|The predictably spectacular summer sunset over Silver Meadow in Brownsville, VT|
- 3:45 am - wake up to catch the start before going back to sleep
- 5:40 am - wake up again to set out to volunteer at the Pretty House aid station
- 9:00 am - leave Woodstock, VT for Greenfield, NH to see my two younger kids get out of sleepaway camp; in proud New England tradition, it was a case of "you cahn't get the-ah, from hee-ah"
- 1:30 pm - back to Silver Meadow
- 2:00 pm - get to Camp 10 Bear (aka, Mile 70) and wait for Kelly
- 4:30-5:00-ish pm - expect Kelly and settle in for 30 lovely miles in the woods and on country roads
We headed out of 10 Bear, only to confront one of the toughest segments of the course. Kelly ran what she could and we power-hiked the rest. Once we reached rolling dirt roads and single-track downhills, Kelly got down to business. She was moving well, with no significant ill-effects from her earlier spill, blisters or the shear wear-&-tear of this massive undertaking. We got in and out of Seabrook and The Spirit of 76 (a.k.a., West Winds, at Mile 77) smoothly, with the Genes providing fantastic, efficient support. Kelly drank, ate and otherwise seemed to be holding up admirably. The sun was setting, and the conditions were lovely as the temperature dropped.
Things took a turn at around Mile 80, though, when the course cruelly brings the runners within mere yards of Silver Meadow, with an all-too-appealing view of the campgrounds, and the cozy sanctity of sleeping pads and bags just waiting for someone to use them. Kelly got a bit cranky at this point, and we agreed that she needed food (STAT!). She moved well enough as we approached the Cow Shed aid station, but she just couldn't take in anywhere near enough calories. Kelly's stomach simply wouldn't settle down, and it was tough to watch helplessly as the wind leeched from her sails. After an unsuccessful bathroom break, we made Bill's Ban into the goal. There, we'd see the Genes, and Kelly would eat, ditch her hydration backpack and - hopefully - get a second (or sixteenth) wind.
It was, however, not to be.
Kelly arrived in the throes of abject exhaustion, still unable to get any substantial food into her system. The medical volunteers flagged her immediately, and Gene the Younger and I quietly debated whether to push Kelly to get back out on the course. Kelly complained about feeling hot, but her skin was cool to the touch. The volunteers explained that this was a common sign of exhaustion. In the end, reality became undeceiveable, even though Kelly might have been able to walk the last ~12 miles in 5 or so hours. That was not what she had come to do on this particular day. So, while Kelly battled nausea and acute fatigue (she was literally falling asleep in a chair), and the clock hit 10:00 pm, the head medical volunteer (a very, very nice doctor) "made the call". Kelly had to accept the dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish) and we promptly evacuated her back to the safety and comfort of her tent. She'd run almost 89 miles, but these events are not evaluated on a grading scale. They are pass/fail, with a single criterion determining whether the day was a good one, or not.
Upon getting Kelly into her tent, I grabbed my cooler full of tasty beer and a folding chair and headed to the finish area. It was just past 11:00 pm, and I decided to wait for Nate to finish. I found Charlie Z., a wonderful 60-something with whom I'd had a completely delightful time chatting last year. Turns out that he paced Victoria Arnstein to the overall female victory in the 100K race. Victoria is the wife of 2011 VT-100 winner Michael Arnstein, who put in a mere mortal performance this year (finishing a bit under 19 hours), just a couple of days after finishing the torturous Badwater Ultramarathon (135 miles in Death Valley). An accomplished ultrarunner by the name of Dave James (who paced winner Brian Rusiecki to within 50 secnds of a course record) also joined us, and - despite the unabashed display of elite athlete ego and bravado (I heard A LOT about big victories, course records, national titles and how some other runners are poseurs), along with the Arnsteins bantery marital bickering - it was an entertaining way to pass the time as finishers came in. It was especially amusing to tease Michael about how it was a good thing that Victoria performed well, lest the Arnstein family leave Vermont without a victory this year. He didn't seem to find that as funny as the rest of us did.
Finally, as the race clock approached 22 hours, I saw Joe H. come in with his pacer. I congratulated him and asked about Nate. Joe told me that he'd dropped at Mile 70 due to a lingering PF/ankle issue. That was all I needed to hear to empower me to call it a day, and I got to sleep at around 2:30 am, wondering about those intrepid souls who would be making their way through the dark for many more hours. I slept pretty well.
The awards and lunch on Sunday were a tad chaotic, and Kelly was beleaguered by post-DNF remorse. I tried to console her by pointing out that if she HAD walked to a 23-hour finish, she'd be similarly disappointed in herself. And, so - on a gorgeous sunny summer Sunday - it came time to break camp and wrap up another Vermont 100. On the heels of Western States, though, my mind wandered into previously unexplored territory: I actually started thinking about how I'd approach running the Vermont 100 in 2013 . . . . Meredith called the idea "stupid". The fact that she's undoubtedly right is not impacting my decision.