This was not supposed to be my 100-mile run. I planned to make my first 100 miler the Rocky Raccoon in February. I did the MiWok 100K in early May, came home and sat back and watched Meredith continue to prepare for Western States. I did a couple 20 milers on the greenbelt with her, and I did the Rouge trail series, but I thought no more super long runs until the fall. Well, Western States did not go as planned for Meredith, so she refocused on the Vermont 100. Somewhere in there she tired to convince me to make it my first 100. 2 and 1/2 weeks away, and the last long run I did was 7 weeks ago. I told myself if I could make a 30 miler with no trouble and if Stephanie could take off work to pace me, I was in. Both of these things happened, and I found myself dropping a race application and check into the mail. Yikes! What in the hell did I just get myself into?
I need to give some credit to a few folks for pushing me to go, and really getting me believing I could do 100 miles. Meredith planted the seed, Liz somehow convinced me 100 miles isn’t that bad, Mike did everything he could to get me to go (I think so he didn’t have to hear about how much I wanted to try a 100 for any longer), and Stephanie ever so generously provided me with one of her frequent flyer tickets.
I spent the next week and a half studying the race. I googled it, and read every race report I could and looked at every picture I could. I had all my drop bags prepped a week ahead of time. I skipped a lot of my regular runs to rest. I was as ready as I could be.
So, 4 of us leave on for Vermont on Thursday. Meredith was being paced and crewed my Melissa, and Steph was with me. We flew into Manchester, NH and rented a car to get to Vermont. The drive and scenery were incredible, and Steph and I agreed no matter what happened, this was at least going to be a fabulous vacation.
The day before the race, we all headed out to the farm it starts at to weigh in and do all the pre race stuff. No one there seemed to believe me I was running. Was this a bad omen? We also got briefed on the concurrent 100-mile horse race that goes along with it. It is funny that the runners are amazed someone can sit on a horse that long, and the rider think the runners are amazing. Steph and I went to Woodstock to experience some New England charm. At lunch, I became incredibly nervous to the point I couldn’t eat. I felt like I was sitting at the wrong table in the cafeteria or something. What in the hell was I doing here? 100 miles? What was I thinking? As we got back to the hotel, I calmed down some. Later that night the 4 of us went to dinner, and I had no pre race anxiety at all. Steph and I got into bed by 900, and I set my alarm for a 2am wake up, to make it to the start by 315 or so. The official start is 4 am!
Race day. I woke up with a completely relaxed mind. Steph got up, took pictures, and I was off to meet Melissa and Meredith to get me to the start. Meredith’s friend John was also coming to help crew, and we met him at the start. Once again, I never was nervous. Before I knew we were lining up and we were off.
The race is on mostly dirt roads and trail. A few asphalt sections too. I knew there were supposed to be some really tough hill climbs. We started on dirt road on a nice downhill. It was still completely dark and it was just impossible to imagine what the next 24 hours might bring. We quickly headed into the woods, and I was greeted by the mud. We had been warned prerace that the mud would be bad and the heat would be bad (record highs). So far, they were right about the mud. It was thick, unavoidable, and literally could suck your shoes right off. So, 3 miles into the race, my brand new shoes were trashed. I don’t remember much more about the early miles. Forest and dirt road, suddenly the horses, which started an hour after the runners, appeared. I listened to my ipod; I had a Margaret Atwood book on it that would last 10 hours. I was eating well at the aid stations, and making good time, while keeping very comfortable. Around 12 miles, I met a woman named Debbie from Phoenix, by way of England. We chatted for miles about all kinds of things, and the miles were flying by. I hit a couple of the key aid stations with my drop bags, and finally felt like the race was way under way. Continuing on, I saw Melissa at mile 28 and she took such good care of me. She got me a chair, fed me, and sent me on my way. I continued to run with Debbie, and a nice fellow from New Jersey, originally from Columbia. The 3 of us stuck together quite sometime and enjoyed the scenery and the run ins with the horses. It one point I realized we were with Nick, the soup guy from the Badwater documentary. He was a bit of a local celebrity, so coming into aid stations with him, got quite a response.
Mile 44 came and this was a key point. It was the camp 10 Bear aid station, and we would hit it again at mile 68 and get our pacers. It was also the first time I would see Stephanie. I cruised in and she asked me how I was doing. “Fantastic!” I said. I pick up lots more food, Stephanie had bought an awesome little camp chair and had my drop bag waiting. I had a couple small issues: my back was getting a raw spot from my camelback and the blisters were starting. But overall, things were great. I was on 24 hour pace.
Onward. I was still with Debbie and we both decided 50 miles would feel great. I had decided after 50 to walk a little more, and try to save a little for the end. Things were great until about 52. I seemed to be slowing and I was not keeping up with my little group I had managed to collect. By the mile 55 aid station I had lost them, and I was nauseated. I got to 55, sat in a chair and drank a ginger ale. It didn’t do much. I had 5 miles until the Margaritaville aid station, known to be the best on the course. My legs felt shot. My quads were beat up from the muddy downhills and I was walking more. I got to mile 60 and they had fresh cheeseburgers. I sat down in the mud and tried to eat a cheeseburger while some guy making a documentary, got in my face and asked my way to many questions at a point I was melting down. I really considered dropping for the first time here. I just was not having fun, and my legs hurt at this point.
At the next aid station the nausea returned and I sat in a chair and sipped broth. I told the volunteer there I thought I was done, and he told me I looked great and he couldn’t see any reason why I wouldn’t make it. I whined I was nauseated and my legs were bad. He said, “Well, are you ok with not finishing? If you are then drop out, if you aren’t then keep on.” He asked me if I had a good friend to pace me, waiting at the next aid station and I said yes. He said, “Well, if she is a good friend, she’ll walk with you all night and you’re ahead of cutoff enough that you will finish.” He more or less kicked me out of the aid station. Thank goodness he did.
I had 5 miles to camp 10 Bear and picking up Stephanie. It started pouring rain, and in the woods it was like walking upstream. It got dark and suddenly it was pitch black, raining, and I was cold. The bullfrogs started up, and that was it. I was officially miserable. I hobbled along, and planned my speech to tell Stephanie. If I dropped I figured I could recover enough by the am to go shopping in Woodstock and enjoy Vermont. If Meredith had dropped, that was even more incentive for me to get the hell out of these woods. I quit eating and drinking since I was done. I could be ok with not finishing. This just wasn’t fun.
I got to Camp 10 Bear, and Stephanie ran up to me and said, “Go right to the scale! You’re doing great.” I tried to tell her there was no reason for me to weigh since I was done, but I didn’t get a chance as she shoved me onto the scale. John was there and I asked if we could talk somewhere without a million volunteers. Stephanie plopped me in our camp chair and the tears started. “Please don’t make me go back out there. Please! I am not having fun. My legs are gone I cannot imagine walking for 32 more miles on a death march.” Stephanie and John sat down on the ground next to me and listened to me sob and sob. I told them I didn’t like being out in the woods all day like a pioneer. I had no idea what made me think I could go on all night in the pitch black woods when all the sounds were scary. John and Stephanie kept laughing at me, and I just sobbed harder and harder. They said, “Just change your socks and shoes, and think about just going a little further. I drank a Starbucks coffee, had some ramen, and some brownie. Before I knew it, I was up. Stephanie said, “Just give it one more aid station. Let me have one aid station to go with you.” We were off…..
The next few miles were back in the woods. It was all up a huge hill and muddy. Stephanie later told me I was painfully slow here. My knee hurt and I couldn’t go up hills on it. I used my bandana as a makeshift knee brace, and that helped. The next aid station was 5 miles off and it felt like an eternity. I think at this point Stephanie and I stated to talk a little about things other than how miserable I was. I was feeling better but not convinced I could make it. We got to the next aid station and they were out of everything. Another blow to my very fragile psyche. Stephanie was great. She was very patient with me. We went onward.
I would like to think we had a little fun for the next few miles. We stopped and stared at the night sky full of stars while in a pasture. We followed the course into what looked like someone’s yard, and behind a rock fence a little black and while cat appeared. Stephanie said “well hello there!”. The cat started purring and rubbing my legs. We named him magic kitty and we agreed somehow he was there to lift my sprits. Unfortunately, I was also struggling with frequent stops due to diarrhea. Poor Stephanie. I’d have her run ahead while I was getting sick. The cramping from this was yet another discomfort I added to my ever growing list.
By mile 80 I started thinking I just might finish. Strange that I thought “only ” 20 miles. I think Stephanie sensed this, and she really pushed me. All I saw was the 10:00 am cut off time. I could make that. What I didn’t see, that Stephanie did, was our current pace would not get us to all the aid stations before they closed, which would mean I would be out. I was stopping at each station eating soup and taking a little too much time. At mile 85 or so, Stephanie announced I had to run more, or I was out. I would not make cut offs. I still didn’t quite get it, but she explained I would not be allowed to finish. I got mad at this thought and started some “running” which was really shuffling.
We got to Bill’s aid station: the final med check. I ran to the scale. Stephanie was so good to me, She kept telling me how good I was doing. Both of our feet were shot from all the mud that had dried in our socks and turned to fine grit. It was like running on sand paper. I still felt overwhelmed by the amount of distance ahead. We got to about mile 92 and Stephanie tried to convince me I didn’t have much. I was so fearful I wouldn’t make it, I just got depressed. She kept telling me I was going great, kept pushing me.
With 6 or so to go, I started crying again. I just didn’t think I would make the cut off. I think it was more of fatigue and frustration built up. Stephanie was so patient and kept me going just telling me to run from one tree to the next.
We hit the last manned aid station called Polly’s. Stephanie had them all cheer for me and had them yell I was going to make it. I still was not convinced and felt frustrated. I think with about 3 miles to go; I finally thought I might beat the cut off. We hit one massive hill after another. Even Stephanie said the course was sadistic.
We hit the final 2 miles. Stephanie told me no matter what I should make the cut off. I think I finally believed her. We seemed to go on and on in the woods. Suddenly we came out and there was a banner. Are we done? The cheers from the few folks left answered my question. I did it!!! 100 miles..done.
It was very anti climatic. We went straight to the car, and hit the road to go back to the motel. I got a little faint, and I think it freaked Stephanie out, but I was ok. We got to the hotel, and she helped me up to the room all of us were sharing. We barged in, and Stephanie announced we did it….she got me to the finish line. John yelled “No F—– way!” He and Melissa jumped up and down I found out Meredith had a hard night too, but made it in 28 hours. There was champagne.
Steph and I managed to go back to the start/ finish for the awards. I was getting my plaque I fought so hard for. As we got to the big tent they were announcing the finishers from last to first. The last finisher gets recognition as the “Runner who enjoyed the Vermont scenery the most.” I got it! 29 hours, 27 minutes. I got called up and everyone cheered, and there wasn’t an actual award. They also didn’t have enough plaques for me to get one. Stephanie and I kind of laughed about it. What more could I have done? Later, I would find out the finish rate was only 58%. Coming in last isn’t too shabby when it’s put that way!
I am so glad I did this. Yes it was hard, yes I swore I’d never do another one during the night (several times in fact!), yes, I feel like complete crap today. The Vermont 100 is fantastically done. Beautiful course and excellent volunteers. The horse race is another fun element. I owe 99% of my finish to Stephanie. She prodded me and kept me going. She forced me out the aid station where I swore I was done. I cannot imagine doing this without her. We agreed the next adventure will be a little less extreme! Doing long runs always makes me realize more than ever what incredible people I have in my life, and this one was no exception.