Friday, July 22, 2016

My Race Report for the Vermont 100 Endurance Race 2016

So I did it again, I ran the Vermont 100 Endurance Run, but this year was nothing like last years race, somehow it was even harder.

But let me start the story at the beginning...

In April I ran a training race after several months of training for this years Vermont 100, it was the NJ Ultrafest on Saturday, April 2nd a day that would end up affecting the trajectory of the rest of my training and ultimately the race I had in Vermont in mid-July.

NJ ultrafest, ultramarathon, ultrarunning, run, running, NJ trail series
Greetings from NJ Ultrafest
What happened?  Well after a long hiatus from ultraracing I was very excited to run this race and about a mile into the race I sprained my ankle harder than I ever had in my life.  It hurt like hell and I could not walk normally for the rest of the day, so what do I do, I run the additional 30 miles on it so that I don't get a DNF (did not finish).  Duh!  It felt good to power through and finish the race, but it was not too smart now that I look back on it.  Actually everybody thought it was dumb but me and honestly I don't regret it for one minute which maybe just shows how crazy I am.

NJ ultrafest, ultramarathon, ultrarunning, run, running, NJ trail series
NJ ultrafest, ultramarathon, ultrarunning, run, running, NJ trail series, Trail Whippass
Met some fellow Trail Whippass before the race

This race was followed by a confusing couple of months for training and resting and getting work done at my massage therapist (Jim Puder, the best damn massage therapist out there), who did some absolutely miracle work on me.  He had me standing on my tip toes two days after the injury which still to this point is almost inconceivable.

The biggest part of all this for me is constantly being surprised at what the human body can do and how it reacts to different stimuli.

So next was the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler at Bear Mountain State Park, NY on April 30th.

I went into this race feeling like I had recovered from the ankle sprain, trained enough and eager to see if I could beat my previous time on the course.  Boy was I wrong about almost all of these things.

North Face Endurance Challenge, ultramarathon, ultrarunning, run, running, Bear Mountain, rattlesnake
The giant rattlesnake I saw towards the end.

I ended up running well for the first half as I remember it, but then getting ITB (knee pain) in my right knee and running in real pain to finish this race.  Apparently, I was running funny trying to favor my left ankle thus causing the right knee to start hurting.  But again, I finished the race.  I did not run faster than the previous year, but honestly I was happy to just finish the damn thing.

It is a beautiful race and I just love it, but it is a tough race that just chews you up and makes your pay for every mile you take.

North Face Endurance Challenge, ultramarathon, ultrarunning, run, running, Bear Mountain

North Face Endurance Challenge, ultramarathon, ultrarunning, run, running, Bear Mountain
One of my favorite finish photo ever!

 So now things looked like they were getting worse, multiplying, one injury leading to another.  So I figured it was time to bring in an expert to help me sort this out and get fixed up before my second attempt at the Vermont 100.  So I went to Finishline Physical therapy and worked with a PT there that was very versed in running who help me get the flexibility, strength and proprioception back in my left ankle so that I could run without pain and continue training for Vermont.  So every week I went to see Jason and every day I did my PT stretches and strength exercises as well as running 5 days a week and hitting the gym for strength training 2 of those days.

Finishline Physical Therapy, NormaTec, recovery boots
These are my new best friends

After 2 1/2 months of this I was trained up and ready to run Vermont.  Again my A goal was to finish the race in under 24 hrs with my B goal being to finish.

Vermont 100, ultramarathon, ultrarunning, run, running, hundo, 100 miler
All the gear I took with me.

The day started off strong and I ran the first 30 miles in 6 hours, on track for my sub-24hr goal and even made it through mile 50 in 12 hrs.  Mostly these miles were run pain free though I did have to change out of the Altra Lone Peaks 2.5  I started in because my Achilles tendons were hurting at mile 30 (I do not thing I was fully transitioned to running in zero drop shoes.) (nerd alert).  But other than that I felt like the ankle was behaving and everything else felt normal.

Vermont 100, ultramarathon, ultrarunning, run, running, hundo, 100 miler
Between seeing my crew at mile 58.5 and mile 69.4 things took a turn for the worse, my left knee started hurting, my right knee started hurting too, but less so ITB (knee) pain, I started getting tired and I must have been low on calories (otherwise put I had not been eating enough) because my mood tanked.  During this time period I cursed myself for signing up for this race vowing never to run another 100 mile race, then as I ran I took the vow further deciding never to run another ultra, and by the time I saw my crew at the mile 70 aid station I had decided I would never run again after this damn race!

At the mile 70 aid station, I got to see my crew again, I ran into a new friend whose name escapes me at this point that is a massage therapist, a good friend to have during a 100 mile race!  I cried to him about my knees and he fixed me up something good.  Working on both of my quads and IT bands and had me feeling much better.

Vermont 100, ultramarathon, ultrarunning, run, running, hundo, 100 miler

So I left that aid station (mile 70) with my pacer Maria Campos feeling much better about life and ready to bang out the next 30 miles of this race come hell or high water, and that is pretty much what it took.

We starting off alternating between running and hiking and making decent time, catching up on life, laughing about my decision to never run again and talking about how are lives have been going over last year since we spent a full night running the same course a year prior.

Starting off this section it seemed like I was going to be able to run/walk it in, but within the first 10 miles we realized I could not run even a step without my right knee hurting, so Maria, thinking much more clearly at this point, decided we should just hike the rest of the distance (22 miles) so that I don't risk the knee injury getting worse and causing me not to be able to finish.  So that's what we did and let me tell you this was not an exciting prospect at the time.  I remember some very quite miles after this decision was made, another mental low point for me.  I just kept thinking how awful it sounded to have to walk up and down mountains for the next 7/8 hrs in the middle of the night to finish this damn race.

At one point Maria made me some makeshift trekking poles to take some of the weight off my knees so literally every step I was planting those poles and trying to take the weight off my knees to ease my pain.  Walking down hill was the worse, I was trying everything, going down sideways to the left, sideways to the right, backwards seem to be the best, with Maria holding my arm so I didn't trip over anything behind/in front of me.

Vermont 100, ultramarathon, ultrarunning, run, running, hundo, 100 miler

Maria knew I was in a salty mood and didn't want to make it worse so she did not risk really saying anything just to be safe.  It makes me laugh now and we laughed about it after the race was over, but at the time it was absolute misery.

And as if things couldn't get worse it started pouring rain, you know like one of those summer storms.  It was so intense I was sure it wouldn't last long, boy was I wrong.  the intense rain lasted for like 2 hours, Maria and I were soaked to the bone and my teeth were starting to chatter.  But instead of making things worse, it actually made me feel better, I mean it was at the point of complete absurdity at this point I just had to laugh.  We both did and started talking again.

Luckily we both had a full change of clothes waiting for us with Miraim Weiskind (my absolutely amazing pacer who drove around all day and night meeting me at aid stations and give me food and whatever else I needed).  So we met Miriam at the mile 88 aid station Bill's barn and changed our clothes, ate a little aid station food (bananas, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, coffee) and put on trash bags over our new dry clothes and raincoats in hopes of avoiding hypothermia in the next 12 miles.

It pretty much rained all the way until about an hour before I finished, but dressed in my fancy trash bag poncho I was warm and relatively dry.

Vermont 100, ultramarathon, ultrarunning, run, running, hundo, 100 miler
I love this damn sign

My mood was up and down for the last 12 miles which took about 4 hours to complete.  I remember walking every step with more and more knee pain as the night went on.  What I went through was absolutely ridiculous looking back on it, but I was determined to finish and this it what it took to get it done.

Vermont 100, ultramarathon, ultrarunning, run, running, hundo, 100 miler
Finally done

So in the end I was able to finish in 29:36:30, 249th place out of 256 finishers, terrible results no matter how you slice it, but honestly I have never been prouder of finishing anything in my life.  The amount of grit it took to finish this thing before the 30 hour cut off with all the things that came up challenged me in a way life seldom does.

Honestly, I would have loved to finish this race in under 24 hours and tell you all about how my all my training and hard work paid off in the end, but that is not the story of this race.

The story of this race is how I fought long and hard and didn't give up no matter what, a lesson I will hopefully take into the rest of my life...

Vermont 100, ultramarathon, ultrarunning, run, running, hundo, 100 miler
This says it all


  1. Great read. Congrats on your finish!

  2. Way to go Rudy! Whe you curse say you can't and then get help and you do... Crazy...

  3. awesome write up and you really make a trash bag look good!

  4. WOW Rudy - Amazing resilience - You FINISHED!!! SUPER FAB!