Monday, July 21, 2008

2008 Vermont 100 Miler

I had never before pinned on Bib #1 and I must admit when I did it felt heavy, burdensome even. Maybe it was the humidity or perhaps just the feeling of responsibility it carried with it but it was there nonetheless. With that, the 20th running of the VT 100 was on!

We started in the dark with a light rain falling. Within the first mile a lead pack of five guys developed. Joe Kulak, former Vermont winner and Grand Slam Record holder kept us all entertained for the first 15 miles with his stories and wisrecracks until he decided to slow down a bit and burden those a bit further back in the pack with his nonsense. Jack Pilla, Vermont's finest 100 mile runner and one tough 50 year-old dude, was running strong and smart. Glen Redpath, all-around fast guy with a little something to prove after going off course last year. Kevin Sullivan, Massachusetts attorney running his first 100 and gunning for the big prize. And myself, attempting to defend my win from 2007 and hoping that the humidity wouldn't kill me after a year in the dry, high altitude air of the Northern Rockies.

The sweat was pouring off of me within the first 30 minutes. The air was still and thick and everything seemed wet and heavy. When dawn approached a slight bit of breeze kicked up and the running became just a wee bit easier. Nonetheless, by the time we hit Taftville just before Mile 15 we were well off of last year's pace and it was clear that this would be a different race than 2007.

After shedding Kulak, Glen took over the pacing duties and hammered the uphills between Taftville and Stage Rd (Mile 30). Jack was staying with him stride for stride while Kevin hung back with me to then catch up with the front runners on the downhills. It was a pattern that would repeat itself often throughout the day. Glen and Jack on the ups, Kevin and Andy on the downs.

The heat spiked a bit after Stage Rd. and the Suicide Six climb was really tough. By this time Jack decided to back off a bit being the smart guy that he is leaving Kevin, Glen and me to take turns up the climb. We got to Tracer Brook (Mile 57) together and the race was beginning to take shape. From my perspective, it looked like the edge would go to whoever slowed down the least over the last 40 miles.

At this point I decided it might be a good idea to run a few more of the climbs to see how I stood up to Kevin and Glen. It was clear after a couple of these that I could not hang on the ups and that I would only get a gap on them if I hammered a few more of the remaining downhills and then pushed hard over the last 30 miles which is the toughest part of the course with the longest stretches of technical trail in the entire race.

I picked up my pacer Bryon Powell at the Camp 10 Bear Aid Station at Mile 70 and Glen, Kevin and I were still all together. Amazing! 70 miles into a 100 mile race and the lead pack of three was still all together. Leaving Camp 10 Bear we began to hear thunder rolling across the Green Mountains and it appeared we might be in store for a nice afternoon thunderstorm. Well, a few minutes later it came and it came in droves. For an hour stright it rained and poured. The trails quickly turned to mud and, frankly, with the lightening so close the exposed sections were scary. It was at this point that I pulled slightly away from Kevin and Glen. At Mile 77 I had five minutes on Glen and one minute on Kevin. If I was going to win this thing without a sprint finish I would have to keep the pressure on now.

Bryon made sure I did just that! Forcing me to run all but the steepest hills I was able to open my lead slightly over the next 11 miles into Bill's (Mile 88). During the stretch the rain stopped, the sun came out and it got hot and humid again. It was clear that the last 12 miles would be brutal and the stress level would be high. I blew through Bill's and we were off to the races. I arrived at Polly's at Mile 95 and finally felt a bit more comfortable with 7 minutes on Kevin and 15 minutes on Glen. However, knowing that the last five miles are some of the toughest on the course I couldn't take anything for granted. And, Bryon wasn't going to let me do that anyway!

So we powered through those last five miles in less than 50 minutes and I got to the finish line first. Kevin was there 7 minutes later and the rest of the pack not that much further back. I was pleased with my effort but also keenly aware that I have work to do between now and Wasatch. The conditions with the humidity and the torrential rains were, indeed, challenging and maintaining focus proved to be extremely important. In the end I was pleased that I was able to keep it all together.

One final note, the Vermont 100 is truly a classic. While it may lack the glamor of Western States and the sheer physical beauty of Hardrock it is, nonetheless, a classic old-school 100 Miler and should be a must on any Ultrarunner's to-do list.

In seven weeks I head to Utah to attempt my 20th 100 Miler. Until then, I hope you're all enjoying an excellent summer of running!

22 comments:

kate said...

CONGRATS, ANDY! I was rootin' for you here in Davis, Ca. Good job- way to hammer!

Lisa Smith-Batchen said...

yeah for you:)
great running andy!!!

lisa

"Sherpa" John Lacroix said...

Good run Andy!

Was good seeing you from afar at the awards. Sad I didn;t get to say hello.

Maybe next time!

RUN STRONG!

AnthonyP said...

Fantastic run Andy. I see a theme here...GTR...VT...Bryon as your pacer. I suppose I should get some credit for your win since I let him stay at my hotel and gave him a ride to 10 Bear ! :)

Great job on a well deserved win.

Brad Mitchell said...

Well done! - We'll hit it high and hard upon your return.

FastED said...

SOLID - as always! Great race once again Andy! Recover quick and get ready for Wasatch.

Congrats!
Scott

Bedrock said...

Great run Andy and congratulations on the win. Good luck with your training for Wasatch.

Joe Kulak said...

Awesome run again bud. You earned it. It was great catching uo with you.

Cheers.

Joe

Roger said...

I happened to be in the Med Tent (getting tossed for too much wt loss) at Camp 10 Bear when you came through and had your "incident" with the weigh in. I totally understood your frustration with the whole deal. However, I also happened to be at the finish when you came in. I think I was the only no-crew/family member that bothered to actually go see the winners come in (a strange ultra only occurance). Anyway, as soon as you crossed the line, you immediately sought out the race director to appologize for what had occured over 6 hours earlier. I thought that was a class move. Big props to you Andy.

Gretchen said...

Nice job! Sounds like conditions were tough--way to stay focused!

Jack Pilla said...

Andy, congrats again on your great run Saturday! It was fun running with you. I look forward to seeing you in Utah at the Wasatch Front 100. Hopefully with some cooler temps and dryer conditions this "old dude" will be able to keep up with you.
Jack

Ultra Steve said...

Andy,

It was a pleasure meeting you at the award ceremony and an honor to be standing with you and the other legends in the Top 10 photo. Hope to be in that front pack with you someday!

Best of luck at Wasatch!

Steve

kjsully said...

Andy,

Congrats on a super run on a tough day. It was great to run with you and some of the other older dudes :) Rest up and good luck at Wasatch.

Clayton "Zeke" said...

Hi Andy, I'm writing the VT 100 article for UR. Just finished reading your Blog and it was excellent.
Do you have any snippets for me to include in my write-up, now that another couple of days have passed. Thanks, Zeke Zucker

Bob Gentile said...

Congrats Andy way to hold that VT 100 title again...Great job and also to Bryon for keeping the push on till the end!

Jamie said...

Great job Andy! Hope you come back for a three-peat.

Krissy Moehl said...

Congrats AJW!!! Solid run out there.

AJW said...

Thank you everybody for all the kind words. Perhaps I'll see some of you at the OR Show in Salt Lake in a couple weeks.

Zeke, feel free to poach any quotes from my report and if you want to contact me just drop me an email:

awilkins@communityschool.org

Trail Goat said...

Andy,
It'll be time for another gel in 3 minutes....

Great race. It was a pleasure being out on the course with you as always.

Bryon

CJW said...

you rock dad,
carson

vijay said...

you are a great runner andy,the best athlete i will say.
----
sathyan

vermont drug rehab

Angeelina said...

What a wonderful race report! Also if you could have posted some photos, it would just have been more appealing. Congrats to you Andy - I overjoyed the narration.