I’ve been kind of training for the upcoming Vermont 50 Miler going on in two weeks (now in a few days). My weekly mileages are hovering around 50-75 miles per week, which isn’t too shabby, with my normal runs around 8-10 miles. I have been planning a 30 miler for a few weeks now, to gauge my preparedness for Vermont. It’s been planned for exactly two weeks prior to the race, and my plan was to see the pace of my run and then see how far under the 50 miler pace I was. For the training run, a friend of mine (KRMS) offered to run some of the miles with me, which was such a generous offer. It dawned on me that perhaps other people might want to join in on the run, so I tried to plan it so that there would be reasonable places to meet and for people to do whatever mileages they wanted to. KRMS is training for the Philadelphia Half Marathon and loves trails, so it was 6 trail miles for her and another friend of ours, RH. One of my ultrarunning friends, HR, decided to join along, almost didn’t make it, but ended up running the entire way with me! Seriously, the run would have been incredibly difficult mentally without the three of them, and I owe them my sincere gratitude!
We started out just before 7 AM finding a legal spot for Heather to park her car in Boston. The rain was already coming at a steady clip and did not appear to be letting up any time in the near future. I had planned to make the first 8 miles up to Middlesex Fells, our rendezvous point for KRMS and RH, at a pedestrian pace around 1 hour and 30 minutes with all traffic lights. As we made our final turn onto South Border Road, the southern edge of the Fells, I checked my watch and told HR, “I wouldn’t be surprised if they passed us while we’re running on this road.” A couple of minutes later, someone was hanging out the window of a car yelling encouragement (it was either that or obscenities) to us. A few moments later we saw two smiling faces bounding toward us very close to the parking area, where we all gathered for a moment before disappearing into the deserted but sufficiently un-desert like Fells.
The rain was the story of the day, and KRMS and RH were heroes in my book for braving the relentless storm. Our six miles on the Reservoir Trail together were in wonderful company and pretty easy, but probably only after we made the decision to tramp directly through puddles and not worry about soaked feet. I had DryMax on my side and was just trusting that everything would work out. Without incident we finished the six miles and took a brief repose before HR and I would circle back through and conquer the tougher and slightly longer seven mile Skyline Trail. I’ve never conceded that the Skyline Trail is a tough run, especially compared to the many rockier, hillier trails that can be found even near Boston, but with 13 miles already behind us and my shoes having an absolutely abysmal coefficient of friction with the slimy rocks, the Skyline Trail threatened to break me. Steadily, we climbed each pass and gingerly tiptoed down again and found ourselves surprisingly quickly at the tower, our final landmark before making our way out of the Fells. I cannot stress enough, without the company, it would have been excruciatingly difficult to have endured even these first 20 miles, something that would be underscored just weeks later on a somewhat failed long run that included some Fells sections.
We emerged from the Fells and steadily climbed our way out of Malden down long stretches of kind of ghetto highway that were boring, featureless, flat, and foreign to me. After a series of decisions that ultimately amounted to “Boston is approximately this way,” we ended up in a familiar area and continued running confidently into my standard stomping grounds.
The marathon mark happened unceremoniously along the Cambridge side of the river, at a pedestrian pace, as the rain relented for just the brief celebratory moment. Cruising through Brookline took us for the final four miles, and the only way I could have continued running is if I had never stopped. To think about 20 more miles at that point was slightly obscene. But that didn’t have to happen at that moment.
HR went out the next day for several back to back soccer games, while I got a nasty cut in my toe the next day during a game of pickup ultimate frisbee. HR went on to run a blistering, sub-10 hour time in her 50 miler, with foot pain, highlighting her incredible fitness, mental fortitude, and resolve.
I will know if I’m ready for my own race by about 6 pm on Sunday, the final cutoff for the VT50. In this great experiment of ultra training, it will be very interesting to see if this was sufficient. But I always have this run, among my favorites to date, shared in the company of friends and mud.