Friday, October 3, 2014

Movie Review: "100: Head/Heart/Feet"

In 2013 I returned to Vermont to run in my 5th Vermont 100-Mile Endurance Run. In the months leading up to the race, I had caught wind of a documentary film that was to be filmed during last years race. The film producers had caught wind of my upcoming 5th Vermont and asked if I wouldn't mind conducting an interview for the film on race weekend. I was happy to help with their project. A year later, I was sent a link to view the film privately. I sat on it for a week or two, then finally turned it on. In this post, I'm going to try and find the words to tell you what I saw and experienced in watching the final product.

Hammer & Saw Films is an independent film studio in New Hampshire, co-owned by Mike Mooney and Will Peters. First, these two are some pretty creative cats with wonderful personalities. The way they talk to you is enough to draw you in. Or maybe it's Mike's voice.. he sounds like a real life Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs, Deadliest Catch). They have created some short films in the past but this was to be their first feature length film. As a documentary film-maker myself, I could tell that these guys were operating on a different level right out of the gate.


The film, "100: Head/Heart/Feet” will follow the day-to-day life of ultra-runner Zak Wieluns as he trains for and finally runs a 100 mile race. The actual event is called the Vermont 100 Endurance Race, one of the original 100 mile runs in the USA. This year the Vermont 100, which raises funds to benefit the Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports Association, celebrates its 25th anniversary, promising an even more competitive challenge for the 300 dedicated runners who attempt to complete this grueling competition over Vermont’s paved streets, gravel back roads and wooded trails…in daylight and darkness…all within 30 hours. A well-trained few will complete the race; many will never cross the finish line." (From http://www.hammerandsawfilms.com/100.php)

Years ago, I had approached Jim Hutchinson, who is the former RD for the Vermont 100 (now deceased), about making a documentary film about the event. He agreed so long as a major portion of the money I made went straight to the events beneficiary, Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sport. I never did get around to making that film, so the fact that these professionals were taking it on, excited me. Now, I've seen a number of the ultra films out there:
The Runner
Chasing the Bear
Massanutten: Two Runners, 100 Miles
Unbreakable
Running on the Sun
The Distance of Truth
Whatever that one about Yannis Kouros is out there
Running Madness

What I experienced in watching "100: Head/Heart/Feet" moved me like no other film about Ultrarunning has. From the moment the film starts, you are sucked in by the carnage of Bill's Barn. Mile 88 of the Vermont 100 is known as the triage station.. watching runner Zak Weiluns keep it together so he can continue on his journey to 100 miles, is enough to catch any ultra runners attention. From there, the film weaves it's way through the story of Zak and his quest to complete the Vermont 100. A race he had DNF'd twice before, and his attempt to get the monkey off his back. Anyone who has ever experienced the heart break of DNFing in a major race, or who has suffered injury, or who simply loves all that is our sport.. will want to see this film.

Now, it's easy to say that I'm biased because parts of my interview and voice over appears in the film a number of times. I have no financial interest in this film, and my true interest is to help promote a film that I feel.. FINALLY.. in all it's intents and purposes, has captured the true spirit of Ultraurnning and running 100 Miles. These guys truly outdid themselves in both telling the tale of the Vermont 100, a classic 100 mile ultra that has been around for over 25 years now (and one of the 1st major 100s in our country), and telling the tale of a runner with a distance dream. They nailed it. From start to finish I was riveted. On the edge of my seat, watching, waiting. I got choked up. I laughed. I certainly cried. And I cheered for Zak, who is a member of the Trail Monster Running Club of Downeast Maine.

I've run the Vermont 100 5-times. This film did right by the race. It does right by the organization it benefits. It does right by Zak the runner. It does right by everyone in this community to finally share an accurate accounting of what the hell it is we're doing out there. That no.. we're not crazy. We're awesome. This film is the one film you can show to anyone, and they'd actually GET IT. PERIOD. Of all the films I've seen about Ultra running... this is the one. The Best One. You owe it to yourself to see it... and I'm about to embark on a journey to do what I can to bring it to the Western United States.

If you're sitting there saying, "Sherpa only cares because he's in it." Think again. Already, this is the most decorated and celebrated film ever produced about Ultrarunning. Here's the list of Film Festivals they've been invited to and the awards they've won.
Vermont International Film Festival
New Hampshire International Film Festival
Cincinnati Film Festival
Boston International Kids Film Festival
Pollygrind Film Festival
Maine Outdoor Film Festival
Newburyport Documentary Film Festival
Flatland Film Festival
Kingston Film Festival – Directors Award

Here's the latest trailer: (This should be enough to give you chills)
100: Head/Heart/Feet - Official Trailer - (2014) from Hammer & Saw Films on Vimeo.