It was rumored that the Vermont 100 is a fairly easy trail race. It was also rumored that there would be TRAILS in this TRAIL race. I can soundly advise that both of these assertions are completely false.
I submit this elevation profile as a matter of proof...as it relates to the "easy" part.
The Vermont 100 has approximately 14,000 feet of ascent. Unlike some races, the climbs are evenly distributed over the entire course. There is no flat area to run on. There are 50 miles of uphill and 50 miles of downhill. Which in essence, makes this a 50 mile run mixed with a 50 mile hike.
Coming into this race, I was still strolling around on tired legs from the Leadville 50 mile ass whooping I received the previous weekend. I spent the entire week resting between these races, but the legs were still a little beat up. Of course, I had no reason to worry. Vermont is an "Easy 100 Miler".
By the way...whoever utters the term "easy 100 miler", probably hasn't run a 100 miler.
It's hard to tell in the picture, but this bib is comically enormous. It's about the size of a small blanket.
Start line for the Vermont 100!
Like most summertime 100's, this race kicks off at 4:00 AM. After rolling out of bed at 1:30, filling my belly with high quality nutrients (apple pie, coke and coffee), we finally drove to the race start with about 30 minutes to spare.
My friend Bob Bodkin was running the VT100 as his first 100 miler. Bob has made a few cameo appearances in other race reports. I think he runs too much.
Me and Bob before the race.
Vermont is a fairly large race. It's one of the original 100 milers and is part of the Grand Slam. It's history draws a pretty big field, but is capped at 250 runners. Even at that, it seems crowded.
In addition to the VT100 run, there is also a horse race being conducted at the same time. It seems all the original 100 milers have their origin linked to horse racing. This is how Western States and Old Dominion got started as well. And that's your Ultra Running trivia for the day!
A slow, crowded start.
Like with all my 100 mile races, I had developed a thorough race plan well in advance. I break the race into several small sections and highlight my anticipated times into each crew access point. I also include crew notes so my items can be ready for me when I arrive.
I wasn't going to see Jo until mile 22 and I expected to be there by 8:15. This is roughly a 11 minute pace. I arrived at 8:00 exactly, a little ahead of schedule. It was already getting warm by this time, but I was feeling good and I was pretty pumped about being ahead of schedule.
Coming into the mile 22 aid station.
Before getting ahead of myself, let's discuss the course and scenery...
I had never been to Vermont before. I knew they were big into maple syrup, cheese, and not much else. I expected a quaint, small town feel and that's exactly what I got. From a purely aesthetic point of view, it was a great course.
Scenes from the course.
The real downside was the total lack of trails on the course. The descriptions I read suggest a mix of fire roads, double track, single track and small amount of asphalt. The marketing team that developed that description took serious liberty along the way. This is purely a race on gravel and dirt roads.
Back to the race...
After leaving the 22 mile aid station (Pretty House), we made our way back down the road toward the Stage Road aid station 8 miles away. It was during this leg of the race that we climbed an enormous hill through a bare pasture, under the beating sun. It was a painful trudge. After making it to the top, I pointed my shoes downhill and let my feet fly. I sailed to the bottom of the hill, then hit a sharp uphill and climbed to the top and was led to an unmarked intersection. Left? Right? WTF?! I looked at the ground and realized there were no foot prints...no hoof prints...I was lost! I turned around and began to climb back up the hill that I just ran down and eventually found a bounty of markers. This is the price we pay for watching our feet too much. It cost me a mile!
I arrived at the Stage Road aid station 10 minutes ahead of my race plan. Not too bad considering I ran the bonus mile.
I was ahead of my race plan, but not by much. My legs were tired and my stomach wasn't great. I headed out to the Camp Bear aid station at mile 47.
Between aid stations, we had more of the same. Up and down...a constant roller coaster. And now, we're in the hottest part of the day. The fatigue started to set in. I arrived at mile 47 at exactly 2:00, which is what my race plan called for. I had lost all my earlier gains.
My next 10 mile run, coming into Tracer Brook aid station at mile 57 was a slightly more gentle and I made up some time and beat my schedule by 10 minutes. But this would be short lived.
Coming into Tracer Brook.
By the time I made it to the mile 62 aid station, I was 30 minutes behind my race plan. This was a huge mental blow. Which was about to get worse.
A big milestone in this race is to make it to mile 70. This is the point where you can get your pacer, and gear up for night running. But getting there was proving to be a problem.
By this point, I was feeling dejected and annoyed. Every new hill added fuel to the rage burning deep inside me. I was quickly losing interest in this race.
I arrived at the mile 70 aid station 43 minutes behind schedule.
This is also a medical checkpoint, so I went straight to the scale for my weight to be entered. This is when they put a "hold" on me because my weight loss had become dangerous. I had to "bulk up" before they would let me continue. Now I was really pissed!
Getting on the scale and not in the mood for anybodies shit.
After being told to sit my skinny ass down!!!
I stormed around the aid station eating and drinking. I was tossing shit around and barking at people. Eventually I sat down and relaxed. After a few minutes, I felt better and had gained 2 pounds. I was back in the game!!!
I felt refreshed and had a renewed spirit about the race. But the horses and the hills were still annoying. But whatever...
Leaving the aid station with purpose! And a new shirt!
Darkness settled in around the 75 mile mark. I had been looking forward to this because I perform better when the lights go out.
Mile 77 aid station.
I was slowly gaining back some of my time and I was feeling good. My obvious goal was to finish under 24 hours and my race plan was very conservative. When I drafted it, I banked a lot of time for the last 30 miles. Some legs were calculated at 17-22 minute pace. I do this so I have a buffer when I hit a low spot early in a race. Now it was time to take a withdrawal from that bank of time.
The aid stations from mile 77 to the finish were a mass of agony and desperation. I moved swiftly amongst the injured and dejected and never stopped moving. I kept a keen eye on my watch so I could monitor my progress.
I knew I would finish the race, that was never a worry. But I really wanted to be sub 24. My self imposed pressure kept my moving.
As I approached the aid station at mile 96, I could hear people and see a lot of lights. This was the ultimate tease. This aid station comes within a short distance of the finish line, then sends you back into the mountains for more torture.
I was watching the time and knew I would be close to my goal and I pushed hard on the uphills and tried to avoid the temporary pain. In addition to pain, I was fighting total fatigue.
When I could hear the crowd and see the faint glow of light, I knew I was almost done. The relief washed over me.
Crossing the finish line. Absolutely spent!
My final time was 23:52:00. My race plan outlined a finish of 23:30:00 and I felt that was a very conservative time and had secretly hoped for a sub 23 finish. But I can't remember any time I felt more satisfied with my effort and the results.
My friend Bob came in shortly after I did. I can't fully express how proud I was to see him finish so strong. He took his training seriously and has become a very strong runner this year. He tackled a tough race for his first 100 and he made it look easy. He amazed me!
Please let the record reflect that I beat this horse to the finish line.
Vermont is a serious race with more than its fair share of challenges. The calibre of competition seemed to be higher than most races and all the runners I met seemed to have a lot of experience. This race had a different feel that most events I've run. In a good way.
My next race is a month away. Jo and I will be heading out to Leadville again and this is my goal race for 2012. Between now and then, there will be a lot of rest and serious planning. At least this time, I know what to expect.