by Jeremy Bonnett – “The Vermont 100 is an easy first one to get under your belt.” I remember someone telling me that in 2009 after my first 50 miler. I signed up thinking I could get in enough training after only a few months and survive the race. Not so much. My cousin and I DNF’d after 76 miles with every ailment and injury rookies, and untrained athletes make. We had no business being there and discovered, The Vermont 100 is definitely not an “easy” race at all.
This year, after a solid training regimen and ‘surviving’ my first 100 at Peaks, I jumped on the opportunity to get in a ‘different style’ of 100 miler while I was still relatively fit. With two months between the races it was ample time to taper, get back some mileage, and train race specifics. However, I wasn’t sure how I’d react to actually running closer to 100 miles, as opposed to a hike/slog/bushwhack-fest like that of Peaks. See the problem is, you can run on the 70% dirt roads in the Green Mountains of Vermont, possibly setting up a recipe for burnout, blowout, blister-fest, who knows?
David and Mindy were gracious enough to join Alison and I on our sojourn in Vermont. Mindy was kind of a ‘crew-floater’ to jump in at any time should any of the many other Trail Monsters and their helpers need it, and or ride and crew with Alison. David offered to pace me for the final, grueling 30 miles. We also had the excellent opportunity to stay at Zak’s friends house about 30 minutes from the start which made the lodging logistics much easier and more comfortable than usual.
|Ian, Zak, and myself at 3:45am…|
After a cold 4:00am start the 300 plus runners streamed down the dirt road like the fire worm in the movie The 13th Warrior. Ian, Zak, Tyler and I ran along together, with Joe, and George somewhere in the pack, meandering gently, but with bubbling excitement along the paths. The first bunch of miles were relatively uneventful with cooler temps to start and quite a bit of humidity which eased off as the sun came up, round about the same time Tyler took off ahead of us. At mile thirteen we were surprised, and excited to see our crews at a road intersection. Some of us couldn’t help but do a jig.
|13 mile jig|
These introductory miles are always interesting in an ultra. Your body is waking up, you’re feeling odd aches and pains left over from the taper, and there’s a certain amount of uncertainty to it all. Ian and Zak seemed to be having a great morning though and were keeping a solid pace. Zak mentioned briefly that he was having a “tough time warming up.” Which I thought was incredibly odd, and totally unlike him, but it sometimes takes a bit to get in to the groove. We cruised through the first 4 aid stations and sauntered in to Pretty House a bit ahead of schedule. We all talked about this and figured it was okay to get a little in the bank, with a few quicker miles before the sun blared down on us. We hoped our crew wouldn’t yell at us though…
My crew was like a Nascar pit team. Everything laid out that I might need, hands grasping for water bottles, kind questions, food in my face, it was fabulous! Alison shoved a huge wrap in my hand and said “eat!” I think it took me a few miles to finally finish it, but damn was it good! Ian and I cruised down the road together and looked back now and then for Zak. We didn’t think much of it as there’s always leap-frogging in long runs. Someone stops for a bio-break and the others just keep on down the trail, maybe a bit slower, but the group always comes back. So for the first mile or so we expectied him to come screaming down one of the hills behind us.
One of the barriers during the race was around 28 miles. A real steep climb with an exposed grassy knoll and a gorgeous view named “The Sound of Music.” In 2009 this is where I knew I was in trouble. After a short morning of rugged hills the descent on this hill really hurt my already sore legs and put a strong doubt in my mind. This year it came and went without any issue. One barrier, over.
|My awesome pacer in the background David Bidler at Stage Road 30.5|
I started to actually feel better around mile 30. The kinks were working out, the sun was up, and my crew gave me a lighter colored shirt, visor and more excellent food and hydration. I rotated between my waist pack which carries two bottles and a bunch of room for food, and just a water bottle with a small pocket. As usual I drank a lot during the race, and peed about every hour. This always annoys me with how often I have to stop, as well as the ‘flushing’ that’s happening with electrolytes, but those are easy enough to replace. I do however think it works well for keeping my core temperature down.
The dirt roads at this point were dry and cars and horses kicked up a small amount of dust here and there but nothing that bad. The sun was high, but most of the time shade was easy enough to eek out. I began to pick it up during the exposed sunny sections and then recover when there were ample amounts of shade to stay as cool as possible, for as long as possible. At the many aid stations the watermelon became a focal point along with ice to cool the neck, face and pits. I basically bathed after every aid station.
|Leaving Camp Ten Bear 47.6|
Ian and I had been running together the whole day and the communication, banter and camaraderie made the time go by faster than anticipated and really made for an enjoyable morning. However at one of the long climbs we separated and I ran alone for a while. Soon after that though the ‘leap-frogging’ would continue with various people along the course. Mike, who got up late for the start sleeping until 4:30. Pablo, from Canada, but originally Argentina, full of epic race stories and goals. Andrew, his first 100, very excited and super kind picking my brain about everything ‘ultra’. Andrew and I ran together for quite a while and I was really glad to run with him and learn about his life, job, and future goals. He had an incredibly exuberant demeanor which was very contagious.
57.4 Tracer Brook. Alison and I had agreed to do a preemptive sock change after 50 miles. Coming in to the aid station I told her I was fine and didn’t see the point, just yet. I was surprised she let me off the hook so easily, because in the past blisters have been a major issue. After another quick turn-around she ran with me up the road and delivered some rough news. Zak had dropped. I instantly wept, unable to keep my emotions back. I felt an overwhelming wave of disbelief, grief, anger, and sorrow, both from within myself and from all who were directly involved in his year of incredible training, those pacing, crewing, supporting, and for the man himself. I was devastated. Alison assured me he was okay and I’d see him later in the day, I’d had my moment and now it was time to move on and enjoy the rest of the journey.
At Margaritaville mile 62 I stopped to change socks and check for blisters. I was extremely happy to find none. After a quick wipe down, more Hydropel, new socks, and super help from everyone including Ryan who was now helping everyone, I was off again. Feeling real well and now taking in a bit of caffeine I was excited to see parts of the course I’d only seen during nighttime years ago. I remember preparing for how I’d feel later in the race and decided to start intentionally looking up at the tops of trees to give my neck muscles a preemptive break before I was unable to hold it up any more. I definitely knew during the night I would be staring at my feet probably shuffling along in a death march. I rolled my shoulders back a bunch and worked on relaxing as much as I could and breathing in to capacity. Probably over-analyzing, but I’ve been thinking about little things like this for years on runs. Hoping to make the journey easier, and more efficient on my body. Now it was time to put it in to play, whether psychological or not…
|Stuffing face at Camp Ten Bear 70.5|
Camp Ten Bear 70.5. I weighed in for the second time and was happy to see an increase of only half a pound. At the earlier check in, Stage Road, I’d only lost half a pound. Much better than three years ago when I’d gained 6. I absolutely stuffed my face here with a potatoes, a pickle, some sushi, blueberries and a salt tab, washing it down with an Herba Mate. Yum. David Bidler joined me here to pace for the next 30 miles and however many hours. He was absolutely giddy with excitement, and it was real great to be on our way actually running! Once again in 2009 I’d done a major blister popping here that required the medical personnel as opposed to Alison taking care of it. She’d taken one look at my feet and gently walked me over stating it was out of her scope of expertise. The death walk out of Camp Ten Bear at that point had definitely been one of the most painful things I’ve experienced. Now David and I smiled as we began another climb.
A group of us stopped to pee along the now very dusty dirt road. Mike and his pacer began their duty and I yelled over to them that they might not want to pee on the electric fence. Both of them jumped back and repeatedly thanked me for saving their lives for the next mile. I’m not real sure if it was electrified or not, nor would it have done much except wake them up a bit, but it was real fun to see their reactions. We continued on leap-frogging the same dozen or so horses and their riders, as well as various pacers and their runners. The miles ticked by.
|An incredible display of preparedness with Alison, Mindy and David mile 77|
Spirit of 76. The crew, once again had everything laid out for me and was quick and efficient as usual. Dave and I fueled up, and I grabbed my headlamps in preparation for the night section. At this point I was tired and it was definitely work to keep moving forward with a steady state, but David made the going easier with his easy-going demeanor and obvious enjoyment for the sport and the surrounding beauty.
|Leaving Spirit of 76|
Now began the mumbles. I warned David that he soon would have to be my brain. “In other words It would be a great help if you could remind me what to do at aid stations, and make sure I eat. Push me if I go too slow. I’ll take the tangent, and the smoother line on the technical areas, and make sure you take care of yourself.” I apologized if I sounded too demanding, or even rude, but the brain was getting foggy and I wanted to give him the 401 on pacing while I still could. He was excellent. He kept me going, happy, and in great conversation. When I was unable to communicate more than a grunt and apologized for not answering his question with more than a mumble he actually told me to stop apologizing and saying thank you so much and don’t worry about it. Great pacer.
Bill’s mile 89. What a strange aid station I remember thinking. It had been dark at this point for some time now and quite still with a gorgeous sky full of stars. Coming in to an aid station at a big red barn with a lot of people bustling around, lights and music was surreal. I weighed in at the barn and was happy to see my weight was exactly how I started. “One Night in Bangkok” played in the background as I stuffed my face again with potatoes and Fig Newton’s. I had a nice flashback to sixth grade when I performed that song in an air band competition in front of the school and parents. I didn’t win.
At this point I really couldn’t do the math well enough to figure out when I was going to finish. I thought, according to my watch, I’d come in somewhere around 21:30. My biggest fear now was slowing down too much and getting passed by people. I worked the hills at this point, and tried to run as many as possible and overcome as many people as possible. The glow sticks on the course worked very well for, not only marking the way, but providing short-term goals. Get to the next glow stick, now get to the next one, don’t trip, stay relaxed, sip, eat something, move a bit quicker, you can do this, don’t shuffle, next glow stick…
Polly’s 95.9. I think it was here that I saw Zak and his entourage. Now, I said I saw Zak, but I never really focused on his face. I kind of darted my gaze around like a mad man escaping from an asylum. I was loopy. David and I were in and out quickly and as we entered the woods I saw our truck and heard Alison say hi. She’d just missed us and sent out some quick love. David and I told her we were basically all set and trudged on.
The hills continued. The last 23 miles of the course was undiscovered country for me and I was not really surprised to find it just as challenging as the rest. The only thing now was the hills just seemed relentless, and the single-track trails seemed way more challenging than I’m sure they are. David and I pushed on for the final bit and when we saw the “Almost there! Congratulations” sign we both were quite happy. After a brief bout in the woods it opened up so we could see the finish line and I remember thinking I didn’t want it to end, and wanted to see more, even though I was absolutely toasted.
We finished, 20:05:07. I wept. Cried my eyes out with joy, appreciation and fatigue. After a huge embrace from Alison, Mindy, David and I’m sure a few others I hobbled over to the tent to get some grub. We returned in time to see Ian and Emma skipping across the finish line, but unfortunately missed Tyler, Joe, Ryan, George, and Val. We did however hear that they all made it successfully and relatively unscathed. Just fabulous.
What an incredibly well orchestrated race full of excellent volunteers, supporters and professionals. My family, friends, and the Trail Monster crew were a crucial, if not critical part of the team to get my ass across the finish line. I thank them all, especially Alison, David and Mindy for their immediate support and love.
- About 20 S!Caps (didn’t need that much toward the end)
- One and a half big roll-ups with turkey, pickles, romaine, Tofuti, carrots (really great early on, not able to finish later on in the race)
- A couple sushi rolls, Tofu-Lin, wasabi, Tamari, romaine, carrots (great)
- Sweet potatoes (probably only ate two total)
- 3/4 soup from bottle (spring onion Thai Noodle)
- 5 or 6 dates
- A few pieces of ginger
- A few handfuls of blueberries
- Couple of pickles
- 3 packs of Cliff Shot Blox
- 2 Gu
- 2 or 3 Mojo bars
- 6 or 7 Stinger Waffles (great to have those)
- After 50 miles drank HerbaMate shots, 5 total
- 6 or 7 Fig Newtons
- Probably an entire watermelon
- White potatoes (maybe one small one)
- One shirt change, one sock change (not quite needed, but glad for the confidence)
- Used waist pack most of the way with a few legs just the hand-held
- Ran with headlamp and held a headlamp for the night section
- Used a visor most of the day
- Sportslick and Hydropel worked excellent, no blisters, minimal chaffing on left armpit
- Right shoe too tight, bruised badly
- Alison used BioFreeze (didn’t do much) but the Arnica rub did feel good on the legs