2018 Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Race

Despite this being the 30th anniversary of the Vermont 100 Endurance Race, and the 20th year of Debbie’s ultrarunning career, this was only the second time that we have been to this event.

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That’s surprising considering that we have been to the VT100’s sister race, the Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run, all but one time since we met there in 1999. Both events are held annually to support Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports.

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The VT100 course doesn’t suit Debbie’s strengths. It is hilly, but the hills are rolling, rather than the steep terrain that she prefers. The footing is not challenging, which is the opposite of the rugged rocks and roots that she thrives on. Given the VT100’s heritage as  a horse race, there is a lot of horse trail, and rolling dirt roads, which are wider than the singletrack that she loves.

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It’s kind of the opposite of what she likes, but running 100 miles, or 100 kilometers, is still a great challenge regardless of the course difficulty. The 100 miler has about 17,000 feet of elevation gain, and the 100K about 9,000 feet. That’s nothing compared to the Hardrock Endurance Run’s 33,000 feet, but course variation is a welcome part of the sport.

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Hardrock conflicted in 2017 when Debbie was fortunate to gain entry via the lottery, and then finish the classic. In 2018, Hardrock again conflicted with the date of the VT100, but she wasn’t lucky like 2017, and we wanted to return to Vermont anyway, where the ultrarunning community vibe is also fantastic. Unlike last year, when she ran two 100 mile races with Hardrock, and then the Cascade Crest Endurance Run; this year, she decided to give her body a rest, and only run shorter ultras. Shorter ultras? Does that even make sense?

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Another race that has conflicted with the Vermont 100 date is the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run, which she ran in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, on the same weekend as the VT100, she ran the Speedgoat 50K. I don’t know what conflicted in 2016, but we didn’t go to Vermont. So, it worked out that this was the year to make a return visit to the Green Mountain State in July.

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In 2018, she has run the MT. TAMMANY 10 (38 Mile), Traprock 50K, The North Face Endurance Challenge Massachusetts (50 Mile), and she did a solo self-supported FKT on the Mohawk Trail/Appalachian Trail Loop. She has at least one more ultra remaining, but could rally and register for more. She is kind of waiting to see how things go. She is running the Ragged Mountain 50K next month, and then she riding the Vermont 50 in September. So far, she has no plans crafted for 2018, and like every year, lotteries will be a factor. The biggest, best, and most popular ultras are mostly exclusive affairs.

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Following the pounding of the 2012 VT100, she swore that she wouldn’t run it again. She has remained true to her word, because yesterday, she ran the 100 Kilometer “junior” version, and even thought the dirt roads were hard on her legs, there is a big difference between 100 miles and 100 kilometers. One of those differences is that she didn’t have to run in the dark. The 100 miler started at 4:00 A.M., but the 100 kilometer started at 9:00 A.M. She finished in 11 hours and 46 minutes, so she made it to the finish just before it was too dark to see without lights.

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This part of Vermont is special to us for many reasons, but mainly because it is where we met. We love Mt. Ascutney, and we had many fine views of the monadnock. Like we normally do, we made this weekend a family adventure. We were joined by Shepard and Dahlia. They have grown up crewing for their Mom, so this weekend was no different. They are less work for me, and more helpful than ever. Shepard became a first time pacer, running from Bill’s aid station at 50.6 miles to Polly’s aid station at 57.2 miles. His mother as thrilled to have him along, and he learned a lot in the process.

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When she got to Polly’s, she was gaining strength, and he was flagging a bit, so he stopped there, and she pushed on, hammering the final 5.1 miles in 53 minutes, a very fast kick. She left Polly’s without lights. I ran after her to remind her, but she was a 100 yards down the dirt road and just said she didn’t need them and that it was extra motivation to get in before dark. I still think she should have run back to grab them, but sometimes I fail to question her on these matters. I don’t know if it would have helped or not, but she flew that final stretch anyway.

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The entire day was magical. The kids and I saw her at the start, at six aid stations, and then the finish. We were all tired when this one was over. We camped both nights at Silver Hill Meadow, which is a VT100 tradition. The Shenipsit Striders were out in force. We had many club members compete in the 100 miler. Debbie, Faith Raymond, and Kevin Hutt did the 100K, and it was fun to see them and be around their crews. Sadly, we didn’t see much of the others during the day. We got to the aid stations before all but he top few 100 milers, and then we were gone before our 100 mile friends arrived.

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We also missed the Pretty House aid station, which is manned by our club. The 100 miler has nine additional aid stations (the first nine) before meeting up with the 100K course. It’s that first section of the course that the 100K skips. From aid station 10 on, the courses are the same. Even at Camp 10 Bear, where runners come and go in both directions, and visit twice, we missed our other Shenipsit Striders friends.

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Each of the major aid stations has a theme and we went to some good ones. We visited Camp 10 Bear for the first time at 9.3 miles. Then, we went to Margaritaville at 20.8 miles. We returned to Camp 10 Bear at 31.7 miles. We continued on to Spirt of 76 at 38.5 miles (76 for the 100 milers). We visited the aforementioned Bill’s at 50.6 miles, and then we wrapped up at Polly’s at 57.2 miles. The finish was at the 62.3 mile mark back at Silver Hill Meadow.

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We were able to see only a handful of 100 milers. We frequently saw the top five or so men. Then, at our second Camp 10 Bear visit, we saw many middle and back-of-the-packers. I may have a follow-up post when the race results are published so that I can share more stories and stats. With mobile phone reception nearly non-existent, race communications and results tracking were very challenging. I only posted on social media one time, when we were at Bill’s. That high point was the only spot where I had an AT&T signal. I spent 10 minutes on my iPhone and my daughter gave me grief for it!

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We saw so many friend during the course of the day. We also met some new ones. I could go on and on about the people we spent time with. It was pure joy. There were lots of families, so our kids weren’t the only ones. Sometimes, that’s not the case. You would be surprised how many people leave their family at home and make this a solitary pursuit. We have chosen the opposite approach, and our family loves it. We packed the kids bikes and they explored some the meadows, trails, and dirt roads on their own.

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There were some strong performances in both the 100 mile race and the 100 kilometer race. I was particularly impressed with the quality of the women’s fields. They had some tight racing with a fast lineup of 100 mile runners. In the 100K, the top three women were 2nd, 3rd, and 6th overall. That third place spot went to Debbie, and she was happy with the result. She went out pretty fast, had a bad patch, but then recovered. Lori Wetzel and Jec Ballou traded places with Debbie in the first 20 miles, before the three settled in with Lori out front, Bec chasing close behind, and Debbie a little ways back.

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Every time we saw them, Lori and Jec appeared to be within two minutes of each other. It was fantastic to watch over 40+ miles as they fought it out for the win. Lori (11:11:13) prevailed by only one minute and 53 seconds over Jec (11:13:06) , which is amazing. Debbie was 33 minutes back (11:46:27), but at one time, that deficit had grown to nearly 50 minutes. It was her final charge from Polly’s that closed the gap, but by then, she had run out of “real estate.” Still, she was thrilled to be on the podium. Brian Rusiecki was the class of the men’s 100K field, posting a 9:39:12 for the win. Second and third went to Gregory Esbitt (11:33:06) and Bryan Bourque (11:35:05) who also had a tight race for their podium spots.

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I didn’t follow the 100 mile race as closely but saw the awards ceremony and there were some great performances. The men’s winner was Jason Lantz (15:36:49). He was followed by Ryan Witko, and Jinks Alexander. We saw all of them on course. The top women were Lindsay Simpson (18:02:21), Riley Brady (18:35:07), and Kathleen Cusick (18:36:42, and who won in that 2012 battle that Debbie was part of). A shout out goes to Jordan Grande, a fellow Shenipsit Striders mate who ran the race of her career, finishing 8th in 19:58:42.

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Another longtime friend and club mate is NipMuck Dave Raczkowski. Dave has been written about and photographed many times over the years. I knew he was racing, but was thrilled to spot him on course. The kids and I were driving from Camp 10 Bear to Spirt of 76, and we spotted him exiting the woods as he arrived at Lillians aid station. It was on a main road, so I pulled over, parked with the hazard lights on, and ran back to greet him. I shot some photos and video with my iPhone and wished him well. Fittingly, I got to see him finish, nearly 20 hours later.

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I shot more than 1,000 photos and put most of them in a gallery on my SmugMug site. I didn’t have much time to sort and edit, but I enjoyed skimming through them and seeing so many joyful images that captured the spirit of the weekend.

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Amy Rusiecki has been the Race Director for a few years now. It was our first time seeing her in action, and she ably led a huge cadre of dedicated volunteers. Amy even ran a leg of the 100K as a blind runner’s guide. That was cool to see. She was up all night like the runners, and was back at the finish line in the morning, greeting the runners as they arrived. She was at the line right up until the 30 hour cutoff of the 100 miler.

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On our Friday afternoon drive north, Debbie told me that a little “controversy” was brewing over the race’s “unequal” awards/recognition. These are always thorny matters to discuss, and I’ll mainly avoid the drama. Earlier this week, social media erupted with chatter about the 100 miler men awards going 10 deep and the women awards only going five deep. I don’t know all the details. Today, they honored 10 men and 10 women, but it appeared to be an awkward moment when they called up the top 10 females, and didn’t have (or give) extra awards for places six through 10. In the 100K, which drew a smaller field, the top three men and top three women were honored, and given prizes.

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This situation may have been one blight on an otherwise fantastic weekend and a fantastic effort by the organizers to put on a great event. It should be noted again that this event races a large sum for the nonprofit Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports. The last time I wrote about gender issues at length, was 11 years ago after the 1st Annual Herc Open Vermont Speed Hiking Competition. It turned out to be the first and last Herc Open. My blog post drew attention at the time, but that was before social media exploded. Otherwise, it might have spurred even more discussion at the time. I’ll save further comment for another time. Maybe the issue deserves a focused blog post. Debbie is the perfect resource to consult on the subject, but for today, I’m going to focus the rest of my writing on the race itself.

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I had a blast hanging out with Shepard and Dahlia. They had their “moments” of frustration and tiredness that led to the usual bickering. However, they were really fantastic crewmates. We experienced the race in a totally different way than we did in 2012 when they were much younger. Thankfully, that weekend, I had our “go to” pacer/crewmate Danny Roy, and my mother-in-law, Barbara Schieffer, helping out. This weekend, I was able to manage the kids and play “crew chief” without the help of others.

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After we greeted Debbie at the finish line, we wandered to the food tent, helped her refuse, and change. Then, we made our way back to the tent city in the upper meadow.

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We had a restless night of sleep, listening to the roar of the crowd as each new finisher arrived. This continued until the early morning before it tapered as fewer and fewer runners remained on course. We got up, ate breakfast, and hung around, chatting with friends.

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That last 90 minutes of an ultra is always very special. You see some amazing grit. Raw emotion and physical effort are on display. The love of crew and family coupled with the desire of the runners, and the cheers of the spectators, makes for a delightful experience.  I spent the final hour and a half, standing in the rain (which started around 8:00 A.M.), and soaking in as much of the Vermont 100 spirit as I could. This race has a vibe that rivals most other races.

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It’s really something you have to experience. It is a great race to volunteer at. It’s also a great race to crew, pace, or spectate. You don’t have to run to experience the joy of this community. After 10:00 A.M., arrived, we made our way back to the big tent for more socializing and then the award ceremony.

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It appears that Debbie is the first person to finish all of the VASS races: the VT100 run, the VT50 run, the VT50K run, the VT50 bike, and now the VT100K run. These are unofficial records, but we learned of this unique feat from a good source. All that would remain for her to finish is the original race that got this all started…the Vermont 100 Endurance Ride (horse race). Today, two people joined an esteemed group (which now totals six) who have finished both the 100 mile run and the 100 mile horse ride.

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Last night, after she left Polly’s, she could literally “smell the barn.” I’ve been her crush the final miles of an ultra many times in the past. She has also suffered to the finish in misery, but more times than not, she has rallied and summoned the strength (mental and physical) to finish strong, like few other runners I know. Last night, she was feeling good, was motivated, and she “smoked” those final miles. It’s fitting that the event has a horse theme because some horse riding may be in her future.

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Live 2018 Results Tracking (100 Kilometer)

Live 2018 Results Tracking (100 Mile)

Results Archive

SmugMug Photo Gallery

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