Monday, September 26, 2011

Vermont 50

Sonya, Jim, me and Jason pre-race.

Sept. 25 - My brother Jim wanted to get his first 50 mile ultramarathon in this year, when he turned 50. After joining me as my pacer last year in the Burning River 100, he really enjoyed the trails and wanted to make his first 50 a trail race. He chose the Vermont 50 so we signed up for it this summer, along with my nephew Jason and a friend, Sonya. They were all first-time ultra runners so my plan was just to stick with them and do what I could to help them finish.

On the drive up to Vermont we got a good look at the devastation that Hurricane Irene brought to the area. There were still road closures and much work being done to repair stream banks and washed out roads. The race director said that the trails were in decent shape but they did have to do some re-routing of the original course. The weather forecast for the day was decent, although on the warm side for this time of year, 60 degrees at the start and a high of 79 degrees.

Entering an aid station with
really muddy shoes.
This race is also run concurrently with a 50 mile mountain bike race, on the same course. It gave it a little different vibe than a normal running race. The mountain bikers went off in a number of waves before the runners finally got started at around 6:30am. This course was much like the Vermont 100 course (there was less than a mile of overlap although it was in the same area) with constant uphills and downhills, steep in both directions. The course was beautiful throughout, with the leaves changing colors. The majority of the race is on trails, although there is also a significant amount on dirt roads.

We settled in after the start with the basic strategy of walking all of the uphills and running comfortably on the downhills and flats. We had already talked about eating early and often and staying hydrated so everyone stuck to that plan well. For the first half of the race, all four of us felt fairly good, albeit with the legs getting heavier. The Vermont hills do make it more challenging (especially for Jason who lives in flat northern Indiana).

I felt good throughout the race. It was a bit of a slower pace than I probably would have run on my own and I think the extra walking really helped to keep my stomach feeling good and my energy levels good. When we got to downhill single-track, however, I let it rip. It felt so good to float over the trail. I've really come to enjoy this stuff. After I would get to the bottom, I'd just wait for the others to catch up.

Jason started to have some kind of musculo-skeletal issue at around 30 that made it harder for him to breathe for the rest of the race. This slowed his pace considerably, but otherwise he felt fine. This was the most major issue that any of us had, fortunately, and was not enough to cause a DNF. We were all together into the mile 40 aid station and kind of decided to finish together. With about two miles to go, we hit some really nice single-track, and I decided to hammer it and just wait before the finish line for the rest of them. I got within sight of the finish, and then waited, and we all ran across the line together. It was a good day on a beautiful course. We finished in just under 11 hours.

Jim, Sonya and Jason finishing.
We did pass many mountain bikers during the day. We passed our first at about mile 9 and passed a bunch in the 30-40 mile range. The winning mountain bikers finish about 2 hours faster than the winning runners, but many of the novice class bikers are passed by runners. I wouldn't want to have navigated some of the single-track on a bike. It definitely requires a lot of skill. The course was very muddy in spots but overall in pretty good shape for having 1000 bikers ride over it before we got there.

This is definitely an ultra that I would recommend to anyone that is interested. The support is good, the area is beautiful, and it is a nice time of year.

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