Saturday June 5th, 2010
Leah, Loni and myself arrive in a thunderstorm filled Pittsfield VT before the crowd, excited to participate in the day's events. Before long everyone else starts to fill up the parking lot. It's amazing how well timed people are. In a 10 minute gap the parking lot went from 2 cars, to 30. Andy gave the pre-race meeting to the group as we huddle under the overhang on the east side of Amiee Farm.
Rik, who arrived under prepared without any gear needed to borrow my water belt. Luckily for him I tend to over pack for these things. While he stuffed as much fuel as he could into my double bottle belt and i threw on my Nathan pack, grabbed my trekking poles and we headed to the start. It was crazy, the rain wasn't letting up at all and the early morning Vermont fog had set in. It was almost surreal knowing we'd be out here in potentially these conditions for the next 16 hours.
It didn't take long for Rik and I to fall into our old rhythm and we took the first few miles to catch up on the latest happenings in our lives. The rain seemed to be letting up by the time we got around the Liberty Hill loop but as you can see i was already soaked from the first couple of miles.
From Liberty Hill we head down the road towards Colton's. We start running with John "Not Sherpa" Larcoix. He's actually a friend of Rik's and lives in the same town as him up in the Champlain Valley. I chuckled as he had to specify that he wasn't Sherpa when he introduced himself.
I quickly was re-introduced to the ball busting climb up on a 4wd trail behind Colton's Camp. I extended my trekking poles, changed my stride and let my hiking muscles take over. As we approached the top, there was no bear, and they had changed course a bit to an extra steep bushwack section. Sherpa yells, "it wasn't my idea!" as he screams past already heading down the trail. I catch Julie almost at the top and she mutters, "dang...should have brought my poles."
I ended up putting quite a bit of space between myself and Rik getting out of Colton. Which was good, because my stomach was bubbling up a storm and i knew he'd catch me soon enough. The sun was trying to poke threw the now thinning clouds and a day that was once going to be a dreadful muddy mess was shaping into a beautiful Vermont day. When we get to Upper Michigan our crew awaited us. Which consisted of Leah, bright eyed and excited, and Steve, a.k.a. Lurch who groaned from the back seat when we woke him up.
On our first jaunt out of Upper Michigan we spent most of the lap running with Kevin from Boston. He's training for VT100, ran Pineland Farms the previous weekend, and Wapack a few weeks prior. No wonder he said i looked familiar. We swap trail stories for awhile. He's a bit apprehensive about the tough Blood Root section that lies ahead. Rik and I did our best to keep him on his toes.
We wolf down our food and laugh about how we had caught Joe "Millionaire" here last year. And then Joe was talking to Rik about me as i walked ahead without knowing that I was his son. We look at the sky and it looks like the clouds are starting to break and the blue sky was taking over. The aid station was moved from the top of Blood root because they couldn't get the supplies up there so the clearing was the aid station this year. A spot that in the past had been simply a mirage as by the time Rik and i got there, there was nothing but tipped over and empty Gatorade buckets.
Our pace had to be slowing, or we had gone out way to fast. It was 14 miles into the run and Rik and I were ahead of John Izzo & Dave Delbac. A feat that rarely happens. Izzo had brought along a friend from Florida who seemed to be having a grand old time playing in the woods with us Vermonters. At the clearing I ate another PB&J and topped off my 2l bladder figuring that HAD to be enough to get up and over. I walked ahead with Kevin as Rik started to feel the climb. About 1/4 a mile from the top i stopped and sat on a rock and waited. And waited. and waited. I was starting to get worried and thought that maybe Rik had bigger issues. Just as i was about to start heading back down he turned the corner and we were able to crest the top of blood root together.
The rain and previous runners had pretty much tramped any kind of stinging nettle that we would have seen in the past. But the thick deep mud made running impossible at some points. Meanwhile the sun was breaking through and the humidity and heat were climbing rapidly. I tried to battle it by consuming almost all, and then all of my water. really? i kept saying to myself, i just drank 2l of water in 6 miles? How is that even possible? at every corner i kept hoping to see the next aid station. I was so thirsty i was getting tunnel vision. Then just as all hope seemed to be lost the aid station appeared around the next bend.
After eating 1/4 of a watermelon, 2 cups of coke and probably a half a dozen cookies i was able to leave the aid station. The next road stretch is always a problem for me. I'm tired, I'm in my typical 15-25 mile low, and it's run-able. I'm a great speed hiker, not a runner. So i struggle to keep up with Rik for the next stretch. replaying where we are on the course again and again in hopes that Upper Mich 3 is around the next bend
The next stretch features the brutal climb up behind Jason Hayden's home. He's responsible for much of the trail work and trail markings at the Peak races. And this year was no disappointment. It was as tough as ever. Steven curses and asks, "Why would someone build a trail here?" followed by a, "What the bo-jangles!" as the trail somehow got steeper at the next turn.
When we come off of Haydens we're dumped out at Riverside Farm where we are greeted by a now larger crew. John finished what sounded like hours ago and was here with Sara and Leah to give us a few words of encouragement. "It's a lot easier this year!" John says. "Yeah yeah, sure it is man." I unconvincingly reply as Rik sips a Labatt Blue and Steve and I share a Red Bull.
The gang walks with us up to Dove where we dip back into the woods. Sherpa knows the people that own the house and runs out with a Corona that Rik takes a long swig out of. While John was right about the section not being as steep. They certainly did a great job adding about 30 switchbacks. Somehow though, for the first time in several hours we started to catch a guy, and then another. One of the guys was Izzo's buddy from Florida who said that their speed had finally caught up with him.
At Tweed we again experienced a heavy dose of the "woo girls" who had obviously been hitting the wine for some time by this point. We made quick time at that aid station. I mean, it's nice to have the people at the aid station be upbeat, but after 14 hours of running/hiking, seeing someone else with that much energy is disgusting.
From Tweed aka Cabin 2 it's a climb up threw the Labarinth and over the top of Joe's. Then a fun filled roller coaster ride down Fuster's where they had done quite a bit of work as well. Every time we thought it was the last turn, it'd make another one, and then we'd climb a bit. I have to admit though, it was great not having to run on the snowmobile trail for long. We soon heard the river below, then we saw the bridge. We joked with Steven that he'll be able to tell his friends that he ran 16 miles over the weekend when he has to explain why he's walking like a cowboy. Leah, Loni, and a few scattered runners remaining cheered us on as we climbed up the last knoll at 16:02.
Couldn't have been a better day in the woods with my family. Already looking forward to coming back in 2011!