(mer additions in italics)
Who knew that I would be travelling halfway across the country from our home in Austin, Texas to earn a buckle that was made back in Texas!!! But that’s indeed what happened, here’s how it played out…
In the 4 weeks after Western, my legs saw lots of easy biking on the stationary bike (with and without Powercranks), easy swimming, and light lifting for the first 2 weeks. No surprise that my legs were absolutely hammered after their first 100 miler, and my Achilles was a little bruised from my foot swelling during the race. Saw Dr. Zelinski and his staff at http://www.atxrehab.com/ that first week for a post-race tune-up. (I’ve been seeing them about every other week since February and it’s really helped us identify and treat any little issues before they become big issues, especially during the build-up to the GrandKonaSlam and now during it). Then a massage early in week 2 which was MUCH needed. (My go-to masseuse hurt her back but Michelle Hittner at http://austinbodyworker.com/ took great care of me, thank you Michelle!!!) Got in a hard swim and longer (2+ hour ride) on July 4th, and then finally resumed easy running at the end of week 2. Couple of easy trail runs with the wife and dogs, one hill workout, and a 9-miler on the road, and it was time to roll again!!!
I went in to my second 100 mile trail run www.vermont100.com with the intent of maximizing the experience while simultaneously minimizing the amount of time I spend on course. This time around we refined the nutrition plan, and Glen and I planned to get Paul home to the finish before dark. Our flight into Manchester, NH the Thursday before the race was smooth, and we quickly stimulated the local economy at two grocery stores, Starbucks, and a pizza joint before the 90 minute drive up to Windsor, VT. Stunning green scenery and we even got to pay a $1 toll the old-fashioned way (cash), cha-ching! We found our cozy cottage about a couple miles from the start/finish, and went for an easy 20 minute shake-out run immediately after arriving. Dinner was served, and off to bed after a long day of travel.
Friday morning arrived, and we got in a normal Friday pre-race routine run, and then Meredith added on to the start/finish to recon the last couple miles of the course where she would be pacing me the following day. After my run and a light breakfast I drove over to the start/finish area (think big white tent in the middle of a field with lots of horse trailers around it!) to meet Meredith for packet pickup/med check/etc. And I waited, and waited, and waited for Meredith to come back from her run. No answer from text or from her cell phone. Oh well, I’ll go take care of packet pickup/med check and maybe she’ll be back by then. FINALLY, I hear back, and she got turned around somewhere, and was making her way to the start finish. She did meet a horse named Dancer who was competing in the 75 mile endurance ride.
Paul and I got a kick out of a book in our cottage that was filled with Vermontisms. Little did I know that I would get to fully experience one on my run. I get to the start finish area with about 40 min to recon the last few miles of the course. I head out from the finish and easily find my way on the trail to the road, and then back. This is where things get interesting. I decide to follow some white arrows (later to find out that these are other horse routes), and after about 35 minutes I end up on a road. I can say to this day that I have no idea what rode I was on. I start running down the road hoping to come up on an intersection or something. In true Vermont fashion, there are no signs and no cell phone service. I see a truck coming my way and wave it down.
The following is an actual conversation: M “I got lost on my run. Can you tell me what road this is.” Driver: “I don’t know. I am picking up some equipment and was told to turn at the pink trailer.”
M “ Do you know where and I proceed to list all neighboring roads I remember, is? Driver: “Not sure. Not from around here and was told to turn at the pink trailer.”
Off I continue a little more discouraged than before. I come upon a house, finally, with a car in the driveway.
I knock at the door. M “Hello. Anyone home.” A woman appears. M “I got lost on a run and am looking for Silver Hill Rd.”Lady: “Where did you come from. (not understanding the whole concept of getting lost on a run)” M: “Up the road on the trail.” Lady: “Silver Hill Road is just past the pink trailer (I am not kidding). Just turn right.”M “Do you know where Silver Hill Meadow is…the horse race?”Lady: “After you turn about 3 miles up the hill.” Awesome. My hour run turned into 2+, but a memorable adventure.
OK, on to race day… Relentless. The Vermont course just does not quit the whole day, and it’s always changing from hard-packed country road, to wooded trail, to running through some farm pasture/meadow, with a little bit of asphalt road thrown in before diving back into the trail to be repeated all over again. Not being familiar with the course, it was hard for me to get my bearings on, “where exactly am I?” relative to the start-finish, but the multiple aid-stations (29 of them: most manned and some unmanned) made it easy to at least know how much further you had to go! Luckily, when my first pacer and bad-ass ultrarunner Glen Redpath paced me up at Camp 10 Bear mile 70, he knows the course like the back of his hand so that was a relief. Somehow, we found ourselves in the mix with the top-5 guys, and at one time in 2nd place, so that always ups the ante on how much you’re willing to push yourself, even if you had no intent of “racing” at the start. The fight in those guys was just incredible, especially Rob Bien http://daveeasa.blogspot.ca/2012/07/rod.html , Mile Le Roux (2010 Ultraman World Champion and fellow ’12 Slammer) http://www.mikeleroux.com.au/latest-news/blog/268-vermont-100-2012-race-report.html , and Jim Sweeney. Just when Glen and I thought we had an insurmountable gap…here comes “so and so”…to be repeated for the next 30 miles. Meredith picked me up at Bill’s mile 89, with the serious intent of us finishing before dark and breaking 16:30. We stayed on the gas as much as my legs could handle and comfortably finished 4th place in 16:19, just before dark, no lights needed! My parents and young nieces Anna, Alicen, and nephew CJ were all waiting at the finish after missing me all day at 4 different aid stations (talk about outrunning your coverage!) They had little posters made to cheer me on, which was very cute. And the kid handing out finisher’s medals had a “Ranger” hat on but I couldn’t get him to knock out post-race push-ups with us – maybe he was really tired!?
After the race we got to enjoy some time with friends at the cottage: Chad, Glen, and Karen before getting what would have been a good night’s sleep. One of the post-race highlights were treats delivered from Josh’s mom: maple cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, and cookies. What a gift! Unfortunately, the caffeine high and post-race discomfort stood in the way of some solid sleep, but that is just part of the game. Sunday morning Glen and Mer got in a run and then we headed to Aliza’s for a pre-flight visit. It was incredible to be in the hometown of our friends.
Funny story that our 5 readers will appreciate on Paul’s family prepping to see him at the finish. I got to see Paul’s family at the 2nd aid station where they had missed him by almost 30 min (Paul was going much faster than he had put on his pace chart). Then his family missed him at 3 more aid stations. Finally, around mile 76 aid station I got Paul’s mom on the phone. I suggested she head to the finish line with plenty of time, and that I would do my best to get us there as quickly as possible. At that point she asked me, “what is Paul wearing?” I didn’t really understand, but said “gray tank and black shorts.” She then asked, “what will you be wearing?” My response, “Umm, you know that we will be the only ones coming out of the woods, right. I will be in a blue tank and shorts.” She then asked, “what color hat is he wearing.” I said, “A white hat. Trust me you will know when we finish.” After giving it some thought I realized that she had never spectated anywhere but Boston or an Ironman, and didn’t understand that Paul wouldn’t be finishing in a crowd.
Super-fun, no-BS run in some BEAUTIFUL countryside. My super-pacers got some help from fellow WS finishers Aliza Lapierre (Williston, VT) http://alapierre3.blogspot.com/ and Josh Katzman (Arlington, MA), his pacer Sam Jurek (Boston), and Glen’s friend Karen from the NYC so it was full on NASCAR pit-crew style work at the aid stations. Always great to see smiling happy faces!!!
In hindsight, it’s totally cool that the Vermont shirt says “One Step at a Time”, and the finisher’s medal says “Believe in yourself.” Very classy and appropriate. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate 8 years of marriage to Meredith than with finishing a 100-miler with her by my side!
Some things that we did differently than at Western: swapped in and out of a pair of Hoka Bondi-Bs and Brooks Launch throughout the race, though I probably wore the Hokas for 75 of the 100 miles. I’m finding that my feet swell a lot, so this time we were more prepared with a switch of socks from the Drymax MaxPro Running http://www.drymaxsocks.com/extremerunning.php to their thinner cycling sock http://www.drymaxsocks.com/cycling.php as well as the stock Hoka and Brooks insoles to replace the Montrail Enduro-Soles http://www.montrail.com/Enduro-Soles/GU2061,default,pd.html that I’ve been so fond of. Bonkbreaker bars http://www.bonkbreaker.com/ continue to get the job done, this time supplementing my mostly liquid nutrition instead of gels. (Amazing things can happen when I actually take my wife’s nutrition advice) Thanks to Kevin at http://www.thinksport.co/thinksport_LIVESTRONG_sunscreen.html for the sunscreen, my shoulders and my crew thank you!!!
After Vermont, I got a first massage in week 1, am doing some altitude simulation runs on the treadmill, getting a second massage before heading up to Leadville a week before the race, have been able to get in some solid run training in, and will knock out a longer bike ride this weekend (Kona is only 11 weeks away – 5 weeks after Wasatch). Can’t forget the strength work at www.pureaustin.com and swimming either!! Thanks for reading y’all! Of course, all of this is highlighted by some Olympics watching, and lots of Kayak sitting. Mer has her two longest swims in prep for her 9 mile, so a water guardian’s job is not an easy one.