17
Aug
15

VT 100on100: Triple runs, double black diamonds

First light: wake up.

6 a.m.: Get ready to run.

7 a.m.: Get ready to run, hop in car.

8:15 a.m.: Cheer on teammate, get back in car.

8:30 a.m.: Get water for teammate, get in car.

9 a.m.: Get ready to run.

9:30 a.m.: Cheer on teammate, get in car.

10 a.m.: Get ready to run.

10:30 a.m.: Rattle cowbell for teammate, get in car.

11 a.m.: Get ready to run.

11:30 a.m.: Locate toilet paper for teammate, get in car.

12 p.m.: Ready to run.

12:15 p.m.: Leave car, run.

12:45 p.m.: Get back in car.

1 p.m.: Repeat.

There certainly was more involved in the Vermont 100on100 Relay – cows, cornfields, costumes, a rainbow all come to mind – but the routine of sitting in the car, changing clothes in the car, re-hydrating in the car and looking (i.e. driving) ahead to the next “leg” dominated the day.

A long day.

One that began ominously for one runner’s first steps of what became a sunrise-to-sunset (and beyond) experience: she slipped and fell on the wet grass at Trapp Family Lodge. Fortunately, she quickly sprung to her feet.

It was a 14-hour day for most teams (present company included), and, yes, things can go foul. And I’m not just referring to the not-so-new-car smell that grew worse with ever mile.

A runner added four miles to what was supposed to be a 6-mile “leg.” That same team also came upon a transition area to find not a single volunteer to check them off. The reason? Lightning bolts.

That team – “Your pace or mine” – dealt with their mishaps the only way they could: they moved on. And on. From Stowe to Ludlow. 100 miles on Route 100. Through heat, thunder, 4 hours of rain, darkness and a few hills.

The day began with paint. Some teams marked their support vehicles with the names of their runners followed by the boxes that would be checked off as each leg was completed. Teams also kept tallies of “kills” and (as one actually did) “poops”. (Kills are how many runners you pass; no explanation needed for the latter).

Our team, courtesy of the Squannacook River Runners, was named “Incredibly Fast Fishes”. We may not have been fast, but the experience was indeed incredible.

The routine of making sure the current runner had enough water, Gatorade and cheers was interrupted by dark mid-afternoon clouds. Not long after making plans to already buy more water (it was barely 2 o’clock, temps were in the 80s and the humidity was high – and a case of Poland Spring was nearly drained) and after watching a teammate finish his leg and immediately soak himself in a cool stream, thunder was booming and rain was falling sideways.

It was my leg. Could I outrun a thunderstorm? Maybe. But I was more interested in “kills” rather than being (literally) killed. The storm eventually blew over, but by 4 o’clock, the heat was gone and a new concern emerged: keeping warm and dry.

As runners began their climb to Killington ski resort, a steady, chilly rain began. A slow slog up the mountain road became a slow “sog.”

The misery of the trudge was broken up by Leg No. 14 (of 18; each team of 6 runs three legs) – the Costume Run. And who knew we had a celebrity in our midst?

When the weekend began, we learned his name was Kevin when we picked him up Friday afternoon at the Park and Ride lot in Hookset, N.H. That night, while this newly-formed group was trying to come up with each runner’s “handle” (Howard became H-dawg; Cheney became Cheech; Brian became UVMSkier, etc), Kevin became “Thumb’s Up”. Just before Leg 14, he became a rock star.

The run up the Killington Auto Road has become one of local legend, as runners don costumes to help lighten the mood of one of the toughest stretches of the course. The race website has a description for each leg. Among the details is difficulty. The flat ones receive a blue box, the same kind seen on easy ski trails. This one was double black diamond.

The rain kept away the spectators that normally gather on the porches of the bars that line the road, but the moisture and the accompanying chill didn’t stop a banana, an ice cream cone, a tutu or two and Kevin, aka Kurt Cobain, from getting into the spirit.

“Thumbs Up” received many “likes” while waiting under a canopy at the transition area. Wearing a long, curly red wig, a bright green safety vest (darkness was near) and little else, Kevin Cobain, whose handle was contrived from the fact that, as he told us Friday night, when he runs his thumbs naturally point skyward, was the subject of several selfies before heading up the road.

He was cheered by fellow runners all the way to the top.

On the way down, “Cheech,” wearing white wings and a smile, was greeted by a rainbow that arced over the valley.

The end was near, though the challenge grew greater. Costumes were replaced by night gear. It was completely dark.

Visibility was poor for not only runners, but for teammates hoping to support them.

For H-dawg’s leg, he wanted a bottle of Gatorade handed to him about halfway through. But how could we tell it was him? He was wearing a headlamp and flashers on his vest – just like every other runner.

Where once H-dawg was easy to spot (he wore a fluorescent green jersey and a matching hat), he was just another bounding set of lights in the dark. And so it went.

The penultimate leg was mine. The oncoming headlights along Route 100 near Ludlow were blinding, and the concern of turning an ankle in a rut or pothole was growing. A fortunate turn onto a dirt road void of streetlights provided some relief: little traffic. Another bonus in the foggy darkness: if you can’t sees the hills, then maybe they’re not really there.

Upon finishing, I passed off to Brian for the third and final time. This time, I hurried back to the car. Yes, it was filled with sweaty clothes and towels; empty water bottles were stuffed into every corner; and pieces of food littered the floor (my apologies to the wife of Bob Z., our invaluable team captain; it was her car).

Upon locating my seat behind the driver, a beer was handed to me from behind. I badly needed a shower and a good night’s sleep, but a cold Sam Adams Summer Ale trumped all.

The race ends at Okemo Mountain. And it’s tradition for teams to assemble just outside the finish line, which is actually indoors at an open-air skating rink, to escort in the final runner. Torches are set up to light the way.

While we waited in anticipation to see Brian enter the finish area, Cheney’s (er, Cheech’s) husband and two young daughters joined us. And eventually, we all followed Brian to the finish line. We didn’t win any awards, but it was a moment of triumph. One hundred sweaty, chafing, leg-numbing, energy-sapping – but suddenly exhilarating – miles were behind us. It was 10:05 p.m. Time for a team “after” photo. Time to hit the buffet line. Time to sit down yet again, this time with a 100on100 medal around our necks. Our well-earned hardware was immediately put to use: the medals double as a bottle opener, and a 12-pack of Harpoon had been waiting for us, courtesy of Cheney’s (sorry, Cheech’s) husband Brad.

Cheech and Brad also supplied sleeping quarters for the night, just 5 minutes up the road at the family’s condo. Despite the pain of soap hitting those sensitive areas rubbed raw by my shorts, the shower was exhilarating. The methodical climb up to a bunk bed was rewarded with a much-needed slumber.

The next day, it was back to the car. Each time we stepped out to drop off a teammate in New Hampshire, it became harder to fold our weary and sore legs back in. But as we approached Groton – our final final destination for the weekend – I felt like I got to know these five people quite well. I hardly know their last names, but I know their handles.

As we crossed back into Massachusetts, each of us was still on a high despite all the time spent in the car.

Pass the air freshener.

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