This weekend, we returned to Pittsfield, Vermont for the Peak Ultra. Debbie ran the 50 mile version of the race, which also featured divisions for 500, 200, 100, 30, and 15 miles. She ran the first and second editions of this challenging event back in 2007 and 2008. In 2007, the 53 +/- miler was run on the same day as the inaugural Death Race.
Her original plan was to return to Cayuga Trails 50, which was also this weekend, but back in March, we visited Pittsfield, and reconnected with some old friends. After spending time on the Green Mountain Trails, she quickly changed her mind and registered for the Peak Ultra instead. She was focused on the 50 mile distance, which along with the 30, had its own course. That course had some changes from the last time she ran it.
A new bushwhack section over Wilcox Mountain and the infamous Bloodroot Mountain loop, made for a fantastic day on the trails. These trails are always rugged and yesterday, they were even muddier than usual. There was more than 10,000 feet of elevation gain/loss, which made it hilly, but not quite as hilly as the Wapack and Back 50 Miler that we ran earlier in May. The 500, 200, 100, and 15 mile runners used the same 10 mile loop, which also served as the last 10 miles of the 50 and 30 mile races. It was a little confusing with multiple start times and runners going in many different directions, but in the end, it was all good. There were a lot of helpful volunteers to assist.
Pittsfield, home of the Death Race and Spartan Races, has become quite the Mecca for endurance sports and obstacle course racing. It all started with the ultra back in 2007, so it was cool to return and see how it has grown. Death Race has spawned an entire culture of endurance athletes. We camped on Friday night at Riverside Farm, site of the start/finish. Last night, we camped at the top of Tweed Road where it intersected with the upper section of the 10 mile loop.
The kids and I had a great time crewing for Debbie. It helped that she was in good spirits and didn’t have any of the stomach issues that have plagued her races during the past 18 months going back to Pinhoti 100 in November 2012. We made lots of new friends at the aid stations. We saw Debbie three times at the Upper Michigan Road aid station. We drove farther out on the road to see her at the bottom of Bloodroot, we saw her at the start/finish at the start of her 10 mile loop, and then of course, when she finished.
While she was on the Bloodroot loop, I took the kids to Sweet Georgia P’s, the organic farm in town. Then, I took them to the Vermont’s Original General Store for lunch. Her finish time of 10:56:33 was respectable for the challenging course. She said she had one low spot when she ran out of food on the Bloodroot loop, but after fueling up, she recovered. She was the first woman and I think she was fourth overall. Larisa Dannis, who has my vote for New England runner of the year, crushed the 30+ miler and took the overall win. It was fun to watch her run. She was flying.
She and Debbie have been comparing notes on fueling and nutrition, so it was good for them to finally be at a race together again. Both of them inspire me. Speaking of inspiration, the 500 mile runners were amazing. We got to see Kale Poland finish his nine-day 500 mile odyssey. That was one of the best sporting experiences I’ve ever had. A good crowd of runners, crew, volunteers, and spectators was on hand to witness the historic finish.
Apparently, he is no stranger to ultra-endurance racing, having completed a Deca-Ironman among other feats. I asked him if this was harder. He told me that it was “different” but also very hard because of the foul weather (heavy rain) that he faced during the first week. It was so nice to have awesome weather on Friday and Saturday, and today, was even better. It was just beautiful and perfect conditions for the runners. I was so impressed with his accomplishment.
His partner in crime was Nick Bautista, who was starting his final 10 mile loop right after Kale finished. He too completed 500 miles in nine days. It was a wonderful site to see those two hug after sharing so many miles of trails. They were two of three remaining athletes still going for the 500.
That third athlete and last remaining woman, was none other than Michelle Roy, a legendary member of the New England trail running community. We got a chance to spend some time with Michelle and cheered her as she started her 40th and final lap this morning. 400 miles is one heck of an accomplishment for her. Like I said, these runners are amazing inspirations. It was great for our kids to see them in action.