Posts Tagged ‘Green Mountains’

500 miles.  Willy Syndram became the first person ever to complete the 500 mile distance at the McNaughton Trail Ultramarathon in Pittsfield, VT last weekend.  Simply amazing.  A huge thanks to him for letting me share his race report here.  He puts the “Adventure” in Adventure Foot in a huge way.

Willy hangs out by his set of destroyed trail running shoes after the 500 Mile Race. He has *very* Adventurous Feet!

 Poor Decisions Make for Better Stories

 What was I thinking, did I actually pay a complete stranger to run a 500 mile foot race?  What was I thinking !!

About a year ago I stumbled on to Peak Racing’s website and it was all down hill from there !! At the time it seemed like a good idea so I started making plans to visit the booming metropolis of Pittsfield Vermont. Next thing I knew I was at the General Store eating breakfast and wondering what I had gotten myself into !!

Andy met us (Joel, Michelle, Mark, and 1 more who’s name I can’t remember) at about 5:30 Thursday afternoon at the barn. He explained to us that the course was very runnable and that he was going to do everything he could to ensure that all of us finished the race. Having never met Andy before this set me at ease, but I would soon come to know the real Andy !! At 6pm the race officially started and we headed out into the wilds of Amee Farms and the Green Mountains with smiles on our faces, laughter in our voices, and illusions of grandeur in our thoughts.

Everyone’s favorite bridge.

Our first obstacle was to cross the river on a bridge made by the great and powerful Pete. It consisted of steel I-beams, 2X4’s, 2X10’s, various other sizes of lumber, a couple chunks of firewood, straps of all kinds to hold it all together, and 300 pounds of rocks to keep it from floating away. I found myself questioning the bridges integrity, but as the days and nights wore on I came to realize it was indeed a sound and sturdy bridge worthy of a 500 mile race, a bridge that the Gods themselves would have been honored to use !! Climbing up the river bank from the bridge was evil and just plain mean, but I would soon realize that it was just par for the course.

After crossing the river and crawling up the river bank we were greeted with a fairly wide trail not too steep complete with switchbacks. However the switchbacks soon ended and were replaced by steep uphills dotted with perfectly placed briars and pink ribbons. After one obscenely steep climb we were greeted with our first section of trail where the trail had yet to be built. Matt worked tirelessly for the first 6 days to get the trail cut in for the 200 mile start, but us 500 milers got to experience the joy of running/walking this trailless section of the trail. Soon after this we were greeted by the top of the mountain, the cabin, and Andy’s smiling face.

A short downhill followed by a gentle up hill climb lead us into the Labrynth. Beautiful and welcoming in the daylight, treacherous and forboding after dark !! After passing through the Labrynth 5 miles of nicely switched downhill trails were all that stood between us and the barn. The only problem wasnicely switched trails were still Peak Races McNaughton style trails, so they were still wicked tough !! Rough and rocky with more stream crossings than I could count, and just for fun a short but steep, straight down off the side of the mountain bushwack through more briars. We next followed an old road bed that lead us across several more streams, downed trees, and washed out areas. Finally we ended up at the river and a mile bushwack the get back to the bridge.

Willy, Andy and Phil post race.

Once back at the barn my mind was trying to crunch the numbers, my first lap took roughly 3+ hours on fresh legs. So I soon would be doing 4 hour loops …. 50 miles a day equals 5 loops at 4 hours each for a total of 20 hours, leaving me 4 hours each day to eat and sleep for 10 straight days !! 1 loop in and I was already mentally crushed, was this even possible, how could I hold it together for 10 days ?? So in true DUMASS  runner fashion I stopped thinking and headed out into the darkness for my 2nd loop with a smile on my face and a pop tart in my hand.

During my journey I formed many new friendships and bonds with complete strangers. I learned potatoes with bacon in a red plastic cup can only stay in the microwave for 1 minute and 20 seconds, any longer and the cup will melt or the potatoes will explode when you stir them. I made friends with the 3 resident rhinos that live in the Green Mountains, broke a hiking pole, saw a moose, hid from other runners for a day because I had nothing else to do, messed with Mark’s mind as often as I could (sorry Mark :-)), ate 20 chicken nuggets in under 10 minutes, stared at the moon, fell in the river, laughed and cried, ate my fill of sausage gravy for breakfast, payed the price for eating my fill of sausage gravy for breakfast, got lost in the Labrynth, got in a fight with a plastic bag, listened to the coyotes sing every night, played in the rain, cursed the rain, chased a turkey up a hill, got to take a shower after the great and amazing Mo, was able to share my experience with Phil (crew/pacer extraordinaire), and I smiled and laughed more times than I can count !!

A truly remarkable experience that ended with me sitting alone in the dark on a piece firewood with tears in my eyes.

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Hey Adventure Foot readers!  Oh, how I wish there were more hours in the day.   I’ve got tons to blog about, but as it turns out, I’ve had my Adventure Foot out the door so much lately that I’ve been having trouble finding the time to write.  Expect several really cool blogs soon including one about bee keeping and backyard chickens, as well as a review of the Peoria River Trail of Illinois (a multi-use recreational trail) that I cycled last weekend.  Those blogs are going to have to wait though, as I’m preparing to leave for one of my biggest adventures to date: the McNaughton Trail Ultra Marathon.

If you haven’t read about friend, Ultra-Runner, and Adventure Foot Contributor Jared Busen here on my blog, you’ve got a little catching up to do, my friends.

Now I don’t usually get bossy with my readers (because I appreciate that you’re reading…) but I’m serious you guys- click this link and read my first article about Jared from last yearI get a report on how many people click links…and I’m going to be sad-faced if you don’t click over and check the article out.  Also, read his race report from his 150 mile at McNaughton from 2011 by clicking here.  You read those and then come back, okay?

I’ll wait…

Okay- all done? Jared’s awesome.  Am I right?  This guy has run (and won) some of the longest, hardest races that my newbie running mind can even comprehend.  And he’s done it all with class, humility and an infectious attitude about running that makes those around him reach for new heights.

Case in point: when I wrote that article that you just read (I’m giving you one more chance to click here and read it…) I had only run a couple of 5Ks.  I had just signed up for a 10K and was nervous about finishing that distance.  I’m now the proud owner of 2 half marathon finisher medals.  Much of my confidence to take on longer races can be credited to Jared and his enthusiasm for distance running.  In one of our first conversations about running, he explained running Ultra Marathons to me in this way:

“It’s about continual forward progress. It’s about not quitting. It’s hard for me too — really hard. You’re going to hit walls and want to stop no matter what distances you’re training for.  For running you have to be adaptable and know how to overcome.”

I’ve taken the mantra of “continual forward progress” into every training run and every race I’ve run since that day. I’m a slow runner, and always being at the back of a pack can be really discouraging.  What Jared helped me to see is that it’s really not all about speed.  Whether it’s me running a half marathon or him running hundreds of miles, it’s about seeing personal improvement all the time and working hard towards a big goal.  And Jared’s goals are big.  Really big.

His goal this weekend? Running two-hundred miles in Vermont’s Green Mountains.

This is Jared’s second outing at McNaughton.  Last year, he won the 150 mile race with a time of just over 50 hours.   This year, he’s been training with two of the best Ultra Runners in the world- Shaun Brassfield-Thorpe and William Sichel– and he’s coming into the 200 mile race smarter, stronger and faster than before.  He’s worked incredibly hard, and I know that he’s going to run a great race.  And in his corner is a small but dedicated crew- which includes yours truly!

Map of the routes for McNaughton 2012

That’s right- I’m headed out to Vermont to help Jared reach this monumental goal.  I’ll be on the “day crew” helping to provide nutrition, hydration, gear and support for his race from 6am-6pm.  And at night Jared will still be running, the night crew will take over support, and me?  Oh… I’ll be doing something just plain crazy:  running 30 miles myself.

“Whhhhhaaattt?” you say?  “Has she lost her mind!?   I thought the most she ever had run was 13.1 miles!!?”

Yeah, that is the furthest I’ve run and yeah, I am a little crazy.

During the 55-ish hours that Jared will be running, I’ll be completing 3 laps of the 10 mile course and hopefully earning an Ultra Marathon finish.  I’ll basically be doing 10 miles a day for 3 days in a row.  I’ve been training hills, trying to learn to love them, and putting the miles on the Mizzunos, but I’ve got no idea if I’m ready for this.  30 miles, even over 3 days, is easily one of the toughest goals I’ve ever put in front of myself.  I’m both intimidated and emboldened by the challenge, and am truly looking forward to the experience.

Jeff Spencer will be accompanying me to Vermont and will pace Jared for 50 miles of this race.  Jeff is a solid runner with many races under his belt and will help keep Jared going when the going gets tough.   It’s going to be a big challenge for Jeff too though, and I know that we are both trying to get our game-faces on for McNaughton.

The race director for this Ultra is Andy Weinberg, who is the mastermind behind some of the toughest races in the world.  How tough did he make McNaughton?  Well, each 10 mile loop of the course will have a gain and loss of 2400 vertical feet.  That means in my 30 miles, I’ll have +7,200 feet, in 50 miles Jeff will have +12,000 feet  and Jared will have +48,000 feet of gain and loss.  Need that in perspective? Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, is 29,029 feet tall.  Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa is about 19,000 feet tall.  So yeah, he’ll basically be climbing them both- stacked on top of each other.

Profile of one 10-mile lap at McNaughton

Lest you think Jared is the craziest runner out there, I might also mention that 5 people are already on the course right now attempting to complete 500 miles.  In 500 miles, they’ll be climbing 120,000 vertical feet- that’s Everest + McKinley + Kilimanjaro+ Kosciuszko+ Carstensz Pyramid+ Elbrus.  Those are 6 of the “7 Summits,” or the highest mountain peaks on each continent.  The time limit for these athletes to complete 500 miles and that huge amount of climb is 240 hours (10 days).  In the history of the course, no one has ever completed the 500 miles in the time allowed (Which in previous years has been 9 days. A 10th was added this year for the first time.)  I think this year will be the year for a finisher.

So there you go.  I leave for Vermont tomorrow and I can’t wait to tell you all how it goes.  If you’re a Twitter user- please follow Jared’s Twitter feed throughout the race @runhappens    I also am planning to try to “live blog” from my iPhone while I’m crewing.  I don’t know how to do that, but I did download the app, so I shall give it the old college try.  To follow live blog, I guess just check back here often!  Or follow Adventure Foot on Facebook.  For more on Peak Races including McNaughton, The Death Race, and Warman Cycling Event, click here! 

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