Sunday, September 30, 2007

Vermont Ultra Run - 50km

After finishing the New Hampshire Marathon at around 2:30pm on Saturday, I did a quick stretch on both my legs, chatted a while with the old man, and went to pick up my car. Before I left the carpark, saw Steve & Paula Boone again. I wished him all the best for the Keene Marathon that he'll be doing tomorrow, in another part of New Hampshire, while he also wished the best in Vermont Ultra Run. Vermont, was indeed my next destination, the state just next to New Hampshire. The drive to Windsor, Vermont was easy and direct. It was about 98 miles from where I was. Traffic was smooth and I reached there at about 4:45pm. I checked into Juniper Hill Inn - where 5 of the past/previous US Presidents had resided at the place at some point in time!

After I bathed and changed to my new set of clothing, I head straight out to Ascutney Mountain Resort, which was one of the top skiing destination during the fall and winter season. The Vermont MT Bike or Ultra Run was another small race. The 50 Mile MT Bike drew over 700 bikers, while the 50 Mile Ultra Run attracted over 200 runners. Even the 50km Ultra Run had about 128 participants taking part. I collected the race packet, which included some useful information about the cut-off time at the various check-points, as well as an event-tee made of cotton material as well as an event-cap!

After checking out the terrain map pinned on the notice board, I went to the Brownsville Town Hall for my pasta dinner. It was crowded and the queue was long. I took a can of Pepsi to quench my thirst while waiting to be served. And boy! The queue was worth my wait! The lady serving the pasta was extremely generous. Perhaps they had been briefed that the participants would require a lot more energy for the events tomorrow as they would be covering a minimum of 50km in distance. After gotten my food, I quickly finished my big plate of pasta. The meat balls were extremely delicious but unfortunately, I could only eat 6 of them. I also enjoyed the live musing being played by the band. After dinner, I went straight back to the inn to prepare my running gear as well as to take an early rest.

Woke up at 0545hrs the next morning, feeling fresh and raring to go. Noticed that my hamstrings were no longer that painful. I had some biscuits, 1 power gel and 1 bottle of Gatorade. Then I went back to sleep! At about 0730hrs, I went for a shower, changed into my gear and ready to drive to the race start point. As I stepped out of the inn and walked towards the car, I noticed that it was a misty and very cool morning!!! "Oh oh... I had forgotten about my gloves..." : ( I felt kind of dejected especially after confirming that the temperature was at a low of 42 deg fahrenheit. "Haiyo... So cool. I wish I was still sleeping in bed..." I thought to myself. In fact, this was the coolest condition that I had come across since running the Philadelphia Marathon at an all time low of 38 deg fahrenheit in Nov 2005.

After I reached the start, I registered my name with the officials and followed most of the rest of the runners inside the holding area, to hide from the cold weather. At 0730hrs, the race officials gave a briefing on the conduct of race. Basically, 50km participants had to follow the orange color markers that were planted along the way. Markers marked with a big "W" were meant to alert runners who might have strayed to the wrong route while markers marked with a big "X" were meant to alert runners to potential danger areas / crossing points. If we happened to run along the route where there were only yellow color markers, then we would have to back-track to the previous points where there was orange color markers as the yellow color markers were meant for the 50-miler bikers and runners. Race officials also reminded us to communicate between runners / bikers as well as looking out for runners / bikers who wished to pass us, especially the bikers. Then at 0800hrs sharp, the race officials flagged us off.

The 1st 2 miles of the route was terrible. It was extremely cold. My breathing was difficult and labored. Luckily for me, my hamstrings sort of eased up after stretching and applying of some muscle rub the night before. At around the 3rd mile, we ran into some dirt road and then further into the trail. It was fun but unlike the South Africa 50-miler Trail Run, I did not bring along my camera. So I decided to saviour every minute by running really slow and enjoying the scenery inside the trail. In fact, I enjoyed myself so much so that I lost track of the check-point distances. (This was also different from the South Africa 50-miler Trail Run, where the check-point were stationed approximately 10km apart). It was extremely fun, and cooling. I hydrate myself by drinking the 1 litre Gatorade which I was holding. The trail was indeed a very different journey as compared to a normal marathon, especially those big city marathons. I felt so calm that sometimes, I could hear the branches moving as if the leaves were whispering words of encouragement.

At every check-points, I took some M&M chocolates and biscuits. Plus filling up my Gatorade bottle. After thanking the volunteers, I would move on. I reached the half-way point (25km marker) in about 3hrs 45mins to almost 4hrs. This check-point was one of the bigger one has it was also the check-point for the 50-miler bikers / runners. After taking some hotdogs and bacon, I continued my "short-cut" journey (as the 50-miler participants had to go further for another loop before re-joining the 50km participants). The 2nd half of the trail was very much more challenging. One of the reason were that we would be meeting bikers and runners doing the 50-miler event. Thus, I had to constantly step off the trail to allow the faster participants to pass me. This was a little disrupting initially as the bikers could just appeared right behind you out of nowhere! In some instance, you might not find a good opening to step off the trail so you just had to pray that no one crash into you. Luckily, all of the bikers were very appreciative to us for letting them passed smoothly. The same could be said of the 50-milers runners although I felt kind of demoralised to be passed.

At the 3rd last check-point, I was told that we left another 11 miles to reach the end point. I was quite happy as it seemed that I could complete the event in 8 hours time, which means I had plenty of time to enjoy the remaining of my run. But there were more uphills that even most, if not all, bikers pushed their bikes up the trail instead. By the next check-point, I reaslied that I was way off target. I was not sure if I slowed down tremendously (covered only 2 miles for 1hr 30mins) due to fatigue or the difficult terrain. Nevertheless, I reached the marathon mile marker (42km) at 1600hrs, which was 8 hours after start!!! I kind of panic after that as I was not sure if I could finish the remaining 5 miles within 2hrs 45mins to meet the cut-off time of 1845hrs. But I eventually I managed to do just that - completing the last 5 miles in 1hr 33mins to finish my 1st 50km Ultra Run in 9hrs 33mins. This was not a fantastic timing and I acknowledged I could have done better. But given my quest of doing 2 back-to-back marathons over 2 days, I guessed I should not be too hard on myself afterall.

1 comment:

Jodan said...

Congrats, Ripley!!!
Back-to-Back marathons!!!

Sounds a bit insane, but u did it!