My goal for the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run was to unite my family and friends who crewed for me during my attempt at a sub-24 hour finish. If you’ve been following along, you know that I’ve been training all season for this event. If you’re just joining in, this is my second attempt at the 100-mile distance, having run 24 hours 32 minutes at the 2008 San Diego 100 Mile Endurance Run. The adventure was a total success! Here’s how it went down:
Never stop exploring your limits!
It was raining when my dad, brother and I made our way from the bed and breakfast to the start/finish area at 3 a.m. for the pre-race check-in, so I started with my headlamp, rain shell and hydration pack. We were off and running at 4 a.m. toward the first crew-accessible aid station, 21 miles into the race, where my parents; my brother, Steve; my best friend, John; his wife, Patty; and my friend, Pete, were waiting for me.
The best crew ever!
The first section was dark in the forest on muddy trail a where I met and chatted with Cheryl, a runner from New York attempting her first 100. We had connected on
Twitter the week before. The rain was forecasted to stop in the early afternoon, but actually let up just as daylight broke and we switched off our headlamps. It took awhile for me to wake up and warm up, but once I did, I took off the rain shell and arm warmers and settled into a comfortable pace. About this time,
The Vermont 100 and Moonlight 50/75 Endurance Ride horses and their riders began to overtake the runners. It turns out, the Vermont 100 is the only ultramarathon that continues to combine horses and runners. They had a later start for their 100-mile trek, and it was really cool to share the trail with them.
According to my crew, John apparently said, “I love your horse!” to every horse/rider that went by that day.
I cruised into the first aid station, mile 21, at 8:30 a.m. averaging a mid-12-minute mile and was greeted by my amazing support crew. They had everything set up under our own tent so I sat down, changed my shoes and socks, ate and drank a little, and set off feeling fresh for the next section.
NASCAR pit crews would be jealous of our speed and efficiency
Nine miles later I came through the check point at Stage Road and was again greeted by my rockstar crew. It was getting hotter out and the next section was 17 miles, so I decided to skip the shoe/sock change and just get back on the trail with a full hydration pack. I quickly saw this was a good call because as soon as we exited the aid station, we crossed a marsh and my feet were instantly soaked.
This 17-mile section was hot with some seriously steep climbs. During this time, my watch battery died. I also discovered I was in 98th place overall at mile 43.5, so I just put my head down and did work. I power walked the steep stuff and actually passed a bunch of folks before rolling into the next aid station, Camp 10 Bear, at mile 47.2 for medical weigh-ins. I had dropped 5 pounds but wasn’t worried about it because I was feeling fine and knew I was nearly halfway done with the race.
I calculated my pace and projected finish time when I reached the 50-mile mark at 10 hours 40 minutes. It was then that I first realized a sub-22 hour finish was possible. I didn’t actually believe it at first, so I did the math again. That’s when I kicked a stick on the trail and the sharp end lifted my big toenail off. I felt it go with a sharp pain, but there wasn’t any pain after it happened. I was upset that I let myself get distracted over the numbers, so I decided not to worry about my pace anymore and just do work.
I caught up with a runner named Drew from the Lake Placid area, and we cruised at a similar pace for the next big chunk of the race. This section was difficult with steep climbs and long quad-quivering descents—one after the next. My pace slowed from the mid-12 minute range to a 13-minute-mile pace. We reached Tracer Brook (mile 57) at 4:10 p.m. and passed through Margaritaville (mile 62) at 5:30 p.m. My crew was at each stop with all my gear and food set up perfectly. They got me in-and-out of each stop with fresh shoes/socks, ice cold drink in my hydration pack and a big smile on my face
It's all about staying positive in a race this long. And drinking rootbeer
Next I caught up to a 52-year-old runner from Pennsylvania named Marc, who had run a sub-10 hour split on the first half of the race. His quick start had caught up to him in the form of stomach nausea, but he was still strong enough to run with me for the next portion of the race. We shared some quality conversation and navigated one of the longest and most painful descents before reaching Camp 10 Bear at mile 70.1 for medical weigh-ins. I had gained a pound during the previous 30 miles which was a sign I was drinking more. I felt really good at this point because I knew the hardest of the work was done and I was going to be in the company of my pacers for the final 30 miles.
left to right: Steve, me, John
John joined me from mile 70.1 to mile 77. We ran as the sun was setting, passed by some beautiful homes, and ran a series of perfectly groomed trails as we passed runner after runner. Soon, the thick forest canopy blocked all the remaining daylight, and we switched on our headlamps. I had John run two to three steps ahead of me so I could watch his footwork and follow his line, because my reaction time was slower than his from the fatigue and my eyes were adjusting to the night running.
Shoe/sock change after 7 miles with John
John and I finished up together at the Spirit of 76 aid station (mile 77) at 8:45 p.m. and his wife, Patty, took over for the next section. It was now much darker out so I had Patty run in front of me, like John did, for the trail sections but we primarily ran dirt roads together. In fact, this section was the flattest section of the day so we capitalized on it by running faster. We actually recorded a few sub-9 minute miles and a few sub-10 minute miles during our run together while passing runner after runner. We reached Bill’s aid station at 11:15 p.m. (mile 88.6) where I weighed in again. Then my brother took over as pacer for the final section.
Heading out to run with Patty
Steve and I headed out and covered some ground before I started inquiring about our pace and projected finishing time. My brain was too fried to do the math so I handed over my pace chart that I had been carrying all day. Steve calculated that a sub-22 hour finish was possible, if we pushed hard. My legs felt fine, and I still had plenty left in the tank to burn. So we set the intention to empty the tank and make it happen. We actually recorded my fastest mile split of the day, an 8:17 mile at mile 92, while passing runners and making our way closer and closer to the finish line in Silver Hill Meadow. This final section definitely felt like forever, but once we heard the voices and sounds from the finish area with minutes to spare before the sub-22 hour mark, we knew we made it.
I crossed the finish line unofficially at 21:55:23 and officially at 21:57:08 which was just before 2 a.m. on Sunday, July 19. According to the results, my effort was good for 30th place overall and 5th in my age group. I smashed my PR by 2.5 hours and I'm thrilled that my months of hard work came together and brought my family and friends together to share such a unique and exciting experience.
We made it just in time!
Thank you all for the messages, comments, emails, phone calls and positive vibes you sent my way. With only eight toenails remaining, soon to be seven, I'm already being asked what's next. For now, it’s recovery, but next up is another attempt at the Palisades Traverse in August. Thanks for joining me for another of life’s great adventures!
Post-race celebration on the CT River. I'm on a boat!