Monday, October 29, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
Peaks: Passaconaway, Whiteface, The Sleepers, The Trips
Time: 6 Hours 41 Minutes
Attendance - Albee: Bushwhacking God, Als Pal: Holder of the 2nd Fastest American Time for the Mount Washington Auto Road Race (58 Min) aka. Dave Dunham, Corey: Speed Hiker from New York currently training to challenge the ADK 46 Speed Record, Sherpa John: Average Joe just trying to celebrate his 26th birthday.
Today was my birthday... I had a great day, and I'd love to tell you about it. Plans for how I wanted to celebrate my birthday had changed a number of times over the last month. First I was going to run the Green Mountain Marathon in South Hero, VT but I didn't feel like driving all that way. Then I was going to run the Maine Track Club 50 Miler but I didn't feel like spending the money to run 4 mile loops 12.5 times. Then I was going to run Kinsman Ridge and up Moose with Runningbudha... but he had to work. Then I was going to run the 32 miles from Newmarket to Londonderry.... I settled for the invite from Albee.
I was up at 4:30am and out the door by 5:15. I drove up Rte 16 and marveled at how late the sun rises these days. I don't normally get up so early so I had no idea. It was neat watching it ride through the clouds of the departing storm. I met Al et. all at the Pine Bend Brook Trailhead where we left Corey's and my car, piled into Dave's and drove down to Oliverian Brook. I had my running tights on expecting cold weather and we headed up the trail.
The streams and creeks were raging as was the first real stream crossing. I sat down on and straddled a felled tree and scooted across. My feet were all ready soaked from the standing and running water on the trails... I don’t know why I didn't just wade through. I was warm so I took off the running tights and got more comfy while Al and I waited for Dave and Corey to come through the woods.
We plugged along making great time for a bunch of lazy speed hikers heading up the trail. We were a barrel of laughs for the entire day, talking about everything and anything. I was having such a blast hiking with this diverse group of hikers, each of which brought forth their own level of adventure experience. Dave and Al have both hiked just about every highpoint in New England, Corey is almost finished his ADK 100 Highest. The conversation was fun and spirited and I really enjoyed their company.
We topped out on Passaconaway and took some photos on one of the viewpoints before hitting the summit. On the summit, Al and Dave reconfigured their altimeter watches. Then we all headed to Whiteface. On Whiteface we dropped packs at the junction and headed over to the ledges to see if we could sneak in any views. The summit was encased in a grey cloud that every so often would break just enough to afford us a view to the south. I showed Al the plaque that resides in one of the summit ledges.
We then made great time with a mix of running and hiking across the Sleepers. We made the side trip to East Sleeper, where while running back to the main trail, a broken limb cut a hole into my shirt and lightly pierced my skin. We then headed for West Sleeper where we roamed the summit area looking for and standing on what we thought to be the highest spot. These guys are totally into Bushwhacking... in fact.. rumor has it Albee is going to finish the NH 100 Highest Tomorrow and has quickly become one of the "legendary speed hikers" in New England history.
We took off down the rest of the Sleeper trail, stopping at the end where it meets the South trip slide for a water and grub break. Many more great jokes and antidotes about running, hiking, sleeping, women and you guessed it.. Beer. But we had none to drink for the birthday celebration... such a bummer. After the break and Dave changing his socks.. we headed up to South Tripyramid and the rest of the Trip ridge.
While moved along from South to Middle Tripyramid, we ran into an older gentleman hiking alone. I reached him first and gave a friendly hello. He asked if I was alone and I said, “No.. there’s 4 of us.” His response was, “Same Jones Group?” … “huh?”… “Same Jone’s Group?”…. I don’t know if this is secret code for something… like Alligator Egg… but… After he was snippy in telling Albee and I he came up Livermore Road we carried on our way. We topped out on Middle Trip and took more photos. On our way to North Tripyramid, Albee and I smelt what appeared to be marijuana. Soon, bounding down the trail bubbly and free was a group of 3 girls who commented on our “great hustle.” I snickered as I thought of a story a friend of mine told me about his discovery of a bag of weed up here in the late spring.
On North Trip, Albee, Dave and Corey all said their goodbyes and gave me many birthday wishes. We had had one hell of a great day bagging 6 peaks together. They backtracked to Sabbaday Falls Trail where they set off to bag The Fool Killer followed by a bushwhack to the Scaur before descending the Pine Bend Brook Trail. Me?.. I went over to the top of the North Trip Slide, took a photo, back track to the trail juntion and descended Pine Bend Brook.
Pine Bend Brook trail is by far one of my favorite trails to run on. The trail was covered in a sea of leaves which at times made it difficult to follow. In fact, I found myself WAY off trail a total of 3 times. Quickly realizing it each time, I backtracked and found my way. The leaves still in the trees were still gorgeous and vibrant colors of yellow, red, orange and green. The many rocks strewn about this trail were covered in a slimy bright green moss which made for a perfect place to stop, sit down, rest… and reflect on 26 years of life. (Note: LOTS of blowdowns on this trail that need proper care) Not long after, I returned to my fast pace run/walk and returned to my car. I enjoyed a great day in the mountains with great friends and was even more delighted after to return a birthday phone call from Drew… who made it a point to stop his hiking of Hale to wish me a happy birthday and hear about my days adventure. There was no beer on this hike though I personally wish there was... plenty of trail mix and the wonderful talents of Dave and his photo shoots.
I’ve had an amazing opportunity to learn a lot of these last few years and of course over the last 26. Time certainly does fly whether you are having fun or not. But what I truly have learned as of late are simple rules to live by. Hike your own hike, run your own run, and choose to become who YOU want to be. You are the one who must live your life, from beginning to end, and only you are the one who dictates your path. Choose wisely, make mistakes, learn from them.. and make more. Smile.. it makes your butt pucker. Laugh, it makes your abs look sexier. Eat healthy, breathe deep and don’t sweat the small stuff. WAY too many people out there take life way too seriously.. and every aspect of it they live… perhaps that’s the life for them.. but its not the one for me. Everyone is a legend to someone, everyone is a hero to someone else.. I don’t care if I’m either because I’m just happy being ME. Every year on my birthday I ask myself “If I died today, would I die satisfied and happy.” And for the first time in my life I got to answer my question.. with a yes.
Thanks guys… I had a blast.. and through it all… I had the best way to celebrate my birthday. I spent it with a few guys who have a love for life and a love for the outdoors. I spent it with a bunch of guys who know how to laugh and know how to be human... can;t ask for much more. Now only if DREW was there….
(Pics to come)
Year #27 begins with the same great promises of hope and goals. Aspirations are high... just the way I like it. Hope you all come along for the ride.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Who: Sherpa John and Bikernate
Where: Bear Brook State Park - NH
Distance: 14.4 Miles
Quite some time ago, I started wondering what was in Bear Brook State Park and was it a good place to train. Today, I finally got a chance to go in there after reading much about it. Bear Brook, with nearly 10,000 acres is the largest developed state park in New Hampshire. Forty miles of trails through the heavily forested park, leading to seldom visited marshes, bogs, summits and ponds, offer a variety of options for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians.
I met up with Nate at the Epsom choke and puke for some burgers, fries and nuggets (Wendy's).. prefect pre run food as the grease in the burgers helps lube our joints. We have no idea how far we were going to run, but we knew the goal was to tackle some unknown terrain. The temp was in the mid 50's and climbing, thankfully, into the mid 60's.
We took off from the Hiker/Biker parking area on our weekly Wednesday adventure. Last week we ran 2 loops in Pawtuckaway.. this week we met here. Nate has run here once or twice before so it was nice to be with someone who knew a bit about the park.
What I found here was suprisingly beautiful for the area it rests in. We ran up and down many mellow hills, past an on-going logging operation that filled the air with the smell of sweet maple. We ran past bogs and ponds, marches and creeks. The leaves are finally changing in the south.. the canopy a bright gold with the under growth still a shade of light green. We ran through sections of blackberry bushes. Tons of singletrack and even a few short but challenging hills. We really had a feeling of being "out there." Part of Bear Brook is also a Game Refuge and hunting is NOT allowed.
The next time we head to Bear Brook, we're going to make it a goal of ours to try and Redline the entire park in on outing. We just need to find an entire day to cover the 40 Miles (at least 10 hours anyway). For now... for those of you who hike Pawtuckaway Regularly and are looking for another hidden gem in the South... check out Bear Brook.. You'll love it!
This is the Elevation Profile of our Run
You can see our route at Nate's MotionBased Page: http://trail.motionbased.com/trail/episode/view.do?episodePk.pkValue=4245031
We ran on the following trails during our 14.4 mile journey: From the parking lot on podunk road we ran on the bear brook trail skipping the river crossing and following a herd path to the lane trail. On the lane trail we hopped onto the Cascade Trail (NEW) which heads up to Carr Ridge. We ran Carr Ridge trail to the Hayes Farm trail... from here we ran along Hayes Marsh to the Lowland Trail which we took all the way down to the lost trail. We took the lost trail to the ferret trail.. then took Ferret to Hall Mountain Trail which we took up and over Hall Mountain. We then ran up Podunk Rd to the Broken boulder Trail.. took Broken Boulder to Bobcat trail which we took to Salt Lick Trail back to the car. You can see a map of Bear Brook Here: http://www.snemba.org/bearbrooktrails.jpg
Sunday, October 14, 2007
In typical New England fashion this time of year, our first Nor'Easter blew threw the area. Snowicanes as they are sometimes called are the Hurricanes of New England Winters. This time of year we usually always get our first of many doses of these storms and the one that blew through here this past week was no different. We recieved just over 2 to 3 inches of rain here on the seacoast, most of which fell overnight. Freakish thunderstorms echoed through the air night and day on Thursday and Friday. But the KEY result of any Nor'Easter is the cold air it draws in behind it. We went from another warm almost humid week just days before.. to night time lows in the upper 30's and daytime highs struggling to reach 60.
So.. With just a few weeks to go before I run in 2 major races.. I decided to take advantage of the cool temps and get to work. Sarah, hopped onto my road bike and followed along.
On November 4th I am running in the ressurection running of the Manchester City Marathon. The 26.2 Mile course consists of mostly hills and very little flat. Its in the city I grew up in and I really want to push myself and try to set a marathon PR here which is currently at 3:40. Then, just 6 days later on November 10, is the Stonecat Ale 50 Miler. IF I finish this race in under 11 Hours.. I will qualify for the 2009 Western States Endurance Run and be automatically in if my name is not chosen in this years lottery. I also want to PR for 50 Miles here which currently is at 9:47. So... two races... two PR goals.. and a LOT of work today.
Today I trained by running a 15 mile road loop through the seacoast towns of Newmarket, Durham, Lee, Madbury.. back through Durham and home to Newmarket. The loop is gorgeous consisting of long drawn own hills through rolling farm hills. Houses were decorated for Halloween and the fall season while the leaves that had changed were dabbled on the ground like a kalidescope. Beyond the farm fields where the woods began again, Color was splashed in between tall pines. It was really a pleasant run without a cloud in the sky. However, my pace was slow (10:01 mi) and I have a LOT of work to do in the next two weeks. Anything is possible.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Endurance Athlete, Philanthropist, Documentary Film Maker, Motivational Speaker.
John Lacroix is a twenty-nine year old philanthropist, motivational speaker, documentary film maker, professional guide and endurance athlete from Boulder, CO. Known worldwide as "Sherpa John," he started his endurance career as a peak-bagger in New Hampshire's rugged White Mountains. In 2004 John completed hiking New Hampshire's list of 48 Four-Thousand Foot peaks entering himself into the Appalachian Mountain Clubs Four-Thousand Footer Club. During the same time, Sherpa John released a documentary film he wrote, edited and produced titled "48: A White Mountain Documentary Film." He sold and donated over 800 DVD copies of his film to various individuals and organizations; all the while raising over $20,000 for the American Diabetes Association Research Foundation. In March of 2006, John completed hiking the same list of mountains during the winter season, becoming one of only a few hundred to do so. His peak-bagging continues as Sherpa has completed the list of 48 peaks a subsequent five additional times and is also the youngest person to ever complete The Trailwrights 72 Peak-bagging list and only person under 50 years of age to have done so.
In 2005, Sherpa John entered the world of endurance running, completing his first marathon at the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, VT. Two short months later, he completed his first 50 Kilometer Ultra-marathon at The Damn Wakely Dam Ultra in Upstate New York. Since then, Sherpa John has completed dozens of Ultra-Distance events across the country ranging anywhere from 1 Mile to 124 Miles; all the while raising thousands of dollars for various charitable causes included The American Diabetes Association, The LiveStrong Foundation, Conservation NH, and The Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Hampshire. In 2008, Sherpa became the first person in history to run across New Hampshire, 124 Miles from the western-most point to the eastern-most point. He repeated the journey in 2009. Sherpa is also the former race director and founder of The New England Ultras 200 Mile Ultra (Now the McNaughton in Vermont Peak.com Race)
John graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology: Outdoor Education; with a concentration in Hospitality/Recreation Management. As a philanthropist he has raised over $40,000 for charitable organizations on a local and national level and he continues to inspire through his various endurance accomplishments.
Sherpa John has been featured on WMUR TV's News Magazine: NH Chronicle as well as WMUR News 9. He has also appeared in various publications including Ultrarunning Magazine, The Manchester Union Leader, The New Hampshire Sunday News, Nutfield Times, The New Hampshire, The UNH Campus Journal, The Derry News, The Portsmouth Herald, Fosters Daily Democrat, The Boston Globe-North Edition, New Hampshire Public Radio's Morning Edition and National Public Radio's Weekend America.
Some Of The More Memorable Pieces:
Sherpa John is a product tester for Nathan Human Propulsion Laboratories and is sponsored by PowerBar, Headsweats, Osprey Packs, NEMO Equipment and Team Animal Camp.
Sherpa John's Career Highlights
Youngest Finisher in the:2006 Vermont 50 (VT)
2007 McNaughton Park 100 (IL)
2007 Grand Teton 100 (WY)
2007 and the 2008 Pittsfield Snowshoe Marathons (VT)
2nd Youngest Finisher in the:
2005 Wakely Dam 50K (NY)
2006 Wakely Dam 50K (NY)
2006 Breakers Nifty Fifty Miler (RI)
2007 Pittsfield Peaks Ultra Challenge (VT)
2008 Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 (VA)
Youngest Male finisher of the:
2007 Stonecat Ale 50 Miler (MA)
2004: Completed Hiking NH's 48 Four Thousand Foot Mountains
2005: Wakely Dam 50K (NY): 7:57
2006: Completed Hiking NH's 48 Four Thousand Foot Mountains in Winter
2006: Rachel Carson 35 mi.(PA): 8:04 (3rd Place Finish)
2006: Wakely Dam 50K (NY): 7:02
2006: Vermont 50 Miler (VT): 10:32
2006: Breakers Nifty 50 Miler (RI): 10:05
2006: JFK 50 Miler (MD): 9:47
2007: Disney's Goofy Challenge 39.3 mi.(FL): 5:59
2007: McNaughton Park 100 Miler (IL): 34:15
2007: PIneland Farms 50K (ME): 5:35 (PR)
2007: Pittsfield Peaks 50 Miler (VT): 16:02
2007: Pemi Loop Challenge 50K (NH): 10:14
2007: Vermont 100 (VT): 23:19 (PR)
2007: Grand Teton 100 (WY): 30:44
2007: Vermont 50 (VT): 10:06
2007: Manchester City Marathon (NH): 3:37 (PR)
2007: Stone Cat Ale 50 MI (MA): 10:34
2007: One of the four fastest People on record to hike New Hampshire's Belknap Range: 8:11
2008: McNaughton Park 100 Miler (IL): 33:33
2008: Massanutten 100 (VA): 32:09
2008: Pittsfield Peaks 50 Miler (VT): 12:20
2008: Vermont 100 (VT): 23:37
2008: Pisgah 50K (NH): 6:31
2008: Vermont 50 Miler (VT): 8:58 (PR)
2008: Ran Across New Hampshire widthwise 124.4 Miles - 1st Ever: 31:50
2009: Pittsfield Snow Ultra 52.4 Miles: 15:07
2009: McNaughton Park 100 Miler (IL): 36:15
2009: Massanutten 100 (VA): 33:35
2009: Pittsfield Peaks 50 Miler (VT): 12:27
2009: Breaks own Belknap Range Record with Two Others. New Time: 6:35
2009: Vermont 100 (VT) 23:27
2009: Becomes Youngest Person to Complete The Trailwrights 72 by more than 25 years
2009: Vermont 50 (VT) 10:14 - Survives another mudfest
2009: Ran Across New Hampshire widthwise 118.48 miles - 2nd Time: 34:26
2010: Finished 1 loop (22 Miles) of the arduous Barkley Marathons Course: 12:25
2010: One of the three individuals to successfully complete the Cross Rivendell Trail in one day. 10:25
2010: 8th Place Overall (50 Starters) - Pittsfield Peaks 54 Miler 11:22
2010: Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run (CA): 28:29
2010: Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run (VT): 28:58
2010: Youngest Entrant in the 2010 Grand Slam of Ultra-Running (DNF @ Leadville)
2011: One of four athletes to start the Peak.com Snowshoe 100 Mile Race (VT): 22:22 (DNF @50K)
2011: One of four athletes to start the Peak.com Snowshoe 100 Mile Race (VT): 22:22 (DNF @50K)
Sunday, October 7, 2007
What an amazing weekend. On Friday, while questioning what time of year it was, I enjoyed a 15 mile bike ride around the seacoast of NH. I enjoyed rolling down farm roads here in Newmarket, Lee and Durham while the leaves finally begin to change here. The temps soared into the 80's and made for a pleasant ride before work.
Saturday, Paul and I along with his friend Brett all met up in Pittsfield, VT where we ran the Hayes Brook, Blood Root and Hedghog sections of the Pittsfield Peaks course. Overcast skies and temps in the 80's really made the exhuberant Vermont color stick out. Just before we made it back to Upper Michigan, the skies openned up and the rains came. The hot and humid temps were quickly washed away as we meandered through the mountains of Pittsfield. Really enjoyable.
Today, with the cold front moved through, I enjoyed a 16 mile bike ride with my dad in Loudon, Canterbury and Belmont, NH. We were suprised to see some kind of bike race going on at NHIS. Very cool place, coolr temps, drier air and a hell of a time pushing each other on long hills. The best part of the day was topping it off with a slice of home made New England Apple Pie. So good!
Last week I was interviewed for the podcast "Trails and Tirbulations." I invite you all to listen in to the 45 minute interview. Please visit their website: http://www.trailsandtribulations.com/
Friday, October 5, 2007
Now seems like a great time to speak about how I got into Ultra-Running. Everyone has their own idividualized stories and the following is mine. So, while I recover from the VT50 and start to get into the swing of things again, sit back and enjoy my story of how I became and Ultra-Runner (aka. Crazy).
It All Started With The Discovery Channel
It was the Fall of 2003. Sarah and I had just finished repainting my bedroom when we began watching a program on the Discovery Channel called, "Architechture and Design of Man and Woman." "Watch as men and women mature and push their bodies to athletic extremes to demonstrate how biological differences impact physical performance and even mental agility. However, our differences have evolved not to answer challenges in athletic contests, but to provide advantage in the game of life." Watch we did and we were absolutely facinated by the program.
In the program, female Montrail ultra running athlete Francis Conte is profiled while she runs in the Badwater 135. The program was inspirational to me and veen brought back memories of watching many Eco-Challenges with my father and step-mother a few years back. I remember telling Sarah that I wanted to be an adventure racer and I started to do a little research. A few months later I went out and bought a DVD at EMS on the Primal Quest - San Juan Islands. We sat down and watched the DVD in its entirety, including the part where an unfortunate accident occurs and an athlete dies which descending a technical section of loose rock. The idea of me becomming an Adventure Racer was immediately squashed.
So Sarah and I took up hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Every weekend we'd hike multiple peaks in my quest to complete the list of "48." On some of the tougher days, we'd reach a summit and Sarah, who at the time had no interest in completing the 48 herself, would sit and wait for me to bag an additional near by peak. I'd drop my pack and take off running to the next peak and return. I immediately began falling in love with trail running during our peak bagging activities.
I also happened to be making a movie at the time on hiking the 48. One day as we were driving to the trailhead to hike the Wildcats, I asked Sarah a question that would change my life forever, "Do you think anyone has ever run all of the 48 peaks?? You know... the fastest?" We both agreed that this notion was inconceivable to us and shrugged it off as a joke. Later that day, after traversing the Wildcat Ridge, we were convinced that there was indeed no way in hell anyone had run these peaks.
But my curiosity got the best of me. I went home and started searching the internet for any trace of a formal speed record in hiking New Hampshire's White Mountains. To my surprise, I discovered that not one... not two.. but a whole slew of crazy folks had done the feat before. I found the info on a hiking website operated by Mohammed Ellozy. Here I discovered that the current record holder was a Tim Seaver from Vermont. Tim had set the record in July 2003 by going to the top of each of the 48 peaks in 3 Days 15 Hours and 51 Minutes. My jaw simply dropped to the floor in absolute awe. I continued reading about Ted "Cave Dog" Keizer who held the record before Seaver by doing the feat in "ultra-marathon style" in 3 Days 17 Hours 21 Minutes. And the record was fromally set in the mid 1970's by 2 young men from Massachusetts, the Fitch Brothers, who did so unsupported in 6 Days 15 Hours and 30 minutes.
I had to know more as I wanted to profile these guys in my movie. So I contacted Ted "cave Dog" Keizer via e-mail and he gave me some great information and photos. Ted told me how I could possibly get in touch with the Fitch Brothers and I e-mailed them. I then contacted Tim Seaver through his website. Before I knew it, I had photos from Cave Dog, and a day planned in November 2004, during the editing of my film, to meet with George Fitch and Tim Seaver in the same day. I met with both men and interviewed them on camera about their achievements. However it was during my interview with Tim that I began to question him about this "Ultra-Marathon Style" that they spoke of. Tim told me a bit about ultra-running and what it takes, "being able to put up with a lot of pain, patience and training." Sarah and I elft Vermont that night in an ice storm, and on the slow drive home I told her... this is what I want to do.
I wanted to become one of these ultra marathon runners and I wanted to challenge Tim's record. I wanted to be one of those gifted few who find their names on Mohameds website as a "hiking" legend here in New Hampshire. I had been running for a few months all ready, mainly since we had finished hiking the 48. My love of running had me going at home. When I started, I couldn't run a mile without walking for rest. It was a sad sight but now in November of 2004, after having met with Tim and George.. I knew that running was about to become a huge part of my life and hiking was always going to be.
So... from here.. I started training and the road to becomming a young Ultra-Runner.
Monday, October 1, 2007
Vermont 50 Mile Endurance Run
Brownsville, VT - Ascutney Mountain Resort
50 Miles - 10:06:26
"People should learn endurance; they should learn to endure the discomforts of heat and cold, hunger and thirst; they should learn to be patient when receiving abuse and scorn; for it is the practice of endurance that quenches the fire of worldly passions which is burning up their bodies." --Buddha
I woke up shivering after a restless night’s sleep in the upper parking lot of Ascuteny Mountain ski resort. We rushed here Saturday after attending 2 weddings in one day, pitched a tent and got as much frigid rest as we could for the next day’s impending adventure. I told Sarah that I wasn’t feeling 100%, 85% or 90% at best. It has after all only been 29 days since my last 100 miler and now I’m lining up for a tough 50.
The Vermont 50 is, in my opinion, one of the premier events in new England Endurance Sports. Mountain bikers of all ages, divide up into classes to take on the 50 Mile course. At the starting line we even spotted a few tandems! Then there is a 50K, 50 Mile relay and 50 mile solo running events which saw over 400 runners register for this year, making it the largest field in the events history. I was pumped as after all this is one of my favorite races to run and for various reasons. The course is challenging and the scenery is gorgeous. Cool temperatures combined with the changing colors of the leaves, make for one surreal experience.
34 Degrees was the temperature at the start of this year’s event. The sun rising in the east allowed us to see the fog nestled into the many valleys surrounding Ascutney Mountain Resort. The bikers took off in waves, one after another as I assembled myself for the race. Paul Kearney, who was on my spectacular crew during the VT100, was running the race today as his 1st 50 Miler on the road to his very own VT100 adventure. We started the race together and headed off down the main road talking to a few friends I had made at this year’s Pittsfield Peaks Ultra Challenge.
As we found ourselves running past the first aid station and heading up the first hill on the trail, we settled into a great group of guys. Bikernate, Jeff from CT, and a guy from New Jersey whose name escapes me right now. The course was now run on mostly single track for the next few miles. Fog had lowered itself into the woods as we ran through cracking about as many inappropriate jokes we could think of. We even started to talk about favorite movies and tv shows. It was really rather enjoyable. We came across a female Mountain biker who was being carried out by medical staff. She had crashed her bike hard and broke her hip. As she rivaled in pain, she explained that it hurt worse than child birth. We all thanked the medical staff and lent some encouragement to the woman being carried away.
Soon we emerged onto the flanks of Garvin Hill. The fog was now actually BELOW us and this display of undercast was simply amazing. We watched as the clouds danced through the valleys below and it was turning out to be a simply gorgeous day. The sun now shone brightly for the remainder of the race, warming us up to a cool 65 degrees at best, and perfect running weather! As we looked back down the hill, we saw Nate and Jeff now behind us, we harassed each other a bit before taking off on our own pace.
Paul and I reached Smoke Rise Farm in 5 hours and 29 Minutes into the race. The mileage to here is just over 50K which made the time good enough for a 50K pr for me (5:35). I knew we were going way too fast but also that the next couple of miles was a long uphill section. We got our aid, watched a biker jump into the bond and continued on up the road at a good clip. Part of what makes the VT50 a tough course is lack of handler access. I saw my crew 3 times between the start to finish and I could have used them more. After Smoke Rise, I would have a difficult time staying “with it.” My hamstrings were really sore, the back of my left knee hurt and I knew I was falling apart. I put my head down and pushed as best I could from here to Dugdales which was still 2 aid stations and a lifetime away. I just needed to make it to my crew.
At Dugdales I found Sarah, Dad and my step mom Helen waiting for me.. and of course DREW. I got all the aid I needed and then some. I watched John Holt run ahead of me.. he looked so strong. Paul even left the aid station before me and it took my step-mom saying, “quite wasting time” for me to get out of the station. I felt a lot better with Boost, 2 gels, 2 S! Caps, a fig newton and water in me and a recharged bottle of Clip 2 in my hand. My wrist hurt from running with my hand helds today, I’m not entirely sure why.. I feel like I’m falling apart. However, I knew that if I was to make up for any lost time or to try and get ahead of the game, between miles 35 and 48 was the time to do it. So I once again put it to the me and the earth.
Somewhere in the woods around Mile 38, I lost Paul. He was mentioning feeling fatigued and I knew he just needed some time to snap out of the funk. So I took off ahead of him in the hopes that he’d catch me. I on the other hand, was having an amazing time running all of the single track and switchbacks on this section of the course. Shorts up and downs, we wind over and around various hills, cross roads, follow streams.. it really is an amazingly beautiful course.. quite peaceful even. At Mile 40 we popped out of the woods onto a dirt road where a group of spectators had gathered to cheer runners on. I became confused when I saw this because I thought it was the mile 42 aid station. I slowed down and started searching for the food tables.. then I saw Sarah and my Dad snapping photos.. “What is this?” Sarah told me nothing and to keep going.
I moved my legs as fast I could. My quads were finally starting to feel a bit tight. I was cramping up a bit and took some S! Caps to fix the problem. Like clockwork the cramps went away. I couldn’t remember if 42 was a handler station but I put my sights onto making it there. Jeff from CT came up behind me and we ran together until the station. This kid was great! 21 years old and full of immense energy, running his first 50 Mile race after having shattered his knee cap months ago. His energy was contagious and I really enjoyed his company. Upon reaching the station I was out of it.. I didn’t know what I wanted or what I needed. I felt a hand on my shoulder and it was my buddy Pete. He said Hi and I just stared at him.. he said, “John.. its Pete.” I had to think for a moment if I knew any Pete’s.. and then I came to. He got me some gummy bears off the aid table as I filled my bottles. Nate had caught up to me so I decided to wait for him before taking off thinking we’d run together.
Not long after we left the station, it was evident to me that Nate was in great shape. He was moving much faster than I and sounded a lot happier. I knew I was struggling and I let him take off. I hung back with another guy who had run Pittsfield Peaks. We talked a bit before we began to leap frog one another for a few more miles. Johnson’s was the next station and I knew Sarah would be there waiting with the rest of the crew.I got excited and moved as best I could down the winding trail. I was tired but still giving it all I had to try and break 10 hours like I had wanted to. Then came the signs that told us 5 miles to go… 4 miles to go… this played serious tricks on your mental game for sure. I saw a mountain biker who was companioned of cramps and told his buddy he was done. With 5 miles left, I handed him my S! Caps and told him to “Finish the damn thing.”
We come out of the woods and onto a dirt road, as we turn the corner to run through a local farm, Mount Ascutney appears before us and it looks huge! I knew I was almost home and tried kicking it in a bit more, but only to feel a couple of twinges in my legs. I was on the verge of more cramping and I was a bit frustrated. An entire year of racing, training and studying for this sport and I still don’t have it entirely right.. But I knew what I did have a lot of and that’s Heart… I had some left. I ran back into the woods and out onto the next road where I could hear traffic from the cars on Busy Rte 44. I glanced up ahead and saw Drew and Pete waiting for me at the corner. “Lets go Johnny!” They ran with me into the station where I tried to quickly refill with the absolute essentials. My crew was now Huge.. it consisted of Dad, Helen, Sarah, Pete and Bekah and her friend Carmen… I had 30 Minutes to run the last 3 miles to the finish and break 10 Hours.
I ran out of the station and hurried along as fast as I could up through Johnson’s farm. Paul came flying out of nowhere and passed me like I was standing still. Then came the biker I helped get back into the race.. he thanked me for the help and I congratulated him on his efforts. The last 3 miles seem to go on forever as we climb up Ascutney and run across parallel to the valley below about half way up. I started passing other runners and vowed to not let anyone else pass me from here to the end. I dug deep, reach down into my soul and kicked it in one last time looking for sub 10 hours. I turned the corner and started running down the ski slope. The crowd cheered and I happily crossed the finish line where I thank Zeke Zucker for his hard work… 10:08… DAMN! I put my head down and walked up the chute with my medal on. Sarah gave me a hug and congratulated me as did the rest of my friends and family.. but I was disappointed. 8 minutes too long..
I set a personal best on the course by bettering my time from 2006 (10:36). 30 Minutes off. I was 19 minutes longer than my 50 Mile PR (JFK 50 2006) and this now became my 3rd fastest 50 Mile time yet behind the JFK50 and 2006 Nifty Fifty in RI (10:05). Stonecat is my next Ultra… I think I’ll start training with some time off.
Notes: Great to see and meet so many great people again. Many thanks to you all for your continued encouragement and friendship: John Holt, Nate, Paul, Jeff from CT, that guy from NJ, The guy from Canada, Dave Delebec, Josh in NH, Chris Wile, Charles Dona and Leigh Schmidt. I also have to thank my crew and friends once again for come out to check out ultra-running. I only hope they have a better understanding of why I do what I do.
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