July 19-20, 2008
The 20th Annual Vermont 100-Mile Endurance Run
The 20th annual Vermont 100 Mile endurance run was my 6th 100 Mile race and my 5th such race of this distance in the last 365 days. Of the group of friends I have made over the months, I’f like to consider myself the veteran. The 3 of them were trying to distance for their first time. We made a deal a few months ago that of the 4 of us, whoever was in last would carry a pacifier with them. And when you passed one of the others, you’d hand it off so that then they would have it. We all agreed and so it went. Myself and 4 of my closest friends, running against each other for 100 miles with the hopes of never carrying the pacifier and what we got in the end.. was one amazing time.
(The Pacifier Boys – Jeff, Me, Nate, Paul)
Spending the last 2.5 months working as a landscaper helps me greatly. Instead of working in an AC’d office, I’m out in the heat and humidity of New England every day, pruning bushes, and chasing lawn mowers. I love it, every bit of it and I think it showed during the race.
Start to Pretty House:
Nate took the pacifier at the start whether he was going to be in last place out of our group or not with the plan to trade it off at the first handler station (Pretty House). The countdown began as a light rain continued to fall, 3, 2, 1… and we were off running downhill. Nate and I stuck together for a little bit, but we were determined to run our own race. Soon we all spread out a bit and leap frogged one another. I quickly noticed I had some small pebbles in my shoe and stopped on the side of the road to fix the problem right away. It was about Mile 4 or 5. As I stood up from fixing my shoe, an amazingly rugged stomachache descended upon me. I was getting frustrated early, as things weren’t quite in order with all of 95 miles to go. I ducked off into the woods to take care of business and while there I looked around to see I had stepped off into a patch of briars where every leaf had a thorn on it. My blood pressure rose as my patience with myself was wearing thin. I managed to find ample materials to clean off and then headed back down the road. I passed the aid at Mile 7 and still felt rocks in my shoe, so I stopped.. AGAIN… to fix the issue before continuing on down the road.
Nate had all ready begun to chafe as we descended into Taftsville so he stepped aside to address the issue. I continued to run, crossed the bridge and onto the next road which is one of the very few flat stretches on the course. Trees and limbs absolutely littered the area, remnants of last night’s severe thunderstorm that ripped through the area. As I made it to the aid station at the end of the road, I saw Joe Desena and Jason Hayden of Peak Races putting in some volunteer work. Joe gave me a hard time about me being a bit slower to this point this year. I grabbed some grub before moving on. As I wandered up the hill from the station I looked down to see red powder EVERYWHERE. My flashlight had been bouncing around in my Nathan Vest and it punctured a hole in my zip-lock baggy of Clip2. The powder leaked out everywhere. I returned to the station to use the rest of the powder to mix drink into my bottle. I washed my hands and then finally, left the station for good.
I headed up the hill and saw Jeff. I called his name and he waited for me as we ran comfortably in trying to catch Nate. We eventually did as we came out onto the roads leading into Pretty House. We were all in good spirits and getting ourselves together for our first visit with the crews. Nate told me it was about 8:15 on his watch. I started thinking about the time. As I got into the station, Mike told me it was indeed 8:15 and I was right on time. I had to think about it for a minute realizing that I needed and wanted to be AHEAD of schedule to this point and not “on time.” Crap! I needed to pick it up a bit. We had spent the first 21 miles holding back and being patient, but I wasn’t comfortable with the outcome. It was time to get the game on. I looked around at what Mike had out for me at the station. Being by himself is certainly hard I’m sure and though I appreciated his help; it was a mess. He had out what I needed to have at the station and not what I needed to bring. I scrambled around in the back of his car to pick up the pieces of what he didn’t have ready for me. I felt bad but had to keep moving. I knew he’d get into the swing of things as the day wore on so I wasn’t upset or anything, but I did start to pray a little. As we headed out of the aid Station, Nate Jeff and I were still together and Paul was behind with his crew still. We handed Drew the pacifier to give to Paul when he came by before heading out.
(I Run into Pretty House)
Pretty House to Stage Rd:
I was determined to power up these first few up-hills out of Pretty House and coast the down hills over to Stage Rd. I left Nate and Jeff behind as I finally started to stretch the legs out, I really settled in and felt good. I knew what I wanted to accomplish out here and it was going to take some work in the heat and humidity to get it done. As I crested the top of Sound of Music Hill, the sun finally broke through, the fog lifted and it got HOT. I LOVE the heat and humidity, its like fresh gasoline to me and my engines were revving up. I was ready to go. I spotted Kevin Sayers on the top of the hill and know that if I was near him and could keep him in my sights, I was in good shape. So I followed along behind him all the way downhill into Stage Rd.
(Damon Lease offers support at Stage Rd)
Stage Rd to 10 Bears 1:
Drew told me Mats Roing was some 27 minutes ahead of me at this point. Its Mats first 100 Mile race. I knew a little bit about his training and also knew that 27 minutes ahead of me isn’t going to find him anything but ahurtin unit at some point or another. I told Drew I’d see him at 10 Bears and Drew Laughed. Mike had everything out perfectly at Stage Rd and was ready to go. Thank god! I knew he’d get back into the swing of things with crewing for me. I quickly grabbed what I needed and headed out down the rd. I feel great still and still haven’t bonked. I am so far having the time of my life, feeling great and running strong. I passed by John Holt who wasn’t looking so good but moving forward at least. I took the right turn and began the long exposed climb up the old Suicide Six. It was a long tough climb in the heat and my breathing picked up quite a bit.
I coasted down the hills playing leap frog with a few other runners along the way. At Rte 12 aid station I waited in line for ice cubes for my handheld bottles. I even took one for my mouth. I ate as much fruit as I could and carried on up the road. The next stretch of the course is filled with long long climbs and short downhills. My only plan was to patiently continue to work my way through these hills on my way to 10 Bears and to get there in one piece. There was plenty of time left for running and in this section, its not it. I made it into the aid station on Rte 106 and needed to stop again for a little alone time in the porta-potty. I wish I could figure my stomach distress out in these races as its stating to aggravate me greatly. Something isn’t working. In the porta potty it was so hot I swear to god I sweat off about 3 pounds of my body weight. I grabbed some Vaseline at the station, ate more fruit and headed off down the rd. I ran for a little while with a guy who was enjoying his first 100 Miler. Good for him!
We got off the pavement and back onto trails. The trail section here is gnarly and littered with roots and downed limbs. I pickd my way through and out onto Jenne Farm Rd. I ran with a woman from Clagary for a bit and told her about the blue pipes strung out through the trees used to collect maple sap and how it is later turned into Maple Syrup. She was so intrigued and I love sharing a bit of New England with someone who has never been here before.
After finally running through the Jenne Farm area where I enjoyed a gentle breeze, I headed down into 10 Bears finally and ready to continue on this amazing adventure. I weighed in at 150, -4 pounds so far and Dr. Glass gave me the OK to move on. I was having a blast. Visited with my crew who was ready to roll and Drew told me I had caught Mats Roing as I had predicted. Mats was in the medical tent nursing a sore knee with a bag of ice. He told me he was dropping out. “Maybe next time you won’t run like a bat out of hell Mats!” We laughed, shook hands and I asked if his pacer had someone else to pace. Adam Wilcox is one of my good hiking friends and was indeed still looking to hook up with a runner to pace. I told him Nate’s pacer couldn’t make it and could use the help. I grabbed more food, sucked down my gels and boost.. and headed off up the hill.
(My brother-in-law Mike and I at 10 Bears 1)
10 Bears 1 to Margarittaville:
The guys told me I had about 10 minutes on Nate and Jeff as I left 10 Bears. Going up the hill I saw that I had caught up to Kerry Owens of Massanutten lore. She started running and quickly stopped saying how she wasn’t really motivated today. She looked great either way as I continued on. At the bottom of the hill I saw Jim Lampman. I gave him a friendly hello and we talked about how he went out a bit too fast, and taking a while to realize his mistake. Such a delicate game to play against the clock in these races especially given the terrain and weather. Jim was in great spirits and ready to continue on to the finish line at whatever pace it took him. I greatly appreciate his enthusiasm for the sport and his dedication towards reaching the finish line.
I then made it to Agony Hill and slowly worked my way to the stop. I crested over and ran down into Pinky’s where the same folks who were checking off times at Lincoln Covered Bridge were now checking off times here. I asked a woman to please put some ice in my bottles and my hat before giving me one for my mouth to chew on. Another woman recorded my time and said, “Hey… you’ve really picked it up since LCB!” I told her I was on a mission and things are pretty close right now. I thanked them for their work and headed out.
As I worked down the trail a few horse riders caught up and walked beside me down the hill. They asked me all kinds of friendly questions about running these races, training, nutrition.. it was a lot of fun. I let them head out as we listened to the Thunderstorms rolling in. As I climbed the next hill, one of the locals was out with a hose for horses and runners. I had them dowse my hat with the cold water. The homeowner told us about the severe thunderstorm warning for the area siting the NWS with small hail, high winds and deadly lightning. GREAT! As I crested the hill and ran through another meadow, I could see the storm swirling over 10 Bears and the finish area of the course.. I knew I was going to luck out. I ran into Birmingham’s where the aid station volunteers debated my age. Always love this… I was out of there in a hurry but with all smiles. They were very nice folks and very helpful as were the rest. I cruised downhill as huge drops of water fell sporadically and soon a quick drenching shower took over as I ran the last quarter mile into Tracer Brook. As I entered the aid station the rain let up. I had dodged the bullet for sure as the sun was all ready starting to come back out. I looked for my crew but couldn’t find him as Pauls crew offered some assistance. I asked for gels and went for the aid table to pick at food. Then, there was Mike. Phew! I grabbed all that I needed again and told him I’d see him at Margarittaville after the long climb.
I left Tracer Brook and began the long climb up to Margarittaville which takes us up and over the highest point on the course. I’m still climbing wel and have yet to bonk. Last year at this point, I was hallucinating and having a tough time. This year I was enjoyed a calm breeze and being soaking wet from the torrential rain we had. I continued to plug along all the way up Prospect Hill. About half way up I saw a couple who was running together. The guy was giving up on Sub-24 and I told him he had plenty of time if he kept moving. His partner was in the woods, he sounded a bit dejected. I wished him well, offered encouragement and continued on finally making it into Margarittaville myself.
Mville to 10 Bears 2:
In the aid station I once again went to the restroom. I came out and enjoyed a Cheeseburger in paradise before consulting with my crew. I told them, “Its going to be close for sub 24.” They explained I was a little behind and there was only hope if I got moving. I knew I wanted to make it to West Winds before dark and it was the plan all along. I’ve been moving greatly all race long. Have yet to bonk, have a good cushion of time on my fellow friends (20 minutes now), and wanted the buckle. I stopped talking and just grabbed what I needed and told the guys I’d see them at 10 Bears. Drew said good bye for the night and off I went.
I mixed in a good bit of walking and running from Margarittaville to Browns School House. And I continued to feel really good realizing that despite having my back up against the wall with the sub 24-hour clock, I was having an exceptional race and a strong day. I ran into Browns and they asked what I needed and I replied, “I need to get the hell out of here.” They put ice in my handhelds, I grabbed some fruit, I thanked them and I was gone. I climbed the last bit of uphill and took the right ready for the long downhill heading back in towards 10 bears. I got a HUGE break with some horse riders. The Horses were running at my pace and I allowed them to pace me to the road section where they took off. I hit the dirt road, stretched quickly and took off for more downhill, turned left, chugged uphill, down the other side and ran into 10 Bears for the second time. I had just run the 8 miles from Margarittaville to 10 Bears in an hour and a half. It was 7:05pm and I still needed to get to West Winds before dark. Drew was shocked at how fast I got there and he gave me an “atta boy” before finally taking off. The update on the boys was that Nate was 30 Minutes behind me..
I sat in my chair and they fetched Dot Helling. Dot came over to say hi as did Bob Dunfey. I wanted to talk and talk and talk with these wonderful folks but I was on a mission. My bottles were refilled, I sucked down some gels and boost, lubed up, changed my socks and shoes, grabbed solid food to eat and I was gone in 4 minutes! I wanted the buckle bad. Mike had turned crewing duties over to my good friend Pete (whole be riding the VT50 in Sept), and took over as my pacer. Mike had never run further an 16 miles in his life but I was confident he could make it the 30 to the finish. We both had the heart and determination and that is exactly what I needed to get me to the promised land. We headed out and onward for West Winds.
10 Bears 2 to West Winds:
Mike and I quickly sank into conversation and really enjoyed the setting sun against the foggy and humid Vermont countryside. Mike was in awe at some of the properties we ran by and through. I think it kept him motivated early. I know I was still on a mission and doing my best to move briskly when I could. The pain in my quads was quickly growing to be pretty unbearable and running took some heavy calming breaths and meditation. We stopped only briefly at Seabrook still trying to beat the clock. We took to another trail section winding our way through the dark woods. Our headlamps went on as the woods were dark and the sky still getting there. We heard noise, kept pushing and popped out onto a road, we made it… West Winds at dusk and before dark.
Pete was set up like a pro and we got everything we needed… except the body glide.. where the hell is the body glide?! It was missing and Vaseline became the last minute lube of choice. I went to the aid table and asked if they had chicken noodle soup and they did.. a lady grabbed a cup hastily and I stopped her, “please, half the cup of soup the other half cold water.” She obliged and I’m glad she did.. the half cup of cold water cooled the soup to luke warm and it went down easy and quick so I could leave without having to carry the cup or wait for it to get cool. Mike was ready to go so out we went, down the hill and into the woods.
(West Winds before Dark)
West Winds to Bills:
The nighttime became tricky. The fog was so thick that our headlamps were almost considered useless. Not only was it tough to see but the moisture in the air was suffocating. I took it in stride as we continued to push on. I was again starting to have doubts in the prospect of finishing in under 24 hours, it was indeed going to be close. I’ve been running my butt off all day in trying to make it. Stomach issues, rocks in my shoes, everything… and it was me with my back up against the wall and the clock. Crap! I kept moving. We went up and down the sick and twisted roller coaster that is miles 77 to 88. Mike continued to be great company, striking up conversation and keeping me moving along. We continued to search for Bills Barn through the fog, wondering if any of the guys would ever catch me as I hoped they would. I didn’t want to be the only one with a buckle. We climbed a short hill where we saw a runner puking her guts out on the side of the road. I hoped she was ok. We took a turn and headed downhill where out of no where appeared cars… but where was the barn? The fog was so thick and the air so humid that you could only see Bills when standing within 50 yards or so of it. I walked to the barn and to the scale. I was tired and sore. As I lifted a leg to put it up on the scale, the combination of the two caused me to wobble a bit and the medical volunteer told me I was going to sit down for a bit. Damn! My weight was right on 154. I felt great, just tired and sore and he sat me down without ever even telling me why. I just agreed and sat. My grandfather sat in a wheelchair for 14 years and it was a goal of mine in this race to never sit. I sat to change my shoes.. and now I was sitting because.. well… I don’t know why. They fed me food as I watched this medical guy get ready to leave for the night. He circled the barn and tapped a few other volunteers on the shoulder, pointed at me sitting in the chair as he whispered in their ear. I was now getting pretty damn pissed. I understand the need to be cautious but from what I later discussed with other runners, they were taking “cautious” a bit too far out at Bills barn and I was a victim. Then I looked over and saw Adam… wait, “ Adam?!… is Nate here?” “Yeah man, he;s outside.” I peered through the barn door and there he was. I had 30 minutes on him at mile 70. 18 miles later, with 12 miles left in the race and here he was. The race suddenly changed. Nate came into the barn, “Why are you sitting.” I explained the situation to him and he started to flip, “GET UP! Get your ass out of the chair and lest go! They won’t tell you why you’re sitting then F them!” He was right, I saw a doctor in a black shirt and asked him if he would please check me out so I can get going. He listened to my heart and asked me a bunch of questions. My two favorite were, “Are you on any drugs?” my Answer: “Funny you should ask a guy running 100 miles if he is on drugs. No.. but do you have anything good?” His second question: “Have you done anything like this before?” “Yes doc, this is my 5th 100 miler in the last 365 days… can I go now?” He let me out and Nate and I left together with out pacers.
Bills to Pollys:
I went flying out of Bills barn at an amazing clip. We ran downhill and onto some trails, popped out into an open field and hauled ass down into the night. When I finally hit the next road I stopped and took a walk break. After hearing the time at Bills I knew it was a slim chance of us breaking 24. I told Nate, “Dude.. just finish” He snapped back, “What are you talking about.. we’re getting a buckle.” Every time I heard Nate’s voice behind us, or saw his light.. I started running. I was going to be damned if he beat me. I took off on him on all the up-hills and he caught up on the down hills. My pacer has now run further than he’s ever run in his life. He’s hanging in there but when I asked him if he was sore yet he replied with “yes.” This was turning out to be quite a battle between friends, the clock and myself. I was going to win it all however.. and I hustled as best I could. The hills were never ending and painful. Some of the uphill climbs slowed me to a crawl, causing me to stop periodically to catch my breath and try to stretch my legs. I was beat, sore and slowing down. Damn! I just need to keep moving. We rounded a corner and I knew where we were and then it appeared, Polly’s. We went right for Pete and grabbed just what we needed and did so quickly. I grabbed one more piece of banana when I turned back and saw Nate come into the aid station. He never stopped as we all took off once again together. We have one and a half hours to go 4.5 miles. In our current state, wrecked, sore, tired and racing the crap out of each other.. I wasn’t sure if it was doable… the first goal was to make it to that second to last aid station in a hurry.
(Nate… we gotta go! Polly’s)
(To the finish! Leaving Polly’s)
Pollys to Finish:
We have one and a half hours to go 4.5 miles. In our current state, wrecked, sore, tired and racing the crap out of each other.. I wasn’t sure if it was doable… the first goal was to make it to that second to last aid station in a hurry. Nate was running when I ran. When I walked he walked. We entered another gnarly woods section with plenty of mud from the days storms, trees down, limbs and roots everywhere and it slowed us down. I could see and hear Nate behind me.. so we kept moving. As we got out of the woods and back onto the roads, Mike and I moved uphill as I listened for Nate… then I heard him come out of the woods and let out a huge moan, I looked back and he was stopped with Adam trying to coach him right back into moving. Not far down the road was that last aid station, I didn’t stop and almost went the wrong way. I looked back for Nate and saw the course took a hard left behind the station.. Crap! We back tracked and got back on course and as we did, Nate had caught me… but I knew I had his number… the rest of the course.. the last 2 miles is all pretty much up hill. Nate was much slower on the up-hills and I knew I was going to beat him. It was so much fun to be bale to race someone towards the end and I really enjoyed the experience no matter which one of us was going to come out on top. I told Mike, “Ok.. I don’t care which one of us comes in first.. I just want Nate to get his buckle.” As I worked uphill, walked as fast as I could, I could hear my brother in law running. I thought he wanted to keep me moving. We had no idea what time it was… so I started to run. Then I’d stop form the pain and continue to walk. I’d hear him run again and so I’d pick it up. Then he said, “John,, I’m not trying to get you to run. I can’t keep up with your walking! So I have to run to catch up.” We had some short jokes but continued on. Then we saw a runner. He stepped out of the way and said, “You’ll make sub 24 bud! Its 23:30 now!” We saw the sign for 1/2 Mile left and I kicked it in. I ran as hard as I could down hill, the voices of the finish got louder. I gave a hoot into the night and the crowd responded with applause, cheering me in. I came hauling ass around the corner, started to run up that final hump when I heard, “What’s your number?” I yelled as tears rolled down my check, “Number One Hundred!” My arms raised, I ran across the line and fell to my knees. I had never run so much during a race. Never had my back against the clock for so long and I was wrecked. I did it again… 23 Hours and 37 Minutes for 100 Miles.
I gave hugs and thanked Pete and Mike for their help. I saw Barry, Nates brother and crew and told him he was coming soon. Many folks I knew gave me congratulations. I turned back to the finish and waited. First the guy who let us pass came through, and then I saw 2 headlights… there they were, Nate and Adam. We yelled and cheered them in. Nate crossed the line in 23:42, he was pumped, relieved and spent. It was downright hilarious how two runners; completely wrecked, sore, and chaffed could run each other into the ground into the finish. We inspired each other to that goal of getting a buckle… and we did it. My 6th 100-Mile Finish, the Long Trail Ale never tasted so damn good!
Jeff was pulled at mile 70 with a stress fracture in his tibia. But he convinced the doctors to let him continue. At mile 71 he had no choice but to drop. Paul suffered through a litany of circumstances but persevered and finished with a time of 29:41; when he crossed the finish line, he had the pacifier dangling from his pack. If anyone tells you Vermont is an Easy 100… THEY ARE WRONG! Over 120 people dropped out. I loved every minute of it.. all of the heat 90+ degrees and the 99% humidity.. I wouldn’t rather run in anything else than that! WAAA HOO!
It looks like I am done with 100 Milers for the year unless I can find one for November or December and afford to go. I’d love for nothing more. But for now, I must prepare for the Vermont 50 in September, where my buddy Pete and I are going to duke it out. Him on a bike and me on foot. Its going to be another epic race. I love this sport! Special thanks to Mike, Pete, Nate, Paul, Jeff, Joe Mama and all the countless volunteers who make it happen. Especially Dot Helling, Zeke Zucker, Mike Silverman, Joy Crossman, Bill Stillson, Jim Hutchinson, The amazing Julia and anyone I don’t know about.
And thanks to my sponsors… without them the race would not have gone by with so much ease and enjoyment! Darn Tough Socks, Long Trail Ale, Brooks, Nuun, Peak Adventures, Nathan and Dreamchasers.
Start (0) to Pretty House (21.1) = 4:15 – 12:05mi pace
Pretty House (21.1) to Stage Rd (30.1) = 1:50 – 12:13mi pace
Stage Rd (30.1) to Camp 10 Bears 1 (47.2) = 1:30 12:16mi pace
Camp 10 Bears 1 (47.2) to Tracer Brook (57) = 2:20 14:17mi pace
Tracer Brook (57) to Margarittaville (62.1) = 1:15 14:42mi pace
Margarittaville (62.1) to Camp 10 Bear 2 (70.1) = 1:45 13:07mi pace
Camp 10 Bear 2 (70.1) to West Winds (77) = 1:53 16:22mi pace
West Winds (77) to Bills Barn (88.6) = 3:20 17:14mi pace
Bills Barn (88.6) to Pollys (95.5) = 2:04 17:58mi pace
Pollys (95.5) to Finish (100) = 1:12 16:14mi pace
All times are run time from Times IN to each aid station.
(Ex. Time IN to Pretty House to time IN to Stage Rd. All rest time is counted in the pace)