Vermont 100 – 2010

After running Western States just 3 weeks ago I really wasn’t sure what to expect going into the Vermont 100. I felt OK but knew I wasn’t 100% recovered from Western States. Based on past runner’s results, I knew that it was possible to run Western and Vermont back to back and not only run both well but run Vermont even faster. So I was curious to see just how far I could push myself to find out if I would hold up or not.

The start of the race was much better than I expected. Despite the 4am start time, I felt well rested and ready to run. We had a nice cool, clear morning which felt pretty comfortable. I was surprised to find myself running in the lead pack with Andy Jones-Wilkins, Neal Gorman, Andy Henshaw, David Larsen, and a couple others. Andy Henshaw pulled out into the lead after a few miles but for the most part, we had a nice brisk social run for the first 17 miles before everyone settled into their own pace and spread out. I dropped back and let a few more runners pass me but still managed to make it to the Pretty House aid station at mile 21 on target for a 17 hour finish.

On the next leg on the way to Stage Road, the course crossed through some open fields and the uneven footing aggravated my right foot which was still a bit sore from Western States. I wasn’t able to run the downhill’s as fast as I wanted to but managed to get to Stage Road (mile 30) in good time still on track for my 17 hour pacing plan.

It was already starting to heat up even before 9am so I packed some extra ice in my bandanna and headed out on the next leg to Camp 10 Bear. Since 17 hours was my most optimistic goal for the day, I figured I’d just work through this next leg a bit slower and try to survive the heat as well as I could. My legs were already feeling like they did 50 miles into Western States so this next stretch was pretty hard work to keep grinding along at a steady pace. Several more runners passed me along this section but I didn’t worry about it too much. There were still plenty of miles to go and it was too early to start counting on any finish time or place. I reset my pacing goals to 18-19 hours and figured I’d keep at this pace through the heat and try to catch up later in the evening after it cools off.

I made it to the first Camp 10 Bear stop at mile 47 feeling pretty worn out but still in decent shape and still on target for 18-19 hours. Unfortunately the next leg on the long loop back to Camp 10 Bear at mile 70 killed me. My legs were dead and it was a struggle to just keep moving. I just kept focusing on getting from one aid station to the next. Runners were passing me in waves at this point which was discouraging. But I kept reminding myself that I was still on track to finish in good time under 20 hours. All I needed to do was survive this rough stretch and hope that I would recover later. After about 50 miles I was having trouble getting calories in. On the nice downhill section to Tracer Brook, I could barely manage to keep up an 11-12 minute pace. Serena Wilcox hiked with me for a couple miles on the long climb back up to Margaritaville. One of the farms we passed by had a water tank set out for the horses and we both dunked ourselves head first up to the shoulders. It was so hot at this point we really didn’t mind the extra horse slobber.

By 60 miles, I was stopping to walk on even some of the easy flat and downhill sections. At Margaritaville at mile 62 I took some time out to sit, rest, and figure out what I could manage to eat to get some calories in. Pretzels seemed to be the only food that I could get down so I grabbed as many as I could carry and headed out to shuffle my way down the hill back to Camp 10 Bear. Unfortunately Margaritaville was the last aid station that stocked pretzels. Other than a handful that a very nice lady from another runner’s crew gave me at Westwinds, I didn’t find another pretzel until the finish.

By the time I made it to Camp 10 Bear at mile 70, I was completely wrecked. But I was happy to meet my pacer, Charlie Cowan. I let Charlie and my mom know that I was pretty much out of the race. I was still on target for a 20-21 hour finish but at this point any time or place goals were thrown out and my only focus was to get to the finish without injury. I took some time to sit and pull myself together at Camp 10 Bear and managed to get most of a cliff bar down before heading back out with Charlie.

Earlier in the week I had posted a pacer request with the VT100 just as a last minute after thought. I didn’t think I’d have any trouble running solo and rarely need any real encouragement from a pacer. But I thought it might be nice to have some company on the run and meet someone new. After mile 70, I would have been glad to have any pacer with me but Charlie turned out to be the best stroke of luck I’d had all day. I couldn’t have found a more perfect match to help me through the last 30 miles. Charlie seemed to know exactly when to push and when to back off the pace to keep me moving steadily. He’d move ahead and spot the hills to plan out where we’d transition from hiking to jogging and back again. And he was always quick with helpful reminders and suggestions along the way. I managed to keep my head clear and stayed focused on taking care of myself the entire time but Charlie’s comments, suggestions, and encouragement along the way were always helpful and reassuring. And aside from the pacing help, Charlie was just really good company. He’s currently training for his first 100 miler at Leadville. And while he isn’t a very experienced ultra runner, he has a very impressive background in Ironman triathlons (sorry, I can’t recall exact finish stats but they were pretty good). So we had a lot to talk about along the way.

The first two stops at Seabrook (mile 74) and Westwinds (mile 77) went fairly well. I almost thought I might still have a chance to pull through and come back to manage a decent finish time. I also caught up with Andy Henshaw at each of these stops. He was just leaving the stations as I was coming in. When I asked how he was doing at Seabrook, he just half grunted, “suffering” as he drooled part of his last mouthful of ramen and headed off up the road. I felt a little better about my condition since I wasn’t the only one from our starting pack to have a rough time. After Westwinds, Andy must have been able to pull through with a strong finish since he made it in under 20 hours dropping me behind by about 2 hours.

Unfortunately I wouldn’t have any final recovery in this race. The next leg to Cow Shed at mile 83 took a long time and there was only one unmanned water stop at mile 80. They just had clear water jugs sitting out on a table which were pretty hot by the time we got there. I managed to get some warm water down in the last couple miles to Cow Shed but by the time I got to the aid station, I was hot, dizzy, and feeling pretty queasy. I asked for pretzels or saltines but they didn’t have any so I sat down with a cup of ice water to try to settle my stomach and cool off. I managed to get one cup of ice water down and drank some chicken broth and thought I might be ready to go. But as soon as I stood up, I got really dizzy, managed to get 50 feet across the road and started throwing up. Charlie came to the rescue and got an ice pack on my neck, packed up his hat with ice and strapped it to my head, and got another two handfuls of ice and held them in my armpits to get me cooled off. After a few minutes I was feeling a bit better and decided we needed to get moving before I got too cold. Since I was out of luck on pretzels or saltines, we searched the aid table for any suitable bland source of calories. All we could come up with was 2 slices of plain wonder bread sprinkled with some salt. So I headed back out to try to make it to Bill’s at mile 88 with a pack of ice on my head and a fistful of bread.

The wonder bread tasted like glue with bug spray but it seemed to go down OK and helped to settle my stomach. Charlie talked me into getting a Cliff shot blok down by just keeping one in my cheek and sipping water to try to get a tiny trickle of sugar and calories down. That worked out pretty well for a while but with a little over a mile left to get to Bill’s, my ice pack had melted and the last few sips of my water was really warm. I started heating up again and was getting queasy but we made it into the station carefully walking and jogging the last mile.

I weighed in at Bill’s and was only down a couple of pounds so that was a good sign that I wasn’t too dehydrated. I checked the table for anything I could manage to eat and again I was out of luck on pretzels or saltines. The aid station was in a big barn and it was getting pretty crowded which was making me queasy so I grabbed some ice water and went outside, stole a volunteer’s chair, and sat down to try to recuperate. Charlie kept making trips back and forth to the aid table to find something I could eat. Eventually we figured out that oranges worked so I ate about a dozen wedges. My mom managed to get me to drink a few sips of ginger ale after standing bay fairly persistently. One of the medical staff came out and checked on me and noted that I wasn’t sweating and was really hot. While that sounded pretty bad, it made sense and gave me a clear problem to work through to get myself to the finish. As long as I was careful not to over exert myself and was able to carry enough ice and ice water, I should be able to make it to the finish line.

From Bill’s, Charlie and I just kept working our way to each aid station to get to the finish. We kept the next aid stops to a bare minimum to just restock ice and ice water. I managed to get down a couple more slices of wonder bread along the way. The last station at Polly’s had some Ritz crackers but they were too buttery so I only got a couple down before they started making me queasy.

The finish was pretty uneventful. I didn’t have any kick left in me other than to jog the entire last half mile. I had no intention of racing anyone and fortunately I was on my own through the last couple of miles. Charlie and I just kept chugging along walking and jogging steadily. After I crossed the finish line, I managed to stay on my feet to walk a little further to the aid tent, got some more ice and ice water and cooled down gradually before sitting down. I had to lie down on a cot in the medical tent for a little while to rest my legs before I could move again but I was happy that I managed to recover on my own without an IV this time.

My final finish time really wasn’t that bad at 21:48 – almost an hour faster than my first VT100 in 2008. But I can honestly say that this was the toughest race I’ve ever done. This is the closest I’ve come to a DNF and without Charlie’s help out there, I may not have made it. I doubt I would have quit on my own but I probably would have struggled to make the 30 hour cut off or had the medical staff eventually pull me.

Looking back, this was a pretty good learning experience. I can’t say that I’d do anything differently in regards to pacing, hydration, or fueling (other than to stock pretzels and saltines in my own drop bags). My pacing plan didn’t work out well this time but I still think that on a good day I could finish this course in 17-18 hours. My legs just weren’t 100% recovered from Western States and it turned out that it just wasn’t my day. This did give me a pretty good idea of just how bad things can get. I may not be able to run like I did at Western States at every race and I expect that I’ll have a lot more bad days than good days coming up. But next time I will be more mentally prepared and will have the confidence knowing that I can make it to the finish even on my worst day.

And on a final positive note, since I wasn’t able to push very hard, my legs are in really good shape. The tendons in my right foot that were bothering me after Western States are perfectly fine now. I have some sore quads and calves but I don’t have any real damage to recover from. So this may have been a blessing in disguise to set myself up for a good 5 week break to prepare for Leadville and Wasatch.

Here’s the full map of the course:

(Click here for a larger map.)

And finally, here are some photos from the weekend:

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Vermont 100 StartVermont 100 Start

Vermont 100 Start16-Jul-2010 13:31

Chip ready to take a million photos.Chip ready to take a million photos.

Chip ready to take a million photos.17-Jul-2010 01:51

My crew. Mom, Mikhaela, and Harrison.My crew. Mom, Mikhaela, and Harrison.

My crew. Mom, Mikhaela, and Harrison.17-Jul-2010 01:52

Ready to run at 3:45amReady to run at 3:45am

Ready to run at 3:45am17-Jul-2010 01:52

Nice sunrise view through the trees.Nice sunrise view through the trees.

Nice sunrise view through the trees.17-Jul-2010 03:54

The climb up the road to the Pretty House aid station at mile 21. Still moving along at a great pace on target for 17 hours.The climb up the road to the Pretty House aid station at mile 21. Still moving along at a great pace on target for 17 hours.

The climb up the road to the Pretty House aid station at mile 21. Still moving along at a great pace on target for 17 hours.17-Jul-2010 04:52

On the way to Stage Road (mile 30).On the way to Stage Road (mile 30).

On the way to Stage Road (mile 30).17-Jul-2010 06:13

17-Jul-2010 06:13

17-Jul-2010 06:14

17-Jul-2010 06:14

17-Jul-2010 06:14

Stage Rd aid station. Still feeling pretty good and moving along at a good pace.Stage Rd aid station. Still feeling pretty good and moving along at a good pace.

Stage Rd aid station. Still feeling pretty good and moving along at a good pace.17-Jul-2010 08:41

Another nice climb with an open view after Stage Road.Another nice climb with an open view after Stage Road.

Another nice climb with an open view after Stage Road.17-Jul-2010 06:17

17-Jul-2010 06:17

17-Jul-2010 06:17

We had a 1 hour head start on the horses. The first rider passed me at 36 miles.We had a 1 hour head start on the horses. The first rider passed me at 36 miles.

We had a 1 hour head start on the horses. The first rider passed me at 36 miles.17-Jul-2010 07:52

17-Jul-2010 08:59

17-Jul-2010 08:59

  • mike_hinterberg

    July 29th, 2010

    Already, you knocked another one down!
    Happy to read a writeup again.
    Still a great and enviable time even with difficulties, and looks like you’re set up well for the next ones.

  • Pete

    July 29th, 2010

    Thanks Mike. I certainly won’t complain about my finish time at Vermont. It sure wasn’t pretty but at least it looks good on paper:-) I’m crossing my fingers for a better day at Leadville.

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