May 282012

by Jeremy Bonnett –


Alison, Francesca and I arrived in Pittsfield, Vermont around 5:30 p.m. on Friday the 11th.  We picked up my bib number, shirt, and hat at the general store and were told the “cool” pull-overs hadn’t been dropped off yet by Andy Weinberg, race director.   Already relatively full from a huge sub, we skipped the planned dinner of pasta and red sauce and opted to snack instead, settling in at our quite, cozy motel about 25 minutes away.  Man, was I excited!

More than just carb-loading…

The alarms went off at 4:00 a.m. and I popped out of bed with anxious excitement.  I was able to down a PB&J bagel, drink some coffee, and suck down an Emergen-C before heading off to the start with much more clothing than expected.  33 degrees was one report as we all huddled around waiting for the start listening to the morning announcements about the course.

Myself, Mindy, Ian, Valerie, Zak, David, Chuck


Miles: 0 – 10

I wolfed down a nature bar, sucked some more Nuun from a Nalgene and took off the warm and cozy’s I had on…  and….  GO!  OK, so it wasn’t nearly that loud or enthusiastic.  The 30, and 50 mile group headed off across the road for their epic journey, and the 11 or so of us (3 did not start) took off leisurely down the hill and toward the skinny bridge over the Tweed River.  There were already a few people out on the course, 2 150 milers, about a dozen 200 milers, and 3 or 4 500 milers.  One had already finished, Willy Syndram, simply amazing.  He did 50 loops of the ten mile course!

Makeshift bridge from the destruction of Irene.

I started at the back of the pack and said hi and good luck, making eye contact with everyone.  Settling in with Patrick Guerette, and Jennifer Atkinson from New Zealand we began the first climb to the top of the hill.  My plan was to take it real easy the first lap, making sure to walk all the ups and take it easy on the descents in roughly 2+ hours, then hover around two for the majority and see how I felt at 50 , hoping to put the hammer down at 80.  The information I received from the website was 2400ft of total elevation.  That means 1200 up, 1200 down.  I also heard that the course might be all switchbacks up and gentle switchbacks down.  This was in my head for six months of training…


After the third steep incline straight up the hill I realized that not only was this a different course, but it was a lot more elevation than published.  The aid station was supposed to be at mile 5.5, then I heard 4.5, and finally an e-mail stated 3.5.  When we finally crested the hill to shed my Garmin read 2.75 miles.  We all continued on not bothering to check the shed as it was too early, maybe there was another one?  A few miles later and we realized that was our aid station.  I had sent up some Nuun, salt tabs, and potatoes as a drop-bag, and was carrying a handheld but was bummed about the limited liquid so early on.


With gorgeous 360 views of the surrounding foothills we left the exposed peak and cruised along at a comfortable pace, keeping with the plan of walking the ups, and running the downs.  The course was muddy, but not horrible.  It was quite impossible though to keep feet dry at all as around every corner there seemed to be some sort of mini-water/mud section.

Mud here and there

After about a mile we reached an area called the Labyrinth.  George Alexion had told me about this gorgeous area of deep, dark woods, with twists and turns, roots and needles, and shared a few pictures from one of his previous two years at Peaks.  It was everything he described, very magical, and very fun to walk through (I didn’t want to trip too early on).


I ate a Raw Revolution bar, a few dates and was conscious to conserve some liquid.  Then began the never-ending switchback section.  Great running, real fun and very scenic, with stream crossings, single and double-track, mostly rocky and smooth footing.

“new trail”

At about the 8.5 mile mark we hit a rather interesting section that reminded me of the Jay Peak race from years back.  For a mile we meandered along the river on a very new trail, we were guessing within the last week, from the people on this race.  We climbed under, and over logs, walked along cobblestones, slid down muddy slopes, balanced along sticks in the muck, and trudged through sand.  A very slow section and after the hard uphill, technical switchbacks, pounding downhills, and forced walk bushwhacking my eyes were wide with the realization that it was going to be a long day…

Real thirsty, and a bit shell-shocked I crossed the bridge again and after a half mile of gradual uphill, the first lap was done, 10%…  Holy Shit!

Garmin Stats Loop One 

Miles 11 – 20:

After about a two minute transition with Alison, the best crew in the world, I ran alone for about a mile.  I think I ate a pb&j roll-up and some veggie sushi on this lap as well as a salt tab.  On the second major incline I caught up with Laura Bleakley. We chatted for a bit and I learned she really wasn’t having that great a day and had a lot going on during training leading up to this race, so she was just out having fun.  She’s had some amazing races in the past and I was a bit bummed for her not to be killing it.

Due to the cool morning weather and the threat of a hot day I decided to pick it up a bit and get a few miles under my belt.  I knew the course was going to force a lot of walking, and I really wanted to run a fun quick lap.  I met up with Gavin Watson right before the top and we exchanged short stories as we hiked over fun terrain and a bit more mud.  Gavin mentioned how gorgeous it would be seeing the sunrise in the morning and I remember thinking no way will I still be out here in the morning!  Man was I wrong!

At the peak I ducked in to the shed for a Nuun refill and some potatoes, and prepared for the descent.  I was real surprised to catch up to a guy who was in the hundred as well.  This gave me a bit of a jolt as I suddenly realized I was in second place.   I did not want to be there though.  It was simply too early on, and I didn’t want to get hung up on maintaining pace, and placement and burn myself out.

At the start/finish however it was unavoidable to check the leader-board, see the splits, and get jazzed up a bit.

Miles 21 – 30:

the demon himself…

Alison sent me off with a ham and avocado roll-up knowing I’d need some protein for the day.  I was actually full though and ended up carrying the heavy sandwich for about 7 miles before being able to eat it.

This lap was brutal.  Probably one of the lower points of the race.  The demons came in – big time.  I didn’t feel like I trained enough, was tired, hurting, felt hot spots on my feet, and was moving much slower.  I got real down on myself and wondered how the hell I was going to make it another 75 miles feeling the way I was?  How will this be possible?  I can’t DNF!  I just can’t do it.  I’ll have to move slower, walking more and get in to survival mode.  The thoughts of finishing under 24 hours quickly moved to focusing on finishing before 36 hours, no matter what.  Even if I had to sleep for a bit.

Organization station!

Back at the aid station I ate some potatoes, dates, apricots sucked down some coconut water, and popped a salt pill.  I definitely took more time at this transition.  As my original plan of no more than two minute stops faded, I opted for the “do whatever it takes to survive” mantra.

I once again looked at the board as we had to write our times after each loop and confirmed it was no longer a race.  The lead man was increasing his gap by 10 or 15 minutes each lap.  Now it was just hold on!

Miles 31 – 40:

This lap I felt mentally much better and just concentrated on having fun, enjoying the day and keeping the positivity high.  I had a bit of leg cramping though which got me semi-nervous, but the sandwich did it’s job and helped with the cramping while tasting amazing!  Thanks Alison!  I was alone again on the trails, didn’t really mind it but I was looking forward to some company, be it pacers, or other runners.  I figured the chances were pretty good I’d see some more people relatively quick as Ben Nephew flew by me at the 7 hour mark, clearly leading the 50 milers, surely this would mean more company to follow.

Not so much.  I would pass the occasional 500, 200, or 150 miler and talk with them and their pacers a bit, but it wouldn’t last long as most of them were inching their way along with walking sticks and looks of pain and determination on their faces.  My mantra was just keep going.  This is what you do, you run down hills, and power hike up them.  You’ve trained for this, worked your ass off, keep going.  I got the Beastie Boys song in my head for a while:  “cause you can’t, you won’t, and you don’t stop!”

I’m sure I ate a few bars, dates and apricots, as well as the potato and salt tab but the specifics are relatively foggy.  I know I was really slowing at this point and my feet were really beginning to bug me.  Very gentle on some of the downs, more walking, but 40% done!

Miles 41 – 50:

Nick Tooker and Zak Wielans were just about to run their 10 mile loop after finishing 40 and waited a bit for me.  I was super surprised to see them and could not believe they were going to wait and keep me company!  Before heading out I decided to pick up another handheld as the day was heating up.  Later reports stated 78 degrees.  Each lap I would chug liquid at the aid stations, easily drain my bottle, and be thirsty for the last few miles.  I was cautious about too much sodium intake though as I’ve had hypernatremia before, gained weight swelling my feet and causing massive blisters.

I was absolutely amazed to hear that Zak had recovered from a rough bout of vomiting earlier on.  As he put it, “the worst since college.”  Listening to the stories of just how difficult the other part of the race was impressed me to see these two still chugging right along.  After hearing Zak’s story I turned to ask Nick how he was feeling and he stated “oh just fine.”  Thirty seconds later on an incline we stopped to see him dry-heaving behind us.  Jinx.

Ian, Val, Mindy, Chuck and Dave were all going through their own epic battles, and I definitely took solace in the fact that the team was out in force pushing through limits.  As well as all our support crew going through their ultra-marathon of endurance.  Little did I know just how long it would be…

It was good to catch-up with Nick though.  He’s had a phenomenal couple of years in the ultra scene, and really broken out with a lot of huge accomplishments.  About 7 or so miles in to the lap he decided to kick it in to get under 12 hours.  I didn’t have time to tell him about he last 1.5 miles of slowness before he sped off…  So Zak and I continued on, chatting, and he noted the changes from last years course, to this years.  Impressive to know he ran a snowshoe marathon on those trails!

Miles 51 – 60:

Back at the transition once again Alison was a rock star.  She was so amazing assessing my needs, laying out all the food in an orderly manner, and getting me ready for the next lap.  I’m pretty sure she popped blisters, and I changed my socks before this lap.  My cousin Jeff joined me after working all day, driving for two and a half hours, knowing he’d have to turn around and head home after.  Very blessed I am.  Jeff seemed excited, but later I found out he was a bit nervous from hearing stories about the loop, seeing Nick vomiting at the end, and seeing, and smelling my feet.

I started this lap with my old waist pack so I didn’t need to carry my bottles any more, and I could bring spare headlamps and food if need be.  I think I put on my long pants at this point and started with a long sleeved shirt.  We began real slow, and I warned Jeff that I was getting slower by the hour.  We did have great conversations though and reminisced about old times and previous training runs.  Sharing the course with him was akin to bringing your parents to school for a play.  I was filled with pride, excitement, and a playful sense while showing him what I’d been doing for the last thirteen hours.

We donned our headlamps early in the loop and I dimmed my Black Diamond Sprinter to save the battery life.  On high it’s only supposed to last 5 or 6 hours and it uses a recharging system, not batteries.  My plan was to bring along a super-sweet backup headlamp in case it died later on.  Of course my original plan was to be out-of-the-woods, so to speak before it died.

The lap was over relatively quick, and Jeff seemed to enjoy it enough.  We said our goodbyes and I prepared for the long night ahead.

Miles 61 – 70:


Alison hooked me up with some more soup and veggie sushi this lap which tasted so much better than the Raw Revolution and Mojo bars I’d been consuming all day.  I’m pretty sure I put on a warmer long-sleeve shirt, my tank-top over that, and a light wind-breaker, as well as hat and gloves.

I ran alone, but the peace and tranquility of the woods and illuminated focus of only a few meters was somehow comforting.  Surprisingly enough I heard a few song birds, the kind you usually hear in the early morning.  My company was also kept by a few Baird owls, a lot of tiny mice, and a plethora of insects.  At one point for a few hundred yards the ground seemed to come alive, rustling as though a strong October wind was kicking up leaves.  For a bit I thought I was hallucinating, and tried to figure out what it was.  Near as I could tell there were hundreds of mice under the leaves, chowing on bugs.  Emma would later attest to this phenomenon, and clear me of any delusional stigma.

Miles 71 – 80:

So, back at the ranch Alison was gracious enough to tend to my blistered, battered, and trenched feet again.  I ate more soup, consumed a bunch of coconut water, and leaned back in the chair.  Shaking with every muscle in my body due to the cool temps and my core dropping, Ian was quick to throw his sleeping bag over my head and shoulders, and Alison a draped a blanket over my legs.  I told people I was going to sleep for 15 minutes, but no longer than a half hour.  It didn’t happen.  I did shut my eyes for 5 minutes or so, but was just too cold to calm down, and I figured I might as well keep going.

This lap I had the pleasure of having Emma as my company.  We started out real slow, and then slowed some more.  I’m pretty sure we walked the entire lap.  It was fantastic to have her out there, especially knowing she’d been up for much of the day, and already run a lap with Ian, after his epic adventure.

After 80

I began to pee more frequently, probably about every half hour or so.  I think I added up 8 times.  But I was also consistently thirsty.  I couldn’t fathom I was low on sodium-serum, but wondered if I’d taken too much only drinking Nuun.  It was so annoying knowing I’ve been working getting this right for so many years and here I was blistered, thirsty, yet peeing constantly.

We trudged on, real slow and real difficult.  Every step was so painful with raw and blistered feet that it was pure agony on some of the steep descents.  I adopted a sideways walk, and my gait had long since changed to favor one foot or the other, and try to land graciously on the inside or outside, whichever would hurt less.  The next twenty were gonna be slow and tedious, but I was absolutely determined to finish.

Miles 81 – 90:

Cold and miserable…

After wrapping up again in the blanket and sleeping bag and a bit more soup, some coffee, and a recovery drink, I was joined once again by Emma.  The fact that she was able to stay up, push off plans to drive home, and hang out in the woods on another slow lap was simply amazing to me.  I can’t thank her enough!

Unfortunately the coffee, and whey in the recovery drink forced a bio break about two miles in to the loop.  That done I was ready to kick it in gear and head for the final lap.  I was actually able to jog a bit and started to get real motivated to finish.

Trail Monsters and Francesca!

The weather warmed considerably and I ended up taking off my long pants as well as my jacket and attaching them to my waist.  I continually checked to make sure they, and my gloves were still there, as my pack was full of food and emergency lighting.

The feelings began welling up within me that this was actually going to happen.  I’d been taking Yerba Mate shots since mile 50, about one a lap, and they were really starting to kick in.  I’m sure that, and the fact that Alison had given me a few Iced Tea Nuuns, (also caffeinated) really started to fire me up.

We finished that lap and were greeted by Francesca once again.  She was absolutely a great co-crew with Alison and the rest, and kept my spirits high at the end of each lap.  It sounds like she was quite the social girl too!

Miles 91 – 100:

OK, one more…
I sat down and Alison took more care of me.  I ate something I’m sure, drank a bunch and don’t really remember how long I was there.  Along with Alison, Ian, Emma, Pete and Mindy were there.  Not sure who else was floating around but it seemed like a big crowd.

I asked jokingly if anyone wanted to “hike” a lap with me, and to my surprise Pete said “sure, I will.”
I really couldn’t believe it, and simply didn’t expect it.  But before I knew it I was heading down the trail with him in the hot, afternoon sun.  After the climb, and some great conversation, we crested the peak, he and took in the surrounding, sand snapped a few photos.  After my final refill of Nuun, salt and a few potatoes it was time to descend.


Probably 3 or so miles in to the loop a guy ran by us in a blue shirt with a number on it.  Now I saw 126, but wasn’t sure.  Pete agreed there was definitely a number, but not sure what it was.  All I could think of is that there was no way this was a 200 miler streaming by us.  It had to be a 100 miler.  Which meant I was getting my ass passed this late in the game, and losing my second place finish.  I said to Pete, basically, oh well there’s nothing I can do about it now.  I can barely walk, let alone give chase.  Kudos to him.

About a half mile later I looked up from the trail and just started running.  I remember thinking I’m so tired of walking.  I came here to run, this is what I do.  “You can’t, you won’t, and you don’t stop.”  At first the pain in my feet was intense, then it simply faded.  I did what I’ve heard other people do and disown the pain, push past it.  It felt so good to run, and I realized I had a lot of energy even though my legs were tired.  I definitely thought of all the long, hard runs, and the coaching that Yassine Diboun laid out for me.  His consistency, and specificity in training definitely proved itself in the final miles.

The Labyrinth section came and went, and it was so much fun.  I ran it for the first time, and worried not about the roots, twists and turns and possibility of tripping, but enjoyed the trail, the cooler air and the plastered smile on my face.  The ground seemed to flow underneath me, and it was as if I ran on a picture of a trail laid out before me.  No obstructions, roots, or rocks, but flat and easy to run.  At each water crossing I leaped across like a kid headed for recess, squishing through every puddle and bit of mud I could find.


At one point I tried blowing a flapper out of my nose, but just couldn’t seem to get it out.  In the process my nose started bleeding.  So as we cruised by some bushes I grabbed a handful of leaves and proceeded to blow my nose with makeshift Kleenex.  Pete thought it was quite interesting, I just didn’t want to finish with blood all over my face.

Pete was cruising right behind me for most of the jaunt but occasionally he’d cut through the woods to bisect the next switchback.  I ran all the ups, no matter the incline, on sections I’d religiously walked each previous lap.  With the intense adrenaline time went by so fast and yet I felt very calm and light and everything seemed easy.

Pete and I had decided that when I got to the bushwhacking section he’d pass me to get ahead and tell the others I was coming.  When the final mile and a half came, I ran.  I absolutely felt like I did when I was a kid, screaming through the woods, pushing branches away, jumping over logs, diving under logs, sliding down mud hills, and spinning sideways by saplings.  I had come nowhere near a jog during the majority of the river section on any lap before, but this time it just felt right, and in no way tricky or difficult.  Weird.

Over and under

Towards the middle of the section I passed man in the blue shirt.  Holy shit.  He was so surprised, and I heard him start to give chase.  By this point I had totally forgotten about him and the whole final run was not about placement, or beating someone, I was just having fun running.  It was pure enjoyment, filled with the exhilaration of the moment, topped with athletic release.  However, I do remember thinking, once I passed him, that there was no way he was getting by me…

Then, over the bridge, up the half mile grassy, wooded section, on to the final dry, rocky climb and done!  Cricket, cricket… where was everyone?  I walked toward the leader board where a few people stood and after a few moments they saw me and started cheering.  A few moments later Alison and Mindy came around the corner smiling ear to ear.  I think Alison said something like, “you’re an hour and a half early!”

Unwrap a smile!


Finishing this race was by far one of the toughest things I’ve endured.  Not only due to the mileage, but also the change of game plan from expectation.  I learned so much out there that I’ve tried to take notes, jotting things down as I think of them.  I sincerely want to reiterate just how much I believe races of that caliber are a team event.  There’s no way I could have done that without the Trail Monsters to train with, learn from, and gain support and crew from.  I could not have made it that far with that energy at the end without the plan from Yassine.  The miles would not have gone by without the partnership from Nick, Zak, Jeff and most impressively, Emma helping me through on the laps.  Mindy, Ian, Pete, Rick, Dave, Val, Chuck, Zak, everyone was so excellent before, during, and after.  But most importantly Alison.  Her patience and sacrifices over the long winter miles, her steadfastness, organization, intuitiveness for dietary needs, medical abilities, and of course, love.  I could not have made it to the finish without her, and Francesca!

Family Pic

A big thank you as well to Mark Hallenthal, Valerie Abradi, Peter Slovinsky, and Alison for the pictures.  As well as Andy Weinberg, and all the volunteers that made the weekend possible!

Leader board, clock time from 36:00 (200 miler start)

A few stats:

Lap # Mile Clock Time  Transition Total Lap Time Moving Time
(approximate) (approximate)
1 0-10 2:10:55 2:11 2:11
2 11-20 4:25:10 2:00 2:14 2:12
3 21-30 6:52:26 5:00 2:27 2:22
4 31-40 9:30:10 10:00 2:38 2:28
5 41-50 12:39:37 5:00 3:09 3:04
6 51-60 15:54:00 10:00 3:15 3:05
7 61-70 19:30:25 15:00 3:36 3:21
8 71-80 24:00:24 15:00 4:30 4:15
9 81-90 28:28:24 25:00 4:28 4:03
10 91-100 31:55:24 37:00 3:37 3:00

Time:  31:55:24

Distance:  100 miles

Elevation:  21,840 ft.  (according to corrected elevation by Garmin)
22,960 ft.  (according to corrected elevation by RunningAhead)

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