Labor Day weekend, my family headed up to Jay, VT for the Jay Peak Family Trail Running Festival. It was the first time this event was run, and race organizers Chris and Dave did a fantastic job for a first time! The races were held at the Jay Peak Ski Resort, which was fully operational because there were also weddings running and they have installed a waterslide park. Saturday, there were some short races, and Sunday, a 25K and a 50K.
Saturday’s races had an unusual twist – there were three 5Ks, and anyone that completed all three races got the “Trail Runner With Issues” award. The first race was the “Black Diamond” 5K – apparently more of a power-hike through some single track up the side of the ski slope. The second was the “Blue Diamond” – runnable but hilly, and the third, easiest 5K was the Green Circle. Guess who is a Trail Runner With Issues? My husband, Gabe! At 9.3 miles or so, this is the furthest he’s ever run in one day. Congratulations, Gabe!
|Gabe is in the orange!|
There was also a kids’ race on Saturday. Ingrid and I volunteered to herd kids, and Audrey ran. Initially, I think, the plan had been for all the kids to start together, and for them to run until they reached a sign that had their age on it, and turn around. I was at the 4-6 sign. But I think the idea got scrapped. When the 4-6 year olds hit me, anyway, they were all going strong and I wouldn’t have had the heart to turn them around. I mean, whose kids are these, anyway? I have no idea how far into the woods those children went (maybe 2.62 miles), but they all came out alive and got a super cool finisher’s medal. Instead of a medal, it was a yo yo on the lanyard!
|Audrey's in the orange. GO AUDREY!|
There was also another kids race - a dash with a character called Eddie the Yeti. Chris made it a point to tell the kids that Eddie the Yeti was out of shape.
|Kids racing with Eddie the Yeti|
After the races, we all took the tram to the top. I have to admit, I was getting slightly intimidated about the 50K in the morning. I had heard some low-quality rumor that there was less than 3000 feet of climbing in the race, and I was seriously beginning to doubt that.
|Trammin' it. This is the BEST way to get to the top!|
Chris started us off with a course briefing at 7:30. The 50K was two loops, and the 25K was one loop. Apparently, there had been some changes to the construction situation, which necessitated course redirections. In order to recoup the miles, Chris had added several short out-and-back sections to the course. Also, the aid stations would be moved a bit. Chris also mentioned that there was "no shame" in only completing one loop.... uh..... well, okay, then.
When we lined up at the start, I noticed that some people had “200” on their bibs and others had “300”. I leaned over to Gabe and said, “Do you think that “300” is for the 50K, and “200” is for the 25K?” He agreed, but then told me, “I can almost tell, just by looking, which people are doing the 50K.” I knew what he meant – I was looking around and the people with 300s on them looked like honey badgers. Then I looked down at myself. I'm more like a teddy bear hamster.
Well, the first couple of miles were easy, on some woods roads and single track. I ran happily through the woods with my friends Scott and Frank. They are much faster than me, but I hung with them for a while for the company.
They blew past me as soon as we began a super steep out and back ascent, which, on the back, turned us back towards the bottom of the mountain. Or, at least, I thought it was an out and back ascent. As I neared the end of the out and back, I heard a commotion and saw a bunch of runners thundering up the mountain, led by the race director. Apparently, we weren't supposed to go down - we were supposed to go straight up to the top, but the course was mismarked. I don't think anyone was too upset. After all, we came to climb!
Unfortunately, due to the snafu, I ended up sandwiched by much stronger runners when we headed up to the summit on some single track. The climb was brutal. I was struggling only four miles in. I kept thinking, during the ascent, that there was no way I was going to be able to do this again, but with eighteen miles on my legs. I barely had it in me to do it once. I thought my legs would be shaking, and I'd be puking, if I attempted the second lap.
I decided then and there that I absolutely would not be finishing this race. Nope, nope, nope. I simply wasn't that kind of runner. I would be bagging this race at the 25K mark, certainly.
The views from the summit were incredible! Here you go!
From the summit, we had to descend on a trail called The Vermonter. It wasn't really runnable, and at times, I thought about butt-sliding down the slope. From there, we went to the second summit, and then turned around and went almost all the way back up to the tram stop.
|Wishing I was riding the tram!|
Near the end of the first loop, I ended up running a few with Shari Bashaw, who had taken second place in Western States and the Vermont 100 in the late 90s. Wow! I also realized that even though I had intended to DNF after loop 1, I was feeling great and was absolutely not in the mood to end my day. I figured I'd at least try to get to the top, but if I got there and I was miserable, I'd take the tram back down (apparently, more than one runner did that).
I started the loop again with Shari and another woman named Carrie, and we stuck together for the first easy few miles of the loop. When we hit the ascent, it became clear that Shari was a much stronger climber than me, and she got away from me. Up I went, up up up. I was slow, and it was hard, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. It took me forever, but my legs were holding up and I wasn't getting sick. I had a rock in my shoe, but other than that, I was fine.
When I got to the summit, I was pleasantly surprised to find my husband and kids there. They had taken the tram up, and were going to hike back down. What a pick-me-up! The aid station volunteer filled my hydration bladder, and I sat down to take the rock out of my shoe. And stood right back up.
Yep, that's right. I sat down, and stood right back up. The chair didn't want me! I knew right then that I had it in me to finish this race, and managed to convince myself that the rest was easy. (It wasn't - there was about 3000 feet of descending and another 2000 feet of climbing.)
Heading down The Vermonter, my knee started to hurt a bit. Ouch! I figured, though, that if I got down the big steep slope, I could make it to the end of the race. What's 10 more miles? Nothing, right?
For the rest of the descent, I ran pretty much by myself, except for a few occasions when I ran into my family. Here they are!
Audrey paced me on one of the out-and-backs. We're wearing pink shirts.
And here they are again!
Here's me and Ingrid goofing around at about the 40K mark:
My morale was surprisingly high during the second lap. I think seeing the other runners on the out and backs really helped with that.
I crossed the finish line at 8:12 - NOT DFL, I might add, despite being supremely outclassed at this race. Four guys finished after me. Frank was still at the finish line after taking sixth place, and he gave me a Dale's Pale Ale. That's one of my favorite beers, so Frank is my new best friend.
I highly recommend this race. The views were beautiful, and the course was super fun. Another rumor has it that Chris might be adding more single track for next year, but I hope he keeps SOME of the out-and-backs. This year, the aid station fare was a bit Spartan, and I think it had to do with some first-time challenges with transportation, and they'll have more stuff next year. But kudos to the race directors for getting what REALLY counted to those aid stations. Every station had plenty of water, gatoraid, a couple of food items, and most importantly, a first aid kit. Not that I needed one, but I noticed it was there. Thanks guys, for executing a flawless Plan B to stock those stations.
The course was really tough, though. Rumor has it that peoples' Garmins were reading somewhere between 8000 and 9000 feet of climbing (plus 8000 - 9000 of descending) for the 50K. Yeah, that's right. Sixty people registered, 47 started, and only 28 finished. My sorry ass, somehow, being one of them. If you're going to do it, don't consider it anything like a "training run" - this is definitely worthy of being the "A Race".