OK, so running hills in the rain yesterday was totally unappealing, so I rolled over and went back to sleep. Maybe not the most badass thing to do but hey. Which meant that this morning was my last chance to get in my hill "workout" this week. The arm workout was left by the wayside after week #1 but the hills, well, I'm determined to at least keep those :) So off I went. It was nice and cool as I ran up Mt. A. to start the first loop. I decided to forgo the long loop on the first lap and just suck it up and run the short laps up and over the hill. Got in 8 loops and 4.5 miles for the morning. Although I am trying to run the downs and flats quickly, these miles are not fast miles. Sigh. But, two more loops than last week. For a 75 foot hill, Mt. A. sure is doing it's best to make me work!
I'm actually surprised at how well I held up in VT. But if I have perfected anything as a mother it is functioning of little to no sleep. At least I found a good way to put that skill to work this past weekend ;-) I figure I got about 3 hours worth of sleep from 3:00 am on Saturday morning until 10:00 pm on Sunday night. I've been sleeping pretty well the past few nights and haven't managed to get up at o'dark thirty to run, although I did drag myself out the door yesterday at 6:30am for a 3 mile run around the block. I felt a bit off and rather rusty after 4 days of no running, little sleep and a lot of sitting around. This morning was a complete fail, so I went out this afternoon for another 3 miler. It was hot and humid, but the legs felt decent, so hopefully things are coming around.
The past two years, Ryan has headed to VT to crew in mid-July for the VT 100. This year, John was running and asked if we wanted to crew for him. I really wanted to see what all the fuss was about and be part of the adventure, so we asked Mom and Dad if they'd come up and hang out with Sam for the weekend. And so it was that on Friday morning, we loaded John's little car to the gills and headed off to VT.
It was a gorgeous blue sky afternoon when we arrived at Silver Hill Meadow, a field in the middle of nowhere VT. Tent city was going up in the grasses, and although we thought that Jamie and Kate would have already arrived, we couldn't find them, so we started to set up with Anne and George. As soon as we had the tent set up but not staked, Jamie came running over. Which led to this...
...and finally this...
Silver Hill Meadow
The Jedi and his Princess
Jamie and Kate
After the pre-race meeting, we all headed over to the house the Wieluns family had rented for the weekend. Many thanks for having us! It was a gorgeous spot, and so relaxing. There were raspberries to pick, a horse in the pasture, flowers, birds at the feeder (pair of Hairy Woodpeckers, one Downy Woodpecker, one very cool Red-Bellied Woodpecker on the suet feeder, goldfinch, a catbird, and a ruby throated Hummingbird too.) A perfect spot for dinner with friends.
Cute little Emma
Mid-summer in VT
Our 3:00 am wake up came too soon, but all around us runners
were up getting ready, headlamps shining in the field and tents lit up with
lanterns. We headed down to the start/finish tent to get some much needed
coffee and chat with friends before the start. Along with John, our Trail
Monster friends Zak and George were running, as well as several others we knew.
At 4:00 am, the runners were off into the night, a long line of headlamps
heading out into the darkness, as we cheered them on.
Early morning fun
The Trail Monster runners
George and John
And they're off!
The cool thing about the VT 100 is that it started as a
horse race, and that tradition continues. We came back to the start line to
watch the 5:00 am 100 mile horse race start. The horses were incredibly
majestic and we enjoyed a nice conversation with one rider, learning a bit
about the race as the 30+ pairs set off down the hill on their own adventure, just as the sun began to rise, the pastel colors lighting up the sky.
100 Mile Horse race start
Then our crewing adventure began. Ryan, Jamie and I set off
in John’s car, traveling the back roads around Woodstock, Vermont in a quest to
meet up with John at all nine of the crew accessible aid stations along the 100
mile route. I can't even begin to describe all we did over the next 28+ hours, but I will say that Ryan knew the routes between aid stations like the back of his hand, that Jamie and Ryan were the perfect people to crew with as we careened across the countryside, that the area was beautiful, replete with rolling hills, lush greenery, magnificent estates, gorgeous horse farms, and that crewing is an ultra in and of itself! We stopped here and there to grab food to eat, and we spent a lot of time along the roadsides with many other crews, cheering on runners, waiting for John to appear, when we would quickly refill his pack, talk to him to see how he was doing, make sure he got some food and drink at the aid station and then send him back off down the road or trail, following the yellow pie plates that marked the course. It was a lot of hurry up and wait, but it was a lot of fun.
John coming into Pretty House, mile 21
Amazing jumpsuit at Stage Road, mile 31.4
Zak getting expert crewing from his sister, Sarah
John, all smiles, coming into Stage Road
The 100 Head Heart Feet crew
After the Stage Road aid station, we headed to Lincoln Covered Bridge, mile 39.6, where the Trail Monsters were manning the aid station, headed up by Kate. This was the longest stretch between crew accessible aid stations, so we thought we'd help out for an hour or so at the aid station before continuing on our journey. It was a lot of fun to see the Trail Monsters there, and to help the runners as they came through. It was starting to get muggy, but overall the weather was pretty nice, especially for July in Vermont. Kate was very glad for our help, as a lot of runners came through in little packs, and many needed water refills, etc. All hands on deck! The runners were all very appreciative of us, and that was really cool.
Trail Monsters manning the aid station
Cutting up fruit
Helping the runners as they come through
Ann and I
Zak, looking strong and happy
After an hour or so of aid station help, we headed out, stopping for a
quick roadside lunch break before continuing on to Camp 10 Bear, then out to
Seven Seas, where Jamie and I took naps J
Hey, by this time, we had been up for many hours! Ryan, of course, just stuck
with Red Bull! Ha.
Crewing is tough work!
Jamie, taking advantage of the warm grass and sunshine
Seven Seas view, mile 59
It was a quick trip from Seven Seas to Margaritaville, where
we managed to get John to eat some real food, and realized too, that his hope
for a buckle (24 hour or under finish) was pretty much not going to happen.
Although we knew he was slowing, we also knew he was in a good mood and seemed
to still be feeling strong, even if he was having trouble on the hills and his feet were hurting. And the nextstop was back at Camp 10 Bear, where he would pick up Jamie as his pacer
for the final 30 miles.
Cheeseburger (sans cheese) in paradise :-) (Margaritaville, mile 62.5)
After seeing him off, we made a quick stop for dinner and headed back to Camp 10
Bear. Camp 10 Bear was a busy spot again, with runners coming and going, medical
checks and pacer pick up. It was a bit chaotic to say the least, especially as
the light began to fade and night fell.
Jamie and John take off from Camp 10 Bear, at mile 70.5, off to tackle the last 30 miles
After Jamie and John headed off down
the road, we stayed to see if we might be able to see George before having to
move on. Night fell. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to see him come through, but we did see Val,
Mindy, Rick and Xar, along with Bob Dunfey, waiting for his runner, and that
was fun. Then it was Ryan and I for the remainder of the night.
My view for much of the day :-)
It was pitch black by the time we arrived at Spirit of 76, mile 77. We could hear the generator humming as we walked down the road in the dark. The aid station was like a mirage, bright Christmas tree lights sparkling in the night, and the way up the hill lit by little candles.
Runway up the hill
I'm not quite sure where we first knew that it was going to be a really long night - but Bill's proved just how rough it is to crew for a runner who is hemorrhaging time. We knew he could do it, but how slow it would be, we didn't know. After starting out comfortably at around 21:00 hour pace, John settled into right around 24:00 hour pace until around Seven Seas. This seemed to be sustainable, but then the pace got slower until we knew that buckling (24 hours or under) almost 100% wouldn't happen. He was still in good spirits at Margaritaville, and even back at Camp 10 Bear, but the pounding of the hills and the miles were taking their toll. Plus, his feet were hurting and his go-to food wasn't working and we were concerned about fueling. It is so tough to get it all right and so much can make things go awry.
We had 12 miles before John and Jamie would arrive at Bill’s. We weren't sure how long it would take them, but we figured John was likely right at 26:00 hour pace by this point. When we arrived at the parking lot at Bill’s, we pulled in and promptly took a
brief nap. The alarm went off and then it was down to sit in the cold darkness and wait. And wait we did.
Those miles and minutes took forever. We watched as runners cycled in and out of the old
barn, most walking slowly. It was a bit surreal.
Crewin'. In the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere.
Bill's, mile 89
We weren’t saying much, huddled up in our chairs, trying to
stay awake and stay warm, but I know we were both wondering what was happening.
What could we have done. When was he going to get there. I kept looking up the hill, hoping that each time a pair of headlamps came down the chute, it would be them. And finally, it was. And it wasn't pretty. John was barely awake, stumbling, head bobbing, eyes shutting, shivering. We got him weighed in, then sat him down and convinced him to drink some coke and eat some warm broth. Finally, a bit of spark came back. He was alive again. But it was close.
Minutes later, George and Team S&S came through. It was what we needed to get John back out there. George asked John if he wanted to walk with him. We basically answered for him and got him up, got his pack on and got them out the door and into the darkness. We hoped George's Jedi powers could keep him going.
We drove to Polly's, mile 95, and settled in for another nap. When we woke up, it was daylight. Beautiful spot.
Polly's, mile 95
We waited. Runners we recognized came through. Then runners we didn't. Then we saw George, Val and Mindy. George requested a can of Gingerale. He looked rather green. But he didn't stop. He just kept on shuffling out of sight. And still we waited. John finally came in, walking with Jamie. Rough going for sure. But less than 5 miles to go. He was going to make it. Our last crew stop before the finish.
After a brief stop in town for a breakfast sandwich, we made our way back to the finish. We found many of the Trail Monsters camped at the finish line. We chatted and waited. Zak had finished in 20:03 - an amazing feat, and an hour PR! George had finished in 26:49, an hour PR from last year's finish. Many other runners finished, shuffling across the finish line, arms raised, eyes teary. It was pretty amazing. And then finally, I spotted Jamie's TMR shirt through the trees. They were here! John got a loud cheer from us all as he crossed the line in 28:21. Yes, his finish time was hours off what he had hoped, but he hadn't given up, he had kept going, and damn if he wasn't a 100 mile finisher!
Congrats, John, on your 100 mile finish!
We walked him immediately to the med tent, where he promptly fell
asleep on the cot. He awoke briefly for some food and to get his feet tended
to (big blisters), but went back to sleep, dead to the world. While he slept, we packed up
camp, got ourselves some food, and talked with other runners and friends. John
woke up just in time for the awards. No belt buckle, but that plaque is pretty
Getting his feet tended to.
Do you think I can make this into a buckle? ;)
John, all smiles
John's VT 100 team.
Even the Jedi gets tuckered out :-)
I think that attracts us all to ultras of any distance is that no matter what you plan for, there is always the unexpected. It is how you react to the unexpected that makes or breaks you. John had a rough day out there, but he kept going. He finished, and in doing so, he made us all very proud. What an accomplishment! And so many similar stories out there. Many congrats to all the runners, both the winner who finished in record time and the last one, who came in just minutes under the 30 hour cut off. Everyone's finish here deserves to be recognized and applauded. This is one hell of a sport. It truly was amazing. And crazy. And awe inspiring. I am so glad to have been a part of the crazy, chaotic, impressive, sleep-deprived experience!