As Tough as Woodpecker Lips–2007 VT50

The Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run has become a special ritual for our family and our team. I have done this event every year since 1999, when my friend, Arlen, first turned me on to it. That year, I had a great race, beating Arlen by two seconds after nearly five hours of riding. Still, winning the personal battle among teammates and winning my division were not the best things that happened. The night before the race, in the Ascutney Mountain ski lodge parking lot, I met Debbie, who would eventually become my wife.

We have been back to the race every year since then, with Deb running it and me riding it. Every year, a group of friends and teammates join us. Over the years, we have missed a lot of events (this year it was a birthday party, a wedding, and another party) in order to continue the tradition. At this point in our lives, we woudn’t miss it.

Scott’s worn Sidi’s after 33 miles of running.

This year’s race was a struggle for both Deb and me. At mile 17, I snapped my chain. I had trouble repairing it and lost a lot of time to Arlen, who I had been riding neck and neck with from the start. I could recount the whole saga, but in a nutshell, I ended up running with my bike for nearly 10 miles. Then, I got someone to take my bike to the finish and ran the rest of the way. I rode 17 and ran 33. That was a first for me. I proved that Sidi mountain bike shoes (with cleats and spikes) are not the optimal footwear for running that distance. I would have preferred to had my Montrail’s.

I can’t explain why I pushed on, but part of it was the fact that I just felt good and didn’t want my race to end. The weather was also spectacular. It turned out to be a glorious day on the trails. I could have spent more time trying to fix the chain, or accepted help from other riders who offered to help (Good Samaritans), but I was frustrated after having lost so much ground. Even if I fixed it, I would have been disappointed to continue riding. I resorted to Plan B. Sometimes you have to do that.

Debbie had a tough race and finished in just over nine hours. She hasn’t been able to regain the form that saw her romp at the Pittsfield Peaks (55 miles) race earlier this year. Running ultra-marathon trail races is a challenge, even when you are feeling good.  Deb has had to push through her own challenges and illness. Job one for her is being Mom, so training has taken a back burner to other responsibilities. A few years ago, I described Deb to a mountaineer/journalist friend. He was amazed when he heard about her adventures. He simply said, “She is a tough as woodpecker lips.”

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