100 miles was a new, very scary distance for me. My mission coming into the race was to finish the Vermont 100 without incurring a lasting (> one week) pain… and that mission was accomplished! Here’s the good and the bad:
- I finished in 25 hours, 15 minutes. Before the race, I had set my optimistic finishing time at 26 hours, which was really a wild guess, given I had never run a 100-mile race before. So though I managed my pacing horribly (see below), it was still a very respectful 100-mile time for a newbie mid-packer like me. I think if (IF!) I ever were to run another 100-miler, I acquired many ‘lessons learned’ that would result in a better time.
- I had quality family time. Particularly with my most wonderful husband Mr. P, who paced me final miles 70-100 and provided such reassuring fortitude that he ought to be declared a performance-enhancing drug (although we walked most of miles 90-100, because of chafing and shot quads and he was fine with that). Seriously, nothing can test the strength of a relationship like pacing a significant other in an ultra! IN ADDITION, my father and stepmother journeyed to VT to take care of Little Boy whilst Mr. P paced me, and provided additional support (like the Sunday morning surprise-knock-on-the-hotel-room-can-we-use-your-shower visit, which saved my sanity). Similar to how my mother and father-in-law helped me complete the VT 100k two years ago, ultras can very much be a family event, and having loved ones there makes it even more meaningful. Knowing that people believe in me enough to come and help me finish made me believe in myself.
- I remained healthy, fed, and hydrated. No nausea, no kidney failure, no muscle injuries. I ate copiously amounts of PB&J, grilled cheese, turkey sandwiches, and (after it got dark on Saturday) ramen with broth. It took me only three days to recover and I’ve already run 60 miles this week with only traces of discomfort.
- My “race management.” I knew that the first 50 miles shouldn’t feel like work. And they didn’t… except I ran it in 11 hours — a 50-mile PR. I thought as long as I felt okay, the faster-than-planned pace was okay. After mile 50, I shared miles with people who kept talking about going sub-24 hours in order to “buckle” (runners finishing under 24 hours got a belt buckle; runners 24-30 hours get a coaster). I hadn’t planned on shooting for 24 hours but, running with people who were shooting for 24 hours, I started to get “buckle fever.” I ran miles 50-70 much faster than planned. I even arrived at mile 70 (Camp Ten Bear) at 7:30pm, one hour faster than I had planned, and before my pacer Mr. P arrived. (The medic stared at me. “Are you okay?” he asked, probably noting my darting eyes and confused expression, taking it for ultra-delusion. “I’m just looking for my pacer!” I insisted.) Mr. P showed up a few minutes later. I had 8 1/2 hours to run 50K to the finish and earn a buckle, which seemed highly doable… except, it wasn’t. By mile 90, I told Mr. P we’d be walking it in. I just had no will to run anymore. Since this wasn’t an “A” race for me, I wasn’t going to further aggravate my quads on the downhills. (But heck, I’m impressed that it took me until mile 90 for the wheels to come off!)
- The weather. It was humid for sure. Not particularly hot or sunny, but humid. I did sweat copiously, but I felt grateful that at least the sun was shrouded and thus the humidity was bearable. Plus, the bugs stayed away… until the sun reared its ugly head at 5pm. Flies started following me. Right after mile 70 when I picked up Mr. P as my pacer, the skies opened up into torrential rain. honestly, the rain felt great but it turned the next section of trails into a muddy, slippery mess. It became humid again overnight. Still, the next day was about 90 degrees, sunny, and humid… so I felt grateful
- Friday night. I slept by myself in the “tent city” next to the starting line. There were probably over 100 tents packed onto the grassy field. Earlier in the day, immediately after we set up my tent, a pick-up truck pulled up and 7-8 svelte 20-somethings jumped out and set up a giant alcove right next to my tent. I contemplated moving, since the rest of the field was pretty much empty, but I took a chance. Later that evening, after the pre-race BBQ, I said goodbye to my parents, Mr. P, and Little Boy and laid down in my tent at 8pm. I couldn’t help but to eavesdrop on the people in the alcove; it turned out one of them was running the 100K, two other guys were pacing, and the girls were the “crew.” Of course, the crew can stay up half the night drinking pomegranate sangria (“Like, so yummy.”) and not have to sleep. When I finally did fall asleep, a car alarm woke me and everyone else up at 11:30pm. I dozed fitfully some more, then torrential rain started. My tent was humid and I was sweating. By then it was 2am and I decided to ready myself for the 4am start: Eating, drinking canned coffee, downing supplements, applying glide, braiding hair, and just generally freaking out. Is there anything more daunting than started a 100-mile race on about three hours of sleep?
- Epic chafing. I wore my North Face “Better than Naked” shorts, which I’ve worn in at least 2 50K races and never had problem with chafing. I applied Glide everywhere I normally chafe. At about mile 35, I pulled off the trail for a pee break in the woods… and noticed that my enough bikini line was inflamed, as were other parts. I was carrying some vaseline-like stuff, which I applied… but this seemed to move the salty swear into the chafing, and it burned. At mile 58 (the famed Margaritaville Aid Station) two older women held up blankets for me so I could apply another coating of vaseline to my entire nether regions. Still, it burned. It burned for the entire race. In fact, if anything prevented me from running the last 10 miles, it was the horrific chafing in my crotch. At the mile 92 Aid Station, the young volunteers helped me pin my shorts to my underwear and jovially convinced me I was “ready for the runway.” I can’t say enough about these wonderful people.
- Toes. I made a rookie mistake: I tried something new on race day. At 3am, huddled in my tent with the rain beating down, I decided it would be a great idea to apply Glide to my feet to prevent blisters. Now, mind you, out of all the running ailments, the one that has never afflicted me are blisters. I don’t know what I was thinking. The Glide made my feet slide forward in my shoes on the downhills, hitting the fronts of my shoes. Around mile 25, I was running with three brothers from Texas (really) and I fell into the conversation so easily that I started to push the pace on the downhills. (The brothers were hilarious. They were good guys, yet seemed to have little clue about ultra running. I told one of them how I ran the 100K two years ago and it killed my quads, and he asked “The quads are the front of your leg or the back?” I was in disbelief, yet very happy and surprised to see they finish in 28 hours.) My big toenails are now black and I expect them to come off eventually.
That’s about it. Honestly, it wasn’t as hard as thought it would be, but it was still damned hard. I’m much more of a fan of 50Ks these days and I feel like I should perfect that distance, and then the 50-miler, before attempting another 100-miler. (Well, of course I am signed up for the 104-mile UTMB in France in late August… but I’m already planning to drop out at mile 50. Unless divine intervention strikes.)