Thursday November 27th 2008
So it turns out my 08 race season isn’t quite over yet. As I head towards “the gut” in Burlington I’m happy that my season isn’t over. I haven’t done a darn thing since the run across NH and it was starting to show. I put in a decent paced 2 miler earlier in the week but this would be the furthest I had run in well over a month. I’m pleased to get the call from my brother confirming that he and my father would be running the race with me. Last year I had to run it solo.
What was once a fairly sunny morning on the drive north turned into the typical Champlain Valley grey dreary gloom. There was 5-6” of snow lining I89 over the mountain, but I was pleased to see that there wasn’t any snow in the valley yet. I didn’t even think about snow and certainly wasn’t prepared to run in it. As it was, none of us were prepared for the cold wind that awaited us at the start/finish line. My father put on his firefighter head warmer, i put on my VT50 touque and we all pulled our hands up into our sleeves and we walked towards the starting line. I asked him if he’s done this before, and I was surprised to find out that this was one of the races that he and I used to do years and years ago, before our hiatus. I guess this race was once run by Ralph Swenson who I’ve come to know through my father and the ultra community. It’s odd how things come full circle sometimes.
The 3 of us stand huddled at the starting line, surrounded by new faces, an oddity with my father and I, who generally know several people and end up hearing plenty of new stories before the start of the race. Instead, we tell Steven that he’s going to have to start running longer, and that when he’s 18 he’s got to run the VT50, and then “earn his buckle.” He promptly denies it… “NO WAY! I CAN NEVER RUN THAT FAR.” It makes me smile because those exact same words came out of my mouth a few years ago. Because this race is another low frills event there is no gun, just a faint “go” from the start of the pack and down the bike path we trot.
Rik and I set our pace at the typical 10 minute miles figuring that’d be a good place for Steven to run at. The first mile of the course is a slide downhill grade along a bike path paralleling Spear Street. Spear Street is a strange bird because you can see the highway, mall, and downtown Burlington, yet it has that country road feel with the huge farm opposite the bike path. Dad and I talk about the upcoming races of 09. He tells me that he’s thinking about doing the Peak Snowshoe Marathon with me in the spring. I’m pretty pumped about that. Generally that race is about 4 hours of solitarily in the woods. I’m generally much slower than the rest of the pack when you put me on snowshoes. Steve starts to feel the pain in his knees. I’m not too surprised by the look of his gate and the way he’s slapping his feet. We give him some advice for the next ½ a mile or so where we make the one of the 3 turns on the course. He says he’s got to walk and my dad and I keep trying to keep him moving forward with positive comments. Rik starts telling me how he’s going to try to get into Massanutten, Badwater and/or Barkley next year. He’s got some high aspirations, but who am I to say. I think it’d be great to get to do any or all of them by his side. So I just shake my head and give a simple, “ok I’m in!”
We notice our 3some has turned into a 2some and we have to double back to push forward the now walking Steve. He wines a little but he starts running again and we continue at the same pace. A few more turns and we pass mile 2, and we’re back onto the bike path heading for home. I’m feeling fantastic, Rik seems to be plodding right along as well. Steven on the other hand, is feeling the pain. The running gods always get one I suppose and today it was his turn. The downhill grade early on was now uphill for the final mile and Steve begged to walk. Rik and I told him to change his stride more towards the “ultra shuffle” and he gives it a try. We start passing people left and right, it appeared that this “hill” as some would describe it was taking its toll on many of the other runners. We keep telling Steven to pick off the “guy in red” or the “woman in pink.” I don’t think Steve is amused but Rik and I know that it’s those small little battles that’ll get you through an ultra, so why not apply them here.
Steve gives it his all at the finish and my dad and I trot in behind him at 31 minutes and change. Not too shabby, with the few little switchbacks we had to do to keep Steve moving, we still averaged 10 minute miles. Sure, not speedy by any means, but when you get to run with your dad and your brother, who really cares about time.