To say I had some concern coming into this race would be an understatement. At the same time I was also feeling relatively confident. I knew my training was not up to what it should have been, not enough long, long solo runs, but I had run a few decent races. The main problem was the previous 4 weeks. It started with an accident at home moving a large cement step. A slip and a fall later and I had 6 stitches in my chin and some bruised ribs. It was the ribs that concerned me the most. Doing anything, even laying down, hurt. Seeing what Joan had gone through with her fractured rib, I was definitely concerned for my ability to run at all. The next 4 weeks would be busy and hopefully the healing would be sufficient.
The first test would be the trip to California to pace Gary again at Western States. This would also be my first test with running and sore ribs. A test run the night before didn’t look promising. I had bought some tensor bandage to wrap the ribs and this just didn’t seem to work well. My thought was to try a larger tensor and try that. I would look for some the next day while crewing.
Crewing went well and Gary’s race was going good too. Lots of driving made for a tiring day. I found a 6 inch tensor and by 8 pm started to get ready for pacing. I put on the tensor around my upper abdomen and had to adjust it 3 times before I either left well enough alone or just said to hell with it. I ran from Foresthill back to the next aid station about a 1.5 miles to meet up with Gary. This would be the test and it seemed ok. Sore at first, but nothing too bad and manageable. I ran the next 40 miles with Gary to get him in at 29 hours and 3 minutes. A success all around. The only negative was my ribs the next day or trying to sleep. Very painful.
A trip to Timmins for work mid-week was followed by my trip to England for Victoria’s graduation from Northumbria University. In all 8 plane rides in 9 days. The trip to England went well, other than Aer Lingus misplacing my luggage for 4 days! Managed to climb Scafell in the Lake District. The highest peak in England took us 6.5 hours to climb and come back down on a beautiful day. Good time on my feet training is the way I saw it. A couple of days later I ran up Cheviot Hill, the highest point in Northumberland. Another test of the ribs that went well. It also gave me some good confidence with the hill running and the length of timeout there running.
I arrived back on the Sunday prior to leaving to Vermont. Jet lag and general fatigue set in, but decided to get out for a run on the Tuesday. Again to test the rib, but also to try it without wrapping my ribs. It was a short and successful run and felt good about the approaching weekend.
The Vermont 100 weekend began on Thursday after work with the drive to Montreal to stay at Kate and Gary’s, before setting off Friday morning to Vermont. Scott and Rhonda were supposed to come along for pacing and crewing duties, but had to back out. At this point I was looking forward to seeing what it would be like to run without a pacer. As it turned out Kate had been struggling with some foot issues and doubted whether or not she would be able to run the race. Eventually she would back out and volunteered to pace me. We arrived in Montreal about 10:30 pm and after something to eat and a drink or two we headed off to bed. We were up fairly early Friday and got off to a fairly quick start at 9 ish. Stopped in Burlington, VT for some supplies and lunch. We arrived at Silver Hill Meadow just in time for the registration , weigh in and then the pre-race talk!
Gary had made reservations at Skunk Hollow Tavern for dinner rather than the crappy pasta dinner. This was a good call and we enjoyed a great meal. Got back about 8 pm and attempted to get some sleep, as 3 am would come around far too soon.
3 am did come far too soon and as usual I didn’t get a lot of sleep, but that is par for the course when it comes to these type of events. The start was at 4, so it was just a matter of getting ready and a bite to eat and then we’d be off. Kate had decided not to run, because of a foot injury and therefore would help Joan crew. Gary had said we would run together so that we could both pace each other. I’m not big on running someone else’s race, but would see how it would go.
At 4 am the race started and we trotted down the gravel road from Silver Hill Meadow to the first hill and then the trails. I had worn a long sleeve over a short sleeve shirt as it was a cool morning, but we hadn’t hit the trails before I was taking the long sleeve off. There was definitely some humidity out there. When we hit the trails Gary started pushing the pace a bit. I wasn’t willing to go any faster than I needed and decided that if he wanted to go I wouldn’t hold him back. When I stopped for my first pee of many he was gone.
I tried to temper my pace so that I was taking it easy, but I was already struggling mentally for some reason. I just felt out of sorts. I was peeing a lot and started feeling the urge for a bathroom break in the first 5 miles or so. Like the last time I did the race the first porta potty was at 11 miles and I made sure I used it again. Ominously it seemed like a lot that was going on this race was very similar to 2 years ago when I DNF’d here. The course was slightly different in areas and I could only remember bits and pieces of it. I was in no hurry at this point and was more than willing to let runners pass me, which they did. As it was my running math equation was figuring out my pace and how I was doing based on a 24 hour finish or just finishing etc. I was well ahead of where I thought I should be. Eventually I came in Pretty House aid station where my crew would be at 4:07. I was thinking it would be closer to 4:30. I tried to eat a few things here as the Trail Butter that I was using wasn’t working well. Got rid of a few extra items I was carrying with Joan and as I was leaving I ran into Brent Colwell, who I had run with at the Midwest Grand slam last year. We ran and chatted for the next 10 miles to Stage Rd. and as Joan had told me, this made the time go by very quickly and I felt so much better at this aid station. Also ran into a couple of other Ontarians crewing for a runner here too, Joe Cleary and Kim van Delst. I grabbed more to eat, more mountain dew as usual and headed back out. A short run down the road was followed by a step climb straight up. At his time I was by myself again, but was feeling in a much better place. Definitely in a better place than 2 years ago. Typical of the trail sections, this climb was long and steep. It would be another 16 miles before I would see the girls and it would be a medical aid station. The only concern I had was losing too much weight, otherwise I was feeling stronger by the mile. At about 35 miles I was starting to pass some of the runners I had been passed by myself earlier and at the Lincoln Covered Bridge aid station (39.6 miles) we turned to power up one of the longest hills in the race, at least that’s the way it seemed.. I remembered this distinctly from 2 years ago. I was running/power walking with Bob from New Hampshire at this point and we chatted a lot. He is the president of the Sub 4 Hour 50 states marathon club and urged me to join up. He is 66 and this was his second attempt at Vermont to finish his first 100 miler. As the hill went on I left him behind. I was passing lots of runners again as my power walking was much quicker. This gave me a lot of confidence and I knew I feeling a lot better than last time. By the time I came into Camp 10 Bear I was feeling great and had just powered down one of the long downhills. I jumped on the scale and I was down 10 pounds!!!! Holy shit! I explained that the scales they used yesterday could not have been right as it showed me to be 176, about 10 pounds heavier than I normally am. After talking to the medical director, he realized I good to go and let me. I filled up with food and drink changed my shoes, socks and shirt and relubed my feet and off I went. I was only about 20 minutes behind Gary. I then chased off to get to the next aid station where I had dropped last time. I had been suffering muscle seizures and not fueled myself at all right. This time despite being down a lot of weight I was doing really well, both physically and now mentally. I wasn’t really looking forward to the next 20 miles as it “seemed like a long way”, but knew that Kate was going to pace me from Camp 10 Bear (2) at 70 miles. From this point on though I was running strong powering through the flats and down hills and power walking the up hills. I even had a few people comment on how I was doing on the up hills. I started picking runners off. I passed 40 runners between the Camp 10 Bear aid stations and had finished 70 miles in under 15 hours. At this rate I was on pace to go under 22 hours, although I knew this was unlikely as fatigue would set in soon enough and it did shortly after 70 miles. I cam into Camp 10 Bear and again got weighed. 165lbs! again they had to confer and talk to me. I told them it was the best I had felt in a race and was ready to go. I guess that was good enough as they let head out. Again a quick bite, some broth and drinks and off I went. The next section was another brutal up hill. Kate helped push me at this point as I was struggling to keep my pace up. I would still run the down hills hard and again no one was passing me, I was doing the passing. I came into Spirit of 76 aid station strong and was only 4 minutes behind Gary, but I Had to sit down and recoup here. I didn’t stay long, but just needed a little downtime. A can of mountain dew seemed to help too. I headed out again with 23 miles to go and a little over 7 hours to buckle (sub 24hours) Now I began to think that this was definitely possible. Initially my goal was to just finish and get the opportunity to qualify for Western States. Now it was to buckle as well. There were still a lot of hills to climb yet and I had stay focused.
Bills aid station at 89 miles was another medical weight station and I thought we’d never get there. It seemed to take forever. But we got there and I was surprised to see so many runners who had passed me early in the race. I had now caught them. One of the “elite” women racers, Denise Bourassa came in after me. Although I had another sit down I got going quick with a coffee in hand. My mind was losing it a bit and the coffee would help.
I was still running the down hills well and passing more runners. By the time I hit Polly’s at mile 96 I had passed almost 80 runners from mile 21. With less than 5 miles to go and 2 hours to complete 24 hours I knew I had this in the bag and could almost crawl in. The only problem was that running down hill had become an issue with a sore left knee starting to act up. So we walked the last 4 miles as much as possible anyway, knowing fine well that I’d have no trouble making it in under 24 hours.
I finished at 23:15:21 for 105th place. 14th in my age group. Very satisfying indeed. It was a tough course, the toughest 100 I have done. I know there are a lot tougher out there too, but for me right now I’m in good place, knowing that I have conquered one of my demons.
Gary finished 100th only 10 minutes ahead of me. Brent had a great second half finishing in 22:38 for 88th place. Bob got his finish too, in 26:52.
What’s next? Harricana 50 mile in Quebec in the middle of September, followed by the Bear 100 two weeks later. That one will be the very hard.
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