2014 Peak Ultras 50 Miler
It was so nice to be back in the woods of Vermont. Vermont is Scott and my favorite state. We love the climbs, the views, the vegetation and the feel. I had run the Peak 50 mile race back in 2007 and 2008. 2007 was it’s first year and it was closer to 56 miles with some adventure challenges thrown in. I had a blast both years but chose to race elsewhere since then. After a visit a few months ago to the race headquarters I knew it was time to go back.
Shep and Dahlia were psyched to camp out in our VW Pop Top, so we chose to drive up later on Friday and park at Riverside Farm very close to the start. It would have been a great spot except for all the cars driving in and out all night. Needless to say we didn’t get much sleep. Also, my plan, after many talks with Coach Al, was to get up at 3am and eat 500 -1,000 calories. It wasn’t hard to get up but it was hard to eat. I choked down some gluten free pancakes with peanut butter between along with a serving of chocolate Vega.
I finally crawled out of my sleeping bag at 5am, got ready to race, and had a serving of Osmo Pre-hydrator with 16 oz of water and one VFuel. The race started without much fanfare along with the 100-mile race. We went straight while they all took a right turn onto a ten-mile loop that they would repeat 10 times.
We would come back to that loop for our last ten miles. In less than 2 miles we had a knee-deep river crossing. It was cold but fun. After the water and after crossing Rte 100 I got into a rhythm and chatted with some of the runners around me. Eventually we hit a bushwhack where the only indicator that we were on course was pink flagging. There was so much moose poop out there that I joked with one of the runners that a moose helped mark the course. After a big climb up and over Wilcox Mountain we arrived on an ATV trail and then dirt roads. The bushwhack was about 1.5 miles an really slowed the race down but I loved every minute of it. A little over 12 miles brought me to Upper Michigan Aid Station. After a short road out and back I met up with my crew and switched my UltrAspire hydration pack with a fully stocked one. I ate a handful of salted boiled potatoes, kissed my family and headed down the trail.
The Bloodroot loop is long; longer than I calculated. Some of the climbs are 40% and miles long, the mud was relentless and deep. I didn’t take enough food, but I did not realized it until I hit the 31 mile aid station thinking it was the 27 mile one where I would see Scott again (it was 37, not 27!). I had 6 more up and down, muddy miles to go and none of my personal food remaining. I was carefully planning my intake and the plan was going very well. Hour 1 and 2 was EFS gel, hour 3 was EFS electrolyte drink and salted boiled potatoes.
The pattern was to be repeated until the end. My stomach felt great and my energy was good, but when I realized at the aid station I was still 1.5 – 2 hours away from my crew I had to make some decisions. I filled my pack ½ way and scanned the aid station table. Barbeque flavored potato chip, yuck! Processed cookies, yuck! I panicked a bit but then spotted some honey-roasted peanuts. They would have to do. I took 2 handfuls and sped off. Luckily the peanuts digested well and I was able to negotiate the next 6 miles at an okay pace, although I did feel a bit dizzy toward the end. I made it back to my crew without crashing. I asked for more salted boiled potatoes and a full bottle of electrolyte drink, which I downed. I was back in action!
Three miles of mostly downhill dirt road running now to take me back to Riverside Farm where I needed to run under 2 hours to get in before 11 hours. I knew I was going to be okay by the 8.5 – 9 min pace I was able to hold all the way to the farm. The loop consisted of steep inclines many switchbacks, with a nice long (3-4 mile) downhill after reaching Shrek’s cabin 9top of the mountain).
I struggled on the climb but once I got rolling downhill I started feeling stronger. My watch was under -calculating the miles through the last loop because of all the switches. I was passing many people but could not tell which race they were in. There was a 15 mile, 30 mile, 50 mile, 100 mile, 200 mile and 500 mile race going on at the same time. The competitors in the 500 miler, especially my friend, Michelle Roy, were very inspiring! So, as I pushed the pace and was reveling in my ability to do so (I had not be able to finish strong in a long time) I kept looking for the finish line but each time the trail got closer to the farm it would loop away again until finally the course took me right into the finish. I crossed in 10 hours 56 minutes.
I ended up fifth overall and first woman but my biggest success was not in winning but in being able to run consistently strong again and have no stomach issues. My stomach was in such good condition that I was able to enjoy a picnic with my family after. That was the best prize of all!