Friday, October 12, 2012

Race Report: Vermont 50 Mile Trail Race

by Brett Johnston

So I headed up to Windsor, VT, on Saturday afternoon to go and take on the Vermont 50 Mile trail race on Sunday. This was going to be my longest race so far, and was good prep for my upcoming stage race in South Africa, which is 3 weeks out. I have done a few 50k races this season, but this is a big jump up from the 50k distance. From reading previous years’ race reports and comments, I knew that this was a hilly course. (Because the course goes through a lot of private farmlands, it is only open to the public for the 1 day out of the year, so you cannot go and train on or preview the course.)

Saturday was pretty uneventful, I got up there at around 6, got my registration done, set up my tent for the night, went and grabbed dinner at the Pasta evening, and then headed back to the tent. I didn't sleep much that night (surprise, surprise), but I think because I was actually nervous. I don't normally get nervous before races, but for some reason this was different.

I was up at 4:30, and then ready for the pre-race meeting at 5:30 am.

The VT50 actually has 3 different races all at the same time. They have a 50 mile mountain bike ride, a 50 mile trail run, and then a 50k trail run.

There were 700 bikes registered and 500 runners. (Not sure what the split was between 50k and 50 mile runners.)

The bikes started going off in waves at 6:10 am, and then after the bikes, the 50 mile runners left at 6:25am. On Saturday night and on Sunday morning (while standing in the rain), the race director gave us the weather forecast, which called for temps in the low 60's and a 30% chance of showers…Great I thought…that is perfect. Well that 30% shower followed us for the entire day and must have got pissed at times, as it unleashed into a torrential downpour just for fun.

Race started, and straight away I settled into a very easy pace to ensure that I didn't go out too fast, remembering that I am going to be out there for a good 10-12 hours. Well after about a ¼ of a mile you turn onto a dirt road, and start a monster climb that had almost everyone walking, and that was pretty much the theme for the day. Soon after that, you were onto the trails. Trails are pretty tough as it is, but throw in the rain, and 700 bikes going in front of you, and soon you are trudging through mud. The game plan for most of these races is to walk/power walk the steep hills, and then run the not too steep hills, flats and down-hills. Unfortunately because of the conditions, it made running the down-hills pretty treacherous.

The aid stations were well spaced out, and pretty well stocked with "trail food"… (soups, sandwiches, soda, pretzels, cookies, candy…pretty different from your regular tri foods).

As the day progressed, I had given up on the rain ending, so just enjoyed the atmosphere, mud and rain. For me it was a matter of getting through little distances…first one was to 26…then to 31 (50k)…then it was 35, 40, 45, 46…50. The race became a lot more manageable by breaking it up (in my mind) into little bits. When you get to the last aid station, you have about 4 miles to go, but the problem is that you are at the bottom of the mountain, and you need to get to the other side where the finish is. You essentially have a 2.5-3 mile climb up, and zigzagging across the mountain, so that you can come down the other side….which sounds great, but trying to run down the ski slope after 49 miles, is not that much fun, other than the ability to see the finish at the bottom.

I eventually finished in 10h37, with 15,000 ft of elevation gain. This was a great race, well organized and I would definitely recommend it. (You need to sign up a la Ironman…as it sells out in hours).

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