Sunday, August 6, 2017

2017 Moosalamoo 36 Miler Race Report

When I signed up for Moosalamoo, I had done enough reading on the web to realize it was probably going to be a bit of a wacky race. I mean, who puts on a 36 mile race?! Incredibly random. But it also sounded like a good, low-key event, and so in keeping with my continuing quest to do different races in different places, and to run happy, which to me involves not only running with friends and running the places I love, but also exploring new locales and keeping racing fresh and less stressful by not repeating races as much, I convinced Ryan to accompany me as chauffeur and crew out into the middle of nowhere Vermont for what would turn out to be quite the race.

We headed down to Ryan's parent's on Friday night, although we arrived about 2 hours later than anticipated due to several accidents en-route, which, thankfully, we were not involved in. After a late dinner of pizza, I headed to bed early as the plan was to get up at the ungodly hour of o'dark-thirty and drive to Goshen, Vermont in the morning, leaving Sam with Irene and Dana for the day.

In any event, we were off at 4:00 am, under extremely overcast skies, and as we wound our way on back roads through the national forest, up and over steep gaps, and on dirt roads, the rain started. Oh well. As Ryan said, I sure know how to pick 'em 😉  Oh, and if he had only known what I would find out on the race course! 😂😂 Boy was he right! Although Ryan wasn't convinced we could possibly be going the right way, sure enough, the lovely Blueberry Hill Inn came into view at the top of a dirt road and there was a nice volunteer pointing us to a parking spot. The Inn had an outdoor center in the field across the street with trails for hiking and cross country skiing, and it was there that the race started.

All week long, the forecast was calling for rain on Saturday, with sentences like "thunder and small hail likely" thrown into the mix just to make it exciting 😁😁  I was admittedly a bit nervous about the weather. I was also feeling a wee bit nervous about the distance, as honestly, although I have done a number of solid 20 mile runs over the past few months, I had only done one run over 20 miles, and that one only clocked in at 23. Adding on another 13 on race day seemed more than a bit formidable. I also had planned my training so that I wasn't going to go in on entirely fresh legs... I also sadly had a rather unhappy stomach on race day and after having gone to the bathroom many more times than I would have liked prior to the race, made sure to pack a lot more toilet paper than I would normally have in my pack. But such is life, and you just go with what you've got and hope for the best!

Blueberry Hill Inn

Outdoor center

Our friend Billy had decided to come over and join in on the fun, so there was one friendly face amongst a crowd of those much different than we've come to find in the Maine and Mass race scene. In a way, it was sort of cool. No pressure, no names to stack up against, just a group of crazies ready to race 14 and 36 miles through the VT woods and race director wearing a moose hat, saying, well, the start line is here, you turn left and go down the road...

I was wearing my UD Adventure Vesta pack, which I'd decided upon so that I could carry a bit more gear than I might in a typical race.  The first aid station was at mile 8, and although drop bags were a possibility at the mile 19/27 aid station, we looped back to the inn at mile 29 before doing a final 7 mile loop, and I decided it would be just as easy to carry a few extra gels and then reload at that point versus doing a drop bag, so I was not only carrying my raincoat, an extra shirt and socks, my phone (in case of emergency), but 29 miles worth of fuel. Thankfully, the pack is really comfy, even when pretty full! I started off wearing my long sleeve TMR shirt, as it was windy and showery. In the end, the rain stopped right before the race did, leaving in its wake very heavy, humid air.

Shortly after 8:00, we headed off for two miles on the dirt road before turning off onto the singletrack that wound up and over Mount Moosalamoo. I got warm and sweaty quickly, but I knew there was still the chance for more rain, wind and stormy weather later in the day, so I just rolled up my sleeves and got to climbing. We wound up along the mountainside on some nice singletrack, through sweet smelling ferns and patches of stinging nettle. I fell in with a group of people that included two lovely ladies and we chatted as we climbed. The top of the climb was a nice ridgeline with a view out into the distance, but the rocks were slick and greasy in the humid air, and I mostly just concentrated on not slipping off the side of the mountain 😉

The climb up was much more amenable, in my opinion, than the very steep and long downhill on the other side. I got passed by a whole lot of people as I picked my way down the mountain. About 2/3 of the way down, I passed a man and his son hiking up. The guy said, well, you are doing a much more sensible pace than those others! They were flying down this trail! I had to laugh at that. I know my sensible pace lost me a lot of time and places but it is the only way I can work the downhills! Ha.

At the end of the descent came the first aid station at mile 8, seemingly out in the middle of the woods, and I stopped there to drop some trash and have what would be the first of many cups of coke for the day. My stomach was still feeling off and it was shortly after the aid station that I had to find a spot off the trail to poop (sorry, TMI, I know, but that's the reality of my day). Sigh. Then it was back to running, as the trail wound up and down along the side of a hill, a bubbling stream down in the valley with some nice waterfalls. It was really quite pretty. I ended up in what is a typical Danielle race position here, seemingly totally alone, with no one around me. At some point, we hit a dirt road and I followed the arrows, but got nervous seeing no one ahead and no obvious orange flagging, which was supposed to mark the way. I got so nervous that I actually turned around and started heading back down the road, thinking I might have missed a turn off into the woods somewhere, but thankfully a group of runners was coming up towards me and assured me we were headed in the right direction. phew.

Shortly thereafter, we crossed a road and went up into the woods to the aid station at mile 11ish. It was there that the 36 milers would do a 4 mile out-and-back before returning to the aid station. As I was chugging some coke at the aid station, we heard a few rumbles of thunder. Uh oh. And sure enough, soon after heading out onto the nice runnable trail for the out-and-back, the rain started. And when I say started, I mean poured. I felt like I was in a shower, under hard running water, with my running gear on, it was such a deluge. I just had to laugh it was so ridiculous. There was nothing to do but continue on as the trail became a stream and there was no way at all to avoid wet feet, or wet anything. I got a bit chilled a few miles in and pulled down my sleeves, but it was raining so hard and there was so much water that the ends of the sleeves were flapping around filled with water and I gave up and rolled them back up again. Through it all, runners passed in the opposite direction, many of whom had put on raincoats and one of whom was wearing a trash bag. And then, just like that, it stopped. But by then, the damage was done. I was soaked, the trail was soaked, and the mudfest began 😂

Typical stretch of trail

There was no getting around the mud but it was so shoe-sucking that I tried to take the best route possible. There were also a lot of streams, which were best run right through, and which were nice as they cleaned the mud off, at least for a step or two 💦😂 Seriously, it was endless. The course had some nice singletrack but a lot of it was on wider old woods/jeep roads and those stretches were pretty much big muddy messes. There was also some running on gravel roads to mix things up. Aid stations were nicely set up every few miles after the first 8 mile stretch and the volunteers were incredibly helpful and very friendly. I ran alone a lot but was enjoying myself. I wasn't feeling super wonderful out there, but I was just chugging along. Due to the terrain and the mud and the weather, it was a slower go than I had thought it would be, but I was in a good head space throughout. 

It was still raining on and off, but nothing like the deluge from earlier, and the rain seemed to have brought in a bit cooler and drier air as I most certainly was not as sweaty as I had been in those initial miles. At the aid station at mile 19, I ended up exiting with a guy with tattoos all over his arms. As w were running down a stretch of gravel road together, it started once again to pour, maybe not quite so hard as the first deluge but still pretty hard. He laughed and said, well, I had just told the aid station guy that I wouldn't mind a bit more of that rain. Ha. Guess the joke was on us! We ran some singletrack, some gravel road, some wide old dirt road, there was more mud. You get the idea...

Muddy, sketchy stretch of trail barely runnable on the edge of a ferny hillside

I had to stop and poop in the woods again (!!) and he passed me, and he stopped to pee and I passed him, and I saw him stopped ahead looking at a bunch of beautiful oyster mushrooms in the woods, and we leap frogged back and forth until after the next aid station at mile 24. I passed him and he said he had stopped at a stream to take off his shoes and try to get some of the mud out, but then realized it was probably a pointless endeavor as we were coming up to the swamp crossing soon. I said, it can't be that bad, we've been tromping through shoe-sucking mud all day! He said, oh it's bad... Soon after that, we came upon a sign telling us to bushwack through the forest. Well, there was orange flagging, but it was basically stumbling through the woods with no clear trail. I couldn't figure out where the hell it was taking us... and then I came to the swamp. Oh, and it was a swamp all right. Complete with reeds and cattails and running water and deep mud and that lovely swamp smell of decay. And we had to cross it. Huh. Fell into some deep spots up to my knees a few times but otherwise, just slogged on through. Damn, this was one wacky race...

Not my feet but a good representation of the swamp...

Then it was back to the aid station at mile 27, more mud, more gravel road, more mud and finally a big downhill to the inn. Poor Ryan had been stationed at the inn since about 12:30. It was now 2:30. This was one rugged course and although I felt I was moving the best I could, I was in no way shape or form moving fast 😂😂

Ryan said he was expecting to have to give me a major pep talk, but although the course was more than I had bargained for, I was more than ready to go out on that final 7 mile loop and finish this thing! By now, the sun was coming out, so I changed into a dry shortsleeve shirt (ahhh! so nice!), took a few swigs of coke (so much coke!), told him to take everything extra from my pack, put in a gel or two and I was off. We wound through a nice forest for a while before coming out into this absolutely lovely field with blueberries all along the hillside and sweeping views. I stopped for a few blueberries, because, well, you do not pass by blueberries! Even when racing :) It was the prettiest point of the course. 

Pretty field

Of course, it was also where I passed the 4th woman as she was puking at the side of the trail. I felt kind of badly about that one... Down the edge of the field to a gravel road, which wound up at a runnable grade to a random trailhead with a trail that led up to Romance Mountain. I stopped at the final aid station for, you guessed it, another cup of coke and then took off at as fast a hike as I could muster up the one mile grind to the top of the mountain.

Ryan had run this loop earlier in the morning so told me what to expect. There were some PUDs along the ridgeline, then more muddy trail downhill that seemed endless, until I popped back out onto trail I recognized but couldn't remember how long it would take to get back to the final 1.6 mile stretch. It seemed to go on and on and I wanted to go fast, but damn, the mud! Finally, I was back on the final stretch and all I wanted was that final downhill so that I could sprint into the finish and be done after 8 hours of running 😀 

Super proud of Billy, who kicked a$$ and had an awesome race, finishing in 9th place in 6:48, almost an hour and a half ahead of me. Amazing! 

Billy, looking strong

I finished 21st in 8:10:22, and managed to come in 4th woman and 3rd in my age group (us 40-somethings did pretty well out there! :)) and I most definitely got what I wanted out of the race - a challenge, something new, a good day on my feet and happiness even in the face of a day that doled out a bit more than I had anticipated. It was not the perfect day out there, but I felt solid, I could run, I didn't have any cramps, I didn't have any low spots, I just took it all in stride through not feeling well and just kept moving and despite the crazy rain and mud and thunder and the rugged terrain, I had fun, enjoying some new trails, seeing the red efts come out after the rain, running by moose prints and several piles of blueberry-filled bear poop and waterfalls, eating a few blueberries myself, grinding away, soaked and mud-covered and smiling to the end. And isn't that really what it's all about?


It was a long day but a good one, and I'm glad we made the trip! Many thanks to John, the RD, and all the volunteers for standing out in the rain all day and being cheery and helpful and enthusiastic! And of course to Ryan for doing all the driving and standing around in the rain (although he did get in a good run and a trip to the Middlebury Brewery too, so it wasn't all bad ;)), and to Irene and Dana for watching Sam while we were out doing crazy things!

36.2 miles
4/16 women

Lots of elevation gain!

The data 😀

The aftermath: Complete with built up mud and little bits of aquatic greenery still attached to my laces from the swamp traverse 😂😂


Anonymous said...

Love the race report, D..sounds like quite the day! Congrats on your finish and hanging tough! Vermont is a fickled one for sure!


Sparkplug said...

Thanks, Ann ;)