Well, this last weekend was rough but I'm glad I stuck with it and finished. I'm still not sure what problems are occurring with my transition to 100 milers this year, but I am sure I need to go back to the drawing board after this one.
The problems for this race started on the Thursday before the race actually began. I raced from work to catch my 4:56 PM flight to Chicago, where I'd connect to Albany shortly after landing. Of course, with my usual luck I was delayed and missed my connection into my final destination. Unfortunately the only flights they had going to Albany were either booked full or arrived too late for me to make the pre-race meeting. Needless to say, Friday was extremely stressful and offered little opportunity to relax or even sleep.
I arrived at my house around 10:30 PM, ate a massive plate of spaghetti and tried to catch about 4 hours of shut-eye before driving to the race meeting. There I met with Julia Hutchinson, the race director, and got all of my vitals taken before beginning the race. I'd like to say here that Julia and the entire Vermont crew were very accommodating and understanding during this whole event. They are a solid group of people and I'd recommend this race to anyone who's looking for a laid-back but well-aided 100 miler.
To my surprise, even after jogging over to the tent to take my vitals, my blood pressure was 115/85 with a pulse of 50. I love going down to sea level. I also took a personal assessment and found that despite all of the crap I'd been through the last two days, I actually felt pretty good. I was ready to start this race. I gave my mom and sister a hug and walked over to the starting line.
The gun went off and the usual group of suspects launched forward. Among them, Neal Gorman (with an impressive finish at Western States), Michael Arnstein, Kami Semick, AJW, etc. My plan was to just stay with them until it got light, as Andy knows this course better than most. And this plan worked pretty well. Once the light started to peer over the mountains, I decided to let myself go and see how I felt through the halfway point.
Once I had opened about a 50 meter lead on 2nd place, and a 200m lead on the chase pack, I heard rustling leaves and breaking sticks to my right. Looking over, I saw a 300-400 pound black bear eating raspberries in a ditch alongside the road. Oddly enough, I wasn't too worried. I simply started to walk and clap and say "Hey Bear!" and then announced to everyone else that there was a bear right next to the road. Noone else saw it. By the time I looked back to where the bear had been, it was sprinting into the foliage.... an odd start to the race.
Just after this encounter I began to feel a brilliant burst of energy that kept me running up the hills and loping down them. I made it to the marathon mark in about 3:38 and took another assessment of where I stood in terms of pace. I realized that I might be going a bit faster than I should and decided to back off a bit. Meanwhile, cruising through the aid station, I forgot to take S! caps and didn't have any in my pouch to ingest. Thus began the gradual deterioration of my body.
Right around mile 40 I was still feeling good but was starting to have some fatigue issues similar to the ones I was having at Western States. I attributed this to a low point in the race (everybody has them, right?) and just tried to keep one foot in front of the other. Just after this, AJW caught up with me and we exchanged a few pleasantries. He pushed a bit past me and I managed to hang on through camp 10 bear in just under 7 hours. He jogged up the mountain, and I realized I had lost several pounds since my weigh in that morning. I decided to sit in the shade and chug some water and gatorade before heading out. I also tried to eat a bit of melon and watermelon. This just made my stomach turn over completely and I had to lay down to prevent myself from puking. In total, I spent 33 minutes in camp 10 bear aid station. Not only that, but I didn't get rid of the nausea. I walked up the hill and began jogging as quickly as I could without puking. This nausea continued pretty much all day, no matter how many S! caps I took, no matter what kind of food or drink I ingested.
The aid station at mile 60 is preceded by a large (for Vermont standards) hill. Even though this would be something I could sprint earlier in the season, it was a definite walker for me. At the top I felt so exhausted and nauseated that I dragged one of the rubbermaid containers from underneath the table and just sat down for a good 20 minutes. At this moment I realized that today would just be about finishing. I'd already failed to finish one race this season, and I wouldn't be able to live with myself DNFing two consecutive races. So I stood up and began trotting down the hill into Margaritaville. Here, I sat down for another 20 minutes and just about fell asleep (something I've never been able to do). Looking back, I should've at least had a margarita .
It was 8 grueling, nauseating miles to where I'd find my pacer. This race was pretty special because I had my high school cross country coach pacing me for the entire 30 miles. We'd both found ultra-running independently, so it was nice to finally talk to her about it in person.
When I got to the aid station, I sat once more and tried to binge on fluids such as gatorade, water, ginger ale. Once again, nothing settled my stomach. So after about 20 minutes of sitting, I sat up once more and began to make a dent in the remaining 30 miles.
Riva, my pacer, was pacing for her first time. But she was amazing. She wasn't demanding, but rather motivating. She was also great at reminding me to eat and drink, even though I sometimes refused.
We made it to mile 77 fairly well. At the aid station I sat once more and drank some broth, applesauce, and 2 gels. This settled my stomach better than anything else had. Broth is definitely something I will stick to in future races. And with that we jumped back up and began the next 11 mile stretch. After walking a few short hills, we settled into an astounding pace of 7 minute miles. It was great to feel "fast" again and this brightened my mood a bit as well. It looked like things were beginning to turn around for me when I started feeling an odd sensation in my left quad. The only way I could describe it is to imagine the shooting pain following every nerve that coursed through my leg. Not pleasant. This also continued until about 6 miles left.
At the 88 mile aid station I choked down some water, salt tabs, and a little bit of food (what exactly, I can't recall) and we set out into the last 12 mile section shortly before dark. I was pretty happy for the sun to go down. I knew that this race would be different than the other 100 milers I had done simply because I had a really good headlamp. This monstrosity from Black Diamond is not recommended for runners because it is so heavy, but I'll risk a slight neck cramp for the ability to see 300 yards ahead of me! Anyway, the next 6 miles went by without anything too exciting happening, other than the complete inability to run up hills. I kind of expected that though and wasn't too upset about it. But right as we were entering the last half mile before the aid station I was overcome with such feelings of exhaustion I actually held my pacer's hand to guide me. Its funny looking back on it now, but I was very upset about it at the time. We walked it in and there I laid down for another 20 minutes. Frustrating.
After ingesting several cups of broth and water, I sat back up and waddled a quarter mile before settling into my fastest pace of the day. The remaining 6 miles were hell but I was just trying to get them done as quickly as possible. At the finish I gave my pacer a hug, as well as my parents and sister. Then I ate a burnt grilled cheese and soaked my feet in the kiddie pool before passing out in the car on the way home.
As of right now, I'm just relaxing and taking a few weeks off of running, even moving for that matter. I either work or sit on the couch. It's nice having extra free time right now, but at the same time I find myself slipping on a pair of racing flats just to walk around the house. I'm full of energy, and the hardest part of this break is just making sure I've taken enough time to recuperate and heal. If all goes well I'd like to maybe run a 50 miler in October. Other than that, I think the real fun will be learning to explore the mountains again, rather than making every day a "routine". I hope that time will come soon!