24 Hours of Waterbury Trail Running Race

This past Saturday, Debbie competed in the 12 hour solo division of the 24 Hours of Waterbury Trail Running Race. This is a new race on the calendar, so forgive it for seeking an identity. Despite not having a huge first year field, the race organization was solid and the people behind it, including race directors Josh Katzman and Chris Bernier, were extremely kind and helpful.

Apparently, just getting the race off of the ground proved to be a challenge. The community of Waterbury, Vermont, was difficult to deal with, which is too bad since the race used an established trail system that is maintained by mountain bikers and is well-known for being great biking trails. The singletrack isn’t overly technical and the soil is a bit sandy. They proved to be fine for running, an arguably lower impact use. I think the main concern was the 24 hour nature of the race and the public disturbance that it might cause. Truthfully, 20 ultrarunners hanging out for a day and night of running doesn’t really constitute a frat party style disturbance.

The race course used an 8.48 mile loop within the larger Perry Hill Block trail system within Putnam State Forest. The start/finish was just south of Interstate 89 and sandwiched between the railroad and the Winooski River. With nearly 1600 feet of elevation gain and another 1600 feet of loss per lap, this is a hilly loop. After talking with Debbie and scouting a small section of trail, it looks to rate a 4 for Terrain and a 4 for Surface using rating Ultrarunning Magazine’s rating scale. That puts it up there with some of the toughest ultras in the country.

The race was originally designed with relay runners in mind, but only one team showed up to compete in the 24 hour division, and that was our team. The Shenipsit Striders team composed of club mates, John Agosto, Clinton Morse, and Dave Almand, banged out 103 total miles over the course of the day/night/day. All of the racers started at 9:00 A.M. on Saturday and finished at 9:00 A.M. on Sunday.

More people were interested in the solo tests of 12 and 24 hours. We didn’t get any official results because we departed on Saturday night, but I will report back when we get more details. Debbie completed five full laps for approximately 42 miles. She stopped exactly at the 10 hour mark, and she was very happy when she did. It would have been another 2.5 hours in the dark for her to complete another loop, and she was hurting, so she opted to call it a night after completing her fifth lap. She is already recovering, so her decision to not push it when she is still breast-feeding and far from top ultra form, was a wise one. She needed the miles for the three 50 kilometer trail races on tap for September, October, and November. Debbie ran with Serena Wilcox for the first 16 miles and Serena kept on trucking. We heard that she ended up getting in 58 miles in 12 hours, which is excellent.

We also heard that experienced ultrarunner, Courtenay Guertin, was the men’s and overall “winner” with 84 miles completed in 24 hours. That is 10 laps. That seems low by some standards, but speaks volumes about the difficulty of the course. We watched him race the first 12 and he was attacking the course. When he came into the aid station at the start/finish, he was no-nonsense, and wasted little time. I never saw him sit, but he kept remarking how hard the loop was. Debbie and the others agreed.

This race had a lot of competition on the schedule, even in the Green Mountain area. The 100 on 100 Relay was going on at the same time and the courses were less than a mile apart at one point. Of course, the 100 on 100 is all road and all teams. The Race to the Top of Vermont was on Sunday, which I did, so that meant the mountain runners and mountain bikers had something to do, only 30 minutes away.

If the organizers build on their momentum, then the word of mouth should help bolster the number of entrants for 2011. The production was well done, the aid stations were stocked, and the food was basically tailored to the runners’ requests. There were numerous vegan options and more than enough food for runners and crew alike. It was fun hanging out with the friends and family of runners at the finish line. The Ice Center of Waterbury (skating rink) was a unique venue. We didn’t even bring a cooler. We just left our perishable food inside the door of the rink! It was ironic that the runners were pushing hard in the 80 degree (Fahrenheit) heat, just outside the cool confines of a rink. Escaping the late summer heat to take a hot shower in a cold ice rink is kind of weird. Of course, ultrarunners are already a different breed.

The race benefitted CRAG Vermont, a not-for-profit climbing group. Many of the race volunteers came from the CRAG organization. The trails at Perry Hill are maintained by the Vermont Mountain Bike Association.

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