Monday, July 20, 2009

Vermont 100

Given how little sleep I got, the whole weekend seems to be a blur.

I spent Friday helping to check in runners and doing a few other easy volunteer tasks. It was fun to meet new people, connect with old friends, and just hang out at the race. New RD Julia Hutchinson really seemed to have things in control, and things stayed that way all weekend.

After I was done on Friday, I decided to skip the pre-race meal and go home to sleep. I got home by 7:00 or so, but couldn't fall asleep until about 11:00. At 1:30, I was up and heading back to the race site to do last minute check-ins. And then, the runners were off, starting in a little bit of rain that ended fairly quickly.

We discussed the favorites, and the men's field seemed wide open, with 51 year old Jack Pilla a potential winner after being 3rd last year at VT and Wasatch. Everyone seemed to think that Annette Bednosky would win on the women's side.

I was quickly put to work and unlike most years, I had no chance to follow the race from aid station to aid station. I went to Camp 10 Bear (the mile 47 and mile 70 aid station) and they had all kinds of work for me to do. I spent hours shuttling equipment between 10 Bear, Bill's (mile 89 aid station) and the finish line.

Finally, around lunchtime, I made it to Camp 10 Bear to stay for a while. My wife and kids were helping there, so I got to hang out with them. I kept missing the leaders, but I knew that Jack was in the lead, being closely chased by a youngster, and the women were being led by a 100-mile rookie.

When the 100K started at 2:00, the number of runners at 10 Bear increased as those runners made it to the aid station. We were just plain busy, especially as the wave of people shooting for sub-24 all seemed to arrive together. Eventually, around 10:00, things slowed down. I checked with one runner who I'd earlier offered to crew and pace, but she and her boyfriend had things in control.

At about 11:00, I told the pacer coordinator that I was available for pacing, but I didn't really want to do 30 full miles. We made a deal for two of us to split 30 miles for a runner, and I'd take the first 19.

Andy was an experienced 100 miler and triathlete and an orthopedic surgeon. I really enjoyed the time we spent together, but I'm not sure he did. He had tweaked his back riding a back-up bike in a 1/2 Ironman recently, doing the ride on a back-up bike. As our time together progressed, he was dealing with cramps in his back on the uphills and he gradually slowed down. By the time we hit the mile 77 aid station, he'd had enough and decided it was best for his health to drop. Given his experience and his profession, I simply assumed that he knew best what to do and I didn't argue. He fell asleep in a chair within minutes of stopping.

While I waited for the shuttle van, another runner arrived and announced he was dropping. I asked him why. He said his feet were trashed beyond repair. I suggested they could be repaired and reminded him that he had plenty of time to fix his feet and beat the cut-off out of the aid station. I also told him that I'd pace him if he wanted to continue. Suddenly, he decided he was back in the race. We moved well for about 4 miles and then he started to fade. At first, it was a slow fade. Then, as foot pain accumulated, it became dramatic. I became worried about cut-offs and turned on my Garmin to get our speed. It took us 52 minutes to cover a mile, during which he decided that he simply could not continue.

At mile 82.5, the course loops back to the camping area by the start, and he dropped there. After never failing to get a runner to the finish at VT100 before, it happened to me twice in one night. During out 52 minute mile, we did have one strange sighting. I found a cooler beside the trail in a forest. I joked that it was full of beer for us and I opened it. I was shocked to find that the cooler really did contain six beers on ice. We have no idea how it got there, but we left it untouched.

When we got back to the finish, I got a ride to pick up my car. When I got back to the race site, it was just a bit past 5:30. Apparently, a few volunteers had failed to show, so Julia said she could use some help. So, I manned the finish line until the final cut-off at 10:00. Last year, our last place finisher had 4 or 5 seconds to spare. This year, Karsten Soldheim finished last again, but he had over 5 minutes to spare.

After the finish line stuff was done, I managed to catch about 30 minutes of sleep on a medical tent cot. Then, it was lunchtime and awards time.

Jack Pilla did indeed win - the first Vermonter to win the race outright. A newcomer, Stephanie Case from NY, won the women's race. Some friends of mine had solid performances. After dealing with a recent injury, Laurel Valley ran sub-24, egged on by sadistic pacer Melanie. Joe Hayes was on sub-24 pace at mile 70, and faded badly, but got his 11th lifetime finish. I believe that the first 9 finishes were all sub-24. Jamie Anderson's runner went sub-24. Sherpa John ran his 3rd consecutive sub-24, I believe. Mike Hall ran 22 and change in his first 100. Nate Sanel had an awesome race. There were many happy faces on Sunday morning as people collected their awards.

Finally, at 12:30, I decided I was done. I have a lot more work to do for the race, but it won't start for a few more days. So, I headed home. I took a shower when I got home and I was asleep no later than 2:00, probably earlier. I slept until my wife brought some pizza home for dinner. I got up to eat some pizza and promptly fell asleep on the couch. I went back to bed and slept until 6:00 this morning.

I still need a bit more sleep.

After work today, I think I'll lift, eat dinner, and get to bed very early. In some ways, volunteering and pacing for the whole weekend does seem harder than just running. There are so many more things to worry about when you're helping, vs. a few simple things to do when you are running.


David Ray said...

Good on you for working! Interesting to read the volunteer perspective.

Laurel said...

Hey Damon, Thanks for all the volunteer work at the event and all the encouragement you gave me on my passes through 10 Bear. It was good seeing you.

Tania said...

Nice work Damon! That is so much work. When you are in motion consistently with consistent mind and body set..that is one thing. But to have to be there physically and then mentally and then rest and go back..that is tough...just from a muscle perspective. You can awake the spirit but that dang body..... So, since you are a pro, will you pace me at my first 100??

Damon said...


You know that I'll be there to pace you for your first 100. If I don't do it, I'll have Laurel's pacer, Melanie, pace you. She seems so sweet and she's always been that way when we've trained together, but after what Laurel told me, I'm afraid to have her as a pacer.