The 1997 Vermont 50
October 5, 1997 (Sunday)
Loop course in west-central Vermont
50 miles, rumored 7800 feet total vertical climb
Almost entirely trails and dirt roads
The first room we were in (a tiny third floor room with only a skylight, no window) was probably the most dollars-per-square-foot I'd ever paid for a hotel room. Even on business travel. And, due to the slanting of the roof, you couldn't actually stand up in half of those square feet.
However, the fire alarm kept going off, and the room smelled of smoke, and the hotel folks couldn't quite figure out what was going on, so they moved us to a first-floor room in another building. This room was a suite: huge, bigger than our house, with a refrigerator. This almost made up for the fact that it had no hot water.
At the much-beloved Groundhog race, many runners camp at the starting line, and engage in various nefarious attempts to try to convince those with hotel rooms to provide access to showers. When Nancy and I walked into our cavernous cold-water suite, we both thought: "if this were the Groundhog, and if word got out about this room, we'd have thirty people sleeping on the floor tonight."
Apparently, many of the bikers took just this plan.
We will return to the race... but we won't stay at the A$cutney.
But the real reason my family and I went to this race was not the run, but a chance to spend a long weekend together in a part of the country where my wife (and 2-year-old) had never visited. Some tips for other family-vacation folks:
So with a polypro shirt and goretex jacket, I headed down to starting line for some doughnuts and coffee. And just before the race started, the rain stopped, for good, and gave way to a warm and humid day.
The Vermont 50 seems to be primarily a mountain bike race. Hundreds of bikers left in two waves before the runners started. On a course that's almost entirely trail and dirt road, after a night of rain... things were sloppy. But not really as sloppy as it could have been; although the mud did slow me down, primarily because it prevented flying down the forest descents.
Overall, the trail was pretty nice (although a few too many uphill-dirt-road-to-the-horizon sections for my taste). The course marked extremely well... for the runners, anway; I understand the faster-moving bikers had some trouble.
The camaraderie among the competitors, one of the things that makes ultrarunning so wonderful, was evident in full force.
Surprisingly, a lot of this camaraderie was cross-sport: lengthy conversation with bikers I kept passing, and then getting passed by, and then passing again. (Signicantly more interaction than the other bike/run races I've done).
Did the bikes slow runners down? Not by much.
My last ten miles or so I spent with a biker I've named "Leaf Man."
Our introduction was on an uphill, when he asked "If you help me push
my bike up this hill, I'll tell everyone you're a nice person."
I declined, to which he responded "well, no one ever listens to me
anyway." After a while, I noticed his back tire was flat.
"Isn't your back tire flat?" I asked. Leaf Man responded "Yes,
but the tube is trashed, so I stuffed the tire with leaves."
This fact provided miles of conversation material, e.g.:
Leaf Man: "Why do you keep passing me?"
Me: "Because I've stuffed my running shoes with leaves!"
Etc. I guess you had to be there.
Another memorable biker was Trent from near Boston. Many folks, when you tell them about a biking/running race, think you do both. Trent did... he biked thirty miles until he trashed his rims. He then left his bike an aid station, borrowed some running shoes, and (never having run more than 5 miles) took off.... "Hey, how do you do this running thing?" Fortunately, this coincided with my Bad Period in the race (30-33 miles), so the distraction was most appreciated.
The last four miles of the race are on some really fun ski trails on Ascutney Mountain itself; I was happy to be able to pass several bikers here, and three runners in the last 1/2 mile.
Of course, two of these runners were two women (the 2nd and 3rd place females). Which led a Moment of Decision when I caught up. "I was going to be chivalrous, but then I thought that would be insulting, so it's every runner for themselves!" I explained as I passed. But that's OK; they had greeted me with "If you were a woman, we would have tripped you."
At the finish line, my two-year-old daughter was busy greeting every dog. I was disappointed that the Catamount beer was limited to one-per-runner, not one-at-a-time, but then was happy to learn this rule could be circumvented.
My main limiting factor was leg soreness. I hate to take ibuprofen during ultras, but I finally gave in, with 200 mg doses at three points in the last 20 miles.
But most things went well: no stomach issues at all (I alternated the Conquest provided with bottles of maltodextrine/rock salt solution... "magic powders" I learned about from Dr. Blake Wood and Dr. Rick Gillespie). Not many hills-limited-by-heartrate scenarios. And managed a kick at the end.
Conclusion: got to do more longer training runs!!! (Only went over 15 miles twice in 1997: at Finger Lakes, and here. It shows.)
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