The 20th Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run lived up to its billing. It was a fantastic race. Really, it was a festival-like celebration of a great course, great trails, great friends, great landowners, great expo, a great mountain, great food, great volunteers, and great weather. That last “great” couldn’t have been predicted, but it sure made all of the other “great’s” even better.
Debbie and I celebrated the 15th anniversary since we met in the Ascutney Mountain Resort parking lot. We had our kids with us and Debbie’s brother, Thomas Schieffer, came along to assist. We camped right at the venue and the view of the stars on Saturday night was spectacular.
Saturday’s festivities included three kids races (5K, 1 mile, 1/2 mile) and a treasure hunt in a haystack. Our son ran the 5K and our daughter ran the 1/2 mile. Each 5K finisher got a fantastic prize, a bottle of VT50 maple syrup. These same awards are reserved for the top runners and mountain bikers, so these kids really made out. Each 1/2 mile and 1 mile finisher got a little toy or bracelet. There were no trophies! The volunteers enthusiastically cheered for the kids.
It seemed like we knew everyone at the race, starting with our teammates, Arlen Zane Wenzel, Arthur Roti, Michael Wonderly, Mark Hixson, and Race Director, Mike Silverman. Coach Al Lyman came to cheer. The list goes on. I got to ride the last 20 or so miles with Anthony Eisley. It was a blast.
Debbie didn’t have a great 50 kilometer race, but that was partially due to a costly wrong turn that resulted in many lost minutes and many lost spots. Still, she finished with a smile on her face. This has been a trying ultrarunning year for her, but sometimes, that is how it goes.
I managed to put together a credible 50 mile ride yesterday and I notched another sub-5 time (4:52:46). The dry trails favored a geared bike, but I still improved on last year’s time riding my Seven Sola SL singlespeed for the second year. My totally rigid setup left my hands, arms, neck, and back aching, but I’ll keep riding this bike as long as I can. The belt drive system worked flawlessly. It is the perfect bike.
I was able to hold my pace the whole time. I didn’t have the same acceleration on the climbs like last year, but I also didn’t fade in the last 15 miles. I was able to maintain my pace and ride within my limits. I did OK on the technical singletrack, of which there was even more. The second “serpentine” section was longer and more challenging. That is where I spent time riding with Anthony. We were both in the pain-zone, working to hold our places, but managed an occasional cheer for each other on the hairpin turns, of which there were many. I was the 8th singlespeed rider, 4 spots back from last year.
Heck, we even rode through a wedding venue. The bride, groom, and guests weren’t there yet, but we literally rode between the reception tent and the ceremony site. The chairs and arch were pointing right towards Mt. Ascutney on a glorious morning. Saturday afternoon’s weather was as good as it gets with warm sunshine and a deep blue sky. Sunday started out colder than expected and it was very foggy. I kept waiting for the fog to lift, and it really didn’t clear until the final hour of my race.
The trails weren’t as dusty as I expected, which was a good thing. There were only a few spots of mud. Traction was good the whole time. We owe it to the landowners for their permission to ride these amazing trails. Every year it is a battle to keep this race course intact. Not all of the athletes (particularly the mountain bikers) are courteous and respectful of this privilege. Not enough riders use proper trail etiquette and not enough riders practice Leave No Trace principles. They leave behind litter, bike parts, and assorted garbage. It’s a shame and we owe it to race management for fighting hard to keep this great event (and fundraiser) going.
The consequences of damaging this race’s reputation are serious. The fundraising for VASS is huge and sister races, including the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run could be in jeopardy if landowners pull back on their support. It’s hard to knock a great event like the VT50, but constructive criticism drives continuous improvement. The race would benefit if a chip timing system was adopted. Results would be more timely, more accurate, and require less volunteer intensive labor. We always complain about the lack of vegan/vegetarian options (especially entrees), but that is typical of most races.
My only other serious complaint has nothing to do with the organization. I didn’t get to repeat my annual battle with Zane Wenzel. His wrist injury has not healed and he made the wise decision to not race. Instead, he helped and cheered. Despite my singlespeed handicap, we will do battle again. I might consider a suspension fork, which I figure would help shave 20 minutes off of my time, but I don’t anticipate going back to gears any time soon. I would run the race before using a derailleur. Mike Wonderly had an awesome race. He was 3rd in his masters division and 2014 is going to be a real battle for Team Horst supremacy. Our tandem duo of Art Roti and Mark Hixson broke their own course record despite their usual spate of tandem oriented mechanicals.
There were some fine runs on the course. Standouts included 50 mile records set by David Le Porho and Aliza Lapierre. Both had awesome times and benefitted from the super-fast conditions. I don’t want to jinx it, but it will probably rain next year. Time will tell. The 21st edition won’t be a let down. The good feelings from this year’s race will last all winter.