September 18, 2011
When Rik and Steve decided to make the trek down the night prior a quiet night of pasta and rest turned into a feast, a fire, beer, a late night, and much talk and laughter regarding a honey badger that didn't give a sh*t. The somehow managed to show up to the race on time and caught up with Grant and the rest of the Vermont Ultra crowd with plenty of time to spare.
(A Groggy Team Robert Pre-Race)
We said our goodbyes to the group that would be long gone and home before Grant and I finished and we were off down the hill. We caught up quickly talking about how little we'd trained for this event. Me, being off in Vermont doing fieldwork, and Grant, well, taking the ladder part of the summer of to relax and enjoy his in-ground pool. A combined THREE miles between the two of us over the last 3 weeks was laughable. We knew then and there that we were in for a long day. The weather was pretty much perfect, what fog their was on the way to the race lifted quickly and the sun started to poke through the clouds.
The group split into two, Grant, Steve Latour and I heading on the 50k route, Steve, Loni and Rik taking the 23k. Leah's super-hike was canceled in PA due to the previous weeks flooding so she was out to crew and do some hiking and running on her own in the park.
(Steve L. and Loni)
(Steve and Rik)
Grant, Steve L and I shared the first couple of miles. Chatting about how dry this section of the course was compaired to years past. Then the subject of blasting through puddles came up, which lead to Grant and I laughing about how mad we made people this year at the Muddy Moose when we went straight through the first puddle. Steve, not to be outdone, mentioned that he had done that before at a race and someone had said to him, "Easy there Moses!" What a line. It wasn't too much after here where Steve said we were going way to fast for him. This should have been an early sign of what was to come.
(The old junker car about 200' off the trail)
A few miles later we were at the first aid station and had caught up to Kenny Rogers and a young lady running together. He gave us a friendly hello as always and then was off quickly before we had much time to catch up. It wasn't to much after this where we saw a fella rubbing his back on a tree like a bear. "What the hell??" I said to Grant. Dude looks back at us and shouts. We stop. "What??!" He yells again and more urgent this time. "BEES!!" Before either of us could yell "where?" I heard an unpleasant buzzing surrounding us. "OH F ME! RUN GRANT RUN RUN RUN!" Grant managed to go unscathed but i got stung 3-4 times on my right bicep before I smashed the bee while in a full sprint. The poor guy ahead of us had a couple go under his shirt and was stung pretty badly. The one perk I thought was, well at least these bee stings will distract me from the pain i'm going to feel before the end of the day.
(Grant trotting ahead through one of the more pretty sections of trail)
I ran for awhile with Eric Sherman, the fella i had run many a mile with at Pinelands a few months ago. It was good to catch up with a familiar face and chat with what races he'd been doing and which ones he's aiming for in the near future. I pulled ahead of Grant on the next stretch of trail on a long slow climb up out of the 3rd aid station. This would be in typical fashion for the next couple of races that we'd do. I'm all business in an aid stations. That and I was running with almost 5L of water. While Grant was running with his small pack with only 70oz, while my dumb ass was running with a 3L reservoir and 2-32 oz water bottles, never mind the food, clothes and other nonsense i had crammed into my pack in a sleepy haze that morning. He laughed at me, but the time i was able to make up in the aid stations as i'd only need to fill my bladder ONCE all day helped greatly. Well, as much as one could with no training. I figured If anything it would simply increase my suffering and the running gods wouldn't come down quite so hard upon me.
(First View of Monadnock)
We catch up with a woman from just outside of Montreal who had traveled down with a group from her running club to run the race. In fact, they do a lot of traveling for races and had been here before. We chatted breifly about Mont Tremblant which was right in her backyard. And is put on by the same race director as the old Jay Challenge in Jay VT. She was obviously well trained, and quickly left us in the dust. Grant and I were starting to cramp. Nuts, too early for this nonsense. We throw down salt tabs and pound some water. We both know we're in deep trouble at this point. Neither of us had peed since the first couple of miles and we were now pushing 15 miles. I had to make a bathroom break and sent Grant on ahead. This is a bit embarrassing, but it was worth mentioning once i caught up to him on the next climb. "Hey have you ever tried to pop a squat in the woods when all your legs want to do is lock up and make you fall over?" We both laughed at the terrible situation that i had just encountered.
(Mile 17 aid station bridge)I slam down some generic coke, grab a bunch of cookies and head out of the aid station towards the climb up Pisgah itself. Grant says he'll catch up and re-fills his bladder to make sure he doesn't run out on this next stretch of trail. I hear familiar voices as they start to reel me in on the climb. It was Steve again with a young woman in tow. He seems amazingly strong and power walks past us just before the summit. I'm floored at his relentless pace even in the steep sections. Grant shoots the breeze with the young lady for the next stretch of trail as i managed to stay one corner ahead of the two. I shoot a message to Leah to let her know that we're almost at the summit. After doing some hiking/running on her own for the last few hours she'd been napping at the summit and was planning on running the rest of the course with us.
(At the Peak)
From the peak it's a quick jaunt down to the dreaded Killborn loop. I say dreaded because it's at this point every year that i just crack. Last year i had contemplated dropping here, Mike (a VT ultra bud) actually DID drop here this year. I grab a banana and head off down the trail, figuring that Grant is still running strong and this next couple of miles is all downhill and run-able. Even though i wasn't really feeling up to running. On the loop we catch up with a woman and her brother? Who we chat with for a little while. She's driven all of the way from Ohio to run the race. Part of her running a marathon or further in all 50 states, and has never done such a trek as this. I tell her that she's a bit crazy for coming so far to run this course, and that the worst of the race is behind her. She replied with a, "I'm crazy? You just told me you've done this race 8 times!" in a grand sarcastic tone. Touche' friend, Touche'
The one really nice part of the Kilborn loop is the log work over some of the more wet sections. Sadly they've deteriorated quite a bit over the last few years, but they still do the trick.
When we get back to the Kilborn Aid station the second time i'm all but done. My stomach is trashed, my cramping is gone, but the damage was done. I couldn't have eaten another GU if you had put a gun to my head. I was just ready to be done. The thought of a burger and sitting down was pulling me along. Shortly after the parking lot and we turned back into the woods we caught up to a fella wearing the shortest shorts i'd ever seen in my life. This shorts would make old men in a ymca locker room blush. Then again, he might have fit right in there. Needless to say, coming up on said person on a climb, from behind, made us speed up and pass as fast as possible. If that dude is reading this, please, buy newer shorts, or at least wear spandex. ANYTHING! Grant was feeling good and decided to take off and meet us at the end. But with the two climbs he hadn't really put much ground between us after about 10 minutes and said forget it and that he'd rather spend the rest of the day with us if he's only going to be 30 seconds ahead.
Before we knew it we were at the road, and i zipped ahead as fast as my sore, beat up legs could make it. Grant, still running strong on the descents caught up quickly. I joked about how Rik had gotten a beer from these guys that always have a party during the race about a quarter of a mile from the end. Low and behold, they were outside by the grill cheering late runners in as per usual. He offers Grant a beer. I joking yell, hey where's mine?? How many do you want? Ha, this dude isn't kidding, I'll take 2 more! He hands Leah one and another fella up the driveway tosses me one over the pickup truck into the road. I make a terrible attempt at catching it, drop it, but pop the lid and guzzle down the bubbling brew without missing a step anyways. I yell thank you over my shoulder and that was the turning point. At the top of the next climb both of us had finished our beers and we were running again. Grant, much faster than I, but that beer had settled my stomach and helped me forget about the tenderness in my under-trained legs. We both rolled across the finish line at a respectable 7 hours and 22 minutes. Obviously not our fastest run, but we weren't going for speed today. We now had only 6 days now to "taper" to the Vermont 50.