Friday, August 10, 2012

2012 Vermont 100 Race Report

Wow!  A 100 mile race is completely different from a 100k, 50M, or 50k, but I should have already known this!!  I knew mental toughness was going to be a huge part of the race, but I truly underestimated aid station efficiency, pace discipline, and being in tune with my body.  I will address each of these later on in the race report.

Emily and I flew into Manchester, NH on the Thursday before the race and drove to Mt. Ascutney State Park, which is only nine miles away from the start/finish (Silver Hill Meadow).  This park is beautiful and offered a decent amount of privacy (I am comparing this to Matthew's Arm & a KOA site in Central VA) with other amenities such as hiking and paragliding available.  We went to a local grocery store and bought some fresh vegetables to grill on Thursday night.  After a nice and relaxing night at Mt. Ascutney we made our way to Silver Hill Meadow around 11am on Friday to make sure we had our pick of tent space. Once we got settled in, we headed over to the main tent to get my race number and to perform the mandatory medical check-in (weigh in and take blood pressure).  We met up with Mary Lang, fellow Ultra-Holic, and her husband, Rob, who snagged the tent spot right next to us.  We and talked the evening away discussing strategy, training, and sharing all-to-familiar pre-race jitters.  We all made our way down to the pre-race meeting at 4pm and we were informed that the Taftsville Bridge at mile 15.4 that was washed out and that we would now have to run through Woodstock instead.  After the pre-race briefing Emily and I reviewed the spreadsheet I created for her listing what times she should expect me at each AS and what items I would need when I arrived.  I also created a pace chart for her that would serve as a backup plan in case I ran faster or slower then my predicted time of 26.5 hours.  I was sticking to my normal calorie plan of 200 calories per hour using Vitargo & EFS shots, and taking Vespa every three hours throughout race.  I would use two handheld bottles, one with Vitargo the other with water, and carry extra items in my UltrAsprie SPRY race vest.  Emily and I went to bed at 8:30, but I knew my pre-race nervousness would make it difficult to sleep and I eventually fell asleep at 10pm.
our camping spot looking towards the main race tent

I heard my alarm go off at 2:45am, wayyyyy too early.  Nevertheless, I began to wake up and get dressed.  The weather called for highs in the low 80s during the day and overnight lows in the low 50's.  The meteorologists earned their paychecks this time as they were spot on.  I wasn't nervous as I made my way over to the starting line, probably because I wasn't sure what to expect, my naivety helped keep my mind at ease.
Me right before the start being Fonzie (Pulp Fiction ref)
 The race started at 4am and that is when 324 other runners and I began our 100 mile odyssey.  I made sure not to get swept up in the starting pack and started well in the back.  The first couple of miles were uneventful as we made our way on a dirt road and then formed a single file line as we hit our first single track trail of the race.  I made sure to walk all the uphills even during the beginning miles of the race.  I hit the first unmanned AS and found there was hardly any water left for us back-of-the-packers, so I could only fill my water bottle halfway.  This worried me because I didn't want to play catch-up with fluids this early in the race.  I made it to the next AS with my bottle bone dry, but this time there was plenty of water to fill up my bottle.  I was making some nice casual conversation with some other runners when the horses (yes a horse race coincides with the 100 mile foot race!) finally caught up to me.  This made the race so cool.  To me, it embodied what the original 100 races started off as, horse races not as human foot races.
Here they come...
 So cool to see this original tradition live on.  Mary and I ran together up to this point, but as we came into Woodstock she took off.  There were no runners around me at this point and I encountered the first climb of the race which lead me into the first crew AS, Pretty House (22.5 miles).  I made it into Pretty House in 5:07, eight minutes ahead of my predicted time.  Emily had sunscreen, sunglasses, a bandana, and a fresh bottle of Vitargo for me at the AS and got everything ready while I took a pit stop because nature was calling.

I got out of the AS slower then I wanted, but I learned during this race that some AS would take a little longer then I was used to (took ~7 minutes).  I made my down some nice dirt roads before making a decent climb up to U-Turn AS.  There was an enthusiastic volunteer shouting words of encouragement, but he told me "Bro, looks like your the back of your arms are sizzled!"  I looked at them and found the one spot where I didn't apply the sunscreen, doh!!  The sun finally burned through the early morning fog by this point and the temperature started to climb.  As I was making my way to the next AS I came across a small black bear.
Fo' real???
  It was just a little lad so I started to yell at him and he took off into the woods, once I made sure mama bear wasn't around, I then made my way to the top of a vista that had some beautiful views of Vermont.
top of climb past U-Turn AS
I was making my way down some hills when my IT band really started to flare up.  If this kept up I wasn't sure I would be able to finish the race.  I met up with Emily at the Stage Rd. AS (30.5 miles) in 7:23, she had my lucky secret weapon, a trigger point massage therapy ball.  While Emily gave me a couple Vespas, EFS shots, and sunscreen, I was able to work out my spasms.  I took a few extra minutes to make sure I got everything because I wouldn't see her again until Camp 10 Bear (mile 47.6).  I looked at my pace card and saw that I was fifteen minutes over my projected split, but I didn't care because I was listening to my body and this was the pace I felt comfortable with.

My legs were feeling fatigued by this point and I was getting worried that I wouldn't be able to finish.  I knew that I had to keep hydrated, keep taking on calories, and stay out of the sun when I could.  "Stay in the moment", I kept telling myself.  I didn't want to block the pain out, but simply wanted to accept that what I was going through at this point wasn't really pain, not yet.  Finally, foI started to feel my legs start to feel strong and I started to pass runners for the first time during the race.  I passed four runners as I came into the Lincoln Covered Bridge AS.
Lincoln Covered Bridge
I didn't care that I was twenty-four minutes behind my goal pace, because I was feeling solid and I wasn't running outside of how my body was feeling.  I was in tune with my body and my confidence started to build.  The miles passed, the hills were relentless and I was treated some some beautiful views of the Vermont countryside.  I was on top of the world as I made my through Lillian's AS.  I joked with the volunteers and even asked them for a beer (which I was denied).  I finally made my way into Camp 10 Bear (mile 47.6) in 11:57.  This was the first mandatory medical check and I had only lost two pounds.  This was confirmation that my fluid and calorie plan had been working well.  Emily gave me some Vitargo, Vespa, and EFS shots, before I even had to ask her which saved me time, and I was able to make it out of the AS in three minutes.   

As I made my way towards the next AS I saw the top finishing 100 mile runners making their way into Camp 10 Bear for the second time.  It was inspiring to see the top guys/gals run strong.  I continued up and down a few rolling hills before I came across an attention-catching sign. 
Say wha????
  I didn't really think much about the sign as the course became steeper. As I left a jeep road and came onto a even steeper single track trail my spirits were crushed.  During my climb I really started to struggle for the first time during the race, I even had to stop several times during the climb.  It took me several minutes before I could run again and as I came into Tracer Brook (mile 57.4), Emily even commented that I wasn't looking so hot.

I wanted to run quickly out of Tracer Brook, but there were many big rolling hills that forced me to walk.  Finally, I caught up to John Gee (a MD badass Ultra Runner) at the unmanned AS Prospect Hill.  We ran together for the next ten miles, it was awesome to talk to someone I actually knew (we had been emailing for several months before the race but never actually met until five minutes before the start).  John and I ran together into the Margaritaville AS and this is where I saw his badass crew.  These guys/gals were like a NASCAR pit crew.  Emily hooked me up with some more Vespa, EFS shots, headlamp, and Vitargo.  I decided to eat some soup broth at the AS and it made me feel great, so great that I tried to walk to wrong direction through the AS!
Vermont Parrot Heads
Once I got pointed in the right direction I walked a bit until John caught up to me and then we made our way towards the next aid station.  We both agreed that we would stick together until the Camp 10 Bear AS (second time).

Up to this point I have failed to discuss how my Garmin 310st GPS, which has twenty hours of battery life, would last 26+ hours.  I purchased a Duracell USB charger, which allowed me to charge the GPS via USB while I was running at various points throughout the day.

John and I made decent time over a few nice climbs and finally came into Camp 10 Bear in 18:27.  Emily was ready and waiting to pace me the last thirty miles.  Before we left I packed my Vespa, XS shot, EFS, and S!Caps she brought for me.  Camp 10 Bear was my second medical check-in and I weighed in at the same weight I did the first time at Camp 10 Bear (178).  I grabbed some hot Ramen noodles then Emily and I made our way out before John did, but he had his pacer and would be in good hands.   

Emily and I pressed out and started in a nice rhythm, until came across a big climb (800' in 1.5 miles) that nearly killed me.  Once we reached the apex I had my first/only melt down of the race.  We walked the next mile and it took us twenty minutes on a flat road !  I sat down on a private landowner's rock fence and took an XS shot and collected my thoughts for a minute.  After a few minutes I started to feel rejuvenated.  I got off the wall and began to run fast, something I hadn't done since the first ten miles.  The next few miles went along uneventfully and Emily and I made good time, mainly because we were running on dirt roads and we could focus on running and not really have to worry about technical trails.
Spirit of  76 AS

I finally reached the Spirit of 76 AS at 12:46am (20:46).  I now had just under a marathon left to the finish.  My goal now was to fight back the urge to sleep.  In each of my remaining drop bags I had packed one XS shot.  These shots really helped give me the right amount of caffeine I needed to stay awake.  The next ten miles played out the way I thought they would, they would be the toughest.  The longer you run, 20+ hours, the harder it is to stay awake and focused.  Emily and I finally caught up to Mary, who had been forty five minutes ahead of me for the majority of the day.  Mary was having trouble with her back, but like to the true badass she is, she continued to fight through what I could only imagine was serve pain.  I wished her well and Emily and I forged on.  The course continued to have rolling hills, but overall Emily and I made good time as we came into Bill's AS.

This was my final medical weigh in for the race.  I stepped on the scale and actually gained 1.5 pounds from Camp 10 Bear, but I was down half a pound from my original weight.  The medical staff was asking me questions (how did I feel, do you have a pacer, how many miles into the race are you) that made me believe either I looked bad or other runners ahead of me were in bad shape which caused concern for everyone behind them.  This was my last drop bag, so I picked up my XS and EFS, then made a bathroom stop before we headed out.
Sunrise on Sunday morning

These next miles were nice as we continued on dirt roads before coming across a nice grassy field.  My energy started to pick up as the sun started to come up, I was told that this would happen so I wasn't surprised but it felt good.  Emily and I passed 8-10 runners along this section.  Emily did an awesome job of talking when I needed conversation and being quiet when I didn't.  I dictated when we would run and when we would walk, which was still consistent even after 20+ (walk the hills and run the down & flats).  We arrived at Polly's AS (final crew AS) to cheers from John's crew.  I immediately asked how John was doing and I was informed that he was still fighting and looked to make it in ahead of the thirty hour cut off.

I knew I had a sub thirty hour finish in the bag, but I didn’t want to walk or slow up so I continued to give it everything I had.  The last few miles I was overwhelmed with different emotions.  I was thinking about not only the sacrifices I made but more importantly the sacrifices that my family made for me.  None of this would be possible without the love and support of Emily.  Then, I began to think about how lucky I am that I am physically able to get out and run, it is something I take for granted on a daily basis.  Emily and I came into the Sargent’s AS and we each grabbed some soda.  We were so damn close!!  We made our way back onto some single track trail and we started to see people on the trail and that could only mean one thing, the finish line was right around the corner.  We continued to run and even passed another 6-8 runners during this section.  Then we saw a half mile to go sign and Emily and I didn’t say a word to each other instead we increased our pace.  Even at 8:15 in the morning people were still at the finish line to cheer Emily and I as we finished hand-in-hand.  28:15, not what I was shooting for but I will take it!!!
This picture isn't blurry, I was just running that fast :)

It was glorious to finish and sitting down knowing I was done was even better.  I gave Emily a big hug and asked her “which 100 are we doing next?” Emily and I then waited until we saw John come across the finish line, way to go John!!  All of us sat there and reflected on what we all had accomplished.

Nothing is guaranteed during 100 mile races, even the top guys like Karl Meltzer will tell you that (well Karl might tell you 100 miles isn't that far).  I feel a great sense of accomplishment for completing Vermont, but I know I can do better.  It is just in my nature to try improve and learn from my mistakes.  

I did quick statistics of twelve runners that finished ahead of me, only two had faster second half splits then I did.  And of the six fishers before the 24 hour cut off, two had faster second half splits faster then I did.  This gives me a great deal of confidence that my training for my first 100 miler was pretty good.  Now the question is which 100s am I gonna do next year (Leadville, Grindstone, MMT)...... 

Here are some extra pictures I took from the race.

My Gear: 
Shoes:  Montrail Sabino
Socks: DryMax 
Hydration: 2 UltrAspire handheld bottles with UltrAspire Race vest
Nutrition: S!Caps, EFS shot, Vitargo, XS shots
Shorts: Zensah compressions shorts 
Shirt:  Zoot tri top, Moeben arm sleeves (early morning & at night)
Gaiters: Dirty Girl Gaiters  

I am pretty sure the elevation was wayyyyyy off on my Garmin, not sure why but there was approximately 15,500 feet of incline and decline.

See ya on the trails,


  1. Great report, great race, great conversation, and great job Justin! Hope to see you on the trails soon.