Thursday, October 17, 2013

Home Turf - Vermont 50

The last time I ran the Vermont 50 I had my first DNF.  That year from my first stride I felt like crap, both physically and mentally.  I knew that this year I wanted to finis.  Even more specifically I felt the internal drive to attempt to finish faster than I had before on this course.  My fastest time came years prior during a very dry year as I finished in around 7:22. 

The day prior to this year’s race I was feeling excited, but very tired.  Around 3 o’clock I felt ready for dinner and bed.  I took notice, had dinner and went to bed early. Race morning came and I felt ready.  As I waited for the start I had the chance to catch up with friends and competitors.   The temperature was chilly, but I knew the day was going to be pristine.  Off the gun I ran with Amy Lane as we chatted and fell into stride with another.  After about a mile of gradual downhill we made a left and headed up a steep road.  As we continued to run, I picked my head up and gazed ahead at the hill in front of us.  Through the fog the hill appeared long and doubt filled my mind.  I hadn't done much hill work since training for Western States so was I out of my mind thinking I was ready to put forth a fast time?  I knew it was too early to allow doubt to control my thinking and running so I continued to let Amy’s stories occupy my mind. 
Amy & I Prior to the Start
After my mind settled back to a safe place I left Amy and my focus changed to seeing my mother and step father at the first crew station (mile 12).  I began catching bikers and found conversation with them, along with fellow runners.  Just prior to the first crew station I picked up my pace motivated by the sounds of cheers and cowbells.  I worked to take off my arm warmers and drink the remainder of my handheld.  Jeff was waiting at the start of the aid station so I threw my depleted supplies to him and then grabbed my Salomon fuel vest from my mother further down the line.  She let me know that the lead men were 4 minutes up on me, to which I just laughed.  I certainly was not chasing them, but I was ultimately chasing a time. 

I focused on running comfortable, but staying true to my pace and not allowing myself to slack.  I ran all the hills at a persistent pace and found humor with playing lead frog on the ascents and descents with the mountain bikers.  Luckily most of them laughed at my jokes and found my humor to be funny, or at least they had me fooled.  Reality was I just needed to keep my mind out of trouble as I continued to put miles behind me.

Luckily not much to report for the next 15 or so miles, that is until I came up behind two shirtless gentlemen on course and heard one of them yell “Hey Aliza is that you?  I knew you were close, but didn’t think you were that close!”  I quickly discovered it was Jason Lantz and Paul Monaco and I was blown away to have caught up to them and to be in their presence.  We formed a three person train and worked our way towards the next crew station at mile 32.  With their company and consistent pace we made quick work of the miles and before I knew it I was grabbing fuel from my parents. 

We all left the aid station in close proximity of another and then reconvened on the trail.  Jason and I took turns leading and encouraged others to join our train when we motored past.  The trails were in amazing condition and watching Jason make quick and easy work of them with his effortless stride was inspiring. 

My focus was now getting to mile 40 where I would meet my pacer Brandon.  I had never met him before, but was excited to share miles with him.  Knowing that I wanted to arrive to him with energy I continued hydrating and fueling on a regimented schedule.  With continued conversation miles ticked by and our three person train found arrived at mile 40.  Brandon was excited to see us coming and didn't let me break stride as he arced behind me and joined in.  After saying hello, I introduced him to Jason and Paul and now we were four strong. 

Brandon took the lead on single track and kept our pace honest.  His spirit and the bounce in his stride kept me moving.  Jason also reminded me that we were now in the single digits and headed for the home stretch.  I tried not to get over ambitious knowing that nine miles was still a fair amount of ground to cover.  Brandon and I started in on getting to know each other and story telling, while taking in the beautify scenery.   Paul ended up slowing his pace and then Jason started to bonk after missing a drop bag.  I encouraged him along and tried to help him keep pace. 

Coming In to the Finish Photo: Scott Livingston
Around mile 45 I ran out of water so stopped taking in fuel and tried to just stay steady until seeing my parents at the last aid station (mile 47).  Brandon and I were moving fast, so fast that I knew I was digging myself into a hole.  Jason had now disappeared behind us, but I felt like he would press to catch me before the finish.  Then as Brandon and I approached the last aid station, which sits part way up a hill, I bonked, and bonked hard.

After trudging up the hill I made it up to my parents and the aid station and looked for the most sugary looking beverage I could find.  Down the hatch it went and off I went.  I was barely moving, but didn’t want to walk in fear that I wouldn't start running again.  I ate three shot blocks and told myself it would get better.  As I meandered up the hill and onto the wooded single track I told myself I needed to be patient and I needed time.  

Brandon helped me stay focused and told me that in 7-8 minutes my body would have some of the sugar and fuel it needed.  Each step got faster and stronger.  My watch had died so I had no idea time wise where I was, but that was okay.  I was running my race, listening to my body and enjoying my company.  Making our way down to the finish line I could hear the cheers and I was excited to see family and friends.  Brandon had asked if he should bail out prior to the finish and I said no.  He was part of my day and a contributing factor to my success so I wanted him to cross the line with me. 

After finishing I was told I had run the race in 7:01.  I had accomplished my goal of beating my old course record.  I was pleased because I ran smart and I enjoyed the highs and lows throughout the day.  It was great to have my parents there crewing, to have my husband on course at the same time running the 50k, and to have meet new people. 

A big thank you to Mike Silverman and his crew for putting on such a great event in Vermont and a special shout out to the volunteers and private landowners.  It was also great to have Salomon be a sponsor this year and see the local rep Dave there spreading the good word about Suunto and Salomon products.

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