Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I can never match what John Posted on his blog, but i can post my notes i wrote to myself and link his very descriptive blog so here goes.

John's blog

Here are the notes from my journey:

“Two tampons are walking down the street together, but neither of them says anything”

“John’s been kicking my ass up all of the hills”

“Nate's been bitching about all of the hills”

Run through Hillsboro

“Lets walk ahead, my feet hurt, I’m going to go ahead and get them taken care of in Henniker”

My 4 mile day becomes 10

Amey Brook, wow we misjudged that

I-89 Transition and decoration


Steve from NHPR

New Shoes = Bad plan, come back for me

“Are we going to make it to Concord in time?”

8:45 Arrival

Soup and festivities

“Nate might drop; he was in tears of pain the last few miles”

Loni and I alone crewing now

The decision and the march out of sight

Shaw’s and the call

Running into the darkness with John

Struggling with Shorts Liner

Onto Route 4, spirits high

White Tail Deer

WENDY’S ISN’T OPEN! I really wanted a sandwich

A dollar tip from Dunks

Try bag Balm

Holy shit it’s getting cold

3 Miles at a time, picking it apart

John you’ve come so far, why aren’t you happy? “My fucking feet hurt”

Power Naps

Long Quiet Climbs

Colder yet

4am, “john, remember how I was positive earlier, yeah well it’s gone” - “I knew you had it in your”

Chicken soup

Help Yourself Bate – 24 Hours Sign

White tail deer again

Walking the White line & fighting sleep “running”

“Hey John, you’ve decided that this is stupid, but I have a question. At this point, which one of us is more stupid, me or you?” - “Oh defiantly you. “ “Thanks, I thought so but I needed a second opinion”

The Run touching all 6 New England states

It’s getting light out man, we’re closing in

99 miles. Enter John’s mom. And Sarah returns. I’ve run 30 through the night. It’s daybreak. I’m tapping out, back to crewing. John in good spirits with classmates and newly deflowered ultra virgin Steve at his side

114 Miles, “you know if you run the last 10 miles with him you’ll have a 50 on the day.” “Shit, you are right.” Back into the mix.

"Are you John’s Brother?"

10 Miles to go, 10-12 people in tow now. WMUR, reporters on the phone, trying to keep up with now-speedy John. John’s friends going through the highs and lows of distance running.

Closing in, everyone happy, laughter. Last stretch, more runners join. John’s celebration and then run into the ocean. Hugs (from make a wish little girl, I must look more like John then anyone thought), tears, photos and interviews. Emotional highs and proud to have assisted on something so epic.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Harpoon Oktoberfest 5k (3.6Mile)

October 12th, 2008

Loni said to me on the way to the race “You have addicting passions.” She was right. 5 years ago at Harpoon it had been just Loni, Dustin, Heather, Adrian and I. 4 of us had run. Since then many faces had joined and then bridges were burned, but they still were there. This year we had a party of 10, 8 of who were running. Sometimes I wonder if this is what I do to contribute to my little click of friends. I keep them all running at least one 5k a year, of course, as long as there is promise of beer at the end.

The start is a tad apprehensive as we get to walk past two sets of ex-acquaintances that refuse to recognize my existence, but still show up to an event that obviously I’m going to be at. I was there before them, and I’ll be there afterwards. Oh well, their loss. Loni and I are pleased to be joined by Grant at the start. He’s a mutual friend with some of the burned bridges so it’s a great gesture for him to give us the time of day. We catch up on training regimens and how much/little we’ve been training. Last year we said we were going to break 22:00 here. Today, I’m running with loni and told him I don’t care about time. I just want to enjoy the ride.

At the first mild climb one of the Ex’s and her new boy come up and say hello. Well rather, HE says hello and she hardly recognizes my existence as expected. Oh well, I laugh as when they pass neither of them are talking; they both actually had to take out ear buds to say hello. I shake my head and think, what a shitty way to run “together.” I mean, you can’t hear one another, you aren’t talking to one another, and that fucking sucks. When I ran with her we never ran with headphones. You’d talk to one another, it was more intimate. Eh, I guess it’s just a core difference. To each is their own I suppose.

The long hill looms ahead and the pack is spreading out. Grant and I are chatting and moving along at a nice comfortable pace, Loni’s starting to feel pain in her heel. One mile down, 12 minutes in, feeling fine. Grant and I continue to chat about how much the race has grown as we pass the first water stop. We look back and check in on loni, who’s 5 feet behind us throughout the race. I’m enjoying his company as Loni’s a silent runner. She needs to focus on her breathing to keep her moving forward and I have a real hard time realizing that.

The 3 of us push on through the development. I wonder were the rest of the crew is. If anyone has finished already? Then the ball buster hill, the hill that Dustin dreads every year looms ahead. I jog up it nonchalantly, much too many of the people around me shagrin. A short hill like this is nothing compared to what you find at the ultras in the area. I kind of feel like a dick to be going up the hill with a smile, but the Jolly Koppershmitts are at the top of the hill and are playing a familiar tune.

Grant and I talk about how we went through our ups and downs at Pisgah last year when he lost his ultra-virginity. Good times and great memories. Loni’s hurting after that last hill, her knee is really starting to bother her. I worry that it was too soon after the VT50 for her to be out here. Grant can smell the bratwurst and takes off up the last little hill.

I try to push loni on faster down this last hill, she’s hurting so I do the best to encourage her to turn up the speed. The group of 4 dressed up as beer girls pass us, mind you 2 of these 4 are guys. Well the story there is one of the girls, yeah her skirt is quite loose, and if you have ever run in a skirt you will know that anyone behind you gets quite the show. Luckily for me, today was no exception, if you read this, you have one fine hieny young lady!

Loni and I turn the last corner and she digs deep and speeds up, she knows the finish is soon and picks up the pace again on the last stretch. I match her pace and we’re able to cross the now-packed finish line together. As an added bonus we get finishers race mugs and join the rest of the group in the festival.

All 8 of us finished and we all shared many of delicious Harpoon beers following. What a great way to finish up my race season.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Pleasant Climb

Saturday October 11th 2008 (Race 29)

Another perfect New England fall day. Loni, still nursing the knee injury from the VT50 tags along and is sad she is unable to race today. I’m feeling fresh surprisingly seeing how in the last 12 days I had run a 50 mile and a half marathon. One of the volunteers spots my VT50 sweatshirt and asks if I was there this year. He tells me he’s the official time keeper there as well. I thank him and tell him it’s my favorite race of the year and I’m already looking forward to next year.

The race director gives us the standard pre-race shpeal and the small group of us head out of the school parking lot. I was surprised how few people showed up for the race. After all it was the final race of the Western NH Trail Running series. Oh well I say to myself, perhaps I’ll have a better chance on scoring myself some sweet shwag!

Even though this is a “trail race” the first mile of it is a grueling pavement downhill. Many runners dart past me as I fall into my standard 10 minute mile pace. It’s a flaw that I have to correct. At short races I end up leaving too much in the tank because I’m still in “ultra-mode.” At any rate I fall in line with another guy that seems to be smiling and enjoying himself. His name was Tim and he drove over from Rutland Vermont to do the race series. He had missed the first race but had done the rest. He said this was his first year back into running in many years. I welcomed him back to the community and thanked him for being so social able. It still bums me out when I do short races and people are so stuffy and aloof.

He bids me farewell as we finally get off the pavement and hit the single track, he’s a bit conservative, and I’ve logged so many miles in the woods this year that I just power on. I catch a few runners that have obviously pounded their thighs too much on that first mile. They are huffing and puffing and my motor is still warming up. As was told by the RD there are several pockets of cold due to the amazing little stretch of waterfalls that border the side of the trail. The sun beaming threw the oaks and maples that still have their leaves, the trail covered with the yellow birch leaf blanket; THIS is what I think of when I think New England in the fall.

We make one of the 3 manned turns in the woods and start the “pleasant climb” as would be assumed. The river on the other side now still trickles between crunches of footsteps. It’s quite fantastic. Sadly that feeling ends as we turn away from the stream and a long large stretch of steep single track looms ahead. There is a bit of mud here, but nothing like the race director had warned of, onward and upward still with dry feet I push on. I catch up to a fellow in yellow that grunts and growls when he rolls his feet or trips on roots. I laugh a little because that’s a lot of how I run. We don’t speak much here because we’re on a climb to what must have been the peak. It wasn’t long before the elevation turned in our favor and down we were plummeting, you could see Mt Kearsarge to the left over Pleasant Lake. With the foliage and the sun it was pretty spectacular. I hope to get back here someday to hike and take some photos. As the hill steepens there is a rather large log, a tree, one would say in the trail. The guy behind me yells, “High hurdle that log!” Of course I oblige, and I hear him cheer when he sees me do it. Sadly this is the last of the happiness on this decent. The road steepens and turns to pavement. I suffer a bit through this, I’m wearing trail shoes and I can feel my legs burning from the past two races on now my second pavement decent of the day. Thankfully the road turns back to dirt at the bottom of the hill and rolls for about a mile. The guy, Amber’s father, as he introduces himself catches up to me and we share the next few miles together. Pushing and pulling each other along. He talks about how he’s done the triathlon that runs here and I listen while enjoying the scenery. I guess his daughter (Amber) is running this and her boyfriend (whose name escapes me) wins many of these races. I scope out a neat little man made stone bridge on a pond before we dart back into the woods for the final set of trail before the finish.

The trail quickly turns from pleasant doublet rack snowmobile trail to what looks very much like Fox Forest. A bolder-lined, grassy, muddy, stone and hidden sink holed disaster of a trail. But of course, this is what you’ll find over much of New England so I’ve become attuned to it. I roll my ankle once, then again, then again, but I’m still making good time. I look over my shoulder and I’ve left Amber’s father in the dust. Thankfully the boulder-trail ends and I’m left with 500 yards or so of 2x12 timbers lined single track. It’s pretty neat and I can see life moving way up in the distance. Just before I get out of the woods I see loni laying in a pile of leaves, she tells me the finish is just up around the corner. The person I was chasing was now approached by what appears to be another runner. He’s encouraging her to push on. I can see them both looking over their shoulders. I figured this is Amber and her boyfriend. I know he’s telling her that I’m gaining and that she should push on. We make the final turn and I can see the finish, she shifts into another gear and I match it. I’m about 5 feet behind her now and I joking say ‘aw man, you’re going to make me work for this now aren’t you.” I don’t know if she thought it was funny or not but her boyfriend didn’t seem pleased with what I said. Guess that’s how the lead runners feel, you probably aren’t supposed to laugh and have a good time at these things. Too bad for him that I still have another gear and shift again. About 500 feet from the finish I pull ahead of Amber and beat her by almost 5 seconds.

At the finish I see that not only did Amber win her division, her boyfriend won his, her father won his, and her mother won hers. What a great running family, so very cool. Loni laughs as, yet again, I’m one of the only people that DOESN’T get picked for the post-race raffle. That’s 0-2 this year, but it’s all good as I got my etched beer (orange juice) mug and quickly got out of there and home for my Oktoberfest 08 party!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Applefest ½ Marathon

October 4th, 2009

It’s a sunny brisk PERFECT fall morning. The sun is burning off the slight frost we got the night before. I sit on the couch debating on wardrobe for the race. A year ago today we set almost record highs at this race when the temps were in the mid to high 80s WITH high humidity. Today is going to go differently I think to myself. My feet aren’t quite as battered from the Vermont 50 the week before. I’m trying this new attitude thing out on my races as well.

I get a kiss goodbye from loni as she heads off to work and I head south to Hollis for its 26th annual half marathon. Another solo race, my 28th race of the year, I wonder how many miles I’ve traveled on my feet in just races this season? It’s funny, the only reason I had signed up for this race originally was I was going to run it with my girlfriend of the time over the summer. Then when she made up an excuse to not train, she said she’d do the relay with her friend. Then they both decided it was too expensive. What a nut roll those chicks are. Their loss I think, the colors are coming out, I think about the orchards we run by, the neat people you see here (this is the largest road race I participate in), the scenery from last year, and it makes me smile about how I’ve been learning to push on even though I’m surrounded by negativity.

I take the back way to the race this year. I decide it’ll be better for me, boy was I that a good decision, almost no traffic. I arrive early and I gather my things. We’re forced to park off site and then shuttled to the event due to parking constraints at the high school. I find myself in the bus line just ahead of some avid runners who are talking about how this is such a good warm up run for Chicago, New York, and the Philadelphia Marathons. I think about how these people must be the ones that buy up every copy of Runner’s World at the newsstands and counts the seconds of their races as a qualifier for another race. I wonder if they ever just take in the race around them. Eh, it’s none of my business.

I get my bib, my shirt, I check my things. The temps are perhaps in the 50s now, but the sun feels great. IT’s about 30 minutes before the start. Half of the field of runners are already standing in port-a-potty lines, the other half are off busying themselves with their warm up routine. I decide I’m going to lay down. I find a nice spot of grass, use my water belt as a pillow and bask in the sun. I hear some nay-sayers going “yeah, good warm up,” as they hurry by and I just smile and enjoy the warmth. The one thing that ultra’s has taught me over the years is you don’t need to go out and power run a mile before you run, you don’t need to do this or that. IF you are in tune enough with your body, you can just relax it and be ready. If you trained correctly, if you are in the right mindset, you are gold. A lot of people see others running warm ups so they feel that they should be doing the same thing. Well I think many of those runners are the runners I catch in the second half when they are sucking wind and wishing they had relaxed more at the start.

5 minutes before the start they have us all line up on the road. There is a brief race meeting and then the race siren blares and off we go down the driveway. 1 mile down, 9:35, not too bad I say to myself. I yell out, 12.1 to go and get some evil stares from people around me that are already hunkered down into plug ahead mode. I turn the corner at 1.5 and I’m running next to an older woman that explains that it’s her first run back at this course in 10 years. She goes on to explain that at this time last year, she had a broken neck; I congratulate her on her speedy recovery and wish her well. At 1.5 and 12.5 you go up the same hill. Well the word “hill” has a whole different meaning for a trail runner versus a road runner. It’s not too bad I think and plug ahead passing people left and right. As I’m passing an older fellow, he must have been in his 60s, I look over, and he’s got a huge grin on his face. “You’re smiling, I love it!” “’Course I am, this is easy! Like Water!” His response lifts my spirits up and over the top of the small climb. Now it’s a mostly downhill rollercoaster back past the school, through the downtown area and out past silver lake. The comradely at these road races never touch trail running. I’m not exactly sure why, but it seems like many runners are in tight nit groups that talk to each other nonstop. Or they are the individuals that are looking at their watches and will hardly give you a hello in passing. When I get to the first real uphill of the race between 3-4 miles I find myself running next to the 4th or 5th person wearing an outfit very Canadian. We exchange words, wow I think, he’s actually sociable! He says he and his wife, and 5 other couples are down from New Brunswick to run this race. Then tomorrow on their way home, they are to meet up with 2 OTHER couples from Canada to run the Portland half marathon. Hey that’s just great, here I am thinking only I’d be crazy enough to run back to back races in a single weekend.

I settle into a grove and start knocking out the miles. I keep my eye on my watch at the mile markers only. Last year I swear I broke 2 hours here, but the timing chip gave me 2:04 and I wasn’t pleased. This year was going to be different. Cooler temps, better attitude, better training, I had to break 2. At the top of the 5 mile hill I hear the familiar bag pipe guy. It’s one of the neatest parts of this race. An old timer in full Scottish attire playing the bag pipes at the top of the hill. It really pulls you up to the top and then helps you down the backside. From here to 8 miles it’s mostly a downhill race. The killer of this course is from mile 8 through 11, where it’s flat, or up, there is no break. I get past the half way point at exactly 1:00:07, I look at my watch, and my watch time is actually a minute and change faster than gun time. I wonder how it’ll factor in the end time. It doesn’t matter, I’ve got to get the lead out and run negative splits for the second half of this thing to break 2. It won’t matter if I’m 5-10 minutes faster, so I shift into a higher gear and push on. As I pass people I give them words of encouragement, wave at the locals who have gathered on their front yards, and laugh at the costumes that people had dressed up in at the water stops. Grease Lighting by far had to have been the best water stop. The characters were right out of the movie. There was even a guy with a leather jacket and slicked hair to be John Travolta. I’m running with my water pack so I find that I’m able to cruise right past water stops which helps me pass a lot of people and get a better look at the outfits.

Up another hill we run past a horse farm. I make a horse huffing sound at one of them, and to my surprise it gave me the same sound right back. I look over at the guy next to me and said, “Yeah, on the days I’m not running, I’m a horse whisperer.” “I know, he responded right back!” with eyes agape. I laugh and push on, I’m feeling great and I’ve gone over 10 miles on the pavement now. “Last hill,” I hear one woman say as I get next to her. I give out an enthusiastic “AWESOME” that I think startles her. She explains how she’d be going much faster if she could have her music. She goes on to say that the rule of taking out the sound devices is just to the advantage of the fast runners. I tell her to take advantage of NOT having the ear buds in and talk to the people around her. I tell her that trail runners are much more sociable and you actually talk to other people on the trail. It’s a short lived conversation as the hill eats her up. I steal a glance at my watch. I’ve got 30 minutes even (my watch time) to make it the final 5k. I shift into yet another gear and plod along the pavement. My feet are starting to get warm now, this happens to me when I run on the pavement. My mind wanders to how John and Nate are going to accomplish 124 hard miles on pavement in two weeks. 2 miles to go, 20 minutes left, shit. I’ve got to pick this up. I pass a “bride to be” running in a custom made t-shirt with the date of her wedding and a tiara. I congratulate her and wish her well, you can see across the corn field to the finish line. I’ve got 14 minutes to get up this last hill. Mind you this is the same “hill” that didn’t seem so bad the first time around. It was burning a bit more this go around. I’d just run mile 11 to 12 in 8 minutes. I feel like I’ve left too much in the tank as I pass about 20 people in mile 12-13, but it doesn’t matter. I can see the finish line and the big clock says 157:03, I know if I power through the last tenth of a mile I’m set. I shift yet again and pass another 4-5 runners in that stretch. I cross the finish line, hit the stop on my watch, watch time 1:57:45. YEAH I yell out. I did it, I get my finishing metal, my apple crisp, couple of glasses of cider and whatever else I could get my hands on and booked it out of the finisher’s tent.

One note which I thought was worth mentioning. There was a stand with some new juice concoction. I grabbed a sample and noticed the first thing it had mentioned was “hangover remedy,” I laughed at the guy and said “sold!” To which he said, and look, and points to another claim saying “it increases your sexual vitality!” I give him my Phillip J Fry (Futurama) face look and said “BAH! Like I would need that?”

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Vermont 50

September 28th, 2008

The familiar faces at the start of the VT50 always make me smile. This year was different though. I was to start without my father for the first time in 9 years. This also made the second time we weren’t able to sleep on site. We spent the soggy night before on the other side of the mountain at Running Bear Campground. Not a bad little spot, if it wasn’t right on the backside of 91 it would have been perfect.

As we chat at the start with our “ultra family” lots of questions are asked of Rik. He explains that he’s passing the torch, he’s done with this and he’s going to get a truck, a hibachi and just grill at the VT100 next year while I run it. I tell him calmly that he’s got at least 2 more years before he can do that. I’ve told him that we need to buckle together before he can retire, AND THEN he’s got to pace me for a buckle year before he’s off the hook. Then the subject turns to Loni who will be attempting her first 50k scheduled to leave two hours after I depart.

The morning is warm and soggy from the storm the night before. The fog is slowly lifting as the sun is coming up. The waves of bikers are disappearing into the darkness. I give loni a good luck kiss and make my way to the starting line with Izzo. “You turned her into an ultra girl.” I smiled about that, “yes I did” I responded proudly. We parted ways early, John is a strong runner and the first 4 miles of this run is on pavement/hard packed dirt so I knew we wouldn’t be together long.

At the first hill I walk along side a man that I know I’ve seen before. I tell him about “the gong house” as my father and I have come to name it because of the wooden structure in the field. He says he’s done this race for many a year, and he’s also done the VT100 several times as well. Turns out he’s the runner my father and I took over for at an aid station earlier this year at Wapack. I stop to take a photo of the cast iron moose that’s next to someone’s driveway. He laughs and says as many times as he’s gone past it, he’d never noticed. We jog the last section into the first aid station (Coon club) together. I wish him good luck because I need to use the restroom. The Triple bag beer along with the blackened spicey chicken wrap that I had consumed the day before at Long trail were not settling well.

I quickly get things set and get out of the aid station, grabbing a bunch of food and telling people that are walking down the hill to jog and eat in a few seconds when we get to the hill on the trail. No sooner then I’m stuffing my second salty potato down do I hear people yelling and running BACK towards me. I think someone must be injured, after all, this is the stretch where the woman broke her hip last year on her bike. Luckily there was no serious injury, but unluckily it would appear that there was yet another hornet’s nest we would be treated to run through. I did what I’ve done so far this year, find a handful of people and run quickly between them. Again, I managed to go unscathed. The running gods have really been on my side this year, 3rd nest run through, and 3rd pass un-stung.

I run through the next phase of trials pretty happy, running along many familiar faces. Talking about how this day is going to turn into a fantastic finish. One of the guys that seemed to match my pace well is a fellow named Noah. We run the next 6 miles together exchanging the lead depending on the terrain. Turns out, this is Noah’s first attempt at not only the VT50, but any 50 miler. His goal is to do Leadville 100 miler in 09. The fall colors in the next few miles are fantastic. I get a little ahead and then Noah does the same, we push (or pull depending on your perspective) into the Skunk Hollow aid station. This is the first handler station so there is a lot of hustle and bustle. I, once again, need to make a stop in the port-a-potty and lose track of Noah for what I assume will be the rest of the race. There are a TON of racers sitting down, talking with family. I grab some fresh fruit and haul out of the station yelling thanks to the volunteers. I know I’ve wasted precious time and there is a long hill ahead that I can stuff my face on.

The scenery in the following mile or two is what VT is known for. Stone wall and maple tree lined dirt roads. The tree branches give you a beautiful natural photo frame to countryside behind. This is the segment that at last year’s 50 Rik and I had a couple from Ohio believing that the lines between the maple trees were full of CO2 that Vermonters pump into the trees to get them to change colors. At the top of the hill we turn back into the woods and descend into a narrow path that I’ve come to know as “fern gully.” It’s a fantastic ½ mle of single track that is lined with 2-3’ high fern plants that brush against your legs. You feel so alive, almost like a deer bounding through the underbrush. Shortly thereafter Noah caught up to me, it seemed that I had actually gotten ahead of him at the last aid. We shared the next few miles leading up to the new Rollercoaster Aid station (To replace Garvin Hill). I was WAY ahead of schedule, checking at my watch from time to time. I’d gone 20 miles in only 4 hours, I think this is a personal best for me. I’d always recalled being at Garvin later in the day. I knew that my 18-28 mile wall would hit soon so at the next hill I wished him luck and that perhaps I’d see him again as he disappeared with the GAC trio.

The next 5 miles seemed to last forever, many of the runners i had passed earlier came ripping past me. The trail seemed a little familiar, but not entirely since this was the segment that they had to re-route. In no time I came to the familiar long grueling climb. This had been the location of two separate aid stations in past years, this time, it was just me and the woods. I was feeling mildly in the dumps, I hadn’t seen anyone in some time, and the runners I had seen pasted me as a rapid rate. My mind wandered to Loni and I wondered how her day was going in the woods. I wondered if she was thinking of me or if she was battling her own demons. I thought about a lot of things. How I had dropped out at this aid station 7 years ago due to my hip, and how I’d dropped at Dugdale’s the following two years because of my knee. Today was different though, I wasn’t feeling bad physically due to joints or anything today. I caught up to John the teacher who I had spoken with two week ago at Pisgah. He seemed like he was in rough shape. He said he had a cold and wasn’t feeling well. I told him at Pisgah I caught him in 2 miles, today it took me over 20 so he couldn’t be feeling too bad. I wished him well and plodded on up the hill. In my daydreaming state a guy caught up to me and we started to chat. He was from New Jersey and he said his ankles had started to bother him so he was going slower then he was hoping for. I told him he was doing fine and I was right, because before the next turn he was out of site.

Shortly thereafter this young woman wearing a pink skirt and a pink top, who I obviously dubbed “pretty in pink,” caught up to me and we started chatting. She told me she was from Brookline New York and was up here with her friend who she’d left behind at the last aid station. I guess she was having a hard time. I asked her if her friend was peeing or was taking salt. Then laughed and made the comment saying this would probably be the only time that it’s appropriate to ask a woman if she is peeing and not get slapped. Needless to say pretty in pink was on a mission now that she had left her friend. She darted off down the trail saying how she was too close to the cut off and that I should pick it up if I wanted to make it. I could only laugh as I bid her farewell. My internal clock knew that I was well within my means so early in the race. I assure her that Smoke Rise/Margaritaville is just up the hill and that’s the last I saw of her on the day.

I come into Smoke rise with my spirits high. I ask the person that’s recording numbers what time 1168 has come through. He assures me it was well over an hour and a half ago. I’m pleased, that means loni’s having a great day. I joke with the volenteers running the station as it’s my favorite aid station of either Vermont races and get a cup of chicken soup and off I go up the road.

As I march along up the hill I run along side a woman that’s not in good spirits. She’s mad about how hard this has been. She complains about a biker that’s stopping to take photos with land owners who are out cheering us on. “hurry up!” she mutters under her breath. I tell her that perhaps he just wants to enjoy the experience, it’s not just about his finishing time. She reluctantly agrees with me and changes the subject. She tells me that she’s “torn up this course” when she’s biked it, that she’s an ironwoman but this is her first attempt at a 50 miler and it it’s making her mad how she’s not been able to defeat it quite so easily. She explains that she’s having some knee pain and I offer her my extra cho-pat that I always run with. She says “what if I never see you again?” I tell her not to worry about it and that if it helps her along it’s worth the 20 bucks. I guess that’s what she needed because my joints were starting to hurt so I walked a bit and she quickly disappeared down the hill.

Just before I get into Dugdale’s another young woman catches me. She talks about how she’s dehydrated. I joking ask if her name is Krista, and if she’s here with a girl wearing an entirely pink outfit. She’s taken aback about how much I know about her, which I suppose she should be given the circumstances. It cracks me up now thinking about it.

I get into Dugdale’s aid station, mile 30.2. I ask again about loni, but she’s come through so far before me that it’s on prior sheets that have already been filed away. I’m thankful and make my way to my drop bag. New socks, shoes, red bull, and fruit cups await me.

I march out of Dugdale’s with high spirits, I catch up with Krista on the next hill and we chat a bit about her hydration and preparation on the day. She points out her “sausage fingers” and I explain to her that she should be taking more salt. She’s confident that she’s ok so I leave the subject alone. We meet up with a father daughter pair of runners. This is their first attempt at a 50 miler together. Last year they were here running the 50k together. It makes me well up inside a bit because I think of my father’s and my first 50 here 9 years ago. The next section of trail is my personal favorite, 3 miles of narrow single track switchbacks. Every year I ponder how the bikers get through here without crashing. Krista and I chat while exchanging leads. “It’s nice having you out here, it’s like you know what’s ahead on every turn.” She goes on to tell me she’s a school teacher and she doesn’t know how she’s going to be able to walk around class for the next week. Never mind explain to the students WHY should would have ran 50 miles for fun. She’s in good spirits and is off in no time.

I actually catch up to 3 bikers. I’m treated to 2 crashes and eventually pull ahead of the 3. On the last little climb into Falloon’s there is this goose statue that’s about 20’ up on a cut off tree. This year the footing of said goose is still up there, but the statue is missing. I’m bummed. I wonder what Vermonter ended up shooting it off of there. I mention it to the Maine woman I had been running with for a mile or two and she looks at me like I’ve lost my mind. Then I point at the wing that’s sticking up out of the mud in the stream before. Oh well, perhaps next year it’ll be back up on top of the tree in all of it’s glory. I still have no idea how it got there or who would have put it there and how.

I get into Falloon’s and see several of the runners that blasted past me in my lull 10 miles prior. Also I’ve caught 6 bikers now. I’m in good spirits but a volunteer asked me if I was dropping. Then Krista and the New Jersey guy ask me if I’m dropping. I look at all of them like they have 3 heads and say “jesus guys, do I really look that bad?!!”

I get a handful of food and I’m off down the trail. Just after Falloon’s is a little wooden shed like thing that I’ve come to know as the Love Shack. As the song says

“If you see a faded sign by the side of the road that says
15 miles to the... Love Shack! Love Shack yeah”

It’s a little tin roofed shack about 15 miles from the end of the VT50. I feel bad for Krista and the guy from New Jersey who are treated with me singing those two lines like I have for the last 5 years as I pass this spot. Krista gets her second wind and takes off and I run the next few miles with the guy from New Jersey. He seems like a good guy. For some reason I feel like I’ve run with him before. I start to get into my second lull, but the sun is starting to break through the overcast sky’s that have kept the heat down all day. Luckily for me, this section is also on the VT100 route, in other words, horse troffs! I think I startled the poor new jersey guy when I dunked my now overheating head and bandana into the first troff I found. We chat a bit about racing and he said he read a lot of Sherpa John’s work. I tell him that he and I have shared a few miles together many a time, that he’s a really good guy, and that he should shake his hand if he see’s him a the finish.

Goodman’s is just around the corner. NJ and I part ways and I run down the trail with the woman from Maine again. With 10 miles to go and fresh fruit in my belly I feel invincible. I pass another biker on a downhill and blast through the mud. I pass a group of bikers on the next hill, only to have them blast back past me on the next down. We leapfrog for the next 5 miles. The Maine woman comes screaming back past me in a short switchback section and jokingly yells, “You should have had that soda back at Goodman’s.” She’s right, I’m coming off my 10 mile to-go high and I’m starting to hurt. Does this ever end? I’ve forgotten how long the last stretch of trail this is. The long steep snowmobile trail, this is familiar! “Tell everybody I’m on my way….” I start singing the Phil Collins song that Loni’s adopted as her ultra-theme song. I sing it as long as I can remember the lyrics. I’m flying down this hill now. I’m running for the first time since the first 4 miles. Muscles burning, feet throbbing, but I continue my singing “reluctantly croutched at the starting line….” I’m singing ‘Cake –He’s going the distance’ as I pass the maine woman again. I yell over my shoulder, “Guess the soda wore off didn’t it?”

I catch up to an older guy through the next field. He’s got no pack, no water, and he’s bairely shuffling along. I slow down and ask him if he’s ok and if he needs anything. Now if you’ve run ultra’s, you can see the look in someone’s eyes. The look of “why the hell am I here? I should just stop.” Needless to say when I offered him advil and water he quickly accepted and proceeded to drink the last half of my water. At first I was a tad peeved that he finished it all, but I figured he must have needed it more then I did so I wished him well and continued down the trail. The next stretch is where you leave the woods and run through a gracious landowner’s yard. Sure, probably nothing out of the ordinary on most days, but at this point you know you are going to finish the race. The sun has come out, you get a perfect picturesque shot of Mount Askutney. I take a moment to stop and snap a photo.

Back into the woods and start moving at a good clip. I catch a hint of movement up ahead through the pine. Excellent, a couple of more runners that I can real in! I catch them both as we get onto the dirt road that leads you down to Johnson’s. “You can see Johnsons from here!” I proclaim and run off down the road. The sun from the previous field fades quickly and the sky’s open up. I’m talking cats and dogs downpour. I look up at the clouds and smile, the rainwater washes the crystallized salt from my face.

“How’s 1168? A long time ago? Doesn’t matter, she’s made it, I burning minutes. “

I grab another handful of fruit, I’m catching more people and my spirits are through the roof. Sadly, this year due to landowner issues we lost the Garvin Hill Aid station, in turn to make up said mileage, they changed the last 3.1 miles on the course to 4.6. This extra mile and a half of unfamiliar terrain threw me off. Luckily I was treated to another downpour turning the once dirt single-track into a greasy slip and slide. I pass the same group of bikers yet again. “I’ll buy you a beer if you push this to the top,” One of them pleas. “no deal flanders!” I yell over my shoulder and dash up the hill. The slipping and sliding to the other runners must have been a huge problem. For me, playing boot hockey and ice fishing with my father growing up, I’m not exactly sure why , but it felt natural. Over the next ¼ of a mile I had passed 5 more runners. We come out of the slippery singletrack and back across a field. I see a familiar outfit on the runner ahead. “KRISTA I’m back from the dead!” She laughs, her pacer looks at me like I’m nuts, poor guy. I snicker on the next climb and wonder if he knew what he had signed up for when he said he’d come pace the last 10 miles with her. Back on the old course, excellent! But sadly no, another turn towards an unfamiliar direction, I pass another 4 runners, wishing them best of luck while passing.

Two more turns and another familiar face, I call out “LEADVILLE NOAH! I never thought I’d see you again!” He turns and laughs and says the same thing. The trail leaves the woods and goes down this dear path between tiny birch saplings. I’d be a nice little trail but it had that kind of mud that is like wet concrete and it’s about a foot deep. I thank goodness I laced up my shoes tight or they would have easily been removed. Noah calls ahead once we get past the mud, “Josh, where are we going?” “I wish I had a clue man, I wish I had a clue” I respond while taking my last 3 salt tablets. We walk up the road for awhile and my shins start to give me that familiar twinge. I’m pissed, this is the same feeling that made me drop at the 100. I still haven’t solved my issue, I HAVE to fix this before next July. We cross another field and rejoin the old finish again. I wonder if this time we’ll actually stay on it. No sooner did we reach the treeline the 3rd downpour hits. It’s serious, but very cool at the same time. The rain driving down upon the leaves above make that magical music that people record and put on meditation cd’s. I’m at peace with the race and the running gods; I laugh and look skywards and go, “common that’s all you’ve got?”

Noah and I chat a bit about how we’re feeling, how the race has been. The trail is slick so we slip and slide our way down to the waterfall and the stone bridge. I stop to take a photo, then notice this creepy witch figurine 3 feet away from me. I point it out to Noah who hadn’t noticed it at first either. Funny what you see when you slow down. I feel strong still, Noah must be feeding off of my high spirits because we catch 3 or 4 more runners before we get to the first 1 mile to the end sign. A bit later there is another sign “You are all winner’s!” it states, I laugh and make wise crack to Noah, promptly a 3’ section of a birch branch falls 10 feet away. Hmm, the running gods not pleased about that comment.

I spent the next ½ a mile slipping, sliding and laughing about how absurd doing these things are. I’m trying to balance my endorphins of knowing the finish is near and the lingering feeling of cramps that are making my thighs twitch. Last couple of turns, Noah smells the finish line and says to me, “Want to finish together or let gravity do it’s thing?” I tell him to run like the wind, you only finish you first 50 once. I see Steve running back up the hill towards me, I tell him he better turn around or I’m going to finish way ahead of him. He turns and run through she shoot with me. 11:30:2 said the clock. I bend over and grasp my thighs from the finishing sprint. I get my finishing medal from the volunteers and shake Noah’s hand, never knowing if we’ll meet again. Loni is there, with her medal in hand, she completed her race a few hours prior. I well up with pride, probably shed a few tears. Rik had moved his truck and had missed the finish but I got a hug when he returned. Before leaving the race we got to see the father daughter team finish their first 50 miler together, Rik and I congratulate them together. Again I welled up with tears when I think about he and I finishing many a races together. I’m so blessed to be able to share my passion for ultra running with my father and my girlfriend not only in spirit, but also on the trails. I already look forward to September 29th next year where I’ll be starting number 10!