Vermont 50 2012 Race Report

The Vermont 50 has come and gone for another year… and I am thrilled to report another successful finish.   I have been running through the day in my head since race day…. here goes my attempt to summarize this day!

Race morning check-in.  Yes, I’m wearing a raccoon ear-flap hat

The day started out like it always does… dark and early! For those not familiar with the race… there is a mountain bike race with 600-ish competitors who go off in waves starting at 5:30 or so, ahead of the runners. The 50 mile runners start at 6:25 AM.  The  weather forecast had been threatening leading up to race day, with a “chance” of “showers”… The morning started out drizzly and misty, but comfortable.  I spent the hour trying to relax, catch up with some running friends, and not think TOO much about what I was about to do for the next 10-11 hours.  This might be the point where I mention my plan for the race ahead… If a plan existed.  Truth is, I had no other plan than to keep moving until I was under the “FINISH” banner.  Run until running became as slow as a hike (particularly uphill), then hike until I could run again.  Rinse and repeat.  Over and over.  For hours.  Yup, that’s about it.  Oh, and eat and drink something in there.  That about sums it up.

Crowd mulling around the tent waiting for the start

 

At the start…. It’s almost GO TIME!!

 

Weather at the start… gloomy in them hills

Mile 0-12(ish)

Me, Stu, and Gary parading toward Skunk Hollow

The first 12 miles were awesome.  I settled into a comfortable pace, moving along with a group of friends to keep me going. I knew I had to be somewhat conservative, yet push it at the same time.  It was tough, because I had no idea how the rest of this was going to go.   How safe do you play it at this point?  There’s no real way to know.  I decided the best “plan” would be to run as much as I could at this point, to keep up a decent pace (11ish minute miles, for those who are wondering what that means) for as long as possible without pushing it too much in the early stages.  We cruised through the early aid stations, stopping only to refill bottles and grab a quick bite to carry on.  These sections are a nice mix of dirt roads and some double/single track through the woods. We ran a large amount, walking up steep hills on dirt roads, surrounded by the serene Vermont landscape.  Expanses of fall colors framed rolling pastures  along the way.  I was feeling strong, and so HAPPY!  I was back.  Back to doing what I loved through the woods of Vermont at the event which started all of this for me.  It was an awesome feeling!!  I cruised into the skunk hollow aid station at mile 12, refilled my water, grabbed a quick snack, and headed onward into the hills.

Mile 12-22(ish)

View from Garvin Hill in 2011

I continued to plug along, through winding dirt roads and trails headed up, and up, and down, and up, and up, steep hills, through a gray foggy mist. I think it was at some point in here that the rain started, lightly at first and then progressing to a steady soaking drizzle.  I was soggy but still moving forward at a reasonable pace, drinking a bottle between each aid station and using (bleh) gu to supplement my aid station snacking (which was limited to bananas, oranges, and salted potatoes for much of the day – my stomach was not cooperating well and I was experiencing some queasy GI upset, which I usually don’t have when running.  It made it really difficult to get enough calories in).  We wound through the fields and woods, through the maples snaked together by their sap-collecting systems and up the grassy switchbacks that lead to Garvin Hill, one of my absolute favorite places on the course.  On a nice day (see above), the views from up here are breathtaking, a panorama of blazing foliage and the farms below.  Today, it was soggy fog.  But we made it up there, thanked the volunteers, grabbed some snacks, and it was onward!  I looked at the time and was happy to see that we were still averaging roughly 5 miles per hour, almost 20 miles into the day.  Not too shabby at all.  I cruised through the winding single track, across the dirt roads and through the woods to the next station.  I was really happy to be still feeling relatively well at this point, but knew there was a loooong way to go.  I came into the 22 mile aid station happy to see two friends  (thanks Sam and Stu!) waiting for me there.  The company was much appreciated  and gave a great motivation boost. 

Mile 22-32

“Running” into mile 31 aid station

After leaving the mile 22 aid station, I felt my energy level start to falter.  Things were getting tight, and my legs were really starting to feel the strain.  It was raining steadily, and getting pretty cold!  To be honest, I remember little about the terrain during this part of the course.  Mud?  Hills?  Trails?  Ya, I guess I did some of that.   But mostly what I did was huurrrrt.  I had been expecting the ball to drop.  I was expecting to hit a little “wall” at some point.  I was running 50 miles on bare minimum run training, after all.  What I didn’t expect was to slam face first into the Great Wall of Vermont, which apparently someone had built right across the trail I was running and didn’t tell me.  Man, I have done some tough events, but I can not recall a low point that even approached what I felt out in those soggy woods that day.  Everything hurt, in alternating intervals. Burning glutes, tight calves, quads that wanted nothing to do with going up OR down.  I tried hard to keep up with the guys ahead of me, but just couldn’t do it at this point.  I was in survival mode, slugging down gu and shuffling forward.  Trying desperately not to think about the fact that I was ONLY. HALF. WAY. THERE.  This was not a pretty time.  I came into the Margaritaville aid station at mile 27 to the sounds of Bob Marley, though this was a far cry from a Jamaican beach.  I took my hand out from around my handheld water bottle and it stayed in a stiff, cold, claw-like appendage that, despite much coaxing, didn’t really want to do much of anything.  I thawed it out enough to slurp down some warm noodles and broth (BIG thank you to the aid station volunteers for this little cup of steaming salty goodness), stuck my cold paws in my armpits, and shuffled on.  The next aid station was at mile 31, where my “crew” (aka Anthony) would be waiting for me.  I crept along the dirt roads and mud-soaked trails, and I’m pretty sure that my thoughts ranged in complexity from “this sucks” to a 30 minute daydream about lounging in a hot tub. But, I kept going. I maintained a pathetic, haggard shuffle through the woods, out onto a dirt road, and into the aid station at Greenall’s, Mile 31(ish).  

Greenall’s Aid Station, Mile 31.
I hit this aid station in ROUGH shape.  I can only imagine what it must have been like to watch me from the outside.  I imagine it was something very similar to watching a toddler trapped in a soggy, muddy, exhausted 32-year-old woman’s body.  Our exchanges went a little something like this….
Anthony:  “What do you need?”
Me:  “TO BE DONE”.  (inner feet stomping, arms flailing).
Anthony:  “Do you want anything?  Food?  Water?”
This?  is not a pretty picture.  This is haggard exhaustion. Mile 31.
Me:  “TO LAY DOWN.  ON THIS GRASS.  NOW.”
Headed back out from Greenall’s and into the trails
And on this went, as they tried to feed me, dry me off, and get me packed up and on my way.  I stuffed some food into my face,  put on a clean, dry shirt, ditched my (stupid, heavy, chafing, wet, stupid) waist pack and staggered back into the woods. Despite the fact that I wanted nothing more than to be done at that very moment, I wasn’t done.  I still had 20 miles to go.  Yes, I could have packed my stuff up, hopped into the car, and driven off to warm, dry, society.  But despite all of my cold, wet, misery, this thought never (seriously, anyway) crossed my mind.  I was here to finish, and finish is what I was going to do.  I grabbed a handful of gummies and off I went, past the tent, around the bend, and into the woods.  #1216 was still going.
Mile 31-47
I left the aid station and rounded the bend back into the woods, but after stopping my legs wanted to do anything but cooperate with forward movement.  I tried to run, but could manage only an awkward, gangly shuffle.  It was aweful.  I was nearly in tears from shear frustration, trying to desperately figure out how the HELL I was going to keep going for another 20 miles.  Then I remembered… “The Plan!”.  Right!  Run until i can’t…. check.  Then walk until you can run again. Ok.  So I walked.  And somehow, I was able to start running again.  My shuffle picked up to a slow jog.  The sugar I took in started to pick me up (I think I was desperately under-fueled at this point… leading to my lovely 10 mile “wall” experience), and I was able to keep on plugging. It wasn’t pretty, but I was moving.  It was a start.  It was at this point that I decided to take a gamble.  Other runners aren’t always looking for a buddy out on the trails, but I needed a friend, some distraction, something to make these miles pass.  So, I decided to strike up a conversation with the girl behind me.  It went a little something like this…
Me:  “Hey, how are you doing back there?”
Girl (aka… Giuliana):  “Good, how are you?”
Me:  “Terrible! (but laughing)”
…. and away we went!  
We chatted away through these soggy miles, where a light rain restarted and soaked our newly dry shirts.  Our pace gradually picked up to the best run we could manage.  At the aid station at mile 35 I found another friend (Gary), and he joined our little moving “party”.  We ran along, picking out points on the hills that we would aim for before stopping to walk.  And, just like that, the Vermont 50 became fun again.  We lifted each other up and pushed ourselves along.  Once I got my second wind, I ran like a woman possessed through those muddy woods.  Only 10 miles to go?  Well, let’s do this.  I tried to walk as little as possible, pushing my body to its limits up and around switchback after switchback, up hills, up more hills, maybe down a hill, up more hills, over slick rocky singletrack.  I knew I was going to make it, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so thrilled.  
 
Mile 47-50
Emerging from the woods, into the homestretch 5k

 

Heading into mile 47.  BIG smile.  Almost there!
Only a 5k to go!  I glanced at my watch. I had been out for 10 hrs and 15 minutes.  If I could manage this last 5k in 45 minutes, I would come in under 11 hours.  I was pretty sure I could do that…. and then the skies opened up into an absolute downpour.  I pushed on, through the mud, running as much as possible.  I wouldn’t let myself stop.  I ran nearly the entire last 3 miles, pushing through the muscle fatigue, up and over the small hills, along the edge of slick singletrack, over wooden bridges and past the waterfall.  The signs put out by the race organizers ticked past…. 3 miles to go…..  2 miles to go…….  1.5 miles to go……   I came out onto the mowed paths along the side of the slope, across the street from the finish.  I was CLOSE!  I rounded a bend… and promptly slipped and fell on my face into the mud.  My first and only fall of the entire race, not bad!  A nice soft landing too.  I picked myself up and carried on, around grassy, off-camber switchbacks, nearing the finish.  I rounded the last bend and saw the long, gradual downhill that led me to the finish line. I cruised down past the few hardy spectators that still lined the fence, cheering me on.  Crossing that finish line is always one of the happiest and most emotional things that I do, and this year was certainly no different.  I had done it!!!!! I finished the Vermont 50!!!!  And this year, for one of the first times, I ran a lot of it alone, with only my own self-determination and will to get me going.  It was an amazing experience, and a test of my mental toughness much more than my physical shape. 

 

 

 

My time was not overly impressive by any means… but, given the quality of training I have had for most of the year, I was MORE than thrilled with it. 10:55?  I’ll take it.  And run with it. And beat it next year!  Without the emphasis on stability, strength, and quality movement I gained through working with Kurt  and Coach Al Lyman at Pursuit Athletic Performance, I would never have been able to do what I did out there on those trails in VT. Yes, the potential is within me…. but without their guidance, I wouln’t be coming close to realizing it.  Now?  The future is wide open.


A million thank-yous to everyone who helped me get back to doing what I love this year.   I have the best friends and family in the world – thanks for keeping me going by being my training partners and supporters (and for tolerating me, knocking some sense into me when I needed it, and kicking my ass into gear when I needed that too.  There are too many names to name, but you know who you are, and I love you all!  (Of course – special thanks to my husband Anthony, who dutifully puts up with me at my best and worst, and who is willing to chauffer me to races, stand in the rain waiting for me for hours, and support me through all of these crazy endeavors. Love you!)

Next up?  The Bimbler’s Bluff 50K in Guilford, CT.  Should be fun! 

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4 thoughts on “Vermont 50 2012 Race Report

  1. Are you Bimbling???!?!?! The start is down the street from me!!!! In box me lady!!!! We'll come on out! So proud of you Carly—You're my running Yoda and definitely my inspriation. Seriously considering one of these nutty runs through the woods. Maybe 2013 is my year? You rock. xxoxo Nicole

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  2. Well done Carly! Great comeback after a long recovery! [And when we met up again, I was just coming out of MY low point in the race and was never So Happy to see you again! Thanks for that inspiration to run hard again after Mile 39!!]

    Gary

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