Ride like the Wind, Bullseye!
Race report on the Vermont 100-Mile Endurance run - July 21-22, 2001
By Grant McKeown**
I entered Vermont 100 '00 but my training came up short due to extended rehab of an
Achilles injury and I had to withdraw*(see foot note). So I crewed and paced my
running buddy Michael Martin at Vermont as he fought off hypothermia through a long
night of torrential rains to finished his first 100.
The remainder of the year included a 6 hour (37 mile) run, the Mt Toby Trail Run and
the NYC Marathon and best of all, no Achilles problems. Unfortunately on December
8, I dislocated my left elbow (fell awkwardly off a ladder) and didn't run till
January. Initially I couldn't fully extend my arm though who does when running? PT
twice a week, a little acupuncture and finally my 1st long run of the year in February, the Kurt Steiner 50k in Central Park.
Meanwhile Michael & I had decided to return to Vermont and try for a "buckle".
In April it was the tough, hilly Bull Run Run 50 with Michael in at 10:47 and me in
In May we got our acceptance from Vermont. I managed several long runs and some PT
for my left shoulder, impinged by my elbow dislocation. Grand Slammer '00
Scott Hunter and his Slammer crew, Kate Hayes offered to crew us at Vermont.
But June began with the news of Michael's dad critically ill and necessitated his
withdrawal from Vermont. So now it was up to me to "buckle". I managed 4 more
long runs but the knees were achy and I never got a good sense of my endurance
fitness. July brought a very laid back and welcome 3-week taper.
I drove up to Kaye Carriere's Millbrook Bed & Breakfast with Admas Belilgne and
Rich Lacey on Thursday. Vermont was Admas' first 100 miler. An excellent road
ultra runner, she is the first American woman to win the Ted Corbit award of the
London to Brighton Run and also a finisher of Comrades. Rich is a vet of over
sixteen 100s, including Western States, Wasatch, Massanutten and Vermont (2
Buckles) and was looking to buckle again. We were a nice mix of experiences and on
the drive up from New York City Rich set the mood with some colorful accounts of
his ultra adventures. Scott & Kate were also staying at Millbrook.
Kaye prepared a wonderful dinner for us Thursday (salmon & chicken) and we had
a splendid time. Jimmy Taylor from Crystal Springs, Mississippi was visiting Kaye
and ready to photographically document the world of a 100 miler.
I discussed plans with my crew. Kate had crewed Scott several times at
Vermont, including a buckle in '00, and knew the important aid stations.
Scott recommended splits of 6 hr at 30 miles & 12 hr at 54.2. Our conversations
made me realize that I had an equal extra responsibility to them to stay doubly
focused throughout the run. The weather forecast for the weekend was clear
and warm. Saturday morning we checked in at Smoke Rise Farm, and purchased
some shirts from perennial volunteers Sharon Quackenbush, Nancy Nutile-McMenemy and
Sue Tatem. A light lunch, then Admas & Rich put the final touches on
their drop bags. We then attended the race briefing led by race director,
Priscilla Tucker, chowed down at the group pasta dinner and finally settled in for
the night. The usual several hours of sleep, a great 2 AM breakfast from Kaye
and then off to race day check-in.
The beginning of a 100 is a celebration of joyful courage. A few minutes when you
are enveloped in a special vapor, breathing all the hopes and dreams of your
fellows and they in turn yours. I still could not sense my fitness,
especially for a sub 24. Regardless, I had decided to take it very easy the first
12 miles. Admas and I ran together with a few newfound friends through the first
miles of pre-dawn darkness. With first light, at about 4 miles, I moved a bit ahead
and would not see Admas again. She did, though, prevail to finish her first
100 in 27:33.
Next I met and ran along the roads awhile with Helen Malmberg (28:30), the race
director of the Haliburton 100. She was great company in the early dawn and
described her race. The nighttime serenade of wolves [more likely coy dogs –
Editor] seemed particularly intriguing. I caught up with Rich about 3 miles out of
Taftsville. Rich's hopes of a 24 would abruptly end at 68 with sudden hypothermia.
On the several mile downhill road into Taftsville (12.2), the horses and their
riders passed us, having started an hour later. (Note: All road references mean
dirt, backcountry, carriage road, unless otherwise noted. The Vermont 100 has a lot
of this road.) I reached Taftsville in 2:32. Besides the splits recommended by
Scott, my goal was to stay a minute per mile ahead of my '99 splits. In '99 I
was on a 24-hour pace until 84 miles but then could only walk it in. On
schedule, I was out of Taftsville in just a minute.
On the mostly uphill march on the road into Pomfret, the first crew station, I ran
briefly with Michael Tobin, a fellow member of BUS (Broadway Ultra Society) of New
York. We rolled into Pomfret (18) in 3:51. A little food, fresh Clip from Kate and
Scott and I was quickly on my way. A few miles later, I followed a couple of
runners up a road only to be met by others back tracking. We'd missed the
trail marker. A few hundred yards back down the road we found it. A reminder
to always stay sharp even with company.
A lively conversation ensued that thoroughly woke us up. We pushed up and over an
exposed hillside and for a while were running single file, my West Side Runner
teammate Lanny Levit just ahead of me. A runner behind us asked what were two guys
with New York City on their singlets doing on a Vermont trail. Trying to do the
same thing as him, I replied. Lanny, unfortunately, would come up short of the goal
and have to withdraw at 94 miles. Several miles later I caught up with
Michael Tobin again. He was running with Elsie Harrington, an Eco athlete. She had
recently finished a multi-day, multi-discipline 300 K event. And Vermont was her of
working on her endurance running. Elsie would finish in 28:30 and Michael in 24:44.
Michael, by the way, is a Staten Island fireman and would face a greater challenge
on September 11.
About two or three miles later some stomach cramps prompted a quick stop in the
woods. A few minutes later, on a twisting steep downhill single-path trail, I
exchanged greetings with Joe Brown who I'd met in '99. Today he seemed on a mission
and would go on to an excellent 21:54. I arrived at Stage Rd (27.7) in 5:51.
I had not gained any time since Pomfret but was feeling strong. To deal with
the heat, Scott showed me a trick of putting ice down the back of my shirt.
The idea is to cool the core body heat and it seemed to work too. The new
plan was to make Rt. 12 (30.8) a longer stop since it would be the last crew aid
till Camp 10 Bear (44.2). I slowly pushed up the steep hill out of Stage Rd. After
the crest came a short trail section, a mile of dirt road and then Rt. 12 in
6:37. Three miles that could take an hour, had taken just 45 minutes. I'd
picked up 10 minutes and used that time to gaff tape my toes and change socks.
Though I was 45 minutes off the 6-hour goal, Scott and Kate were very encouraging.
Fresh iced Clip, some ice down the back, a little food and I was off again. I
carried with me a dozen Succeed! Electrolyte tablets and took one or two every
couple of hours.
I ran mostly alone the next 10 miles on predominantly roads. As in all ultras, it
was one of those strange times. The knees were still aching a bit; the sun was
beating down and my body metabolism was struggling with the new demands. But
despite all that seemed to be going on, I reached Lillian's (40.6) in 8:39. I'd
covered 10 miles in 1:52, could feel my second wind and was 44 minutes ahead of
Plus the 40-mile station was an oasis. Shaded with plenty of ice and a multitude of
amenities. I took an extra minute before heading out on the next mile along
some unshaded highway. Fifty-one minutes later I was at Camp 10 Bear (44.2)
in 9:30. I saw Jummy first as he snapped my picture. And then Scott as I went
to be weighed in (124 and no weight loss). Kate and he had not expected me
quite so soon. Fresh Clip, a little sampling of food, ice in the hat and some
down the back of the shirt and off again. Another solid, efficient stop.
The pace was good for the five miles and uneventful. Then a few miles out of
Birmingham's (51.4) I was on some steep uphill single path with a few runners, only
to be met once again by several others backtracking. Forty yards or so back
down the trail we discovered the true way. That was twice. One more to
go? Going into Birmingham's (11:09) I was feeling a bit burnt out and took an
extra minute or two to regroup. Then it was across a field and on toward
Tracer Brook (54.4).
During the race briefing we had been warned of a very aggressive dog that was on the
loose around 51-52 miles. The race officials were not able to get the owners to
corral the animal. I reminded the two runners with me and picked up a short stick
just in case. We did not encounter the pooch, though I did hear later of
runners who did. Oh well, no big game today!
The most critical moment of the day was about to happen. I was wearing Montrail
Vitesse shoes. I usually wear 8 and a halfs but had tried 8s on a final long
training run with no problems. So I chose the smaller shoes to wear at the
start. But now my feet were swelling. I even had to stop and loosen the
laces before Tracer Brook and hobbled into the aid station. Kate & Scott,
like mind readers, had the 8 and half Montrails waiting for me. Changing
shoes, I could see where the laces had bitten into the top of my foot, ultimately a
bone bruise. The larger shoes felt like heaven and, despite the problem, my
split into Tracer Brook was 11:47. I was ahead of schedule and Scott's ideal split
of 12 hours. They urged me to eat but I was really sick of the P&J sandwiches
and bananas. Then I remembered a tip Michael had given me to try different foods
later in the race. I'd never tried turkey sandwiches in any race. So I figured "Why
not?" Miraculously the little turkey sandwich on bread with mayo seemed to
quench my hunger. And to quote Bogie, "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful
relationship.", would prove ever so true. I took my first ibuprofen here too and
then a couple every 4 hours till the end.
Out of Tracer Brook there are several long hills stretching for about 3 miles of
road. Walking alone, I could see several runners about a quarter mile ahead of me
but I was feeling angry that I had jeopardized my run about the choice of the
smaller shoes. And cursed myself out aloud. Seeking more release I
started yelling a monologue I knew from the play, "Much Ado About Nothing".
In the speech the character Benedick ponders in disbelief and disappointment why
and how his best friend, a soldier like himself, has given up the battle with
womankind and surrendered to love. "I will not be sworn but love may transform me
to an oyster; but I'll take my oath on it, till he have made an oyster of me he
shall never make me such a fool!" (Act II,iii). Of course, I had been the fool to try to run in smaller shoes. The wonderfully arrogant words helped me to vent the pent up emotions and my energy picked up and so did my pace. I could see several runners about a quarter of a mile ahead of me. Ten minutes later, my power walking and power talking took me right by them. They were using more energy in dialogue then in walking. On hindsight I must have seemed a bit strange to them, shaking my head and muttering to myself. Cresting the last hill I started running again and in about a mile pulled up along side a female runner. Feeling the need for some conversation, I commented that we were near the 60-mile aid station. She bluntly responded that she never liked knowing where she was in a race. "Mild, or come not near me!", said Benedick. And for the remainder of the race, except for a couple of times, I kept to myself and ran alone.
Just before the aid station Kate & Scott me with ice and water. And I
quickly picked up a bit of food at the Cox's (60.2) aid station as the 13th hour elapsed. I reached Brown School House (62.8) in 13:40 and around 66 miles I met up with Ruth Kessler, a fellow WMAC member. She was going through a rough patch but would finish in 25:22. I was having no problems. My feet were fine and even the knees were better. I sailed down the long hill into Camp 10 (68:4) arriving in 14:37 and was greeted by Kate. She got me a turkey sandwich as I weighed in (no loss) and pointed me toward Scott and the car. Scott had thought to pace me on in but said I was doing great on my own and didn't need him. Sitting down I had a sock change and good 8-minute rest. An hour up on my '99 time, I felt pretty fresh and my crew was very relaxed too. A few more pictures from Kate and some from Jimmy too and then Scott, a vigilant eye on the watch, told me to get a move on. Flashlight, headlight and fresh clip and now it was time for the second part of the race. I needed to get to Bill's (83.4), the next crew aid, before 11 PM.
On the climb out of Camp 10, I met Micheala Heeb who was attempting the Slam.
Scott, who knew her, said she had a stress fracture. Incredibly Micheala
would continue to finish in 25:22. I had a new problem as the gaff tape was
cutting into my toes. At 74 miles I took five minutes to remove the tape and
re-lube my toes. The next 5 miles were nothing short of glorious. I caught and
passed a number of runners, tried a rice krispie square (like eating air) and
briefly ran along side a horse and rider before they sped down the road. At
one point Joe Hurley, a long time volunteer I knew from the previous years, came
driving up in his truck beside me as I was running, accompanied by his wife Nancy
and daughter Betsy. I pulled my little disposable camera out of my waist belt
and still running beside the truck took his picture, to the laughter of his
family. I was riding like the wind, through the waning light of the
day. Running alone or so it seemed. My thoughts went to Michael's dad
who had just passed away and then to my own dad gone 10 years. Was that a fatherly
hand gently lifting me down the road? I looked around. Hum?
I rolled into Yate's Farm (78.9) in 17:06; the hills around majestically silhouetted
against the last light of day. The dusk seemed to be tinged with a magical
haze. A little water, Pepsi, a bit of food and quickly onward. A
darkened single path section followed and then on some road I met Barbara and Miles
Frye-Krier. Barbara was going for the Slam. Vermont was the second notch in
her belt. Miles had Slammed in '97 with her help and now it was Barbara's
turn. They were splendid company. And even put up with me motor mouthing
away. We made good time into Bill's (83.4), welcomed by the cheers of the
numerous crews and volunteers. I saw Scott and yelled out. He had just walked
in from the car and was stunned to see me so soon. It was about 10:15 PM, 18:12 on
my clock. He directed me to the weigh in and told me to meet Kate and him
just up the road at the car. Still no weight loss. I grabbed a turkey
sandwich, some Pepsi and met Barbara as I walked. She and Miles were moving on and
I told her I hoped to see them later. Fresh Clip, a fresh flashlight and I power
walked the uphill out of Bills. Several minutes later Kate & Scott drove by
beeping their car horn and celebrating. There's no better feeling for a
runner then seeing your crew deliriously happy. Except maybe having running
legs at 84 miles. I couldn't believe it. Everything was going well. No
physical problems and plenty of energy. Next job, to push through and over
Blood Hill. Blood Hill is actually a series of hills, ending just before Lorraines
As I entered the mile or so of highway that leads into the Blood Hill roads, I kept
looking for Barbara and Miles. I thought I saw their lights about a half-mile but
never caught up to confirm it. Memories of Blood Hill from the last two years
were still vivid. I had struggled through a cramped in'99 on a record hot day and
as a pacer in '00 immersed in a river of rain. I concentrated on a short stride,
shuffle-speed walk technique stopping only for a quick bathroom break and before I
knew it, was running the downhill into Lorraines (90). At Lorraines you're
just a couple of miles from the finish as the crow flies but with 10 to go.
Six and half miles in 1:46. It was midnight and 20 hr was done. I knew then I
had my buckle, as did Scott & Kate. I took some Pepsi, a couple of
celebratory photos and a deep breath. If I kept pace I had a shot at a sub 23.
I ran some downhill road and then walked an uphill, continuing to feel strong. At 94
miles there is a short trail section and then a mile of downhill road to South
Woodstock (96). I caught up with Cathy Tibbets and her pacer on that trail.
They weren't sure of the mile mark. I told them where we were and she picked
up the pace as we headed out on the road. As I ran behind them, I took a few
moments, turning off my headlamp to look at the sky. It was a new moon so the
sky was crystal clear, with the Milky Way in full splendor. We quickly rolled
into South Woodstock for the check in at the horse barn. It was 1:30 AM and
my time was 21:24. Six miles in 1:26 and I still had good legs left. I handed
Scott & Kate my extra flashlight and belt bottle (I still carried my Fast Draw
bottle) and joyfully took off for the last hilly single path trail. Climbing out of
Woodstock I passed Cathy (22:30), her pacer, and Bruce Boyd (22:26). Boyd has
completed all 13 Vermont 100s and all under 24! And then I pulled up behind Barbara
& Miles. We exchanged greetings but I had a head of steam and couldn't slow
down. The smell of the barn was fierce! Besides, I had no idea how long the
adrenal surge would continue. I only knew it felt incredible and I was almost
home. At the top of the rise the trail broke out into an open field.
Remembering the beautiful sky, I stopped, turned off my lights and gazed up at the
magnificent expansive dome of stars. After some seconds I moved on a few yards only
to stop dead in my tracks. It was time to take a little time and relish the
moment. I was on top of the world! After almost a minute I had to tear
myself away. I overtook a runner at the crest of the field who had momentarily lost
the trail. This time though I spotted the trail marker and lead the way
ahead. A close encounter of the third time! In my haste I neglected to
introduce myself. But I believe the runner was John Casserta (22:24).
Certainly not ET.
About a mile out from the finish I caught up with another runner, Bob Oberkfehr. He
continued in front of me for a few minutes then offered to let me pass. I
thanked him and told him I was happy to be almost done. Bob told me that in
'00 he had to withdraw after 96 miles because of hypothermia. Several hundred yards
before the finish, I yelled to him that we were almost there. Bob quickly
caught up with me, sped and triumphantly sprinted under the finishing arches. And
looking up, I saw Kate & Scott applauding as I finished in 22:22. Three
hours sooner then '99! And I think I still had a mile or two left in me. OK,
maybe just a mile. Hugs all around. A few minutes later Barbara arrived (22:25)
with Miles. Barbara would go on to complete not only the Grand Slam & but also
the Great Race. And it's a shame they don't give out buckles to crews. Kate &
Scott deserve two. I know their support and constant encouragement helped me
stay focused, fresh and undeterred throughout the long day. I dedicate my
buckle in memoriam to of Michael's dad, Bruce Martin and My dad, Hack McKeown.
Though I am a Newbie to 100s, (2 Vermonts) here are some closing thoughts on:
How to Run Your Quickest & Best 100
A crew is gold and can save you tons of time and an immense amount of mental fatigue.
Start off slow. Be deliberate. You've got a long day ahead of you,
regardless. A lot can and will happen. I was 210th place at 12 miles and
156th at 36 miles but finished 49th overall.
Walk all the hills. WALK ALL THE HILLS. (I know it's a lot.) Walk all the hills! And you will have legs to RUN in the last 20.
Thoroughly investigate the course and plan accordingly. You must have a strategy.
Keep eating. Try different foods. Get those electrolytes. And drink, drink, drink!
Stay within yourself. Maintain your own pace. You will have bad times, then
good times, and then achy times then good times, etc. Whatever! Keep on
And remember Ken Chlouber's advice:
"You're better than you think you are and you can do more than you think you can!"
Now on to the next challenge, Western States '02!
A recommendation for those who suffer from Achilles problems: Take 3 months off from
running & get some serious physical therapy. Then take another 3 months to get
your base back with plenty of stretching. After Vermont '99 (25:17) I did not
take it easy and my recovery was prolonged 4-5 months. I got PT but tried to
run through the injury. Also try different therapies. Aggressive acupuncture
was finally the ticket for me.
**My apologies for the lateness of this report. The tragedy of 9/11, the
aftermath plus job/career changes as a New Yorker, required me to make adjustments
the last year
Like the trails we all love, life too presents it's own challenges.
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