The Vermont 50. An Ultra Adventure.

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I’m sitting here with my tired paws up, staring at a soon to be black toe nail with an ice pack on a very swollen and bruised Achilles’ tendon. And, I am smiling.

Yes.

Goddamn SMILING!

I DID IT!!!

I ran my first Ultra Marathon at the Vermont 50 at Ascutney Mountain Resort in Brownsville, Vermont. I ran the 50K or, as in Vermont Speak 32.5 miles. I heard this new bonus mile and a half distance at the very calm and relaxed pre-race meeting. If this were Another Period In My Life, I would have thrown myself into a running tailspin, then dry heaved. But when a nice, friendly, soft spoken man tells you you’ll be running 32.5 miles in 20 minutes time, you really have no choice but to nod, gulp and embrace the “Meh. What’s another 1.5 miles? It’s all good, People” vibe.

Milling around at the start. Calm, cool, collected.
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Relaxed. That is one word I would have never thought synonymous with an Ultra Marathon. Such a relaxed, chill atmosphere. Far more chill than any marathon I’ve ever run. By a long shot. From packet pick-up to the start. And it was contagious. I loved it. And embraced it fully. Garmin? What Garmin? I didn’t even wear it. For me, this was a race I wanted to finish. I had zero expectations with regard to time. I wanted to run. Farther than I ever had. Farther than I have ever though I could.

And I did.

I am ready! Obligatory pre-50K Selfie.
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The Start. Honestly I think someone just yelled, “Go!” I didn’t really hear it because My Fierce Ultra Runner Friend Carly and I were talking and laughing about something non-running related. That’s how chill I was. Every marathon I have ever run I’m usually in a panic. Adjusting earbuds. Resetting my Garmin. Thinking I should have peed again. Fidgeting. This time? No earbuds. They aren’t allowed. And rightfully so. You wind up sharing the trail with Mountain Bikers and YOU NEED YOUR EARS. Three if you have ’em. I didn’t miss them. No fidgeting either. Just calm. Next thing I knew we were running. I forgot to be nervous. I just ran. Within minutes we we climbing. And I’m going to just cut directly to the chase here: I climbed for hours. It was like 7 hours of hill repeats. And no, I’m not trying to be funny. This shit is REAL. And HARD. And BEAUTIFUL. 20140929-210355-75835648.jpg

That’s about all the photos you’re going to get out of me. I had everything to do to keep moving forward. Selfie snapping and Instagramming was completely out of the question. I was unplugged. And it was glorious. You’ll have to trust me when I tell you that I ran thru some of the most beautiful trails I have ever seen. And across the most beautiful private properties. Those Vermonters are awfully nice letting 100s upon 100s of mountain bikers and runners traipse through their land. #ILOVERMONT
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The first half of the race is really a mix of dirt packed roads and trail. Other than several hairy climbs and a false flat that went on for miles, it wasn’t all that awful. Mostly because it was still cool out. In fact, if it had stayed 60ish it would have been perfect. Instead, it was a perfect, cloudless, 82 goddamn degrees. On September 28th. In Vermont. Yeah. I know. Insane. I have done 4 races in Vermont: a Half-Marathon, a Snowshoe 10K, a Marathon and an Ultra Marathon. Every damn one was in extreme conditions. From -6 degrees to mid-90s. No. Joke. My point is this: If you sign up for an event expecting ideal conditions you are all but assured to have Mother Nature lift her leg and piss directly on your dreams. Then laugh throatily in your frost bitten and/or hypothermic face. Just sayin’.

Now where was I? Oh. The VT50… 20140929-210404-75844506.jpg

Thankfully, aid stations were abundant and staffed with the most kind, compassionate volunteers with S-Caps and bowls of salted potatoes. Best. Snack. Ever. There were 7 aid stations on the 50K route which saw you merge with both the 50 mile runners and Mountain Bikers. I wondered how we would all “get along” and other than having to jump off of the trail several times on tired legs to let bikers pass, everyone couldn’t have been more polite and considerate. I was impressed. Considering the amount of Suffering going on, they were awfully chatty. And encouraging. I never found myself alone. Or lost. And lets be honest, I had no goddamn idea what I was doing. I just ran. Like I would thru the woods when I was little. With a big ole’ toothy grin. I loved it.

Fallon’s Aid Station. Mile 18. Here’s where everything took a turn. For a while there I was, running wildly. It was great. I envisioned myself running swiftly, like one of those leggy chicks in the magnificent trail running pictures in magazines. Effortless. Graceful. Until…

I fell. (Hard.)
And yelped. (Loud.)

I tripped over one of the few rocks protruding directly into the middle of the trail. How I didn’t see it is beyond me. It was massive. This sucker had been there since the Ice Age. I am quite certain it was anchored directly to the core of the earth. That rock didn’t budge. And I kicked it like David Beckham. Hard and just perfect. I honestly thought I broke my toe. In the process I wrenched my ankle. Seized my calf. My Achilles twinged. And I promptly fell flat on my face.

I was momentarily stunned. And helped to my feet foot by a very kind runner. She was met by Colby the Sailor Pirate.

Me: FUUUUUUUUCCCCCKKKAAARRRGH.
Kind Runner: Oh my god! Are you ok? The aid station is right behind us. Want me to take you?
Me: Fucking no. Fucking toe. {Yelps.} I’m finishing this fucking race. I DONT CARE IF IT FALLS OFF. I. WILL. FINISH.
Kind Runner: {Giggles nervously. Darts off.}

The string of profanities continued each and every time I wailed that same busted up foot on every rock, stone, root and patch of grass for the next 14.5 technical, off-camber, brutally steep miles. Which translates to roughly 14.5 more times. I started to think I had a neurological issue. Or minimally, Tourette’s. Come to find out, I was just exhausted. And clumsy. I was in pain and I was limping. Yet it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t finish. Ever. I started this race knowing I would finish. Even after the tough terrain, crazy heat, horrible stomach issues (I won’t even go there. Because I was there. And it was horrible.) and now busted paw and wonky Achilles- I never considered stopping. Not once.

Where does that come from? I still don’t know exactly. Somewhere from deep within, I found it. I found The Drive. It was so strong. So clear. So confident. I have never felt more certain of anything my entire life. I was hurting. Yet, The Drive trumped The Pain. There it was. That’s what I’ve read Ultra Runners experience. I had it. And I couldn’t believe it myself.

1.5 Miles to go.
20140929-210400-75840629.jpgThis was one of two signs I saw during the VT50. It wasn’t being held by a sea of screaming spectators, it was tacked to a small tree in a gorgeous, quiet section of trails. Yet it couldn’t have screamed louder. I managed to snap a picture of it. I also teared up. And started running. Really running. As fast as my busted paw could carry me. Then I heard the cheers. 20140929-210356-75836866.jpg

And emerged from the trails into a series of switch backs that wove across and down the mountain. If you ask me 40 years from now, what the hardest thing I had ever done was, I will tell you with the utmost certainty the 2014 Vermont 50. No question.

It is only when you push yourself farther than you ever thought possible that you really see just how far you can go. I pushed. I saw. And it was amazing.

Oh what a run I had.

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59 thoughts on “The Vermont 50. An Ultra Adventure.

  1. SO EPIC!! Did you almost pee your pants when you saw 1.5 miles to go? I might have actually just passed out. And I’m kinda glad that you had at least one pratfall. Because otherwise, we would’ve thought the whole things was a farce. So, so proud of you! YOU DID ITTTTT

    • I DID PEE MY PANTS! I’m cracking up. (And I wish I were kidding!) Oh there were pratfalls. The Stomach Episode was BEYOND but, what are you gonna do? Drink some Coke. Eat a salty ‘tater and hope for the best. Thank you for your kind words. I love our lil’ support system in the Blog-o-Sphere. And you! xoxo

  2. congrats!!! way to overcome the fall and rally. my only question is this … are you a one-and-done ultra runner or are you already scouting out the next? a 50 miler maybe 😉

    • I’m lookin’!!! How insane is that? I have ice on my Achilles at this very moment and I’m searching online. WHO AM I?!?! I would definitely do another 50K. 50 miler…. Hmmmm…. Gimme a minute….. 😉

      • lol! you’re talking to a girl who registered for her first 50 miler while in a boot with a metatarsal stress fracture! so in my opinion, not insane at all! and somehow i foresee a 50 mile race in your near future 😉

      • I knew I liked you.

        CRAZY PANTS. And you juuuust might be right. Although I’m not committing. Because once it’s written in The Blog-O-Sphere, it’s all but done. 😉

  3. I wish all races came with potatoes, because that sounds amazing (it’s lunchtime, so this is where my brain is at). I’m so excited for you and your ultra accomplishment, AND the fact that you stayed so chill despite falling. What’s next? 50 miles? 100??? Hope recovery is going well!

    • Let me tell you. 3 aid station moments come to mind in my running career: 1. Sweet angel volunteers handing me strawberries at The Right Moment during the Big Sur Marathon. 2. Hot chicken broth and a giant soft pretzel in Philly at the marathon finish. And 3. These goddamn salty potatoes. They were EPIC. I can’t believe I didn’t freak out after I fell either. I was pretty damaged. Ouch. Next? I’m laying on the couch with a beer. After that? DEFINITELY this race again. I loved every horribly difficult minute of it! 🙂

  4. I don’t even know you personally and I’m proud of you! That is a super account of your Ultra. I love how you just enjoyed it (for the most part). I love reading other peoples accounts of their runs. This was a good read and made me smile with pride (and I don’t know you). 🙂

    • You know me now, Lady! 🙂 Thank you Charlotte!!!!!! It’s all true. I loved it. And I’m usually a smiley person, unless I’m swearing like a Pirate. I’m glad I made you smile!

  5. Yay for you!
    Really nice recap, I laughed and had moments of owww and moment of ouch too.
    Hope your foot is better.
    Nice finishing too.

    • Hooray! I’ve been high fiving myself all week! And happily the Achilles seems to be slowly getting better. I get it checked on Friday. Sitting still is killing me. Although my house is clean, so that has to count for something. 🙂

      Thanks for the kind words! It was fantastic!

  6. I actually got a little weepy over this one. Way to go girlfriend!!! You are officially a Badass Pirate Busted Toe and Achilles Ultra Freak!!! Now go drink multiple margaritas, milk it for all it’s worth, and for God’s sake – make sure your insurance is paid up! 🙂

  7. Vermawesome! Way to keep on pushin on! I like the pirate visor too. One tip – tell your camera person to turn the iphone sideways when taking videos ;). Two tips – watch out for those prehistoric rocks!!!
    Again, congrats!

    • I’m laughing. I knew YOU would say that. It was a moment of OHMYGODTHERESMYSISTERHURRYUPGRABTHEGODDAMNIPHONEANDGETOUTTADAWAY!!!

      And thank you. It was a beast. And I am still elated. 🙂

      • Thanks for asking. As far as running I have been out voted by a score of 2 to 1. Lefty and the PT say no, I say yes. However Lefty might be coming around to my point of view. I’ve been back working full tilt so there’s that. I don’t think the Philly Half or the Ritz are in my immediate future. 13.1 would just be too much pounding at this point but I would be thrilled to toddle through a 5K. As for you _ I really never had a doubt.

      • Give Lefty a sec. He’ll come around. I’m currently rolling my legs and cursing the heavens. My Achilles is a bit of a mess, but she’s getting better. I’m actually looking forward to Puttin’ on The Ritz! Here’s to toddling! And thank you for the kind words. I still can’t believe I did it.

      • Enjoy the afterglow. Years ago I worked briefly in a scene shop where every Friday afternoon was Admiration Day. We’d knock off around 4, crack a couple of Rolling Rocks and sit back to admire all the set pieces and other gizmos that we had built during that week. I guess I don’t have to ask if it was good for you.

      • Good for you. I ran yesterday for the first time in two months for a grand total of 9 minutes, actually 8:57 but it’s my watch and my run so I can round up if I want to. You have no idea of the sense of relief and joy I felt especially when Lefty cooperated and nothing hurt. Tomorrow I might push on to 15 minutes. I believe it was the philosopher William ” Boston Billy” Rodgers who once said – The journey of 26.2 miles begins with a nine minute run. Well, maybe not but I did meet him once and I got his autograph. And if he didn’t say that exact thing I’m sure he would agree.

      • Wow! Big day for your and Lefty!!! I’m so happy to hear it!!! And your goddamn right. Round up. Easy, Rabbit. Slow and steady for now. Boston Billy was a genius. All I know is that my Achilles just heard the news and promptly stuck his tongue out at me. Taking it easy myself.

        And chomping at the bit.

  8. BAD ASS. “I think she coulda gone fastaaa” in the video…the best. I am inspired, I have been talking to friends about doing my first Ultra next year, thanks for solidifying the choice for me!

  9. WOOOO! You did it Colby! I’m so glad you loved it- busted up toe and all 🙂
    I’ve read on other trail recaps that ultras have such a different (read: calmer) vibe. I’m thinking for this reason alone I should add an ultra to my bucket list- given that I’m nearly always stressed at races & would love a break!
    Congrats again!! Enjoy basking in your accomplishment & I hope your recovery is a speedy one 🙂

    • Thank you so much Amber!! I’m still kind of a mess–BUT STILL SMILING SISTER! Honestly. Totally calm. Totally friendly. Totally supportive. It completely took me by surprise. And I loved it! Do it!!! Why not right?? Thank you for your kind words! I’m on the mend! Get your shit together Achilles! 🙂

  10. Finally!!! I got to read this post … the post I’ve waited for and been on pins and needles for. I have been thinking about you EVERYDAY since you toed the line of the VT50!!! I bow down to you chica!! Your are a total she-ro, rock star, super woman, BOSS LADY!!! The way you continued to push through the pain after your fight with that boulder of a rock is some next level stuff … really. That’s the type of stuff movies of made from with Morgan Freeman narrating lol 🙂 Your pre-race and post-race smiles say it all Colby!! You came and you conquered and from the bottom of my heart your grit truly inspires me. I want half of that grit when I grow up 🙂 The scenery looked absolutely amazing. I said 26.2 was plenty for me but you may just have gotten into my head because suddenly maybe … just maybe … I’ll consider one of these crazy events for myself one day. Again, I’m over the moon happy for you, hugs, and quick recovery wishes from Florida!!! Can’t wait to see what’s up next for you 🙂

    • YOU MADE MY DAY!!! And is it crazy that I read your FANTASTIC comment in Morgan Freeman? Thank you! Thank you! I am sporting a big old smile. Even bigger than the one at the finish. Sincerely- Thank you for the kind, supportive, lovely words. That was a BEAST! And believe it or not, I’m still floating from it. At least the limp is gone. My toenail sadly, is not gone. Yet. So you’re thinking of one, huh???? I say. Screw it. Do it. If it’s scary, DO IT. You will emerge a different person. One who believes- truly believes- they can do anything. xoxoxox 🙂

  11. Pingback: 3 Deadly Running Sins | It's A Marathon AND A Sprint

  12. Pingback: Vermont 50 2014 race report – 50k run – Adventure Sneaker

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