This is the third year in a row that my running buddy, Jaime, has run the Vermont 100 Endurance Race, and at this point it’s kind of a given that if she’s there running it, then I’m there crewing and pacing for her!
There are 8 aid stations throughout the course of the race where crews are allowed to meet their runners and help them with whatever needs they might have at that point. The first station is at mile 21, but we’ve always skipped this one because it’s early in the race, and Jaime doesn’t really need our help until later. We usually plan to see her for the first time at the next crew station at mile 30.
This year Peter had a prior commitment for the morning, which meant I would have to go to the first crew station by myself and then come back to pick him up before going to the next one. So I set out around 8:30 a.m. in my little car to start my first solo crewing adventure, stopping along the way to buy dinner for later, pick up her gear at her house, and check in at the race start to register my car and get my pacer bib. I also got a race booklet with the turn-by-turn directions for crew vehicles to follow from station to station. Here’s where things got hairy: I understand that the race organizers are trying to keep crew traffic off the roads that the runners are running on, but having to follow written directions makes it nearly impossible for one to crew alone. The estimated 35-minute drive ended up taking me almost an hour because I kept missing my turn or having to pull over to read the directions. And after driving all over the Vermont countryside like a crazy, stressed-out chicken with it’s head cut off only, I arrived at the crew station only to find out that Jaime had already come and gone. I missed her by 10 minutes.
This was a fairly huge disaster because the next crew station wasn’t until mile 47, so Jaime would basically have to run half her race with no crew support whatsoever. I drove back to pick up Peter feeling like I had wasted the entire morning and worrying about whether I had ruined Jaime’s chances of finishing the race. To make matters even worse, we got a fairly severe midday rainstorm, and I was sure that Jaime would be drenched, cold, chafed and just generally in terrible condition by the time we saw her again.
There wasn’t anything though to do but wait and see, so Peter and I had lunch together at a cafe and then headed to Camp 10 Bear (mile 47) to chew our fingernails in anxious anticipation. We had a couple of hours to spare since we weren’t expecting her until 1:30 or 2:00, so after we got set up Peter decided to go for a run. He came back after an hour or so and reported to me that he had seen Jaime, and that she was looking great! He didn’t stay to run along with her because that could get her disqualified, but she was encouraged to see him, and and he was able to run back quickly and give me a head’s up that she was coming.
Jaime looking GREAT at mile 47!
I was very relieved to see Jaime still running strong and looking good at this point in the race, in spite of not having any aid. She said that she had worried about what happened to me, but other than that she hadn’t in need of anything in particular at that point and my absence hadn’t been the huge disaster I was afraid it had been. Thank goodness! The downpour had missed her, too, though she did run through a couple of light showers and had wet feet.
She sat down to rest for a few minutes while we quickly refilled her hydration pack, restocked the vest pockets with gels and electrolytes and helped her change her socks and apply a couple of bandaids to hot spots. Soon she was off and running again, and we headed to Margaritaville at mile 62!
At Margaritaville, Peter again headed out for a run, and I sat in the shade to read. This is my favorite aid station because it’s quieter than the others, there’s more space for crews to spread out, and it’s really scenic.
The view from where we parked
Jaime at mile 62, feeling hot and not eating as much, but still keeping up a good pace!
After an overcast and rainy morning, the sun finally popped out while we were at Margaritaville, and it started getting really hot. Jaime was definitely feeling the effects of the heat when she arrived here, and we quickly got her some ice to put in her hat and her pack to cool her off. She hadn’t eaten any of her gels or drank any of the Perpetuem mix in her pack since we last saw her, so I got on her case about eating and drinking more often. I didn’t worry much though because this is completely normal for Jaime at this stage in the race (in fact, it usually happens earlier), and she always does just fine in spite of it. She did eat some noodles and chicken before she left and promised to eat a gel as soon as she could.
Peter and I then headed back to Camp 10 Bear where Jaime would come through again at mile 70. This is where pacers are allowed to join their runners, so once we got there I ate dinner and got ready to run. Since Peter would have been left to crew alone through the night without me, we had recruited a guy from our running club, TARC, to join us after he finished his volunteer shift at the aid station. We met up with him here and gave him a crash course on crewing while we waited for Jaime.
Jaime and I just before we set off together to tackle the last 30 miles of her race!
Jaime came in around 7:30, still doing great! She quickly changed her socks again and ate some more noodles, and then we set out with high spirits! Shortly after we got going, the skies opened, and we found ourselves in the midst of a torrential downpour! We literally laughed out loud as the water just ran down our faces, arms and legs. We were drenched in seconds and spent the rest of the night running with wet, gritty socks and shoes (yes, there were blisters). Also, if I could have taken a picture of the trails after that rainstorm, I would have, but it required all my concentration to remain upright as we stumbled our way up and down muddy slip n’ slides. I was having flashbacks to other horrendously muddy courses that we’ve done (ie: the TARC 50 and the Run with Scissors Double Marathon). Thankfully most of the VT100 course is on dirt roads because the bits that were trail were completely unrunable.
Our good spirits managed to outlast the heavy rain, and we enjoyed had a brief period of clearing before the fog rolled in.
As darkness fell the fog got so thick that at times we couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead. It became very difficult to follow the course markers, and at one point we certainly would have missed our turn if it weren’t for a very helpful volunteer hanging out to point the way.
The weather certainly did it’s best to try to slow us down, but Jaime stayed strong and steady all night. We kept up a consistent pace of about 4 miles an hour–walking the uphills and running most of the flats and downs. She didn’t have any major complaints other than feeling really sleepy and, towards the end, struggling with an upset stomach. Coffee and Tums were her best friends.
When we got to the aid station at mile 91.5, we were informed that if we were aiming to buckle (finish under 24 hrs.), we had two hours left to do it. Jaime just laughed as if it was an impossibility. All day she’d been telling me that she wasn’t in any hurry, and that she just wanted to run at a comfortable pace and not worry about her time. It was a good strategy–not having the pressure of maintaining a certain pace and constantly watching the time made the race much more enjoyable.
At the next aid station, mile 95, the volunteers announced that we had just over an hour left. Jaime didn’t bother stopping at that station since we were so close, but I was out of water, so I told her to go ahead and I’d catch up. After she left, someone there speculated that she “had a chance” of buckling, then checked his watch again, and remarked “though it’s cutting it close”. I felt the need to proclaim loudly that she didn’t care about the buckle anyway, so it didn’t matter.
It had just taken us an hour to do the 3.4 miles between those two stations, so to say that it would be “cutting it close” to do the remaining 5 miles in less than an hour was definitely an understatement. I really didn’t even give it a second thought as I left the aid station, breaking into a near-sprint to catch Jaime as quickly as possible. I was surprised when I didn’t see her anywhere on the road ahead, and as I passed a couple of intersections without seeing her, I started to worry that she had taken a wrong turn. Finally, I came to a steep hill and spotted her about halfway up, walking. “You gave me a run for my money that time, Jaime,” I called out. She laughed and kept power-walking. I guess the finish line was calling her name.
Soon we caught up to a woman who was looking pretty bad, but was very obviously giving it all she had left to come in under 24 hours. Suddenly Jaime turned on the turbo jets, and we passed the woman easily. Jaime ran every step of those last couple of miles, up the hills and everything, as fast as she could. When we cruised across the finish line, I risked a glance out of the corner of my eye at the clock, afraid of what I might see, and was relieved and ecstatic to see that it read 23:58. What a way to finish! I could not have been more proud!
The next day: Jaime posing with her finisher’s hat and belt buckle!
It wasn’t her fastest time (that was last year–23:33), but it was by far her best race. She stayed strong the whole time and never had a point where the wheels came off. I’m pretty sure this means she will be back again next year, though she is reluctant to make a commitment one way or the other at this point. Yes, I asked, before, during and after the race. It’s as if I was waiting for the day when she’d suddenly realize that running 100 miles is ridiculous and unnecessary, but you know, even though it IS ridiculous and unnecessary and a host of other things, I know that sometimes running yourself nearly to death is what makes you feel really alive. And that is exactly what makes it worth doing.