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July 21, 2009

Vermont 100 Endurance Race 2009

Pacing Michelle Roy in her first 100 miler at the VT 100 Mile Endurance Race is not easily summarized in a blog nor will this post do justice to the breadth of the experience—for Michelle—and her pacers, Kevin and me. I recommend pacing, crewing or handling for a friend, family member, lover—or complete stranger—and you will understand. You might discover the amazing range of emotions and sensations and of what the mind and body are capable. You might witness, as we did, how special, challenging, awe-inspiring, tear-filled, nauseous and beautiful it is. Whether it's being the eyes, ears, mind, soul, doctor, nutritionist, therapist, human hanker-chief, drill-Sargent, comedian or quiet companion through 30 or fewer miles you will be better for it.
2009 Vermont 100 Endurance Race
For more visuals click on album link.

I saw runners and walkers, a ram, pairs of glowing eyes, the stars, an owl, blisters, tears, poison ivy, fog, silhouetted mountains, headlamps like distant fireflies, disappointment, DNF's, dirt, mud, and a lot of guts. I learned so much about the human condition. Running 100 miles is beyond physical—beyond visceral. Pain is temporary. The drive to achieve can silence the voice that begs one to quit. Pacing through the last dark-to-dawn-into-day miles of a 100-mile race is an intimate experience. Nothing less.

Michelle with broth at Bill's about 3:30 a.m. (Mile 88.6)

Kz and Michelle in the Vermont dawn


Some of Michelle's comments and my responses in the final miles.
  • "I can't do this!"
  • You ARE already doing this. You will finish.
  • "I want to go home."
  • You are almost there. One step at a time, forward, forward.

"I am sick, I feel like throwing up."
Okay, then we can start from scratch.

"No, No!" (On seeing a huge hill.)
YES. Do not look up! Look at my feet. Follow my feet, one step at a time.

In the final 2 miles, I was concerned I was too tough on Michelle by picking up the pace and making her run. She'd already come this far—98 miles—and I knew she had at least three more in her so I reassured her, "Michelle, your pain is temporary. I promise that when you have reached the finish line it will go away. The glowing accomplishment of finishing [in sub 28 hours] will not."

"Michelle, can you hear the finish line!?
Let's go!"
Michelle was amazing during this race. Even when she vocalized her doubts and aches, which were understandable and expected given her calorie deficit, she would stop for a moment and bend over. Then after about 10 seconds straighten up and carry on. She persevered. I am extremely proud of her and would pace her again through the night and even through rain, sleet or hail.

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Jack Pilla was the first Vermont resident to ever win the VT 100 in its 21 years. Here's a 20 second video I captured of him finishing with his pacer and an entourage of enthusiastic kids!
RD, Julia Hutchinson (far L), with Jack's wife and his pacer (far R)

Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Race

5 comments:

Laurel said...

Nice post, Emily. It was good seeing you there. Glad you got your runner to the finish line!

trailgrrl said...

You are by far one of my favorite people on this great big planet....

RawBodyGoddess said...

What an amazing post. It gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes...SO glad I got to see you before you took off!

somberimp said...

Wow. Really wow! That sounds amazing.

AJB said...

You are a rock star and Michelle is a running Goddess!!