Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Maintenance Miles

Welp, I've decided against running the Big Brad Ultra. I'll volunteer there instead. Just too much on my plate with the start of a new school year, coaching cross country and also taking the final class I need for English teacher certification. We also just got done moving into our other property after selling the other we were living in. And this spring this one will go up for sale in a hopefully still improving real estate market, and then we'll move again next summer into our "forever home".

So yeah, a lot going on. And though it's been hectic, it's all been good stuff and for that I am VERY thankful. I'll fit in my own running in the gaps as they present themselves, but look forward to mostly concentrating on helping others via coaching and volunteering at races. A lot of joy and satisfaction in that.

Perhaps I can piece together enough to be in decent race shape for snowshoe season. The timing works out nice, as the races fit into a window where things should be relatively calm. Let's hope for a snowy winter.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Post 100 Mile Limbo

The Vermont 100 continues to grow smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror, leaving rested muscles now turning rusty due to a summer full of twists and turns. I've been trying to get my legs up to at least maintenance mileage, but not without setbacks due to the selling of one of our properties.

The mental toll of various bumps and potholes has been more than I'd like, all pretty normal these days or so I'm told. But... at least the closing is finally tomorrow. My wife and I can then exhale until next summer when we begin the final phase of relocating.

I'm on the fence for signing up for the Big Brad Ultra in the middle of October. It'll all depend on how much I can get the plane off the ground in the next month. It'd be fun to run, but I'm seriously fine either way.

However, if I don't, I'd still like to get in some sort of regiment to prepare for snowshoe racing season. Last year, my times were pretty lackluster thanks to having an autumn where I didn't run much, in part from being distracted with hunting season and the incredible fly fishing that October and November offers. I'd like to not be frustrated by extended time off from running again.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

2015 Vermont 100 Race Report

I don’t blog much at all anymore, but for a few reasons I’ve decided to write up a report for what I think was the most well executed race I’ve ever run. That includes all distances, all the way down to 5K. Given all of the moving parts that are involved in a 100 mile race, I think that makes it pretty special. It was textbook, all the way… really nice, especially with the hiccups in my previous two 50 milers over the past year.

Where to start… I’ll start at the start. My crew, family and I arrived there around 3:15am, giving me plenty of time to use the bathroom, sip another cup of coffee, and get focused. The pre-race jitters were there. I kept them at bay by telling myself that today would be tough, but at the same time very simple: Relentless forward motion. Just keep moving and don’t be stupid about it. That’s it.  

To Pretty House - The Crowds (0-21.3)

I lined up maybe a little further back than mid-pack and we were off at 4am. In that first mile, I watched the sea of runners, their backs illuminated by tailing headlamps, stretch out before me with no islands of darkness. Wow, that many people ahead of me? Maybe I lined up further back than I had thought. No matter though, it is a hundred miles after all.

My plan was to take it conservative early on and maintain. Too often people go out too fast, especially in ultras, and experience a dramatic slowdown as they edge towards the finish. Sometimes, that’s because of fitness, but much of it is simply race management. I wanted to avoid that as much as possible. The biggest unknown would be how long my quadriceps would last. In my previous two Vermont 100s in 2007 and 2008, my quads shut down at miles 85 and 80, respectively. Downhills were painful, and I was forced to hike the rest of the way. Fortunately, I could still power hike the uphills with no problem, and as a result I likely still netted more passes than being passed, but if I could still do that AND keep my quads in check, I could do even better. I figured they’ve grown a lot stronger over the years and combined with wearing highly cushioned Altra road shoes that should preserve them, I had a good chance of being able to still run downhills and all but the steeper climbs in the later stages of the race.

After that first mile or so, things spread out a little and I was either running alone or with a friend of mine, Kelly, who I’d leapfrog with often until around mile 40.

Soon, the darkness morphed to overcast skies and the headlamps were off. I ran a chunk with another runner from Maine, Chip, for a while but somewhere around mile 8 a bathroom stop was needed. When I re-entered on to the dirt roads, I joined a peloton of runners I had previously worked to pass. I even skipped the first aid station because it was so congested, but at the same time I had plenty of fluids. Conversations around me were still fueled by nervous energy, and to be honest, I had zero desire to take part in any of them. I wanted to just relax, focus and enjoy some quiet while soaking in the gorgeous scenery of rural Vermont.

A lot of leap frogging with folks for the next several miles. I’d team up with another fellow Maine guy, Corey, for a good chunk. I was now in the mood for light conversation, and it was a good balance of not just running talk, but other general life talk as well, all in the right amount, mixed in with silence on tougher sections. Turns out we had some mutual friends. Small world.

We entered Pretty House and my All Star Crew members Ryan T. and John R. greeted me with enthusiastic cheers. It was the first of what would become very routine at every aid station: Ryan would tell me how I was doing on pace (to a point) and refill my bottles with Blue Frost Gatorade. John would take my vest, trash empty Gu wrappers and replace them with new ones. I’d grab peanut butter jelly sandwiches and a banana, occasionally some potatoes, and carry them with me. Boom. That’s it. In and out as quickly as possible and wasting zero time. Get the essentials, and then get the hell out of there. Waste. No. Time.

As for pace, Ryan said I was spot-on for 21:30. Mind you, this was a pace chart that most of the while should be pretty accurate. The split times for previous runners finishing in times of half hour increments were calculated to give an average time a runner arriving at each aid station in years past. It accounts for slow downs that happen in the later stages that most runners experience. So, I felt pretty good about being on track to break 22 hours.

To Stage Road - Ultrachatter to the Ultra Extreme (21.3 to 30.3)

I lost Corey shortly afterwards and was running alone. For the next 20 miles, I’d leap frog with two runners who seemed like nice guys, but their conversations were annoying the crap out of me. I’m hesitant to make note of that, as again, I’m sure these guys were super cool folks with good hearts, but the incessant talk about ultras, volunteering for studies on ultrarunning and all things ultra all the time, non-stop, with zero time to even take a breath because it was all about ultras and in ultra fashion, was too much. My conservative approach on the downhills led to a Doppler effect of ultra conversation coming and going when they passed only to have it happen again when my strength of powering uphills would catch me back up. Was it not enough we were actually running an ultra? It’s like eating chocolate cake while only talking about other chocolate cakes. Enough already.

Anyway, I had it in my mind that the “Sound of Music” hills were after Stage Road, but they are beforehand, so it was a nice treat to reach the top. Scenic vistas weren’t happening though, the fog was thick on the higher sections for much of the morning, but it was still very pretty. Some downhills back to a dirt road, and then a long downhill to Stage Road, where I was again greeted by my incredible crew.

Ryan informed me that I slowed down a little, to a 22 hour pace. Really? It didn’t feel like it and I was putting forth the same effort and not experiencing anything wrong. Perhaps on that one looooong downhill section a few miles after Pretty House I just took it extra safe and that slowed me down some. Their speed and efficiency had me off in no time though, I turned right on to the next trail...

To Lincoln Covered Bridge - Squeek, Squeek, Squeek…. (30.3 to 38.2)

There’s a big, gnarly climb right after Stage Road. And this year it was also really muddy. My right foot sunk entirely into a misjudged mud spot which somehow gave birth to a squeeky sound in my shoe that would not go away for the entire race. THE. ENTIRE. RACE. For the next 10 miles, I likened it to a form of Chinese water torture, but fortunately, I somehow got used to it. I just felt bad for anyone around me that would have to listen to the monotonous symphony of my right shoe. At some point, maybe a dozen or so miles later, my left shoe would also develop a lesser squeak that would come and go, perhaps hesitantly answering some sort of running shoe mating call. Fortunately, this was pretty much the only thing that went wrong during the race.

A nice downhill section, and there were rumbles of thunder in the distance. Ah, rain would be nice. It was super humid out, but fortunately the cloud cover was still holding. Some rain now would be great, but it didn’t happen.

Reached Lincoln Covered Bridge, a special aid station because my wife, Kate, was the captain and it was sponsored by our Trail Monster Running team. My dad, brother and his girlfriend were also there helping out along with several other teammates, and seeing them was a nice mental boost. Kate handed me a popsicle, which was devoured quickly.

And then I was off. The music and talking from the aid station became more muted as I trudged on, only to be broken by clearly hearing my father yell “I can’t hear you, there’s a banana in my ear!”, the punchline to a joke he was apparently telling runners after asking them to ask him why he had a banana in his ear. [sigh]

To Camp Ten Bear - Game Time (38.2 to 47.0)

Here’s where things got interesting. It was around Lincoln Covered Bridge, maybe even before, that only one runner would pass me for the rest of the race. This is where the switch goes on for me. In addition to just focusing on getting to the next aid station, I also focused on picking off runners one by one and the combo of the two was tremendous fuel. Some folks had gone out too fast. The heat/humidity was getting to others. For most it was likely varying degrees of both. But I was feeling relatively great. I had been taking an S-Cap every hour on the hour in addition to drinking lots and lots of Gatorade. I had also been eating well and wasn’t trying to be a hero with my pace. As a result, I was a steady Freddy.

There’s a monster climb shortly after LCB, and it was here that I passed the two ultratalker ultrarunners for the final time (whew). That in itself was enough to distract me from how tough the ascent was. Was glad to get to the top and shortly afterwards there was a road section that I remembered from when I ran it in 2007 and 2008. I remember being really annoyed by it those two times, thinking it was the longest, most horrid stretch ever. As a result I dreaded it, but this time around it didn’t seem so bad. I remember thinking, “oh, we’re back on the trails already?” when it was over. Another good mental boost.

Passed a friend from Massachusetts, John, shortly after that and felt bad. He seemed to be struggling a bit, but through that he kept praising me on how well I was doing, which is not surprising given the nice guy that he is. I did my best to find the right words to tell him to keep it going, but am not sure I hit the mark.

Arrived at Camp 10 Bear. Ryan and John had set up my stuff before the medical check point and aid stations, and out of grumpiness, I told them I didn’t want to stop there. I was thinking it would be ideal to have it closer, but I also knew that was very difficult given the congestion here. It’s by far the busiest aid station along the course, given you hit it twice, it’s a medical checkpoint, and the second time around you pick up your pacer.. Ryan, perhap sensing I was just a little grumpy, rationalized it very nicely by saying I’d be in and out in no time, just drop off the vest and bottles and make my way the few hundred feet to the aid station. Of course, he was right.

I weighed in at 185, just three pounds under my check in weight of 188. Good. I knew my weight would likely be fine, since I was feeling fine, but still, there’s always that small voice of fear that calls out from the depths to instill a tiny bit of doubt. Afterwards, John tied a red bandana filled with ice around my neck. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

I believe it was here that I told Ryan I didn’t want to know about my pace. I knew I was running the best I could and passing folks, so knowing any projections seemed pointless. All I cared about was getting to the next aid station. I may have even said I didn’t care to know about what hills may lay ahead? I at least thought it, and maybe just ignored Ryan if he did give me any briefings. I remembered some of the hills anyways, but it was more that it was irrelevant because when I reached them, I’d have to climb them anyway so what was the point of knowing beforehand? It wouldn’t have affected any preparations. I’d focus on them when I got there, so projecting into the future didn’t seem important.

Wherever you go, there you are.

Off I went.

To Margaritaville - The Climb (47.0 to 58.5)

Continued to pick off runners. More muddy trails intermixed with the dirt road sections. I continued to see runners ahead, catch up to them, exchange hellos and good jobs, and move on. Around mile 49, there was a fellow sitting in a camp chair next to a pickup truck, who said the halfway point was less than a mile away. Cool.

Soon afterwards, I was climbing a familiar section of trail that I distinctly remembered from my first year running the race. I had stopped just off the trail here for a bio break, during which I mused that I reached the halfway point in 10 hours, meaning I had a generous 14 hours to buckle. I went on to finish in 22:09 that year, not sure if I would even finish thanks to having torn meniscus surgery three months prior and missing a lot of training before and after as a result. Now, here I was at that same point in 10 hours and 10 minutes. About at the exact same point at close to the exact same time, taking into account time lost on bio breaks. Felt good about that, especially if my quads would hold up this time around. I suspected they would, as I wasn’t feeling any soreness out of the ordinary for this stage.

At around 3pm, the sun broke through the clouds. This apparently woke the deer flies up and they were out in full force on one section of trail. Arrrrgh! Those unwanted fruit cakes of the animal kingdom are relentless. Caught up to Joe L. here though, and running with him for a bit was a nice treat. He was working on his tenth finish and would earn the 1000 mile buckle, a well earned accomplishment for a really nice guy. Also saw Tom P. from Maine. Much relief when I reached the dirt roads again and the deer flies vanished for good.

On a descent, I was passed by Mike, the brother of a friend of mine Lori, who was in great spirits and running strong. Great guy, and we exchanged encouraging words. He was so nice and emanated such a positive and genuine aura that I was actually glad to see him pass me, and I couldn’t help admire how strong and solid he looked.

Now the big climb up to Margaritaville. They had moved the aid station up a few miles this year, and it would greet runners at the top of what some consider the toughest climb on the course. I trudged up the hill, and rather enjoyed it. Yeah, it was work, but I was up for the task. I remember two horses with their heads over the fence, watching with great curiosity as runners went by. Time went by and I saw two spectators. Was I close? I hesitantly asked them if the aid station was nearby and one of them frowned and said it was still another mile away. Oh, that didn’t see too bad, and I thanked her. But four minutes later I was at the aid station. I hardly doubt I had just run a four minute mile.

My good friend and pacer, Ian had now joined Ryan and John. I could sense from their expressions and body language that according to the pace charts I was off of my goals, but I 100% didn’t believe that I was. Not for a second. I sensed everything was going to turn out stellar and I let them know that I kept passing people and that was all I cared about to keep me going.  

To Camp 10 Bear - Vomit! (58.5 to 69.4)

As I was leaving, I spotted a woman in a shark costume. I think I may have playfully remarked, “Hey, it’s left shark!” and then she got a little too close to me while duh-duhing theme music from Jaws, which provoked me to ask her to back off.

My crew had encouraged me to eat more than I wanted, and three minutes after I left the aid station, up it all came. I proceeded to projectile vomit three times, dumping what appeared to be gallons of fluids that had just been sitting in my stomach. Uh oh. But I felt fine. Felt great, in fact. I hadn’t really been feeling bad before the vomiting, but now I felt even better. Still, I was concerned that there were now no fluids or food in my stomach, so I cautiously drank and ate for the next several miles with no problem to rebuild and all the while there was never a loss in energy. My stomach apparently just needed a reboot. No big deal. Whew.

I picked off several more runners on my way back to Camp 10 Bear, but caught up to and was now flip flopping with a runner named Tim, a really great great guy that I enjoyed spending several miles with. I sensed throughout he was running stronger, and he would be the only runner since mile 35-40 to finish ahead of me, but not before we shared some quality sections of the course together.

Got close to Camp 10 Bear, and on the final descent there was a coned off holding pen of pacer-wannabes who were eyeing runners with great hope that their services would be needed. They reminded me of kids at an orphanage who looked at visiting adults with hopeful eyes that they would be picked. I avoided eye contact as not give false hope, and in a few hundred feet I’d have Ian by my side for the final 30 miles of the race. It’s great that so many were willing to help out runners though. Pacing runners can be incredibly rewarding (or frustrating… or both), but also an incredible learning experience for people new to the sport and it gives them a hands-on taste on what is involved. Smart. Very smart.

I swooped in and my wife Kate, her aid station now closed, had joined to help crew the rest of the way. I am really impressed that she unselfishly was willing to captain an aid station in the interest of helping all runners, not just one. That’s the kind of gal she is.

Anyway, it was great to see her and the rest of my crew. I weighed in and I was still an even 185. Good. Our friend Mike W. was helping at the aid station, and had personally cooked up some potatoes, which were by far the best on the course. Crispy on the outside, soft, mushy goodness on the inside. Mmmm, mmm, mmmm.

The stop was once again textbook quick and after my refueled vest was back on I exclaimed “Let’s go to Spirit of 76!” and off Ian and I went.

To Spirit of 76 - Attack of the Bees (69.4 to 76.2)

There’s a huge trail climb just after the second passing of Camp 10 Bear and this year it was particularly muddy. I was wearing road shoes with tread flatter than Nebraska, but they actually did okay in the mud throughout. A little more caution was needed, but no big deal at all, especially given the time they probably saved on the dirt road sections.

As with all of the climbs so far, I thought it was longer. We were at the top in no time. I think maintaining a “wherever I go, there I am” mentality throughout instead of wondering “are we there yet” was what did the trick, I think. This is not to say it wasn’t tough. It was. Very challenging. But dwelling on that isn’t going to push you up the hill. Just move dammit. Just move. Relentless forward motion. Cliche, but true.

We saw a volunteer on the trail, which meant it must mean that the Seabrook aid station was close. Ian asked him if it was, to which he replied, “Yeah, but be careful, there’s a bee’s nest ahead”. We thanked him as we passed, and I mostly jokingly asked Ian to fulfill his duty as a pacer to keep me safe by going first. As soon as he stepped ahead of me, a swarm of flying insects emerged and I felt a sharp pain in my right thigh. I yelled a naughty word, and Tim, who had been running with us for a while, also yelled a few naughty words. Mind you, the time between the warning from the volunteer and the stings was mere seconds. I wish that guy would have been a little further up the trail, but no big deal. The funny thing was, with Ian’s willingness to sacrifice himself first, he actually didn’t stung once. I should have thought that the leader would be the one to rile the nest and those in the wake would be more vulnerable. But thankfully, neither Tim or I were allergic. I appreciated the adrenaline rush and subsequent boost to our pace. It was all pretty funny.

We soon reached a field and going uphill we caught back up with Mike, his sister Lori now pacing him. He didn’t look so good, a far cry from before, which made me feel bad for him. I really wanted him to do well and hoped he would rebound.

We reached a short, steep climb just before the 76 aid station and it was here that it started to rain steadily. Another lightning quick routine stop thanks to my crew and we were off.

To Bill’s - The Darkness (76.2 to 88.3)

Though I had reached 76 at nearly 8 o’clock on the nose, the rain clouds prematurely vanished the remaining daylight and the headlamps were on once we hit the dark woods. A muddy climb had started and the rain fell even harder. I remember it being slightly congested here, and navigating the slippery trails required a lot more focus when passing other runners and their pacers.

And then there was dark. The real kind when the sun goes below the horizon. The 11 mile stretch between the crew accessible aid stations of 76 and Bill’s is a long one, especially at this stage in the race. I don’t remember much of went on here, other than being glad that my quads were holding up pretty fine so far, even after a long, tiring downhill on dirt roads. Tired, but workable. I commented on this to Ian several times.

By the way, I’ll mention here that Ian was amazing throughout. He was constantly encouraging, and genuine in the things he said. For example, he constantly pointed out how strong I was on the uphills, and that’s when we’d gain the most ground on other runners (which we did). He sensed when good times for conversation were and when they weren’t. His presence by my side was the perfect security blanket throughout. We were efficient in discussing strategy with one another and he read my mind when coming up with gameplans, saving me the wind from talking. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to have by my side.

Shortly before Bill’s, I thought my quads had reached that point where they said they were done. Oh well, it was nice while that lasted. I can still finish and might even break my PR. If I had listened more closely though, I might have heard my quads whispering that they weren’t finished yet.

The climb up to Bill’s is deceptively long. Fortunately, I remembered this very well from pacing John last year. Still, you can see the lights of Bill’s off to your right, and you swear you’re close, but you’re not. But I was patient and reminded myself that I’ll be there when I get there, and then I was.

Ryan, John and Kate seemed especially enthusiastic, offering up praise that was encouraging but also seemingly very genuine and full of energy. Hmmm. Still, I didn’t want to know where I was in the pace charts, and I think I might have reiterated that. I at least thought it or blocked it out if they told me. I knew I was doing well, as I anticipated arriving here at 11:00 if I was lucky, likely 11:15, maybe even 11:30 shortly after leaving 76. We rolled in at 10:45.

As we were off, I apparently called back “I love you, Kate” but it sounded like slurred, jumbled mess which led to much teasing in the days afterwards.

To Polly’s - Skip the Soup (88.3 to 94.9)

There’s a cool field shortly after Bill’s that I looked forward to. I don’t think it was there in 2007 and 2008, but it really stood out last year when I paced John. What makes it neat is that at one point you’re on a hill looking down at the field ahead. If there are runners ahead of you, you can see the illuminated ground from their headlamps in the distance. We reached it but there really wasn’t anyone in visible range at the time to give that eerie but cool visual, but I enjoyed the field nonetheless. After some more trails we were back on the dirt roads.

There was a long, sharp climb shortly before the Keating aid station at mile 91.5, and up ahead we saw a group of five runners. I vowed to reach them by the top of the climb, and all the while I could see them occasionally glancing back, their headlamps pointing right at us. Here’s a tip: Don’t do that. I smelled blood, knowing they were on the defensive and keeping tabs on me, and it made me more determined. If it’s at night and you want to see who’s behind you, shut off your headlamp first and then turn around. Far less obvious.

We reached them near the top, and exchanged quick hellos. As Ian and I began to run, I caught one of the runners giving me a sideways glance and then they all started to run as well. It was a downhill, and I surged even faster. I wanted them behind me, break any hope that they might have of catching up. Remember my hurting quads? They felt fine for now, and I was able to move ahead pretty easily, but I could hear their footsteps. When it was safe, I quietly told Ian that I wanted to skip the soup at this aid station (I previously said I looked forward to it), and then suggested we skip it all together. Ian pushed that we just swing in quickly, as I should at least get a banana, and I relented. Right call there, too risky to skip it and pass up a chance for solid food.

I got the banana, and after making several related puns to the volunteers (quick stop for us, we’re about to peel out of here), we were off. As we were leaving the 100 foot or so out and back to the aid station table, I saw one of the guys we had passed pulling in, the others a few or maybe several dozen feet behind. I sensed him eyeing me carefully, perhaps trying to size me up and determine if my surge had taken too much out of the bank. Not sure what he saw exactly, other than my backside as Ian and I continued a brisk pace up the dirt road.

We approached Polly’s, and Ian yelled ahead who we were. I heard Ryan, Kate and John cheer loudly. The excitement in their voices, eyes, their whole body language was several steps above the already enthusiastic vibe back at Bill’s. They informed me that my dad, brother and his girlfriend were on their way to the finish to meet me there.

I looked at my watch. It was a little over a quarter past midnight. I had a bit under two hours to run 4.5 miles and break my PR and I was feeling great. It was in the bag.

To The Finish - Boom (94.9 to 100)

I was still running more or less fine. My quads were sore, but I was pleased I could still run. I kept waiting for this field that goes down a big hill and on to a road past a pond. I’d confirm later that the course had changed a little from last year, going just to the side of that section.

I was so focused on that I got a little surprise. Ian asked “What’s this?” and moved over so his headlight hit a sign. “One Mile to Go!”, it read. I thought, bull, that couldn't be right. Maybe a mile and a half or so, the sign must be wrong. Then Ian vocalized the same thing. Yeah, it’s wrong, but who cares, we’re close.

A few minutes later, another sign. “Half a Mile Left!”, or something like that. Ian said, “I believe THAT sign, maybe the other one was right afterall.” I agreed.

Not long afterwards, a turn on to trails was marked with the second most glorious sight on the course: milk jugs with glow sticks. It’s a sign that you’re very close. I got really excited.

Another runner appeared ahead. Given we were so close, I would have felt bad about passing him. I mentioned that to Ian, and he rightfully said to not worry about him, just do your best and whatever happens is what happens. Still, we encouraged the runner to keep moving and not let us catch him. I underscored this by saying if I caught up to him, I would literally kick him in the ass. He laughed and said okay. I’m glad he managed to stay ahead, and hope that perhaps knowing we were behind him gave him a little boost.

I kept waiting to hear the sound of power generators, but that never happened. I did see a red light through the woods though, and after a few moments I realized it was the neon finish line sign. Woohoo! Ian yelled ahead that it was me and my entourage cheered. I crossed under that sign in 21:15:38, a PR of about 54 minutes. 43rd place out of of 221 finishers.

I exchanged hugs with my All-Star crew, pacer and family, and then an upheaval of emotions followed: I busted my butt hard and it paid off. Everything went right. Everything. Well, except for that squeaky shoe, but so be it. It was great to do it with great friends and immediate family, especially my father who has advanced Parkinson’s Disease and this is probably the last time he’ll be able to travel this far for something like this. I wanted to put on a show for him and I delivered. I couldn’t believe how well everything went and couldn’t have been happier. It was no doubt my best race ever. Tears wanted to come up as the emotion was there, but I was simply too tired.

I plopped down in a nearby camp chair and rested a little while. It was my first time sitting down since just before the start. I never took a seat once during the race. My legs rejoiced, only to rebel when I’d try to stand up several minutes later. But for now, it felt good. So good. And so did the beer I had.

I then wanted to get back to our rented house, shower and lay down before the post-race cold shivers set in, and my brother and Kate helped walk me to the car. We were at the house before that 22:09 mark of my previous PR, something I thought was pretty cool.

The next morning, we got to the awards ceremony/brunch early to cheer in the final finishers. Talk about mental toughness. They’re putting their bodies through the same hell as everyone else, but doing it longer. Very inspiring to watch.

At the awards, calling up the finishers in groups by the hour they finished in was a really, really great touch. Not only was it way more quicker and efficient than calling up everyone individually, it was also a kind of bonding moment to share the stage with runners that finished in a time that was close to yours. I really liked that a lot, and sensed others did as well. Normally it’s just the top ten folks that have that opportunity, but now others did as well.

A great race, but if they all went this perfectly, it’d get boring pretty fast. But when they do happen, we cherish them. This will be one that sticks with me closely for a long time. Big thanks to Kate, Ian, Ryan, John, my family and the Trail Monsters. It was a team effort for sure. 

And a huge thanks to Amy R. and her team for putting on a great event that creates amazing memories for so many runners, crew and family while also raising money for Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports. Rock on!

Do I really weigh 188?

At least my BP was normal for me (nice and low). 

Pre-race early morning!

Coming into Lincoln Covered Bridge. 

Kate giving me a popsicle.


Coming into Camp Ten Bear, round two. 

Ian now at my side.

Having a pacer/crew is simply more fun. 

Approaching Spirit of 76. 

Polly's. Almost there. 

Kaboom! Final approach. 

Ahhhh, a chair (and a beer). 

Amy did an incredible job RD-ing. Mad props to her and her staff. 

Buckles! 21 hour group.