Thursday, July 22, 2010

RR: 2010 Vermont 100

Grand Slam Race #2
Project 2010 Race #4
Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run
July 17-18, 2010
Woodstock, VT - 100 Miles
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Chariots of Fire
Music once again blared across the fields of central Vermont while 265 runners prepared to take on this 100 mile challenge. I milled around inside the tent, chomping on a bagel and almost forgetting to fill my water bottles. When the command to start finally went off, I filled in behind the crowds nicely and just settled in for a morning stroll through the hills and back roads of Vermont. I immediately found Jim Lampman and fellow grand slammer Dominic Guinta while heading down the road towards Kings Highway. We struck up conversation, settled into a little groove and this is how the first 15 or so miles was to go.

Somewhere along the way, we caught up to grand slammer Ernest Stolen and enjoyed much conversation with Ernie. Ernie is the type of guy who mumbles a lot, telling you three maybe four stories at a time, all along you have no clue what in the hell he's muttering on about. He used to live in Alaska, in a shack, off the grid. Now.. he travels the country, recently buy motorcycle he just bought on Long Island, running 100 mile races. He told us of a new medical condition he has called "Imploding Hymen." I'll let you all figure out what that is and how funny it was to hear him say it. A few miles later, Ernie is flossing his teeth while we run down the road. I couldn't stop laughing, but lost him at the Taftsville Aid Station.

From here I hung onto Ray from Nova Scotia. If you remember back to my 2009 Race Report, Ray was the guy who was cracking the whip on his runner late at night. We joked quite a bit about this. I tried to keep up with Ray but I was feeling a bit tired early. I told him I thought we had gone out too fast... maybe it was just me. It has only been 3 weeks since Western States. Either way, Ray hung on and waited for me. We talked a bit, leap-frogged back and forth for a few miles. He'd run the roads pretty damn smooth and I'd show him how to tackle the trails. And around 8am, we trotted into Pretty House.
Heating Up
While in the aid station my crew was exceptional. We've got things down to a science now. They are quick and efficient, giving me exactly what I need before sending me on my way. I had no reason to lolly-gag, it was just time to go go go. I saw Zeke Zucker at the aid table. Once I left the aid station and got out onto the main road, I spotted him up ahead. Ray caught up behind me and then quickly took off... and then I was alone for the first time all morning... chasing down "the Gentleman" himself. I worked my way up along the dirt roads and long sections of uphills. In and out of the woods, up and down driveways.. this is classic Vermont and what I love so much about this race. It's personal. It's you... the course.. and the 30+ land owners who let you run through. It is an amazing balance.

As I was climbing to the top of Sound of Music Hill I heard a few runners ahead of me. I topped out in the high meadow grass, the sun blaring down all ready. The air was heavy with humidity and haze. It was nasty. The other runners stopped for a few photos. It was nice finally being up on Sound of Music without any clouds around. As I started to run down the other side, my quads let me know how they were feeling about our little adventure. We're coming into Mile 30 and my legs all ready feel shot. I know now that 3 weeks is not enough time to rest between 100s, especially given my level of training. But I soldier on, with high hopes of success.

At the bottom of the hill I enter the woods and see Ri Fahnestock sitting on a log. I ask him if he is ok and he tells me it's not his day. He looks tired and dejected. I empathize for him and want to walk in with him but I know he'd refuse. Ri just recently came in 2nd place in the Pittsfield Peaks Death Race and was last year, 6th in the world's wife carrying championship. I know how tough the kid is.. something must be up. I continue to trot down the trail catching up with Laurel Valley, Kim and Zeke. We all talk and laugh as we saunter into Stage Road together.
The Gentleman
Leaving Stage Road I was fortunate enough to run alongside Zeke Zucker. Since 2000, Zeke has run the race on even numbered years and volunteered to work on odd numbered years. Zeke is the man whom before the race gives us a run down of the course, how to run with the horses and a bunch of other tips and advice. If he finished the race today, he'd hold the record for most Vermont 100 Finishes.. more then anyone else.. ever. So to be running down the hill with Zeke was quite an honor for me. We'd run in other races only briefly, but for whatever reason, I was elated to run with him today.

Zeke was sucking on an Applesauce Pouch as we left the aid station and headed up the steepest climb on the course. We talked for quite awhile as we made our up back and forth and up the hills in this area. He told me about Wasatch, updated me on our progress in this race, and was just overall excited. At one point I even told him that his Enthusiasm for the race is contagious and wonderful. I meant it.

The temperatures continued to rise and it just simply got hotter and hotter and hotter. I think with the humidity, this was indeed the hottest it's ever been in the 4 years I've run Vermont. You could see just how much it was starting to affect people. I love the heat.. or so I thought. More on this later. As I continued to make my way along the course, I ran into a variety of runners who said their hello's and we shared miles with. It's impossible for me to remember their names... and I feel bad about it. Maybe it's because I was in and out of a fog for awhile. Down on route 106, I came to an aid station where there is a little place I call "The Sauna-John." This porta-potty sits out in the sun every year and because of this, it's an all out sweat house. While sitting on the throne, sweat just pours down my face and into my eyes. It's terrible.

I walk over to the aid table where they scoop ice into my bottles. A little girl handed me a green ice-pop an I headed back down the road on Route 106 towards Ten Bears. Along this section I was seeing runners running down the road with pacers all ready. Friends had joined them for legs of the race. Now I really don't care what people do... but ya gotta follow the rules. If I cannot have a pacer right now.. what makes you think that YOU can?

As I ducked off of Route 106 and back onto the trail, a car pulled up and it was Nate Sanel and Ron Abramson. They asked if I was ok.. I must have looked like crap. I certainly felt like it, but I told them I was fine and they took off. I headed off onto the trail an caught up to a Grand Slammer Friend (I think it was Shawn Krause). We both wheezed and complained while we worked our way up some short steep hills in the woods, talking about how our legs were completely toast all ready. We exited the woods and was on the Jenne Farm Rd, out in the sun, no shade for the next mile. It was like being in a brick oven as it always is. I ran down the final road, chatting with a rider and her horse before arriving at Ten Bears.
The Scales Don't Lie
I ran into the Ten Bears #1 Aid stop and started barking out orders to my crew. I'm pretty tired all ready and had a laundry list of things I needed. My stomach had been turning and gurgling for quite awhile so I needed food. In the mean time I got on the scale and the Med staff told me I was 6 pounds down and on the verge of the 5%. Knowing how well I take care of myself during races... I was certain that the scale was off. When I weighed in pre-race they told me I was 172. Thats 6 pounds over my normal weight and there is no way in hell I gained nearly 10 pounds in the 3 weeks since Western States. Either way, they told me to sit down and hydrate. I sat down on a cot while a number of folks checked in on me. I felt awful and sure I looked about the same. I ate, I drank and I let my crew know how I was doing. I was tired and hot... and in my head... now I was down 6 pounds.
I got up and weighed in again.. my weight was the same but I told them I was leaving. As I walked up the hill, I saw John Bassette, the pacer coordinator, and I spoke to him about the scales. He told me it was fine and everyone had been weighing in light and he sent me on my way after a short pep-talk. I worked my way down the dirt roads, out in the open again and quickly over heating. This is the hottest part of the day and it's really taking it's toll on me. For the first time EVER in a race... I was not liking the heat. When I got to agony hill, I had a tough time getting to the top. I had to stop and rest against a few trees, catching my breath and just all around feeling like crap. My legs were killing me, I had some chest discomfort, I was overheating... the wheels were coming off quickly now.. and I knew that the next time I saw the crew we'd need to have a talk.

I rolled into Pinky's around the same time I normally do but I felt awful. I'm just past half way through the race now and things are coming unglued. I walked over to the aid table and checked in. I sat down to another runner who looked to be on some other planet, zoned out, not even talking. He had that million yard stare going on... the lights were on but no one was home. Another runner was trying to figure out a way back to Silver Hill.. she'd dropped. I just sat back and listened to it all. This race was truly starting to get interesting. Just then Eric Ferland came in and I got up out of the chair and started to walk. I called him out and he chased me down after a few minutes. We shared a few miles as we ran towards Birminghams, Eric was a great pick me. We laughed a bit, talked about how each others race had been going.. it was nice to share some down time with someone.

After Birminghams I walked through the rutted field and back onto the trail. Eric passed me and took off, I tried to shuffle along. At one point my foot got caught up on a rock and I fell hard landing on my back and doing a roll off of the trail. I got up and walked it off. I realized that I was really in the weeds now, struggling to focus my vision, still hungry, my stomach doing flips, nausea and overall not in a good place. I was alone again and just worked my way down to Tracer Brook where my crew was waiting for me again.
The Meeting
As I sat down in the chair at Tracer my crew had shown up with a variety of amazing foods per my request. I ate a Caramello and I forget what else. I was tired of the aid station foods. Nothing was settling right or filling me up. I called my crew around to tell them what was going on. I told them about the chest discomfort and being in and out of the weeds a lot. So far in this race I'd had more extreme ups and downs then I'd ever had before. I told them that while I knew I was still on track for a sub-24 hour buckle, the overall goal is the Grand Slam and if I needed to switch my mind set over to surviving this thing.. then thats what I'm going to do. My brother-in law told me it was 5pm and I had plenty of time and still on track. I wonder if he knew what I was trying to say... but I didn't want to be anything other then vague at this point. What I really wanted to say was, "Hey guys... I'm fuckin beat... and I'm not doing so hot out here." Instead all I could reply with was... "Well.... Get ready for a long night."
I joked that one year I wanted to do this on a horse and just then, I saw a girl trotting around with some kind of horse costume on. As I stood up, this was one funny sight an then... a GAC runner was puking her brains out on the side of the road. What the hell. I put my head down and started trudging my way up towards Margaritaville. Suddenly I was joined by Caitlin Martin, a noob 100 miler from New York. We talked to the top of the hill out of Tracer Brook where I promptly dunked my heads and half my torso into a horse trough.  Caitlin took off in a hurry while I continued to walk uphill. The puking GAC runner caught me.. her name was Paula... and she was NOT friendly. As we made our way up Prospect Hill I tried to encourage her and talk to her. This was her 3rd Vermont 100... she was having an awful time and didn't want to talk. So I left her..

Once at the top of the hill I picked it back up into a trot. My legs were killing me and each step was more painful then the last. I knew the station was coming quick and I walked up the final hill. Then I looked up and saw Josh and Leah... two new crew members! They were waving and hollering, taking pictures and just a welcomed sight. They walked me into the aid station and I wondered what I looked like to them. At Margaritaville I went up to the aid table and snagged a Cheeseburger and a Corona. I went back to my chair and asked my crew for Advil. "I've never seen someone take an advil with a corona.." Someone said, "Well... SEE IT!" I plopped the pills in my mouth, chugged some beer and ate some of the burger. My crew loved it.. and so did I.
Hammer Time
Not far down the road out of Margaritaville my legs went numb. Was it the beer? Was it the Vitamin I? Whatever it was... I was ready to roll. I methodically worked my way to Browns School House/Grateful Dead where I saw Gary. We joked a bit, of course inappropriately before I took off down the trail. I made my way to the top of the trail and took the hard right and started hauling butt downhill towards 10 Bears 2. For whatever reason, the section from Margaritaville to 10 Bears is a magical section for me, where I am able to hammer it and make up some time. I was really booking it downhill towards 10 Bears and this was not making my stomach any happier. I had a stop a few times to walk to avoid throwing up. once the feeling went away I picked it back up into an all out run again.
I made the final turn and head back to 10 Bears 2. At the top of the hill I had caught Laura Bleakley. My buddy Drew was yelling to egg her on, telling her she was "dragging the anchor up the hill," thats me. We talked for a short moment before I made my way to the the scales. I was fired up. I threw my waist pack to my crew, stepped on the scale and they told me 165... 2 pounds lower then the last time I was in here but they gave me a pass. Apparently someone talked to the medical teams about the scales being off. I ran into the porta potty where I sat for a bit. Drew threw rocks at the thing and it annoyed me greatly. I staggered out and ate a grilled cheese sandwich and a few other odds and ends. Katie was ready to roll... and just then a woman came over to say hello. She'd been following my odyssey since my hiking days and was excited to see me.

Kate The Great
I said thanks to the crew, grabbed my gear and Katie and I headed off down the road again. Katie is my pacer and a friend from school. At 20 years old, she's never run further then maybe 13 miles before. I really never asked but I knew her longest run hadn't been far. One a trip for class back in March, we got to talking about 100 Milers as she runs for school. It was then that I got it in my head to ask her to pace me here. I didn't think she'd say yes... and she did... and I didn't think she'd actually show up... and she did. So here we were, my struggling through the final miles of another 100 miler with Katie. I've made it a tradition of mine to ask someone new to pace me every year at this race... and someone who I think would be most inspired by seeing the course from a different light. Katie was a fine candidate.
As soon as we hit what I call SOB Ditch of the VT100, I came to a near halt while I struggled up the hill. I had to stop and take a breath a few times. My legs burned and hurt again. My heart pounded hard and I was tired. Katie did her best to encourage me and she did a good job. We reached the top of the hill and walked through the expensive farmhouses and along the quite fields. The sun setting to our left and the wind blowing enough to make the tall grasses wave about. It was something to see. Just then, through the trees up ahead, we saw lightning light up a huge cloud bank. There was no thunder, but it was quite a show.

Down at the Seabrook Aid station it was dark now. This is the latest it's ever been in the 5 years I've run a distance at this race. I got into the aid station and sat down again, sipping on some soda and eating chips. To my left was a runner talking about dropping out at West Winds and another guy contemplating it. I need to get away form these people.. where quitting is an option. Because at that moment.. it actually sunk into my head... am I going to make it? Should I drop too? I rose to my feet and we made our way to the Magic Meadow. This meadow is great. The grass so high this year that it's over our head in spots while we march up along a long rock wall. I tell katie it reminds of that scene in Shawshank Redemption where Morgan Freeman is looking for the volcanic glass. The wind blew and the grass waved more, I loved it. Back into the woods and we made our way to West Winds.

Down for the Count
Climbing the hill lined with glowing bags into West Winds I felt awful. For some reason the hill felt forever long though I know its not. I was just crawling. As I entered the aid station I asked where I weigh in. They haven't had a weigh in here since 2006. I asked where to go, no one knew what I was talking about, not even me. As we stopped, my stomach just did flips. I felt like there were people everywhere, throwing up, laying down. I went into the porta potta and while in there, I heard people outside yakking their brains out. I walked out and told Sarah I just needed to lay down. My crew wrapped me in a blanket and I used Sarah's lap as a pillow. I laid there and told them to give me 10 minutes. After 10 I asked for 10 more.. then it started to rain a bit. Then 15... pretty soon.. I had napped for an hour and a half.
As I woke up I hear a voice. It was Bill Salmon. He asked me what was going on and I told him I'd run out of ideas. He told me to get back on the salt and it'll help me pee. It had been 4 hours since I last peed at all. My back was starting to hurt. I was really worried. I thought for sure I'd piss blood any minute and my race and the grand slam would be over. I sat up, looked to my right and there was Shawn, he'd been napping too and was thinking of quitting. I told him to just get to Bills... walk if you have to. And while I talked to him, I was giving myself a much needed talk.. I didn't even know I was talking.. I was listening while words came out of my mouth. I shot up and asked for my stuff and my pacer and I slowly walked out of West Winds... headed into the night.

On the way to Bill's was tough. Even though I'd just napped for over an hour, I was exhausted. It was tough to keep my eyes open and I weaved left and right on the road. Katie caught me once from falling into a ditch. We laughed a bit as we continued on. I've gotten pretty good at sleep running down the road. The miles just tick by while I close my eyes and let the roll under my feet. And then I couldn't hack it anymore. I found a flat piece of grass and laid down asking Katie for 5 minutes. I was out like a light and when she shook me awake... I had no idea where I was but knew I had to keep moving. I got up and kept going again. 20 Minutes later... another 5 minute nap. I was doing whatever it took to get myself to this damned finish line. The buckle was certainly gone, but I needed to finish this thing. The good news was, about a mile out of Bills.. I had peed... and I had been peeing ever since. Things might be turning around.

At Cowshed I sat down next to a male runner. He looked how I felt. His wife was his pacer, there was some tension there you could tell. I fed some oreo's to an old dog wandering around the station. I got up and we ran some more. Just down the road from Cowshed I was sleepy again, and in my sleepy stuper, I started seeing cars and tents and signs to my right. In my head, something jumped me awake and I stopped us dead in the road. Now wide awake, I told Katie we'd gone the wrong way. "No this is it, I just saw 2 runners go down the hill." "No... this is wrong.. really wrong. There are no cars like this anywhere on the course." We turned and I forced us to run back uphill to the cop car. She asked the cop which way to go and sure enough we had gone the wrong way. We righted the wrong and kept going. I was wide awake now and broke out into telling Katie a story, anything to keep us moving and smiling now. I said, "Ya know what sucks is that we got lost and ended up at the finish line... how demoralizing to know my tent is right there!."

Goodmorning Bill's
We got into Bill's sometime close to day break. I'd never seen this place in the morning light and it's gorgeous. Mount Ascutney right near by. I went in and weighed in at 165 pounds, same weight I was at back at 10 Bears. They asked if I was ok and I said yes. I just wanted to lay down. I went outside where my crew was and wrapped myself up in a blanket. Told them I wanted soup and grilled cheese and I wanted it in 10 minutes. They let me sleep a bit and when I woke up, I had soup and grilled cheese.. Sarah helped feed me. I overheard my brother-in-law talk to someone about me  only having 4:30 to get into the finish line from here. I had about 12 miles to go. I was pressed for time and getting worried now.. how was I going to do this? My legs are shot, my brain is fried, the sun is coming up and its getting warm all ready.. it never really cooled off last night. I still feel terrible.
As I sat there wrapped in the blanket I just wrapped my head around the task at hand. There isn't much time left. I've always said that there is an A and a B. It doesn't matter what happens between A and B, or long it takes.. the only thing that matters is that at B you look great. I knew a ton of folks had dropped out of this race in what had shaped up to be one of the toughest Vermont 100s on record... and my toughest go at this race as well. My 4th time running here and it's my worst time running here. I wasn't going to get my 4th buckle... but damn it I wanted to stay alive in the grand slam. This sport is all about coming back from the dead... no matter how many times you need to resurrect yourself. Its why the skeleton is running on my leg.. it's about stripping yourself to the bones and still running on. I got to my feet once more... and we kept running.

Now I don't know what it is about the section between Bills and Polly's but Katie and I somehow found an hour out there. I howled down any trail downhill there was and shuffled on the roads. I filed in behind my pacer as she settled into a comfortable pace and led me down the road. We made up a lot of time, running through more fields while enjoying the sunrise. I'm a blaze of glory running out there, finding m way along the course and then there it is... Polly's. We run in and the crew is waving for me and yelling. I run right to the aid table. I lean against the water cooler sipping some ginger ale. This is truly where the ultra-runner is defined. I'd been defining it all night. When the going gets tough the tough get going. When things feel bad... wait.. it'll most certainly change. When you feel good your bound to feel bad and when you feel bad your bound to feel good.. even if its after you finish. This is Mile 95.8, there is no quitting here. Only those who thought of quitting before they start get it in their head to start here. The last 4 miles of this race are virtually cake... its time to get to work. I grab my handhelds and I'm off.
The Final Struggle
I saw Samy running around out there. He runs NH Crossfit and is Laura Bleakley's crew. I asked where she was and he told me she dropped at 84. I felt awful for her... this was her redemption race. Myself, I was doing what has come to be known as "The Sherpa Shuffle." I scooted along the roads while Katie egged me on trying to get me to move. I moved at the fastest clip I could for the time being. When we finally go to those final hills, Samy was out there with some crazy guy picking Berries and a runner named Len. Len was doing great.. it was his first 100. I tried my best to encourage him as we moved along and before you knew it.. other runners had started coming out of the woods too. Everyone was just really pushing each other on, encouraging each other, I've never quite seeing anything like it. It was as if we were all on the verge of death... and our peers were out there holding our hands.. we were in this together till the bitter end.

At the fire tower we went back into the woods. I thank katie for her help.. I couldn't have done this without her. I started to tear up, knowing the struggle I had just survived here in Vermont. If it could have gone wrong.. it just about all did out there. We made our final turn and I could hear the finish line. Adrenaline kicked in and I picked up into a sprint and for the last 1/4 mile... I ran as fast as I could across the finish line. When I got there I spiked my water bottle.... I was done.. it was done.. 3 weeks is not enough time between 100s but I'd beaten the clock. I was still alive in the grand slam.. and my summer of 100s continues..
28 Hours 58 Minutes 21 Seconds
136th out of 153 finishers
11 out of 12 in Class
284 Starters - 55% finishers Rate


ON TO LEADVILLE!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Race Preview: 2010 Vermont 100

Grand Slam Race #2
Project 2010 Race #4
Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run (& Ride)
Woodstock - VT (One Big Loop)
102 Miles
14,000' of Climb : 14,000' of Descent
July 17-18, 2010
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It seems like only yesterday that I was running 100 miles through the rugged hills of the Sierra Nevada... perhaps that feeling is simply because it practically was yesterday. Three weeks is all that separates the Western States 100 and the Vermont 100, the two oldest 100 mile races in the country. For those who know the history of Ultra-running (100s) in America, you'll also know that Vermont is one of the very few (2) races that still holds a horse race along side the running event. Vermont is also the 2nd race in the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, finishing the race signifies the halfway point in the summer long journey. It's also race number four on our year long Project 2010.

I LOVE VERMONT. This truly is the race, of all the 100s, that I love the most. I've come to know the course like the back of my hand. I reply sections of it in my head on a daily basis.. always dreaming of the next time I'll get to run through the fields of Vermont on a fiery summer day. Temps are looking to soar into the mid 80's with the air being a thick hazy, hot and humid. We're likely to get our yearly Friday night dinner time thunderstorm. And it's going to be a cool night on the way to Bill's Barn. Yes, as you might be able to tell, I actually do get pretty damn excited for this race. Call it home field jitters, home field advantage and home field excitement. I'm stoked... I'm ready to go.. let's do this!

For the fourth year in a row I'll be sporting bib# 100 at this race. It's my lucky number of course. My crew is sure to be huge! If you're going to the race, be sure to say hello to Team Sherpa. They'll be wearing the white hats and visors (Thanks Headsweats!) that say "Human Potential" on them. They'll be having a hell of a time, they might even share their Long Trail Ale!! Sarah, Mike, Loni, Steve, Josh, Leah and my rookie Pacer Katie. I've got a dream team this year! We're going for that 4th buckle in a row! Lets see if these legs have the gas to do it!

Sarah will be providing updates via cell phone on my twitter account: http://www.twitter.com/sherpajohn
Check in to get race updates of yours truly!

History:
2007: 23:19
2008: 23:37
2009: 23:27
2010: ???

2010 Race Goals:
1.) Finish
2.) Sub 24 Hours
3.) Sub 23 Hours

VT100 Interview: Eric Ferland



Name: Eric Ferland
Age: 35
Hometown: Meredith, NH
Years Running Ultras: 4
100 Mile Finishes (& Names): none, yet.
Ultra Achievements: This year Pineland Farms, Peaks Ultra 54, and
unofficially Pemi Loop. Being a dad.

SJ: Eric, thanks for taking the time to talk to us about this weekends Vermont 100.
EF: I’m stoked, I can’t stop thinking about it.

SJ: You've run the Vermont 50 three times (Once the 50K, twice the 50M), is there something special about Vermont that draws you to the races there or is it simply locality?
EF: I love VT, at our house our primary sport is skiing. We spend a lot of time in the woods of VT hiking around and skiing in the winter and running in the summer. Also the Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports program is a fantastic host and beneficiary of these VT races.

SJ: You ran the Mount Washington Road race this year in 1:33, a VERY good time for an uphill event; how did this factor into your training for Vermont?
EF: It doesn't its just something fun. I have tried off and on to get a spot in the Mount Washington Road via the lottery, and was never successful. So I read that you could bypass the lottery if you were to run every race in a New England Mountain Running series and that's what I did last summer. It seemed like every weekend running 3 -7 miles up some mountain. Anyway so I got in and finally got to run Mount Washington, where we also spend time skiing in the spring.

SJ: Given your past runs in Vermont and this years MWRR, what are the strengths you bring into the VT100 this year?
EF: I had more time for longer runs this season not racing every weekend. I also started power lifting in the off season so I think I am stronger overall. I have also been figuring out my nutrition trying to find out why I get tired and how to snap out of it using aid stations. I would like to think I’m a bit more informed this year.
SJ: You were pulled during last years Vermont 100, what happened that led to that decision by the medical staff? (if this isn't what happened.. tell me and I'll adjust the question to your answer)
EF: Well, I knew I was in a bad spot I had gone hours without peeing, I was throwing up everything I tried to put down, and I was cramping badly but still shuffling along. My pacer Chris Martin who by the way is awesome, had me convinced I was still doing great and could finish. I keep my problems to myself so I would not alarm my wife and 11 year old who were and still are my crew. At Margaritaville I told Chris my pacer what was going on still in his pacer role got me some tums and told me to keep trying to drink but it would still come back up. Finally I gave up. Chris now changed roles and moved to experienced ultra runner and asked if my back hurt I told him yes I was having bad cramps in my lower back for some hours now. Chris knew what was up and said we should go to Camp 10 Bear to get checked out. I was not there long before the Dr told me I was out of the race I told him that's fine I already dropped. He then told me to go to the nearest ER, from the ER I went to ICU for the night and was told I had rhabdomyolysis (Rabdo). So yeah that was fun.

SJ: So you're back in 2010 for another go at it... are you looking for redemption?
EF: I’m definitely looking for redemption I hate to fail and would have loved another go at it the very next weekend.

SJ: That being said, do you have any time goals for this years race?
EF: I want a buckle and I want to wear it everyday for at least a month. I’ll keep tyring until I get one.

SJ: In your mind, what is the best part about the Vermont 100?
EF: That I still have a buckle to earn, its still a mountain for me to conquer.

SJ: Say you met someone running the race for the first time, what advice would you give them heading into the race from your previous experience here?
EF: Don’t go out too fast its a long day, and to drink even if they don’t have to.

SJ: Eric, good luck to you this weekend at Vermont. We're all rooting for you to reach that finish line this year!
EF: Thanks man, have a great race and I hope to see you on the trail.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

VT100 Interview: Donny Andreas


Name: Donny Andreas
Age: 43
Hometown: Seneca Falls, NY
Years Running Ultras: 4
100 Mile Finishes: VT100 2009 only finish (Pittsfield Funeral Run - 2008 DNF at 50 mile, Iroquois Trails 2009 - DNF at 50 mile)
Ultra Achievements: 2006 CanLake 50 - Rite of Passage: First 50k finish. I've been wearing big boy pants ever since.

SJ: Donny, thanks for taking the time to talk to us about ultra-running and this weekends Vermont 100.
DA: Hey John. Thank You for actually asking me about running. Usually when I talk about running, it sometimes induces running - I mean my friends and family actually start running away from me. They can't take another conversation about my Born-Again reverence towards the miracle of Glide and the new healthy testicles I have because of it.

SJ: You've been running ultra's for almost 4 full years now, tell us what it was that got you into the sport at age 39.
DA: I had been running shorter distances since the midlife crisis age of 35. I started running in an attempt to control some rampant anxiety issues - you know, dissipate some unchanneled energies. I was automatically drawn to the longer distances as my conditioning developed because I am sort of addicted to long sessions that involve repetition. I like the hypnotic aspect of it, the clear mind, the occasional spark of insight and the beautiful exhaustion that ensues. Ok, John promise me none of this gets back to my overpaid therapist. I'm still trying to make her work for it.

SJ: You've run the Finger Lakes 50's four times now, what is so special about that race to you? What is it that has you going back?
DA: Interesting question because this is a touchy race for me. Confession first: I keep showing up every year because it is the closest ultra from my front door. This is a multi-loop race where you get to decide mid-run, as you are passing through the check-point station, whether or not you will complete just the 50K or continue on for a final loop for the 50 mile. This is an unusual courtesy from the race director but it turns out to actually be a curse. Every year I have unwavering intentions of running the entire course but every year I get weak. I finish only the 50k. And this is a relatively non-technical course with not a lot of elevation. The challenge is completely mental. I suppose that is the allure of it.

SJ: You ran a little race I know very well called Pittsfield Peaks for the second time this year. You finished 17 minutes faster this year over last. What do you attribute to your consistency and your ability to finish faster this time around?
DA: OK, so please note the embarrassingly uncontrolled drama and excitement in my voice...(I just peed a wee bit)...Yes, I really LOVE that race and I LOVE that course. I am a flatlander over here in Seneca Falls and Pittsfield, in comparison, is like an amusement park for me. I am pretty much a control-freak, yes, just like all you other ultrarunners, but this course sort of unhinges my obsessive need to consciously direct my pace, monitor caloric intake and attend to the rest of the items on that long laundry list of things-to-do while running an ultra. For me this run brings out a more intuitive approach. I have to let go a lot more and really be receptive to the terrain. I have to let the run be as fluid as possible and I have to allow myself to be acted upon by the elevation instead of acting upon it - ebb and flow, no forcing. So, yes I did finish this bitchofacourse faster and in some pretty muddy conditions. This was not due to my slop-fest training schedule or my unwieldy pearl izumi trail shoes (crutches would have been faster).
SJ: In the Vermont 100 in 2009, you finished in 26:55, very respectable for a first 100. What will you do differently this year at the race?
DA: Ya, I got people this year - a crew! However, they just think its a mystery weekend of Cosmos and Lemon Drops. So, last year was crazy.. I was a mess before the race. I went by myself with pretty much two water bottles and a heavy waist pack filled with hospital-grade first-aid supplies, convinced I would be performing major surgery on myself every other hour or so. This year, there will be a little more practical organization, a few extra squares of toiletpaper and a lot more personal support. I will still adhere to the "no sitting rule." The downfall is knowing that I finished last year's run while under the intoxicating aura of blissful ignorance; a one-time-only high.

SJ: Do you have any time goals for this year?
DA: If I sub 24 this, it would be a huge accomplishment but time aside, the goal is to have a good, strong run while remaining injury-free.

SJ: Why did you choose to return to Vermont as your second 100?
DA: It gives me a chance to confront the big 100 mile challenge again. For me, there is a lot of physical, mental and emotional stuff in a race that long. It's at the very least a serious mental exercise. I am intrigued by getting myself into trouble and then trying to fight my way out - a little masochistic I suppose but the end result is a growth experience, for sure.

SJ: Do you have a pacer for this years race? Who is it?
DA: Yes, so Mark Boone, my brother-in-law, has graciously accepted the challenge to run a few sections of the course with me in the late hours of the night. I warned him of potential outbursts of surly behavior, my irascible affliction with irritable bowel syndrome and most importantly, he is to understand that 20-minute miles are considered Blisteringly Fast at 2:00a.m. He promised to oblige. Crewman and nephew Eric Davids might be able to help out for a few hundred yards, although he needs prompting that this is not a contact sport. My sister Michele might even surprise me with throwing in a few miles at the end.

SJ: What has your training looked like this year heading into the run? Do you use other ultra's to train?
DA: I have had a real problem with consistency this year. Actually, one of my most undisciplined years to date - just a lot going on. My mileage has been all over the place. My only saving grace is that I have had four shorter ultras since April: Mind the Ducks - 40 miles, Highland Forest - 30 Miles, Pittsfield Peaks - 53+mud and Fingerlakes 50's - 50k. My most consistent activity has been watching television while thinking really hard about running. Fingers are crossed.


SJ: How do you think Pittsfield Peaks helped you in your training for this years event?
DA: It was a critical race for me. It served as my longest and most difficult run and the timing of it is pretty good. That is an annual must-run.

SJ: Donny, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us about this years Vermont 100. We wish you the best of luck in achieving your goals!
DA: Thanks John. I am looking forward to spending time in Vermont this weekend - it's kind of like Christmas. Oh, so there was this really helpful guy I met back in October 2008 at the Pittsfield Funeral Run. I was attempting my first 100 miler over the Halloween weekend. So, I ended up DNF'ing at 50 miles. We were talking a little bit after the race and he offered to help train me for last year's VT100. So just wanted to thank him for helping me achieve some important personal goals. Hope everyone has a good run this weekend!

Monday, July 12, 2010

VT100 Interview: Cherie Yanek


Name: Cherie (Cheryl Yanek)
Age: 31
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Years Running Ultras: 4
100 Mile Finishes: Vermont 100 (2009): 29:01; Umstead 100 (2010): 22:32

SJ: Cherie, thanks for taking the time to talk to us about the upcoming Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run.
CY: Thanks. I'm really excited about the race.

SJ: So Cherie, how the heck did a girl like you get into ultra-running and when did you get into it?
CY: In 2006, I met this girl via Craigslist when I was seeking a running partner. We're great friends now, but shortly after we met, she canceled on me for a run. "Sorry, I just ran an ultramarathon." I had always wanted to do an ultra, but wasn't sure what it entailed. I asked her a million questions. It had been her first ultra - the Jay Challenge (no longer around), but the next year, she and I signed up together. You ran through brooks and streams for several miles, up and down Jay Peak (ski mountain), through swamps, mud pits, up sand dunes, up and down super steep technical trails, even by a small waterfall. I learned I suck at technical running, but I had a good time at the same time. It was one of the hardest things I ever did - but I loved it.

The next year, I ended up doing 2 50ks and 2 50 milers. I discovered running ultras becomes very addictive.

SJ: So of all the races you've run thus far, do you have a favorite?
CY: Hmmm, it's tough to pick. I got my PR at Dick Collins 50 Miler, and that was a blast - great course, great aid stations, great people. San Fran 50 Miler (North Face) has beautiful views. I also really liked the Vermont 100 Miler, except the parts where I was crying with pain.

SJ: And now you're a race director. Tell us about the race you are directing this coming September.
CY: I'm hosting (and running) what I hope will be the First Annual Burning Man Ultramarathon. There was a 5k at Burning Man (which was a lot of fun!) but I always felt like an ultra would be the ultimate Burning Man Challenge.

Burning Man is a week-long festival of arts, music, and radical self-expression out in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. You have to be completely self-sufficient (bring food, water, tent, etc.), and there is no exchange of commerce (save ice and coffee). People bring whatever talents, skills, and forms of entertainment they have to offer (i.e., DJing, cocktail parties, pancakes for everyone, sculptures, lectures, skill sharing, yoga, bars, etc.), and share it - completely free.

Part of Burning Man is about bringing yourself, whoever that is. I've hosted the Librarian Cocktail Party the past two years, but always wanted to host an ultra. I met someone wearing a Western States Party at one of the "clubs" at Burning Man, and after talking with a few other runners, decided to do it. My friend is helping me (he doesn't run so he'll be timing everyone), and the Burning Man Organization has been really great and supportive - they're having medical crews help out.

There will be some great costumes, support from art cars, and I'm sure lots of hilarious moments you won't find at other ultras. (Last year, during an easy 9miler, some people from the Death Guild Camp (Heavy Metal Camp) chased us with whiskey and beer, trying to (and occasionally succeeding) pour them into runners' mouths.)
People are really excited - we have a lot of people who want to volunteer. One of my friends will be organizing a water gun fight right along the course so the runners will get wet - which will be nice, as temperatures can easily, climb up to above 100, but hopefully, most runners will be done before then. Right now, there are about 30 runners signed up, but I hope for more.
More info here:
http://sites.google.com/site/burningmanultramarathon/home
http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=174362476725&ref=ts

SJ: So lets turn our attention to this years Vermont 100. This is your second time running at the VT100, what made you decide to come back?
CY: I loved the course - it was absolutely beautiful. The volunteers were great, the aid stations wonderful, (and I won't neglect to mention the amazing cookies at Margaritaville!), it was really well-organized, and close.

I had a tough race last year and am hoping to have a much better race this year - I hope to break 24 hours!

SJ: In last years race you finished in just over 29 hours, what are your goals for this years race? Is this about redemption in a way?
CY: Kind of. Last year, I had a pretty terrible allergic reaction to the dye of my socks. My feet broke out in splotches, swelled up really big, and I had blisters in between and underneath every single toe, and around my foot. It was so painful, I could not bear to run downhill at the end (or uphill). I walked so much. When I finished, I went straight to the medical tent.

I really hope that I can run smart and not run into any problems like that. I had surgery in early May, so I had to take some time off, but I think that has helped me rest.
I hope to buckle this year!

SJ: Having run Vermont, what would you say are the bigger challenges of the race?
CY: I guess pacing yourself. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement and go out too fast.

SJ: What strengths do you bring to the race that are going to help you succeed?
CY: I have a positive attitude. I love running and meeting new people, and an ultramarathon is kind of like a party to me.

SJ: Do you have a crew or pacer? If yes, who are they and what experience do you rely on in them?
CY: My friend Matt offered to pace me. He's run a couple marathons (he's quite fast!), but has never done an ultra. He's planning on riding his bike over from the Adirondacks in NY, and then running the last 30 miles. He's really excited about watching the race.

My friend Deidre just ran her first 50k back in March, the Caumsett 50k. She is intrigued by the world of ultras, and is really enthusiastic. She offered to crew me.

They may switch between crewing and pacing, and I'm excited to have both of them helping me.

They're both part of my local running club, North Brooklyn Runners, which is primarily made up of 5k/10k/Half/Marathoners. There's a few ultrarunners, and I'm hoping to convert more people.

SJ: What are you most concerned about heading into the race this year?
CY: The heat worries me a bit, and I hope it doesn't destroy me.

Also, I've had a history of stomach problems in the past (It probably cost me at least an hour at Umstead 100 Miler, and at least 30 minutes at Vermont 100), so I hope my stomach behaves.

SJ: Cherie, final question; For many ultra-running is about being a part of something bigger than yourself. Family, friends, What about the Vermont 100, in your opinion, best exemplifies this sentiment?
CY: The Vermont 100 is an amazing place where I remember WHY I love to run - because you meet amazing people, you have great runnable paths, there's amazing support, pretty scenery, your friends and family can watch you. I have a saying - It all comes back to running. At Vermont, it truly does.

SJ: Cherie, the very best of luck to you this weekend in Vermont. We're all rooting for you and wish you luck in achieving your goals.
CY: Thanks so much! I'm looking to see you out there on the course.

You can peek into Cherie's world via her blog at: www.worldofcherie.blogspot.com

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

RR: 2010 Western States 100

PROJECT 2010 RACE #3
Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run
June 26-27, 2010
Auburn, CA - 100.2 Miles
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The Finger of God
Driving down past Donner Pass towards the start of The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, I peered up to the sky to something I didn't expect and what I found to be a bit unusual. There was something wrong the the moon. We were supposed to have a full moon for the run. Was it a smudge? Was it a cloud? Am I seeing things before the race even begins? Just then, Bret my crew member and pacer said, "That must be a partial eclipse." I wasn't going crazy after all and instead I realized with a smile on my face that the stars were aligning this morning and what appeared to be a smudge on the moon was perhaps the finger of god himself... or perhaps a sign from someone else watching from above.

I've struggled to get into this race over the last four years. First qualifying in 2006 with a sub 11 hour run of 50 miles in Vermont. I'll openly admit it was that book by "Karno" that had sparked the interest in me to even run 100 miles. I was all ready an ultra-runner when I had run it. It was his descriptions of this race that set my imagination afire. Could I do this? Could I run 100 miles. On the long road to Squaw I'd proven many times that I could.. but could I do it here? This isn't your average Ultra run. It's super-hyped, it's the championship race, it's the big dance, the big show and up until this very moment, standing in a sea of 400+ runners at the base of a mountain, I'm complacent. I'm not excited, I'm not jazzed up.. to be honest I'm a little bit sleepy from a long day of traveling the day before. I'm starting to feel like this ultra-running thing has become my job. What is there to be excited about? I haven't really done the work yet. Some folks say the work comes in the form of your training.. not me.. the work comes into play when you're standing at the time clock ready to punch in for the day.. and give it all you've got. Thats where I am now.

I stand in the cold morning air at the base of Squaw with Sarah and Bret, my faithful crew for this grand adventure. I also stand there with Jeff Genova, Alan Giraldi and Christian Griffith. The clock ticks down and Gordy Ainsleigh takes the microphone. This guy is the whole reason we even run these things. He's tall, lanky.. and looking old. His beard is a bright shade of white and so is his flowing hair. He almost looks like Doc Brown from Back to the Future. A hush falls over the crowd and he tells us that before us "is the holy grail. Have a great journey." A great journey... so many times in my running life I've heard people tell me to have a great race, break a leg, good luck, etc etc.. but have a great journey. FINALLY someone seems to get it and puts it quite well. Just then, I wait to hear that booming shotgun blast that starts us off. Instead I hear a dud of an air gun go off, hooting and hollering.. and 40 seconds of us walking to the starting line before crossing it. I reach up high and give the time clock a slap as I head out into the morning, immediately climbing uphill... towards the top of Squaw.
As the climb begins up Squaws work road, the sides of the road are lined with spectators for quite a distance. It's really rather exciting. I've never been in a bottle neck like this at the start of an ultra-before though. Seeing all these people is rather different and I have mixed feelings right away. I just want to climb, just to get to work.. but so many runners are playing stop and go to say hi to family and friends...It's like walking down a crowded sidewalk at Disney and you're annoyed by all those Asians who just have to take a photo right then and now. I understand it though, so I just put my head down and bob and weave my way as best I could. About 2 miles into the climb I see Jay Batchen. I wonder where his wife Lisa is after her running of a 50 mile run in all 50 US states in 62 days. She was home with a broken foot. I was sad to hear this but wishing Jay luck none-the-less. Such a friendly guy, smiling, giving me the thumbs up and wishing each other well. I took off ahead of Jay and continued to climb as best I could.

Just past the Escarpment aid stations and near the crest of the ridge, I hear this giant crash! It was a gong. A local runner had carried the huge cymbal up the mountain and continued to play a roll on it for every single runner as we went on by. I stopped for a minute to walk backwards up hill, looking back over Lake Tahoe to see the sun rising over the horizon. It was a stunning view. Not long after I reached the
top of the Escarpment where I looked out over the course. "It's a long way to Auburn" someone expressed, "No shit.. but I'm all ready 4 miles in." I thought back to Karno's book and for the second time in 2 hours, I'm disappointed by what was nothing more then an over embellishment. The view ahead of me was far less spectacular then the view over Tahoe. It was gorgeous none-the-less but I decided that I was glad to have thrown Dean's book out a year ago...

Across The Polar Ice Cap
After cresting the top of Squaw we found ourselves running across large patches of snow and then once we entered the forest, it wasn't patches anymore.. it was just snow. Where there wasn't snow, there was
mud.. lots of mud and running water from snowmelt. It was cold enough at nearly 9,000' to see our breath, frost on the vegetation and the snow to still be stiff from the nights freeze. You could tell who was from the warmer climates, tip toeing their way through the snow, wasting tons of energy and time. And then there are the folks who spend the time trying to avoid the mud and water. I've learned through
my running career that it takes too much time and energy to worry about keeping my feet dry. I knew I had a shoe and sock change coming up at Mile 24. I just needed to get there healthy. Don't get me wrong
though, the snow and mud was tiring itself. I passed a few dozen runners on the snow sections while they danced around it. I loved it, whopped it up, felt like I was right at home. Hell, weather reports
from New Hampshire tell tales of it snowing on the 6000' Mount Washington while I was gone.

I fell once while cruising down a section of snow, landed on my butt and slid downhill a bit. We call this glissading back home, it's fun, sledding without a sled. The southern runners call this "oh shit." I talked with a few folks who knew me, though I'll admit that then and still now I have no clue who they are or were. We talked about Barkley, Ironman tattoos, my tattoo..and the snow. Snow snow snow. It was kind of fun I'll admit. But as soon as we started to get tired of it, we began our long downhill descent along the snow route. No red star ridge, just a long long slog downhill to a road along the reservoir. It's around 9am now, and the sun is exceptionally hot all ready. As I run along this road, I begin to think about how this is harder for me to run. I love ups and downs, I hate pavement, I hate roads. The more hills the merrier. The more flats... torture. As we hit the long road heading towards the reservoir, the sun beats down on us. It feels like its 90 degrees all ready. We run past a variety of campsites. People out cooking breakfast, children playing and getting ready to go for a swim. People rowing boats out of the shallow water into the deep stuff for a morning of fishing. It's really pleasant down here, but tough. I do my best to plod along and then we re-enter the forest.
Giants and matchsticks
As we re-enter the woods and run along the water, I'm stimulated by a visually stunning forest. Sequoia trees tower 100's of feet above, some a good 10 feet across at their base, pinecones bigger than footballs. Redwoods that drop their own softball and bigger sized cones. The reservoir is a clear blue, turquoise and darker. It's a sight to behold and just a wonderful place to run along. The trail is soft from pine needles and other decay. The dirt is soft and starting to turn into a fine dust. I've been running alone for quite a while now. Most of the runners I've met, Team Diablo, don't seem to be very talkative. I start to run through an areas of fresh cut vegetation. Prickly bushes, tons of dust and then.. a barren wasteland. Everywhere I look from one hillside to the next is a smattering of charred trees from old forest fires. Dust plums up from the runners in front of me, dust plumes up from beneath my own feet and it's tough to not breath it in. It's nasty here, and stifling hot. This is Duncan Canyon. I knew just up around the corner I'd finally see my crew. My feet are soaked, but I knew I'm still going to get wet coming up. I knew I'd opt to keep my socks and shoes the same, but I needed most to be cooled down.

From out of the matchstick forest, I saunter up the final hill and into the Duncan Canyon aid station. I feel great except from being hot. My crew is ready, they take my waist back off and simply strap a new one on. I grab some food, they shoves gels into my mouth and give me some boost. I bend over near the buckets and a volunteer sprays me down while another takes a sponge loaded with ice water and squeezes it out over my neck. I am immediately drenched, but cooled. I'm fed and out of the aid station in less than two minutes. It was by far one of the most efficient aid stops I've ever had as I leave with a huge smile on my face. It's off to Robinson Flat.
As I wander down the hill out of Duncan's, I'm feeling a bit slow and sluggish. I knew there was a ton of race left, so I backed off a little bit to give myself some rest. I'd been running full steam since the beginning of the race, eying that silver buckle. At the bottom of the hill is a creek with a rope strung out across it for us to hold onto. As I step into the water I give a little chuckle, knowing that I've swam in rivers deeper, colder and raging more violently without a problem this year all ready.. in true Sherpa Fashion "I don't need no stinking rope." I stand in the stream, soak my hat and try to cool myself off a bit more. The heat is starting to get to me a bit.

Thanks Mrs. Robinson.. for nothing.
I continue to fight along dusty trails, open burned areas, through Sequoia and Redwood Forests all the way back up onto a long ridge and eventually into Robinson Flat. This aid station was an all out cluster
"F" of people. I ran into the aid station to get weighed in. I'm 3 pounds up on my weight. I'm not feeling well at all and somethings gotta give. I stop at the aid station and grab some food and as I begin to walk out, I get lost in a sea of runners crews. I started to have a bit of an anxiety attack, not sure of where the course goes. Thats when I see George V from California. He say's hello and asks me if I have a crew, "No.. where does the damn course go." He points up hill, I say thanks and take off. "Take off" means nothing. It's just words. The course was back into deep deep snows. I'm and down over rotting drifts. The sun's heat had turned the snow into slush. It's hard to get any good footing, it's tiring trying to negotiate. I meet a fellow New Englander, a guy from Connecticut, and we talk for a bit. I even save him from running in the wrong direction at the crest of the hill. After running in the snow, I finally feel a bit better, and take to a long winding downhill like a master. From switchback to switchback I manage to pass a few runners and put a little distance on others. The only downside is that this is another old burned area and the sun is just pounding down on us. My legs feel great but mentally I'm starting to fall apart. I'm burping a lot, my stomach is unsettled.. I try to think up a plan.

Dusty Corners
As I make my way into Dusty Corners, my crew is waiting for me again. I feel awful, and by looking at their faces and watching them work around me, I knew I didn't look too hot either. A look of concern fell upon their faces, they spoke to me slowly and took some time to care for me a bit extra. I feel awful. I wander around in circles and look for some shade. I sit down in a chair and slowly eat a sandwich, sip
some water, then get up and go over to the dousing buckets. The aid volunteers try to cool me off. I want nothing more then to throw up. I take my time in this aid station and quickly realize that the sub-24 is quickly slipping away... no... it's all ready gone but in my head I was going to make up for lost time in the snow and along the unexpected amount of flats along the course. I get up out of the chair and slowly begin to walk out of the station.
The next stretch of course ended up being rated top 3 as worst case of "In the weeds" for me. I couldn't run. All I could do was vurp and vurp and vurp. I have smells of dizziness, I have a headache. I look up trail and see Teddy Roosevelt himself and just then, I throw up all over the course. I continue to walk and slowly trot along a flat winding section of trail along the side of a long downhill. I throw up again. My headache gets worse. I can't drink anything and I begin to worry. As I get into Millers Defeat, I run into the aid station knowing I was going to request Medical assistance. Normally in a race I try to avoid Med staff at all cost, it takes a lot for me to want to see them. I run in and jump on the scale. I'm only 2 pounds up for the race, but tell them whats going on. I sit down and sip ice water, eat a little and try to get my head on straight. I knew this was going to be the moment in this race that make or breaks me. While sitting in the chair I take a huge step back mentally. No longer would I run this race with a goal of running sun-24, that was long out of the question. Right now, I needed to switch my focus on survival. This is the first of four hundreds in four months.. I just NEED to finish. I decide to stop taking in salt for awhile until I can keep food down, I grab a tylenol from the "pill chair" and just then, I see David Snipes
"Sniper" at the aid table. I yell for him and he come's over. He pulls me from the chair and tells me to run with him.
After dousing myself once more, Sniper and I walk slowly from the aid station and eventually get into a trot finally able to talk to someone. Sniper and I have both been running this race virtually alone. No one has talked to either of us, it's weird, not what we're used to. What ever happened to that fun family of ultra-runners who chatted it up? Sniper and I made up for lost conversation as we continued down the road. He did most of the talking, I just listened while I tried to keep a steady trot about me. I needed to reel this race back in. Mentally I'm back in a good place, physically I feel OK... I'm not feeling sick anymore and before you know it, we're hauling ass downhill into Last Chance.

The Devil's Middle Finger
Down at Last Chance I take some time to scramble down to the river there. I take my shirt off and dunk it under water. I take off my hat and douse that as well. It's hot as hell down here in this Canyon with one of the bigger climbs on the course just ahead of me. Sniper yells down that he's going on ahead, while his buddy "Potts" comes off of the last downhill, looking for water himself. We trade places while I cross the bridge. Refill my bottles, put ice in both, grab some fruit and begin my long climb up hill. Thirty-Six switchbacks in all, not that they do any good, on this steep and arduous climb. I've done some steep climbs in my day, very few are quite like this. I know of a place called Barkley where the climbs are steeper.. I feel myself sweating bullets, I get light headed, nausea comes about and I stop to catch my breath. I see Sniper, he's calling for me, I tell him I'm coming... but I need a break. This hill is killing me slowly. Whenever I stop, I'm swarmed by mosquitoes looking for the blood of dying runners. I can't stop long, so I resign to walking uphill even if slowly. A blonde woman with tan skin comes along, her red running skirt is falling down, so much so that I can see her crack... We play leap frog, back and forth, as well as a few runners from Team Diablo. One man in particular is cramping bad, feels awful and can't keep anything down. I give him my last 2 salt tablets before continuing on, yelling at him not to quit.

I reach the top of Devil's thumb to a nice round of applause from volunteers and some bystanders. I have a huge smile on my face and am feeling great knowing I've just tackled one of the tougher climbs on the course, and the number of tough climbs is starting to quickly dwindle. A volunteer comes up to me, grabs my waist pack and I put him to work refilling things. I take a seat and drink some soup, and eat a few popsicles while sipping some pepsi on ice. The popsicles had been resting on dry ice, my lips get stuck to the pop. I ask when the leaders had come through.. "The hornet had come through at noon about 3 minutes ahead of Hal" Holy crap! That's 4+ hours earlier in the day. I decide to get up out of the chair and saunter on towards Michigan Bluff and my crew.

I run a ways along a ridge and eventually down into Eldorado Canyon, I cross Eldorado creek on another bridge where there is an aid station. I stock up once again for another climb. This one is longer then Devil's Thumb but not as steep. There are a few false summits and I'm climbing with the same group I went up the thumb with. What doesn't seem long into our climb and a medical worker comes from above and tells us we're about a mile and a half from the top and that there is a nice spring along the way. We climb and climb and climb... and after a half hour, someone else comes along and tells us we're about a mile out. The total climb is something like 2.5 miles and I'm dumb founded by the mileages these folks are giving us. We climb higher and another runner coming down from above tells us .75 miles... I feel like I'm getting further away with each step. I don't mind the mileage updates.. but I can't stand false hope. I just put my head down and continue to climb. We pass the spring the first guy told us about and a runner is sitting in it, dousing himself with cold stream water.
Michigan Bluff
I finally top out on top of the hill and run down the street and into Michigan Bluff aid station. The place is crazy with a few hundred crew members sprawled out over about a half mile radius waiting for their runners. I quickly see Sarah coming up the trail with the camera in hand. I trot just ahead of her down into the aid station. I weigh in and my weight is now down. I'm now finally over half way through the race, still feeling good but getting tired. I sit down in a chair at the aid station, when a camera and microphone appears in my face. It's a woman from the local community television station doing a story on some of the drama at Western States. She ask's me what's happened out there and I tell her about meeting Teddy Roosevelt. I also tell her about the heat, the climbs and the gorgeous country. It's been a breathtaking journey through some of America's most gorgeous forests. Just then, the aid station captain comes over and yells at Bret to get out of the way. He's not really in the way but he moves anyway, not before snapping back at her a bit.
My crew hands me a grilled cheese and some soda and a medical worker comes to check on me. He tells me I'm the first runner he's seen all day eating real food. I smile and tell him, "It's dinner time!" I loved the grilled cheese but could only eat about half of it, drink a soda and have some chips. I get up and one last time head to the aid table to pick at what they have. then the aid station captain tells me, in a rather snippy voice, that the food is for the runners only and that I'll "have to leave." I give her this stare, wondering if she is serious.. and when I discover that she isn't joking, I show her my number and ask her if I look that fresh? I figure I'd had enough of this place... and try take off down the road. I get muscle cramps in my ribs, I try to stretch them out but they kill, impeding my breathing, this kind of sucks. There are a few medical sweeps running with me, one I discover used to live in New Hampshire. They got a chuckle out of me holding their hands as we ran down the road.
Off to Foresthill
I talk with the medical sweeps for about a mile or so before the next big climb. We run down hill for quite a ways on some red gravel roads, past a few horses and then bam! We start another steep climb. The sun is setting now and it's finally starting to cool off a bit, but for whatever reason, my body is not adjusting to the weather so well anymore. I'm over-heating, drinking and sweating a lot. I climb a hill, passing a few runners along the way happy that I can still climb well. After we crest, it's down hill again and into Volcano Canyon. Once I cross Volcano Creek, it's another long uphill to Foresthill. At the top of the next climb, we run out onto some more paved roads where residents are outside in lawn chairs cheering us on and welcoming us to town. The town has really rolled out the red carpet for us. I take the final turn onto the main road and shuffle along. Hills, up and down, I'm great on. The flats? Not so much. I shuffle ever so slowly, moving at a gingerly pace to the school. I see Bret coming up the road. We talk for a bit, I tell him what I need and we enter the aid station. Sarah hands me my new waist pack and I get to work refilling it. My volunteer at the aid station gets me some soup and soda. I suck both down and we're ready to rumble. I weighed in here at even, 164 pounds. Sarah walks with us a little bit down the road as Bret has now signed on to pace me through the night. We say good night to Sarah knowing it'll be some time before we see her again and off we go.
Rafting Trip
After slowly walking out of Foresthill I tell Bret it takes me a bit to get the legs turning over again but I'm running the downhills just fine. About a mile down the road, he finds this out in earnest. We hit the first downhill and I take off flying and it's pretty much all down hill to Dardanelles. The sun has gone down and the hours tick by. At Dardanelles I tell Bret to let me sleep for 10 minutes. We run into the station, I see a cot, I go to get on it when another runner crashed on it before me. I take the loose sleeping bag and find a piece of flat ground and pass out. 10 Minutes later, Bret wakes me up. I drink soup, drink soda and we leave again. We leave Dardanelles and head off to Peachstone... after 20 minutes of running, I start to fall asleep again.. this time it's worse. Bret was warned before he took on pacing duties that this was likely to happen. He's heard of runners sleep-running but had never seen it before. Tonight, he got a great show. I would be running along and then I'd slow down quickly, weave left and right before coming to and starting to run again. Every so often I'd fall asleep and Bret would tap me on the shoulder to wake me up. 

As we continued down the trail hallucinations were abound. We were crossing bridges that weren't there. Running in between boulders that weren't there, around rocks and on top of rocks. I was a mess. At one point in time I feel asleep and started to fall to the right, Bret reached out and grabbed me by the Waist pack and saved me from falling off the side of the trail. An edge that seemed to go on forever. Could this be the mysterious "Karno Cliff?" The same place that Dean himself fell off and down in his dramatic run years ago?

Finally we make it to Rucky Chucky River Crossing. At the river crossing we run right to the boats after I weigh in. We walk down stone stepping and we're both handed some life-jackets. We put them on and get into a large grey raft with 4 other runners and a skipper. The captain rows his heart out from one shore to the next. On the far shore, volunteers in wet suits catch us and drag our boat onto shore where we could get out. We get out and walk uphill to the aid stop. I couldn't stop smiling and laughing all through the crossing. It was, to me, hilarious and a new experience all together. From Rucky Chucky it's uphill to Green Gate. As other crews come walking down the river, we let them know that they're all doing great and looking good. 

As we make our way to Brown's Bar, the sun finally starts to come up. We hear music blaring through the valley we're running through. It echoes off of the mountain sides. Bret cheers me on, trying to get me to stay with it while the sun continues to rise. It's been a tough night for sure, and I'm banking on that sun  to get me to move. We're talking more and joking more as we move along. At Brown's bar we cross a bridge and enter a weird place. Men wearing red dresses, weird music I've never heard before is playing. I need the bathroom and they direct me up a short hill to an outhouse I'm sure was made just for the race. I go inside and it rocks back and forth. Flies everywhere, no lock on the door, I can't help but laugh. We leave here quickly and head for Highway 49, where Sarah is waiting patiently.

Life is A Highway
We crest the top of the Hill and end up on Highway 49 where Sarah is waiting for us. She'd been worried for hours as we're a few late coming in here. Bret tells her about the sleep running and she giggles. Nothing she's not accustomed to. We say hello very quickly at the highway crossing. Bret and Sarah talk and refill my bottles while I pick from the aid table. I get the word that Christian was pulled at Rucky Chucky and Jeff was still coming. Just then I look up and John Holt from New York had caught me. I grab Bret, say bye to Sarah and we head off down the trail with John who I affectionately call "The Indian." We saunter up another hill before topping out in a large field. We run along while our pacers talk. John sets the pace and I follow him. We're moving pretty smoothly considering. I'd seen John hours before, he was falling asleep as well and his feet are a mess. I can feel a popped blister on my right foot, the serum squishing in and out between my toes. I feel other huge blisters on my heels. I don't dare touch them despite the please of medical staff who tell me it'll feel better. "B.S." I've run enough of these to know better and I'm leaving my blisters alone.

John asks if we should tie on on together. I tell him Sarah is going to run with me on the last mile. He's moving great so I tell him to run ahead. He takes off and I never see him again until after the finish. Bret tells me that we still have some time left in our favor but not much. It's getting close. I thought I had until Noon to finish.. but I'm wrong. I have until 11. I start shuffling along with a sense of urgency. We run down hill one last time before finally seeing the No Hands Bridge. The bridge we joke was named after it's builder, Karno, who built it with his massive pecks and calves only. We stop only briefly at the aid station to refill the bottles one more time and grab some fruit before we cross the American River again. It's hot again, temps rising towards 100 degrees rather quickly. I've got to finish before the sun drags me down.

We cross No Hands bridge and Bret snaps a few photos. Then the final climb begins. I'm all smiles, Here I am.. the final climb of the 2010 Western States 100. Before the race even begins, people ask me why I'm not excited or nervous. I'm not nervous because I've run 100 miles before, I'm not excited because I have no reason to be yet. But here, 97 miles into the run, I'm finally excited. For me the work doesn't come in the training, the work is the race. Getting to 100 miles whatever time it is. This is the time to be excited. When the work is done. Soon I look to my left and realize we're almost to the top of the hill. The sun is hot and beating down on us. We crest one final rise and exit out onto a street where there is the final aid station. People are congratulating me left and right. I see Bob Becker from Florida and he comes over to pat me on the shoulder. I grab some fruit and crack some jokes with those who are around. On the pavement are red footmarks for us to follow. Bret and I continue to climb up one last hill.. and at the top I see Sarah with the camera and wearing all of my extra running clothes.


The Finale
Together, the three of us run together through the streets of Auburn California where people sit outside on their lawn chairs and clap as we roll by. Cars honk and people wave. It's like a hero's welcome as we wind our way towards the track. We take pictures while we take these final steps having passed by the sign that says Mile 99. Now it's time to celebrate, time to smile and get giddy. I always joke that its not about what happens from Point A to Point B.. it's getting to Point B and looking good when you get there. I feel and look great. I'm trotting down the road, shuffling even, just fine. I hear the speakers from the track and after 4 years of dreaming, and wanting, and trying my damnedest to get HERE... to THIS moment... the Pacer High School track, Sarah and I run out onto the lanes and take one final lap around the track. Bret takes off with the Camera while Sarah and I hold hands as we work our way around the track. 
After all these years running, She finally gets to pace me some... even if it is the start of our Honeymoon. I take what is left in my water bottle and dump it on my head to cool off one last time. We take the final turn and the announcer announces my name. I have no idea what else he says, I leave Sarah and head down the shoot. I cannot believe it. Now I'm excited, now I'm nervous. I jump up and hit the clock like I did at the start. 100.2 Miles... I made it all the way to Auburn from Squae in 28 Hours and 29 Minutes. Not the time I wanted.. but it counts as a finish. The first of the grand slam.. and a dream, even though small, realized. I'm a Western States Finisher!