There's a Vegan Power 50k? Oh yes there is, new this year! There's also a bit of a grass roots movement to increase trail and ultrarunning in the Berkshires. If you don't know where the Berkshires are, this is in Western Massachusetts, near Albany NY, not Boston, where the Appalachian Trail passes through Massachusetts. It's a hilly, rocky, rooty area with some of the best hiking in the state. The Vegan Power 50K is run by BURCS, the Berkshire Ultrarunning Community for Service. BURCS is new on the trail ultrarunning scene, but is already making an impact with several fantastic must-do races. Also, importantly, BURCS isn't about making money. BURCS is about promoting social and environmental activism.
You might be wondering what, about this race, is Vegan Powered. First of all, the race is sponsored by the Red Robin Song Guest House and Beaver Sanctuary. Proceeds go to benefit Farm Sanctuary. Also, aid station treats? All Vegan. And look what's in the Swag Bag!
|I'm going to be so smug with this bag at Whole Foods.|
The course consists of a 5 mile loop in the Pittsfield State Forest, run six times. The course had been billed as containing 7,200 feet of elevation, at 1200 per 5 mile loop. That's roughly downhill-ski-resort type elevation. I love courses like this, and I was really excited to think I'd be doing summit repeats all day. Alas, that was a bit of a miscalculation because the course actually contained somewhat less than 2,000. It was probably just as well because I'm not in very good shape right now. Excuses, excuses.... but yeah, mine include a trip to the hospital and an oral surgery. Legit?
The beginning of the course is a long slow climb near the foot of Pine Mountain, then loops around through the forest for another four miles. The course is rooty but not rocky, there's only a short, 50 foot section of exposed sun, and somehow, despite the swamp icons on the map.... no bugs at all! There's one aid station about halfway through the course, and one at the start finish.
The terrain wasn't all that hard; in fact, the hardest part was not stepping on these guys. Squishing an eft at a Vegan event would be just wrong.
|Let's keep it cruelty free, folks!|
There's no getting lost on the course - this was, hands down, the best marked course I've ever run. See here, like this!
|YOU SHALL NOT PASS!|
The course was lovely, and everything was so well organized! But it was a rough race for me, honestly. Whenever I set my alarm for 3:45 in the morning, I think to myself that running is bad crack. Then came a terrifying two hour drive to Pittsfield with sleeping truckers on the Mass Pike. Lap 1 was great, but my feet cramped up in Lap2. My stomach began bothering me early in Lap 3. I'd simply had too much to eat and drink as I passed through the start finish and I felt terrible. I had to dial back and adjust (eat less), which was hard because the aid station fare was pretty good. On Lap 4, I was feeling better, running, chatting happily with my friend George, when, all of a sudden my hand was stuck under this root.
|It's in the middle of the frame.|
Which meant I had fallen, fast and hard, and was on my stomach. I tried to pull my hand back out, and it didn't budge. I felt sick thinking I must have impaled my hand somehow. But no, a firmer tug and my hand came free.
I don't know if it was the idea that I might have seriously injured my hand, or being so suddenly prostrate, but when I got up I was dizzy and browning out. Fortunately, we were 10 feet from this convenient little log bench. George took me over to it and sat with me until I felt better.
George and I parted ways at the end of Lap 4, which was Lap 5 for him, and I ran Laps 5 and 6 all by myself. I was slower than I had hoped, but laps 4 and 5 were incredibly fun. I felt like a little wood nymph dancing through the forest. And isn't that the truth about ultrarunning that you can never really describe to people?
And yay! I finished! I'm not all that proud of my time. It was 7:36 and I probably should have broken 7 hours easily on this course. I do suspect it may have been a bit long. There were some sections with a lot of switchbacks where my GPS said I was standing still. And with a time like that, you'd think I'd be DFL. No, not by a long shot. No complaints, though - it was 5ish miles of great trails.
I should have taken a better picture, but the Vegan Power 50k team had THE BEST after-race meal ever. Of course they still had veggy food left for someone in the back of the pack? Maybe this is another truth of ultrarunning. So many of us are herbivores, and I think most race directors underestimate that. I normally finish in the middle, and the veg stuff is usually gone. There were peanut noodles and tofu, lots of baked goods, and this yummy salad! Drool!
Major kudos and thanks to the Vegan Power team! This was a great race, and I'd definitely do it again.
And thanks to Ella and George for keeping me company on the trail.