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!



joyRuN said...

Congratulations on your finish - great reading the detail in your race report too. I'm in awe of your race history.

PS - found your blog through Steve at njshorerun.

Peter Shoemaker said...

Outstanding job, AJ! Thanks, too, for your comments the other day. We're all just keeping on moving on. I've got a 12-hr race in mid-Sept and then I'm going to grab the 100 at Rocky Raccoon in Feb. Cheers, and best wishes.