2012 Vermont 100 Endurance Run (Part 1)

The 24th edition of the Vermont 100 Endurance Run was a magical race. There were so many story lines. I won’t be able to cover it all  in one post. Additionally, I took 1,500 photographs, and it will take some time to sort them out. It’s hard to believe that Debbie and I have been on the ultra scene for 14 years, but this is the first time we have participated in the VT100. It’s been a long time coming, and we enjoyed every aspect of the event.

There were more than 300 runners between the 100 mile and 100 kilometer races. There were at least that many volunteers. There were hundreds of crew, friends, and family. Then, there were several hundred riders, horses, and handlers because this is both a human and equine event. It was a massive endurance festival in south-central Vermont.

It was amazing for so many reasons, starting with the weather. For late July, we had warmth, brilliant sunlight, starry night skies, and low humidity. The sunrises and sunsets were gorgeous. It was perfect running conditions for a summer race. The race organization was excellent and the volunteers were fantastic. The proceeds go to Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sport, which is a great cause. I could continue to list reasons why the race was so much fun. We know these roads well. As for the course, it was spectacular. We have been to every Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run since 1999 and the two courses share many of the same trails and dirt roads.

The runners make the race, and this year’s VT100 was no exception. Both the men’s and women’s races were fantastic battles. Debbie ended up third, which is a result that she is pleased with. This is her third 100 mile finish after the 2008 Javelina Jundred and 2011 Grindstone 100. She has done a lot of shorter ultras (if that makes sense), but avoided VT100 because the course doesn’t play to her strengths. She hemmed and hawed about doing this year’s race.

When she didn’t get into the Hardrock 100, she delayed, and many of the big summer 100’s, including Vermont, sold out. So, since Vermont was the most accessible, she got on the waiting list. She was 75th on the list, but was quietly confident that she would get in, and then she would have to make a decision. About a month ago, she learned that she was in the race. She thought about it for a few days and then decided to enter. She wanted to test herself in a race that would require more “running” even though it didn’t have the steep, rugged, and technical terrain that she loves.

Coach Al Lyman encouraged Debbie to test her form on this course, even though it is 70% dirt roads and the trails are relatively mild. There is 14,000 miles of elevation gain/loss, but for comparison, that is almost 10,000 feet less than Grindstone. It would be a fast but arduous 100. The women’s race was a see-saw battle with several lead changes and multiple shuffling’s of the top 5. Kathleen Cusick came out as the winner in 18:51:38. She barely held off a charging Amy Lane, who finished in 18:53:38, a mere two minutes behind. Debbie was third in 19:20:27. Donna Utakis was fourth in 19:55:37, and  Karen Benway was fifth in 20:40:26. During the race, Larisa Dannis and Kelly Wilson were both in the top five mix. Larisa ended up sixth and Kelly was forced to drop on the advice of the medical staff at mile 88.

Debbie didn’t have the awesome day that she had last month at Laurel Highlands, but she was still running strong for portions of the race. She was in second place for a lot of miles, faded back to sixth, but then worked her way back up to second, only to fade again a bit in the final 12 miles, which landed her in third at the finish. She was 22nd overall. At times, it was total suffering for her. She had a few bouts of gastrointestinal distress, her feet were in bad shape (multiple blisters on toes and heels), and she suffered from fatigue. All of those things are just part of the 100 mile game.

Kathleen Cusick was in second for quite a while, but then moved into first when Amy Lane went through a bad patch. Amy fell all the way back to fifth, before launching a miraculous charge that saw her pass Debbie around mile 87. She continued to steal time from Kathleen, but fell just short at the end. Kathleen had just enough to hang on.

The men’s winner was Brian Rusiecki, who happens to be Amy’s fiancé, and will be her husband after their wedding next weekend. The Rusiecki/Lane double was not to be, but they still both had spectacular days. Course records in trail races, where the courses often change from year to year, are significant, but not the main reason why runners push so hard. Still, Brian’s 14:54:05 was very fast and just short of the record that Leigh Schmitt owns. Leigh led this race for nearly 70 miles. Then, he chased Brian for another seven, before succumbing to the effort and dropping out at the Spirit of ’76 Aid Station. No one else was close to them, so Brian was able to cruise to the finish.

The top 10 men also saw a lot of shuffling too, with several of them going through bad patches and several others dropping out like Leigh. Rod Bien ended up second in 15:52:40. Third went to Mile Le Roux in 16:11:10. Fourth was Paul Terranova in 16:19:30, and fifth went to James Sweeney in 16:23:03. These are all very good times. The 100 kilometer race winners were Chad Denning and Victoria Arnstein.

A special shout out goes to my mother-in-law, Barbara Schieffer, who has been to many races, but never a 100. She joined me on the crew and helped with our two kids, who were along (as usual) for the adventure. Thanks to Danny Roy, my cousin, who stepped in to help crew and then handled the pacing duties for the last 28.5  miles. He learned a lot and Debbie enjoyed his company. Congratulations to fellow Shenipsit Striders, David Merkt and Ron Starrett, who finished their first 100’s. I saw so many friends at the race. It was like a running reunion. Tony Bonanno, also from the Shenipsit Striders, was a helpful companion and he paced David to the finish. Not only did we see a lot of friends, but we met many new ones too.

I’ll have more words and more photos later in the week.

Race Results

Race Photos

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