28 Hours in a Day

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I can’t believe it’s been a week… I rode the high of finishing the Vermont 100 (and achieving my goal) this past week and this weekend find myself being gently laid down to the world of “normal.”  I waiver between “did that really happen” and “HOLY SHIT I DID IT! I RAN 100 MILES!”  I am reveling in the feelings of completing this race because it represented such a huge first in my adult athletic career.

This post will serve as a basic race recap as well as a photo dialog of that amazing weekend.  I am so blessed to have the support network I do and will never hesitate to repay the favor.  They selflessly gave up sleep and time to make this dream happen for me and I will be forever grateful!  And as Lise said “horsewomen make the best crew.”  True statement.  Horsewomen are used to holding their ground with dirty, headstrong 1000 lb. beasts.  I comparison, a dirty 100 mile runner is easy 🙂

Here goes nothing…

Friday 07/14

Tony, Lise, Amanda, Jess and I made our way to West Windsor, arriving just before 10:00AM.  We staked our claim on camping spots in the field and set up our home away from home for the next two days.  The field was wet (compared to the drought of last year), but we found a drier spot and managed to set up our pop up tent with a tarp to block out the mist of the day.

We headed down to runner check-in, which I breezed through quickly.  Holy crap, this was really happening!  We took the obligatory silly number pictures and then made our way back to “camp” to relax and calorie load.  I had already done a crew meeting the week before (complete with the mini crew binder chock full of notes and space for the crew to track my progress) so there was no need to recap.  My crew was ready to go and so was I.  

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I proceeded to eat for the rest of the afternoon, a combination of fruit, veggies, carbs (freeze dried meals… rice and then pasta plus bread and butter), cupcakes (thank you Heather!) and lots of water.  I felt satisfied and full when I settled into my tent.  After dealing with some loud runners (who Tony set straight) I was able to get about four solid hours of sleep before the 02:45 AM alarm went off.

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Saturday, 07/15!  Start to Pretty House (21.3 miles)

Arrival Time: 08:35 AM

From my crew book:

  • “I saw a cow humping another cow” – Me
  • What’s good? The smell of horse sweat!  Abs and eyeballs feel good!

I started my day at 02:45 AM.  I did my best to choke down a Mountain House Eggs and Bacon (¾ down) but couldn’t get my apple down.  My stomach just wasn’t awake yet.  I drank a full cup of coffee and struggled into my clothes.  Truth be told, I was groggy as shit, but reminded myself I would wake up on the go and could eat early to catch up on calories.  I chose my Lone Peak Neoshells for the first leg of this race as we were warned at the race meeting of wet trails and the risk of trench foot.  These shoes have high miles on them, but are still comfortable and have a water resistant exterior and warm lining.  This would allow me to assess the trails, stay warm in the cool temps and make a decision at Pretty House regarding shoes.  

My crew took me to the starting line, said their goodbyes and left me in the sea of headlamps.  I started crying.  Hard.  I was crying because the realization of what I was about to do hit me… and not in a bad way.  This flood of emotion represented all the planning, hard work and dedication I put into this very moment.  I kept wiping the tears away and waiting for the start.  We finally took off (it felt like an eternity but I think it was only about 3 minutes) and I settled into the back part of the crowd on purpose.  I wanted to warm up slowly and get my rhythm.  The fact I would be out here for so long was still daunting so I wanted to ease into the day.

The trails and road to Pretty House were rolling, as was the rest of this course.  I fueled and hydrated well and made it to my crew before the heat of the day.  My first indication of foot pain came not far outside Pretty House.  My feet started to ache and I blamed it on the hard Neoshells.  Little did I realize it had NOTHING to do with that.

I was excited to see my crew all day and the first crewed aid station was no exception!  I did a shoe change into my Lone Peak 2.5 (wore these for the next 50 miles) as well as a sock change.  I felt strong coming out of here and was excited to see the crew again at Stage Road.

Pretty House to Stage Road (21.3-30.3 miles)

Arrival Time: 10:48AM

From my crew book:

  • “She’s still smiling!” – Amanda
  • Smell Scale: 4 (per Amanda’s assessment)
  • What’s good?  Abs and eyeballs, plus heart rate is normal!

I really enjoyed this section, which included some amazing fields and the Sound of Music!  I felt strong as I came through this section and was taking back some ground from runners who had passed me early on.  I did not eat much between Pretty House and Stage but did take my first round of Chef Boyardee (lunch!) at this aid station.  Tony warned me about the Suicide Six climb I was about to hit, but assured me it would be just like what I practiced in training.

I was mentally preparing myself for the heat of the day at this point, knowing I would have to hydrate well (I was scolding by my crew at Stage for drinking very little over the last two hours) and needed to continue to eat.  At this point, I was getting warm, but effectively sweating and starting to use my new cooling buff.  This thing was amazing!  All you have to do is dunk it in water, snap it and it goes cold.   I kept it around my neck for nearly 50 miles, dipping it in horse buckets left out by people along the course.  

Stage Road to 10 Bear #1 (Big Bear as Amanda calls it!) 30.3-47 miles

Arrival Time: 3:17PM

From my crew book:

  • “I met baby goats and a Jack Russell named Winkey!” – Me
  • Surgery performed
  • “Looking good.  Practically made love to iced tea” – Amanda
  • Smell scale: Heather – 5, Amanda – 5

The Suicide Six Climb was nearly ¾ mile in length and was 15% grade in some places.  I chunked it off, and was alone for most of the climb.  I was pleased with how I felt at the top but was definitely starting to overheat.  I walked a bit, cooled down by hydrating and continued to run when the opportunity presented itself.  Somewhere around the 40 mile mark, my quads and feet started to get pissed.  Up to this point, I was doing well.  I had no hip pain, marginal foot pain and my hamstring and knee was fully cooperating.  The downhills into 10 Bear #1 were taking their toll on my quads and I knew I had a nasty blister on the side of my left foot above the heel as well as my big toe.  Tony met me as I cruised into 10 Bear.  My crew remained so positive all day and provided me cards from friends and had awesome signs waiting for me!  They were under strict instructions to ask me “What’s good?” and nothing close to “how are you?” or “how’s it going?”  I repeated said my eyes, back and arms were good 🙂  

At 10 Bear #1, I popped my blisters (controversial but has always worked for me), taped them with my favorite athletic tape and did a sock change.  My feet were getting beat by the hard as concrete Vermont Road, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it.  I changed by singlet here, had some delicious Iced Tea and told Tony my stomach felt a little bloated and sour.  He gave me a Gas-X chewable and we chatted about strategy.  He told me to keep eating.  My appetite was good, I was just a little uncomfortable.  I was snacking at every aid station along the way and eating 400 or so calories of my own food between aid stations.  I sustained well on water, Tailwind and Skratch throughout the race.

I departed 10 Bear (not before being accosted by medical) and made my way up a climb out of the aid station.  Here the mental trials began for me.  I was 47 miles in and about to enter the unknown.  My longest race to date had been 50 miles and my longest time on legs was 15 hours (Pemi).  

10 Bear #1 to Margaritaville 47-58.5 miles

Arrival Time: 6:35 PM

From my crew book:

  • “Looking good, smiling, laughing” – Amanda
  • What’s good? Abs good, Agony Hill not bad, I LOVE POTATOES

I felt like this section was a lot of climbing!  I remember two hard and steady climbs between 10 Bear and Margaritaville.  Once again, I marvelled on my ability to climb even as my feet continued to decline in condition.  I felt strong both on the mountain road climb and the final climb up to the aid station.  Tony told me when I came in that my form looked better than 90% of the runners on the course.  I contribute this to a massive amount of core and upper body work over the last two years.  My stomach came back to me too.  I contribute this to my continued intake of my food, the introduction of small amounts of Coke, as well as potatoes w/ salt and watermelon.

Margaritaville to 10 Bear #2 58.5-69.4 miles

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Arrival time: 9:36 PM

From my crew book:

  • A drawing of the wagon and it says = The Balls
  • “There is something nipping at my nuts” – Tony
  • Smelly scale: Heather – 7, Amanda 2 (I just baby powdered myself all over… slowly)
  • “Yes!  Bye bye Tony! Ain’t nobody got time for that!” – Amanda and Lise

My quads had come back to life at this point and after my dinner “meal” of Chef Boyardee, I was able to run most of the next five miles back towards 10 Bear #2.  I was so excited to get to Tony, was happy that my wheels weren’t coming off the bus and my climbs remained strong.  I was able to ignore much of my foot pain at this point.

While happily running along, I came into contact with “Phil.”  I eventually had to tell “Phil” to buzz off.  Don’t get me wrong, I spent a lot of time chatting on this race and getting to know a few people I was yo-yoing with.  I even gave a girl a poncho late night.  I love sharing space with other runners in a race.  It helps pass the time.  The problem with “Phil” is he informed me he was a solo runner who regularly makes a habit of “leaching” onto other runner’s pacers.  NOPE.  Not a chance was that happening.  He also started to boss me around and telling me when to run.  NOPE.  Bye PHIL.

My running came to a grinding slog when I hit a nasty Class 4 road covered in rip-rap.  Know what that is?  As the wife of a dirt guy I do… this is nasty sharp angled rock dropped in wet, muddy roads to help sure up the surface for trucks.  I just couldn’t find a path to run and had to pick my way through it.  It was pretty dark at this point and I was getting ansty to get back to 10 Bear.  My feet were throbbing and I desperately wanted a clothing change.  The cool, dank night air was making me a little chilly.  I pushed through this section, battled a phantom pain on my left ankle and FINALLY made it back to my crew.  Just in time, I thought!  That last section was irritating at best!  It was the best feeling in the world to RUN down the hill into the aid station!  I was getting my pacer!!!

I rolled into 10 Bear, got my change of clothes and shoes, and my 70th birthday card from my dear friends Bill and Meg 🙂 That made my night!  I knew I had a big climb ahead of me, and despite shitty feet, I was ready.  I was about to enter the part of the course I paced last year.

10 Bear to Spirit of ‘76 69.4-76.2 miles

Arrival Time: 12:00AM

From my crew book:

  • “Listened to Pink at mile 72. That makes me a lesbian.” – Heather
  • ‘Merica bitches – Amanda
  • “Sass is still strong with this one [Heather]” – Amanda
  • Tony of the Tiny Shorts

Here is where my memories start to get scattered and Tony will remember more than I will.  I took the climb out of 10 Bear strong and eager.  My feet was absolutely trashed but again, it didn’t matter!  

Coming out of the climb, Tony fired up the “My vagina hurts” playlist I had him build over the last few months.  We ran along, alone, singing out loud to Hall & Oats “Maneater.”  It was one of my favorite memories from this WHOLE race!!!  We listened to tunes on and off along the last thirty miles.  It provided momentary distractions.  

I came into Spirit of 76 ready for some different food.  I asked for grilled cheese and started having broth which was delicious.  I was still drinking well and my crew gave me a small serving of Spark in a pouch “just in case.”  Spark is caffeinated and meant to be a natural energy drink.  I can run on it without issue.  I became thankful for this in the miles that followed.

Spirit of ‘76 to Bill’s 76.2 miles-88.3 miles

Arrival Time: 4:00 AM

From my crew book:

  • “Good pee… tripod… almost tinkled on hand” – Heather
  • Still have up button and laughing – per Amanda
  • Good Tunes

I look back at these times now and realize how SLOW I got through the night.  I can tell you that after I left ‘76 I literally started bobbing and weaving like a drunk baby.  I am pretty sure I fell asleep while walking.  Tony made me start sipping the Spark slowly.  That woke me up pretty quick.  My appetite had slowed considerably but I was still munching and drinking broth at aid stations.  My feet were SO bad.  The only way I can describe the feeling was like 10 tiny knives poking up through the bottoms of my feet.  The pain was equal in both feet and at times mind numbing.  I focused by thinking about the night sounds, chatting and passing people as I could.  I was still shuffling on occasion through here, but it was excruciating!  My damn feet!  I stand by feeling that if my feet hadn’t failed, I would have been still running here. Systematically I was TICKING!!!  It was exciting!

I was excited to get to Bill’s and climbed hard and strong all the way to the aid station, picking off other runners.  Here is where I passed off a disposable poncho to a girl I met on course way earlier in the day.  She pulled away from me around mile 30 and I hadn’t seen her again.  When we came upon her before Bill’s, she was wrapped in a trash bag.  She still had her singlet on and was freezing.  I told Tony to get the poncho out of my pack and we helped her into it.  She was visibly shaking and I was worried about her.  I later learned she finished!

At Bill’s, I crushed another Chef Boyardee ravioli (hence my nickname, Ravioli, dubbed by Jess).  I was in great spirits and wide awake.  I knew the sun would be up soon and knew I had less than a half marathon to go!  The carnage at Bill’s was what you expect as mile 88… lots of downed runners and suffering.  Again, I was so lucky.  I had been on my feet for 24 hours and still had gas in the tank.

Bill’s to Polly’s 88.3-94.9 miles

Arrival time: 5:41AM

  • “You are the dick beneath my wings”
  • “Polly wanta cracker”
  • Amanda’s thoughts: I love this barn.  You are strong.  Be tenacious.  You will do this.

I did alright leaving Bills and up to approximately mile 92 or so.  The woods and fields in the first section were a welcome relief from the roads and I managed some more running.  I clearly remember being excited about the sun coming up, but was working really hard to keep my mind of my feet.  The pain hadn’t gotten any worse, but was distracting.  The tiredness started to creep up on me and with about 8 miles to go, I started to sob.  I didn’t stop, I marched and cried.  Tony wrapped his arm around me and told me how proud he was.  That helped.  I knew I just needed to get to Amanda and Lise for a little mental reprieve.  Tony told me later he was tearing up behind me watching me push through.

I made my way into Polly’s, wiping tears away from my face in a futile attempt to regain my composure.  Those tears started again when I couldn’t get into the porta-potty.  Amanda came over to me and wrapped her arms around me.  Suddenly, she pulled away and started going through her phone.  I learned later she remembered a video Lauren had sent her for encouragement.  She and I watched the video together and I started to cry again.  Which made Amanda cry.  I seriously have the best friends.  Between the cards from Bill and Meg, Lauren’s video, the signs, the text messages through the night from Julie and others, plus the countless encouragement messages I got leading up the race…. My heart is so full and will be for a very long time.  I can only hope to be there for those people when they need the favor returned!

I bucked up and headed out of Polly’s.  It was somewhere around mile 98 when I told Tony I had to fart.  Fifteen seconds later he was blushing and trying to find the words to deal with what just happened… priceless.  At the mile 99 sign I pushed as hard as I could to the end.  I could feel the finish line… I have never wanted something so bad in my life!!!!  As it came into view I was overcome with happiness!!!!  I did it!  WE did it.  While I did the physical work, this was a team effort!!!  My official finish time was 8:03 AM, 28:03 minutes after I started.  Two sunrises, one silly night and countless calories later I came across the finish line!  The Vermont 100 finish was mine.

** the crew notes I included were the only ones I dared to share.  The rest will never be revealed beyond my crew! **

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Melissa John
    Jul 25, 2017 @ 00:43:44

    Heather! That was awesome!!!! Enjoyed every word….congrats again on such an amazing accomplishment. You can do anything now!!! You ran 100 freaking miles!!

    Reply

  2. horsegnut
    Jul 25, 2017 @ 01:18:42

    So amazing. I grinned and maybe shed a little tear or two reading your awesome recap and reliving the weekend. Congrats! You slayed it!!

    Reply

  3. djeannecaptures
    Jul 25, 2017 @ 11:23:44

    There are no words. Only bunches and gushes of happiness and proudness for you. What’s next?! 😉

    Reply

  4. vttrailgirl
    Jul 26, 2017 @ 02:08:18

    Woohoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Best race report ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Well done, well done.

    Reply

  5. kristaalderdice
    Jul 26, 2017 @ 18:30:24

    Congrats Heather!!!! So proud of you ❤

    Reply

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