Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vermont 100 Pacing/Volunteer Report

For the past few years, I've headed up to Vermont every July to meet up with 11 friends at the Lake Morey golf resort - We play way too much golf, have perhaps a few too many beers, and most importantly have a tremendous amount of fun and relaxation in the country. The fact that Lake Morey still doesn't have cell phone access really helps you forget about work and the chaos of life and just enjoy the beautiful countryside up there.

Just a couple days before leaving for the trip this year, I heard that my running friend Tammy was in need of a pacer for miles 88.5 to 100 in the upcoming Vermont 100 miler that just so happened to be taking place a few miles from where I would be golfing. After doing some quick time calculations, I figured that I could help her out, and lucky for me she was in favor of the idea as well. I was so excited to head back to the site of my very first 100 miler to help out a friend!

On race day I golfed my two rounds at Lake Morey (we won't talk about my scores, thank you very much), ate dinner, and drove the 40 minutes to the Start/Finish line for the race. I arrived in time to see Jack Pilla become the first VT resident to win the race just before sunset. On top of that great news, Jack also became the oldest to win at age 51! Way to go, Jack!!

After chatting with a few other really nice folks (including super-fast Sean Andrish who was there to pace as well), I decided it was time to start running backward into the course to reach Bill's Barn Aid Station at mile 88.5 where I'd meet up with Tammy later on that night/morning. It has only been two years since I ran the VT100 myself, but in that short time I had clearly forgotten how relentlessly hilly this course is. I was working hard through those 11.5 miles, and I was on fresh legs! ...Talk about appreciating what the 100 milers were doing at that point - wow!

It was tough to complain about the few sloppy trail sections when I also had the pleasure of passing through the open fields where approximately 9 billion stars put on a show for me. More than once I had to stop, turn off my headlamp, and just stare in pure awe of the night sky up there. It was absolutely breathtaking.

Aside from the beauty of nature, the runners and horses passing by also fired me up with quite a bit of inspiration. I did my best to update every one of them on how much further to the next Aid Station and what the trail was like the rest of the way. I had a great time out there, and the 11.5 miles absolutely flew by.

When I arrived at Bill's Barn, it was 1:00 a.m. and I knew I had plenty of time before Tammy came through. Her arrival at Bill's in last year's race was 4:48 a.m., so I did my best to use the next few hours to help the volunteers there take care of the runners coming through. Bill's is a mandatory medical check-point for all runners, so more than a few folks were forced to take a seat and have their vitals checked before they were allowed to continue. When one runner was forced to sit down next to me because he came in 7 lbs. over-weight (which could be a sign of kidney failure), he was particularly distraught. As I was talking to him, I noticed he was still wearing his fuel belt. When I mentioned this to him, he couldn't believe how absent-minded he was by forgetting to take it off before stepping on the scale. When it turned out his belt weighed 7 lbs., the docs let him continue in the race. We've all been there with that 88 mile fog in our heads, and I was just happy to be there with fresh eyes to notice his mistake before they carted him off in an ambulance!

As the crowd coming through Bill's started to thin out, and the clock passed 5:00 a.m., I began to worry about Tammy. I checked with the race headquarters to make sure she hadn't dropped out, and they assured me she was still on her way. After helping the staff break down the cots and pack up most of the supplies at the Aid Station, I saw it was now 6:05 a.m., and there was still no sign of Tammy. At this point I was almost certain she would have to drop at Bill's as the cut-off time was fast-approaching. Just as I was ready to give up all hope, Tammy and her pacer Shane came bombing around the corner. I had Tammy's drop-bag ready, but she said she didn't need anything from it. She was clearly ready to move to try and finish this race in the 30 hour time limit. After a quick bathroom stop, all 3 of us were on our way (Shane decided to stay on for some extra pacing miles with us!).

I started to explain the time issue to Tammy without sounding too pessimistic, but as soon as I saw she was willing and able to run the first uphill without any problems, I was beyond encouraged - She just might be able to pull this thing out after all!! Sure, her quads were too shot to run the downhills, but her speed on the hills and flats was way beyond what I expected. As we made our way through the course I had run earlier that night (we were now in the sunlight), I found I didn't really need to employ any pacer tricks to keep her moving. As it was, we were passing people left and right as we moved toward the finish. The conversation between the 3 of us was light and fun...no mention of any real pains or issues from Tammy at all - Talk about a positive attitude!!

As we made our way through the final stretch of trail before the finish, Tammy's husband Tristan was there about 1.5 miles from the finish to take some pictures and accompany his wife to the line - how nice! Just before the finish there was a bagpipe player on the trail signaling our arrival to the crowd gathered for breakfast at the finish line. It was quite a rush to hear all of their cheering as we crossed the line together. I can only imagine how great Tammy felt after 29 hours and 41 minutes of running!! She had not only beat the cut-off time, but passed about 8 people in the final 11 miles and finished with plenty of time to spare...she was a machine out there!!
Here's the triumphant Team Tammy at the finish! I wish I could have stayed to congratulate her further, but I had to run off to my car and get back to Lake Morey in time for Sunday's tee time. I did have a little bout with the sleepys while driving back to the golf course, but I snapped out of it when I thought about how easy I had it compared to Tammy and her 29+ hours of running and zero hours of complaining. No way I could whine about being a little tired after seeing her never-give-up effort!

Congratulations, Tammy!!


sc said...

The stars were amazing, weren't they! I stopped numerous times that night, every time I'd emerge from tree cover into a big open space, turn off my lamps, and just soak it all in. "Strangely," we don't have those kinds of skies in Boston ... sigh.

Tammy had a fantastic run! It was very nice to meet you too, Dan. I look forward to seeing you both again one of these days. Let me know when you're back in our fair city!

Runner Tammy said...

Hi Dan,

Thank you so much for pacing me! You were a great pacer and kept me going throughout the toughest miles of the Vermont 100 miler.

I was really worried when I met up with you about my timing because I had really struggled overnight (before Shane adopted me as a runner). And of course I knew how challenging the last several miles are.

But you & Shane were so great in keeping me going and giving me all sorts of positive energy and encouragement. And of course you made those last miles such fun!

Thanks again,

Jamie Donaldson said...

Hi Dan,

That is so awesoem you got to pace Tammy! She is such an upbeat, fun person! Glad you are running again and feeling fine!

AnthonyP said...

Sorry we didn't get to hook up in VT. I saw Tammy a ton...she was awesome.