I went into this race really wanting to get a 50 miler under my belt this year but having experienced quite a bit of pain in my knees and hips leading up to race day, I was wondering if I would even finish within the 12 hour cut off. I took 2 weeks off from running prior to the race and Elizabeth gratefully showed me how to properly foam roll all muscle groups in my legs as well as proper stretches and icing which definitely helped.
I was keen to do Vermont as it was prime foliage season. Unfortunately as it had rained all day the day before as well as race day, there was such a low cloud cover, it was difficult to see the true beauty of the Vermont hills. The pre race meeting was at 5 am on Sunday which included 801 mountain bikers, 363 50 mile runners, 184 50K runners and 11 Fifty mile relay teams.
The mountain bikers went off in stages starting at 6:05. The 50 mile runners and relay teams went off at 6:25 with the 50K runners starting at 8:00 am. I started out in the back of the pack and pretty much held that position for the entirety of the race. The course was a nice mix of single track trails, jeep roads, a little bit of paved roads, running past horse farms and through wide open meadows. The one thing to note was that there was rarely a flat section to be had. Many of the local residents came out of their homes to cheer us on.
I walked the majority of up hills and tried to run (or shuffle) all other sections. Due to the torrential rain, and all of the mountain bikers and runners ahead of me, the trails had turned into a complete slippery sloppy mud fest. It was tough to find solid footing. At times, there was mud up to my my calves. It eventually became quite comical with everyone falling and covered head to toe in mud. About 1/2 way through the race, I could barely bend my left knee but persevered with a gimpish shufflle/ jog combination.
The mountain bikers that I passed were really struggling, all over the trails, falling, humping it up the hills in granny gear and trying to finagle the mud from their gears every so often. All in all, I didn't really care for the "passing on your left" yells down every hill as I continued to pass the same riders on the next up hill.
I noticed quite a bit of litter on the trails (Gu, Cliffbar, PowerBar packages) and I can only hope that it was the mountain bikers who don't seem to be as trail savvy as ultra runners. The course was incredibly well marked. The volunteers were stellar. They didn't provide gels at the aid stations so you had to carry your own. The longest leg between aid stations was 7 miles but typically there was aid approximately every 4 miles.
My watch battery died at mile 8 so I really didn't have a great idea of how well (or horrible) I was doing so at the last aid station (mile 47), I asked what time it was and I had exactly 2 hours before the cut off which also made me realize that I could finish under 11 hours for that coveted Western States lottery entry. I was so very happy to see the finish line and give my aching knees a much needed break. I finished in 10:49. While I knew I wasn't going to have a fast race going into this, I vow to return to give it another shot.