Once I made the final decision Monday night to run the Vermont
100-miler this weekend I was relieved knowing that I wouldn't have to deal with 25
more miles of rocks on the AT today!
Vintage train station in Port Clinton, PA
Taftsville covered bridge on VT100 course
Is that sick or what? I'd rather spend 29 or 30 hours running and walking 100
miles in a race than spend nine hours dealing with rocks each of the next two
days! (The original plan called for driving to Vermont on Thursday, not
Our mapping software indicated the drive to our campground near Quechee, VT
would take about 7½ hours from Port Clinton. PA. We thought we'd spend the
morning running some errands, then hitch up the camper and drive about half way
in the afternoon.
Jim had found a Cabela's nearby on Monday. I love their huge sporting goods
stores and needed to find some new shoe inserts, so we went there first on
Tuesday morning. We don't hunt but we enjoy looking at the dozens of stuffed
critters these stores have on display - deer, bears, exotic species we've never
heard of, even a moose.
I found some Spenco inserts made for heavy-duty hiking that I hope will work
OK for me on the Trail once my custom orthotics totally self-destruct. They are
breaking down fast and may well be causing some of the knee problems I've been
having recently. The rocks on the AT certainly sped up their demise (orthotics
AND knees!). I may have new orthotics cast when I return to Roanoke at the end
of the adventure run; it's too late to get them now. I'll use the old orthotics
in the VT100.
We also ordered some parts we need for the camper from an RV dealer (since
we'll return to Port Clinton next week), looked in the Appalachian Outfitters
store a block off the AT in town (15 % discount to thru-hikers), and visited the
headquarters of the Reading Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad.
These are the train tracks I crossed Monday when I came down the steep hill
into Port Clinton. The small company serves nine counties in eastern
Pennsylvania (freight line, not passengers). Although they built their
headquarters in the 1990s, they designed the "depot" (corporate offices), train
shed, and other buildings to look like an old-fashioned passenger train station
from the 1800s. There are vintage signs, street lights, and other memorabilia
from that era. Train buffs would enjoy visiting the park-like setting.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
After an early lunch on Tuesday we hitched up the camper and headed north. There
weren't any campgrounds handy half way to Vermont so we kept on going to our
destination between White River Junction and Quechee Gorge, Pine Valley RV
Resorts. This is a very nice campground with reasonable prices (especially with
a Good Sam discount or weekly rate) for all the amenities it offers.
Although we arrived two days before our reservation was booked we got the
same beautiful campsite we were assigned for the weekend. It's great - lots of
space on either side, shady pine and deciduous trees, nice grass, and a
beautiful woods adjacent to our site (photo below) where the dogs can run. We'll enjoy a week
here! We'll stay here again in a few weeks when I get to this section of the AT
(it's just north of here).
CHILLIN' IN VERMONT
This is a wonderful area of the country for a family vacation. There are so
many things to do here in the summer and fall, from driving around looking at
the lovely farms and covered bridges to shopping to historical sites to visiting
maple sugar operations. I've been here three times now for this race during
July, but not in autumn. I think it'd be gorgeous then for a race or vacation.
And there's skiing at Killington and other resorts in the winter . . .
On Wednesday Jim and I relaxed, did some shopping, and worked on our pace
charts and drop bag lists for the race. The temps are cooler than in
Pennsylvania and there was a nice breeze all day. Hope the weather on Saturday
and Sunday is this nice during the race.
Jim likes to try local micro brews. He found some "Blackbeary"
(blackberry-flavored) wheat beer made by the Long Trail Brewing Company of
Vermont. The Long Trail is a very popular trail for back-packers. Some folks use
it to "train" before thru-hiking a longer trail like the AT. The AT shares about
105 miles with the Long Trail in Vermont before branching off to the east near
HITTIN' THE A.T. IN VERMONT
I almost did twelve miles on the Appalachian Trail up here on Wednesday, then
thought better of it. I'm supposed to be resting for the race, after all. Jim
was getting cabin fever Thursday, however, so we decided to walk just a little
bit of the Trail on VT 12 north of Woodstock. It was easier to find parts of
the VT100 course with its course markers - yellow pie plates with arrows -
already in place.
When we finally found the AT road crossing we scrunched our truck into a
teensy parking lot and took the dogs for a brief walk. The direction we chose
was seriously uphill through fields that were hot in the noon-time sun.
There was a wooden bridge across a creek right next to the parking lot. A
family with several young children was petting a herd of dairy cows on the far
end of the bridge. Tater and Cody were less curious about the cows than the cows
were curious about the dogs! These were very friendly cows, below:
You can see the white AT blaze on the tree near the family. I
can say I've done part of the AT in Vermont but since it was only a short
out-and-back, I'll be doing it again!
On Thursday we did some driving around to find the horse farm
(Silver Hill) where the race begins. It's a couple miles from Smoke Rise, where
the race used to be headquartered when I've done it previously (1998, 2000).
There was a huge tent set up and parking signs directing vehicles, RVs, and
Yes, this is also an endurance horse race! In 1998 there were
concurrent 50- and 100-mile horse races while the runners did 100 miles. Much of
the course was the same. In 2000 the horse races were scheduled a different
weekend, and I really missed them. They can be a bit of a hazard to the runners
(I almost got my foot stepped on in a narrow trench of a trail when a horse
passed me), but they are a wonderful distraction, too. I'm glad they'll be
running with us again this year.
We saw several parts of the race course as we were driving
around the area. About 70 miles are on dirt roads, a couple miles on pavement,
and the rest on trails. We run through two bridges, Taftsville and Lincoln (?).
Although Jim paced me the last 32 miles in 2000, he didn't get to run through
the bridges, so we visited the Taftsville bridge (photo above) after checking
out the race start/finish area.
I'm more psyched up about running the race after getting up here
and seeing parts of the course again. I just love this area!
We also went back to Sugarbush Farm, just off the race course,
famous for its delicious pure maple syrup (they tapped about 5,000 of their
trees in 2004) and waxed bars of cheese. We've shopped there previously and
loved their products, so we stocked up on some more. Yum! If you want to check
out their products, their website is
Since we've spent a bunch of time this week working on pace charts and drop
bags, let me describe the process to those readers who aren't familiar with
Most ultra races allow runners to have supplies of their own at certain aid
stations. Some runners don't use them, especially if they have a crew. Jim and I
use drop bags even if one of us is crewing the other, because "stuff happens."
The crew person can miss the runner for any number of reasons, including a flat
tire or other emergency, getting lost, runner going faster than expected, and so
on. Even if something happens to the crew person, the runner still has drop bags
The Vermont 100 website has two different pages with discrepancies of drop
bag sites so we won't be able to finalize our drop bags until after getting the
official race information Friday morning. Usually we know exactly where the
drops are allowed well before race day.
Jim and I probably spend more time determining
where to put drop bags and what to put in each than we do actually
the items we put in our boxes.
The first step is making a laminated pace chart with drop bag locations, our
expected times for selected aid stations, and official cut-off times at certain
aid stations. We each carry one of these small charts with us in the race so
we'll know how we're doing at any given point.
Then we have to figure out where we want drop bags so we can re-supply
regularly with Hammergel, energy drink powders, and electrolyte caps; leave or
pick up warm clothes and lights; have clean socks and another pair of shoes;
This is more of a problem for us than usual since our training hasn't been
the best for this race and we don't have a clear idea what our paces will be. We're both
assuming we'll be close to the cut-offs and just want to beat the 30-hour time
limit this year (I finished in 28:35 here five years ago; Jim hasn't run it, but
would probably finish in 23-24 hours with decent training).
We use clear plastic storage boxes with lids secured by bungee cords. Since
the boxes are rigid, items inside don't get banged up from handling in transit
and at aid stations and it's easier to find what we need inside than with a
canvas duffel bag
that zips closed. The plastic boxes also keep things dry if it rains. We see more and more
plastic boxes being used in races now.
We did the hard work Wednesday: getting our lists ready. Thursday we packed the
boxes with the things that can go into them early; Friday we'll take them to race HQ and add them to the piles of other
runners' drop bags. It's an act of faith, I suppose, but we've never had
problems in any race with our drop bags/boxes not making it to the right aid
LIGHT THE NIGHT
We used our lights
at night to finalize our decision re: which ones to use at the start and during
the night, and Jim tested all the batteries to make sure we have enough fresh
ones for the lights and for spares.
Since it will get light so soon after the 4 AM start we'll use little Photon
LED micro-lights at the beginning of the race and keep them as our emergency
(back-up) lights during the night. I did this here in 2000 and it worked fine.
At night we're both using Streamlight 7-LED hand-held lights. I have
difficulty seeing at night so I'm also using a Photon Fusion 6-LED headlamp that
I wear around my waist (bounces less that way and I don't get "tunnel vision").
We will carry four spare AA batteries in case one of our lights goes out. We
also put spare lights in our night drop boxes because you never know what might
happen out there. We've got a pile of lights after doing hundred-milers for
seven years so we may as well use them.
Folks put so much time and energy and money into running these races that it's
important to cover the "little stuff" like lights and foot care. If your light
goes out and you aren't prepared with a back-up, or if you get a hot spot and
let it develop into a blister, your race can come to a screeching halt. Gotta be
I won't be writing another entry until Monday or Tuesday. I'll include the
pre-race activities on Friday and the race on Saturday and Sunday. Some
races have live web casts that allow viewers to check up on runners' progress,
but I don't think the Vermont site does. If you'd like to see the site, go to
Hope I'll have good news to report next time. Keep your fingers crossed!