Friday, July 31, 2009

The Death Race and the 666 Bike Race

2009 Death Race
This years PeakRaces.com Death Race has come and gone. This years event saw the most finishers ever in the events three year history with 18 hardcore individuals finding the finish line. Richard Lee, a former British Officer tied for first place with Norwich Cadet Tom Worthington with a time of 11 Hours 31 Minutes. This years last place finishers spent over 21 hours on the course.

The 2010 registration is open. Visit www.peakraces.com The entry fee is $50 until August 1st and then it goes up to $100. I hope you can make it. www.youmaydie.com is a site dedicated to the death race.

The death race is different every year and it is sure to never disappoint. Next years format looks to be different in terms of time cut-offs as well as the application process all together. Only 100 competitors will be selected to enter the race in 2010. To get in you must contact Race Director Andy Weinberg at andy@peak.com

For now, here is a video courtesy of The New York Times from this past years event.


2009 666 Mountain Bike Race
This years 666 Mountain Bike Race will be held on Saturday, August 22, 2009 in Pittsfield, VT at the Aimee Farm. The course has changed from years past offering some of the best single track downhill in the Northeast. The course offers plenty of climbing as we challenge all comers to make it 30 Miles in 6 Hours. Also new this year, the first to the top of Joe's will win the King Of The Hill Competition. Consider joining us by going to www.peakraces.com for more information!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The North Face


Over the course of the last 5 years, a majority of the adventures I've taken part in, have been done under the protection of my trusty red hat. That hat has had the company logo for The North Face gracing the front. Every year that has come new, I've had the need to replace my sun bleached hat for a new one. I've gone through many a pain staking length to locate the same red hat on the internet, and ordered a hat or two from various places all in the name of having that same red hat. When I got the "One Day 100 Miles" tattoo on my right leg, the skeleton making the run even wears a red hat backwards. It helps define me, it lets me stick out in a crowd and it gives me added energy.

Over the last 2 years now, my general opinion of The North Face has started to wain a bit. Yes, I work at a franchise outdoor retailer that sells North Face Products. And that being said, no.. it's not the increase in popularity of TNF Denali Jackets with high school and college "cool kids" that has caused me pain. My hesitation with the company is coming from my own personal experiences with a pair of their shoes; and my opinion of their arrival into the Ultra-Running Community.

The North Face
According to Wikipedia, "The North Face brand was established in 1968 in San Francisco, California, when Douglas Tompkins and Dick "Hap" Klopp created an equipment retail store that eventually acquired the current name "The North Face".[citation needed] This name was chosen because the north face of a mountain in the northern hemisphere is generally the most difficult face to climb. By the 1980s, skiwear was added to the line of products, and eventually camping equipment was added as well. The North Face is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the VF Corporation. Today, The North Face is based in San Leandro, California, near its corporate sibling, JanSport. JanSport is the world's largest backpack maker, and together, JanSport and The North Face manufacture nearly half of all small backpacks sold in the United States."

The Shoes (Then and Now)
Back in 2005 I was lucky to be sponsored by a local sports outfitter known as Huberts Sports. As part of my sponsorship, Huberts donated to me five pairs of North Face Goretex XCR Trail Runners. At first the shoes worked great. Until I got them out into the rocky White Mountains. The rugged trails here in New Hampshire quite simply ate the shoes up causing the foam soles and flimsy fabric comprising the foot wear to shred quickly. The rubber on the soles quickly began to separate and in a matter of two months I had gone through one pair and moved onto the next. The shoes were so bad, that after wearing through the first 3 pairs, I gave one of my last pairs to my dad and used the other strictly for working as a landscaper.

At some point over the last few years a man you may have heard of, Dean Karnazes, found himself sponsored by the retail giant and he quickly became their super sexy and ubber studly spokesperson. TNF wasn't just a company trying to make running shoes anymore... they were diving right into the Endurance Running industry head first. The biggest development with their shoes after they acquired the rights to Dean (afterall, the determine where and when dean runs now), was a pair of shoes that utilized the Boa Lacing system. TNF Arnuva Boa's is what TNF was banking on... except... in my experience it didn't work. As an employee at an outdoor retailer, I can tell you only of my first hand accounts. The lacing system was cool and all... you turn a dial on your heel and it would tighten a small wire cable that acted as your shoe laces. But let me fill you in on a little secret, I saw more of these shoes returned then I ever actually sold with that Boa Lacing system being the reason why. But wait... it gets better....

Two weeks ago at the Vermont 100, TNF had two reps sitting under a fancy TNF Canopy Tent. I immediately snivvled at seeing them, but decided regardless that I'd take a moment to see what they were peddling. As I walked up to the tent, I was immediately greeted by one of their reps as if I was about to purchase a used car in a car lot. You know what I mean? I began by looking at the shoes they had on display which were the latest models of TNF shoes with a few models yet to come out. I picked up the Arnuva's and began to tell the rep how I felt about the shoes, and that they were junk. The response was the typical salesman static response where I was told that the older models of the system had some defects but they've "been improved." Right.. so we talked more and the Rep actually tried to sell me on the idea that the shoes were defective previously not because of any fault to TNF but to the fault of the folks at BOA. This may or may not be true, but the bottom line is that TNF used the BOA lacing system on their shoes so they are indeed guilty by association... I was not impressed by the conversation thus far..

So it continued. I told the rep that one of the problems with the BOA lacing system is that it doesn't work in New Hampshire. With the amount of rocks that we have on our trails, you are bound to damage the BOA dial from whacking it on your downward stride. "Well, thats why the BOAS are designed for those running on more "paved" trails, dirt tracks, etc." Ok... I was now intrigued by his answer so I asked, "so show me what you have for those of us who run on rocky trails." The answer I got appalled me. He handed me a shoe with what he referred to as a "Hybrid Shoe" that one could wear on the roads and trails and the best part about the shoe is... it has a metal plate built into the sole to prevent foot bruising on rugged trails... ::insert that OMG look where I have one eye brow raised wondering wtf the guy is actually talking about::

I picked up the shoe and just about vomited in my mouth a little bit. The shoe weighed in at around 3 pounds PER SHOE... I swear..it was that heavy. "Yup... there is definitely something metal in this all right." And then I began to really think about this... I needed to learn more. So I when I got home I went onto TNF's Website to find out more about this metal plate. I made my way to the R&D page where they have an actual database for all of their trademarked doo-dads. You have to check it out.. CLICK HERE. They actually have a list of over 80 Trademarked tags of inventions they use on their apparel. Are you kidding me? This is a marketing nightmare. But I did find the one I was looking for called, Snakeplate.

Back to that conversation with the Rep. I began to think about what he said about this plate being used to prevent foot bruising. I have to say, honestly, that in the five years I've been running on the rugged rocky trails of New Hampshire; Pemi-loops, presi-traverses, other long days in the Whites; I've never once bruised my feet. Why do I need a metal plate in my sole to prevent such a thing? Congrats TNF, you've successfully added weight to my shoe to do nothing more then sell the beginner runner some more bullshit and in turn, you're going to turn more runners away from our sport due to injury or sheer intimidation. I immediately put the shoe down, and was asked by the rep where I worked. After having just shat all over his shoe products, I refused to answer.

Lastly, why are you obsessed with putting gore-tex in all of the shoes? I got some news for you. As a trail runner, its pretty much a guarantee that I'm going to get water into my shoe during a race of 50K or longer. Why would I want gore-tex in my shoes? And I'll tell you why I ask. It's because shoes with Gore-tex offers no drainage. Once you get a stream or puddle into your shoe... congrats... you now and for quite awhile have a stream or puddle in your shoe.

I did say one thing before I left these guys that was positive. The North Face Flight Series apparel is some of the best running and hiking gear I've ever come across. The jackets are top notch, made to last, warm, breathable, water resistant.. hands down some pretty exceptional stuff. It is TNF Flight Series items that have allowed me to hang on to the red hat for as long as I have. I'm happy to admit that they at least have this much right. Maybe its because they are so fixated on Wilderness Chic apparel that it allows them to excel in this avenue with their endurance designed gear.

TNF and Ultra Running
Last year, The North Face really took a huge dive into our community. Previously you'd see their name pop up at local races and some of the bigger known races. They donate race shirts, you'll see the bib numbers made on paper displaying their company logo. This is all fine and well and is honestly a big help to our community and offers them an honest opportunity to market their brand to us runners. But I'm going to tell you where they've done more damage then good. Its The North Face Endurance Challenge Series.

TNF decided that they would be putting on Ultra marathons across the country with the championship of those winning runners duking it out in the Marin Headlands outside San Francisco. At first glance its a great idea, but what has actually happened over the last two years is nothing short of tragic. Here are some examples...

2008 Bear Mountain, NY
The race was held on a course that TNF underestimated. There is nothing easy about Bear Mountain. Mistake number one was advertising this race to wanna-be ultra-runners looking to get their feet wet in our sport on this course. In choosing your first 50, you'd tend to go towards something doable; not easy yet not dibilitatingly hard. Well... Bear Mountain is the debilitatingly hard type and TNF had seemingly no idea. Packet pick-up for the event was at a TNF store in lower Manhatten on a Friday afternoon during store hours. This wouldn't be so bad except this is about a 2-3 hour drive on a Friday away from the race venue. Then, they decided they'd allow packet pick-up the morning of the race for a nominal fee of $35! Thats right... they were charging you extra to have your packet for you the day of the race. Then as the race got under way, race organizers (none of whom actually work for or are associated with TNF) changed the cut-off times DURING THE RACE to make it a little more realistic for the runners to meet the cut-offs. Quite a debacle occurred in turn. Not all of the aid stations and their volunteers had heard of the change. So some runners were let through after the original cut offs while others were pulled off. Some runners were told the cut-offs were lifted so they carried on at a more leisurely pace to the next aid station only to have the next station of volunteers look at them like they had 6 heads, knowing nothing of the cut-off change. Many arguments ensued, runners felt robbed, cheated, etc.. and never an apology was issued. After the race, local runners spent the next 2 weeks running through the Bear Mountain area on their training runs, picking up left over cups, wrappers, gel packets and course markings. Pretty much everything that your normal race organizers would pick up before leaving the race site. Yup... TNF left all the trash there... and never said anything about it.

2008 Washington DC
Not only was it over 100 degrees the day of the race but they ran out of water for the runners on the course. Not only that, but the course wasn't marked properly and after Dean Karnazes had won the race, changed his clothes, and sat his rump down in his ice bath... race officials told him he had missed a section of the course. Dean got out of his ice bath, went out, ran the section, returned to the finish and luckily had STILL won the event. But are you kidding me?! Countless numbers of other runners suffered in the heat and also missed the section from poor course marking and many even mentioned that a race volunteer was at the intersection in question directing runners in the wrong direction!

2008 Connecticut
The race that never happened. TNF cancelled the race just 6 days before it was to happen telling those who had signed up that they were canceling the event due to a low number of registration. Apparently 35 runners isn't enough for TNF to put on an event in a community of runners that still remains rather small. 35 runners for a first year ultra is usually considered a great success but to TNF, it warranted pulling the plug and leaving runners out to dry.

2009 Bear Mountain
Last I heard, Leigh Schmitt and Deb Livingston had come in 1st in their classes only to be DQ'ed because they missed a section on the course. Not surprised by poor course marking on TNF's part but in the end, they ended up DQing two of the best ultra-runners in our region and all because of their laziness. Those two also in turn missed out on a good sized prize purse. And once again, local runners picked up the trash...

I really feel that over the years I've tried to give TNF a chance. From my shoes that fell apart to their lack luster and rather INSULTING race directing. But the discussion I had this past weekend with their rep is what is finally going to get me to retire my North Face Hat. A lot of emotion and passion is running through me right now. My TNF hat is what I've run ten 100 mile runs in. Its in all of my pictures.. its become a part of me. I'm kind of choked up thinking about it... but in the end it comes down to me not being able to support a company I don't believe in anymore. So to the North Face I say to you. Please leave our sport. Stop directing races until you can do it right and within the guidelines set in place historically by those who have run long distances before us. Take the time to mark the course properly, pick up your trash at the end and THANK US FOR COMING. Afterall... the only reason you're here is to make a buck... and we PAY YOU! Get it Right or Get out!

And to loosely refer to Born To Run, when TNF approached Caballo Blanco about sponsoring The Copper Canyon Runs in Mexico, he told them running isn't about making money.. it's about being Free. AMEN!

[If anyone knows where I can locate a decent red hat backed by an exceptional outdoor brand.. I'm all ears]

Monday, July 27, 2009

Book Review: Born To Run


This book is all over the place. I first heard about it through my running friend Nathan Sanel. Nate was shopping at Barnes and Nobles one night and noticed the book sitting on the wall behind the register. He asked the clerk if he could look at it, he ended up buying it and read it. Nate told me about his new enthusiasm to run, how great the book was and his new found enthusiasm for life in general. He also mentioned that the book had been discussed quite a bit on the Ultra-list. I had looked over these postings, but was now growing more and more intrigued.

So I went out to Barnes and Nobles myself one night, and Sarah bought it for me as a gift. A gift for which I am eternally grateful. I've read a few books, slowly... I even have a few books here that I keep on the coffee table. I poke through them, slowly and at my leisure. But Born To Run became the first book in my life that I couldn't put down. I was hooked from cover to cover and ended up reading the entire book in less then a week. It was the PERFECT book to read while heading into the Vermont 100 because just like Nate, it was one of the most inspirational books I've ever read.

The book tells us the stories of those Leadville 100's where the Tarahumara indians ran and showed us mere mortals what long distance running is all about. We learn about the lives of the Tarahumara, their intricacies, their predators and the keys to their very existence. The book goes on to tell us of their eating and drinking habits, their amazing ability to run mile upon mile without getting tired... just a simply amazing look at an indigenous people.

The real meat and potatoes of the book describes Author Chris McDougall's journey to find out why his foot hurt when he run. A journey that no shoe company should be too excited to read. The barefoot revolution just got a proverbial boost of energy while the running shoe companies got a shot in the foot. With Vibram Five Fingers being mentioned in the book, the prices of these barefoot running tanks have gone up.... and rightfully so. Chris does an amazing job giving us various scientific explanations of how we homo sapiens were born to run, for survival and now for pleasure, and to do so minimally.

This book is by far the most important running book of our generation. I highly recommend it to runners and non-runners alike. If anything, it brings what many see as "crazy" to being "plausible." READ IT!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

VT100 Historical Splits

Below are my times from my last three Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Runs. Each race was run very differently in the beginning, but all three garnered the same result. Below you will see the Year up top followed by each of the 9 Handler Stations Plus the finish line. To the right is the Mileage into the race, the run time, my avg. total min/mile pace up to that station and then the pace change.

2009 VT100
Pretty House........21.1..........4:05..........11:36
Stage Rd..............30.1..........5:52..........11:41/+0:05
10 Bears 1...........47.2...........9:25..........11:58/+0:17
Tracer Brook........57.0.........11:42..........12:18/+0:20
Margaritaville.......62.1.........12:06.........11:41/-0:37
10 Bears 2...........70.1..........13:47.........11:47/+0:06
West Winds..........77.0.........15:50..........12:20/+0:33
Bill's Barn.............88.6.........18:59..........12:51/+0:31
Polly's..................95.5.........21:03..........13:13/+0:22
Finish Line...........100..........23:27..........14:04/+0:51

2008 VT100
Pretty House........21.1..........5:12...........14:47
Stage Rd..............30.1..........7:00...........13:57/-0:50
10 Bears 1...........47.2.........10:36..........13:28/-0:29
Tracer Brook........57.0.........12:54..........13:34/+0:06
Margaritaville.......62.1.........14:14..........13:45/+0:11
10 Bears 2............70.1.........15:55..........13:37/-0:08
West Winds..........77.0..........17:51.........13:54/+0:17
Bill's Barn.............88.6..........20:30.........13:52/-0:02
Polly's..................95.5..........22:10.........13:55/+0:03
Finish Line...........100...........23:37.........14:10/+0:15

2007 VT100
Pretty House........21.1..........3:57...........11:13
Stage Rd..............30.1..........5:40...........11:17/+0:04
10 Bears 1...........47.2..........9:10...........11:39/+0:22
Tracer Brook........57.0........11:20...........11:55/+0:16
Margaritaville.......62.1........12:50...........12:23/+0:28
10 Bears 2............70.1........14:37...........12:30/+0:07
West Winds..........77.0........16:42...........13:00/+0:30
Bill's Barn.............88.6........19:45...........13:22/+0:22
Polly's..................95.5........21:50...........13:43/+0:21
Finish Line...........100.........23:19...........13:59/+0:16

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

RR: 2009 Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run


Chariots Of Fire - Vangelis
The above song, Chariots of Fire, echos through the damp morning air. The sun yet to rise, as runners mill about making their finally preparations towards the adventure of a lifetime. A chance to see Vermont's Charm up close and personal. To hear it, see it, smell it... it beckons to them. It calls their name. Years before, this song would be played via grand piano on the ground of Smoke Rise Farm, the old race venue. Nowadays, it blares through the speakers of a PA System at the races home known as Silver HIll Meadow, loud enough to give you chills as you walk towards the tent. Loud enough and meaningful enough that if you've been here before, you may get a little choked up. I know that this morning I was. Tears welled in my eyes and for the first time, yes, I actually was excited to be running this race.

With my lucky bib #100 secured to my shorts, I stood under the tent gnawing on a plain bagel and sipping some boost before it was time to step out into the rain. Rain that seems to be never ending this summer in New England. Over 10 inches fell in June which is more then twice the normal. So seeing rain at the starting line wasn't very surprising to say the least. Adam Wilcox seemed rather anxious to get to the starting line. While I was still half asleep, Adam was wide eyed and bushy tailed. A years worth of hard work was finally coming to a head. "What's your rush Adam? You've got 100 miles and all damn day to cover them." We laughed as I asked my brother in law Mike to hold my Bagel, I handed it off, smiled and waltzed out into the light drizzle and at the back of the pack of runners. 3, 2, 1.... We were off... in typical ultra running fashion... walking across the starting line.

Adam and I hung close as we'd talked in the weeks before the race about trying to hang together for a while. We bounded down the road and quickly found ourselves passing the slower crowd working our way up into the middle of the pack. We passed Bob Dunfey on the first trail section, which was a collection of water and sloppy mud, and I thought about Bo's goal to run Sub 22 Hours. I decided to ease off the throttle a little bit here and start to settle into the race and enjoy the ride. The further along we got, back out onto the Vermont country roads, the sun slowly began to rise and we made decent progress on our way up and down the local non-stop hills.

Adam and I picked up another runner on the way to Taftsville. It was Eric Ferland. Eric is also a resident of New Hampshire and trying his legs out at his first 100 miler. We all ran comfortably together, well actually I think Adam and Eric ran more comfortably together. I really didn't feel good running with these guys, their pace was a little more excellerated than I like in a race of this distance. I am also 100% certain that these two had trained much better then I in the weeks and months leading into the race. So, I ducked off into the woods for a bio break in the hopes that they'd get just a little ahead of me. This allowed me to take a few steps back and enjoy the race at my pace. I always keep it in my mind how important it is to run a race at my own pace and no one elses. We stopped at the aid station just down the road from Taftsville Covered bridge where I was greeted happily by Dot Helling. Dot is an ultra-running legend in these parts, having won the VT100 a few years back and serving unselfishly on the race committee. Dot helped fill my water bottles and got me on my way after a nice big hug. Always great to see Dot's smiling face, I only wish we saw it more.

Adam and Eric had headed out of the aid station just ahead of me and I slowly made my way up the road eventually catching up to them. We continued running the hard gravel roads, catching up to Michael Hall, who was also trying his luck at the 100 Mile distance. I felt like a tour guide, this being my 3rd VT100 and all, giving the guys a heads up on what lay ahead. "Some more roads and then we dump out onto some great trail sections. Once we come out of that, its only a few short road miles to the first handler station." I think the guys liked knowing what was coming up and we al took advantage of the opportunity to run together for a few miles and enjoy the conversation that made the time go by. The horses were passing us now in full swing and it was great to see their elegant beauty as they trotted down the road. Ok... honestly we wondered what the hell the white powder was that wafted through the air after a team of horses trotted by. It was NASTY!

Pretty House: Mile 21 Run Time: 5:05


As we made our way into Pretty House it was great to see all of the people lined up once again along the side of the road. Their cheers and whistles really gets your energy flowing. It pumps so much life into you. I found my crew and immediately ran over to the chair. I sat down and asked for a change of shoes. I had been wearing my Brooks Cascadia's and unfortunately, the shoe squeezes my toes too much and a blister had formed on my big toe. I decided to leave the blister alone for now, and just change shoes. I changed into my Brooks Adrenaline ASR 5's, my favorite running shoe and immediately felt better. I knew these shoes would handle the long distance and the pact gravel roads better anyway. I thanked my crew and chased Adam down the road.

Upon catching up to Adam it was apparent he might be interested in slowing it down a little bit. I think his excitement had been putting some extra kick in his step. I didn't want to hold the kid back, but I also felt part of me was keeping him safe from blowing up. We ran a little with Norm Shepard (also from NH) and took to the hills heading out of Pretty House. I really had to go to the Bathroom back at the aid station but I had all ready taken too much time in there. I had no TP, but Norm did. "Norm, you have any TP?" "Depends... how much money do you have?" Thankfully I received a few good will napkins from the guy and I began hunting for the perfect location. As we marched up the hills on this part of the course, I couldn't help but realize that there were few places to duck off to do the deed. Either it was a ridiculously steep uphill into the woods to the right, a worse downhill into the woods on the left... or not enough vegetation to hide you. I was growing desperate, starting to sweat... and then finally... PERFECT! Off I went. Of course, once I emerged from the woods, the chaffe had started...

Once I got back onto the trail I began my push to try and not only catch the guys, but to make up for lost time. The course wanders through some winding trail sections eventually treating us with one of the longer climbs and steeper downhills on the course. The fog and low clouds was still hugging tightly onto the landscape. I was now away from the group, trying to hunt them down while leap frogging with a group of bright yellow wearing Reston Runners... Jim, Jim and Tim? Poor Tim was left out on the letter "J" memo... I had been running near these guys so much earlier that I realized one of them had changed socks. He was no longer wearing Pink Flamingos, and now had on snowflakes. I surprised him when I pointed it out.. and he awarded me some extra points. And then... Vermont awarded me some points as we topped out onto Sound Of Music Hill. And as I looked around to see the killer view into New York and New Hampshire... I was disappointed to stare into nothing more then a thick bank of fog. Rats! And then, I was forced to look down as the horses had done a number on the course. Weeks and weeks of heavy rain had left the meadows soft and mushy. Put over 100 horses on it, and you've got the makings of a crater field. I still to this moment have no idea how I ran down off of sound of music without twisting or breaking an ankle. But I did, and just before the wood shed, I caught Eric and Tamara Buckley Johnson, from California. We continued running downhill towards Stage Road. Eric just ahead, Tamara and I together, she is so lovely, and I pointed out all of the Maple Sugaring hoses to her. Going from tree to tree, these tiny plastic hoses drive the Maple sap to large holding tanks. I told her she was likely to pass a few sugar houses along her 100 mile journey so keep her eyes open.

Stage Road: Mile 30 Run Time: 6:52
We ran into Stage Road and once there I found myself with Adam and Jeff Waldron. We were all frantically getting what we needed from our crews. While my crew worked on my bottles, I went over to the aid table to pick at some fruit. Adam took off first, then Jeff... and then I followed. It was finally getting hot out. I doused water on my head, and smiled... I LOVE the heat.. bring it on! Just outside of Stage Road the course turns off the pavement and you climb up Suicide Six Ski Area. The slope is insanely steep. So steep that you end up passing a few protesting horses who refuse to carry their riders much further. I started passing a few runners as well as I LOVE climbing. I caught Laurel Valley, who would catch me after the top. Jeff and I wandered on together for a short ways before we caught up to Adam. The three of us were now together and moving along rather briskly. I was comfortable though and still stubborn on taking my time. Jeff took off ahead of Adam and I while we moved through the hills together at a good pace.

My crew had switched me to my waist pack, but never gave me any drink mix to go. I was pissed. They do a good job, I even wrote down in the crew book to give me the mix to go. It was the whole reason I wanted the waist pack... but they never gave it to me. Now I was forced to ration out my energy drink from here through to 10 Bears #1... which is no short run and the heat of the day is really starting to pour it on. As we neared the next aid station, there was local jokel Drew Hawley ranting and raving us on. Talking to us about upcoming hikes in the White Mountains that at this particular point in the worlds history, we really could have given a shit about. He means well but my god... who the hell cares about hiking Owls Head while we're trying to run 100 miles. With him was Larissa Dannis who would be pacing Gillian Barbato, a 100K runner, later in the day. Adam and I ran into the aid station, he moved through quickly while I stopped to get some ice cubes in my water bottles. I knew it would not only keep my drinks cold, but as the ice melted, it would aid in keeping them full with the drink pacing I was now having to implore.

A large group of us played leap frog for quite a ways. We ran through the reservoir, filling up on ice at an unmanned aid station there, then headed down into town. The pavement on Route 4 was piping hot as we made our way to Lincoln Covered bridge. Race crews gave us a choice, run to the bridge or head through the river like the horses. I never had this choice before.. and why would I want soaked feet? I stayed on the road and baked it out. We crossed the bridge and to the aid station (8:34 Run time = 39 miles). Adam mentioned that he hadn't pissed in awhile and he was starting to get worried. I told him to dip some watermelon in salt and munch away. Not only would it help.. but the Watermelon out on the course was damn tasty. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite race foods. We left the aid station and continued on up the long and never ending hills. A few miles out of the aid station we saw a horse off in the weeds with it's rider. The rider was frantic and calling for a vet... we notified the first race vehicle we saw just a few minutes up the road. We walked and walked and walked. The heat was really turning on now.. sweat pouring off my face. Jeff and Adam always seemed to be just ahead of me. I didn't want to chase them down, I needed to remain comfortable. I talked with Tamara for awhile about beautiful Vermont, San Francisco and life. She is such an amazing woman. Friendly, strong, stubborn and full of life. Perfect words to describe any ultra-runner.

As we topped out in the meadow I had caught Adam and we started to run together again. We headed down hill and eventually into Lillians. Adam used the worlds hottest Porta Potty. I've used it in years past. It sits out in the sun. It's so hot in there that as soon as you walk in, your body breaks out into a drenching sweat to try and cool you off. Its not fun. I borrowed some petroleum from the Aid Station and rubbed it on my chaffing nipples. The damp, humid, wet conditions of the earlier morning still has me soaked. My nipples rubbed raw from my shirt, I had all ready applied balm at the start, again on the way to Stage Rd.. and now here. Was this a lost cause? The pain was starting to tell me yes. I started walking and Adam quickly followed. We ran the paved section of Route 106 together, then back into the woods, across Jenne Farm and down into 10 Bears 1. As we headed into 10 bears I told him I was going to take a bit of a break to gather myself. And he decided he was going to head on ahead. I wished him luck and now.. I was running alone.

Camp 10 Bears #1: 47 Miles Run Time: 10:25

Getting into 10 Bears the first time is a minor stepping stone in this race. If you are trying to break it down, you've done the wetter, muddier earlier sections. You've conquered some of the more challenging hills. You've completed what I think is the longest loneliest sections between handler stations and you're almost half way there. It is also the first mandatory medical check point. As I ran into the station I walked right over to the scale and got weighed. I answered two questions, My name and what I weighed in at at the start. I now weighed 156 pounds, down 2. I got the OK to continue and I went over to my crew. I got some Ibuprofen to ward off some of the pain I was experiencing. I NEVER take pain killers during a race.. and I was shocked myself that I even decided to this time. My left hamstring was screaming in pain and had been since the start. I re-injured it running the pemi-loop a few weeks before. And also, my left IT Band was letting me know that my level of training heading into the race was sub-par. Shame on me... I was feeling the tiny revolt my body was trying to conjure up... but I'm stubborn, and determined to ignore it and push on. I told the crew I'd need new shoes at Tracerbrook and socks.. my feet are soaked from some of the meadows. My pacer Steve had showed up as well, and its comforting knowing he is all ready there and ready to go when the time arises.

I headed out of 10 Bears 1 sporting a slight limp, still a tiny bit ahead of my goal times, and determined to get my third buckle. I headed out up the road and immediately started a run after cresting the first hill. I ran a few miles before negotiating Havok Hill. I know the 10 Bears loop really well having run it a few times with some of the race organizers in years previous. I really took to it systematically, concentrating on each tiny section, what was ahead and how to attack it. I ran down the hill and into Pinky's (halfway), through the graveyard, across 106 again, Up the long driveway and back into the trails. The trails were soaked, muddy and home to plenty of ponding. Large soaking mud holes had formed and it was a trick to run around. I had caught back up to Jeff, he wasn't talking much. Neither was Joe Laskey as I passed him. Only Norm Shepard seemed to look well. We ran into Birmingham's where I munched on more fruit and enjoyed the music. Jeff caught up and we left together. Jeff had been having a rough day. First it was his hamstrings, then he didn't feel good. Then he had a shin splint going on, and it appeared as though he may have been over heating. The kid lets things get to him way too quickly, and I think mentally.. in this game,... he may just be a little weak. He mumbled his pains to me at a million miles a minute. I had no idea what he was saying but before you knew it he was gone. Across the meadow, back on the trails and down the long driveway. We ran down the road... down down down.. and finally into Tracer Brook.

Tracer Brook: 57 Miles Run Time: 12:42

I ran into Tracer Brook and picked some fruit off of the Aid station table. As I ran in, Jeff was running out. As I sat down in my chair I noticed a sign, "Mile 957 John!" Yes... this was my 10th 100 mile (or more) run... and the crew was counting UP the miles for me. Except they were wrong... I had run 125 miles Across NH in October.. they were 25 miles off. It was really 982 at this point in 100 mile runs... but I'll take the encouragement. hehe. So when I'm not being a pain in the ass, I'm sitting in my chair at the aid station and popping a blister. The one on my right big toe was big enough now that the pressure was really starting to takes its toll on my stride. Sarah gave me a lancet and I carefully poked 3 holes into my skin. I squeezed the serum out then put a fresh sock on. I put on a new pair of shoes, laced em up and got ready to go. On my left foot, painful blisters on my big toe and two of my smaller toes that I dared not touch. Simply washed my feet, new socks and lets go. I told Jeff's crew that I didn't think he'd been eating enough and they concurred. Hopefully the kid was sustaining his energy, but I knew otherwise. His lack of eating was causing him to dive deeper into his brain, and I could see the struggle as he carried on.

I took off headed for Margaritaville. From Tracer to the Margarita Paradise is the longest most exposed hill on the course. Prospect Hill is slow and hot. As I climbed up the road I saw a runner staggering around. He stopped and bent over forward. As I approached I told him that if he was going to puke he should just do it. He glazed over at me and said, "I'm dehydrated." I looked and the guy was out of water. Wtf? Tracer brook was just behind us, how could he be out of water all ready. I gave him some hope in knowing that there was a unmanned station at the top of the hill. He once again had reason to push forward. Even Tamara was walking slowly up the hill, I encouraged her to stop and enjoy the view towards the South and West, which is by far one of the more spectacular views on the course. I crested the hill, got some water myself and took off running for Margaritaville which I knew wasn't far away. As I got close to the station, I saw Andy Hawley again, he talked to me about hiking (rolling my eyes) and I left him in the dust as I headed up the final hill to the aid station.

Margaritaville: 62 Miles Run Time: 14:06


As I ran into the aid station I had one thing on my mind... Solid Food. It is definitely dinner time and all I was craving was a cheeseburger in paradise. Thank god they had a few served up on a rather large platter. With the music playing Jimmy Buffett, I looked around and noticed that the amount of crews present as aid stations was starting to get smaller and smaller. It was eerily quiet actually. I watched as Jeff took off ahead of me, Adam and Eric were no where in sight. Neither was Michael Hall... or Nathan Sanel for that matter. I was chasing everyone... or was I? As I stood in the road and lathered my nether regions with a good glob of Bag Balm, I smiled happily at my crew and told them I'd see 'em at 10 Bears #2. I took off down the road and soon chased down Jeff... I didn't actually "chase" him but I caught him.. because he was walking. Now Jeff was adding an achilles injury to his list of quandaries during the race. As I came up behind him, he looked back, saw me and started shaking his head. His eyes were a bit welled up, crackle in his voice... he was now really struggling and thinking about his race being over. "I can't run anything dude." "But you're walking right?" "Yeah.. but barely.." "Barely nothing... you're walking. If you can continue waling you can continue moving forward... keep going. No quitting.. it'll go away."

I thought about my own issues as I left Jeff behind me. I wandered in and out of Browns School house very quickly after just a quick fill up of water and some more fruit. My IT Band was killing me and had locked up on a few downhills. My hamstrings were screaming in pain so bad that from time to time, the wind was knocked out of me. The blisters on my feet were growing closer to a stage of not being manageable... but none of this mattered. It's expected. I'm running 100 friggin' miles.. it's not supposed to feel good, so as I rumble down the roads and trails of Vermont, I resolve to myself to embrace the pain and use it as fuel.. fuel to get me to that finish line. As I rounded the final downhills and turns and headed towards 10 Bears #2, I was running beside AJ Johnson. As AJ spoke his words were geared towards NOT being able to make it to the Sub 24 hour cut off. I stopped him mid sentence and told him... "if you can make it to West Winds before Dark, you've still got a chance." He had worries about his virgin pacer, the night, the pains, slowing down.. but with a few more words of course knowledge and encouragement, AJ and I ran into 10 Bears together. I wished him good luck and I'd never see him again. (He did make it.. 23:25)

It had been a weird day thus far, and now the race was about to change. For most of the day I'd been fighting the urge to run ahead, to speed up and to chase people down. I didn't care too much for who was ahead of me or who was behind me. My goals were not on catching people, or picking up the pace.. my goal was to maintain and finish in under 24 hours. So far, everything was running smoothly. Surprisingly with what seemed like a higher level of negativity then normal. Most people I had run into felt like giving up, counting off reason while they'll never make it in time.. and then the thoughts started to sink into my head. Am I undertrained? Were a few of those naysayers right?? Right in saying I'd never get the sub 24 this year with the training I've done. My friend Adam had a good answer for me when he reminded me that I'd all ready run two 100 milers this year and finished Pittsfield Peaks on 7 minutes slower then the year before. Were all my days in the mountains going to pay off... or make me pay? Time was here and time was going to tell. 10 Bears #2 to the end is the last 70 miles... this is when the race finally starts.

Camp 10 Bears #2: 70 Miles Run Time: 15:47

As I got into 10 Bears I weighed in and answered some more quick questions. I stumbled off the scale and felt a bit light headed. As I re-focused my eyes, I noticed Dr. Renaldy was checking me out. Damn,... I better think of something. I stuck my hand out and shook his "I'm still sweating like a pig doc... pissin' too." He told me that that was good and that I looked great. Little did he know I was a bit light headed and really felt like I was over heating. The temp of the day was starting to cool and here I was feeling like I'd just run through a damn furnace. My skin was red, face flushed, I was dying. I needed ice water, food and a seat. I weighed in at 157.. still one pound under but doing great. I sat in my chair and changed me shoes one last time. Mike Silverman gave me one hell of a grilled cheese sandwich. Toasted bread, melted swiss and a slathering of honey mustard. Thanks Mike! After a quick breather in my chair and my crew telling me I was ahead of last year by an hour, I took a slightly longer rest before taking to the course. I had a pacer now, Steve VanOrden and the race was about to begin.

Steve is the consummate gentleman. And when I say gentleman.. I mean... Gentle Man. While shopping for new running shoes one day in the EMS I worked in, I made a new friend and sparked the imagination of a man who struggled to run half marathons. Inviting him to slow down and hit the trails, Steve took it upon himself along with my advice and trained for his first 50K in just a few short months. Steve finished that 50K and in an excellent time. A month later after not having run much in between.. Steve ran the last 25 miles of the Run Across NH with me on a whim. He trained all winter, flew to his home town in Oregon and ran the MacDonald Forest 50K there in May. Steve is no longer a struggling gentle giant of the half marry circuit. Steve is becoming quite the ultra-runner. He is positive, courageous, thoughtful, insightful.. and motivating. He would become the perfect pacer for this year.. and exactly what I needed.

We headed off down the road and took back to the trail leading out of 10 Bears. We climbed what I call Bitch Ditch... a steep and never ending climb up a drainage trench. Steve walked beside of behind me, never pushing me and allowing me to make my own pace. I struggled up that climb as my hamstrings tore, ripped and screamed. I trudged along, breathing heavily and still feeling like I was over heating. After the climb, we wandered through some expensive farm properties, down more gravel roads and I was surprised to see that for the first time in 3 years, the house party that is usually taking place here wasn't this time around. No loud music, no happy voices, no clanging bottles... just silence, a light breeze and a setting sun. We turned onto the singletrack section and I struggled to run. My IT Band hated the downhill sections.. I felt like I was losing a battle with my body... but I was still moving forward... I was never nervous, never had a sense of urgency to push.. I was just running and enjoying the run.

"You still having ass problems SJ?!" Mike Frank from Maryland had caught me and was passing on by. He joked with us a bit about my usual chaffe problems, my struggle at this years MMT, my disgusting looking feet... and of course my report which included the now infamous SUCK BOY from the 2008 MMT 100. Mike really helped me keep my spirits high and my legs moving for a bit.. and for hours after this moment in time, I would continue to chuckle my way through the woods. Thanks Mike! Steve got a good chuckle himself because he'd heard my stories in the past.. but he'd never heard another soul mention them until now. It brought life to bits of folk lore. We ran into Seabrook where I grabbed a Mountain Dew and a quick cup of soup. I stood there and drank both and then continued on telling Steve to catch up once he was squared away. My deteriorating condition had caused us to take way too much time getting this far and I knew it. We marched down the road and I caught Laurel Valley who I'd be leap frogging all day with. She smiled, "you again!?" and we entered my favorite place on the course together. My favorite place is a meadow that we enter just as the sun is setting. The sky is turning into its darker colors, all you smell is the scent of the growing grass/hay. The light wind blows, the leaves rustle and the tops of the blades or grass wave to and fro. The hill sides are turning into shadows of a day gone by now... and all you can smell is the dew reappearing after a long days heat. We re-entered the darkened woods and I pushed to get to West Winds without needing the head lamp. We came out on the road, went up the driveway and there we were... West Winds before dark...

West Winds: 77 Miles Run Time: 17:50

I asked my crew for a check on the time and my brother in law Mike told me that I was there at the same time I was there last year. My hour lead was gone and a sense of urgency had arrived. I wanted my 3rd buckle.. and now I knew I was going to need to dig for it. "Well... I guess I'm just gonna have to run a little more thats all..." I grabbed some more soup, refilled on gels and boost. Got my bottle ready and grabbed my handheld flashlight. Steve was ready quickly as well, we thanked the crew and we were once again off down the trail. For as close to the cut off as I knew we were going to be, I still felt rather relaxed. Telling myself not to worry.. just keep moving and you'll make it. No worries... I never pushed myself exceptionally hard... I just started to run a little more...

We saw a line of headlamps up above.. and when we got up above we saw a line of them down below. From West Winds to Bills is brutal. It's broken up into two 4 mile sections that are the longest 4 mile sections of your life. The hills are frequent and relentless. You have to work hard to get anywhere and any time you get into a groove and start to run... a hill quickly breaks you out of rhythm and sets you back to square one. This section becomes a real test, its what separates those who want it bad.. and those who only want it. We ended up running into a runner from Nova Scotia named Dave. His pacer was a drill sergeant. His pacer was consistently 50-60 yards ahead and running like a bolt of lightning, stopping only long enough to yell for Dave to get going and catch up to him. Dave moaned and groaned behind him, every once in a while kicking it in to catch up and maintain a pace for awhile.. only to stop and ask to catch his breath. The dude was struggling, his pacer didn't care, "come on.. lets go." We went back and forth with Dave and his pacer for a while to the point where his pacer was even trying to get us going. Steve and I would simply end up looking at each other, smiling and doing our own thing. Every once in a while, without saying a thing, I file in behind Steve and he'd automatically pick up the pace. We put together some great long stretches of running, uncomfortable running... running that hurt but it was better to run then walk. We were making great progress, past cow shed and finally to the hill before Bills. We climbed and climbed and climbed... and then, in the still of the night appeared a light in a far off field. We were there.

Bills Barn: 88 Miles Run Time: 20:59
I ran into the aid station and gave my crew my bottles. I told them NOT to touch me as I didn't want the aid station crew to see my needing any kind of assistance. The medical staff here are historically notorious for being a bit over the top with heeding caution to the runners. Last year they sat me for 10 minutes when there was nothing wrong with me and when I asked repeatedly for a reason as to why I was being stopped... no one gave me one. I stood on the scale and weighed in at EVEN 158. I was psyched, got off the scaled, grabbed food and left the barn before anyone else had the chance to give me a look over. I went to my crew, got my bottles and told them we'd see them at Polly's. Steve and I left Bill's painfully and slowly... but headed in the right direction.

Its night time.. its dark, quiet and lonely. Just me and my pacer. It's getting late and I'm getting tired. The glow of my headlamp is hypnotizing. My hand held can only do so much. I can't handle conversation, so things remain quiet as we push on. Every now and then I file in behind Steve and let him dictate the pace. He's doing a fine job as we stroll along. We hear various sounds from the woods. Bull frogs, peepers, crickets, owls, some weird shrilling screech... fire flies flicker about and Bats swoop down to snag the moths aiming for our lights. Somewhere in the process we lost Dave and his pacer... and I start to fall asleep. I feel my head drooping. I weave from left to right on the trail. Steve tries talking to me to keep me awake, and even though I can hear him, I'm not translating what he's saying... I'm really struggling... and then.. John Holt and his runner plus a few more catch us and ask us how we're doing.. "I'm sleeping." John asked me if I wanted a 5 hour energy shot. "They taste nasty but they might work." I said sure and I wait for him to hand one over as his pacer says, "oh sure.. hand it out to the competition." I muster up a tired smile, get the bottle and chug the nasty elixir as fast as I can. Its the most disgusting drink ever and burns my throat as is oozes down... "YUCK!" I remember thinking how it better work... as we began to boogie again.

Pollys: 95 Miles Run Time: 22:03
We stroll into Polly's at a slow clip as I'm finally starting to come to. I tell Steve we need to be in and out of here... he needed to stop to refill his bottles. I grumble but resign to wait. I say hi to the crew and walk right to the station table for fruit and junk. They fix Steve up, I wave thanks and we leave... Sarah yells "Good luck John!! You're gonna do it!" Damn right I'm going to do it.. I didn't come here to NOT do it. Despite being undertrained, I was listening to Adam and banking on my experience. The fact that this WAS indeed my 10th run of 100 miles or more since I started running them in April 2007, this WAS in fact my 3rd Vermont 100 and this was in fact... why I do this stuff. And then, that energy drink hit me.. it works all right. It felt like I had drank a bottle of shwartz or whatever gas it is that Barf throws into the winnebago in Spaceballs The Movie. I was going for it.. and Steve... Steve was now being dragged along. I started to put a little kick in my step knowing that most of the next 3 miles are down hill or flat. We cruised into the final aid station where I asked Steve for a check on the time of day. He told me... things were close.. but I knew I could do it. I put my head down and dug deep... we started climbing the hills as we took on the last 2 miles. We started passing a few runners, we hit the last road section and I passed a few more, "Turn right up here and then left is the last climb..." we do as I say.. into the final climb past the sign that says "1 mile to go!" I ease off a bit to save a little for the final push, we hit the top and re-enter the woods and the single track. We pass Dave Humphreys, "Where you been Sherpa?!" "Sleepin... no really!" He laughs as he just got "sherpa-d" and we pick it up a little more.

I thanked Steve for helping me and for coming up to Vermont. We passed a few more runners.. in fact in the last two miles we managed to pass 10-15 runners and their pacers. It felt so good. I spotted the glowing milk jugs and two runners ahead. I would later learn it was Chrissy Ferguson and her pacer. I turned to Steve, "The finish is just ahead, let ease off and let those guys enjoy their moment.. and then we'll head in." We slowed to a slow trot and listened for their moment. They crossed the cheers went off and then we picked it up again. Down the final hill, someone asked for my number and I yelled back, "Number ONE HUNDRED!!!!" The cheers went off as we ran towards the finish line and that illuminated Finish Line Sign. All I could do was smile and laugh, I had had so much fun. Just as comfortable as I had run most of the day, I cruised across the finish line and jumped into the air clicking my heels. As I landed back on earth.. I kept laughing and thanked my pacer and crew for their work... We did it... WE DID IT! Bib #100, for the third year in a row finished the Vermont 100 in under 24 hours! I couldn't be more proud. As much as I know that these events are physical, I knew that my mental training would over come.. and it did. It wasn't about who I beat, who I didn't beat.. it was about the journey... the amazing journey through Vermont's Hills. I cannot wait for #4.



Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run
173 Finishers 249 Starters (260 Registered)
69% Finishers Rate

Sherpa John Lacroix
23 Hours 27 Minutes (2nd Fastest 100 Mile Time)
66th place out of 173
10th of 16 in Age Division (M 20-29)
3rd Consecutive Sub 24 Hour VT100 3 for 3
10th 100 Mile Run

Congrats to ALL of the runners out there:
Adam Wilcox for finishing his first ever 100 miler. You are one strong kid and you deserve to have done as well as you did. Congrats Bud.
Nathan Sanel.. wow Man.. Jack Pilla is a great coach and you are every bit as dedicated a runner as you needed to be. So proud of you for achieving your goal and rockin out a sub 21 hour time.. Awesome Nate!
And to those who did not finish.. kudos to you for even getting to the starting line. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication both physically and mentally. There is ALWAYS next year.. and just remember.. though many say it's one of the easiest 100's, it sure as hell 'aint easy.
(Pictures Courtesy of Sarah Chretien and Miriam Wilcox

Monday, July 20, 2009

3 for 3!!


I DID IT AGAIN!

This past weekend I went three for three for sub 24 hour finishes at the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run.
I finished in a time of 23:27, my second fastest 100 mile time, just 8 minutes shy of a 100 mile and course pr.
In finishing, I also finished my 10th run of 100 miles or more, adding me to the 1,000 Mile Club.

A HUGE thank you to all of the volunteers out on the course, including my excellent crew in Sarah and Mike and the superb pacing of Steve!!

Reports, Photos and VIDEO to come soon.. let me get it all together. You know it'll be all right.

SJ

Thursday, July 16, 2009

2009 Vermont 100: Race Preview


Plus one equals TEN. Thats right, this years Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run will serve as my tenth run of 100 miles or more, adding me to the 1,000 mile club in Ultra-Land. I'm really excited about this as I'm actually starting to feel like a veteran of sorts. Although despite feeling this way, I know I still have much to learn and a long road to continue to go down. I always get excited for the Vermont 100. Of all the races I've done, this one is by far my favorite 100 miler. Everything about it make me smile. The people, the runners, the horses, the volunteers, the smells, the sights, the sounds... that tiny little buckle. I can't wait to get to the meadow, pitch my tent and step to the line to try and make it 3 for 3 on the home course. I'm excited to see my friends training pull them through to great heights and I'm excited to welcome a few newcomers to the club of 100 mile finishers.

Predictions:
Here are my tope five male finishers for the event listed in the order I think they'll finish. Good luck to them all as the mens race is shaping up to be a doozy!
1.) Jack Pilla; 2.) Wynn Davis 3.) Adam Lint 4.) Tim Shea 5.) Jason Patch
And as for the women.. Good Luck!
1.) Francesca Conte 2.) Annette Bednosky 3.) Amy Lane 4.) Laurel Valley

Weather:
As with any race here in New England, the weather tends to play a major role. It looks like the race will be run in classic New England summer weather this weekend; Hazy, Hot and Humid! Here is your forecast for the weekend:
Saturday: A chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 74. Calm wind becoming north around 6 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%. New rainfall amounts between a half and three quarters of an inch possible.
Saturday Night: A chance of showers, mainly before 2am. Cloudy, with a low around 55. Light south wind. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.
Sunday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 78. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
This forecast has changed by the hour for the last week. As is with anytime here in New England, you just never know what you're going to get. Over the last month or so we had a stretch where we saw rain 30 out of 40 days. The course is soaked. Look at this from the Horse Ride Website: "Excessive rain has the field wet in many spots and parking is going to be directed to keep trucks from getting stuck. If you do not have 4WD, park in the lower field! The gates into the field are lettered. If you do not have 4WD use gate B. If you have 4WD you can park in the upper field, gate E, by direction only. Rigs will be parked around wet areas where you can put up paddocks. If we do this right, we should be able to get 25 rigs in there. Enter the lower field using gate gate C (closest to the tent). You will not be able to put you paddocks at your trailers in the lower field but can put them across the wet area in a nice, big, dry area. Lots of you have used that area before and it works nicely. Please be considerate, we cannot save spaces for your friends. Make new friends! For anyone with a small rig, there are 4-5 spaces in the small field across from the tent. All paddocks must be towards the woods to allow for others to get in." Its going to be interested no matter what the weather does.

Thoughts:
I'm as ready as I'm going to be. Today I was thinking about what's transpired since the last Vermont 100. I found out I had anemia, sunk into deep depression and checked myself into a hospital for a few days, had a hemorrhoidectomy, ran two 100 milers, ran a 50 miler, contracted Giardia, laid in bed for a week and a half... and now I'm about to step to the line of the VT100 with every bit of energy reserved to try and break 24 hours. I have a nagging left hamstring and a nagging left I.T. Band. Its going to be a very interesting race. I am resigned to keeping some very simple thoughts in mind. 1.) Have Fun. 2.) Walk the ups, run the downs and trot when I can. 3.) Baby steps 4.) SMILE

Goals:
1.) FINISH
2.) Sub 24 Hours
3.) Sub 23 Hours

HERE GOES NOTHIN! Good Luck everyone! I can't wait to see you all!

2007 Finish

2008 Finish

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

VT100 Interview: Adam Wilcox

21st Annual Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run
July 18-19, 2009
Woodstock, VT
-----------------------------------

Name: Adam Wilcox
Age: 27
Residence: Candia, NH
Birthplace: Concord, NH
Occupation: Mechanical Engineer
Years Running: 3
Running and Other Accomplishments: 8 ultramarathons since I started this crazy business in May of 2008.
Hobbies: Rock & ice climbing, hiking, motorcycles, cars.

SJ: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Adam about yourself and the upcoming Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run.
AW: You're welcome. Glad to be here, John.

SJ: Tell us a little bit about how you became an ultra-runner.
AW: For me, ultrarunning was a natural step up from hiking. In the White Mountains, I worked my way up to 30 mile day hikes within a few years. Seeking a way to get some exercise during the work week, I began running around the neighborhood as a way to improve my speed and endurance in the mountains. It took me a few years to be able to run more than a few miles at a time, but it came to me eventually. In April of last year I ran my first race, a 20 miler, and had a great time. 3 weeks later, I managed to convince myself that a 50K isn't THAT much farther than 20 miles, and I managed to complete my first ultra. 3 weeks after that I was doing my first 50 miler, because 50 miles isn't THAT much farther than 50K, is it?

SJ: How have your hiking experiences played a role in your training for ultras and the 100?
AW: Hiking experience has been crucial. Hiking gave me the drive to go just a little bit farther every time I went out, to get early starts and commit to visiting just one more peak before heading for the car. In the mountains I learned how to stay on my feet for 12+ hours at a time, and to just keep moving steadily onward.

SJ: What was your progression through the different race distances, did you run a marathon before an ultra?
Aw: I have still never run an official marathon. My first race was the Eastern States 20 Miler, an event I still enjoy, and within 6 weeks of that first race I had completed my first 50 miler. I'm thinking I might do my first 5K in August, just to see what it's like.

SJ: How has the sport of ultra-running treated you to this point?
AW: Ultrarunning has treated me quite well. I've made close friends and managed things I never thought possible. The day after an ultra, I feel like I can handle anything that gets thrown at me in life, which has helped me pull through some tough times. Just one step at a time.

SJ: How long do you see yourself participating in ultra-running?
AW: I'm not sure. Right now my focus had been on Vermont as my first 100. Afterwards, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. I can tell you that if I don't buckle, I'll have a score to settle for the next year.

SJ: Do you have a favorite race to this point?
AW: That's a tough one. I'd have to say the Vermont 50, followed closely by Pineland Farms.

SJ: What is the toughest Ultra you've completed?
AW: Pittsfield Peaks can always be counted on for a tough race. Not only is it the longest I've done so far, 53 miles, but it's also had the most elevation gain and the toughest terrain. I seem to remember something about carrying a boulder at the end of the last one, but it's a little hazy.

SJ: So tell us a little about your Vermont 100 Run... when and why did you decide to take on the 100 Mile Distance and in Vermont?
AW: After pacing at last years' race, and getting to see Nate Sanel really fight to get in under 24 hours, I couldn't wait for my turn. I remember being at the start and seeing everyone head off into the night, I wanted to go with them. When I finished the Vermont 50, I looked inside and asked myself if I could turn around and do the course again. The answer was yes. I signed up for the Vermont 100 a few weeks later on the day registration opened. I've thought about this race every single day for the last year.

SJ: Supposing you are nervous.. what are you nervous about the most?
AW: I have some general anxiety, but I know that I've done everything I can do to prepare. Beyond that, it's out of my control, so I might as well just enjoy myself.

SJ: What previous running experiences will you take with you through to the finish line?
AW: Every step of every race and training run for the last 365 days has been an experience that I'll take with me to this years' finish line.

SJ: Buckle or Plaque?
AW: Buckle or bust!

SJ: Do you have a time goal or ANY goals for that matter?
AW: While I would be happy to simply finish, 24 hours is the real goal.

SJ: Who is your pacer and who is your crew?
AW: My father and lovely wife will be crewing me this year. They've helped me out at previous races and I've been impressed with their dedication. My pacer will be a friend from my climbing life, Keith. He's talented triathlete with some interest in ultras as well. I've trusted him with my life while ice climbing and I'm sure he'll be a huge asset to me late in the game. I know I can count on them all.

SJ: What is your overall race strategy?
AW: I'm going to try to run a steady race and conserve my energy early on. I'm told the real race starts at mile 70, so my goal is to put myself in a good position there. I want to have a little time in the bank AND still have gas left.

SJ: What are you excited about the most?
AW: I'm just excited to see whether I have it in me.

SJ: Will you be camping or staying in a local hotel or Inn?
AW: I'll be staying in my tent at Silver Hill Meadow, where the race starts and finishes. I don't mind sleeping on the ground at all, and I think the commotion on race morning will prevent me from oversleeping.

SJ: Any other 100 Milers that interest you?
AW: I'll cross that bridge after I've recovered from Vermont. Some of the mountain 100s out west catch my interest, as well as Massanutten and possibly Rocky Raccoon.

Adam we wish you the very best of luck this weekend and hope your training and ambitions find you at the finish line in under 24 hours. GOOD LUCK!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

VT100 Interview: Joe Laskey

21st Annual Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run
July 18-19, 2009
Woodstock, VT

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Name: Joseph Laskey
Age: 44
Residence: Monroe, CT
Birthplace: England
Occupation: Accountant
Years Running: Marathons: 14 years Ultras: 6 years
Running and Other Accomplishments: Winner 2007 Lake Waramaug 100k, Won the 2007 Roxbury Marathon

SJ: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Joe about this weekends race. Tell us a little bit about how you became an ultra-runner?
JL: I was trained to run a PR marathon at Boston 2003, It was hot, I didn't have a fast race and decided to try something different. The I found the Vermont 50 in Sept 2003 (yes the rain year!). I finished 19th out of 98 people and had never run more than 30 miles before the race. I was hooked !!!

SJ: How many times have you run the Vermont 100? And what were your years/times?
JL: Four Time; 2004 - 22:18, 2006- 24:15, 2007 - 23:28, 2008 - 23:19

SJ: Of those finishes, which was your favorite?
JL: 2004 just because it was my first 100

SJ: What other 100's have you run?
Western States 2007, Wastach 2007

SJ: You had a little bit of disappointment last month at the WS100, can you tell us what happened?
JL: I ran the first 70 miles of The Keys100 and had hydration issues 6 weeks before WS. The cold New England June didn't help prepare me for the Canyons and the 100 degree heat. I was part of the sodium study and my reading was 178 at Robinson Flat, it was a struggle to make cutoffs after that.

SJ: What do you think makes Vermont unique from other 100 milers?
JL: The Green Mountains!

SJ: What are the keys to success at the Vermont 100?
JL: Patience.

SJ: Any advice for the first timers joining us at Silver Hill Meadow?
JL: Drink and eat Early. Run within yourself and walk through the bad patches.

SJ: Buckle or Plaque?
JL: Buckle

SJ: Do you have a time goal or ANY goals for that matter?
JL: 23- 23:59 :)

SJ: Who is your pacer and who is your crew?
JL: No pacer, my wife and kids crew.

SJ: What is your overall race strategy?
JL: Drink and drink !

SJ: What are you excited about the most?
JL: Seeing friends old and new!

SJ: Lastly, One word to describe the VT100.
JL: Hometown Race ... ok two words :)

Thanks Joe and Good Luck!

Monday, July 13, 2009

VT100: Meet The Crew

21st Annual Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run
July 18-19, 2009
Woodstock, VT

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Running 100 Miles in One Day is no easy task. As a runner, the task at hand can at times become overwhelming. Thankfully, the lucky runners can recruit a few dedicated souls to spend an entire weekend waiting on them hand and foot. They sit patiently by the side of the road or dusty trail for their runner to appear from the course. They wait in the frigid air, they stay awake through the night, and all to deal with a cranky runner and his/her endless needs. After running this years MMT100 with no crew or pacer, my appreciation for those who I have suckered into this event has grown immensely. Without them, Sub 24 is just a pipe-dream. These guys keep the engine oiled and spinning like a top. So without further adieu, here is my crew for the 2009 Vermont 100.

Crew Chief - Sarah Chretien

Crew Experience: 2007 VT100, 2008 McNaughton Park 150, 2008 MMT 100, 2008 Run Across New Hampshire and 13 other Ultras.
Other Experience: Works the daily grind in having to put up with me.
Info:The title crew chief comes with few perks. You're in charge of the entire operation. You have the crew binder, you know what to expect and you know how to assemble the station for the runner. Sarah does all of this with perfect precision. It took her a few years of watching other crews operate and honing her own "momma loves you" skills to get it down to a science. So perfect in fact, that when Sarah is missing, its well noticed with longer station times and slower overall run times. She's the engine that runs the machine and she's got the magic touch.

Crew Member - Mike Robinson

Crew Experience: 2007 and 2008 VT100
Other Experience: Served dual role as pacer in 2008 VT100.
Info: Mike is the glue that holds it together. In all of my years on this earth, I've never met anyone with so much enthusiasm and positive energy. And thats exactly what a weary 100 Mile Runner needs late in a race. In 2007 he watched the VT100 unfold in Amazement, In 2008 he got his hands and legs dirty by diving into pacing duties. And now with two previous years experience and an insiders look at what goes down during the last 30 miles, Mike is that missing gear that keeps the other gears turning.

Pacer - Steve Van Orden

Ultra Experience: 2008 Pisgah 50K Chesterfield, NH; 2009 MacDonald Forest 50K, Oregon.
Info: Steve is your casual runner doing it the RIGHT way. Take one good look at the Tarahumara and the way they run happy, and you'll see the same in Steve. He doesn't like to run because he has to.. he run's because he wants to and it's fun. In early 2008 he listened to the wrong guy while buying a pair of shoes. Before you know it, he was training to run his first 50K. After surviving his first dance with the devils in a rain and mud soaked mess, Steve trained through the winter and made his way to Oregon to run in 50K number 2. Now Steve takes his better knowledge of our sport, his happy nature to run and his contagious determination to bring the buckle home through the foggy Vermont night.

And as always my crew for the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run will enjoy a fine and bountiful selection of beers from our sponsor: Long Trail Brewing. This years suds will include Double Bag, Blackberry Wheat and Belgian White. If you've never tried a Long Trail Ale, we welcome you to meet the staff of Team Sherpa and ask em for a free sample. They'll be happy to share the foaming brew from the back of the crew vehicle and we ENCOURAGE IT!


And of course... there are still one or two spots available on this years VT100 Crew. If you want a front lines look at what it takes to run 100 Miles or even just curious to see what it's all about, please e-mail me for more information on how you can join the party! sherpajohn@gmail.com

Sunday, July 12, 2009

NEW RECORD!

On Thursday, July 9th, 2009; Al Bernier, Adam Wilcox and myself parked at the base of the Gunstock Mountain Ski Area and set off on a wonderful adventure in The Lakes Region of New Hampshire's Belknap Range. Back in November 2007, myself, Al, Dave Dunham and Kevin Tilton set the bar at 8 hours for the peaks comprising the Belknap Range Peak-bagging List. I've wanted to return for some time and challenge our own record and today was finally the day.

There was no time for pictures on Thursday, but we did take a little time to harass a porqupine. I'm not going to write a long drawn out report about the adventure because I know that the time we set on Thursday could easily be broken by more talented runners. The trick is figuring out how to tackle the peaks in the range in a way that saves you time and has you finish the mission reasonably fast. Our time and the new standard for the Belknap Range its at 6 Hours and 35 Minutes for the following Peaks: Rowe, Gunstock, Belknap, Anna, Mac, Whiteface, Piper, Straightback, West Quarry, Major and Klem.

For pictures of the range, I would like to invite you to view Michael Halls report from a month or so ago as he spent a day in the range. His recap of the adventure there is well worth the read. You can find it by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

RISK

No, not the board game that pits you and your closest (at the start) friends in a face off for supreme global domination. But the kind of risk you experience every day of your lives. The risk you take when you turn the key to turn your engine on and putt putt out your driveway and onto the busy streets of no town. The same risk you take when you step onto an airplane to fly 6 states away (in the East). The same risk you take when you drink water from a pond or stream, the risk you take when you drink milk even though its 3 days past the expiration date.

So back up... way back... Waaaaaaay back to this past weekend. The trip report of one epic adventure is below. Sarah and I walked off the trail on Mount Washington, the most notoriously monstrous mountain in the East, in search of a seldom visited waterfall, perhaps a dead body, and later the summit at 6,288 feet in elevation. As the dust settled on an adventurous day, we never found a body (though one WAS found on Monday next to our route of descent), we never made the summit but we were left with many valuable lessons. As we walked down the Lions Head Trail with the setting sun to our backs, I gave Sarah a mini-lesson on Risk. I started to tell her that there are different kinds of risk. Perceieved Risk and Actual Risk, and we examined our day based on the definitions of these levels of risk.

Perceived Risk = Is the amount of risk which we merely think is involved within a certain activity. "Based on our own experiences, those of our friends and family, and the influence of media we create perceptions about various activities. We may, for example, believe that flying and driving are relatively safe activities. We might also come to believe that bungee jumping or rock climbing, on the other hand, are dangerous. If these activities were in fact very dangerous and a large number of people died in these activities each year (as they do driving cars) the media would quickly lose interest in telling these stories to their audience." (http://its.stgeorges.bc.ca/oed/riskmanage/risk.html)

Actual Risk = Is the amount of risk that is actual or inherently involved with the activity. Within the guise of Actual risk are two sub levels of risk. No risk and High Risk. Actual risk is based on real statistical likelihood of someone getting hurt or of there being a loss involved in the activity, whether or not that loss be to life or object.

It is amazing how everyone has a different view on risks involved with certain activities. Some folks believe that it is safer to drive to California from Boston then it is to fly. When the statistical and TRUE information actually points to the fact that flying is the safer mode of transportation. And when it comes to our case in hiking in the mountains, of course people believe that it is safer to stay on the trail then it is to travel off of the trail. But take a look at this website: http://www.mountwashington.com/deaths/index.html The website lists all of the deaths in New Hampshire's Presidential Range in history. Of all of the deaths listed, and there are some 136 of them, only three are the result of someone being lost and all of those happened in the 1800s. Were we lost on Sunday? Nope... knew where we were at all times and we even registered at the base of the mountain with details of our route.. and we checked out upon leaving for the day. I had placed numerous phone calls to a close friend of mine so he knew of our time consuming situation and checked in with him again after we had emerged from the brush. So bottom line was.. even though we were off trail, we were never lost, never in ANY danger, and someone knew of our approximate location at all times.

So lets talk about the perceived risk's involved with Mount Washington. It is the highest peak in the Northeast which boasts an average daily wind speed of 35 mph. It is not uncommon to experience winter conditions in the dead middle of summer. There are countless books, websites, documentaries and other media that boasts the mountains nature to "kill" the intrepid traveller. News agencies are very quick to report a lost hiker or an injured hiker and over-exaggerate the adventurers tale. Nine times out of ten you tell someone you're going to hike Mount Washington and they are likely to tell you that YOU are crazy. Why? Because most likely they'll never do it themselves because their level of perceived risk is perverted compared to the level of actual risk. Lets review some of the numbers again. Mount Washington is within reach to over 70 MILLION people. Lets say that on average per year, the mountain sees over 1 million visitors whether that be on foot, car or train. So in the last 100 years of history on this mountain... ONLY 135 PEOPLE have actually died and a majority of those deaths were rock climbers, skiers or unprepared individuals who died in winter of hypothermia.

Lets go back to the day Sarah and I had. Sarah, admittedly, has very little experience in the mountains. Yes, she has climbed all 48 Four Thousand Footers in New Hampshire finishing in June of 2005. But that doesn't make you an expert on hiking or adventure (surprise peakbaggers!) There are MANY hikers that could prove this point for me, and I'm thinking of a few names off the top of my head... Regardless of this fact, Sarah is inexperienced especially when it comes to being off trail. Myself... I've done the 48 peaks over 6 times, I've hiked Washington over 20 times, I've got experience in my field through my course work at The University of NH where I study outdoor education which includes classes revolving about real outdoor adventures, survival and wilderness navigation and I'm one peak away from finishing one of the tougher peakbagging lists, which boasts half a dozen decent bushwhacks. I'm no expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I know my way around the trees. Sarah's PERCEIVED risk of our activity this past weekend was MUCH different then mine. And as thus.. the story she tells post trip is different then mine. I tell a story of great adventure where we travelled to a lesser tramped place, saw an amazing waterfall and then wrestled with some trees. Sarah... Sarah almost died, we made stupid mistakes we never should have, we had no compass and we almost had to make a shelter for the night and miss a days work.

Well I'll be honest. I thought about the setting sun, Sarah's tiring legs and the prospect of potentially having to make a shelter on the mountain to hunker down for the night. While the summit itself was shrouded in the clouds, it never rained Sunday Night and winds died down to near 5mph. There was NO SERIOUS risk involved with our trip, just a butt load of frustration. Was it inherently risky to travel off trail? No not really, we had one mission, Follow the river UP. And UP led us to a place above treeline. We accomplished this mission except for traveling too far to the right while ascending the mountain bringing us slightly off our desired course but NEVER lost or in danger. Had we stayed the course along the river, we would have encountered the SAME frustration as the ones we did. Is bushwhacking dangerous? Sure, there are some dangers involved... Its time consuming, you get scratched and cut open by branches and sticks... and you could fall into a moss trap or into a hidden hole breaking a leg. But I experience the same on the actual beaten path, just at a lower level of intensity. So is bushwhacking RISKIER then taking the actual trail? Yes and No.

So lets weigh the differences.
On The Beaten Path:
Pros = Beaten path, quicker travel, people passing by on a more regular basis, knowing which way to go (most people)

Cons = More open to the rigors of the weather. Various Man Made hazards like stone stepping, rotting bog bridges, rickety ladders, and a general level of lowered respect for the mountain

Bushwhackin:
Pros = Going to a place seldom visited, Greater adventure, less people to interrupt your wilderness experience

Cons = Decaying woods, tougher navigation, time consuming, tiring

I guess what I'm trying to say is this. Some of our closest, and not so closest, friends and family have taken the time to baby and criticize the experience we had on the mountain this past weekend. And to be completely honest, those that have been quick to criticize are the ones whose actual knowledge of the mountain doesn't go much past what they have read in the paper or seen on their local evening news. "Hiker Found Dead" "Missing Masshole on Mt Wash" "Camel Hikes Auto-Road." PLEASE! I can honestly tell you folks that what we did this past weekend was safer then driving your car up the mountain or taking the 100 year old Smog Railroad. What we did on the mountain this past weekend was safer then jumping out of a perfectly fine airplane strapped to your closest strangers crotch. What we did this weekend on Mount Washington, was no more or less dangerous then taking the same old route to the top of New Hampshires Highest Peak. What we did this past weekend is safer then you typing in your bank account number to access your online banking account.

But because we had moments of frustration, fear, desperation... and we shared those feelings with you... you jump to judge our intentions of the day. You call us crazy and scold us telling us to never do it again. Ya know something... You just gave me a BETTER REASON TO FIND A HARDER ROUTE TO THE TOP. These are the same people who tell me that running 100 miles is going to ruin my knees and that "You'll feel it when your my age." Oh? Will I? What were you doing at 27 that even compares to what I am doing at 27... and how can you relate how your rickety life has turned out compared to how you THINK or PERCEIVE that mine will turn out? Because I know a lot of 40+ year olds who have lived a fantastically active life, and are in greater shape then you by a friggin' land slide in so cal.

Bottom Line.. just because you won't, can't or couldn't doesn't mean that I shouldn't or am crazy. Because when I look deep into the eyes of those quick to judge I see a soul empty of any adventure. I see souls looking for release, escape... I see people whose idea of adventure involves reading the TV guide followed by a heavy workout of channel surfing (no board needed). Risk is a dicey topic, there is a HUGE difference between Perceived and Actual risk. Before you are quick to judge or call me crazy... consider both, research some facts, ask some actual questions. And maybe I'll respect your opinion a little more.