The Kindness of Strangers – My 2013 Vermont 100 Story

I could not have done it alone. I would like to sincerely express my utmost gratitude to my old and new friends for their kindness in helping me finish my 2nd attempt of the Vermont 100 mile foot race. In no particular order they are Gary, Bruce, Hafiz, Chris, Will, Patricia, Keith, Grace, and John. I am also grateful for the support of everyone at home. My MCRRC friends, VHTRC, Team Gaylord and The TMF crew. Special thanks goes out to Hafiz, Chris, Keith, Will and John. They made me feel like I had 3 crews working with me. Without their help I am sure I would not have finish.

Mile 48

Mile 48

Vermont 100 2013

Vermont 100 2013 at mile 15 & 30

 

 

Hopes & Dreams
Having DNFed last year at mile 62 I was extremely motivated so I started training in early January by running 10 miles per weekdays and at least one 20 miler on the weekend. This effort paid off beautifully as I achieve PRs in all distance from 5K to 50 miler. Everything was going according to plan until I ran the Capon Valley 50K in West Virginia. This was by far the hilliest race I’ve ever seen. Although I placed well but that came at a price. My Achilles got tweaked. I followed that up with a DNF at the Northface 50 Miler. Suddenly it dawned on me that if I am not careful and take care of this problem right NOW I might not even make it to the start line of Vermont. The ONE & ONLY race that matter.

I took a week off from running to contain and minimize the inflammation on my Achilles. As a last hurrah to cram for Vermont I did 2 of the runs from VHTRC’s July 4th weekend trifecta. I survived Browntown and Jeremy’s run. It was all trails on the AT. I gained a lot of confidence on these runs and had a blast with team Gaylord. The miles flew by as we joke and cajoled each other over the majestic landscapes of the AT.

The training runs went so well that I even thought about running a sub 24 🙂

No Bueno Playa
I realize that at any point during the race my Achilles will likely gave out so I started with high hopes and opt to make adjustments as necessary. The course was extremely muddy compare to last year as the area was hit with rain for over a month and it only let up a week or so before race day. Before the start runners were treated to an amazing firework show. The clear backdrop of Vermont’s non polluted sky really made the fireworks popped. 4AM came and we were off. I settled into my pace and ran with 3 guys that found a similar rhythm. Buck, a first timer and Dane & Mike who finished in 25 hours last year. All 3 went on to a great finish. I enjoyed the brief miles that we shared on the course.

Sure enough around mile 31 near the Stage Road handler/aid station my Achilles gave out. The totality of the hills, muds and humidity was too much for me to handle. The Achilles getting inflamed was another straw on my already heavy hydration vest 🙂

I went to a dark place and for a while it seemed like all hope was lost. My 2nd attempt will end at mile 31. How am I ever going to cover the last 69 miles with a bum Achilles ? I sat down and pondered my fate. Seeing the worst in every scenarios. A few minutes passed by and Bruce caught up to me. I told him about my Achilles. He saw the desperation in my eyes and in a gallant effort to instill some fight back in me he grabbed my shoulders, shook me and told me that “You are A TMF. You can DO THIS. Walk if you have to. DON’T QUIT!” He then took off his hat and showed me a quote embroidered under the brim. “Pain is temporary, pride is forever.”

I’ve seen the quote before and if I am ever going to get this monkey off my back I need to heed its message and forge on. I took a few more minutes to recompose myself and get out of the chair. I couldn’t run the hills anymore so I resorted to power hiking all the inclines and run the downhills and flats. Since it was painful to put any stress on my right Achilles I found myself compensating and shifting my weight to my left leg. I end up running/slogging the rest of the race this way.

Margaritaville
The name burns in my memory since July 20, 2012. This was the spot where I was defeated. I left Vermont with my head hung in shame and vowed that I would return to make things right. I told myself to at least make it a step further this year if my Achilles refuse to to cooperate.

I made it to Margaritaville around 8:30PM I had been dealing with a nasty chafe the previous 4-5 miles. I immediately asked for vaseline or bodyglide. Luckily Chris had bodyglide in his car. Will (Patricia’s crew) and Chris (Bruce’s crew) tended to my ever need and made it so much easier for me to get what I need and go. I had something to prove this time around. After downing my 2 mandatory coconut juice I got out of the chair and made my way out. Patricia caught up to me a few minutes later. Will had her in and out in under 2 minutes. I planned on running with her to camp 10 bear at mile 70 to pick up our pacer but had to turn back because I was still chafing.

It was already pitch black by now. Luckily I took Gary’s advice and bought a handheld Fenix PD35 flashlight. This thing came packed with 850 lumens so the trails was pretty well lit for me. Although the battery did deteriorate a bit and I had to make do with the 2nd brightest setting. I slogged my way to the next aid station, Brown School house at mile 65.5 I was still chafing so I sat and reapplied more vaseline. The hot noodle soup really hit the spot and after some friendly bantering I forged on.

I was alone at this point. I couldn’t see anyone in front or behind me. This was the toughest stretch as the trails were muddy, rocky and uneven. It was easy to roll your ankle if you can’t see where your next step will be. This 4.5 mile stretch took me almost 3 hours. As I slogged my way through the night I knew redemption was near. I just need to get myself to mile 70 and let Gary take over.

Gary
I was matched up with Gary through the runner-pacer matchup service offer by the race committee. From our first emails correspondence I knew I could trust Gary. He was very knowledgeable and asked what my goals and aspirations were for the race and how my training has been going. He also suggested I get a handheld flashlight and asked if he could bring me anything. I took his advice and purchased the handheld and also took him up on his offer. It was a rather odd request but I asked if he could bring me a chipotle sub from Subway. It would be my biggest motivation to make it to mile 70.

I was completely honest with him and told him about my nagging Achilles injury. Like any runner would, he looked up my previous race results and was confident that he could take me in under 24 hours if I do my part and get to camp 10 bear between 6-7PM on Saturday.

The thing about 100 milers is that any concept you have of time will be dramatically wrong. I intended to make it to mile 70 at 7PM. I didn’t show up until 12AM Sunday morning. I was FIVE HOURS OFF! I would’ve accepted it if he picked up another runner and left already. I wasn’t realistic about my goal and didn’t keep up my end of the bargain so I don’t expect him to wait around for me.

To my surprise, when I finally made it to camp 10 bear Gary was still there. He immediately went to work. He asked if I wanted my sub. Hell yea I did. I sat down and devoured it while he took crap out of my vest to lighten the load. Apparently I was carrying way too much stuff and he doesn’t know how I made it this far.

I told him I pretty much power-hiked up all the hills and can only run the flats and downhills. He put a makeshift heel lift in my right shoe and ask if it was comfortable. It will help alleviate the tension on my Achilles.This little contraption end up saving my race as I felt no discomfort in my Achilles in the last 30 miles.

With my vest lighten and the chipotle sub devoured we headed out on our adventure. He had a job to do and he was gonna get me to the finish line. We had about 10 hours to cover 30 miles and with the way I am moving it was cutting it really close unless I run at night.

I knew I was in good hands when we set off to conquer the last 30 miles because as he was running ahead, he used his headlamp to illuminate his sight and had his handheld flashlight pointed back to help me see the trails better. I was so happy I could finally see so I started to run. We made good time and he got me to pass a lot of runners. I came into camp 10 bear in 288th place and I finished in 195th place.

We had the fastest splits per aid stations in the last 30 miles. He had me operating at maximal efficiency as we had little time to waste. When we were near an aid station he asked me what I need from my drop bags and he runs ahead to get it for me. He also asked me what I will do there. I can do whatever need to be done but I CANNOT sit down. As we get to the aid stations I would drink my coconut as I was leaving. I was too tired to protest so I just slog my way onward.

At one point we made it into a game and run from 1 chem light to the next and walk to the next one. We would rinse and repeat this for a while. I was surprised that I ran a lot during the night portion. I would not have made the 30 hours cut off otherwise.

I am not proud to admit this but I was really tired and wanted to sit down. I told him I had some debris in my left shoe and I really need to get it out. We found a log for me to sit and take off my shoe and remove whatever is in there. I took my shoe/sock off and proceeded  to take my sock off and put it on again at least 3 times. Later I mentioned this to him and he was NOT fooled. He knew what was going on and figured he would be kind and gave me some breathing room. After that it was game time.

You can listen to Gary’s podcast interview of his experience pacing me @ http://elevationtrail.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/pacing-and-race-coverage/

Longest Mile EVER!
We ran through the night. The moon illuminated the back lit sky and for a while it was pure euphoria until I was jolted back to reality and realize that I had “miles to go before I could sleep.”

Dawn finally broke and I remembered the words of our late coach Mike who proclaimed that you “haven’t really lived until you’ve seen 2 sunrise in the same race.” I took some time to really let this sink in and finally understood what he meant.

We were trucking along at a good pace and with the dawn of a new day I found myself reinvigorated and ran a lot more. We finally made it to mile 99 and there was even a sign to tell us that.

1 mile to go

1 mile to go

I never thought I would make it this far so you can imagine the excitement when I saw it. We pressed on and its true what they say. The last mile is always the longest. It seemed to drag on FOREVER and there was not a single flat or downhill section. We would crest the top of one hill and BAM there’s another one to take its place.

The moment of truth finally came and I saw the finish line. I made a point to savor this moment so I did my best and ran it in for the finish.

My official time was 29:23:57.28 for an overall pace of 17:38 per mile.

vt100finish

VT100 Finish

FINISH

FINISH photo with Gary, my pacer extraordinaire!

2 of my 6 blisters

2 of my 6 blisters

Blisters & Massively Swollen left foot

Blisters & Massively Swollen left foot

Never Again!
I vowed to never put myself through such misery again but no one really ever take what a runner say seriously up to a week after his/her last race. Bruce, Patricia and I was talking and he mentioned that the lottery for Western States opens on November 9, 2013. DAMN IT!

Photos
http://northeastracephoto.smugmug.com/Running2013-1/Trail-Running/Vermont-100/30687510_mZnCvN#!i=2652920418&k=t8fPgqc
http://www.thevermontstandard.com/2013/07/photo-gallery-the-vermont-100-endurance-ride-and-run/
http://www.farnorthendurance.com/photos-from-the-2013-vermont-100/
http://photosbynanci.smugmug.com/VermontAdaptive-1/Vermont-100/Vermont-100-2013/30645172_5vVQvv
http://benkimballphotography.blogspot.com/2013/07/vermont-100-endurance-races.html


Other Interesting VT100 2013 race reports

Gary (podcast interview of my pacer regarding his VT100 pacing experience)
http://elevationtrail.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/pacing-and-race-coverage/

Jaime 
http://www.runningwithhaynes.com/2013/07/29/jaimes-vermont-100-race-report-part-3/

Jared
http://www.runningwithhaynes.com/2013/07/26/jareds-vermont-100-race-report

Ian
http://sharmanian.blogspot.com/2013/07/vermont-100-stage-two-of-grand-slam.html

Photos from the race
http://www.farnorthendurance.com/photos-from-the-2013-vermont-100/

Jason Lantz (podcast interview of winner)
http://elevationtrail.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/vermont-100-winner-jason-lantz/

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4 thoughts on “The Kindness of Strangers – My 2013 Vermont 100 Story

  1. Yeah, Hai! You made it! I was so happy to see that you crossed that finish line. A huge congratulations to you for persevering! I wish I had been at the finish to see you cross. You crossed just seconds after my good friend, Jared. And, Hai….thank you for your help and encouragement:)

    • Thank you Jaime. You ran a strong race. I was very impressed with the way you handled the adversity and pushed on. I am glad the tums helped. Its funny that you ran into Grace also. She’s a good friend of mine. We’re both from Maryland.

  2. Congrats Hai! Way to persevere through all the adversity that was thrown your way, especially the bum Achilles. This definite proves that you’ve always had the mental fortitude to complete such an event, you just had to tell your body to STFU and GO!

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