Sunday, July 24, 2016

Vermont 100 - 2016

The Vermont 100 is one of the older 100 milers in the United States, and is the second leg of the so-called grand slam of ultra running.  The other races include Western States, Leadville and Wastach.  All four races take place in few short months, from June through September, and recovery between races is a real challenge.  

Grand Slam Runners
at the start of the Vermont 100

This year, Erin and Kim both got into Western States -- by far the hardest of the four in which to gain entry -- and they both decided to try the grand slam.   Kim, who had cancer and chemotherapy last year, bravely got on the starting line at Western States, but timed out at Devil's Thumb, about half way through.  That didn't stop her from getting on the starting line again in Vermont, and this time she finished.  

Erin finished Western States in 29:57, the last finisher before the cut-off, despite making a wrong turn late in the race.  She then had just three weeks to recover from that 100 mile effort before the start of Vermont. She finished Vermont as well, more than two hours faster than she had run at Western States and less than half an hour off her best time ever.

Erin and Kim
after the pre-race meeting

The course winds its way through rural Vermont, mostly on country roads.  The race organizers no longer publish the course map, apparently because much of the course is on private land, and they do not want to encourage people to run the course on their own, without permission of the various owners.  

Hard packed dirt roads
Most of the course is like this
There are no mountains to contend with, just rolling hills, and it is tempting to think that the course is a fast one.   I suspect it could be relatively fast, if the weather cooperated.  But that is a big if.  The weather can be hot and humid, or it can rain and leave the course a slippery, muddy slog, at least in places.  Finding the perfect day may be difficult.  This year started off near perfect, but it did not end that way.

The race is well-organized.  The course is clearly marked, and I did not hear of any runners going the wrong way.  The aid stations are well-stocked and staffed, and they are close together, never more than five miles apart with the sole exception of the first aid station at Mile 7.

There's also a horse race, starting just after the runners and covering much of the same course.   The two races coexist without any meaningful conflict.

Runners share the course with horses

My first stop of the day was the Stage Road aid station, at Mile 30.  Both Kim and Erin looked good, although Erin was sore and tired from Western States, and sat down for a bit, something she ordinarily wouldn't do so early in a race.  But she ran strong and felt progressively better as the day went on.
Kim at Stage Road
Mile 30

Horses at Stage Road
Mile 30

After Stage Road, I had a few hours to myself to explore rural Vermont.  It would be easy to get lost in places, and there is little cell phone coverage, but I managed to find my way around well enough, and spent much of the afternoon in Woodstock.

No, the concert was in Woodstock, NY
(I didn't realize that until later)

Kristen drove up from her home in Southern New Hampshire, and met us at Mile 47, at Camp 10 Bear aid station, to help crew and to pace Kim.   Kristen is an experienced ultra runner, and it was a pleasure hanging out with her for the afternoon and evening.

Kristen, Kim and Erin
Mile 47: Camp 10 Bear

Erin, Kim and Kristen
Leaving Camp 10 Bear

Both Erin and Kim were looking good when they came into Mile 58.5, at the Margaritaville aid station.  There managed to eat some real food as well.  Yes, there were margaritas available, although they keep them in the back of the tent and I think they are really only for the crews, not the runners. 

Margaritaville aid station
Mile 58.5

Kim at Mile 58.5
I think that's a quesadilla

Erin at Mile 58.5 Margaritaville
Veggie burger in hand

Sporting my Vermont 100 hat
margarita in hand
Margaritaville, Mile 58.5

The race comes back through the Camp 10 Bear aid station around Mile 70.  It was nearly 10pm when Erin came in, still running well and feeling better than she had at Mile 30.    I started my pacing leg at that point.  No more pictures from here on, of course, as it was dark and I was running.

The weather was near perfect at the start, clear and just a tad warmer than optimal for an ultra.  The weather report said that it would be dry all day, and it was -- until just past midnight, when a large thunderstorm hit.  At first, we thought it would pass, but it didn't.  

It was pouring rain on and off for the last 30 miles of the race.  But Erin did a great job.  Every time it started raining, she seemed to pick up the pace.  And she kept aid station stops to a minimum, so as not to get too cold.  Erin had a jacket, but I was in just a technical shirt and shorts.  Fortunately, however, it was just warm enough that it wasn't a problem.

Erin came in just before 7:30 a.m., under 27:30.  Kim was just over an hour later.  Now, they are both headed to the next leg of the grand slam: Leadville!  

After the race, I went to visit my friends Stan and Heidi in Cape Cod.  They live on what amounts to a small farm.  This has nothing to do with running, but I'm going to post a few pictures anyway:

Gang of Geese


(a great runner: maybe one day I'll talk her into running an ultra)

No comments:

Post a Comment