With the recent passing of Chad Denning, whose presence is everywhere at VT50, I knew it would be an emotional weekend. The absence of his spirit was certainly felt by those who knew him, and by anyone who had experienced the race when he was there. I was certainly overwhelmed with emotion just thinking about it.
(Chad's spirit was everywhere - the VT50 was dedicated to Chad)
Brian and I arrived at Mt. Ascutney early Saturday morning - we volunteered to help out and fill the gap that Chad's absence left. I spent the day putting up signs, marking out parking, moving donated product, and helping out at the Kid's Fun Run. Perhaps not an ideal way to rest up for a 50-mile race, but watching the kids race and talking to them after they had finished their 1/2 mile, 1 mile, or 5k race was incredibly inspiring as they clearly showed the passion for the trails. Of course, volunteering was helpful for me as I continue to learn all I can as the 2015 VT100 RD.
(Volunteering at the Kids Race on Saturday)
Sunday morning was a flash, as I got ready to line up - maybe I've done enough ultras to feel more relaxed and calm in the hour before I start. I was pleased to see the WMDP ladies all geared up and ready to go! Of course, the pre-race moments are full of hugs and high fives to friends before we embark on our 50-mile adventure.
(Most of the WMDP crew, pre-race)
(Brian peeling off behind me as we enter mile 12)
(Leaving mile 12 with my 'shadow' Kelsey behind me)
I was feeling good, but was emotionally flat - my typical passion wasn't there. Sharing the miles with Kelsey helped me enjoy the beauty as we crested Garvin Hill and got into the fun single track sections. It was awesome to see some of the VT100 race committee and volunteers along the way - they lifted my spirits as they encouraged me along.
(Climbing Garvin Hill with teammate Kelsey)
Maybe it was the emotions of the day, especially once I was on my own and could wrestle with my feelings about the loss of Chad. Maybe it's been too many races this year and I didn't have the emotional capacity to be mentally strong and push myself. Maybe it was fatigue from traveling so much over the last month. Maybe it was the heat getting to me. My legs felt great, my mind was a complete wreck, I was just wasted.
(Shuffling in to mile 31, ready to quit)
Vanessa, who has crewed for me at VT100 and knows that I have rough patches, gave me my space but reminded me that she's seen me like this before and that dropping wasn't an option. After a few minutes, she told me it was time to get up and go. Vanessa told me to be strong and show her what mental toughness was - she was supposed to run VT50 this year and couldn't due to injury so she was looking for inspiration for next year.
(No matter how grumpy I got, you can't deny the beauty of Vermont in the fall)
I gave her my death stare (which she was familiar with, I had given her that at VT100 also) - thinking 'haven't I already shown you mental toughness with all my other races?!? Didn't I show you mental toughness at VT100?!?' She put her face literally 2-inches from my face and glared right back. It was mid-day, in a field in Vermont, surrounded by beauty, and Vanessa and I were having a glaring contest. It was ridiculous. After a few minutes of this, she just grabbed my arm and picked me up. She pushed me down the trail, then ran ahead of me (in a super goofy run, with her arms and legs flailing everywhere) saying 'I'm going to run goofy and be super annoying until you catch me'. I glared as I shuffled towards her, and ultimately the trails.
(Karin, getting crewed by WMDPers Dawn, Janet, and Wayne)
Once I was away from the aid station, I walked again. Again, the legs were fine and energy was ok, but I just didn't want to run or push the pace. I strolled through the woods, over some of my favorite trails. I wondered how I had somehow lost my passion for the trails over the last few hours.
At least I was making steady, but slow, progress. Finally, about a mile before I picked my pacer, I had a surge of energy and enthusiasm. I ran, passing folks as I powered up the hill, who had passed me as I walked the previous downhill. I think I was just trying to rally my spirit, feeling bad that my friend Ashley had dedicated a day to help me through this race and I wasn't even trying.
As I approached the pacers, Ashley was fired up, and several other WMDPers (who were pacing my teammates) offered enthusiasm. I was grateful for Ashley's company, although I explained to her that this would be a long 10-miles.
(Kristin, embodying the WMDP team support)
She was awesome, and certainly encouraged me to move as well as I could muster. We jogged through the twisty single track, gabbing about her son (Anders), our two pregnant teammates (Abby and Sara) whose due dates were just a few days away, Ashley's selection for the US Snowshoeing team, whatever we could think of to occupy the time. Actually, it felt like a training run to share miles with Ashley, which got my head back a bit. We slowly ticked off the miles - sometimes jogging, sometimes running, but at least making forward progress. Ashley was a miracle worker to keep me moving and get me to that finish line.
(Finishing with Ashley)
The highlight of the day was hanging out post-race with my teammates, as we eagerly awaited watching the rest of our team finish as we swapped war stories from our day. Kelsey had run strong through the end, finishing just under 9-hours for 5th place female (1st in our age group). I learned I finished 10th female and 2nd in my age group. Kelsey Battige and Danielle had both done the 50k, finishing well - it was Danielle's first ultra!
(Karin finishing strong - I love the sight of 'Western Mass' under the finish banner)
Karin finished strong, practically dropping her pacer Kate with her late race surge of energy. Just two weeks after her 50th birthday, and she finished her first 50 miler. She got 2nd in her new age group with that effort. Nancy, also celebrating turning 50 (over the summer) finished the 50 miler, however she had a rough day and struggled to the end. Luckily, she had an enthusiastic and prepared pacer in Kristin to keep her motivated.
(Cheering at the finish with my teammates)
As the sun was setting, we watched Meghan make her way down the mountain and through the finish, with Jess pacing her in, as she finished her first 50-miler. Meghan had attempted her first 50-miler at Bull Run Run this year, and got pulled on time at mile 37. Watching her finish, the emotion of the day overwhelmed me, and I got misty. It took her finish to remind me how incredible it is to run 50 miles in one day, and how much time and passion go into this endeavor.
I was grateful to have been surrounded by friends on this emotional day. While my race wasn't anything I am proud of, I was incredibly proud of my teammates who challenged themselves and overcame the distance to reach the finish line. On a rough day, the WMDP ladies had a 100% finishing rate - showing our determination is strong!
(Meghan, early on during her first 50 mile run!)