and it is a well oiled machine. I learned from racing Pineland, I can waste tons of time at aid stations. I kept to my resolution of 30 seconds or less at each of these stations. I needed those precious moments to walk when I got tired later on.
At some point, maybe 7ish or 8 miles, the 50 milers joined with the 50k for about a mile. We would rejoin before Fallon's.
12.9 to 22
Running with bikes was not that bad. It broke up the monotony of my thoughts. Which sometimes border on annoying. The thoughts, not. The bikes. I chatted with other runners and drifted in and out of the company of others.

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Tara met me at Fallon’s, also the start finish line for the VT100. I refilled the pack, eat a bunch of ginger. and tried to pee. I’d been eating way too much sodium, so I felt like a water balloon. And not a drop was leaving my body. Ugh.
I remember little of the actual trails, but I still felt good. My hips were starting to get tight, but nothing major. I got to share the trails with the likes of Aliza Lapierre, Amy Rucieski and some top male runners. Too cool.
I walked when I wanted to, and ran when I could.
22.9 to 31
Jon’s awesome pacer, Jeremy, was armed and ready at Linda’s, mile 22.9 for me. I checked in at about 5:20:00. I eat leisurely for a few minutes and shot the poop. I felt like I was in the home stretch. I really let my guard down here.
Jon was expected to come through in about an hour or so. This would be his 41 (!!!!) mile mark. Crazy. I guess the word was he was running well. Less ugh. I was really grateful to get word he was running well. It helped me relax and focus on my own run.
Thank God, cause here’s where the course gets tricky. There are constant trail switch backs and no fulfilling downhills. My Obie Wan brain was in full effect. ‘This isn’t your race. You can stop now. You earned a big dinner. (Since when did Old Ben care about a big dinner?). You needn’t go this way’. I got tired and wasn’t eating enough. I was queasy and thirsty. I forgot to refill my pack at Linda’s. The next aid station, at 28, felt light years away. I lost all my extra minutes in this section. I was getting crabby. The trail was super narrow, I stopped and jumped off trail frequently for mountain bikers and fast 50 milers.
By the time I arrived at Johnson’s, I was ready to quit or hurl or both.
I drank a bunch of ginger ale, burped, and set off. I know it seems a bit over the top to want to quit so close to the end. But, I felt awful and I didn’t really care. I definitely lost my game face a few miles back.
I walked for a few minutes. Okay. I finally resolved to simply finish. I forgot about trying to finish in under eight hours. Just finish this. Even if I walked the last miles, I would still finish this.The last three miles are all trail. It’s about 1000′ climb on STAB trails. I gave the finger to the ‘3 miles to go’ sign, when I thought I had 2.5 to go.
Then I saw a sign that read

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Okay. Moments later, I saw the first sign of the resort. I kicked it into high gear. I dug deep, asked for help and ran for my life (picture Kermit the Frog introducing a musical guest on The Muppets). I had nine minutes left to break eight hours. Go get it. Run, run, run. I could see the finish line for a full mile. The switch backs had me yelling out loud ‘really? Really?’. Relentless. COME ON! Til…. The beautiful finisher’s shoot…And the pain is forgotten.
Woooohoooooooooooooo!
7:59:13.

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Talk about suspense. And some great tears of joy.
Done.

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The 50 milers:
Hubby finished in 11:12:00. The love of my life is an amazing ultra runner.
My hat’s off to Tom R.’s 10:46:00 finish, especially considering he was only planning on running 10 or 20 miles due to a bum knee.
And to Joy, who finished under 11 hours. She is an ultra master. And gorgeous.
And to Fish Stick’s first 50. Uh hum, I’d love a race report, sir. And bad ass Heather for a FAST relay leg (20 miles) and simultaneous pacing gig. You go, girl!
And a huge thank you to my crew, Tara and Mallory, who took tender loving care of me. I hadn’t originally planned on having a crew. I would’ve really missed out on great company and smiling faces to meet me and lift my spirits. Thank you, loveys. Even if I think I think I don’t need it, if someone offers to crew for me, I will immediately accept.

Final thoughts:
The VT50 is an incredible event. It is well marked and varied. I thought I would hate all the miles of gravel roads. It was actually a welcome mix to the single and double track. And the foliage is peak, making this a pretty good choice for a destination race. I’ll be there again next year. Thank you to all the great volunteers (Lorinda and Susan, especially!!) and enthusiastic officials.
There are massive pots of coffee at the start area. Enough said.
The combination of mountain bikes and runners is fairly seamless. Communication between racers is key, and never a problem.
I only derailed ONE biker. Your OTHER right, Astrid.
I carried a printout of the aid stations and my anticipated splits. This came in handy so I could look forward to the themed aid stations.
Gu or gels are great, but not for me. My stomach can’t handle the concentrated sugar on long runs. Boiled potatoes and bananas are perfect. So is ginger candy for settling my stomach. Too much carbonation is BAD. Very bad. More water is better.
I will learn to eat more. I’m semi-allergic to nuts (don’t ask) so Clif Bars and the like are out.
My Hoka Mafates were great. I was staring to be disappointed by their lunky-ness. But they preformed so well, I’m reconsidering. No sore quads. I blistered, but that was my fault, because I didn’t tape my big toes.
I continue to love my Nathan Hydration vest.
Endurolytes are the best.
Injinjis continue to be the best socks. Ever.
I have to work on my Obie Wan brain. I have a terrible game face. If I want to race longer distances, I better get my head together. My head, not my fitness, will probably be what causes me to DNF. Cause you know I’m thinking about a fifty miler next year…
I missed Aggie terribly. Running without her sucks.

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What’s next? Any ideas? I’d do an ultra over the winter…
I love this life!

Thanks for running with me,
Astrid