2018 Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run

Any regular reader of this blog would know that the Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run plays an important role in our family history. Every year, I share a link that tells the story of how Debbie and I met at the 1999 race.


This year was the 25th anniversary of the VT50, which was founded in 1993. We missed the first six years, but the annual event has been on our schedule for the last 19 years. We only missed once, in 2015, when Debbie had the opportunity to run ULTRA-TRAIL Mt. FUJI.


We have no regrets about skipping that edition. Her UTMF accomplishment led to her qualification and entry in the 2017 Hardrock Endurance Run, and now we are part of the Hardrock community too. Three years ago, when the UTMF opportunity presented itself, we needed a break from the routine of the VT50. We came back to the race in 2016 loving it more than ever.


The NipMuck Trail Marathon is another event that we have run or volunteered at more than 15 times. This year, we missed NipMuck because it was also yesterday, a clear conflict with the VT50, which happens every 5-6 years. We were bummed to be away from our Shenipsit Striders friends and that community too, but the VT50 takes precedence for us because it came first.


We share the same anniversary as Race Director Michael Silverman, who also got his start in 1999. I came into this year’s race without the best preparation. I haven’t done much endurance, but I am still fit. Debbie opted to ride the race for the second year in a row. Her long history with the event is primarily as a runner. Mine is as a rider, though I’ve run it in the past too.


Our kids joined us and the race has become important for them too. They do the kids mountain biking and trail running races on the Saturday before the big event. Debbie was asked to help coordinate the kids races and she obliged, so after a brief stop at Horst Engineering, we made it to Brownsville a little after noon. Deb’s mom, Barbara, came along to assist, as she has done many times in the past.


Saturday afternoon had some of the best weather in recent memory. Rainy conditions have persisted for weeks and it was gloomy right through Friday evening. Saturday dawned nice, and the afternoon was spectacular, which was great for everyone. Shepard did the two-mile mountain bike race, which is just a sampler. Then, he did the 5K trail run, which was a bit more substantial given the hilly course. Dahlia skipped the bike race, but did the kids one mile run. She did get lucky in the raffle, and won a 24″ Cannondale Cujo bicycle. We had four bikes between us, but managed to squeeze a fifth one in the van on the drive home.


After the Saturday afternoon fun, I did a little ride with some friends. It’s tradition that we scope out the first few miles of the course. For the second year, we spent the night with friends at a local rental house. Over the years, our accommodations have varied, but the current situation where we stay close to the mountain, has been working out great.


The clear and dry weather made for a cool start on Sunday morning. It was only in the high 30’s (Fahrenheit) at 6:00 A.M. when wave-one set off. That was my wave, and it took me a little while to warm up. I was riding my seven-year old Seven Sola SL singlespeed, but with a new set of wheels. I had brand new tires, new rotors, a new rear cog, and a new belt. The work was done by Bicycles East, and they did a fine job.


Sadly, descending a steep hill at the seven mile mark, I hit a really rough section of rocks and blew out my front tire. I had a headlight, but I never saw what I hit. I just knew it was bad. I know those rocks well and it was right before a right turn onto a dirt road. I got to the road, but had no air left in my tubeless tire by the time I made the corner. The tire was ajar on the rim. I thought about reseating it and attempting to get it to seal with the ample sealant sloshing around in the new tire, but I erred on the side of caution, removed the tire, and installed the single spare inner tube that I had in my pack.


I wished I brought two, but I only had one. It was a calculated risk on a brand new set of tires with fresh sealant. Alas, I lost about 10 minutes and never got the tire to seat perfectly on the rim. Being a brand new tire, it was tight fit and I only had a small emergency frame pump. I did the best I could in the limited light with cold hands. It was only about 45 minutes into the race and I didn’t have the energy to chase. I had been riding well, in the top five of the singlespeed class, but after a long work week and some questionable motivation, I decided to change my goal.


I soft pedaled to the first aid station on my wobbly front tire, stopped, and waited for Debbie. I got a little chilled waiting for her, but I stood there patiently until she arrived about 15 minutes later. She was OK with me tagging along, and we spent the next six hours together. I had never seen the course at a slower pace and I had never done it with her, which after all these years was a joy. I had also never stopped to take pictures, but this year I took many. I’m glad that I carried my iPhone 6s in my pack. It gave me something to do other than ride and cheer for Debbie.

She wasn’t on her best day, but she persevered and I was proud of her. I was able to offer up some constructive coaching and riding tips. By the end of the race, she was a better mountain biker than when she started. Her legs were heavy after running the 80 mile Ultra-Trail Harricana only three weeks ago, but she still pushed hard. I could tell that she wasn’t having as much fun as she would have liked, but that’s OK. We had a beautiful day together in the Vermont woods.


It remained chilly for most of the morning, but the last few hours were more pleasant as the sunlight and humidity increased. I was careful with my front tire and made it to the finish without another puncture. I hope I didn’t do any damage to the wheel. I had sealant leaking out of some spoke nipple holes, so I know there will be a little work to do. I’ll get the bike washed up and likely get the advice of the Bicycles East team.


Speaking of team…Team Horst Sports had fantastic representation in Vermont. I’ll list the names: Arlen Zane Wenzel, Arthur Roti, Mark Hixson, Brett Chenail, Randall Dutton, John Meyerle, Anthony Eisley, and Joseph Dickerson were all finishers. One shout out goes to Johnny Meyerle (John’s son) who had an amazing ride finishing 20th overall. He has worked hard for that result and deserved it. It’s great to see a CCAP junior just crushing it. Teammate Erik Emanuele was just a spectator, but he was a great help all weekend. We even had several former members who are still part of our “family” do the race, including Ted D’Onofrio and Cheryl Jackson. So many other friends were finishers too. We know so many people, that this race has turned into an annual reunion.


The course was tougher than ever with a little extra singletrack. The trails weren’t too wet, which was great because we hate to do damage. The only real mud was in the fields. The volunteer corps appeared stronger than ever and I have nothing but good things to say about the aid stations. They were packed with great food and drink options. My only gripe is about the riders/runners and not the race itself. It relates to the amount of trash that was left on the course. At my slower pace, I was able to see more of the race than ever before. I was also behind 500 or so people.


The litter was horrendous. I would have needed several trash bags to fit it all. How come full/unused energy bars, gels, and food don’t fall out of people’s pockets? Why is it predominantly  “empty” wrappers that end up on the trail? I think it is ridiculous that endurance athletes and outdoors people can’t pack out what they bring with them. I feel bad for the volunteers who have to go back out on the course and pick up all that stuff. I shared my concerns with Michael Silverman and we were both disappointed while discussing it.


I can’t end this post on a downer. There was a great vibe at Mt. Ascutney. It is awesome to see Ascutney Trails reviving the mountain and bringing new people to the sport of mountain biking. I loved seeing so many kids riding and running on Saturday. It was great that more money was raised for Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sport. This was the second time that our family  has been to both the Vermont 100 and the Vermont 50 in the same year.  Both events drive revenue for VASS.


I don’t know what might cause us to miss the VT50 in the future, but for now, I’m happy that we are continuing our streak again.

Race Results

1 Response to “2018 Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run”

  1. 1 The Toughest Ten 3.0 | Life Adventures Trackback on 25 June 2019 at 9:03 am

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