Friday, July 25, 2014

Goodbye and Hello - Amy's Vermont 100 Race Report

Written by Amy Rusiecki

My Vermont 100 story, as always, started months before the actual race date.  Most years, it includes numerous high mileage weeks, some epic training runs, and a few nutritional mishaps.  This year, it included attending meetings, combing through numerous emails, and learning as much as I could about the behind-the-scenes of Vermont 100.  You see, this spring, it was announced that the current RD, the amazingly enthusiastic Julia O'Brien, would be stepping down and they were looking for a replacement.  I'm an ultra runner, I like hard work and dedication - and I am passionate about the Vermont 100.  I put my hat in the ring as someone who was interested.  A few months before the race, I was selected as the next RD for the Vermont 100. 

 (Myself as future RD, Jenny, the horse ride manager, and Julia, the current RD)

The first big decision was whether I would be racing or not - on one hand, I could learn so much by hanging out during the race and learning an aspect of the race that I never see.  However, the race committee certainly would understand if I wanted to run it one last time.  After much debate, I decided I would run the Vermont 100 this year.  However, the compromise was that I did arrive up at Silver Hill (the start/finish area) several days early to help set-up, volunteer, and shadow Julia.  While most of the VT100 runners were tapering and staying off their feet, I was running around, hunching over signs, and enthusiastically greeting runners, volunteers, and sponsors.  But, for the opportunity to run one the Vermont 100 last time, I didn't mind much.

(Studying the VT100 history books as we set-up)

It was incredible to see the transformation from an open field to the large infrastructure that is the start/finish area over a few days, and to note all the small preparations that the runners never see.  I am so excited to take on this responsibility next year, but also terrified by the enormity of it.  Luckily, the volunteers are amazing, and the race committee is fully committed to supporting the race - I know they will help out as I need and ensure the race continues on successfully!

(I may have sampled a few of the Chia Bars, whenever I got a spare moment)

One interesting story of note - as we were unloading gear and setting up on Thursday morning, a girl rode up on her bike, Hannah Roberts.  After chatting a bit, we learned that she was in the process of biking across the country - she left the Pacific Ocean in Washington in April, and arrived here in Vermont a day before the race, which she was planning to run!  She ended up finishing the 100-mile race in about 25 and a half hours!  Then, she had about a week left to reach the Atlantic Ocean in Maine.  I biked across the country, about 10 years ago, and can tell you that the thought of running a 100-miler, mid-trek, never crossed my mind!  I even recall sending my running shoes home after about a week - since I had initially thought I might run during my adventure, but quickly learned that I was exhausted after a day of biking and towing my gear.  I am incredibly impressed by Hannah!

(Hannah Roberts, pausing her cross-country bike trek to run the Vermont 100)

Anyway, after several days of work, hundreds of hugs with running friends, and a few precious hours of sleep, and I was lining up to start my 6th consecutive Vermont 100 - and my last VT100 for a while.  I proudly wore a bib that said 'future RD' while I raced, and had a goal to slap high fives with as many volunteers as I could.  For me, this race wasn't about being competitive and racing.  VT100 2014 was about running through the beauty one last time, seeing the race from the 'future RD' perspective, and personally thanking the volunteers that are so crucial to the race's success.

(Brian and I, ready to start!)
As usual, the race went out hard - in the darkness, I had no idea who I was near as we all jockeyed for space on the road.  I quickly fell into stride with Jason, who initially told me that (1) he was going to PR today, (2) he was going to do that by running a smart race, and (3) that would be accomplished by running with me.  I was grateful to have company for the early miles, as we chatted and passed the time.

(Jason and I, enjoying the early miles)

Running with Jason kept me honest, and helped me run a much smarter race.  We walked uphills early on, where it typically breaks my heart to walk that early.  We pushed each other to run again once we reached the top of a climb.  We reminded the other to hydrate and fuel.  The early miles seemed to tick by easily as we enjoyed the beauty of Vermont.  Before I knew it, we were past Taftville Bridge (mile 15), then through Pretty House (mile 21), up and over Sound of Music Hill, and onto Stage Road (mile 30).  It felt so easy and relaxed, like a training run with a friend!

Just past Stage Road, Jason was having a bit of a rough patch - not enough to slow me down, he just had a downswing in his energy level.  I kept him focused, doing most of the talking in that section and calling out the walking breaks and when to run.  I might have picked up the pace a bit, as I was excited to see my WMDP teammates at the Stage Road aid station!  However, while I had no illusion that Jason and I would run together the whole day - I wanted to stick with him for as long as it made sense.

(Jason and I - ironic that his shirt says 'pace team')
By mile 40, Jason was feeling better and I was having a downswing in my energy level.  The one bright spot in this energy low was running through the Lincoln Covered Bridge aid station where the Trail Monsters (who adopted the aid station this year) were full of enthusiasm!  We reversed roles as he took up most of the conversation, and helped to determine where we could run as we climbed up the Lincoln Covered Bridge hill.  By Lillian's (mile 43), we were both feeling good again and grateful for the company.

We cruised in together to Camp 10 Bear (mile 47) and I was so excited to see my friend Jen, who generously offered to drive up and crew me.  Jen had crewed and paced me through my first 3 100-mile races here in Vermont - she's awesome!  She's very detail oriented (so she makes sure I don't leave an aid station without the fueling I need), she's seen me at my worst with the puking and diarrhea in past races, and still always greets me with a huge hug and leaves me with an 'I love you!' as I leave the aid station.  I couldn't want to see her!!! 

As always, she had me in and out of the aid station in no time - getting me weighed in, giving me all the fueling I needed, and calling out 'I love you' as I continued on.  Ahhh...good times!

(Jen and I in the distance, walking out of Camp 10 Bear)

Quickly after the aid station, Jason caught up to me - his crew, while certainly very good, might not have been at the 'Nascar pit-crew' level that Jen is!  We again shared miles and stories as we ran along the Vermont roads.  At about 8:30, we passed the 50-miler marker - and I still felt relatively great (having run 50-miles, that is). 

Ever since about mile 7, I think Jason and I had only seen one other racer out there - so I was extra grateful for the company.  After mile 50, we finally started to see a few runners ahead of us as we passed a few 100 milers and 100k runners - it made me realize how lonely I would have been without Jason's company.

At Birmingham's (mile 54) is my favorite aid station - mainly because my friend Kenny Rogers always works that aid station.  We have a little annual tradition - he always has a nice cold beer there for me.  I ran into the aid station, with an extra bounce in my stride, happy to see the GAC crew (who adopted the aid station this year), and saw Kenny off to the side, cracking open a beer for me.  Jason and I shared a few swigs as we toasted the GAC crew.  It's been a great tradition and I was certainly grateful to do this one last time before I'm the RD!

(Enjoying a beer with Kenny, an annual tradition)

In the few miles past Birmingham's, I started to have a rough patch and felt my first unhappy belly of the day (which, for me, to last until mile 56 before I have stomach issues is a miracle!).  Luckily, Jason coached me through it as he encouraged me to drink and eat.  I was fortunate that this was on an uphill where I had an excuse to walk and get my nutrition under control.  I was passed for 2nd place female at this point, and Jason was perfect - reminding me to let her go and run my own race, it was too early to worry about it!

We were in and out of Seven Sees (mile 58) with a huge chug of coconut water, and an 'I love you' from Jen.  We quickly climbed up Prospect Hill and cruised into Margaritaville (mile 62) and I was already feeling much better.  Again, Jason and I shared stories as we ticked off the miles through Brown School House (mile 65) and were somehow already back at Camp 10 Bear (mile 70).  It all felt so seemless and fun!  At some point in this stretch, we got word that Brian was having a killer race - and was already through mile 77...a full 12 miles ahead of us! 

(Weighing in at Camp 10 Bear)
As I entered Camp 10 Bear, I heard Mike Silverman (the VT50 RD) on the mike announcing my arrival. It was great to hear the cheers, as I worked to weigh in and get my gear.  My WMDP teammate, Liz, was pacing me for the next section and was ready to go!  We leave the aid station with Jason and his pacer - we're quite the four-some.

Liz's enthusiasm fills me with energy, and I realize how well I feel for this late into the race.  It feels like a training run back home, as we cruise the single track and talk about our crazy adventures.  Before I know it, I'm running without the company of Jason for the first time all day - and we're about at Spirit of 76 (mile 77).

For the next section, I had recruited Darcy (who I ran with for almost the entire time at Cayuga 50 Miler) to pace me.  She is a strong and determined woman, which is exactly what I needed to get me through the next 11 miles - one of the toughest sections for me.  I gave Zeke (the aid station captain at Sprit of 76) a hug and then we were off.  I was beginning to really tire, but made steady progress as we powered ahead.  As at Cayuga Trails, the conversation came easily with Darcy - we both share a love for adventures, swapping stories about our past adventures or talking about the upcoming adventures.  My focus in this section was to make it to Bill's (mile 88) before the sun set, so I appreciated Darcy's constant motivation to take it one step at a time. 

(Focusing on the dirt roads, passing the miles - photo by Northeast Race Photo)

As we passed near the start/finish area (around mile 83), one of the aid station re-stocking trucks drove by and told me that Brian had just finished - the confirmed his time, he broke the course record by 6 minutes!  I was so excited to learn this!  I did happen to look at my watch, and realized that it took a whole 3 minutes from when he finished for the news to reach me.

Darcy is an incredibly centered person, and her talking about 'visualizing your successes' and the mind-body-spirit connection was amazing to pass the miles.  Somehow, we had cruised through my least favorite section and were on the climb up to Bill's (mile 88).  It was just past 8pm, and I was well ahead of the sunset!  Yay, it was a small victory.  I was excited as I checked in to the aid station, weighed in, and then picked up my last pacer, Carolyn.

(Loving the community feel of the VT100)
Carolyn is one of the most enthusiastic and positive people you'll ever meet, and is an aspiring ultra runner (she just has to graduate college first!), so I was very excited to be running with her through the last 12 miles and across the finish line.  Even though I knew I wasn't able to give 100% towards this race - what with my focus being on learning the RD side of things - at mile 88, I don't care at all.  I was running farther onto the course in the daylight than ever before, and I wanted to see how far I could make it before I turned on my headlamp.

It was around mile 92 when I reluctantly turned on my headlamp, and it was officially nighttime.  I don't know how to explain what happened, but once I was running by headlamp, I was so exhausted.  Maybe I pushed to hard as I chased the setting sun?  Was it metaphorical that without the sun I didn't have any energy?  Either way, I was 8 miles from the finish when I started to long for the end.

Despite this, Carolyn kept my spirits as high as they could be - telling me stories of her experience pacing at Western States 100 and talking about collegiate running.  I feel like I walked so many runnable sections as I was depleted.

(My WMDP teammates who volunteered in the morning, and crewed/paced me afterwards)

We finally made it to Polly's (mile 95), and for the first time all day, I sat down in a chair.  My crew tried to encourage me to get up and keep moving, instead a threw a mini-hissy fit as only a person worn down by 95 miles can.  They handed me my handheld bottle, and I opened the pocket, and started throwing all the fueling on the ground stating 'I don't want this, I don't want this' my mind, I was trying to lighten my load.  In their mind, they must have known what a crummy mood I was in.

After some coaxing, they got me on my feet and off down the road.  The only thing that would get me going at that point was the promise of a beer at the finish!  Carolyn and I walked and ran through the night, as I tried to just finish the race.  I figured a PR was out the window as I had been wasting time for over an hour now.  But, we kept moving towards the finish line, and towards a nice cold beer.

With 1 mile to go, I looked at my watch and was surprised to see that I could still get a new PR despite my slow closing miles.  I picked up the pace and 'sprinted' for all I had.  Poor Carolyn, who walked for hours with me through the woods, and was now chasing a crazed lunatic through the last mile.  Finally, the glowing milk jugs, and we were at the finish line - 18:47.  Good enough for a 100-mile PR, another 3rd place female finish, and 18th overall.  Oh, and good enough for a beer at the finish line.  However, I think I was most pleased about how many of the volunteers I got to personally thank and give high fives to throughout the day - I think I must have gotten at least 75% of them (and to the rest, my regrets!).

(Carolyn and I at the finish line!)
We hung out for a while, and eventually made it to our tent for some sleep.  The next morning, I was back in 'RD-in training mode' as I helped out as I could.  It was great to see my fellow runners and friends, and hear about everyone's accomplishments.  Jason, after running with me until about mile 80, ended up finishing in 19:15, good enough for a 45-minute PR!  I'm glad we both helped each other get PRs, and it's an experience that won't be forgotten - neither of us would have accomplished what we did without the help and support of the other.

After Julia (the current RD) was honored by the race committee and Vermont Adaptive staff, I was pleased to be handed the mike to congratulate the runners (and remind them to fill in the post-race survey which will help me be a better RD!).  After everyone left the post-race BBQ, Brian and I hung around and helped break down the site - watching as the dedicated volunteers took down the infrastructure that I had watched being built up only a few days prior.

At the end of the weekend, I was exhausted - from being a part-time RD and from completing the race myself!  But, I was energized by the enthusiasm and dedication of the volunteers, runners, and support crews/pacers.  As always, VT100 filled me with passion for the sport, and I can't wait to put my personal touches on the race moving forward.

(Being introduced as the new RD by Mike, a Vermont Adaptive volunteer)
As we drove home, completely exhausted on Sunday night, I said a 'goodbye' to Vermont 100 as a runner, and 'hello' to Vermont 100 as a Race Director.  I am excited for the challenge.
(For you VT100 runners, past and future, certainly reach out to me with any comments or suggestions for the future of the race.  I want to continue with the tradition of hosting one of the premier 100-mile races in the country.)
Julia and I were interviewed by DFL Ultrarunning Podcast, the interview is here:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Unleashing the B-Dog - Brian's Vermont 100 Race Report

Written by Brian Rusiecki

This was going to be my 6th and perhaps last VT100 (well at least for a while).  Amy is taking over the responsibly of RD for next year so I figure I will be spending my time next year helping out and lifting heavy things rather than running.  The weather forecast for race day was 80 degrees for a high and low-ish humidity, this is much better than last years sweatfest.

(Brian and Amy, pre-race)

I did some normal pre-race stuff then I was at the start.  The gun goes off and in typical 100 mile fashion, a bunch of guys jam down the road, 2 of them really kill it and are out of sight instantly.  I can see Sam Jurek ahead of me and try to slowly catch up to him so I have someone to run with.  After a few miles I catch him and we start running together. Sam is running shirtless and I feel like a flabby little man next to him.  We catch up to a guy who is barely walking up the hill with these crazy England flag short shorts, I have to do a double take because he is moving so slow this early on and, well, the shorts are something else.

Sam and I run together and around 15 or so we catch most of the people ahead of us.  We keep running the same pace we were and we kinda float right through them and no one latches on. 

(Ticking off the early miles)
We run into Pretty House (mile 21 aid station), Sam heads for a nature break,  Nick Tooker (my crew) swaps out my bottle and I am out of there.  I fell pretty good and am running easy by myself.  I continue on to Stage Road (mile 31 aid station).  I see Nick again and grab some stuff and am now able to see the first place guy (Owen from Alabama).  I power hike up the grass hill climb to catch up to him.  Ok, second buff shirtless guy.  I got to start doing push ups or something.

Owen and I run together for 2 or so miles and I try to sneak away since I feel better running by myself rather than following someone else's pace.  I do the casual look back and I can see that he is still behind me about 30 seconds or so.  This is where I feel like sort of an ass, but, well, it is a race and I have to do what I think is right. 

(Getting personal attention at the Trail Monster's aid station)

I hit the road section at mi 45  and see the line of 100k-ers ahead of me.  They had to change the course here and extend the road (highway) section - yuck.  I grind up the slight uphill grade and sort of feel like I am running in place.  I slowly pass a few 100kers and roll into Camp 10 Bear (mile 47 aid station).  Nick is there again and tells me that I am 15 min faster than I have ever run this at this point...this is where I get worried.  I didn't think I was running fast but somehow I ended up faster than the time I ran hard to 50 and blew up - this is not good.  I tend to pride myself in running smart and at this point is seems like I blew a bunch of energy running too fast.

I head out of the aid and tell myself to slow down and try and walk some of the long hills.  I still feel good and hit 50M at 7:00 almost on the nose.  This is probably the first time I look at my watch all day.  I slowly pass Joe Holland (in the 100k) and I say some comment about that I am glad we are not skiing right now (I did one xc ski race and he lapped me and kicked my ass, kind of a running joke between us).  I start feeling tired and look forward to seeing Nick at Seven Seas (mile 58 aid station).  I feel super thirsty, Nick gives me a  bottle and I down the whole thing.  He then has to run 100 yards to the aid station to get more water.  In that time I down an ensure and some more drinks,  He hands me the bottle after his 200 yard dash and I am off.

(Cruising on the dirt roads)
I feel super boated like the liquid is sitting in my gut.  I take salt tabs I slow down some more, I stop drinking but my gut is still sloshing.  I feel like I am going to weigh in 5 lbs heavy at the next weigh-in.  I don't feel like I am moving super well and start to do the look backs to see if someone is catching me.  This goes on for a while and I start to finally feel better when I know I am close to Camp 10 Bear (mile 70 aid station). 

I run down the hill and get a little bit of energy boost from all the people around.  I find Nick and see Brandon Baker, who will be pacing me for the rest of the race.  I am glad we only have 30 miles to go because I don't feel great, but I have felt worse at this point, so whatever.

(Loving the trails - photo by Northeast Race Photo)
I do a couple of steps of shuffling then shake the shuffle out of my legs for the climb out of Camp 10 Bear.  It is a nice break from running, we have to walk since the grade of the hill is a little bit too much to run at this point without burning myself out.  We hike the climb until the trail turns into dirt road, I run a little bit,  but the grade is a little too steep at points so I start walking again. 

We come into the Spirit of 76 (mile 77 aid station) and I grab some stuff and slap Zeke Zucker (the aid station captain, and an uber-volunteer for the VT50 and VT100) a high five on the way out.  I don't know or want to know if I am blowing time or doing well.  I am moving ok, but I doesn't feel like I am killing it.

(Attacking the many uphills)

There are some nice trail sections from this aid station and I enjoy the soft footing and small hills rather than the grinders you get out on the dirt roads.  I start to move better especially on the flat dirt road sections up to the next aid station.

I go into Bills (mile 88 aid station) feeling good and Nick tells me that I am 6 minutes up from where I was 2 years ago (where I ended up missing the course record by 1 minute).  This gives me motivation, like someone flipped a switch.  Now I run everything - no more walking.  I jam the downhills and actually feel good on them.  The pity and pain I had earlier in the race goes away and I start to run hard. 

Somewhere around 90, Brandon is no longer aside of me.  I look back and he is 30 yards behind.  I kind of got into the zone and didn't even realize it.  Earlier he told me he has Diabetes and it had not sunk in.  He hadn't eaten anything since we started and now his blood sugar was out of whack.  He says he is ok and keep going and I feel bad but keep running up the hill.  The next aid is only a mile or so, so I figure he can get a ride if he is really in rough shape.

(Leaving Camp 10 Bear, with pacer Brandon)

I see card on the side of the road and know that it is now Mile 95.  I feel great only 5 to go.  I tell Nick that Brandon bonked and  to wait for him.  Nick tells me that I have to run 5 miles in 50 minutes to break the course record.  I feel like I should be able to run 10 minute miles, but don't waste any time. 

I run everything from there out.  It feels fast, but who knows.  The end of the course changed with some steep ups and downs and sort of a bushwack section.  I tried to enjoy the last mile as I looked at my watch with time to spare.  With  1/4 mile to go, a couple of kids were on the side of the trail waiting for me to run the last little bit in.  I headed down to the finish and finally did it, after 6 tries, finishing in 14:47 for the course record (sorry Leigh)!

(Personal congrats from the RD, Julia)
Brian got a bit of press for his race, you can read about it on:
And you can hear Brian talking about it on:
Or see a quick video on:

Monday, July 21, 2014

Vermont 100 News

Both Brian and I completed our 6th consecutive running of the Vermont 100 Mile this past weekend.  We'll post our race reports soon, however it would be foolish to not acknowledge a few exciting pieces of news...

First, Brian had an amazing day, winning the race for the 2nd time.  Last time he won, he finished a minute behind the course record...and he wasn't going to miss it again.  This time, he lowered the course record by 6 minutes, to finish in 14:47! 

(The lone result of Brian on the finish report - note the photo was taken in the daylight!)
Secondly, the amazing RD for the last 6 years (every edition we have run!) is the super enthusiastic Julia (Hutchinson) O'Brien.  She's stepping down after this year, and I will be taking on the role of Race Director.  Those are some big shoes to fill!  I am pleased that the running community seemed very supportive of me over the weekend, and fortunately the race committee is amazing!  (And, as the new RD, I'll encourage anyone who was at VT100 to fill out the post-race survey, and feel free to contact me with any suggestions for the future.)

(Running my last VT100 for a while, but proudly wearing the 'future RD' bib)
Race reports to follow!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

4th of July Fun!

This past weekend, as our last Vermont 100 mile tune-up, Brian and I jumped into the Independence Day Star Spangled Trail Marathon at the Paul Smiths VIC in NY.  I wasn't sure what to expect - in terms of competition, terrain on the course, or anticipated race time - however, for both of us our goal was just aiming for one last solid effort in the training cycle. 

The field was small, with a mix of competitive and ability levels - so I ran the race mostly alone.  I saw a few guys in the second half, as they faded, but otherwise it was me versus my head.  The course was awesome - two laps around a circuit of the VIC trails, which included everything from groomed jeep trails, unmaintained xc ski trails, tight single track, and off camber (wonky!) hiking trails.  I had so much fun with the different types of terrain. 

It was a two lap course, and I finished the first lap in 1:58 (with a few wrong turns, but I don't think I lost more than a few minutes).  With the day heating up, I decided I would aim for a 4-hour finish time.  Knowing that I sometimes struggle with the mental aspect of keeping the pressure on while running alone, I hoped this would be a realistic goal.  I popped in my mp3 player and listened to some music as I tried to stay aggressive yet relaxed with my running.  I was pleased to negative split, even with the increasing heat, and finish in 3:48:52 for the race - a course record and good enough for first female and 4th overall!

It was a great confidence boost for my Vermont 100 build-up, to know that I could run a solid time on some mixed (and sometimes technical) terrain.  The biggest victory was to stay mentally strong throughout the miles, even while running solo almost the entire way. 

Not to forget Brian - he also won, finishing in 3:28 and change - and it sounds like he enjoyed the mixed terrain and laidback atmosphere as much as I did!

Of course, the best result of the day was my nephew, Calvin (age 5), who ran the kid's race and had a blast!  He was also super helpful with helping me refill my water bottle as I lapped through! 

(Myself, my sister Jenny, and Calvin, with Desi Davila at the Boston Marathon Expo)