Distance: 100 miles
Official time: 22:09:55
Place: 37th out of 143 finishers
Things couldn't have gone any better. I had totally written off this race when I had knee surgery three months ago to repair a torn meniscus, but decided in late May that I'd take a chance and kick my training into overdrive and give it a shot. Fortunately, everything fell into place and I'm grateful I had the chance to run this race and exceed my own expectations by a large margin. I was hoping for a sub-24 hour finish as a best case scenario to get the buckle. I never would have guessed that I would have finished with the time that I did.
Before the Race
My father and brother flew in from Florida and were part of my crew. We arrived at the start/finish area the day before, a large, scenic field in rural Vermont that overlooked a valley and horse farms. It would also serve as a campground for the runners. We checked in and my bib number was 7, either a good sign or potential jinx. We set up our camp, and hung out waiting for some other friends to arrive. Pre-race meeting was in the late afternoon where the race directors went over the rules, course conditions, and other details.
I was up at 3am, an hour before the race start. I was thankful to get in a good 5-6 hours of sleep. I gathered my water belt and double checked all of my supplies and had a double shot of espresso and a pop-tart for breakfast. Headed down to the race tent near the start line where the other runners had gathered. I couldn't find Stephen or James, two friends of mine I trained with and were also in the race, but it didn't matter much as I knew I wouldn't be running with them anyway (they are both much faster than I am).
Just a few minutes before the start of the race and I noticed I didn't feel nervous at all. Normally before any big race, I'm shaking like a washing machine. This is not to say that I was confident, far from it. My mindset was simply whatever happens during this race is what happens. I'll just give it my best and see how it goes, so why be nervous?
The countdown begun and we were off. We started off on a dirt road but it wasn't long before that led to trails. I chose not to have a headlamp or flashlight with me in the morning for that first hour of darkness, but wished I had. Fortunately, the field hadn't spread out that much yet and I was able to run under the lights of others.
The sun began to rise and the course took us back on dirt roads. From what I remember, it stayed like this for a while. I was running with a guy named Frank for a good while and enjoyed his company. We went through a small town and under a covered bridge, and shortly thereafter we reached the first aid station that allowed crew access about 20 miles in. My brother, father, Ian and Emma were there to help me put on sunblock and check in on how was I doing. Mowed down a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and was feeling very good here and continued on.
Saw my father and brother again about 10 miles later and 30 miles into the race at the next handler aid station. Mowed down some more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and was off again. I remember a grueling climb here. In fact there were several between here and the next handler aid station. Kept pace with a girl named Elizabeth here for a good while who had a great sense of humor and was good company.
Course took us through another covered bridge and the usual mix of dirt roads and trails. I remember my feet becoming very sore, but at the same time, the amount of discomfort was maxed out and it was something I'd just accept and run with for the rest of the race.
Reached Camp 10 Bear aid station at mile 47 which was the first medical checkpoint. Was a bit nervous that I might have dropped weight, but I had only lost one pound (starting weight, 178).
Where I guessed was mile 50, I was about 10 hours into the race. I felt good about that, as having 14 hours to do the next 50 and buckle seemed very doable.
Next handler aid station was at mile 57. I did a quick shirt change here, downed some Accelerade and some food. Was off again on a really big climb and caught up with Elizabeth again and ran with her for much of the way to Mile 70, which would take us to Camp 10 Bear again.
Camp 10 Bear this time around looked like a scene from a battle zone. From what I recall, it looked like the medical staff had their hands full with several runners laying out on stretchers. I got weighed in again and my weight was the same. Excellent.
My pacer, Chuck, was there waiting for me and we were off to complete the last 30 miles. It was so great to know that I would have company for the last 30 miles, and Chuck is a great guy and terrific athlete. Was very glad he was there with me. Having an extra set of eyes and ears at this stage in the race is huge. And just as important, having someone to just talk to and take my mind off things was incredibly valuable.
We reached the West Wind aid station at mile 77. It was still light out, but the sun was sinking fast. Downed some very good chicken noodle soup here and was off. Ran down a hill through a field before tuning into the woods. I remember my brother yelling at me from the aid station to pick up the pace and getting a good laugh out of it.
Headlamps went on and we were running in the dark, guided along by green glow sticks hanging from the trees. I was getting tired, and remember I could only respond in grunts to some of Chuck's inquiries. Around mile 85 or so, running was very difficult so I walked pretty much the rest of the way. Fortunately, I was walking fast, and was speed walking the uphills still with very little discomfort. For me, these sections were easier than the downhills, so I looked forward to them.
We reached the last aid station with crew access at mile 95.5. Almost there. I thanked my brother and father for all of their help and told them I'd see them at the finish line. They were simply the best crew one could ask for, always having everything I needed available and busting their butts to get me in and out as soon as possible.
Up some big hills and into the woods for a descent that we knew was close to the finish line. Glow sticks in gallon jugs soon lined the path, and I knew we were close. The finish line soon became visible through the trees and Chuck and I ran through it. I was done, and it felt great. I couldn't believe my finishing time.
I only managed an hour of sleep after the race, but it felt like I had gotten five or six. Went down to the finish line to watch some of the other runners finish, then went back to my tent and slept for another hour. Attended the awards ceremony and got my buckle. Felt great to get that!
Below is a picture of Stephen, me, and James (in that order) posing at the finish line with our buckles. Congrats to them as well for running terrific races. We all trained hard together and each of us had very desirable results. Rock on!