100 Miles - A Really Long Chapter In the Ultra Running Storybook
How do you put 100 [or 100+] miles on paper? Well, you try unsuccessfully, two or three or maybe even four times, and then you finally do. So, if long-winded chapters of my ultra running storybook are your jam, sit tight and read close. But, if it’s not your thing, I completely understand and I will sum it up for you here:
You will never quite know what 100 feels like, until you feel it. And, while it feels pretty badass, it feels EVERYTHING else too. So, it may have taken me a solid week to shake the 100 hangover and the sight of mud may quite possibly trigger PTSD, but I ran 100 miles. All 100, or 104, or 107 or whatever it was [way too many miles] and all in all, despite some severe duct tape can’t fix it chaffing, it was the best day[s] ever [yes, that’s right, 38 hours of motion - 24 of which were spent in a trash bag to battle the elements].
So, if you are ready for the long winded chapter…? Read on. The recap probably won't take you as long as it takes to run 100, but it will take a little while. Grab your coffee, or water, or cold beer and enjoy -- here's to another long chapter in the ultra running storybook.
Georgia Death Race came and went. And, we were left with 60 something ISH miles to our names, sans finish line. And, because there is no use contemplating what could have been, we focused all of our post GDR energies on Vermont [for 6 weeks, inclusive of recovery post ultra and taper pre-ultra]. The real work had already been done [remember, we trained all winter long for this]. It was time to maintain, and cross fingers [and, every other apandage too], that Spring would come to Maine [and Vermont] and the trails would thaw out and become beautifully runable. Part of the wish came true, by virtue of designated date - but, it was sunless Spring for Mainah’s [I think that’s the accent around here…] and Mother Nature decided she would test our mental toughness with a few more months of why do I live here weather.
Vermont is a familiar course — 88k gives you just enough time on feet to get a pretty good idea of what the Green Mountains, via Andy [Race Director] miles, are about. Blueberry Hill, Goshen, Vermont is a home away from home, and the right kind of hard.
The race was scheduled to start on Friday, 8:08 AM. And, we were given a full 48 hours to complete 100 miles — if you have 48 hours, you have 48 hours for a reason [remember that]. So we prepared for a Wednesday arrival and then we would settle in and run, and run, and move forward, and try to run, starting on Friday.
So here’s how it went down.
Wednesday. Maine to Vermont. Let’s just say we didn’t leave on time, but we left on Wednesday, and that gave us an extra day between travel and race day [lesson learned: thank you, Georgia Death Race]. And, there was no point in leaving early sans extra shoes, so we not so patiently waited for FedEx to arrive. We had to pack the camper anyway. That brown box arrived somewhere after lunchtime and was holding some of our most prized race day possesssions - extra pairs of shoes [the Topo Athletic variety]. Come to find out, we would need all of them. So, when we finally put all the pieces together — all the stuff in the camper, took the dogs for a walk, finished up some last minute work, and got out the door, it was a bit later than we planned. But, we were on our way to Vermont.
The 100 mile adventure was just getting started. We stopped in New Hampshire to pick up the generator, decided we would need to enjoy a luxury dinner on the road [or in the packed camper], and continued on the way to my parents house, where we would spend the night before setting up our very own luxury aid station at Blueberry Hill Inn. This is where 100 starts to become real. We were going to run it, all of it. No matter what it took [which just so happens to be a couple pairs of shoes, a lot of heart, and even more grit].
race - eve
We shook out our legs with an easy morning run — down the dirt road — with the dogs. The goal was really to tire out the dogs [or, Summit] before leaving them alone for a few hours [in my parent’s house]. But, it felt really good to move our legs too. We took a familiar route, home to the cutest cows and country life views. And, while the run was picturesque, this race-eve morning marked the first obstacle - my brand spankin’ new Garmin watch stopped working. Normally, this would not create anxiety, I often run watchless. However, 100 miles is a long freakin’ way, and there were pace goals to meet in the overnight hours [it’s funny how quickly your pace starts averaging 3mph when you are tired]. But, we must always expect the unexpected and I cried “help” to the running community and of course said community responded with open arms and all the watches [Thank you, Maddie for driving to Blueberry Hill on your graduation weekend, to save the day].
Obstacle 1 diverted, it was time to venture to Goshen and set up our luxury aid station. Goshen, is off the grid and a little over an hour away from my parent's house. So, it’s not exactly a quick trip. The luxury aid station consisted of a camper with an awning - I point this out because it was well served with all of the anticipated rain. This was the one time I was really counting on the weatherman being wrong, but he was absolutely right. The rain started, as predicted, right around 12.
We arrived at Blueberry Hill somewhere around 11 or so — it was early, which meant for easy parking. We dropped the camper, organized all the stuff [gear, food, extra clothes and shoes], gave Hannah the run down of where everything and anything was located, said hi to friends and then were off to run a few more last minute errands, go back to my parents for dinner and then return to Goshen to check in with friends, the camera crew and get a good nights sleep. But, the day before race day is NEVER that easy. So, let’s chat, Obstacle 2. During the run down of organize all the food and things [I am OCD organized], we found that a mouse got really hungry and decided to treat himself to the entire loaf of bread [for PB&J]. What a lucky little creature! So, add mousetraps and another loaf of bread to the errand list. [PS - We never caught the mouse. Maybe he decided our food just wasn’t that good and went to find someone else’s site…?]. Plus, all the extra cleaning…
We ran errands in the rain - grabbed some last minute essentials like cookies, bread, extra potato chips and one more pair of socks, just in case. We went back to my parent’s house to walk the dogs, relax for a bit together, eat some dinner [pasta and bread] and then drive back to Goshen before it was too late. And, it was getting late fast. Cue Obstacle 3: Text message received. Text read [only because we were still at my paren’t house, running behind schedule]. Our crew/pacer can’t make the race because well, life happens. Disappointed? Absolutely. But, what can you do. I was not about to believe that race day success was contingent on a pacer/crew member, so Jesse and I chose to go with it.
As the weatherman predicated [why this is the one time he/she/they were spot on, I don’t know, but I wish that they weren’t] the rain continued, the wind picked up and we were looking at weather that much resembled hurricane forces. The trees swayed, I mean really swayed, the tents blew over and away and snapped, and the gusts were strong enough to shake the entire camper. Keep in mind, while I took shelter in our luxury aid station - there were 888k’ers out running in said conditions. Luckily, we stil had 12 hours until race start and I kept my fingers crossed that at least the wind would stop being so angry. I mean, we made it to Blueberry Hill, around the downed trees, all we had to do now was put one foot in front of the other. It seemed pretty simple. So, at 8:00 PM, all that was left was an hour or so of social time with friends before lights out. Lights out, the camper rocked […from the wind] and I finally fell asleep.
Let's just say it was muddy. Really freakin' muddy. And, my thoughts are best described as muddy too, but here they are. There are so many times you feel like you remember absolutely nothing about the course, this is not one of them. I want to say I remember almost everything, I will go as far as saying I can even still feel it too. And, believe me, you never know what 100 feels like, until you feel it. Words can't describe it, but if it's been something you've been thinking about - just go out and do it.
When your day starts at 8:08 AM, in a trash bag, you know it’s going to be one long adventure. But, before we get started, let’s talk about the course. Infinitus, makes an infinity loop - go figure! One loop is made up of 7 [usually beautiful] miles and the other loop is 20 something [less than beautiful] miles. The 7 miles include a one milISH climb straight up Mt. Romance [there is nothing romantic about it…even for a lover of climbing]. The 20 miles includes a river crossing, beaver dam crossings, a hellish section of Moosalamoo downhill and the longest one mile or so back to Blueberry Hill after passing by the reservoir [how is a mile that long…?].
The 100 mile goal: 7, 20, 7, 20, 7, 20, 20 — easy enough, right..? Right…
For sake of sparing you the longest ultra story ever, I’ll break the race into 4 parts and highlight the highlights:
Miles 1 - 61 — 7, 20, 7, 20, 7
Miles 61 - 81 — 20
Miles 81 - 101 — 20
Note: The GPS miles will tell you more, but for sake of numbers, let’s just go with the numbers that the RD’s told you. We knew it would be more miles anyway.
We woke up on site circa 5:00 AM. We had breakfast [banana, peanut butter, banana], we filled our bottles, we set up our aid station table [watermelon, pretzels, chips, cookies, oranges, grapes and the Ramen would be put on to cook later], we chatted and hung out and nerves never set in. I don’t know why there was no fear - but, there wasn’t. It was just 100 miles after all. And, as promised, a highlight: Christina came to visit, with the reminder to put the tears away [we will save my bawling my eyes out during 88k story for another day] and eat all of the food [which, believe it, I did] — best advice ever. She also took this picture:
Miles 1 - 61:
Race day started circa 8:08 AM, in the rain. I was dressed to impress [always] - pants [UGH!], tank top, long sleeve, rain jacket and TRASH BAG. I also wore pair of shoes number 1. Not only was it raining, it was cold too [and, if you know me best, you know this is definitely my favorite combination of elements].
We had a laid back, but offical start. This year, the start line was marked by a plastic orange fence, an upgrade from spray paint. Andy [RD] talked, we all listened, the “cannon” went off [kind of] and we started running [all almost70 of us], slowly, across the street, past the Inn, and took an immediate right to head up the trail towards Mount Romance [for those of you who read about the snowshoe adventure in February - this is the same course - sans snow, and colder than February].
Once we took that right, and started on the track of up, the power hiking and slogging [slow jogging] began. Welcome to 100. There is no sprint to the finish line [unless you are the 100 miler winner, with a 23 hour finish]. There is consistent effort, run where you can run, power hike when you cannot, forward motion. For frame of reference, there is a lot more running during Miles 1 - 61.
I say “we” a lot, by we, I am referencing Jesse, Prem [I met him at his first ultra on Jay Peak - we’ve been friends ever since] and myself. “We” may include another individual or two in the future, but for now, that’s the trio.
We ran, we talked all things life, we smiled, we hit Mt. Romance, and we climbed, and climbed and climbed some more. This climb is longISH, probably close to 1 mile, but it doesn’t kill you. And, I kind of like it. Because when you reach the top, which comes pretty quickly, you run back down and 7 miles is complete. So we climbed, and at times we were silent, and at others we chatted, and we kept a consistent pace. We even ran back down the mountain - at this point, it was only semi-muddy.
So, that was 7. We came in, checked in, and headed out for the 20 mile loop. And, this is where it gets fun. You start to see what the course really looks like. Come to find out, all the stories that had been told, well they were absolutely true. And, yes, at this point, fun is serious, not sarcastic.
You leave Blueberry Hill Inn and travel down over the bank and you lose sight of the check in site pretty quickly. We were moving at a pretty steady pace — we were running, and the trails, with the exception of a few muddy areas, were still pretty runnable. Then we hit the river. Taking the advice from years prior, we came down the trail and moved to the right. There are a couple large rocks and you can cross the river without submerging your feet. So, that’s what we did. But, yes, my legs are a little bit shorter than every other male that crossed ahead of me, and as I jumped to rock two [it requires a jump], I almost met my demise and fell in. Luckily, Mike grabbed my hand before I slid right on into the ice cold river. Crisis divereted, back up the trail we went.
This first loop is pretty uneventful. It was fast, it included all the running, it included stories and smiles and reminders that it was going to be a very long day or days. If you are wondering, it was still raining. It was getting muddier, and our feet were very. very wet. We hit the Moosalamoo section, climbed some steep climbs, ran down the steep downhill, said hi to the aid station volunteers at Mile 14 and were on our way to the reservoir and then back to Blueberry Hill Inn.
Highlight: At Mile 14, we were greeted by Cayenne [ok, Ryan too, but Cayenne]. Cayenne is a Golden Retreiver, she loves to cheer you up and play catch the rock. With a big rock. I don’t know if I truly support playing catch the rock, but as she eagerly dropped her rock at my feet, and then nudged it closer when I didn’t respond, we played a few rounds before we were off.
Around 20 miles in, we were feeling great. So great, we missed our right hand turn [the turn directly across from the log cabin that we just identified as shelter for overnight hours and escape] and kept running and running, until we hit a main road. This was clearly not the way to go. It was a 100 mile trail race, not a road race. So we turned around, and ran back in our tracks to find a pink flag or arrow, leading us in the RIGHT direction. Yes, we missed the turn and guess what, we never missed it again. What’s an extra 1 or 2 miles on 100 anyways? So, we ran, to the reservoir, and up the dirt road to the final section of trail. Rumor has it, this is only 1 - 2 miles. And, maybe that’s right [I can’t say I ever really paid attention], but 1 mile can feel really long [store that in the memory bank for later]. We sloshed through the mud, we ran, and we came back down the hill, past the Inn, across the road and checked in. I did a little bib number dance, my waterproof mascara ran, and I smiled. So far, it was the best day ever.
That was something like 6.5 hours, 27ISH miles, and it was still early. We had one marathon down and a whole lot more to go.
We checked in with Hannah at our luxury aid station. She gave me my restock of food, filled my bottles, got all my next layers ready [post another 7, 20 miles would go into the night], and we were off again. Back to that 7 mile loop.
It started off slow, I was getting my food in. My go to: a snack bag full of chips and pretzels. And, then we got into a groove and started to climb. We all climb strong, so we dug in, words were limited and we climbed up and did something like a slip and slide run back down and came back to Blueberry Hill.
Highlight: Jack [RD 2] finally added some decor to the course. This race is special. You never really know what you are going to get, but you can bet you are getting something more than scenic Vermont. Sometimes you climb up Mt. Romance to come upon a horsehead, dressed in a dress, holding a giant knife. Not a hallucination, it’s real. Some years it’s barbie heads in glowing jars. I don’t know, it wakes you up though.
Now we have completed 7, 20, 7. The next 20 would lead us in to the nightime hours and would start to make things a little more interesting. At Blueberry Hill, I added the layers, inclusive of two jackets, another pair of pants, a dry pair of socks and shoes and took my poles. Side note: I HATE [yes, I know it’s a strong word] using poles, but they were going to be the only reason I did not come crashing to my epic death on the Moosalamoo downhill.
It was still raining, and while they promised it would stop by late afternoon, it did not. So, I brought all the layers, put on my trashbag and smiled. Best day ever remember? Like new [it’s amazing how good your feet feel for 5 dry minutes], Jesse, Prem and I headed out for our next 20 mile adventure. Over the hill, away from the Inn and we were off.
This 20 miles got a bit more interesting. Miles 1 - 7 were pretty much cruise control - we crossed the river [straight through the river], shimmied across the overflowing beaver dam, and ran, walked, and, hiked our way to the first water station. Check, 7 more miles complete.
By this point, thanks to Prem, I was getting pretty good at identifying the wild mushrooms. You see, his trail runs in Vermont include foraging wild mushrooms — mine do not. I am confident that I have never ever paid attention to this part of the forest. Shame on me for being so wrapped up in my own motion to not notice the world around me. But, no worries, I had 60+ more miles to fine tune my observation skills. There are black mushrooms and white muschrooms and they are EVERYWHERE.
Back to the race, this was a race, not a scavenger hunt. We were at Mile 7 of 20 and it was time to take out the headlamps. It gets dark fast, so headlamps went on so we could get ready to take on the Moosalamoo section of 20 miles. Miles 7 to 14 include a lot of short, steep climbs up and once you are all the way up, you have to come down [unfortunately!]. Prem set the pace on the up - we were getting really good at playing follow the leader - we even took turns. Step after step, we went up — and, the sun went down. Now, it was still raining, dark and foggy. And, the mud, it was getting muddier. When dark hit, it was time to break out the music, break the silence, distract the hurt and make it to mile 14 of 20.
It was my turn to lead. I don’t know where I was leading to, I couldn’t see anything. The combination of rain, fog, and a glowing headlamp projection didin’t make for high visibility. And, I’m not sure I really cared. I sang the songs in my head [and, out loud], I focused, and set the small goal of [DO NOT DIE] as we started on our way back down. The trail turned to a stream, the mud turned to ice, and the fun was just getting started. Sometimes you shuffled, sometimes you braced your poles, planted your feet, and did something that can be best described as mud skiing. There was no traction - it was a 7 mile slip and slide of death. We didn’t really talk, the music broke the silence, and the company was welcome, but it was quiet and lonely and a very different trail than the one we had traveled earlier. And, somehow we all made it off the mountain alive. As the single track trail opened, to a wide grass trail, we knew we were almost there. Mile 14 of 20.
As the miles add up and the day goes on, trail running starts to get weird. Don’t believe it? Read on. At Mile 14 we were greeted by familiar faces [I told you Vermont is like a family reunion - except you look forward to seeing everyone] and I convinced Marc to run the last 20 mile loop with us. To his credit, he was supposed to run the mrathon course in the morning, but in my mind, 20 was close enough to a marathon, and two exhausted trail runners make for the best company. Pacer secured. Now for the weird. Mile 14 had a giant jar of pickles, and of course this seemed like the best choice of nutrition. So, we will take four of those GIANT pickles. And, what do you do while eating the giant pickle? You cheers your pickles of course - with new friends and an added member to “we.” This is where we met Mike and Mike came along for the next miles back to Blueberry Hill. Peace out aid station, it was time to go.
We ran down the road, took the hard right across from the log cabin and kept moving forward. We didn’t miss it this time. I will probably never eat another pickle again. Or at least for a very long time. Here goes my first wave of naseau. I guess I will consider myself lucky that it didn’t set in until close to the 50 mile mark, but it set in, and it was miserable. But, my legs still worked, so I ran and slogged and kept following the 3 boys up the trail. We had 6 miles, I just had to make it 6 miles to ginger ale. Small goals. I focused all of my energy on not throwing up my giant cheer worthly pickle and had a little pep talk with my stomach to get it in check. And, it listened…eventually. So onward, across the reservoir, through the mud pits and down the hill into Blueberry Hill Inn. We were soaked, a little bit tired, and ready to go for another 7.
I drank the ginger ale, ate some watermelon and packed my snack bags for the Mt. Romance adventure. It was close to midnight, our spirits were high, and my stomach would figure it out, and I was bringing moral support and tough love from Hannah, just incase it didn’t.
7. The LAST 7. Celebrate the little things right? Now, “we” is Jesse, Prem, Hannah, Mike and myself. For a little while — Prem crushed the race and ended up ahead. So, with a repacked pack, dry shoes and heart, we climbed. This was our last 7 miles and you better believe we celebrated [mostly in our heads, but we celebrated]. I got a lesson of trekking pole effiency, from Hannah, had strict rules to eat at the top of every big climb, and lost sight of Mike and Jesse for a little while. I lost sight because my headlamp stopped shining bright enough to see, so for sake of a light source and good company, I waited for Hannah to catch up. On the muddiest, non-runnable descent [on a very runnable section of the course], we chatted, tried to find the smoothest ground and sang a song about the rain and mud. And, if I could remmeber the lyrics, it would surely be a top of chart hit, but I have no idea what we were singing about. But, we were serandading those trees and rain gods. We caught back up to Jesse and Mike and made it in to Blueberry Hill Inn…again.
Mile 61 - 80
Here is where it gets good. Here is where it starts to resemble more of a train wreck than a butterflies and happiness run. Here is where 20 miles takes way too long.
Put it in perspective. We just ran 60 miles, we had been wet the entire time, and we had gone through 3 pairs of shoes. And, you know what, I didn’t even shed a tear [I’ve come a long way since my first 88k soap opera worthy breakdown]. Becuase it was still the best day ever. Pretty soon, it would be the best dayS ever.
It was between 3:00 - 4:00 AM. Something like that. I don’t know for sure, but night was almost over. The sun would be coming up very soon.
Inside the luxury aid station, I changed into dry clothes. I ate some Ramen [the best chemical laden fuel source], drank part of a smoothie, snacked on potato chips and pretzels and had a refreshing bite of watermelon. I drank some more ginger ale too. Breakfast of champions, friends. And, while I was doing all the things I was supposed to be doing, guess what Jesse was doing? Sleeping.
Now, this is never a good thing. It went down a little something like this:
“Jesse, pack your pack.”
Eye opened acknowledgement. Back to sleep.
“Jesse, eat your food.”
“Ya..” Eye opened acknowledgement. Back to sleep.
“Jesse, eat your food.”
Eye opened acknowledgement. Back to sleep.
It took a whole lot of Jesse do this and that to wake him up enough to get back out of that aid station. And, from that point on, Jesse was no longer allowed to go inside or sit down.
The sun was peaking when we finally made our way out of Blueberry Hill for another 20 miles. I knew these would be the hardest miles [this is where I originally wanted a pacer - but, expect the unexpected] — my ability to predict the future was spot on. We ran 60 miles, survived the cold, rainy overnight and we still had 40 more freakin’ miles to go. But, the only way to go, is to move forward, one step at a time.
These miles, the open road, open trail semi-runnable miles, they were SLOW. So slow - like slower than the final climb of GDR slow. I don’t know how many times I turned around anticipating that Jesse was no longer behind me and was in fact, taking a nap on the side of the trail. Instead I turned around to find him half asleep, staggering a walk, and in a world far away from Vermont. I ignored the ever slowing pace on my watch and continued on — in broken record fashion, I kept checking on Jesse - with a reminder to “open your eyes.” I wish I was making this up.
I have no idea how we made it to the first water station, by we, I mean my sleep walking other half. But, by Mile 7 [of 20] Jesse seemed to be coming through and showing some signs of being awake and alert enough to know this was mile 60 something of a 100 mile race. And, despite what his body was telling him, this was definitely not a good time or place to sleep. Because there was no way I was spending another night in those woods. You may have 48 hours for a reason, that reason was not good enough for me to use all of them.
Mile 7 - 14 [of 20] was just as steep and winding as the first two times through, but it was a whole lot slower and a lot less fun. We were 24 + hours into the race, we were pretty beat up, and 100% commited to moving forward. And, on the best dayS ever, my body was chaffing in places duct tape can’t fix. I have yet to mention this, because well it went on for a very long time before I ever said anything about it. But, if you didn’t know, pants and rain are not my friend, and those pants seams were destroying places that are definitely Rated R. Yup, it felt that good. Pure burning with every single step. I don’t know how many times I told myself, “you can do hard things” and I actually believed it, for the rest of the miles into the Mile 14 aid station.
I came down the hill into Mile 14 defeated, exhausted, and, miserable on the best day ever [day 2]. You can bet I was smiling, but smiles can be deceiving. For all of the misery, quiting wasn’t even a thought. We ran into the aid station - were greeted by more familiar faces ready to help us on the way [thank you Adam, Amy and Marc] and I got the best surprise. My friend, Amber [and her husband] were there. They just got there. It was perfect timing. It was the pick me up I neeeded. The world is funny sometimes, it just knows. And, add to that, some people just get it too. Some people connect the first time they talk. And, well this is the case here. Who knows what crazy words I said at this point and I am positive Amber will be forever thankful for the dirtiest, smelliest hug she will ever receive — but, this was so needed.
Out of Mile 14 [of 20] we went - just about 6 or 7 miles back to Blueberry Hill. And, then just 20 more miles from there. Yup, another marathon. And, this marks the slowest 6 miles on the face of the earth. The kind of miles that you could probably sucessfully walk backwards and blind folded faster. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exagarretion, but I promise you it was slow…and miserable…and, took all of the heart and grit I could pull from.
Here’s why. You see, when you are forced to wear pants and are soaking wet for 24 hours + [thank you, Mother Nature], your body may start to hate you. Every seam starts to rub the wrong way and no amount of Trail Toes will quite do the trick. Yes, I successfully managed to rub all the skin off of my lady parts. ALL OF IT. And, I’m not talking a little chaffing, or thigh chaffing, I’m talking bleed through your pants chaffing. So, for the first time, in all close to 80 miles, I was walking, crying and hating life. Because every step meant that the seam of my pants would take a little more skin with it. AWESOME. And, for the first time, Jesse realized how bad it was — how could you not, it was visible to the outside world. My best solution, go pantsless back to Blueberry Hill. But, you know, trail running, half naked is probably not acceptable [that doens’t mean I didn’t take it into careful consideration]. So, the next best solution - make a diaper like shield. That means lather a tissue with Trail Toes [the only form of barrier], embrace the burn, and create a shield between your pants and very unhappy lady parts. That was the best I could do, [and, avoid peeing - OUCH!], until we got back to the Inn.
While I may have waddled more than anything over those 6 - 7 miles. I kept moving. It wasn’t pretty, but I wanted to be done. And, done required forward motion and another 20 miles. So, that’s what we did.
We made it back to Blueberry Hill Inn, early afternoon, after the longest lap of the entire race. The good news, the rain had stopped, it was warming up, and I didn’t have to wear pants for the final lap.
Miles 81 - 101
This transition was exactly what you would expect after 30ish hours of motion and 80 miles — I am pretty sure nothing phases you at this point. Nothing. Picture this [well, actually picture it without all the details]: I spent transition in the camper bathroom, pantsless [giving much relief to my lady parts], with powdered feet [drying them out], eating watermelon and chips. Now, add Cayenne, who was providing moral support and enjoying some chips too [remember we played catch the rock earlier, so naturally we had a special bond] and I held a conversation with Ryan who stayed far enough away to avoid witnessing the most ridiculous scene. Such is life in the ultra world.
Jesse was outside [remember, he lost all rights to coming inside when he fell asleep], drying his feet out, providing entertainment with his loopiness and getting ready for the final 20.
But, we were almost there. We were on to the last lap. I no longer needed a trash bag - woo hoo! And, Marc was coming with us. He didn’t want to miss out on the most beautiful course on the best dayS ever.
So, I cleaned up. Made the best diaper-like/pad-like contraption to save my lady parts. Put on shorts and a tank top and got ready to embrace the suck. On our way out, Andy [RD] requested a picture - apparently at 80 miles, it’s not so easy to get your act together. See proof below.
This was the last time we would ever walk down that hill. The first part of the trail included masks and a teletubby and it was obvious that course conditions were so goood this year that this was the only place with all of the weird things. We crossed the beaver dams and tried to stay on our feet through the fast moving river and were slowly [well, much faster than the last 20 miles] making our way towards Mile 7. The first water station.
We were so thankful for company and conversation - a solid distraction from a world of hurt. I led the way, Crystal on a mission style, all the way to Mile 7. Jesse led the way towards Mile 14 through Moosalamoo. Remember the steep climbs, and then all the downhill. Downhill is my least favorite, and this was definitely not getting any easier - the kind of downhill steps where you are pretty sure your legs are just going to give up and your face will meet the ground real quickly. Luckily, my legs synced with my head and kept moving.
Now, Mother Nature had decided to warm up the day, just enough, so that it was kind of hot. It was definitely humid, but it was kind of hot too. And, with dusk approaching, soaking wet woods, warmer temperatures - the mosquitos had never been happier. I mean it’s definitely enjoyable to be swarmed by mosquitos when you already feel THAT bad. I told Marc that I would have plenty of time to count the ridiculous number of bites [200 was the frequent exaggerated number used] over the next few days. [I never did, but it was a lot, and they were all SO ITCHY].
By Mile 14, I was ready to be done. SO ready. But, it wasn’t over yet. I ate something — I think oranges at this point because Marc and Jesse told me that I did not have watermelon in my pack [I did, but they didn’t find it]. I ate something and we moved on. Because we were on our way to the finish line and that’s pretty motivating, even if you can get your legs to move any faster.
I don’t really remember the miles between the aid station and the reservoir. But, I remmeber the reservoir to the finish line and it was so long, SO long. For less than 5 miles, it doesn’t even make sense. And, here is when Marc learned that the course was in fact, miserable. The mud pits on the way back to the Inn were soul sucking and shoe sucking. And, I had made up my mind, that if the mud stole my shoe, I would continue on without it. Yes, that’s a real thought.
This is the kind of mud that makes the loudest slushing and slopping noise and at the point of not caring, you just sloshed on through. You weren’t getting around it, you couldn’t really see where you were going [it was dark again], so you may as well just go with it.
I don’t know how long it took to get back. It probably wasn’t that long in the scheme of things, but it felt like the longest minutes and hours of life. And, you know it’s time to be done for the day when Jesse decides to blame you for being the reason he kept hitting his toes on the rocks. Even Marc had declared, "this sucks", and it was only mile almost 20 for him.
But, guess what, we made it this far, so every orange sign could keep pointing straight ahead because that meant we had to be getting closer to the sign that signified a turn. And, that’s a good thing, because every tree was starting to turn into an animal, or thing, or something other than a tree, my body hurt, and I really never wanted to see mud again. When we found the sign with the arrow pointing in a direction other than straight, I knew this was it. We had made it. We just had to run down the hill, cross the road and be welcomed back.
That was it. 100 miles was over. And, despite the hurt, the hard, the struggle, it was the best days ever. We were so tired we didn't even capture a post race picture. Bummer. But, it was time for a shower and bed. And, as soon as it ended, we knew we would be going back.
To be continued, but in the meantime..
I hope long winded chapters in my ultra running storybook are still your jam. I hope you enjoyed the miles and life and heart. And, I hope you will keep following along on these weekend adventures.
Next up - putting the visual to these words. A camera crew spent their weekend in Vermont to see what this ultra running thing is all about. It’s not just our story - but it’s a story of heart, forward motion, and a really big why, we just happen to be the documentary stars. If you can help make this movie come to reality, I would be forever grateful and thankful. The details will be coming your way, but for now, it’s time to camp [another weekend adventure - in the rain…].