Monday, August 10, 2009

2009 Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run - My Quest For a Buckle

Me and Steve at the start with some new friends

My preparation for the 2009 Vermont 100 Endurance Run would be different than that of the 2008 race on many levels. In 2008 my good friend Jeff Holloway, who would crew for me, and I went there with the sole purpose of just finishing, or rather surviving the race. Neither of us had any idea on how to really properly prepare for the various things that would come up during a 100 mile race, a trial by fire so to speak. I trained as well as time would allow and also learned about various training methods from members of the Ultra List but the experience would be the greatest teacher. I survived the run and Jeff survived the crewing process which resulted in a 29 hour 23 minute finish, and I was initially happy with that. In keeping with the saying, “you are better than you think you are and you can be better than you think you can be” I wanted to be better than I was in 2008. In fact, what I really wanted was to go sub 24 hours and get the coveted pewter buckle; crazy talk for someone living in New Jersey with no real hills to play with and well, Vermont has hills or rather The Green Mountains.. But I remembered another saying, “if you can dream it, you can do it.” So I began preparing for the 2009 race right after I recovered from 2008.

Fast forward to the Spring of 2009. I'm not going to bore you with my training program, just what I changed to hopefully get me below 24 hours.
For 2008, I averaged 50-65 miles a week and emphasized tempo runs and of course the long run. For 2009 I upped the mileage to 60-85 miles a week and completed more races in the 50K to 100K distance. I think a key was increasing the hill workouts, because Vermont has hills! So, I ran the Ocean City/Longport Bridge as often as I could, sometimes running back and forth over the bridges for my long runs. Needless to say, they are in no way comparable to what is in Vermont, but it was better than doing no hills. When you live in southern New Jersey, it's either bridges or my treadmill.
The next step would be finding someone to crew for me due to Jeff Holloway being unable to do so again. Another good friend, Steve Antczak, enthusiastically volunteered to give up four days of his life to help me hopefully accomplish what I had thought some time ago impossible. He would also come to find out that CREW stands for, "cranky runner, endless waiting." Steve is very analytical and immediately began making notes on just about everything. We went over and over what I would need at various aid stations and decided that I would not be using any drop bags. In 2008, I had a bunch of drop bags and Jeff would retrieve a bag get my things together when I arrived at the aid station, again a learning experience. This year, Steve would have everything prepared in advance. Anyway, fast forward to the day before the race.
We got to the race site early Friday and set up camp. The goal was to get everything done and try to relax, which I have a hard time doing on a regular day let alone the day before a race. I registered and went through the mandatory weigh in and blood pressure check. My weight at weigh in was 159, 1 pound less than 2008. Weight Loss during the race of 6% means that you must stop for a more thorough evaluation and re hydration. A 7% loss mean elimination! I am always on top of my hydration so hopefully I would not
have any issues on race day. We then walked back to the camp area and on the way ran into Annette Bednosky. Annette not only runs ultra's she wins them too, including the 2005 Western States 100 Miler, the premier 100 miler in the country. She even took the time to take a picture with us and put up with a few questions, thanks Annette! Annette is as tough as they come and although she has been hampered by an injury, she still finished in 21:11 and was 4th female! Congratulations Annette! So it was back to the camp to try and relax but we really just went over everything again and again. I guess that's when you realize that you have OCD. The waiting game had now begun.
Later we went back to the "race headquarters" where we had the runners and crew meeting which was followed by the pasta party. After the meeting I finally met my pacer, Greg Roelants. Greg lives in NY City but has family in the area so he decided to pace someone at this years Vermont 100 and I was matched with him by the race organizers. Greg has run a few marathons but during our email communications he told me he hadn't really done any trail races and had never paced anyone before. I have never been paced during a race before so it would be an adventure for the both of us. I didn't let on to Greg but I was a bit nervous about being paced and I can imagine he was a bit apprehensive himself. After a talk on our race strategy Greg was off to his fathers house and I told him I would see him sometime later tomorrow, if all went well around 7PM.
It was now back to the camp for the rest of the night. Sam Rosenberg and Campbell Ringel arrived at the camp site followed a short time later by John Dennis. Sam and Campbell would be crewing for Sam's brother, Dan Rosenberg, and John would be his pacer. Dan, John and I are members of a fairly new running club called The Animal Camp," or TAC for short. The Animal Camp was founded by Josh "The Animal" Dennis, hence the names origin. Members of The Animal Camp are just a bunch of guys that like to get together for very long and brutal runs. The clubs motto after all is, "If it doesn't hurt, sign us up for something that will," and "Go hard or go home." The only one missing was Dan, who was stuck at work and would eventually arrive at midnight, a mere four hours before for the 4AM start. The sleepless night was highlighted by heavy rain which made it's way into our tent and by someones car alarm that went off just after midnight and took forever to be turned off. Anyway, at 3AM I was up and getting ready for what I hoped would be the race of my life.
Mile 0 to 15
It was finally race time and I found myself standing at the start wondering if I had set my sites too high but at the sound of the gun, uh well the race director yelled go, I just said to myself to just go for it! We were all off into the darkness for what I hoped would be less than 24 hours of relentless forward motion. The dirt road descended for what seemed like a half a mile before going up and then back down again before we turned right onto single track trail. This trail proved quite muddy and I nearly had my shoes sucked off by the thick mud. It wasn't too long before we emerged onto what I've been told is "hard packed clay roads." In the first few miles you have some early trail up then down leading to an extended climb up Densmore Hill Rd. The gravel/hard packed clay roads continue to Taftsville (at 15+ mi.) except for a paved chunk coming down to cross the Taftsville Covered Bridge. After passing through the aid station a mile 15 I glanced at my watch and knew I was ahead of last years pace but wouldn't know for sure how much until I saw Steve at the mile 21.1 aid station.
Mile 15 to 21.1

Now the term "relentless forward motion" came to mind as I continued on the roads which were inter mixed with single track trail. There is nothing flat about this course, your either going up or going down, seemed like nothing in between. Nothing really exciting to report here other than I felt good and seemed to be holding a steady pace just under 11 minutes a mile. I needed to average 14 minutes and 23 seconds a mile to break 24 hours, so it was good sign but a long, long way to go still. I finally rolled into the Pretty House Aid Station at mile 21.1 where I met Steve for the first time since the start. He told me I was about 45 minutes ahead of last years pace, so far so good. After re-stocking my supplies it was off again, the course was now going to get interesting with some real serious climbs coming up.

Mile 21.1 to 30.1

After the Pretty House handler station at 21.1, it's paved, then gravel, then jeep roads up that continue to climb before you emerge out of the woods and into a meadow that they call "The Sound-of-Music Hill" which is at about 27 miles. The view up there is fantastic and is at one of the highest points of the course (1,946'). You then run across meadows, down trails and more meadows to Wild Apple Rd. (700' elev. loss) and a long easy downgrade gravel road to the Stage Rd. handler station at 30.1. During the descent I again realized that I still can't run down hills properly. Most of the time I am out of control and trashing my thighs in a breaking motion. At the aid station I met Steve who helped me with a quick shoe removal so I could get some debris out of my shoes. I had to really pack some food away due to not having crew access until mile 47, that is a long 17 miles if you forget something. Anyway, it was off again and one of my most dreaded climbs was a mere half mile away.

Mile 30.1 to 47

It was nice to have quite a few spectators and handlers at this aid station cheering you on. It gave me a nice lift, something I was about to need. After going down a short section of dirt road we made a left on a paved section before turning right onto a grassy trail and began climbing. Although I've been told it's only a half mile long, it seemed to go on way longer than that. It was a very steep, wet grassy trail that went up and up. It was the first time during this race that I was breathing very hard, kinda sucking wind. I was trying to push the pace up the hill because I didn't want to lose too much time and have my mile pace go up. The trail finally leveled out and turned onto a forested single track that went behind the Suicide Six Ski Area. To me it looked like I was running through Sherwood Forrest, one of the many reasons I like trail running. After crossing Rte. 12 I continued on some gravel roads, dirt roads and trail sections down to a paved 1/3 mile section on Rte. 4 and then came to the Lincoln Covered Bridge aid station at mile 39.2. This aid station is preceded by, you guessed it, a really cool covered bridge. After gouging myself on watermelon I continued on, knowing that a real big hill was in my future. This was one hill I was really dreading, I knew it was coming I just wasn't sure when. As I was digesting my watermelon, I found it. It is one of the toughest hills on the course and it takes you 2.5 miles up, and up and up Fletcher Hill Rd., I had to enlist the jog, albeit very slowly, for 100 steps and power walk 100 steps. I was beginning to lose time due to my garmin telling me that I was approaching 12 minute mile pace. I continued this until it leveled out and again began descending. It was during this descent that Dan Rosenberg came up behind me yelling, "Animal Camp!" I was like yo, where did you come from, you passed me at about a mile into the race. He went on to explain that he missed a turn a ways back and figured he put on an extra 4 miles, ouch! We then continued down to Lillians aid station at mile 43.5 where it was again snack time. Dan had too make a pit stop but told me to continue on, so I did knowing that he would catch me in the not to distant future. My right heel had been acting up for some time now, OK, for about the last two months I had been battling plantar faciitus and it was affecting my stride. So onward I ran. I was now on the longest section of paved road, exactly one mile of paved moderate uphill, then back onto some climbing single track/horse trails. This is when Dan caught me again. We ran together through the Jenne Farm aid station at mile 45.6 It was then up some, then a sweeping down and up and soon a nice downhill stretch into Camp Ten Bear (the first time) at mile 47.2. This was the first aid station where you had to get weighed in. I was very confident in my hydration and weighed in at 159, my starting race weight. I met Steve there and he told me I was well ahead of last years time but wouldn't really let me know just how far I was ahead because he didn't want me to get complacent I guess. Steve had fresh bottles ready and sent me on my way trying to keep my aid station time to a minimum. One of the great things about the Vermont 100 is the aid stations, there is one every 2-5 miles, which can be good and bad. You hang out too long at the aid stations though and you can easily add hours to your time.

Mile 47.2 to 57

Out of Camp 10 Bear there's a half mile hump that connects you to a 22 mile-long loop, which means that you eventually come back to Camp 10 Bear again at mile 70. Dan headed out just before I did, I gave him a wave knowing that I would probably not see him again until the finish due to the fact that he was running very well. The course consisted of some road, then meandering trail and then Agony Hill, another hill that I had been dreading. It is long, lumpy, rooty and rocky steady uphill grind to the halfway point. It is one of those unrunnable, lung searing kind of hills that makes you wonder what are you doing to yourself. I had made it to the halfway point in 10 hours and 30 minutes so I knew I was under the 24 hour pace but, I had 50 more miles to go, and the second 50 is harder than the first. After grinding out Agony Hill you then on gravel again to Pinky's aid station at mile 51. It was now time for more dirt rolling roads for 2 miles of easy upgrade to Birminghams aid station at 54.1. You then cross a big field into the woods and snowmobile trails, up and down and out onto gravel for a nice 2 mile downhill section that takes you to the Tracer Brook aid station at mile 57. It was during this section that my pace passed the 12 minute per mile barrier and I wasn't happy. I had vowed to myself that I would keep it under 12 minute miles until I got to Tracer Brook. So I used the next 2 miles of downhill to bring it from a 12:03 pace to a 11:55 pace which made me feel a little better as I ran into Tracer Brook at mile 57.

Mile 57 to 70

Steve was waiting at Tracer Brook with fresh bottles and other supplies. He also helped me with an equipment "upgrade" which consisted of plugging in a battery pack to my garmin watch to enable it to continue working up to 31 hours. My Garmin 305 currently lasts about 14 hours so the battery pack should get me to the finish. It looked a little strange and I was asked by a few runners what the heck was on my arm, but hey, it works. So now it was onward, and unfortunately for most of the next 9 miles, upward. The first 3.1 mile stretch is affectionately called the "5K straight up" and it is. This is the point last year where I mainly walked up the hill with the aim of just finishing, this year I had to attack it a bit. So for the next 3 plus miles I ran for one minute and power walked for 30 seconds. It seemed to go by fairly quickly and I crested the hill and arrived at the Prospect Hill aid station which is unmanned. I added a little water to my bottle and continued on. I was really looking forward to the section knowing that the 5k hill would be behind me. The road was rolling hills yet I didn't remember the really big one that you could see in the distance. It didn't help that I was also now going through a "down" moment. These are the times in ultras where you feel like someone unplugged your energy and you sort of feel like your running in a fog. I believe it is due to your body trying to convert food and liquids into energy due to your bodies glycogen levels having been depleted. It is a constant battle during ultras as your body also tries to convert fat stores to energy. Any, I battled the big hill and started to pick it up and a somewhat level stretch when I heard, "go AJ go!" That was "Crew Master" Steve, (pictured at the right),
yelling encouragement after running out to meet me before the Margaritaville Aid station at mile 62.1. Steve was doing an awesome job of having supplies ready so I would be in and out of the aid stations as quickly as possible and this time was no different. Margaritaville Aid station has a party like atmosphere and can suck you in to staying longer than you should; heck they even offer you margarita's while your there. Steve got my supplies and basically escorted me out and on my way to the next aid station and kept my time to a couple of minutes as opposed to the 40 minutes that I hung out last year. I was ahead of schedule but still in a bit of a down mood and lacking energy. So I ran for a few minutes and walked for a minute. I seemed like a long 3 miles of a steady upgrade to the Brown School House Aid station at mile 65. After a quick refill of my bottle I then proceeded on my way to the Camp 10 Bear Aid station at mile 70 but it would be a 5 mile run through mostly single track trail to get there. I had been looking forward to this section due to knowing that the single track trail would have about 3.5 miles of a slight downgrade that I hoped I would be able to pick it up to make up for the lost time due to the previous hills. As soon as I hit the trail I did pick it up and continued this for a good three miles. During this portion of the course last year I was running in dense fog and in the dark. This year I was able to take in the scenery and also see the rocks that I was tripping over. My spirits were picking up and I again began believing that I could break the 24 hour mark. About a mile or so from the aid station I heard a runner coming up from behind so I slowed and greeted him. It can be a bit lonely out on the trail sometimes so I looked forward to chatting with someone. The runner turned out to be Sherpa John Lacroix . I have "chatted" with SJ several times on the Ultra List but had never met him before. We talked about the race and I let on about my doubts for finishing below my goal of 24 hours. As always, SJ was upbeat and said I was way ahead of schedule and to try and make it to make it to make it to the West Winds Aid station a mile 77 before dark. It has been said that if you make it there before dark your chances of finishing under 24 hours are real good. We parted ways at Camp 10 Bear Aid station at mile 70. SJ would go on to finish his 3rd consecutive sub 24 hour Vermont 100!

Mile 70.1 to 88.6

At the aid station I met Steve and Greg. Steve was ready with my headlamp and fresh bottles and Greg said he was ready to do some pacing. After getting weighed again (still 159) off we went, 30 miles to go and just over 9 hours to beat the 24 hour mark. Last year all I remembered from this point to the finish was darkness and loneliness. Now I had light for at least another hour and a half and Greg to keep me company and push me to the promised land. Just out of Ten Bear, there's a half mile of level trail then one mile up a fairly steep climb that is called Heartbreak Hill whick makes the "Heart Break Hill" at the Boston Marathon look tiny. This climb consisted of a bumpy, rooty wet jeep road. A mile of easy grade gravel road followed and then up and down on 2 miles of really nice single track trail. Greg was great as a pacer right from the start. I had no idea what a pacer was supposed to do and I assume that Greg didn't either. He ran in front of me and continually warned me of trail hazards and even kicked debris out of the way. He also pushed me a bit and provided constant encouragement. We were moving at a decent clip, much faster than I would have if running alone. We came into the Seabrook Aid Station at 74.7 in good shape and with plenty of daylight left. It now onto the West Winds Aid station at mile 77 and hopefully we would arrive there with daylight to spare. We had some gravel road to deal with and then some toe crushing up and downs on single track trail. I would have really liked this section if it wasn't for the fact that my energy levels were draining once again. In the distance you could hear music and voices from the aid station so we picked it up a little and came out of the woods and back onto the gravel road. Now it was a steep climb up the road to West Winds which you could see at the top. Steve met us at the bottom of the hill and ran up to the aid station with us. We got into the aid station as the sun was
going down which really gave me confidence that the my 24 hour goal was within reach. We met up with Dan's crew, Sam and Campbell, who were very enthusiatically displaying The Animal Camp banner and giving high fives as we left the aid station. Greg and I then ran across a field and then back into the woods for a mile and a half of up and down single track trail.

It was now dark and the headlamps were on. We then emerged back onto the gravel road where we would remain for the next 10 miles. It was just good old fashioned relentless forward motion at this point. I was on auto pilot just following Gregs lead. It was obvious to me now that with out a pacer, it would have been extremely tough to continue on at this pace, although we (I) was slowing, we were still moving forward and keeping ahead of the clock. We first came upon Goodmans Aid station at mile 81 and then the Cow Shed Aid station at 83.6. I really wanted to get to Dr. Bills Aid station at 88.6. To me this would be the aid station that would tell me where I stood as far as time goes. So onward we plodded, Greg continuing to push and with me loosing energy and my thighs starting to feel a pain and stiffness that I have never felt before. We were running with other runners when we began climbing a very steep long hill that I didn't remember from last year. It was the last hill before we would get to Dr. Bills and the last weigh in. Upward we moved, mostly hiking at this point and after what seemed like an eternity we crested the hill and began going down the other side. The only problem was is that I couldn't run down the hill due to my thighs suddenly being trashed, so I hobbled with thoughts in my head that my race was falling apart. We finally reached the driveway that would lead us to the aid station. Greg was concerned about my condition and told me to act like nothing was wrong with me. This last medical check point has held up runners in the past for "further evaluation." I didn't need this at this point due to feeling like I was losing time due to my sore thighs. Steve met us on the drive way and ran the half mile with us to the aid station. After a quick weigh in and a couple of questions from the doctor, it was out to try and close the race out. A little less than 12 miles to go and about 4 hours to do it; a piece of cake or would it be?

Mile 88.6 to 100

After a short run on the road it was back into the woods for some single track trail. I was able to run again albeit more slowly. After a mile plus of running on the trail we came out into a grassy meadow. While crossing the meadow I began showing signs that I only recognise now as bonking, or at least my brain needed some fuel. While running across the meadow I was catching the freshly cut hay like grass on my feet and I just snapped. I began yelling to Greg that I wanted to burn the grass, to kill it because it was bothering me. Greg looked at me with some concern and then said we didn't have much further to the next aid station and to keep going which I did. After crossing the field we entered onto a gravel road. After a half mile or so we got to Keating's Aid station at mile 92. After a quick stop we headed out with only 8 miles to go, something I would normally do in less than an hour but that wouldn't be happening now. So we continued on back onto single track trail. I was doing more tripping now due to not being able to lift my knees high enough to clear the rocks and roots. I found that I could move easier going up than I could going down, which was very painful. Thoughts of being this close to the finish and my legs suddenly shutting down were now my fear. We eventually made our way back onto the gravel road and got to Polly's Aid station at mile 95.5. We took a little break there to get the "Vermont Black Mud" off my shoes. That stuff must have added a pound or so to each shoe. I then had Steve help me try and stretch out my quads, they seemed to be locked and my knees no longer would bend. Having never experienced anything like this, I didn't know really what to do. So we just left. There were quite a few runners at Polly's that were not in too good of shape either. I know I must have looked like a zombie trying to run as did some of the others. I did suddenly get a little jolt of energy though. The thought of a little over 5 miles to go and about 2 hours to get it done jump started me a bit. So I tried to sprint to the top of a steep but short hill and ran out of gas as I neared the top. Greg and some other runners said to be careful not to wreck yourself now when your this close. Greg was still trying to motivate me to continue running by telling me that I could break 23 hours. I tried as best I could but my legs would not cooperate; my thighs were as stiff as boards again. I did my best to run but it was probably more like a shuffle. Greg then had me run to points down the road where we would then walk for a bit and then run again. This continued until we came to a very long, steep gravel road, a road that I had no memory of from last year. Even Greg wasn't happy with it even saying something to the effect that this was a mean hill to be putting in the last 5 miles of the race. We finally crested the hill and eventually made our way to Sargent's Aid station at mile 97.7. I had 2.3 miles to go to and about an hour an twenty minutes to get there to break the 24 hour mark and get the pewter buckle that I wanted so badly. I even thought for a few moments that I could go under the 23 hour mark if I pushed it a bit. Well, as much as my brain said 2.3 miles is nothing, my legs revolted and I resorted to a walk/run/shuffle. We then unexpectedly entered another trail, another part that I didn't remember. This went up for quite a bit and then gradually back down for a total of about a mile. I found myself tripping over anything that was in the way and actually fell a few times. I must have looked like a real bad drunk, or I guess an extremely exhausted runner nearing the end of a 100 mile race. We finally emerged back onto a gravel road and I recognized the area now; we were a few hundred yards from the entrance to a trail that had the sign, "1 Mile To Go!" stuck in the ground. Shortly thereafter we made a right turn into a field and I told "Greg the 1 mile sign was coming soon, and a minute later we saw it. It was just past 3AM and I had an hour to break the 24 hour mark! I figured if all else failed I could crawl to the finish if I had to, which remained a distinct possibility. We entered a trail that lead to the finish and you could hear in the distance cheering from the group of runners and spectators at the finish. I tried as best I could but power walking was more possible than running. As we came down a small hill I heard "Ajinator!" being yelled; Steve had run about a half mile out to jog it in with us. Soon I saw the lit plastic gallon containers that signaled that it was a quarter of a mile to the finish. I vowed that I would run to the finish and I did, although it may not have looked like running to most. I could see the ultra bright neon finish line through the woods so I jogged it in and crossed the line in a time of 23:25.02 !! After a few pictures were taken I collasped in a chair to watch as others broke the 24 hour barrier.
Each runner celebrated in a different way, some cheered, others slammed their water bottles to the ground like they were spiking a football. I just sat, not quite believing that I had knocked 6 hours off of last years time and it would take a long time to sink in. Long enough for me to go I think into hypothermia and have to take a short but painful walk to the medical tent for some chicken soup and blankets. It took many cups of soup and blankets to control the shivering but eventually it stopped. Oh the price one pays for attaining a goal, the Buckle, pictures to the left.

Needless to say it was a team effort that I could not have done by myself. I have to thank Steve for taking 4 days out of his life to follow me around a 100 mile trail course and deprive himself of sleep and having to deal with a probably very cranky, tired runner. THANK YOU STEVE!! You are hereafter referred to as, "The Crewmaster."

I have to thank Greg for volunteering his time to pace a total stranger to a time that was once thought to be unattainable. Thank you Greg for pushing me to the promised land!

Last but certainly not least, I have to thank my wife and children. They put up with my hobby that takes up a good amount of time and yet they continue to inspire met to push to new heights all of the time.

The 2009 Vermont 100 was an experience that I will remember forever. It made me believe that if you want something bad enough, you can get. Just like I tell the kids I help coach in soccer, "with hard work, even the difficult may become easy." Although not easy by any means, the hard work made what was once impossible a reality.

Pictured to the right is Dan Rosenberg and I after receiving our Vermont 100 Pewter Buckles.

Next up: The Grindstone 100 in October....what is wrong with me : )

Friends, "Run Like An Animal!"


Friday, August 1, 2008

2008 Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run

After the finish

2008 Vermont 100 Race Report

Finishing Time: 29:23:48

141st out of 156 finishers; 259 starters; 65% finishing rate

Results can be viewed here

Race splits can be viewed here

Photos from the race can be viewed here

Before I get to the race report, I would like to thank a few people for helping me in one way or another in completing a run that at one point in the past I would have thought impossible to complete. First, my wife and children, for putting up with my "hobby" which entailed many hours away from home. The next person would be Jeff Holloway. Jeff has crewed for me at two JFK 50's and now the Vermont 100. He took four days out of his life to drive me up to Vermont, crew for me during the race which meant he was also up for over 29 hours, and then he drove back while I sat in the truck in a semi conscious state. I don't know if I could ask him to do it again, and I will be running another 100 miler, so I'm looking for volunteers. I also again want to thank Holloway Home Improvement Center (yes, that's Jeff's company) for sponsoring me during the run. Again, if you ever need a new kitchen, give them a call. They are nationally renowned for their kitchen designs. Lastly, I'd like to thank everyone who donated to the Sunshine Foundation. When they last contacted me they told me the donations were approaching $2,000 dollars and were well on the way to making a dream come true for a child in need. Please also check out Jamie Anderson's Vermont Race Report here; he did a great report of which I used some of his race description. He finished the race in 22:26:29!

The course:

The Vermont 100 Endurance Race is one of the original 100 mile runs in the USA and a part of the Grand Slam Series of Ultrarunning. Each year, 300 runners attempt to finish this hilly race over beautiful Vermont back roads and trails under the 30 hour cutoff point. First off, the course is beautiful, but brutal. It meanders through some of the most scenic countryside, farms, and woods this country has to offer, not to mention the mountainous terrain. At times it seemed tropical, maybe due to the torrential down pours that occurred. There is around 15000' of elevation gain and the same amount lost as it's a loop course. The terrain is either going up or down. No flat sections at all, just some that are steeper than others. 70% is on hard-packed(crushed clay I'm told) dirt roads, 27% on trails, and 3% on paved roads. The aid stations are plentiful (30 total, including the finish), the volunteers are fantastic and the course is very well marked. It is a great event and I can't wait to go back next year.

Pre Race:

The ride up was fairly uneventful although traveling through New York and Connecticut was not fun due to the heavy stop and go traffic. Jeff Holloway was again going with me to support me during another run, though this would be no ordinary run. Jeff has supported me at two JFK 50 races and was now taking four days out of his life to help me and possibly watch me destroy myself as I attempted to double the distance of my longest run, that of course being 50 miles. As we neared the area in Vermont where the race was to be held, Jeff looked out the window at the Green Mountains of Vermont and then looked at me with a serious look and said, "AJ, you have a challenge ahead of you." He was very serious and for the first time I realized that not only would I be trying to run 100 miles, but it would be over mountains. It was the battle, the test that I have been seeking and it was drawing closer. I decided at this moment to not race for my dream time, 24 hours, but to just try and survive the course and run under the cut offs and come in under the 30 hour limit and to just have "fun" while
doing it. We finally arrived at the race site and set up camp. At the last JFK it was hotel hell, and now it was a tent out in the hot sun. After setting up my nine drop bags (note to self, do this before you get to the race site next time, very time consuming and stressful) we walked about a quarter of a mile to the registration tent to pick up the paperwork and to get medically checked. At the weigh in I was 160 pounds which is important to note due to the fact that I would be weighed at three different aid stations during the race.
A weight loss of 5% would mean the runner would have to remain at the aid station for evaluation and re-hydration before being permitted to continue; a loss of 7% means your day is over, you get pulled. The weather report was calling for temperatures in the mid 80's and high humidity; not optimum for running 100 miles but at least I was heat acclimated and really didn't mind the heat. Yet staying hydrated would be an issue, at least for a third of the starters who would eventually DNF. We then attended the mandatory runners meeting where the race director asked the crowd, "who came here because they heard the course was easy?" Some did raise their hands at which time he said, this course is not easy, you will be running up and down mountains," and then he laughed. It was now on to the pasta dinner and then back to the camp to attempt to sleep. Long story short, I slept from 12AM to 3Am when my alarm went off to get ready for the race. When the alarm went off, it was time to get everything ready for the 4AM start. For some reason this is the most stressful time to me, checking and re-checking everything. After all, you can't forget anything when your going to be running for at least 24 hours. After getting everything in order we began the walk to the starting line. As we arrived, rain began falling, not the way I wanted my first 100 mile race to start, oh well.

Miles 0-21.1

A countdown began five minutes before the start. Every minute thereafter the race director, Jim Hutchinson, would yell out, "four minutes" and so on. The crowd of runners began bouncing around and yelling out in anticipation of the start. I just looked around at all of the runners and wondered to myself who would make it through what was sure to be, at least I figured for me, an at times torturous effort. The RD then began the final countdown, "5, 4, 3,2,1, and now for the 20Th consecutive year, GO!" There was no gun, horn or anything, just go, so we all did. The crowd then began moving forward into the darkness. For the first half mile or so it was a gradual decline, I had to slow myself so as not to go out too quickly. I was also running closely behind a couple of runners because I had no light on at all. A friend and experienced ultra runner told me to "poach light," meaning just run near others with lights on so as to not have to worry about what to do with my light when it became daylight. We eventually made a right turn onto a trail that was somewhat rutty. Running behind others with lights may have not been that good of an idea due to not really being able to see what was on the ground after those in front of me passed it. So I would occasionally stub my toe or trip over something. This also presented a problem when I had to stop in the woods due to my over filled bladder. I found it to be a little bit of a task coming back out of the woods in the dark and having to catch up to the runners I had been following note to self, bring a throw away light next time. As advertised, we would begin climbing and descending over and over with some long stretches of declines. I found that it was tough to run properly down the hills, I did not want to trash my quads so soon in the race so I took it as easy as possible although gravity at times would take over. It was real pleasant running through the forest, almost to the point that I forgot I was running a 100 mile race. I would eventually make it to the first aid station which was at mile 7. Dawn was also breaking at this time and with it you could feel the heat beginning to build. I had intended to hit my watch at each aid station and at this time it showed that I was an hour and twenty four minutes into the race. It was at this time that I realized that I had probably shorted myself on my fuel. For the race I decided to make multi-hour bottles of Perpetuem, basically estimating how much fuel I would need between aid stations where my drop bags would be waiting for me. The first aid station that I would have access to a drop bag would not be until mile 21.1. For some reason I thought that I had a drop bag at mile 7, which I didn't, what the heck was I thinking. So I just continued on rationing my fuel as well as eating whatever food that was available at the aid stations. I really didn't see much the solid food until I hit the mile 15 aid station so I stocked up on PB J's and baked potatoes. The course was very scenic up to this point, kinda like going over the river and through the woods to........well you get the picture. There were not too many big climbs up to this point and I was happy about that. I was told to walk all up hills and run the flats and down hills if possible and I had pretty
much adhered to that plan. If my memory serves me correct, it was around the 15 mile mark when the horses began catching me. The horse race began at 5AM and followed the same course as the runners. At one point I was running and wondered what all the noise was behind me and I was a little startled to see several horses closing on me. Naturally I moved to the side of the road or trail so they could safely pass. We had been told at the pre-race meeting that the horses would be no problem and that they actually liked seeing the runners; I got out of their way anyway. I didn't want my race to end because I got stomped by a horse. One of the many steep climbs I would encounter came about a mile or so before the first drop bag aid station at mile 21.1. I had to just walk it, as well as the other runners. It was during these times that you would "get to know" people. It was a very social event, talking to people from all over the the USA and parts of Europe. I spoke to one woman who had run the Hardrock 100 the weekend before and now she was running this race! At least there were people out there more obsessed than I was. Finally I began the descent down the trail where it would meet one of the many hard packed clay roads. I ran this for a short time before the mile 21.1 aid station, also known as "Pretty House" came into view. The aid station was named I believe for a real pretty house that I passed to get to the aid station. Once at the aid station I met Jeff who had my aid bag for me already. Running the race was going to be grueling, but traveling to all the aid stations and helping a soon to be grumpy runner as Jeff was doing was an ultra in it's own right. After all, he was going to be up for over 29 straight hours also. I think there should be a medal for all of the crew members. After grabbing a bunch of baked potatoes and re-stocking my supplies I filled Jeff in on the course up to this point. I was then off again to continue the adventure.

Miles 21.1 to 30.1

I departed the aid station and continued on thinking that I was four and a half hours into the race and not even a quarter of the way done. The cloud cover was also lifting revealing what promised to be a very hot and humid day. Eventually we came upon a long downhill stretch to an unmanned aid station at mile 25.1, and I said to myself than now I was a quarter of the way done! Five miles later we reached the Stage Road aid station at mile 30.1, where crews and drop bags were allowed. It was here that I did my first of four shoe changes. Much to Jeff's dismay he had to help me with my shoe change. He also sprayed me down with sun block due to the now cloudless sky; the sun was now beating down on me. I also now realize that most of the shoe changes were a waste of time and were purely psychological. The balls of my feet were starting to hurt and I was looking for relief which after the shoe change was short lived. After refilling my water bottles and grabbing another PB & J and potatoes I was off again.

Miles 30.1 to 47. 2

After leaving the aid station I continued down the road for about a quarter of a mile before I came to a yellow pie plate with an arrow that pointed to the right which lead to a trail. This is how we were directed the entire race; follow the yellow pie plates with arrows and sometimes words on them and you were on course. This particular section of the trail was the first time during the race that I thought to myself, "what was I thinking." The trail was a mixture of grass and dirt
but it went straight up and up and up for what seemed like forever. Needless to say I had no choice but to walk this section and on occasion I had to use my hands. I was also glad that my trail shoes had some traction because I needed it. Eventually the climb ended and after going through a section of Sherwood type forest, it emerged into an opening that appeared to be higher than all the surrounding

mountains. The trail then continued through a meadow before heading down the other side of the mountain. It was during this time that I truly learned that I did not know how to run down hills properly. I could have made up a load of time with the help of gravity, I just didn't have the technique. I was now running with a small group and we finally reached the bottom, but more fun was to come. Eventually, we reached the covered bridge that precedes another ridiculously long and grueling climb. The road went up for as far as the eye could see and when you thought the hike was over, the road turned and went up again and again. It was during this time that I began experiencing the highs and lows of ultra running; the times when your body and mind are searching for the energy to continue and revolting against the idea of doing so. But we continued on and finally crested the top but the highs and lows would continue. One second my energy would be gone and mentally I was just in such a low point, but after a few miles, I would be back to myself, able to hold a conversation, laugh, run, then crash... then feel good again... repeat. This is common in ultras, but no doubt the heat magnified it all greatly. I guess it was baptism under fire. Several of the runners around me were also feeling the heat. I handed out a few Succeed Caps to try and help some get their electrolyte issues under control. After a long rolling stretch I finally pulled into the Camp 10 Bear aid station at mile 47.2. This was the first aid station for a weight check. I didn't feel dehydrated, but I still chugged water as I approached the scales. After a few questions from the medical staff(I guess to check my mental well being), I stepped on the scale and it read 160, the same as my initial weight at weigh in....this was good. I then met Jeff there as this was a crew accessible and drop bag location. I ended up spending a little extra time there, just getting my supplies in order and doing my second shoe change. My feet for some reason were real sore, especially the balls of my feet, kinda like they were beaten with a bat or something. I had been told that this was going to happen and to just deal with. I was on another high as I left the aid station, but more fun lay ahead.

Mile 47.1 to 57.1

I left the aid station with a little bounce in my step, maybe the change of shoes or the shot of gel that I had. As I cruised down the road it started to rain which was followed by high winds and then a torrential down pore. A full blown lightning storm then developed. At this time I was running on a road with a tree line to my left and an open field and mountains to my right. Lightning was dancing all over the mountain tops and then one suddenly appeared to touch down about a hundred yards to my right. I thought it looked really cool, very picturesque. I wished at this moment I had a camera; I guess I should have been worrying about getting hit myself. I was told by others that on some parts of the course hail pummeled runners; at least I didn’t get that. I also spoke to one runner after the race and he told me that he DNF’d due to not wanting to get killed by the lightning. The rain did have a cooling effect, although temporary. On the other hand it made the trails sloppy. I continued on and caught up to a runner that was honored at the runner/crew briefing. He had run 18 of the previous Vermont 100's except for the year he did Badwater; that’s the 135 mile race that begins in Death Valley. We chatted for a while until we came to a section of the trail that went up and disappeared into the woods. So we began the climb up the trail, over roots, rocks and mud, the mud due to the recent rain. The upward climb was essentially a hike due to the trail being so steep and slippery. I couldn’t have run it even if it was flat due to the terrain, that being the latter mentioned roots and rocks. We parted ways at Pinky's aid station at mile 51, mainly because I hung out eating a good amount of sliced oranges and watermelon. The energy I had at mile 47 was going away so I was trying to re-fill the tank. I continued on for a while following the pie plate signs through a meadow and into the woods. As I was heading down the trail, a voice yelled out from behind me, "wrong way, your going down the horse trail!" I apparently forgot to read the signs and just looked at the arrows on the pie plates. When I made it back to the point where I made the wrong turn, it was confirmed, one pie plate had the word horses and the other had runners, that means I must be a horses a$$. I eventually made it to the Tracer Brook aid station at mile 57. 1 where I met up with Jeff and made up my multi-hour bottle of Perpetuem. After going over the course with Jeff I left the aid station thinking as I was heading out that I was now in uncharted territory.

Mile 57.1 to 62.1

Coming out of Tracer Brook is an insanely long climb. I learned as I left the aid station that the climb would last a little over 3 miles, or as they called it, a 5K straight up. So onward and upward, another hill that seemed like it would go on forever. It was impossible to go much faster than a 20 minute mile. Worse than that though was the fact that I forgot to fill my water bottle up and had only half of it filled. I took care of my fuel bottle but not my water bottle?!?! This was not the kind of mistake you make when it’s 80 plus degrees and probably an hour until the next aid station. After the nearly hour long climb I came to an unmanned aid station where I filled my bottle, drank most of it and then refilled it again. After a few miles of rolling hills I came to the Margaritaville aid station at mile 62.1, feet hurting and energy draining. . I plopped in a chair and began trying to get my shoes off and found that I was a bit stiff. Unfortunately again for Jeff, he had to help me get my shoes off. After that, I hung out at the aid station listening to the music and talking to the volunteers as well as filling up my bottles with water and fuel. I had grown a little tired of Perpetuem and luckily Jeff had brought along some Succeed products, which my taste buds greatly appreciated. Succeed are products that were created by an ultra runner who was tired of the other commercial drinks and electrolyte replacements currently on the market. It was a welcome change and just maybe I'll be trying them out again. At the aid station I was offered shots of tequila, hamburgers, you name it and they had it. As much as I wanted a bit of everything I stuck to the PB& J’s and boiled potatoes. After hanging out for way too long I was off again, and darkness was approaching.

Miles 62.1 to 77.1

I left the Margaritaville Aid Station feeling pretty good considering that I had run and at times hiked for over 62 miles. I decided to pick up the pace while I was on an energy high and wanting to cover as much ground as possible due to it being dusk which meant night was quickly approaching. So I continued on at a decent pace all alone on a carriage road somewhere in the Vermont wilderness. After running for about 15 minutes I saw a runner some distance ahead so I decided to try and catch up to him, if for no other reason but to have some company. As I approached the runner I saw that he was power walking so I pulled up next to him and did the same. After introductions I learned that this was his second Vermont 100 and that he was hoping to finish in around 28 hours. I asked him if he wanted to try running for a while to which he replied that he was "walking it in." I said, your gonna walk for another 35 miles or so? He replied that he was. I just looked at my watch and then back at him and said, "do you think you can walk 35 plus miles and be done before the cut off? He said that he hoped so. I was like, well I’m gonna pick it up for a while before it gets dark so I told him I'd see him later and we parted ways. I can’t remember his name and have no idea if he finished or not, I hope so, but it was unlikely due to his pace. I then pulled into the Brown School House Aid Station at mile 65.1. I refilled my bottles and grabbed some snacks and headed out. As I was leaving someone from the aid station yelled out that it was "only" 5 miles to the next aid station as if it was comforting. Five miles is a long way when your in the woods by yourself and almost completely dark. So the headlamp was switched on and I continued up the road. The problem was it was now completely dark and a fog was rolling in. I felt like I was now running in outer space; I could barely see the trees on the side of the road which made my fear of getting lost seem like a real possibility. As I continued on I caught a glimpse of a pie plate that was telling me to make a right turn into the woods and onto a single track trail. It was very disorienting running down the trail in the fog and in the dark. I guess imagine driving in an unfamiliar area in dense fog with your high beams on and you get the picture. I couldn’t see more than 5 feet in front of me and my headlamp was creating a tunnel vision effect and it was driving me crazy. I tried switching to flood mode which helped some what but my field of vision was limited to my immediate surroundings. I guess if I was in a car I just would have pulled onto the side of the road and waited out the fog but I wasn’t in a car, I would have liked to be in a car right then but, oh well. Needless to say this was my lowest moment of the whole race. My energy was dipping, I couldn’t see and I kept tripping over invisible rocks. It became so annoying that I pointed my headlamp down in an effort to see them before kicking them. I was also beginning to encounter large puddles covering the entire trail and most of the time I could not avoid them so my shoes were now soaked and heavy. On one occasion I saw a puddle at the last second and tried to side step it only to fall off the trail and into the wet brush. Now I was muddy, wet and tired and wondering what else could possibly happen. After laying there for a few moments I got up and continued on. I eventually made it off the trail and onto another carriage road, which I later found out to be made of packed clay; no wonder my feet were so sore. In the distance I could see the lights of the Camp 10 Bear Aid Station at mile 70.1. It would be at this aid station that I would have to be weighed again. I had not drank much in the last hour and was a bit disoriented as I came out of the fog and into the aid station, hopefully only due to the fog and not dehydration. My weight was somehow still 160 as it was at my initial weigh in. I then found my drop bag and refueled and tried to find Jeff but could not. I later learned that he was right around the corner looking for me but due to the fog neither of us could see the other. I also noticed while I was looking for Jeff that there were quite a few runners laying on cots under blankets. I was thinking to myself, it’s still kinda warm out, why are they under blankets? I then approached the man who was in charge of the pacers. I had applied to have a pacer but was told earlier that one may not be available but to check anyway. A pacer is just another runner who runs with you to provide company, encouragement, and for safety reasons. The reason I requested one was not wanting to get lost in the dark and with it the opportunity to finish in the allotted time. I was advised that there were no pacers available but not to worry that the course was well marked. The gentleman then stated, "listen, your not gonna get lost. Now, just follow the road straight down and the trail will be where the road ends. The trail goes straight up over the rocks for just over a mile and then you’ll have some good roads to run on." I thought to myself, yea, straight up over the rocks for a little over a mile and then I’ll be able to run?! So off I went into the dark and fog and try to make it up some mountain over a bunch of rocks. What I found was that he wasn’t kidding!! It was straight up over big rocks, small rocks, small streams and logs. It was going to be another hike, you’d have to be a mountain goat to run up this. Occasionally I would see the green glow sticks that they hung from the trees to help guide you. They looked very ominous in the dark, the fog creating a glowing circle around them. For some reason all I could thick of was a couple of scenes from Scooby Doo, or was I beginning to crack? So onward and upward I trudged until I came to one of the infamous carriage roads. I was then able to run for a while but noticed in the distance a light coming towards me. Was it another runner, was I lost, no it was a pacer trying to bring back his runner to the aid station because he was done, or in his words, trashed. The pacer did give me one bit of advice; he said to stay straight at the turn up ahead and that he thought maybe a course marker was missing. So I continued on in the fog searching for course markers. As I stayed straight at the curve I saw lights in the distance to my left and wondered were they lost or was I? So I pressed on and could see some lights ahead. As I approached I heard screaming and yelling, not the bad kind, the partying kind of yelling that is. As I approached, I came upon a few colleged aged girls who decided to pull a little "prank" on me. Or was I hallucinating? I’ve been told that I would be getting hallucinations at some point during a 100 mile race; maybe they start at mile 72. After being stunned for a few moments I continued on and met up with a runner named Pat. I explained to him what I believed happened but I wasn’t sure if maybe I had been "seeing things." He said he came running up and saw the same thing I saw; at least I wasn’t hallucinating, yet. So we ran together for a while through some more single track trail. This trail was somewhat annoying, it kept going down into small gullies and then go up again. I found that going down quickly and then going back up was wrecking my toes. I had to quickly slow myself and then push back up the other side. This continued on for a while until we came out of the trail and back onto a road. We could hear the sound of the aid station in the distance so we followed the course markers to the sound. The only problem was that we could now see the aid station, it just happened to be at the top of another big hill. They were making us hike up another hill and for a reward you get to the aid station at mile 77. Once there I found Jeff who had a mini aid station set up with a chair and supplies. After talking for a while, refueling and another shoe change(they were caked in mud) I told Jeff that I had to get this race over with. Fatigue was starting to set in and I just wanted it to be over. I told him I was going to run hard for a while, after all I only had 23 more miles to go!

Miles 77 to 88.6

I left the West Winds Aid Station feeling very stiff and slightly concerned about my time. I really don’t know what time I left the aid station and really hadn’t been keeping track of it for some time, maybe the mental fatigue was setting in. The aid station personnel told me before I left that I was well ahead of the cut offs and could literally walk it in from there. I really didn’t want to do that so I picked it up as I ran across a meadow and into the woods for yet another climb up a hill on single track trail. After running for about a mile or so I could hear hooting and hollering up ahead somewhere so I picked up my pace again so I could see what the commotion was. When I got to the top of a hill I could see down below me a group of runners (I hoped at least) so I cruised through the trails until I caught up to them. There were six runners and along with them were two pacers. . Needless to say I was happy! I had company and pacers that were familiar with the trail so I wouldn’t get lost. The only problem was that they had for the most part decided to walk it in. I asked the pacers if the cut offs were going to be a problem if they just walked the rest of the race. They both told me that the cut offs would not be a problem and to just have fun. So I had a decision to make; stay with them and probably not get lost and make it to the finish eventually or go off on my own, maybe get lost, and finish earlier and the fact that I really didn’t feel like walking it in. Hmmmmm.....I decided to hang with the group, they were a lively bunch anyway and at this point my finishing time really didn’t matter as long as it was within the 30 hour cut off. . So onward we went, mostly power walking and occasionally running. One of the runners, Patrick from Florida, was a real comedian. He kept the group laughing for quite a while. Another runner was not feeling very well and her pacer had to continually motivate her to try and keep her going. We continued on until we came to the aid stations at mile 81 and then the aid station at 83.6. The old ultra saying, "relentless forward movement" was basically what we were doing. The only issue I had was every time we came to an aid station someone in the group would plop in a chair and all but go to sleep. Two more ultra sayings, "avoid the chair" and "never sit in a chair by the fire" were being violated and I was getting concerned about the time. I approached a pacer and asked him what he thought and he agreed that we needed to get a move on.
So we pressed on to Bills Aid Station at mile 88.6, the last aid station for medical checks. The sun was also coming up at this time but you couldn’t really tell due to the fog. I again guzzled water as I approached the scale yet I again weighed in at 161, I actually gained a pound during the race. I met Jeff at this aid station, the last aid station with crew or support access. Jeff helped me with some gear issues and gave me encouragement telling me it was in the bag. Jeff was doing his own ultra having been up for over 26 hours himself and having driven from aid station to aid station in the fog no less. I personally think doing what he did may be harder than what I was doing. How do you thank someone who took four days out of their life to support you on this kind of insane adventure? So off we went again trying to break into single digits in miles to go. I was anticipating mile 92 because it was the last big climb of the race according to the race director. He had discussed it during the runners meeting on Friday night which was nearly two days ago. He said something to affect that you would need your hands and legs to get up it, great, just what you need after running for 92 miles. While making our way up a fairly steep incline, the pacer said the big climb is at the top of the hill we were on. I said, this isn’t the hill, there’s one bigger at the top? He only said, "yep." So we climbed and made it to the base of the real hill. It was real steep, but I could see the top and it wasn't too long so I wasn’t worried about it. Once we crested the hill we came to Polly’s Aid Station at mile 95.5, there was only about 5 miles left! A couple of the runners again sat in some chairs and even pulled them up to the fire! I said at this time, "gentlemen, I have to get this thing over with, I’ll see you all at the finish," and just continued on my own. I think the sun coming up gave me some energy so I picked up the pace a little, kinda amazed that I was able to run after being on my feet for nearly 27 hours now. I passed a few runners and congratulated them on their impending finish. I then caught up to a runner named Jim Cavanaugh of Arlington Virginia. He was an older gentleman competing in the 60-69 age group, wow!! ! He told me completing this race was a life long dream. I congratulated him and told him he was an inspiration to everyone and that I hoped to be able to continue running for as long as he has. I continued on and made it the the last aid station at mile 97.7 where I had some chicken soup. I also saw Jeff driving by and talked with him for a bit about the hill and the course in general. Off I went again getting a bit excited about actually completing this adventure. Now the course jumped off the road again back onto some single track trail with some tricky footing. There were more rocks, roots and other obstacles to deal with, not to mention another lung busting climb, just when I thought it was going to be a nice easy finish. I eventually made it out of the woods and I could here in the distance cheering, which must have been runners finishing the course. Down the road I went and then made a right turn onto Blood Hill Road. We already went up this road once on Saturday and I was hoping not to have to climb to the top of it again. After going up for about 100 yards the course left the road and again went onto a trail. A short time later I saw a sign that said "1 mile to go!" Needless to say I was very happy to be nearly done so I picked it up again only to quickly catch up to another runner. Thinking it would be rude to just pass him with less than a mile to go I just pulled up next to him and asked him how he was doing. He went on to say that he felt like crap and that he couldn't believe how the hot weather did him in. His name was Jon and he had traveled from Bend Oregon to run the race. He said that he was well trained and did mountain ultra races all the time but just didn’t do well in the heat. I told him I didn’t mind the heat but I wasn’t really ready for the hills because I didn’t have any to train on because I lived in New Jersey. He said he couldn’t believe I did this race without doing hill work. He even yelled up to his wife who was up ahead and had been pacing him and told her where I was from. She asked me how many hundreds I had done before and when I told them that this was my first one they acted shocked and happy for me and insisted that I finish ahead of

them. I thanked them and continued on starting to pick it up again. Soon I saw the milk jugs on the side of the trail which indicated that the finish was about 400 yards away. I finally saw the finish line ahead and just jogged it in. There were quite a few runners at the finish cheering runners as they came in, that was a nice touch. In most of the ultras I've done, it's like an unwritten rule that all the runners hang out until the last runner finishes. After receiving congrats and high fives from the runners at the finish, I just stood there not knowing what to do or what to expect. It was weird not to have to continue running, I didn’t know what to do, lay down, sit, so I hung out for a little while watching and cheering for other runners coming in. It was good to see everyone from the group eventually finish too. The high lite was the last official finisher, he came in with 11 seconds before the
30 hour cut off. Shortly thereafter I sat in a chair, had a protein shake and then promptly fell asleep, probably dreaming about next years race!

Thanks for reading!


Monday, July 21, 2008

Vermont 100-A short update

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to leave a quick note about the Vermont 100. First off, I did finish the course in 29:23.48, yea that is over a day running! I decided I wanted to get my monies worth and see as much of the course for as long as possible. Actually, as we were arriving and saw the mountains that I was going to be running up and down, I changed my focus from a certain finishing time to completing the course within the time limits. The course was beautiful yet very sadistic. We were either going up or down the whole race with one portion going over 3 miles up at a very steep incline that you almost (well some did) had to use your hands to help you get up it. There were many who did not complete the race due to various reasons: dehydration, over hydration which lead to renal failure, injuries, some real ugly blisters, etc. I will do a detailed report shortly. I figure I have to take a least a week off to recuperate so I should have time to write it up. The below link is the finishing times. The race director will have to sort it out due to the 100 mile runners and 100K runners times are mixed up. I'm not really used to finishing that far down the list, but it was just for practice, next year I'm racing it!

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Last Long Run.....Before Running 100 Miles?!

Hi everyone,

I'm always a little late in posting, but here goes. I awoke the morning of June 28th at 4AM dreading what I had to do; a very long long run. Don't get me wrong, I love going for a long run, but this was going to be a little longer than usual, with the added benefit of two hill interval workouts on top of it. It wasn't the running I dreaded, it was the scenery, the same scenery that I've been looking at for months now. Not to mention the fact that when you go out for a forty something mile run the same paths and roads can get really boring. What I didn't know was that the run was going to be far from boring, actually like something out of an Alfred Hickcock movie would be a little closer, but more on that later. As I began mixing up my drinks for the run it finally dawned on me that in three weeks I would be running twice the distance of my longest run, 100 miles!! I mean, I had thought about it, but mainly in a training aspect, but for some reason the thought of running 100 miles just left me wondering if I had gotten in over my head this time. I've run pretty far in the past, 50 mile races, quite a few 30 plus mile races and a lot of marathons. I had just done the Ocean Drive Marathon twice back in March. I knew what I had felt like after those runs, so what in the world was I going to be like after (hopefully) completing a 100 mile run, over some mountains in Vermont no less. But now I had a some additional motivation on top of the desire to just finish the race. I recenly learned of a friends friend whose child is seriously ill and I felt I needed to do something. It was then that I remembered an organization that was police affiliated who granted wishes to terminally ill children and children that were abused or physically challenged. So I contacted the Sunshine Foundation and told them of my plans to run the Vermont 100 Endurance Run and that I wanted to help raise money for them to help in their cause.
There are two ways to donate to the Sunshine Foundation. If you wish to write a check to sponsor me for the run the address is:
Sunshine Foundation
1041 Mill Creek Drive
Feasterville, PA 19053
Office: 215.396.4770
Cell: 215.669.2703
I am hoping that everyone who reads this will donate a least 1 dollar, but any amount will help! Just please put on the check: "AJ Johnson 100 mile run" so they can keep track of the amount. You can also donate online at: Once again, please put, "AJ Johnson 100 mile run" on the online form. So now with extra incentive I completed my pre-run preparations and headed into the garage for the beginning of a long day...........
Now on to my last long run report.
My day started on the treadmill of which I was going to be on for one and a half hours of hill intervals. I created the workout to simulate the hills in Vermont, at least try to simulate the hills. The workout consisted of a five minute warm up and then it was three minutes up an incline that I varied at six to eight degrees and then a one minute recovery with the incline at zero. This went back an forth for an hour and fifteen minutes before a minute run at zero incline again. It was then time to load up on my supplies; I don't want to bore you with those details, and then head out the door. I could tell as the sun was coming up that it was going to be a hot one, perfect for acclimating to the probable heat in Vermont. So off I went into the woods and trails off Corson Tavern Road in Seaville to make my way to Tuckahoe and parts of Woodbine. The only company I had was my IPod, I just wasn't sure if the battery was going to last the whole run. The run was initially uneventful, plenty of deer tracks, a few wild turkeys jumping up and running down the path (they are fast) and the ever present strawberry flies, AKA Deer Flies . So I continued on occasionally swatting at the flies but mostly concentrating on my running and trying to determine when to begin the walk portion of the run. My normal run to walk ratio for Ultra Marathons is 20 minutes running and 2 minutes of walking. The walking portion allows your running muscles to recover and to also give you a chance to drink and eat. I've used this ratio in 50 milers but figured for a 100 miler it would probably end up something like 15 minutes running and 3-4 minutes of walking. I was trying to figure up times in my held, trying to determine miles per hour to run. In the Vermont 100, you have 30 hours to finish the course or you are disqualified. I wanted to finish in under 24 hours but realistically it would probably be more like 26-27, time will tell. I was somewhere around 20 miles into my run when I entered the Tuckahoe (Lester G. MacNamara) Wildlife Management Area . I was about a half mile into the forest when they set upon me, the strawberry flies had returned and they brought all of their relatives, all of whom were very hungry. It was like the Alfred Hitchcock movie, "The Birds," except this would have been titled, "The Flies." They were literally everywhere, I was being swarmed and chased. I never saw anything like this before, did I step on a nest or something? So I picked up the pace only to find that flies can go faster than I can run. I continued at a quick pace, much quicker than I really wanted to go considering I still had a long day ahead of me. I was hoping that once I reached the part of the trail/road that was open to the sun, that the flies would go away; they don't seem to like being in direct sunlight. I really can't explain it any better than this, there were hundreds of flies trying to bite every part of my body that they landed on. They bit me through my shirt, my hat, even my shorts. I really believe that if I fell down and knocked myself out, the little buggers would eat me alive. I must have smashed dozens of the little monsters but they kept coming. I must have looked like a crazy person, running and swinging at what probably looked like imaginary objects. After about a mile and a half of hard running I temporarily left the for forest and began running around a big lake. The attacks subsided somewhat, but they were still present, now the amount was down to a few dozen and not in the hundreds. So I got a two plus mile break but I had to go back into the forest on the other side of the lake. After completing the loop around the lake I had to enter the forest to be able to continue on to Mosquito Landing Road to make my way to Tuckahoe. As soon as I left the direct sunlight, they were back. I mean, did they call ahead and say lunch was coming? So another couple of miles of fighting the flies before I came to Route 50 in Tuckahoe. Once on the pavement they just disappeared. To make a long story short, I simply stuck to the roads, which might have been more dangerous due to the summer traffic. Buy the time I made it back home, I had had been through Upper, Woodbine and Dennis Twsp. I also made three stops at different stores to get more water and snacks. After I got back home it was one more time on the treadmill for just another hour and then I was done. For my last long run I ran for a total of seven and a half hours and covered just over 44 miles. For good measure I put in another 12 the next day and began my taper for the race. With the majority of my training now done, it would be the three week taper to contend with. Thanks for reading and wish me luck (I'm going to need it) on July 19th & 20th.
Also, please take a moment to check out my sponsor,
Holloway Home Improvement Center is the creator of the finest custom kitchens, not to mention great friends. If your ever in need of a new kitchen, do yourself a favor and give them a call. Jeff will also be accompanying me to Vermont to once again crew for me. Basically that means he will meet me at the various aid stations and assist me with whatever I need to keep moving, provide moral support, supply me with various food items, and occassionaly bust my chops for getting myself into this in the first place.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Tale of Two Marathons-2008 Ocean Drive Marathon

In my continued effort to train for the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Race, I decided to use the Ocean Drive Marathon as a training run, by running it twice. It wasn't that long ago that that I wouldn't have even contemplated doing something so, well, nuts, but for some reason I like running for hours on end. I figured that it would also give me a chance to experiment with shoe, clothing and fueling options. My friend Jeff Holloway also agreed to run the marathon and help pace me. Jeff will also be crewing for me at the 100 miler and figured this would be a chance to practice pacing for the last 20 miles of Vermont; if I make it that far. Jeff also ran the 2007 version of this race and felt the pain of running his first marathon so he wanted a little revenge on the course anyway. I do remember him saying that he would never run this race again because of it's monotony and usual bad head winds, but to my benefit he forgot saying that. Anyway I got up at 3:10AM race morning and did my normal long run preparations and seemingly took forever to get out the door. I made it to Sea Isle City, where the race finishes and got my stuff together to begin the run to Cape May where the race starts. After returing to my truck several times to make sure I didn't forget something, I finally got underway just before 5AM. I wanted to run the first half in under four hours so now I had no choice to do that due to the fact that the race started in Cape May at 9AM. I quickly remembered that I liked running in the dark. It is very peaceful and the course seemed different, not extremely boring like it normally is. I felt good so I picked up the pace for a while and cruised out of Sea Isle and into Avalon and then Stone Harbor. I had some minor technical difficulties like dropping my gel flasks (my headlamp came in handy at this time), dropped my phone and broke the clip, my water carrier kept slipping etc. It was still a pleasant run until the sun began coming up and with it came the wind. It really began howling as I made the turn towards North Wildwood and started getting sand blasted by road debris. When I got to the boardwalk the wind was at my back so I took advantage of it and picked up the pace for this portion. When I got off the boardwalk I began heading west and missed my left turn onto Pacific Avenue and made the turn onto New Jersey instead. After a while I realized something was wrong and thought that I had missed the turn to continue onto Ocean Drive. So I made a right onto a road that ended up being a dead end so I had to back track. Now panic was setting in so I called Jeff to see if he had a map. He luckily was still stuck in Sea Isle waiting for the marathon bus to take him to the start. He then called his wife Karen who looked up a map on the internet and called me to guide me out of Wildwood Crest. It was also during this time that I literally made a guy stop his truck to ask for directions which he also provided. Anyway, with Karens help I made it onto Ocean Drive and had to pick it up to make it to the start. I made it with about thirteen minutes to spare with my first half time being 3:42 and change. I met up with Jeff and I made a quick sock and shoe change before we had to head out. The problem was that I had developed a blister on the inside of my right big toe and I didn't have time to repair it. So off we went with the starters horn and began our trek to Sea Isle, both of us already cursing the winds that would be in our face for the next several hours. So we plodded on and made out way to the boardwalk in Wildwood. It was about this time that I had to remind myself why I was doing this to myself and Jeff finally recalled that he had swore to himself that he would not do this race ever again, but oh well, too late now. So we continued on just talking about everythng under the sun. It was kinda like being at the bar with out the hot wings and beer, although a beer would have been good right about now. Maybe we will stash some next year along route when we do the race again even though we would surely swear again that we would not. Anyway to make a long story short, we fought the headwinds and desolate course for 5:43.33 before finishing in Sea Isle. Jeff repeatedly stated that he hates this race and will not be back, we will see about that. As far as I was concerned, running for a total of 9:25. and change didn't feel too bad. The blister on my toe however was a monster and needed some minor surgical type procedure. Anyway, live and learn. As far as I'm concerned, this training run/experiment was successful. Thanks for reading.


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Saturday, December 29, 2007

2007 JFK 50

Hi everyone,

Finally posting the race report from the JFK 50 that I participated in on Saturday November 17th. My friend Jeff Holloway, AKA Head Crew Chief & only crew member, motivator, ball buster etc, and I our began our second trip to the JFK 50 on Friday November 16th around noon. Jeff apparently liked seeing me suffer so much last year that he wanted to come back and see it all over again. He also liked the breakfasts that he would stumble upon as he drove from aid station to aid station. He also made sure to enlighten me about everything he ate as he met me along the race route. As I sucked down gels and was starving for real food he's talking having pancakes, bacon, sausage eggs and so on. Well, more on that later. As far as the trip to the race site, there was nothing major to report about the trip itself other than the Baltimore beltway sucks. Anyway, we arrived at the Quality Inn in Hagerstown Maryland around 4PM so we could unload our luggage prior to going to the expo and pasta party. I should have known by the following events that this was probably not going to be my best race. As we walked to the entrance of the hotel, I observed what I believed to be a street person sitting by the front door drinking a Coors Light. My spider sense told me that he was also a former (or escaped) inmate from some prison somewhere. Here I am trying to focus on what I'm going to do the next day and the cop part of me wants to check this guy out to see if he is wanted. We then we entered the lobby and noticed a short time later that this "street person" was also the hotel custodian, this we concluded due to observing him vacuuming the hallway?! I then had the pleasure of talking to the front desk clerk so I could finalize my room reservation. When I advised her my name and that I had reservations for that night, she just started laughing hysterically and said something to the effect that there was a problem, that they probably didn't have a room for us due to something being broken, in her words "the heater or something." I can't remember exactly what I said, but Jeff said I basically went off on her after which she disappeared for a short time, I thought to maybe call the police or something. She eventually came back and gave us a key to our room, which was only slightly better than sleeping out side. We really weren't sure if the room had been serviced or not, it reeked of an unknown odor, appeared dirty, but like I said, it wasn't out side.
We made it to the expo around 5PM. It was just OK, not like your normal marathon expo with all kinds of neat things to look at. The high lite of the evening was the pasta party. Not only was the meal good (3 plates of spaghetti...oops) but the people attending were some of the fittest people I have every encountered. Anne Lundblad was in attendance. She is just the #1 ranked female ultra runner in the country right now(and won this race too). There were a number of runners who had just ran the Olympic Marathon Trials two weeks ago. What impressed me most was the number of return runners. There was one runner who had completed the race 34 consecutive years and 36 total times. For me to do that I would be in my late 70's!! I'll give it a shot, only 32 more years in a row to go. There were awards for those who had completed 10 times and 20 times; awards they call the "500" and "1000" mile finishers. After finishing the awards banquet, we returned to our luxurious hotel for race prep.
Unlike last year, my "food" for the race was made at home and frozen. Last year it took me about two hours to measure out and basically concoct my gel mixture. Jeff said I looked like a mad scientist. I normally eat only gels consisting of either vanilla Hammer Gel or a combination of the vanilla gel and Perpetuem that I mix into a gel. I found this year that although this combination works, I do need to take in more "solid" foods during races longer than the marathon distance. Everything was then laid out and then packed for the race. In most races, you can forget something and get by. During an ultra, forget something important like extra socks or anti-chafing accessories, and your race is over before it starts. It was then to bed for a bad night of sleep.
I awoke race morning and tried to get into race mode. I was already hungry but could not eat anything. I normally follow the rule of not eating within three hours of a race that is more than 10 miles long. It has to do with how the body utilizes glycogen, namely how fast it uses it. All I had to look forward too was the two shots of vanilla Hammer Gel about ten minutes before the race kicks off. I knew from the previous nights weather that it was probably going to be cold, but how cold? As I stepped out side I found out how cold, 20 something degrees cold and I really don't like the cold a whole bunch. Anyway we loaded up and escaped from hotel hell and began the short six mile trip to Boonsboro High School which is the staging area for the race. On the way Jeff said he needed coffee and for that matter so did I, even though I don't drink coffee. I just needed something to warm me up and pick me up. We stopped at a cops best friend, Duncan Doughnuts for what I thought was just coffee. Jeff had other ideas. He decided to begin the food deprivation torcher early by getting four doughnuts and eating them in front of me while on the way to the race site. To make matters worse, I bought two doughnuts for after the race. So I sat there, starving, and stairing at my doughnuts. Not a good way to prepare for running 50 miles. We arrived at the race site and I began the final prep for the race. This is the most stressful time for me, did I forget anything, did I lube everything that needed lubing, where was my water carrier? Needless to say I was taking too much time getting ready again and I still had a three quarters to a mile of a walk to get to the starting line in downtown Boonsboro. Once I thought I was ready, we began the walk/jog to the start. Last year I arrived just as the starters gun went off and this year didn't look like it was going to be much different.
As I walked I hoped that it would warm up some, I was shivering and didn't enjoy the prospect of running in 29-30 degrees for the next eight to nine hours. After a quick visit to a dark alley for a rest room call, I made it to the starting line about five minutes ahead of time. I took this time to focus and decide how I was going to attack the course. I always set three goals for myself: my best scenario/dream goal, my I'm happy with that, and the just finish goal. My "dream goal" was to finish in 8:30 or better. I believed I had trained properly for it, but a lot can happen to you during an eight to nine hour run. My "I'll be happy with that goal" was to break nine hours. I ran 9:07 last year so I just had to beat that. Of course the last goal was to just finish the race in the allotted 12 hour time limit. I saw plenty of bloody people last year so again, anything can happen. The starters gun finally went off and so were we. The first 2.7 miles is roadway with a continuous incline that takes you up to the Appalachian Trail. I had decided that I was going to run this part at a decent pace, around an 8 to 8:30 pace until I reached the trail and the treacherous rocks. At around the 2 mile mark I realized my first mistake of the day, going out too fast. I was breathing pretty hard when I noticed I was still in the pack with the leaders, and they had to be going at a 6:30ish pace... duh! I was treating this like a 10 mile race and not a 50 miler. So I backed off and even took a walking break just to get my time back within reason and get my breathing to calm down. Shortly there after I was on the trail. For the first mile or so, the trail alternates between your dirt and rock covered trail to a paved trail. The trail also continues to rise during this time. It was during this time that I noticed how fun it was to run on mountainous trails, the scenery was beautiful, it kinda felt like I was playing. And so it continued until the trail turned mostly rocky and less dirt and rock. I had to slow my pace to avoid tripping and falling, something I had already observed others do. I was starting to remember that I don't like rocks, I just can't figure out how to run them quickly. I was now being passed by people who looked like they were running on the road. Granted, maybe they lived nearby and trained regularly on the trails, but what the heck, maybe I needed to run just a little more recklessly. So I did and it didn't take long before the inevitable happened. While cruising along I stepped on what I thought were leaves which turned out to be rocks under the leaves.
My left ankle went completely out to the side and I felt that old yet familiar pain of the classic sprained ankle. I was only about 8 miles into a 50 mile and the thought of my race being over was a possibility. When I first did it, a runner behind me kinda screamed and stopped next to me when I stepped off the trail. He was like, "yo dude, you alright, you completely turned your ankle, it looked like you broke it." I was now hoping it was just sprained and not broken but it was starting to hurt quite a bit. I thanked the runner and said I was alright, although I had no idea if I was or not. I then continued on but at a much slower and careful pace. The ankle held up but it was hurting. I knew I had about a mile and a half before we came down the mountain to go through the first aid station at mile 10. The descent down the trail to the aid station didn't hurt like I thought it would and was for the most part fun. I came into the rest area and saw Jeff who told me I was 20 minutes ahead of my hoped for finishing time; I didn't know if that was good or bad. I handed Jeff some of my gear due to it warming up a little, or maybe I was warmed up. It was then back up the mountain to finish out the trail. During the earlier portion of this section of the trail I again picked up my pace a little. My ankle still hurt, but not as bad as I thought it should. I was still using my run/walk breaks as I had planned; run for 20 minutes and walk for 2 1/2 minutes. I used the walking breaks to re-fuel and drink. The trail then began turning extremely rocky, I didn't remember it being like this during this part of the trail last year. Did they bring in extra rocks just to screw with me? My good pace turned into a run, walk, hop and trip kinda thing. I was starting to curse the rocks out loud. At one point I some how got my right foot stuck under a big rock and pulled it up during my stride. A runner behind me was laughing and yelled to me that I had done some major excavation. I guess I should have gone back and put the rock back in its hole but I didn't....oops. On ward I went, fighting the rocks all the way. Even on the descent down the mountain there were rocks, rocks and more rocks. The switch-backs were a good sign that the rocky trail would be over in about a mile. Switch-backs are a zig-zag type pattern that leads you down the mountain; back and forth on the side of the mountain until you reach the bottom. Luckily the switch-backs were not as rocky and were actually fun. There were bigger rocks and logs to jump over and the decline allowed you to go fast. I had to be careful because on a couple of occasions, as I came down and stopped to make a left to begin the next switch-back, if I didn't stop in time and tripped, over the side of a cliff I would go and get to visit the boulders two plus stories down. After getting off the mountain there was another aid station and then 26 miles of running next to the river to look forward too. I had been looking forward to this time, thinking I'd be able to pick it up a little. The only problem was my thighs were a little beat and my ankle still hurt, probably due to running down the switch-backs like I was being chased by a mountain lion. It was fun, but I ran that last down hill section like it was the end of the race. So I took a good 3 minute walking break to try and rejuvenate the legs a little. It was then that I noticed my feet were a little sore, which leads to my second mistake. I had only trained in these shoes for one week before the race. Being a procrastinator is not good. The shoes I wore last year had a plastic plate in the forefoot section of the shoes that protected my feet from the jagged rocks. My current shoes did not and my feet were paying the price. So I persevered, no pain, no gain, right? I continued along until mile 27 when for some reason I just didn't like my gel any more and I grew hungry. I saw Jeff at another aid station and I asked him what he found to eat, I guess I was trying to live vicariously through him, or at least hear about food. For the record, he had pancakes, sausage, eggs, dry beef gravy, a regular smorgasbord at some fire hall during his civil war site tour. Yet Jeff was a great motivator. As I neared any aid station that he was at, he would yell "go AJ," so needless to say it gave me a pick up. Anyway, I was still hungry so I began eating pretzels and bananas at the next aid station. The following aid station Jeff handed me a Cliff Bar (chocolate chip yum!) and I began to feel better. I have simply come to the conclusion that I need more real food during ultras, the slower pace allows you to digest more calories easier. Learn something new everyday I say. Anyway, I trudged on, legs heavy and my goal time slipping away. I then began running with a man who had several JFK race times on his back. I asked him what all the times on his back meant. He apparently has been running this race on and off for the better part of 30 years and actually won it once with a time just under 6 hours once. I believe his name was Zeke Tucker and he is 63 years old! This day he finished in a time of 8:14; 20 years on me and finishes ahead of me, wow! We ran together for quite some time until we came to the aid station at mile 34.

We parted ways at this time, he continued running and I re-filled my water bottle and stretched out some kinks. I then continued on alternating running for 12 or so minutes and walking for 2 to 3 minutes. I also mixed in some stretching, my lower back felt tight for some reason (note to self, begin newly designed core program) so I did a couple of stretches each time I took a walking break. For some reason, mentally this trail section from mile 34 to the aid station at mile 38 seemed very long, this year as well as last. I guess when your pace is around 10 to 11 minute miles, 4 miles can take longer than my normal 7:30 or faster pace. The second to the last aid station of the trail finally came into view at mile 38 which meant only 12 more miles to go! Four more miles of this trail and I'm on the road again. I was kinda getting tired of looking at the river to my left and I needed a change of scenery. So now I had four more miles of the trail until I would again run on the roads. This four mile section went a little quicker, probably due to talking to several runners. There also seemed to be more and more runners sitting on the side of the trail also stretching out their kinks. After again refilling my water bottle and taking a handful of bananas (potassium is a good thing) at the mile 41.5 aid station, I continued onto the last section which is a hilly country road to the finish. I ran for a 100 or so yards when I was greeted by a very large hill. I remembered this hill from last year and thought that this year I would run up it. After getting a quarter of the way up I noticed that no one else was running, they were walking and conserving energy so I walked the remainder of it also. A lot of times in a race like this you tend to forget your goals other than the finish goal.
My thighs were hurting, not as quite as bad as last year, but it still hurt to run down hills. I still walked some of the steeper hills and tried to run down the back side. I then checked my watch out, trying to fiqure out a possible finish time. My 8:30 was out the window and my 9 hour goal was just about gone too. It was then that I got mad at myself. I had trained most of the summer for this race, so I then decided that it was time to suck it up. I calculated that I needed to run under 10 minute miles to break 9 hours, so I decided to give it a shot. So with 4 miles to go and still more hills to conquer. My first mile was a 10:17, but
I found that it hurt just as much to walk as it did to run so I decided to just run. Jeff had just given me another Cliff Bar which was just starting to kick in. He also shouted words of encouragement, and well, called me a few names to piss me off and get my ass moving, so I did. My next mile was a 9:49 so I was back on pace, but it was going to be close. the second to the last mile was a 10:02 and I was thinking oh boy, in a little less than 10 minutes it would be 9 hours on the course so I had to move it. I ran hard, as hard as I could anyway. When I made the last turn I knew
that the finish was just over a little hill. I also new by glancing at my watch, that I was going to be under 9 hours, but how far under? So I sprinted. I came across the line in 8:57.12 and I had ran my last mile in 8 minutes and 39 seconds. Not my fastest mile by far, but surely my hardest and most satisfying. I stopped to hav />e the finishers medal placed around my neck and then tried to walk to the car. A moment ago I was running hard down the road, and now my legs decided they were not going to move anymore, but hey mission accomplished. Theres always next year, I'll take another shot at 8:30 then. So what did I do a couple of weeks ago, I signed up for the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run! I figure that if the JFK hurt this much, I guess I just want to know what total agony is! Next up, the Fattest Butt 50K in Delaware on January 5th. Thanks for reading! AJ