A Staten Island triathlete and endurance coach ventures into the ultramarathon realm where there are seemingly no limits to human endurance. In 2013, he successfully finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (picture of 2013 Grand Slam finishers above; I'm second from right), becoming only the 282nd person (since its beginnings in 1986) and only the fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Official Race Report - Vermont 100 - Part 2

Part 2 - The Race Begins   

   Fast forward to the day before the race. I had a good taper that week. Of course, this was triathlon training, so the taper also involved trips to the pool and on my bike.

   The day before the race, Amy, Rob, and Nancy picked me up, and we drove over to Vermont. Despite some hiccups with traffic, we got there in time for the weigh-in and the Preparation Meeting that was to follow.

   The weigh-in was mandatory. In this race, there are 3 places where I would have to weigh in. This is so they can monitor how much weight I lost and decide whether I was fit to go on or not. Generally, any weight that was 5% below the baseline weight was cause for concern, and the doctors there can stop you until they feel you have enough fluids to go again. Anything below 7%, and they can take you out of the race.

   My baseline weight was measured at 189. Which is about right. The taper would give me more water weight, plus the clothes I had on would add to the weight also.

   I was exactly 15 pounds less than baseline weight 2 years ago at this same race. Excellent!

   After the meeting, we retreated to our hotel rooms and started organizing my stuff so that Rob can easily fetch them when I ask for the stuff. Three primary bags were needed, my shoe bag (4 pairs of shoes, plus a pair of sandals), my primary bag (with all my running shirts, shorts, and socks, as well as nutrition, and my overnight bad (with long-sleeve clothes, gloves, and hats I might need).

Race Day

   We had no problems waking up. We got to the start line area at around 3:15AM, around 45 minutes before the start of the race. Anticipating the long day ahead, I told my crew to eat and sleep whenever possible, and to make sure I do not stay at any aid stations for more than 3 minutes. Lingering at aid stations would tend to stiffen up my legs. As long as I walk away from the aid stations, my legs are always moving, and they will not stiffen up.



Got that? Stiff legs are a bad thing! Legs that aren't stiff are good!

With about 5 minutes to go, the runners started assembling themselves at the start line. After saying my goodbyes to the group, I eagerly awaited the countdown and the horn signalling the start of the race.



The Start of the Race to Pretty House (22.5 miles)

Starting an epic long distance race is usually a feeling out process, a process that includes establishing a very tolerable pace as well as making sure all the moving parts on the body are loose and comfortable.

There is also pace to consider, and was hoping to establish a 12 minute per mile pace in the early part of the race.

After about a mile on the road, we moved onto a rocky double-track trail. With only our lights illuminating the way, I was being extra careful here not to twist my ankle in this very early part of the race. The trails were runnable, but rocks were strategically paced at places where we stepped.

I made sure not to step there.

After a while, we finally emerged onto a road where running was a bit more comfortable. Don't get me wrong, I love trails, but this whole "run on the trails before dawn and twist the ankle in the first 5 miles of a 100 mile race" thingie was not in my best interest.

So the roads were my best friend until daylight broke.

Still, I was a little curious how my pace was. I felt I was dead on, but the only way to know was when I hit that first unmanned aid station at Densmore Hill (7.0 miles).

As I was closing in at the aid station, I was constantly looking at my watch. A true 12 minutes per mile pace would put me at Densmore at 1 hour and 24 minutes.

I got there at 1:20:18. Slightly ahead of schedule, but the pace was definitely acceptable. Relieved, I grabbed some water at the aid station and quickly kept going.

The course had to be slightly changed this year because the bridge we usually go over has been closed, so they had to reroute the course through downtown Woodstock and catch the roads north of there. That would add an extra half mile to the course. To compensate, the organizers took away a section of Blood Hill at the end of the course to keep it at 100 miles.

The section of the course from Densmore into Woodstock was slightly downhill and not technical at all. I knew I was running well ahead of the 12 min/mile pace I wanted to establish, but allowed a faster pace due to the nice downhill section. I met one of the more established ultrarunners at this point and she told me that she was being crewed by none other than the current president of the Raritan Valley Road Runners (LS) and one of the better runners in that club (DA). I was surprised, but was hoping to see them along the route. It's been some time since I've seen them, so it would nice to say hi to them.

Coming into Woodstock, I met my crew on one of the corners of the small town. After hugs and kisses, I gave them my headlamp and continued on northward toward the Taftsville Bridge Aid Station (15.4 miles). The course was paved road at this point. After a while on the road, we finally arrived at the aid station. Checking my time, I knew I was well ahead of pace (2:09:08, or 11:14 min/mile pace).



Woodstock - Mile 14

Knowing the time, I went ahead and stood at the aid station for about 2-3 minutes to make sure I had enough to eat and drink. I started running again after I made sure I was well nourished and hydrated.

It was basically a gentle uphill on dirt roads toward Pretty House. I was in a very jovial mood and feeling great at that point. I also getting mentally ready to prepare for the first real mountain of the course, the Sound of Music Hill. In 2010, I remember this as a real tough slog.

Coming into Pretty House (22.5), I was still in a jovial mood and was joking with the spectators at the side of the road. Jokes like, "I thought I signed up for a 5k race today", and "What? No finish line?", helped keep the positive vibes going.

Checking my pace: 2:49:11, a 10:59 min/mile pace. Very fast! But very comfortable. It's good to know that  I had some extra time for when the hills start after this aid station.

I also met my crew here. It is, of course, the first handler station of the course.

Told my crew that I was feeling quite golden, and don't need much right now. Rob asked me about changing my shirt and I promised him that I will change my shirt at the next handler station at mile 30. He agreed.

Starting off, I knew the Sound of Music Hill was looming. Will it change my mood?...

Continued in Part 3

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