Given the number of VHTRC’ers who have run the Vermont 100 Miler, there is surprisingly little information available about what to expect on this course through the Green Mountains. To hopefully better prepare others who travel to the Smoke Rise Farm for this run, I’ve prepared a short list of what runners need to know.
1. Meet Kerry Owens ahead of time.
For those who do not know Kerry, she operates a home in Washington for wayward runners. During the Vermont 100, she establishes a satellite facility outside of Woodstock. This is a great deal. Kerry’s condo has hot showers, which after running 100 miles is much more appealing than the single ice cold shower available at the Smoke Rise Farm. Kerry also makes coffee in the morning.
Best of all, you really don’t need to do much to get an invite to the Kerry commune. She actually will round up runners and pacers to fill up the facility. Besides myself, guests at the Kerry commune this year included Mike Bur, Sue Johnson, Quatro Hubbard, Billy Lese, and Meggie Havemann, who paced me the last 30 miles.
Of course, you get what you pay for. Quatro was the last to arrive and he had to sleep in the coat closest.
2. Never give car keys to Kerry Owens.
While Kerry is great at operating a home for wayward runners, she would never excel at managing a car rental operation. Kerry decided she needed to wait at the Smoke Rise Farm for Billy to finish because she was using his rental car. This was a noble deed. She could have just stranded him at the barn. Yet it was also a wasted deed because she actually did not have his keys. They ended up in a bag that went back to the condo without her.
Of course no one knew that. Billy made a valiant attempt, but dropped around mile 81 and got a ride back to Kerry’s commune. Sue, Mike and I were a bit shocked when a race official opens the door and pushes Billy into the room without Kerry being with him. We sent the race official back to tell Kerry that Billy was at the commune. Unfortunately, we did not realize we had the keys or we could have given them to the race official.
To get back to the condo, Kerry had to convince Quatro to drive her. Sources indicated that Quatro – who had just completed his first 100 miler -- stayed in second gear for the entire trip. Kerry rewarded him by letting him sleep in the closest. (see above)
3. Bring beer to Camp Ten Bear aid station (Mile 44/68)
As some may know, Jeff Reed did not complete the Vermont 100 this year. Yet he may have been the most prepared runner there. Apparently in his drop bag at this major aid station – think Gap Creek at MMT – Reed stashed a cooler with some beer. So when he messed up his knee early on, he was able to mitigate some of his disappointment by draining a cold brew.
4. Understand ahead of time what constitutes a dirt road.
I confess to being a suburbanite. I’ve never driven to my house on a dirt road. So I did not realize that there are dirt roads and then there are dirt roads. I envisioned this run on dirt roads similar to what Horton uses at MMTR or the Old Rag Fire Road. That is not what you get at Vermont. These are the equivalent of suburban streets. People use them to get from their house to the grocery store. While not paved, they are sufficient hard packed and maintained so they are nearly as tough on your legs and knees as paved roads.
5. Train on roads.
Because the road surface is so hard, your legs take an enormous beating, even more so than at MMT. Running a spring marathon or two on pavement would be excellent training. Doing all your training on dirt trails would be a bad idea.
6. This is not a mountain run.
While run in Vermont, this is not a mountain run. You are in civilization for most of the course. You run past numerous houses and farms and encounter automobiles and trucks frequently. In fact, you need to realize that these are well-traveled roads and some of the locals seem to get great enjoyment out of barreling toward you at a high rate of speed on a narrow road. They do, however, swerve at the last second.
While people live in these hills, this is not West Virginia. I only saw a few trailers. Most of the houses are gorgeous and probably cost upwards of a million dollars. You also run past numerous horse farms where the horses actually come to the fence to mock you as you go past.
7. This is not a flat run.
One hill is four miles long. Enough said.
8. Never believe a horse person.
Horse people, especially their handlers, have trouble telling the truth. This is especially true when they try to give you information on the location about the next aid station. One particularly tough section of the course is from mile 83 to mile 88. A horse handler tells us our aid station is ``just up ahead.’’ Perhaps for someone riding a horse, two miles straight up hill is ``just up ahead.’’ For us, it was not.
9. Do not expect Mike Bur to pay for tolls.
I gave Mike a ride home. As John Dodd’s predicted, he did not pay for a single toll. He also tried to convince me to buy him a new leather belt for his Vermont buckle. Fortunately, I did not have enough cash for the belt because I had to pay for all the tolls.
10. Never get directions from Kevin Sayers.
I fault myself for this mistake. Kevin told us he knew of a great short cut to get home faster and avoid the weekend beach traffic. It took us 12 hours, at least two hours longer than if we had taken the more direct route and hit beach traffic. At one point traffic on Kevin’s route was so bad that we moved eight miles in one hour. The lesson is never to trust anyone who puts on a race – the Catoctin 50k -- that actually encourages people to get lost.
When I finished the Vermont 100, I decided I did not like the race. What I enjoy most about running ultras is getting away from the traffic and the streets and being in the woods and the mountains.
You don’t get that for much of the Vermont course.
But this is still a beautiful course and in the last 48 hours or so I have reconsidered my opinion on the Vermont 100. I probably would come back and try this event again. This time I would know what to expect.
By Jaret Seiberg
No. 22 of the Acts of 1983, effective April 22, 1983, designated milk as the official State Beverage. In a state where cows once outnumbered people, milk production in the Green Mountain state remains the leading agricultural enterprise, the total value of production having reached $307.9 million in 1980 - four and a half times that of 1950. Although the number of milk cows in Vermont has generally declined in this century, improved breeding and feeding techniques have allowed milk production per cow to more than double in the last thirty years alone, making the 1980s the highest total production years on record, averaging 2.3 billion pounds of milk per year. Besides being highly regarded as a naturally nutritious beverage, the wholesomeness of milk itself reflects some of the appealing qualities of rural life. The rolling pastures of Vermont's dairy farms and hillside fields dotted with cows are sights that delight Vermonters and visitors alike and help sustain the beauty of Vermont's countryside.
from Office of the Secretary of State, Vermont Legislative Directory and State Manual, Biennial Session, 1993-1994, p. 19.
No. 9 of the Acts of 1985, effective March 27, 1985, designated the Tunbridge Soil Series as the official State Soil. The Tunbridge series (course-loamy, mixed, frigid Typic Haplothrod) consists of moderately deep to bedrock, well drained soils. It was selected from among more than 160 different soil series in the state. As it is a typical "hill farm" and "sugarbush" soil, the Tunbridge series well represents the soil resources of Vermont. A soil formed in loamy glacial till, it has good potential for agriculture and forestry. As Professor Richmond Bartlett of UVM says, "It's the soil that makes Vermont hills greener than those either in New Hampshire or New York."
from Office of the Secretary of State, Vermont Legislative Directory and State Manual, Biennial Session, 1993-1994, p. 16.