It started on January 6, 2014 at 10:00am…I sat at my laptop filling out the online registration in hopes I would get in. My confirmation arrived shortly after hitting the enter key. That was when my heart raced with excitement and a bit of fear.
I was told a few weeks earlier it wouldn’t fill quickly, but it did and I felt good I had registered as it opened.
Now the work would begin, my mind began to process what needed to be done. Training plan, scheduling, crew, pacer staying healthy, diet….all the things needed to get it done.
My training plan was to begin the last week in January….that meant winter training and lots of it. I wasn’t sure how it was going to get done but this is where my teammates and friends and TMR friends come in…They are the drive of my motivation. Weekly scheduled group runs, occasional pick-up runs, late night runs with Snowman, long BBL and Extreme Ultra run with Scout and Squirrel, reach the Androscoggin River runs with Nathan then Jedi, Scout and Squirrel, many Brad/Blackstrap runs with Ian, Laurence, Pankaj, Jamie, Christopher….I could and should go on….there are literally many many more training runs to mention, all with a story of their own. Then there were all the snowshoeing adventures, the club races.
During this time I had to arrange a crew and pacer…I approached Snowman and asked if was not crewing Zak again would he crew me. After he spoke to Zak he offered to crew and Danielle came aboard (I’m hoping she will be a part of the thrill and want to run it herself). Now to find myself a pacer. On a wintery run at Bradbury with the group, Jamie was running that day, I asked him if he would consider pacing, he agreed. The crew was set.
So, the winter flies by, it seems long and cold but it passes and finally it’s time to get on the somewhat bare trails, in the mud and water, fallen leafs….time to feel like a kid again running on the trails with reckless abandonment.
Spring arrived and training ramped up and the goal was to stick to the plan, stay healthy, and go into the race feeling strong and well. The training went well and spring flew by like a dried dandelion.
July arrived, time to get down to details of logistics, the training went well, felt good, stayed healthy and didn’t do anything stupid. As I had Ryan, Jamie, Danielle and the entire TMR there to look out for me and give subtle reminders of not overdoing it. Thanks everyone. As far as the logistics go, I had Ryan, the master crew chief on board, he had it all under his control and I was great with that. I had no worries about the logistics as he took it all on himself. We had a minor issue early with transportation for the crew during the race. My vehicle was old and tired and might not do well on the Vermont gravel roads but as fate would have it, the old Ford didn’t make it to race day. A new used vehicle came along and that issue went away.
Now we are ready to get going, final plans complete, let’s get this done and have some fun.
Camping….with the crew, Jedi and Ann, Zak and crew…set up and comfy.
Now Registration….that was easy, just say your name and it’s done. New Crew Vehicle Registration was easy as well; at least that’s what Ryan told me…
Medical Check….here’s where the fun started. I was asked to weigh-in, when I was asked to step on the scale I started to strip down to my naked parts…don’t worry I didn’t do it, but got a few good laughs. There were two scales on the weigh station, I stood on one, it read 169.2, I asked to step on the other scale, and it read 168.7…so I took low…hahaha. Then I was directed to have a seat to have my vitals checked. As I sat down I noticed there was an attractive woman taking my vitals…she took the vitals and asked me if the high readings were normal? I had to laugh as I said ‘NO’, if she only knew I was thinking its high because I had an attractive med attendant taking my vitals…hahaha…but then a second attendant came to recheck my vitals and she was just as attractive, so I figured my vitals were out the window.
Mandatory Runner Meeting…. we all sat through for final rules and do’s and don’ts…runners and crews. All was set as we all had our last minute instructions, course marking descriptions confidence. What I didn’t realize is how those yellow plates and glow sticks would seemingly move and jump around on their own when I got tired late into the night run…”Seriously Jamie, I think someone is moving those glow sticks”….
Dinner….here’s where it gets interesting. We all went to a beautiful place that Zak’s parents found nearby. It was a little slice of Vermont heaven. The small home was on a hill overlooking the mountains, over a horse corral, beautiful gardens, and a great covered porch, very quaint. There was plenty of food and fun.
As we sat outside on the deck and lawn I noticed Sarah giving attention to the horse there as she obviously knows horses. Here’s where I throw Ryan a crew chief curveball. “Ryan, did I ever mention to you I am deathly afraid of horses?”
Ryan…. “What, you’re kidding right?”
John…. “No, I’m not kidding”
Ryan…. “You realize you signed up for an ultra where horses run with the runners?”
John…. “Yes, I just hope it’s going to be ok”
Ryan…. “You need to go talk to Sarah and get familiar with that horse”
John…. “Ahhhh, Ahhhh ok”
I then walk over to the corral with Sarah and others, to the electric fence and just watch as they pass under the fence to get close to the horse whose name slips my mind. I watched for a bit then joined everyone including the monstrous horse…yikes. This is no joke, as soon as I entered the corral the horse walked straight over to me, I was shaking as it got closer. It came right over to me with its head low; I kept my hands down to my side as I didn’t know what to do. This large but beautiful animal came right in front of me, I couldn’t see its eyes as it had some kind if netting on its head, it stood right in front of me and lifted its head right into my groin and hit me in the let’s say…NUTs. The blow was close to making me lose the meal I just ate, I stood my ground. Finally got my kahunas back in place and actually touched the bag tagger. Lol. Then i got out of there.
Crew Prep… Ryan requested we go over the ultra-box and other needed items for the crew. That went well and the crew was set. It was time to say our good nights and head back to the camp site. Thank you for your hospitality Wieluns family….you are so wonderful.
Camp Site fun…. we arrived back at the camp site at the start/finish camping area. We all sat back and had good fun conversation and foolery while we “Hydrated”. We met Hannah who was camped out in a hammock in the woods near our site, later learned from Ryan she rode her bike from, i believe Washington, to run the race, pretty cool. That would explain the size of her quads, my nickname for Hannah would have been Quadzilla. Later saw her on the course as she pounded up a climb like it was nothing. Then to bed for sleep as they had a 10pm quiet time that some did not care about. Sleep was restless as I was excited and nervous but managed to get some good sleep.
3am Saturday START LINE…. time to rise and prepare for 4am race start. Good hearty breakfast, hydrate (The proper race hydration…hahaha) gear and last minute instructions. We walk down the hill to the start area; the tent had that pre-race buzz as we got there. It got my blood moving and was exciting and amazing to see all the other runners. Who would I see on the course, hoping all would reach the finish, who has been here before, who are first timers?
The three Trail Monster crews and runners gathered…Veterans George and Zak offered some last minute wisdom. Being a first time Vermont100 runner I had some small doubts that they helped me remove from my mind. Their calmness, sense of control and words of encouragement were timely….thanks guys you’re the best.
Ryan, Jamie and Danielle double checked my hydration pack and items for the first leg until I see them again. They walked me to the start, offered me encouragement and begun to walk away when Ryan said to me “I’m proud of you”…he may be mad at me for saying this but under that tough guy exterior he’s a softie .I’m not sure he noticed in my face how much that meant to me at that moment. It sent a thought in my mind that there would be NO disappointment this day. It was time. I felt my heart pounding; I never heard the command to start, but the runners ahead begun to move. I tried to remember Ryan’s description of the first leg where I would see them again…I would ask another runner for the miles to next crew aid station. Lol…yup, nerves got to there. Hahaha.
We are off and running…I am constantly looking at my GPS as I am continues of pace to start as to not get wrapped up in the excitement…keeping it on the down low descending the first hill as there will be many more. I ask a runner if they know the distance to the first manned aid station…15 miles he says. Here’s where the first odd thing happens….in the first few miles I hear a runner behind calling for a friend….”Bob, bob, bob”….as his voice gets closer…. I hear him again….this time he is very close, obviously looking for someone he knew he wanted to run with. He is running much faster than most, as he over takes me on the left he strikes my left arm. I had my full water bottle in that hand….yup, you guessed it….as he struck my arm my bottle went flying, it hit the ground and rolled down an embankment towards a stream that had rushing water….”Fuck, I need that fluid, its 15 miles to the manned aid station” and wasn’t sure what was at the first unmanned aid station. So I stopped and tried to find it. I did think I looked for it very long, but when I got back to the top of the embankment I realized I was alone. I didn’t realize ALL the runners had passed by….I was dead last and alone….that was a brief shitty feeling….I never found the bottle so only had one bottle of Cytomax to last me. I asked myself “Why does this shit happen to me?”….ok enough of that….get back at it. I soon caught up with a single runner, then others, then more…it brought question into my mind….am I pacing to fast thinking I have to make up time? Do these runners know something I don’t? I was at my planned HR and pace so I just stuck with the plan. I felt good, I felt comfortable but it’s early.
I’m going to be honest, when it comes to remembering certain things, I’m kind of dumbass…..for example, I have the aid station list in front of me because I can’t remember their names or distance between. Sometimes I think that’s my downfall in some of my performances, if I had known certain things I might have run differently!!!! Oh well, it is what it us and that’s Me.
I stopped momentarily at each unmanned and manned station to grab fluids which was all that was there. Unfortunately, water was sparse, plenty of Gatorade but no water!!!! Did what I had to do.
I finally arrived at the first crew aid station…Pretty House…at 22.5 miles…I was greeted with smiles and encouragement from Ryan/Danielle/Jamie….Ryan was in full crew chief mode….food, you need to eat what do you want, I wanted watermelon and Jamie was right on it. My bottles were full, my pack filled with snacks, bandana soaked and with ice around my neck. Ryan reminded me to drink more and force myself to eat…keep eating. He asked how i was feeling, I’m feeling good but those gravel roads are brutal; the descending is relentless and long. I mentioned to the crew that I am concerned I am beginning to urinate, seemingly, every 10-15 minutes, but they don’t seem concerned as the urine is clear. Ok, no hanging around. I got my words of wisdom, instructions from Ryan and a high five from Jamie and headed back at it. Next crew aid station is at mile 31.4 and is a medical check.
Arrived at Stage Road crew aid station…the crew meets me asking how I feel. I’m feeling good still as they remove my pack to replenish and so I can jump on the weigh scale. My weight shows at 168.2 lbs. or something like that…I hadn’t lost much weight at all, which was good as I could only lose 8% of my total weight before they hold or pull me. I have been keeping up with my fluids so I didn’t think weight would be any trouble. I am now fueled as best as possible or at least what I can get in…I get the sense of urgency from Ryan I need to do better so I will focus more on that…eating/drinking….next crew aid station is Camp 10 Bear.
Ryan had warned me of this aid station being a cluster and sometimes difficult to get in and out of….Camp 10 Bear is about 18.2 miles away but a series of alternating manned/unmanned aid stations along the way…..the manned aid stations are awesome. Plenty of volunteers offering help to fill bottles give you what you need…this stretch I was totally looking forward to as the Trail Monsters were manning the Lincoln Covered Bridge aid station and I knew seeing them would give me a boost of energy. As I left Stage Road I turned and asked Ryan to have the Hoka’s ready at the next crew station as my big toes were developing blisters and are toasted with the Inov8’s on. The Inov8’s were great for the off-road trail sections but were tough on my feet on the hard packed gravel. It was like concrete, very solid and no forgiveness at all. Holy crap, I am urinating like a leaky faucet. Every 10-15 minutes and it’s plentiful. It’s really beginning to bother me as I work hard to overtake runners and they end up getting by me when I stop to pee. Aaaaaagggggg.
I did stop at every station along this route even though none were more than 3.3 miles apart, as the descending had begun to wear on me a bit. The descending was long and quad pounding. I found it hard to get in any rhythm and I could feel blisters forming on the balls of my feet and sides of my big toes but just kept pressing. I would shorten my stride and move my feet faster running on the downs and totally power hike the climbs.
The one thing I remember, it seemed as though ALL the aid stations were at the end of a long descent. It may have all been in my mind at this point but all I could think about was I can’t wait to get to this aid station. The other thing I found happening is overtaking runners on the climbs. Most saying “Hey, nice job you look strong climbing” but wasn’t sure how long I could keep it up. I was looking forward to the Hoka’s and getting to the crew. I always felt better seeing them and getting their positive feedback.
Out of Stage Road…headed to covered bridge….I am so looking forward to seeing who decided to travel to Vermont to volunteer for this aid station….I am running down a pavement stretch, oh how I hate pavement, I see this local general store and excitement hits me as I see Kate and Jamie’s Honda Fit…I begin waving like a child who just found his lost parents, the car gets closer and I’m expecting a blast on the horn or a woot out the window but nothing. I soon realize it’s their car but it appears someone else is driving….they don’t wave or acknowledge me so i keep going, and I see the covered bridge but no aid station. I turn left into the bridge and still no aid station. Where the hell is this aid station? I exit the bridge turn left and I see the aid station….wahooooo, oddly the first person I see is Ryan!!! Wait, this is NOT a crew aid station. Then I see Jamie with high fives and Danielle working the food at the table….but they are doing their best to ignore me as “Their” runner…God bless em, that must have been difficult but knew they could handle me in any way as it could lead to DQ. I totally understood. Then I saw all the other Trail Monsters who made the trip…Erik, Kate, Mary, Popsicle Ann, Kate’s friend Jen….oh and the cloudy mist floating from the mist tent grabbed my attention…ADHD I think. I immediately went over to get a little cool down and it felt awesome…..a huge THANKS to my TMR friends…you are all pretty incredible. Ok, this is ridicules, I am still peeing like there is no tomorrow, there is something wrong but as long as it is clear I’m going to try and forget it.
Camp 10 Bear coming up…8 miles away….:-D
trying to keep a positive attitude and have fun and so far it’s working. There was lots of laughing and joking around at aid stations…having fun. 10 Bear seems to come fairly quickly but I have begun noticing other runners overtaking me on occasion. But not worried as the may poop out later on and I will catch up to them… 😀
10 Bear was busy…cars all alongside the road, cars in and out as we run by, and it appears it may be an intersection point for the 100 milers and 100k runners? I forgot to ask but I do know we see this intersection twice as the next time I see it Jamie will be ready to join me. As I got near the crew had the car on the side of the road and chair set up and Hokas ready. They changed my Inov8’s out but I opted not to change my socks. They had food ready…watermelon and something with more substance but can’t remember!! Geez memory is vague at this point. They also have an iced tea open….OMG, that hit the spot, tasted sooooo good….thanks guys. I could tell Jamie was getting excited to pace as he was pretty amped. I didn’t say much at that point about my feet and how sore they were as “disappointment” was NOT an option.
Ryan and Danielle remove my pack and guide me to the med weigh-in scales. I joke with the med folks by getting into enee meeni minee moe, which scale to step on…hahaha…Ryan quickly says use the left one…so I did, weight still good but can’t remember what it was!!!
Next crew station Seven Sees….”11.5 miles and we will see you again, you’re doing great, just keep assessing yourself, drink and eat…make sure your caloric intake is good”…Ryan says. I found it odd hear that I asked how I was doing as the Garmin GPS I felt was not accurate with pace, that Ryan was not giving any info just encouragement to continue. Here’s where some doubt to my training and ability shadowed slightly. Out of 10 Bear.
The Hoka’s are giving me a bit of reprieve from the pounding but I question if it’s too late…blisters have now formed on the balls of my feet, both of them but haven’t popped yet….about half way to Seven Sees I felt the right blister pop….holy shit, that sent a shivering pain up my leg but kept climbing as soon it just went numb – sort of – or I just moved it from my mind. Got to the next downhill when the left blister popped…now that one stopped me in midstride…holy shit now what do I do? I’ve never had a blister on my feet. Sure, blackened toe nails, lost toe nails but blisters…this was new territory. Ok, suck it up panzy, get back at it one stride at a time. All that kept me going here was NOT disappointing Jamie. He had come a long way to see me through the last 30 miles and I could bear the thought of disappointing him. I moved on. The downs were extremely painful as I could feel the skin rubbing/sliding against itself on every stride. It was like rubbing sandpaper on and open wound….FUCK.
Seven Sees comes and goes don’t remember much other than letting the crew know my feet have blistered and they are toast….can’t remember anything else…the crew probably have a story or two but my feet and how they feel is consuming my thoughts now….
Just over 3 miles to next handling station at Margaritaville…again it comes and goes without any recollection of much…I do remember letting the crew know I did more hiking here then running…they all assured me it was ok, keep pressing on, forward movement. So, I sucked it up and kept moving but I notice one thing. The crew mentioned I would see the carnage ahead people are looking pretty bad….Ryan said this was the last aid station you have to be alone, you will pick up Jamie at the next station, 2nd time through 10 Bear for mile 70.5 .so I went on that. But I was hurting, just my toasted feet. All other systems are good. Its 11.4 miles to 10 Bear.
Holy crap these hills….these downs….they just don’t stop….lol…stay positive, the downs are going to hurt and be painful but the climbs you can manage so focus on getting to the climbs. Only two intermediate aid station on this stretch but at least I get to see the crew again. Christ, that damn urinating….it’s got to stop. So much each time and so often, what’s wrong? Seems to happen more frequently as I descend.
Ahhhh….10 bear ahead. I have seen this guy a bunch of times. A spectator, I called him Mr. GAC as he had a red shirt with the letters “GAC” across the front. I regret not asking his name as he really was amazing as a spectator. He is always there with amazingly enthusiastic comments and support. He seemed to be everywhere. It was the first time he asked how I was….but I already knew I was slowing as many runners I overtook were now overtaking me….I had become the ‘Carnage’.
But I was determined to make the work for it by keeping forward progress.
Into 10 Bear and Jamie is ready and amped to go. I spent a little more time here hoping I would get my second wind….got my fluids/food/pacer…I’m excited and ready but explained to Jamie I’m not sure how much running i will be able to do. Turns out not much at all….sorry Jamie….really sorry. We set out and it was great to have Jamie by my side. If there was anyone that could get me to the finish it was Jamie, he had been here. I mention to Jamie that I am having to piss every 10 steps it seems like and it’s making my frustrated. He asked the normal questions, color?, quantity? How are you feeling? He suggested maybe taking a bit less fluids. We pressed on.
Off to The Spirit of 76 roughly 7 miles away…let’s get this done Jamie. The next seven miles were not unlike any other part of the course. Relentless climbs, brutal downs….but this section at least had comforting wooded trails in a time of exhaustion and I welcomed it. Darkness will be setting in soon.
Which reminds me….I had no concept of time/pace/HR/overall time at this point as the Garmin had run out of juice….so I was relying on Jamie? He had a Redbull and was amped as if he had stuck his fingers in a light socket and it gave me a bit of energy. As we made our way to Spirit of 76 Jamie did most of the talking, he is a funny son of a gun….jokes, stories, laughter, anything to keep my mind off the pain and to keep moving forward and forget the time its taking. We get to the Spirit 76 and Ryan and Danielle take great care of me…Danielle asks if I want to change socks and put on a new shirt but I opt not to. They load me up including my headlamp as we move into darkness. I can tell they are tired, we are all tired. It’s to Bills from her for 11.4 miles.
This is where the ultra-demons came from the darkness of night to get me. There are two aid stations along the way but I have Jamie to keep me focused and he’s doing great even though I am feeling the demons tugging at me constantly…
I didn’t train well enough, I didn’t do the right training, what could I have done different, this is insane, this is tougher than Leadville, and I don’t want or can continue.
Jamie kept the demons at bay with his constant positive reinforcement, constantly letting me know every step we take is one step closer. “You’re doing great” “Keep up the good work” “You will finish” Jamie was a rock even knowing I’m moving slower than a snail with stickem on its ass…
During this stretch we discussed many things…one thing we discussed was my two boys. I had mentioned how happy I would be if they came and would be at the finish. What I didn’t let Jamie see is the sadness that came. Maybe he noticed my silence, maybe not. But there was a good 10 minutes of tears that I just couldn’t let him see so I made sure he stayed in front of me and when he turned back in kept my head down. We then had other conversations…movies, actresses, military, family, ultras, Sasquatch, then we started hearing the owls and coyotes in the darkness…headlamps on.
It was in this stretch that the ultra-demons nearly got my soul. I was losing it. I was so tired I was falling asleep on my feet; unstable, wobbling back and forth and always looking for even flat areas to be on with these gravel roads. I remember asking Jamie how close we were as I would say “I need to be at that aid station now”….not sure how many times I said it but I know I thought it so many times. Then, then Jamie points out the lights through the trees…..it’s Bill’s…OMG…it seems so far and why are we going in the opposite direction? I am soooo tired I can’t think straight….I can’t keep my eye open…..I’m losing sight of Jamie…..here’s where I lose everything. I don’t remember much at Bill’s aid station at all. I was later told by Ryan it was touch and go as the med folks were hovering around but Ryan/Danielle/Jamie knew what I needed….caffeine, a little wake me up. I have no idea what took place at Bill’s but I do know I was on the trail with again with Jamie, George, Valerie and Mindy. …off we went to Polly’s as Jamie explained to me as i came back to life, the demons were gone….6.9 miles. Crew will be there.
During this stretch to Polly’s….I noticed Jamie seemed to have a little skip in his stride, I failed to recognize that due to my slow pace he had been pacing for quite some time and was tired….he later mentioned he was working to keep his eyes open and at Polly’s he would pound a Redbull down and would be ok….this focused my mind on something of more substantial concern than my own pain. Oddly enough it allowed me to feel useful worrying about him. I think we kept each other going at that small point. Day had come, we saw the sun rise and it was bright and becoming a good day. Headlamps off…. let’s get this in the books. Gawd, I am having to pee like no tomorrow still. How can a human being piss so much? But I don’t feel human right now so just get going. I feel like a dog marking it’s territory.
Polly’s arrives at 95.9….Ryan and Danielle Triffitt is a welcomed site to a point where tears welt in my eyes. Jamie pounds the Redbull…we both get food, rehydrate…decide what we are dumping, well, Ryan took care of that….”you don’t need this you don’t need that” the pack was light but had what I absolutely needed. It’s roughly 4.5 miles to the finish. One more aid station at Sargent’s….unmanned.
Those 4.5 miles would be some of the slowest but never give up…we are getting close. Jamie decides to play a game with me…the Redbull has revived the Squatch. He decides to guess each tenth or a mile and see if his guesstimate works out to the finish…I think he’s off but I’ll be dammed he was pretty darn close to the “One Mile to Go” sign. I like this part of the course….single track trail and wooded but again it seems long. We are getting closer as we see the well-known milk jugs with water and glow sticks in them, damn I wish I could have seem them at night. Its nearly 8:30am….we can hear the finish….Jamie convinces me to get into a run/shuffle….”John you have to run across that finish line, come in you can do this”
We turn a slight corner and I am overwhelmed with what I see. I see the finish line but what draws my attention and rises my emotions is All my Trail Monster friends cheering me on….I felt so special at that moment, a feeling of friendship, family, commitment, endurance, happiness, belonging, pride, love and thankfulness….they gave me my medal and it was done. I had crossed the line in under 30 hours. It wasn’t pretty as the finish photo makes me look crazy scary….but it’s done. I am met by hugs, handshakes and smiles but then quickly directed towards the med tent. It was amazing how my body at that moment of knowing it was done started to shut down….Ryan knew, I had to be somewhere safe and comfortable….to the med tent.
There I was treated like a king. Cot, blankets, shoes off, socks off, med personnel cleaning my wounds, food brought to me, laughs and reflection.
I learned Zak crushed it and George PR’s and Carolyn finished in great time solo….I was so happy for them and couldn’t wait to congratulate them. What actually happened was I fell asleep for several hours. When I woke all had gone but Ryan came to get me for awards dinner and awards. We all sat and listened to all the finisher accomplishments….quite amazing.
I received my under 30 hour finisher plaque…what a feeling. This was very special after my first attempt at 100 miles in Colorado. But what made this so special is the TMR. Your support and commitment and willingness to be there is overwhelming. I can say it made the difference for this adventure….THANK YOU…. 😀
I know this might sound crazy but I can’t wait until the next 100 miler..
A special thanks to Ryan Triffitt. ..Danielle Triffitt and Jamie Anderson for being my crew and pacer and putting up with me through this process….you are all amazing and I will always be there for you to do battle on the trails. …thanks for keeping me focused and safe.
To my amazing TMR friends, all that I trained with, all those that sent amazing vibs my way….you are all special people and that is why we do what we do. It’s the support we get from YOU. Thank you.
Happy trails all….until the next adventure…. 😀