Here goes my first race report....
All I can say is that I am so glad that I was inspired by Andrew last year while I watched him take on the VT 50 miler. The experience of training for this race and then getting to toe the line after months of anticipation and learning about my body/mind was well worth it.
That week before the race I had a serious case of the Taper Tantrums. My last long runs were 2 weeks in the books, I was worrying I was losing my fitness and I couldn't sleep. I was in denial that I was so anxious about the race but in reality, I had been quietly thinking about it and putting in hours of running for months so of course I was chomping at the bit. Andrew was in Nova Scotia working on a project so I was home alone with too much time to think. Once I admitted that how much this really meant to me, I was able to calm down.
The morning of the race, yesterday, Andrew woke up 2 hours before me because his start was at 6:30 and mine was at 8:00 am. I was relieved that I could roll over and get a few more hours because it was very dark and 38 degrees outside. Once I was up, dressed and had eaten a bowl of oatmeal, VT maple syrup and a banana, my Mom picked me up from my friend's house and we headed to the start. I was not nervous at all and was calm while I checked in, checked my nutrition and went over my race plan. My goal was to run my race, have fun and see if I could run the whole thing.
I was nervous about executing the full 30 miles because I had not done any training over 20 miles at in one shott. Would I have any gas left? Could I hold off on the first 20 so that I could keep running the last 10? Would my body hold up? Andrew's advice was go easy for 20. And he said the hills were constant but nothing as steep as in our hood in NH so they were all runnable. However, Andrew's 'runnable' and mine can vary. Plus he said, 'run your forever pace' and you will crush it.
It was a very casual start. A very seasoned and badass runner was in the field which put my mind at ease for thinking about the insanity of winning this race. It was cool, crisp and screaming Vermont - I grew up there and it holds a special place in my heart so it made me calm.
I had made a little card in my vest that had the mileage for aid stations. I would take it from aid station to aid station, celebrate when I hit mile 20 and then have fun. My plan was to take water and cocacola at each station, eat a Gu every 30 minutes and a Gu salt/electrolye tab every hour. I had a vest with mesh on the back and 2 water bottles in the front so I would be hands free plus pockets for the nutrition and salt tabs. My watch would have time elapse and distance. I did not want too much information and wanted to run by effort/feel.
The first 3.8 miles were dirt roads and single track. Beautiful frosted grass in large fields, stone walls and barns. I was in heaven. I tried to go easy; there was a pack of probably 15 that went out ahead but I kept thinking of down shifting on the hills, little steps and breathe easy. My legs felt a bit stiff and numb for the first mile and then warmed up. I made it to Coon Road aid station, dumped my long sleeve and headed into the woods.
Next aid station was at 7.1. Single track, a steady climb and small fields was the majority of the next section. I passed 2 women on an uphill, they were breathing hard and starting to walk so I took that as a mini motivator. I did not let myself look at my pace but maintained the run easy, I did open it up slightly on the downhills and hoped the quads would agree. Nice dirt roads through 7. 1 and then onto 11 at Margaritaville Aid station. I did glance at my average pace at 10 miles and it was 8:50 min/miles which was faster than I expected. This was a good reminder that there was a long way to go and to tone it down a bit.
We had a long mellow climb up to Margaritaville and the introduction of the bikers. The bike and 50 mile run course had taken a 19 mile detour up until this point so we were starting to mix as they were about 1/2 way through their race. The bikers were awesome, lots of 'good job runner', 'go girl', 'great time' and good communication in the single track. I found that I passed them going up and they would pass back on the downs. I was still feeling solid, talked to a few guys that passed me but I tried not to reel them in and to run my race - very hard for the competitive spirit.
The 13.4 Greenall's aid station was in a large field and it was one of the 2 that we could have our 'handlers' come too. Most of the race is run on private land so there are few places that a large number of people and cars can commune without causing havoc to the pristine land. My Mom, Squall and 2 friends were going to be there so it was my first mental benchmark. I came into Greenall's feeling good, my L calf was a bit sore but nothing else significant other than mild tightening and that whisper of the full leg aches. I filled my water bottles, took at hit of coke and headed out before my Mom informed I was 3rd female!! I couldn't believe it!. My first thought was, 'shit I'm going to too fast, there is no way I should be in 3rd'.
The next 5 miles was through Blood Hill. This was a section that Andrew has repeatedly said he hated. It is non-stop twisting, turning, winding single track with many ups and downs. I loved it!! My legs at 13 - 18 miles could handle it while he came in there in the mid 30's and had very worked legs. At this point, the only runners ahead of me were 50k racers, the 50 milers would still be behind me so I knew who was in my race easily. I passed 4 men easily - they were starting to hike up the hills and I motored past in that easy, 'forever pace'. I was at home in the woods and the single track was more buffed out than our hiking trails here so it felt like a freeway. I did have to remind myself over and over...slow, slow, slow. And this is where everything started to really ache and feel tight. No cramping, just general discomfort. I was with some guy from Quebec when we hit 15 miles and he celebrated with a fist pump. At mile 16 or so I glimpsed a female up a head. She looked strong and steady but I knew I had been gaining.
The 18 mile aid station, Fallons, was where I met up with her. I did my routine and took off a few seconds behind and quickly passed her on the first uphill. It took me a minute to realize I was in 2nd! I got ahead of myself slightly here and started thinking about a podium finish and then quickly reminded myself that I had 12 miles to go and that they were a complete unknown. More single track, up, down, etc...but Andrew was right, nothing too steep or long.
I hit mile 20 coming off a long downhill on a dirt road and was elated but slightly worried. I was so tight in the legs but no cramping. I re-focused on my fueling plan and started to think about single digits. I glanced at my avg. pace again and it was 9:20 min/miles - this I was mildly impressed with. I came into Stones aid station at 22 miles and they said it was 6 miles to Johnsons. I'm a numbers person and here is where I almost ruined myself. We had been told that it was 4 miles from Johnson's to the finish so 22 + 6 to Johnsons + 4 was 32ish miles. I had signed up for 30. I assumed the guy was wrong and put it out of my head for a minute. The next 6 was mostly down but a few mile sections of up/down single track. I passed 3 more men here and kept my head down. 'You are a beast' and 'just keep moving' were my mantras at this point.
On a side note, my Grandparents used to live in Brownsville and our course took us within a mile or so of their house. My Grandpop is buried in a cemetary that we almost ran right by on the course. Somewhere around mile 24, I ran alone through a pine forest and a wind gust blew yellow leaves in front and around me. My first thought was that it was Grandpop saying hello and I knew I was going to finish.
I was almost to Johnson's and my watch said 27ish and I got angry. I had signed up for a 50k and did NOT want to do any more. This was the only time my confidence or my belief I would finish strong wavered. I knew my Mom, Dad and Squall would be at Johnson's so told myself to shut up and keep motoring. Some guy told me I was in 6th 100 yards out from Johnson's - I was confused what that meant - 6th female or 6th overall?
I was out of Gu, I was exhausted and mad that there were 4 more miles and I had already run 28. My Mom come running down the hill and informs me, 'that pro chick is 2 minutes ahead of you. Don't hurt yourself but go get her!'. I went to the table, I refilled water, pounded a coke and ate a 1/3 of a banana. Then it hit me, holy shit. I'm crushing it!! This is nuts.
After each aid station, the legs always felt better for a few minutes. I knew it was a very gradual 2 miles up of up, a sidehill and then a switchback down to the finish. I kept my same plan...forever pace, run easy, etc. I kept putting one foot in front of the other up the switchback trying not stumble on wobbly legs. The mini cramps were hitting on the ups in the quads. I worried I had not enough fuel left. I just had to finish this thing!! I saw a runner behind flying...I wondered who it was that I had passed but it was the first 50 miler!!! He was crushing so that was motivating. Then a random spectator (the only one I saw aside from at an aid station) about 2 miles from Johnson's started hooting and hollering that there were 2 women in the top 6. He told me she had 4 minutes on me. Damn it, she's pulling away.
About a half mile later I see someone walking up a switch back. Holy shit. Then she was jogging, then she was walking. Maintaining my pace I easily passed her on an uphill and literally 30 seconds later my quads cramped. I called bullshit and kept running. I ran as fast I as I could. I could hear the music and MC at the finish and I was in disbelief. I ran the last mile, down switchbacks like someone was chasing me - although I could not see her if I looked back. Do not fall, OMG I am going to win, do not fall, omg!! The last 100 yards winds down a grassy slope with bikers, families and spectators lining the path...I was smiling, laughing and almost crying. It was such a cool feeling.
My legs hurt like nothing I have experience for the 10 minutes after I finished and then I was smart enough to sit down. I couldn't believe it. I ran my race, my pace was on point with my training and I executed. Hell yes. My family was there which was so special. My bro and Elsa came too. I was proud of my body, my perseverance and belief. I am still quite shocked a day later but my secret goal had been to win, you always want to win.
Andrew's race report is here....he had a different experience. I want to thank him for answering my many questions, trying to be patient with my worrying and to inspire me to take on new challenges. And for believing in me.