Tales of 2016 and how I became an Ultra Runner

I’ve made a massive personal commitment to 2017 in the form of completing not only a 50 miler, but a 100 miler as well.  Some (ok, many) think I am insane.  That’s mostly from the non-running crowd.  My ultrarunning friends and staunch supporters simply smile, shrug and ask what the plan is.  I am a mix of insanely excited, nervous and a little overwhelmed.  To help with those feelings, I have chosen races, have started to plan how to handle personal commitments and hired a coach!  Chris Dunn and I get to work on December 1, planning out my next 8 months.   In order to move forward in blog land, I feel the need to recap some of the most excited experiences I had in 2016:

  • Pineland 50k
  • A pemi attempt
  • Tony’s VT100 finish

wapackrocks

Not a day goes by when I don’t think about these experiences.  Each uniquely different experiences, they brought me a newfound respect for this awesome sport.  As I attempt to tell the story, you will see images of some of the best moments of this year!

dzzznuts

Pineland 50k (Memorial Day weekend)

I rolled into this race well trained and incredibly eager.  I knew I would finish, I knew I put in the time on my legs and I knew I could set a comfortable pace that would help me complete it well.  What I didn’t realize is how well I would do.  My longest weeks were 33 mile averages.  I had a Belknap out and back and Wapack 21.5 as prep runs.  I quit booze and cleaned my diet to peel down to 124 lbs. for race day.   I also continued to cross train HARD from October 2015 until race day (I heart Athletic Instinct and trainer Ben Higgins!) Finally, I transitioned into Altras two months before race day.  Zero drop and I agreed with each other.

Tony was running the 50 miler to qualify for VT100 and his goal was to catch me.  He started two hours ahead of the 50K field.  My crew (Amanda and Julie… my wonderful mules), set me off at 8:00AM.  Weather was cloudy and not overly warm.  In fact, I started in a long sleeve.  I committed months prior to using the Galloway 2 min on/30 second off method for long runs and used it on race day.  I had a 11:40 average for 31 miles, fueled on mostly liquid (Skratch) and ran without music or company for the entire race.  My favorite part of this course was seeing my crew every 4 miles or so.  They smiled, they laughed, they made fun of me and most of all, made me feel strong and special.  I saw them for the last time at mile 25 and when they offered me my music, I said no way…. I was going to get this thing done.  I had a huge smile on my face.  

finishlineI rolled into the finish at 6:02 and Tony never caught me.  I had one moment, about 30 miles in, when my legs were tired and I reminded myself I would never get to run my first ultra again… I embraced it and pushed on.  It was such a motivator to know I was going to do it!

Once we got back to the lake house, I put on my leggings, cracked a few PBRs and danced for the crowd.  Tony cried and yelled at me.  

Pemi Attempt (June 19)

I write about this attempt because I learned a lot about my body on this day.  I did over 25 miles and 7500 ft. of gain this day on my attempt to knock out the most difficult loop in the Whites.  What I learned somewhere between Galehead and Garfield was profound… I wasn’t recovered yet from Pineland and I failed at fueling on this day.  Tony was awesome, he never really knew how much I was bonking and I bonked HARD.  It was my first ever bonk and it was actually a good experience.  I made some huge fueling changes after that day and realized I needed a bit more than three weeks of recovery to take on this vicious beast.  My only regret is not getting another attempt in this year, but life took over.  2017 will see me back out there!  I ran down the Skookumchuck Trail, determined to not let the Whites beat me that day.  I made a smart decision to bail just below the Lafayette Summit… my mountains are still there!

pemi

Pemi Loop – Lincoln and Lafayette in the background.  I didn’t make it there that day but will on my next attempt!

VT100 Pacing for Fish (July 16)

vtimagesBuckle up folks… this one is going to be long.  I somewhat regret not writing about it right away, but I know the most profound memories have stuck!  This was a very special race for Tony, as he had attempted Virgil the year before and DNF’d due to digestive issues.  We all felt his pain that night and I could not want to help him finish this race more.  It was my secret goal to get him  through the finish line.  I took the entire last 30 miles of pacing duties, mostly because I am selfish.  My brotha’ from anotha’ motha’ needed me.  I needed to do this.  We trained so many months…. Hell, years, for this experience.  Lise, Tony and I were a team.  Shit was real this time.  We were like a well oiled machine.  

vt-elevation

I also had the pleasure of driving our friend Jessica out to VT.  I also got to drive her home after she gutted out her finish.  She is so freaking strong.  More on her race later.  We got out to the start of the race (also our camping area) early on Friday.  We wanted to set up camp and get settled so we could relax.  All went well.  I set up the Taj and we hung out, eating, chatting and relaxing.  I loved the horses that were also set up on our area.  VT runs an equine endurance event side by side the runners and it rocked!  When I can’t run anymore, Lise and I will be doing that!  

We did our best to settle into “bed” as our runners needed to be up around 0300.  Tony and I decided I would not see him off (which proved to be good luck!) and I slept in til 0430.  Lise and I headed to breakfast then we started our crew duties.  Vermont is a beautiful state and we got the hang of the crewing quickly!  Tony was doing well, playing it conservative and did good during the heat of the day.  My favorite memory from the aid station around mile 60 was trekking down this insanely steep dirt road and waiting for him.  I peed in the woods, chatted with some other crew members and watched the pretty horses.  He finally came into view and I ran the last ¼ mile up the hill with him.  We were running next to two beautiful greys and he was yelling at me to stop touching the ponies!  I can’t help it!!!  I could see he was getting a little tired, so I told him we were getting the FUCKING PARTY STARTED at the next aid station!  He perked up and went on his way.  I was beyond excited to start pacing.  I wasn’t tired, I was well fueled and eager.  As someone who spent years working overnights, I have an innate ability to rally and stay up despite exhaustion.  

Jessica rolled into this aid station not long after Tony left.  She was coming apart and crying and I immediately hopped in to help.  She was not having the race she hoped for and it broke my heart.  I helped Scott pull her together and get her rolling again.  It was the last time I would see her until the morning.  It also strikes me as amazing how tight knit the ultra community is… whether you know the runner or not.  Scott barely knew Jessica or me, yet it was like we were all old friends, getting her up and running again.  It’s a very selfless sport in many ways.  That I love…

Lise and I drove to the aid station where I would pick Tony up at mile 70.  He was running well ahead of his 24 hour goal time.  I was dressed and ready to rock this shit.  Or at least entertain the hell out of him for the next 30 miles.  At 7:00PM, we started our amazing night journey.  In our usual fashion, we started chatting and didn’t really stop for the next 7 hours and 6 minutes.  Rather than bore you with a mile by mile recap, here is the best of the best:

All of the watches

Tony rolled into mile 70 and I was wearing a bright white Timex old school watch plus my Garmin, on different wrists of course.  My logic was I wanted to know what time it was the entire time we were out, plus have the data on my watch so I could calculate a pace that would get him sub 24 if he stayed strong.  This turned into me saying “I have ALL of the watches!” for seven hours.  The coolest thing about having that watch was when I looked down and realized sub 24 was going to happen and knowing how much he could slow by and still make it.  Information I didn’t share.

Ponies! Chickens! Donkeys! Dogs!

I like to yell out when I see animals.  I did this…. Over and over again.  Mostly for entertainment value.

I have to pee (and laughing at Fish as he ran ahead)

I eventually lost my dignity and started peeing in the road in the middle of the night.  It was dark.  Rainy.  And I didn’t give a shit.  Vermont roads are dirt and quite narrow in some places.  I distinctly remember stopping to pee and when I started to run after Tony, I began laughing and was unable to stop,  I am pretty sure he thought he was moving fast…. But he was lumbering along like a 90 year old man with chicken wings flapping in the breeze.  I still giggle when I think of it.

Are you cold?

After what is probably thousands of miles together, Tony still manages to put other runners ahead of himself.  ** This is the nicest thing I will say about him during this post. ** I failed to actually own a raincoat with a hood (don’t ask… the one I got was a great deal) and the thunderstorms eventually soaked it through.  I ditched it between storms at the last aid station and wouldn’t you know it started to pour again.  So here we are, 2:00AM, thunder and lightening and I am in a t-shirt.  Honestly, I was fine but Tony kept asking me if I was cold.  I think he was just crazy.

Holy fucking rain

The rain.  The storms.  The lightning.  It was epic.  And we were all in the middle of it.  In fields.  I think it’s still one of my favorite memories.  The storm continued after we finished and I sat in my tent drinking beer and hoping I wouldn’t drown.  I would like to add we were in the middle of the worst drought in 80 some odd years… until this night.

Oops… that last mile was too fast

If I had to point of my biggest error as a pacer, it was the mile I pushed him too hard.  He follows me well and my pace was too fast.  Mile 79 for Tony, a 10:50 pace.  It was after that mile I realized he wasn’t going to be able to manage that, so I made him walk/run at intervals.  We Gallowayed the shit out of that race.

Old Tony and the walking dead

Tony held up really well….. But many runners didn’t.  I dubbed an old man hippie “Old Tony.”  He looked miserable, was alone and I was honestly worried about him when the storms hit.  When the storms did hit… holy shit.  The lightning made the fields look like the walking dead.

Soup!

The last ten miles of this race are just cruel.  After going “downhill” for awhile, runners basically climb their way to finish over a series of nasty climbs.  The magic for Tony was hot broth/soup.  It was literally his savior.  Every time Lise gave him soup he woke but up for a few more miles.

Juan Pablo

I am not even going to explain this one… suffice it to say I dubbed Tony many nicknames and he called me horrible things.  It was hysterical and I laughed for thirty miles.

Body parts

Tony lost his dignity at some point and his method of reapplying lube at aid stations left people scarred for life.

Horrible pacer (couple in the woods)

My brotha’ from anotha’ motha’ actually told a pair of runners I was a horrible pacer and was trying to kill him.  More laughter.

Stuff I yelled:

RUNNER!!!!! (more on this in a moment)

Root… rock… root… rock…

Lise and Tony…. Her inspirational push at Bill’s

One of my favorite memories of this whole race was at Bill’s.  Tony was sitting in a chair and Lise was just simply amazing.  I gave them some space for her to talk to him and motivate him.  The raw emotion of that moment is something I won’t forget.  What a wonderful woman she is and I am still in awe of how strong she was that day.  Not only did she navigate solo, but she was AMAZING as the night went on.  Love you Lise.

Oh my god… we are going to do this

Two miles out, Tony started to come alive.  Like, he started running!!!!!  It was pouring, the trail was underwater, we were climbing again and he was getting stronger by the moment.  I started crying.  I was ahead of him and struck by the raw reality of what he just did.  I can’t even describe what it did to me.  I was crying for him.  I was crying for Lise.  I was so happy for both of them.  I couldn’t believe I got to do this.  I won’t ever forget what it felt like to bring him into the finish line.

Lise could hear me a ½ mile out

I started yelling, loudly as we got closer to the finish line.  I yelled “RUNNER” whenever Tony and I needed to pass and we started picking off people left and right.  I feel like we passed thirty runners in those last two miles.  A half mile from the finish, I could hear the cowbells and I started hooting and hollering!  If you know me, you know I don’t have an indoor voice and this was no exception.   Lise told me later she could hear us coming.  I am tearing up again thinking about what it felt like to be with Tony before the finish line.

FINISH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well.  He did it.  23:06 and pouring rain!  

HOLY STORM (beers in my tent… did we do that???)

I drank Founders IPAs in my tent in that hellacious storm.  I literally could not believe what we just did.

The morning after….

Tony hobbled around.  We found Jess in the med tent after her finish.  I ate Cheetos, drank a Starbucks cold coffee drink and danced around the field.  Little did I realize this whole experience would plant the seed for where I am today…. Day one of my very own VT100 training.  I am going to draw on this experience during my training when I need to dig deep.  The displays of courage, humility and guts I witnessed all weekend was so inspiring! It was then I realized I belonged to the ultra family.

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. horsegnut
    Dec 07, 2016 @ 19:27:12

    Awh. Love YOU! Can’t wait for this season. This one is yours!!

    Reply

  2. Alissa
    Dec 08, 2016 @ 03:57:12

    Your words hit so hard. Like I’m there with you. This all sounds amazing, fun, and CRAZY! Love all of it. Keep it up!

    Reply

  3. zoeforman
    Dec 08, 2016 @ 12:11:44

    Bonkers but love your enthusiasm for Ultras – good Luck 😉 next season

    Reply

  4. djeannecaptures
    Dec 17, 2016 @ 15:41:35

    In a world I know nothing about, you managed to put me right there beside you. I could hear your voice, your laughter and see the excitement in your words. Power on, dear friend.

    Reply

  5. Trackback: Breaking 1000 | Learning to Run

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