Vermont 100 – Crewing and Pacing Team Woods

The Vermont 100 Endurance Race is one of the original 100 mile runs in the USA and a part of the Grand Slam Series of Ultrarunning. Each year, 300 runners attempt to finish this hilly race over beautiful Vermont back roads and trails under the 30 hour cutoff point, and a well-trained few finish in under 24 hours.
(description from the race website)

This was my first time to attend a 100 miles ultra marathon race that part of Grand Slam. Although I was not racing it, I was as giddy as the racer in this event, human or horse. Yeah that was the other cool thing about this race, the human would be running the course side by side with horses.
My main purpose for me to be there was to make sure Jessica Woods to cross the finish line. I was part of the Team Woods crew. One biker (Alex), 2 exceptional Boston Marathon finisher (Brian and Steph),the coach (Chad), one MonkeyCart, and a monkey (me). Also there were a lot of runners from NY and NJ area who was participating in the race or crewing. Some of my friends were crazy enough that they were doing The Grand Slam, basically they ran four 100 miles race back to back with only 3 weeks in between.

When Alex and I delivered Jess into the finish line, I could feel my adrenaline rush running through my veins. I wanted to run too, but I had to wait till the last 30 miles. It was a little odd that the runner could only have a pacer on the last 30 miles, not like the other races that I had read, usually the pacer could get in on the mile 50 or when the sun set.

We headed back to the inn, to get an extra sleep, get breakfast, and collect the rest of the crews. When we about to hit the road, we found out that we would missed Jess on the 22 miles point aid station, PrettyHouse. She was an hour early that made me pretty nervous, she still had a long way to go.
When we got into the next aid station, Stage Rd, we found out that most of my friends’ crews missed their runners or almost missed. Maybe because they had a perfect weather that morning, so I guess they had a grand.
At this aid station I saw most of my friends who did the 100 milers. (the 100k started at 9am) I saw Jun and Otto who was doing their 100 solo division. I met Tiffany, and she said Stephen England was doing great, despite of his high and low sugar level issue. I saw Keila, Elaine and Brittany the Grand Slammer. Also, one of my favorite runner, who always happy on every races, Michelle Mason. Then Maria who was my crew master on Manitou. She was also ahead of her schedule but looked strong. I believed she disliked her Hoka (grinn).
Then our runner, Jess, came down from the hill-side by side with Rick Thiounn, she looked strong. I reminded her to stay low on her pace, she made her 50K PR that day, on 100 miles race. This was still pretty early on the race. After I grabbed her pack to the aid station, while the other crew help her with refilling the fuel, we shoved her away back to the trail.

The Woodstock of Vermont was a pretty nice small town that has plenty option of restaurant. While we waiting for Jess next meeting point, we had a superb brunch with Rick Thionn’s crew, Ken Tom and ZQ.
The next aid station, Camp 10 Bear, was the 47 miles point aid station. This s probably the most crowded and the busiest aid station, the runners would stop by at this aid station twice. Chad and I walked to the hill before the aid station while we were waiting for Jess. It was a bit hot at the opening, but when we got into the hill under the tree line, the shades probably reduced the temperature by 10 degree. When we drove to this aid station we could see how was the hill was pretty maddening. They were not steep technical hills, but it just a barrage of hills. We met all the runners again one by one. Then from the woods, I could see the Woods ran toward us. She said that she felt sore everywhere and also she was tortured by the course rolling hills. We parked about one or two hundreds meters before the aid stations, and we set up a chair, gear swap, and nutrition refill for Jess there. After she was set to go, we ran with her to the aid station to check in and let her continue with the race.

 

Then we decided that we were going straight to the next aid station, Seven Sees, to take a quick nap for an hour or two. That plan didn’t work out for me, I met with many of my running buddies. Either they ran the race or crewed. Also at this aid station, this was the first time I saw the aid station for horse. They had a bucket of water for the horse, if I was not mistaken, they had also a big buckets of hay and carrots. Honestly, I did not stay close to the horse aid station, I was afraid that I would startle them. I had a bad experience where I got kick on chest by horse when I was a kid, I suffered a fever for a week, at least.
Chad and I, again, decided to walk out to the trail, tried to pick up Jess before she got to the aid station, so we could catch up with what she would need and be prepared when she got into the aid station. On the way to this aid station, the drive was pretty hilly. Even before we got into the “trail” section of the hill, the road portion was pretty darn hilly too. My full load MonkeyCart was a bit grumpy when we drove up to those hills. I believe this was the first time the runners would be weight in the aid station, and got their medical check up.
When she came in, she said that she was feeling hurt everywhere. We gave her a roller massage and refill her running vest. We made pretty quick pit stop for Jess, and there she went back to the wilderness.

The fast kids has too much energy. After Brian did another 6 miles run, Step takes a push up game bet.

The fast kids has too much energy. After Brian did another 6 miles run, Step takes a push up game bet.

The next aid station that we were going to meet Jess, was only 3 mile-ish. So we tried to move to there as fast as we could. This aid station, Margaritaville, was pretty well decorated. I think it had hanging lights, inflatable tress, and volunteers with costumes. I was not really pay attention that much tho, since we were in the rush. We got there just in time when Jess came in. It s getting dark at that time, specially under a thick shadow of trees. She changed her apparel, and I think she changed her shoes too at this point (I lost my count). She was started to get into the delusional phase, I could tell she was really tired, barely move fluidly, and probably started to feel sleepy. The crew really did a great job on freshen her up, and lift up her spirit. And we told her, after this 5 miles, she would not run by herself anymore.

We stopped at a deli store for a quick dinner before we got into the Camp 10 Bear for the second time. Wished I could remember where was this deli store, but they really had a great sandwiched. The boys had a meatball sandwiches, and they craved on it. You know when you have a good minutes of silent when eating in a group, that means it s GOOD.
When we got into the Camp 10 Bear, it was less crowded than in the afternoon. While the other crews were preparing for the pit stop, I was preparing my gears like I was ready to do my own hundred race. Well, I thought I needed to be self-sufficient as much as I could, so I would able to help Jess better without worry about refueling myself. We thought that Jess would need all the help that she could get, so we brought everything that we could to the aid station. After a few minutes of waiting and drank a can of soda (I was sleepy), I became restless. And I grab one of the radio and ran to the hills. It was pretty dark at that time, I started to fire up my headlamp. After almost a mile, I became worry, I thought I should have seen Jess by now. And there was a runner who recognized me from the Traprock 50K race. So I asked him if he saw a tall blonde girl behind him, and he said yes, probably like 15-30 minutes behind. He also mentioned that she and another girl, which from his description could be Maria, they were struggling with pain. In Seven Sees, I met Maria, and she told me that she had pain on her right shin. On the other hand, Jess mentioned to Chad and I that the knees were hurting her. So I ran back with that runner and his family, I tried to blend in with them so I wouldn’t confuse the volunteer, who could think I was a runner. I ran to our crew and Maria’s crew immediately, to warn them about the situation, and ran back out again to the hill. I needed as many miles as I could run this weekend anyway, so might as well I abused the opportunity. After a few minutes I saw them. They were barely running. And they were hurt. I told them that the crew knew and ready to patch them up.
Brain and Steph were massaging Jess and rolled her ITB vigorously. Chad and Alex were there to lifted up her spirit make her eat more food. Me, I couldn’t remember what I did at that moment, probably tried to figure it out what would I do to keep her moving, how to keep her away from the dark side. I know this section, between mile 70 to 80, it would be the hardest part that might break her down.

And with all the might that we had, we managed to make Jess back on her feet. We hit the trail and the darkness of woods. Immediately we were welcome with a steady uphill and rolling hills. At some flat sections I tested her will to push, I tempted her to do small jogs, and she did, so I guessed she was ok, she might just damn tired. Actually we started to catch up with more runners. I tried to divert her mind from all those miserable feeling to the moment where she felt good, so I made her to tell me how she did in the morning etc, how we missed her 1st crew aid station, and also I told her how was her crews days going.
It seems worked, we ran most of the flat and downhill and walk on the uphill on those 7 miles. Then we reached The Spirit 76 aid station. It was probably the best aid station on the race. It seemed like Halloween theme somehow. At this aid station, Chad took over the pacing task, and a chance for me to take a quick nap.

I woke up around 2 am since I heard Maria’s voice and Jess supposed to be not far behind. So I woke up the crews and checked my gears to make sure I had everything.This aid station was Bill’s, and here was the place that I would swapped with Chad and brought her to finished line. At this mile 89, I saw many runners broke down. I became a bit concerned, this aid station felt very gloomy and had too much negative feeling around. It was a few hours before sun rise, not only the runners who were exhausted, but also the crews, the volunteers, and the medical crews.
When Jess arrived, Chad told me that Jess was really really tired and sleepy. We made a pretty decent pit stop. If Jess stayed to long and felt comfort, it would be hard to make her continue. It was pretty funny that she broke down pretty bad at this aid station, and at the same time had no resistance when we shoved her back to the wilderness.
I told her that she was doing great, at this hour at Javelina, she was only at 70 miles point, so I urged her to keep moving, we could be done before sun rise.
I gotta to say that the race was really really well marked. I could just not pay attention and I wouldn’t get a chance to get lost. Although I hope that it was more trail than a jeep road, which felt more like a pavement.
We started with running in the woods for a while, and I found that Jess knees gave her a problem with running downhill. So I tried to change the pace slower on the downhill and tried to make up our time on flat or power hike on the uphill. It worked, we started to catch up with more people. The single trail on theses woods section was a pretty cool switch back, which in normal trail run we would have enjoyed it. In between these trees sections, we had a few jeep roads, it seemed that Jess preferred it better than the trail, I guessed it was easy on her knees or ITB. Then when we got off from the trees section, there was a long downhill on an open grass field. It was really beautiful specially under a bright moon light with an open field that facing a continuous hills landscape. Not far after we got tho the bottom of this slope, we got into Keating’s aid station. It was in front of somebody’s front yard. Jess was too tired and sleepy. I asked her to look at my headlamp to open up her retina and woke her up. She could not really eat anything, she might have lost her appetite.
After we continue run on the jeep road, the sun started to show up shyly. The scenery was pretty surreal, it looked like a typical american farm paintings. When we turned into a the woods again, Jess’ knees were getting worst. So we decided to find a perfect magical branch for her walking poles. It did its trick on the downhill, she started to move faster, and jogged a little on some flat parts. That was the most important thing, she kept moving. Tho she was talking about dropping off, I told her I would drag her feet to the finish line like an ogre dragging a wooden club. I started to open my Honey Stringer waffle, and good lord that she was tempting to eat half of it, and she also pretty good at hydrate herself. To be honest, she was doing a better job and more discipline than me on that part.


The Polly’s aid station was the last aid station when we could meet with the crew before the finish line, probably 4 miles away from the finish line. There was people siting at the road side, in a way, it looked like a welcoming party. So I made an announcement, that Jess the Gandalf  was coming. Me and my nonsense joke.
The crews came and pick up Jess, did a quick engine check on her, refill her vest, and made her eat. We did a pretty quick pit stop, since it would be only 4 miles and would have an un-manned aid station in between. Me and Jess the Gandalf continued our journey.
These 2 miles probably the hardest section that Jess had to deal, which could be her longest 2 miles she had ever done. Even with our magical Gandalf walking stick, she barely walked. It was just her will power and mental endurance that kept her moving. Most of runners that we passed that night caught up with us, and Jess was saying that she was Damn F****** Last. I tried to do my trail running math, I told her that I believed we were still in good time, we could be finished by 8 am, 2 hours before the cut off, if we kept moving. These two miles most of it was on a jeep road, so that helped a bit on her knees and ITB.

After millions of turning left and right, and passing so many trails by private lands, we got into the un-manned aid station. And we heard some voices behind us. “Jess you are not DFL!! Lets move”, I said. After we grabbed some sodas, we started to do our power hike on the uphill trail. She was not running yet, but we definitely moving faster. Probably we cut down 3-5 min/mile, compare to the last 2 miles we just did. Then when she was about to break down again, we saw the 1 mile to go mark. “Jess, we could be at the finish line in 20-30 minutes, but if you could run a bit more, we could be there in 15 minutes. There you could grab a hot meal, open your shoes, take a nap, and grab you ‘buckle'”, I tried to encourage her. She did not answer but she was moving faster. And a few minutes later, she was actually running it. Then there was a small uphill ahead, I told her that she could hike it if she wanted to, hell no, she kept running. I said to myself OH SHIT! Then I saw Step was running towards us, and I told her, “Jess is running, she does actually run now!” She went there and caught up with Jess so she could run with her, I just kept running to tell the other crew that she was coming.
I saw the clock, the crowds, the crews, and yes FINISH LINE. I told the volunteer Jess BIB, and stopped there to welcome Jess toward her glory moment. Oh the magical walking stick was snapped into million pieces and let Jess crossed the finish line by her own. I was as happy as she was at that moment I believed. I failed to bring her to the finish line in Javelina, but it was not the story this morning.

“Jess is officially a hundred miler finisher.”

 

 

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