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 4

 Vermont 100 Race Report - The End of The Race

Camp 10 Bear Inbound to Spirit of 76 (62.5 miles - 77.4 miles)

Nancy and I wee ready to face the toughest part of the course. We started to run out of Camp 10 Bear, across the road, and onto Heartbreak Hill.

Nope, it's not the Heartbreak Hill in the Boston Marathon. Believe me, if the Heartbreak Hill here replaced the usual one in the Boston Marathon, half the people would drop out of the marathon.

The hill is a single-track section that goes straight up the mountain.Fortunately, I still had the legs to power-walk up this hill, and sooner than I thought I got to to the top of the hill and onto the road at the ridge of the mountain.

That was just the beginning of this tough section; the road still steadily climbed upward, forcing me to walk more than run. I let Nancy know that it was best of me to be either abreast of me or slightly behind. I didn't want her "pulling" me along; it felt like that when she was ahead of me, so she easily complied and pulled back.

The discomfort that I had having a pacer quickly dissipated when Nancy basically mimicked the same things I did. When I ran, she ran, when I walked, she walked. It settled me down nicely when I knew I was still in total control of my pace.

And it was great to have someone to talk to also. The endless miles tend to wear on people, and to actually talk to people definitely lifted my spirits.

After the uphill, we then got into the single-track part of this difficult section. This roller-coaster section is definitely hard on the legs, with the steep downhills killing the legs as fast as the steep uphills. There were no flat sections here anywhere.

This was the first real uncomfortable part of this race. Trying to manage my quads without the jarring was impossible here, so I took this section very gingerly.

Then there were the horses.

It's one thing to endure these jarring ups and downs. It's quite another to do this with a horse either behind you or ahead of you. Whether it is to pass a horse or to be passed by a horse, it makes for a major disruption in my rhythm, and at this late stage of the race, it was very difficult for me to tolerate it.

But, I was still moving; hoping that the "perpetual forward motion" got us through this section as fast as possible.

And it did. We finally emerged on the road and approached the  Seabrook Aid Station (75.1 miles).

After a quick stop at that aid station, the road was much easier than the single track, and it was a gentle downhill. I basically ran the whole section to the Spirit of 76 Aid Station (77.4 miles).

When I arrived there, Rob and Amy were there with our headlamps. I was tiring but was still in good spirits.



I checked my time again and saw that I arrived there in 15:33:31. That would be a 12:04 min/mile pace. It took me over 77 miles before I finally slowed to under a 12 minute mile pace, so I was still in great shape! I can put the crazy thoughts about a midnight finish aside and concentrate on my current pace. I would be awfully pleased with a 22 hour pace since I would finish before the ugly sleep deprived hours beginning at 2AM.


Spirit of 76 to Bills (77.4 - 89 miles)

It was still daylight at the Spirit of 76 Aid Station when I left. I liked it a lot.

But we still needed the headlamps. We won't be seeing Amy or Rob until Bill's at mile 89, and it would definitely be completely dark by then.

This was the "make or break" portion of the trek. I was slowing, but Bill's was the immediate goal here because Bill's marks only 11 miles to go before the finish line, and I can definitely will myself through those last 11 miles.

But first I had to get through the doldrums here.

We first took a wrong exit out of Spirit of 76, but quickly retraced our steps, found the right turn, and got back on course.

This section was a nice change from the ups and downs out of Camp 10 Bear. It was basically a dirt road, going mostly downhill. The sunlight was finally waning at this point, and it was finally starting to get dark.

Still, by the time we got to Goodman's (81.4 miles), we still haven't used our lights yet. The overall pace there was 12:10 min/mile pace. I was still running, but was slowing quite a bit.

Once after Goodman's it was dark enough to turn on the headlamps.

After a little bit of uphill running, we arrived at the Cow Shed Aid Station (84.0 miles). Race time was 17:11:11, or a 12:17 min/mile pace. I was tired, but still in good spirits.

And I was still running the level sections and the downhills.

After Cow Shed, we had a long, 5 mile stretch to Bill's.

I realized that 5 miles in this part of the race basically sucked. But I dealt with it with resignation and actually started to run part of the stretch.

Was was nice was that I actually ran the next 3 miles of the course, since it was downhill. That made this stretch a lot easier to tolerate.

The bad news was the last 2 miles were completely uphill.

Nancy was doing great. She was very strong after she herself did around 17 miles. I told her that she had 2 more miles to go and she shrugged. She turned out to be a great endurance runner.

She'll be modest about it, but she can't deny it. :-)

Back to the uphill. It was endless. I was walking a major part of it at this point. With my temper getting a bit short, I was muttering under my breath, "where the fuck is Bill's?" I kept repeating that "mantra" over and over until after what felt like an eternity, we turned a right towards Bill's Shed.

I arrived there at 18:27 in the race, or around 10:30PM. In 2010, I arrived at Bill's at 3:51 in the morning. That's over a 5 hour difference between the races! My pace was still a not-to-shabby 12:27 min/mile pace. I was ticking off about 15min/mile pace right now, and I know that if I kept that pace, I'd be WELL below 24 hours.

I'm definitely happy with that pace!

The last weigh-in was perfect, only 4 pounds lost. I was cleared to the finish!

Rob had a long sleeve shirt for me, but I was still fine with the short sleeve; in fact, the long sleeve would probably overheat me.

Nancy was finished with her job. She did great!

It was Amy's turn to take me the last 11 miles to the finish. And I know like Nancy, she would do a great job.

 Bills to Polly's (89 miles to 96.1 miles)

Coming out of Bill's, I told Amy the same instructions as I told Nancy, to just mimic everything I do, and everything will be fine. The first stretch out of Bill's is a perilous single-track, and mostly walked it until we hit the road about 1 mile later.

Even though this was mostly road, there were a lot of uphills at this stretch.

The hills come fast and furious the last 30 miles of this race and everyone needs to be mentally prepared for them.

A quick calculation finds that if I keep the pace at 15 min/mile, that would put me at the finish at a little over 21 hours and would avoid running during the "witching hours" of 2AM-4AM, a worthy goal. My running form was out the window, but it was still much faster than walking, so I ran most of the level to downhill sections.

Keating's (92.4 miles) was a great little aid station between Bill's and the next handler station at Polly's, so I got my mix of water and Gatorade and kept moving.

We had a bit of difficult single track to navigate in the middle of the night, but it was short, as we got onto the road in short time. I was still holding to 15 min/mile pace.

Night running is really a unique experience, especially when glowsticks mark the course. It has this eerie, surreal feeling to it. These are usually unique to 100 mile ultras; great stuff to witness when I'm a part of it.

Amy and I arrived at Polly's (95.9). Race time was 20:19:36. Well, so much for the midnight finish! Still, the pace was 12:43 min/mile pace and a 15 minute mile pace would put me close to 21.5 hours, an excellent time!

I told the crew that I was OK for the last 4 miles, then told Amy, "let's get to that finish line". One of the volunteers at Polly's asked jokingly, "you don't really want to finish, right?".

I looked her in the eye and said, "OH YES I DO".

We headed out for the last 4 miles of the course, with the sub 24 hour belt buckle well within my reach.

Polly's to Finish Line (96.1 - 100 miles)

From Polly's to Sargent's was perhaps the longest 2.2 miles I've ever witnessed.

Knowing that I'm still doing 15 in/mile pace, I should have seen the aid station after 35 minutes.

No aid station.

Amy points to something lighted in the distance. Was it an aid station?

No, it was a bucket of water for the horses to drink from.

I jokingly told Amy that I was ready to dunk my head into that water. She told me not to do that.

Still, I was a bit pissed. After 4 more minutes of walking, we finally arrived at Sargent's (98.1 miles).

Amy told me to go ahead as she got the water. I ambled up the single-track hill. Amy quickly came up to me and gave me the water.

At this point I got a head of steam. I was determined to finish. Amy kept silent as I was powering up the single track hill to the road.

The road made a turn, then went uphill again. I muttered to Amy, "enough of these hills", and picked up the pace even more.

Within a few minutes, after we turned onto single track, we got to the "1 mile to go" marker". I was still walking briskly up the hills.

With a half mile to go, we came upon water jugs with the glowsticks inside them. I knew we were approaching the finish line. After another minute, I can hear the cheers.

I picked up the pace even more, with Amy cheering me on.

The last turn had us finally approaching the finish line. Pumped up my arm in celebration. I stopped the clock at 21 hours, 24 minutes, and 21 seconds! It was undoubtedly my best race ever!

A little blurry, but this was moments after I crossed the finish line in 21:24:21.




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