I am happy that I can say I survived the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Race! My brother-in-law did the race with me, and you can read Peter’s Vermont 100 story here. Believe me, we both had survival mode fully engaged. This was my first attempt at a race of this distance, and my head was spinning with whether or not I was prepared for this race. Thankfully, I did not disappoint myself, my crew, or my pacer.
Talk about crew!! I would dare say we had the best support crew of anyone in the entire race. Hannah describes what it was like for the crew to support us for 100 miles in her post from earlier this week. I don’t how I could have done it without Hannah, John, Matt, Anna, Mom & Dad Haynes, and my ever-spirited wife Sarah acting as my ever-present and oh-so-willing crew. They brought me food, refilled my Nathan hydration pack, provided my spare running clothes, stayed up all night with little to no sleep, and the list goes on. I’ll be keeping my pictures to a minimum here, but the posts linked above and Leah’s weekend recap have some of the best pictures from the race.
Miles 0-15 were a blur. I know I was sleepy (who wouldn’t be after starting at 4:00 a.m. with just a little, restless sleep the night before?), but the adrenaline from race day and the thought of 100 miles was enough to shake me from my midnight slumber. I felt like I was in prime shape starting off that dark morning. Hannah’s taping job from Friday night was easily holding and doing a perfect job of protecting the cut on my right foot (I had stepped on a clam shell at the lake the day before the race!). Jaime, Peter, and I were running together at the back of the pack of 325 runners. We knew we were bringing up the rear, but we were content with the pace and the conversation amongst ourselves.
The first aid station with food wasn’t until mile 15. I could feel the hunger pangs starting around mile 10. That morning egg sandwich and bagel with coffee wasn’t enough apparently. I was instantly concerned that I would hit the dreaded “wall” caused by lack of sustenance. I had only packed one Clif Bar for the first half of the day, and it was much too early to break into it. So, I busted into a Hammer Tropical Gel and hoped it would do the trick. Thankfully, I survived a rumbling stomach and chowed down at mile 15. Honey and peanut butter sandwiches never tasted so delicious!
Miles 15-60 was where business started to get serious. The hills were absolutely relentless throughout the whole course. I kept yelling out loud, “There are no flats!!” It was either intense ups or intense downs. I know there were sections scattered throughout where I could have easily run a “normal” pace if I wanted to, but I had learned that pacing myself at those moments were crucial to having energy later in the race. Peter pulled away from me several times because he’s stronger on the uphills than I am, and Jaime was long gone already. Not only were there a plethora of hills, but several literally went on for miles at a time. My legs weren’t feeling all that terrible, but my feet were starting to take a beating. I could feel my quads get physically and noticeably hotter the more I ran downhill, and I would tell Peter that I had to walk to “cool down” my hot thighs. I remember getting to Camp 10 Bears around mile 47 with some relief. Nearly half done, and this station had soup! Something other than PB&J’s and fig newtons! Little did I know that the hill just outside Camp 10 Bears was waiting to kill us. I passed one guy as I went up this hill who sat down and simply stated, “I’m fried.” I’m not sure if I saw him again…
Miles 60-70 were ok. I had done 63 miles at my 100K just a month before, and I was super excited as to how much better I was feeling at the same distance in the Vermont 100. I do admit that I was starting to feel the overall fatigue settle in. I was hitting the 17-19 hour mark of nonstop movement, and knowing that I had anywhere up to 11 more hours to go was tiring to even think about. My right knee on the inner, lower side started to act up around this point. It didn’t hurt while walking, but running was starting to agitate it. I hoped it would go away, but I didn’t see it’s full negative effect until later. It was 11:00 p.m. by the time I was able to have my faithful running partner, Sarah, join me at mile 70 for the final throes of the race.
Miles 70-90 were sheer torture. I had switched out of my Saucony road shoes at mile 70 and put on my Brooks Cascadias, hoping a different shoe would provide some much needed relief. No such luck–my feet were killing me, and it felt like both feet were always one step short of a severe cramp around the balls of my feet. I kept telling Sarah, “My feet are killing me!” She kept me going and pushed me onward. Here and there we ran in short spurts, from one trail marker to the next, trying to keep our pace up, but there was definitely more walking than running for the last 30 miles. “Sorry, Sarah. It seems that you’ll be walking more than running as my pacer.” I must have told her this a dozen times when she was with me. Her patience and understanding were highly appreciated. I needed someone with a level head in the dead hours of the morning! I could feel sleep trying to invade my eyes, but I was able to fend it off decently well. Sarah and I run in silence a lot when we train or race together, and her silent presence in the Vermont 100 must have been soothing enough to keep me alert (as odd as that sounds). I was thankful when we made it to the aid station at mile 89. My Brooks shoes had managed to rub poorly at my Achilles and irritate it. I had to switch back to my former Saucony’s (I brought 2 pairs of shoes total for the race) to see if I could salvage what was left of my Achilles. Also, my right knee had turned into a major problem. I could barely run for .03 miles before I had to painfully walk again. Downhills were killing my toes, and my feet still had that near-cramping sensation. Though the finish line was only 10 miles away, I had hills and ailments that made it seem like an eternity away.
Miles 90-100. MORE HILLS. I swear the race director wanted to kill us before we finished! The hills kept coming. We even had to “scramble” over a short, stone wall that crossed one of the trails. It was a good thing Sarah was behind me when I climbed over because she literally had to “catch” me when I lost my balance and started to fall backwards. We both laughed. I knew the end was near when we came across Sarah’s parents on the trail. I had been doing the math all night (no joke) so I could know the minimum pace it would take to make it to the finish in under the 30-hour deadline. Seeing them solidified for me the knowledge that I would make it. After all the miles, the hours, the pain, the near emotional breakdowns, the worsening Achilles, and the hills, I crossed the finish line. It was 9:23 a.m. I was a Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Race finisher in 29 hour and 23 minutes! No other chair has seemed sweeter or more inviting than the metal framed one set up by the official time clock.
Again, thank you crew and Sarah and everyone else who prayed for me and cheered me on! I came in toward the end of the pack of runners, but I take heart in the fact that only 61% of the 325 registered runners actually finished. If you want another perspective on what it was like to be a pacer for the Vermont 100, Leah’s post does the job quite well. If you want to see more, feel free to check out my “documentary” of sorts for more pictures!