Monday, October 5, 2015

Vermont 50 race report

I hope you took you Claritin or Zyrtec.The dust coming off of this blog has to be horrifying. I would apologize but obviously I'm not REALLY sorry because, well, if I really was I would blog more.

BUT... just over a week ago there was a blog-worthy event and I've had a few requests to share more info. I ran my very first ultra race, the Vermont 50. That 50 stands for Miles... and Kilometers. And  you better believe that I ran the K, not the M! I thought I might get to 40 miles in 24 hours but the 3 I ran the day before only took me to 34. And I didn't run 6 more miles after the finish line. Oh well.

Much of the race was so amazing it seemed fake. Vermont was SOOO Vermont in the very best Vermonty way. The weather was SOOO late September in New England in the very best late September in New England-y way. The Best Running Friend was SOOO badass and fierce and supportive in only way my BRF knows how to be.

This was my first trail race. My first ultra. My first true post-Boston challenge. I had a training schedule that I did a mostly good job of following. The actual mileage I ran each week was not much different than training for 26.2 (a 50K is 31 miles... "only 10 5Ks!") The most I ran in a week was maybe 45 miles. The difference was that I tried to get out on trails as much as possible and all of my 'speed' work was spent going up hills and (carefully) down to prepare for the climbs and descents. I also ran long on Saturday and with a moderately paced hour long run on Sunday to get used to working on tired legs. Tuesdays and Thursdays were always 'short' (45 minute to 90 minutes) easy runs and Wednesdays were the hills. I over did some trails along the way and had to cut back some now and again but overall, the mileage was there.

Granted, if  the called for a run between an hour and fifteen - an hour forty-five I ALWAYS did 1:15. And when it called for  strength training on low mileage days I always did it... for the first few weeks. But my great intentions were once again thwarted by the reality of my life: I can strength train OR I can train for a marathon +. There's just no scenario where I'm gonna do both.

Lauren, my dearest BRF, had sort of the opposite situation. She now works for a company which promotes health and wellness. They offer many fitness classes to their employees. She very wisely takes full advantage of the strength and agility programs. Let me tell you, she looks amazing... do NOT challenge her to arm wrestling, kids! But, she told me she had not put in the mileage she should have before this race. She was pretty worried and told me after the race, fairly certain she would not finish. (Spoiler alert: she finished and was strong as hell!)

Horrifying before pic in car. The phone didn't come w me on the trail, which means I missed a lot of amazing pics.
I have of course almost completely forgotten the details of the race. I will mention the only negative from my POV: the mountain bikers were terrorizing. Though I'm quite certain they didn't mean to be. This race started as a 50M bike race so even though they started in waves at 6AM, they were out on the course, too. A very large chunk of the course was 'single track' and so we spent many miles watching our backs and leaping into the bushes/trees/rocky hedges/etc. out of their way. Maybe the least ideal aspect of the whole thing. We even had one young rider who I think was German-speaking fall over right in front of us. I was really worried about her for a minute but she leaped right up pretty quickly. I'm guessing we lost several minutes because of the need to take shelter on the side of the course. But unlike famous (in my head) ultrarunner/singer Meghan Trainor, I am not "All About The Pace" when it comes to this race.

The best part of the race was the course. A little bit of dirt road, a little bit of grassy fields, and a LOT of true trail running, much of it single-track. We used the wisdom of the crowd and - especially in the first half of the race - walked up the steep hills we saw others walking up. By the second half we had a better sense of what we could handle and did quite a bit of passing on the hills. There were many miles of switch backs up and down the trails and I found that to be just way cool. Parts of the course were mildly nerve wracking due to the drop offs and the footing. (If I had been one of the people on a bike I literally would have DIED, because my nerves would have led me straight over the edge of one of the cliffs!) We were super lucky that the weather had been dry for a few weeks because in the past the runners and bikers have faced some really unfortunate shoes-going-into-muddy-bogs-but-not-coming-out-with-the-owners-foot situations. We definitely lucked out on that score!

Oddly enough our least favorite part of the course was the road stretches. Don't get me wrong, they were top notch rural gorgeous-ness... but despite our self reminders, something about the relative flat and wide stretches made us want to up the pace. Which we did. Which was just NOT the way to go on such a gorgeous Sunday meant for long, slow ascents and descents.

A word about aid stations: YUM! The variety and deliciousness offered at each spot was fabulous. I indulged in everything from boiled potatoes (chopped into small pieces which I dipped in salt) to peanut butter cups, to watermelon (never has such an amazing fruit existed than a watermelon during an ultra race!), coke, pb and j... and I'm sure the I had some M and Ms. Lauren was the Gummy Bear queen. The volunteers happily and helpfully filled our water bottles if we were carrying them. As you approached each station you could almost convince yourself it was the finish line, such was the enthusiasm of the assembled crowd. Many of the stations had a section for runner drop bags. I had placed mine at mile 13.4-ish. It had spare socks and shirts and Tylenol and band aids and Vaseline and chapstick and.... NOT the ONE thing Lauren asked me to have: home made peanut butter 'protein bites'. (I had them but left them in the car. OOPS!) Because the weather so epic-ly perfect, we didn't need to change our shirts or socks.

The final aid station was just a 5K from the finish. We were feeling really strong and pushed ourselves to get there 'fast' to finish under 7 hours. I did not have my GPS app running because I knew coverage would be so sketchy, but Lauren's Garmin was handling the remote area just fine. As we bombed past lots of folks (and once even literally bursting out into "THE HILLLSSS ARE ALLLIIIIVEEEE" because out of the woods and into a meadow it was that.freaking.spectacular!) I always find myself to be highly amusing but after running for more than 26 or so miles I am the most hilarious creature that has ever strode the earth. Just ask me. So, we were feeling amazing and passing all kinds folks who were decidedly NOT feeling amazing and I began singing that well known ballad/drinking song "The Legend of Lauren and Phoebe". I wish I could remember the words but believe-you-me, it was something George Gershwin and Carol King and Taylor Swift WISH they had written.

Maybe inspired by my singing (but probably in an effort to be DONE with it) Lauren really turned on the overdrive at this point. We had been passing people before this but at this point she was Goucher-esque in her speedy splendor.

Lauren: All we have to do is 15 minute miles and we'll finish in under 7 hours. And we are under that now.

Phoebe: You mean we are faster than that, right?

Lauren: No. We are slower than that.

WHAT!?!!? This was the saddest/funniest moment of the race. I truly felt like we were FLYYYING over these trails and yet in reality were going s.............l.............o..............w...............!

It's all relative.

In the end, we DID manage to get our under-7 hour finish. Lauren had run one 50K before this and we managed to get her a PR, so that's cool.

Post race we decided to skip the ice cold (but free) showers and just get our food, which was amazing. The only missing element was beer. Rats!

It was a great race. I am not in a hurry to train for that distance again but I am definitely going to stick with trail races if I can help it. Who needs 8 minute pace when you are getting passed when you can do 15 minute pace and feel like an Olympian?!

After, before food.
I liked the chili.

OMG the food was soooo good!

After w medals. Lauren got cleaned up and I said, "feh... I'm driving home solo so I"ll stink if I want to."

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