Never in my entire life, have I ever been so close to the brink of my physical and psychological limit. I have thru-hiked for 107 straight days on the Appalachian Trail, 23 days on the Colorado Trail, endured 2 months in Antarctica, and ran several 50 mile ultra runs. But never have I experienced what I did this past weekend. You are reading this probably thinking I'm exaggerating, or simply trying to make it sound more "extreme"...but I speak completely honestly when I say such a bold statement. Sure, there are people that do these 100 milers all the time, and even finish in incredible times. But for me, this was something that I don't think I was really supposed to be able to do.
I have completely and utterly annihilated my body. As I write this I'm lying on my bed very nearly unable to move with what is appearing more and more to be a stress fracture in my left foot. (yeah I know...goodbye Leadville). I was up all night long with intense stomach cramps and aches....probably due to all of the advil, aleve, and overall trauma I put my body through.
At 3:15 am Sunday morning when I crossed the finish line, after having run non-stop for nearly 24 straight hours, I stood in amazement at what I had just accomplished. I hobbled around for a few minutes talking with some other finishers, waiting for some of my fellow runners to come in behind me. Moments later, for the first time in my entire life, I felt my body completely turn itself off. I have never felt so utterly helpless as I did at that moment. I looked at Chris (my pacer) and said something along the lines of, "Something doesn't feel right and I'm not sure what's happening...." and the next thing I remember, I was on the grass with medical staff shoving an oxygen mask on my face. I was led to the medical tent where I was wrapped in multiple blankets and heat packs for over an hour unable to get warm. My body was in complete and utter shock....and was quite frankly just pissed off at me. I managed to finally overcome all of this by 5 am, and took the very short walk back to my tent where I curled up in my very warm sleeping bag and tried to sleep until 10am...although there wasn't much sleeping. I have since made it back to State College, surprisingly the drive wasn't too bad....it was getting out of the car last night that was bad.
So how about that race report john...
I went into this Endurance Run with the goal of simply finishing. I had set a very loose goal of of trying to win one of the elusive buckles by breaking the 24 hour time limit as well, but it was just that, a very loose goal.
I made the drive up to central Vermont Friday morning and pulled into Silver Hill Meadow around 1 Pm. I checked in, weighed in, set up my tent, and attended the mandatory information meeting. I also met up with my pacer Chris and made arrangements for the next day. I placed out all of my drop bags and ate an ENORMOUS dinner of pasta, pasta salad, and ice cream....mmmm.
At 3 am I was woken up to the sound of "Chariots of Fire" playing over the loud speaker. I got suited up in my gear and headed down to the start line in the dark. I had my full head lamp at the 70 mile aid station, and had decided to simply use a couple of cheap-o LED lights for the first hour from 4am to 5am. I figured there'd be enough other runners around to provide ample lighting around me until the sun came up.
After a bagel and some coffee, promptly at 4am, we started a 10 second countdown.....and began running.
The first 10 miles went by fairly quickly. I found a good group of folks to trot along with and was in a very slow comfortable groove. The first few aid stations were unmanned, and so there was only water and HEED. It was during these, that I mostly just filled up my water quickly and hit some gels. I ran for a while with Christine and Charlie (both affiliated with the Finger Lakes Fifities Race) and they were excellent company. The sun came up and miles began to accrue slowly. The course was mostly on dirt roads up to this point and things couldn't be better. The weather was still holding out from raining and we had great cloudy cool conditions. Somewhere around mile 14, I was greeted by some people on horseback. Up until race day, I had no idea that the Vermont 100 was also a 100 mile horse race. For the next few hours the horses that had started an hour after we did, had caught up and were passing us. It was quite a pleasant surprise to see a whole slew of friendly folks on horseback giving us some verbal support. At around mile 25 I started noticing my left foot was beginning to hurt a bit. I figured it was just a kink that had to be worked out, but had still come to the conclusion that I would switch out of my trail running shoes and into my road shoes at mile 47. By mile 30 I was starting to get very worried something was wrong, but was still holding out that it was just my trail shoes causing some kind of irritation...and the advil was holding the pain at bay. I pushed on and started running with a woman named Sue somewhere in the 40 miles (Charlie had also caught back up). At mile 47, I hit camp ten bear aid station and finally switched out my shoes to my Brooks ASR's (Road shoes) and was hoping this would help with the foot situation. I took a good 5 minutes here and had my first weigh-in. If you gain or lose too much weight they can pull you from the race. In my case I had only gained just about a pound, and so was still fine. I headed out past all of the crew vehicles and made my way to the aid station at mile 51. When I arrived my foot was feeling better, and I was pretty excited to have gone 1 mile further than I have ever gone. I looked at my watch and realized I had actually ran 50 miles in just over 11 hours. I couldn't believe I had managed to go that fast. This meant that I could run the second half in almost 13 hours and still break 24! I didn't want to get too excited because anything could happen in the next 49 miles, but it was now starting to seem at least plausible.
The next 20 miles were tough. I hadn't yet met up with Chris, but I was still running with Sue and Charlie. They proved to be excellent unofficial pacers. We were on the same schedule, running the same strategies. I was still managing to trot the flats and jog the downs...so this was good. My legs still felt ok, and the foot was so-so. I had been putting down quite a bit of ibuprofin though, so I'm sure my stomach and liver weren't happy. I had told Chris to expect me at mile 70 around 8pm at the earliest. I had my headlamp there, but was still carrying my two mini LEDs in case it started to get dark first. It didn't matter and I ended getting to mile 70 at 7:30 pm, a half an hour earlier than I even thought possible. Chris was there waiting and immediately grabbed my water bottle to fill it and took care of me. It was truly great to see him and to have someone to help me out. I explained to him quickly that we wouldn't be going very fast, and wouldn't be running a lot in the last 30....and he said he'd do whatever I wanted.
I changed my socks and shirt, and headed out with Chris (with Sue and her new pacer just behind). As the sun began to go down, one last horse that had been held up for hours earlier in the day had caught up and passed us. The rider wished us luck, told us we were doing well, and trotted on ahead.
...and so it was night....
Then began the night-time marathon. For the next 15 miles the four of us went into complete aid station mode....calculating the exact distance to the next station and how long at a walk/trot it would take to get there. The hills were getting very tiresome, and we all ached for some flat sections (which never came). At mile 83, we had our last 5 mile stretch to Bill's aid station at 88. I knew this would be the last mentally tough challenge, but there was no way I was quitting with 12 to go. When we finally made it up the long climb I knew it was all starting to become a reality. 12 to go I thought....that's one loop around State College! I got some hot ramen noodle soup and started walking, telling Chris to catch up. He met up with a friend at the aid station and talked for a bit, and eventually ran up to me about 1/2 mile in to the next station. From mile 88 to mile 97, I mustered up my last bit of strength and managed to run quite a bit of the flat and long sections. I ended up passing over a dozen other runners during this stretch. I had also left Sue behind and was on my own with Chris at this point. Things were hurting all over but I just kept telling myself only a few more to go. My foot was starting to hurt really badly at this point, and I just kept asking Chris, "If we walk it outright, will I still break 24?". His was response was always something like, "maybe, but we're doing all right....let's keep it going".
At mile 97.7, we hit the last aid station, an unmanned water stop. I filled up my bottle, and stopped for a moment to take in the fact that I was at aid station 29 of 29...the last in a 100 mile endurance run. crazy.
We broke out of there and made our way over some pastures and through some good single track trail and finally saw the sign that said, "1 Mile to Go. You can do it!". I could hear the faint sound of a crowd of people cheering off in the distance as runners ahead of me were obviously finishing. Somehow I had managed to convince my body to keep going all day. When I saw that sign though, my brain started to realize it was just about over, and my body began shutting down ridiculously fast. I would try to run and make it a few steps and stop.....and that went on for a while. At around 99.7, we started to see the lights from the finish line and the VT 100 staff had gallon jugs of water set out with glow sticks in them as sort of a make-shift finish line runway. I rounded the last corner and heard a crew member loudly ask for my bib number. I screamed, "65!" and took off towards the finish. I don't know where I pulled any energy from, by I tore up the grass towards the finish banner, hands high over my head screaming. I probably looked pretty rediculous, but didn't care. People were cheering, and I had done it.
I had done it. I had finished the Vermont 100 Endurance Run in 23 hours 15 minutes 7 seconds. I had done it.
Minutes later I was curled up in the medical tent shivering uncontrollably as staff tried frantically to keep me warm. Never in a million years did I think that I would run/hike/walk for 24 straight hours. I have never experienced being so close to the absolute limit of my my physical capabilities. While I still feel that the mental struggle was more difficult on the Appalachian Trail, the overall psychological limit I reached in this one day was more extreme.
Unofficial Time: 23:16:52.7
Official Time: 23:15:07
Age Place: 15/31
Avg Heart Rate: 134
Calories Burned: 15,115
Fat% of Calories: 50%
Time in Target Aerobic Zone: 20:36:54
Just how far is 100 Miles:
Further than Rochester to Syracuse
Further than Altoona to Pittsburgh
Almost as long as Long Island....end to end
Almost as far as Los Angeles to San Diego
Some of Tent City
I will also followup on the status of my left foot and what this will mean for Leadville and/or Vermont 50.