Last weekend was the Vermont 50k, a race I’ve been looking forward to since January of this year. It’s everything I love in one place: Vermont, mountains, Vermont, running, Vermont, vacation, Vermont. Did I mention that I love Vermont? I have been so goddamn excited for this race, but as it got closer, I definitely got nervous, especially after the way my knee acted on my last long run. I was entered as a charity runner, though, and I made a commitment, so I’d be damned if I didn’t do it. Lucky for me, I managed to sucker a friend into going with me to drag my broken ass home if I died. (Spoiler: I didn’t.)
I am convinced there is no more magical place on Earth.
One of my best friends, Shane, and I drove up to Vermont on a Friday. (We took his Wrangler, so really, he did the driving.) Our hotel was in White River Junction, and we had dinner at an awesome place downtown called Trail Breaks. Maybe two sheet pans worth of nachos and several beers aren’t great food to eat less than 36 hours before a race, but fuck it. We were there for the fun.
Since he’d never been to Vermont, I dragged him to Sugarbush Farm, a cheese and maple syrup farm I love. My sister and I found it a few years ago by accident, and I’ve been dying to come back since. He got the full experience, tasting a bunch of cheese and syrup, walking through the maple lines, and feeding goats. The ladies working at the cash register (of course we bought cheese, don’t be silly) had him damn well convinced to move there before we left. Apparently, nurses are in high demand in Vermont. My job? Not as much. He was googling the incentive program they're offering to move there the second he got service.
It's not hard to see people we want to live here.
For lunch, we hit my favorite diner (outside of NJ, of course), the Windsor Diner. It’s a really cool old diner in a train car, probably one of the last still intact. Everyone knew everyone, and one waitress covered the whole car. Vermonters, in my experience, are an extremely friendly bunch. Even though nobody there knew us, the waitress still gave us shit and joked like she did. Maybe that was because Shane helped her with her math homework, but still. Can’t beat a little hometown diner.
After that, it was time to get into running mode, and down to base camp we went to pick up my bib. Both of us definitely bought shirts with the race logo on them, and we got to check out the start/finish area. Surprise! It was on a goddamn mountain. I was winded walking from the parking lot to the big tent, and started to freak. I might have forgotten just how much elevation Vermont has.
There was a pasta dinner around the corner at the Holiday Inn at Mount Ascutney, and Shane and I ate with three mountain bikers who were entered in the 50 miler. I can't imagine sitting on a bike for that long, but they did it. Afterwards, we went over my race plan for the next day. I may have made a spreadsheet with projected times, as well as neurotically packed and repacked the crew box Shane would bring to the two meeting locations. I would see him at the 4th aid station, Greenall’s at mile 13, and at the 7th, Johnson’s at mile 29. In between, I was carrying my own salt tabs, gels, and a waffle, as well as three bottles in a waist belt that I’d refill at other stations. He had an enormous bottle of Advil to handle my knee in the event that it exploded.
This chandelier from the Holiday Inn is irrelevant, but I got a kick out of it, so here you go.
Eventually, I ran out of shit to dither about, so Shane force-fed me melatonin. I needed it, between the concern over being undertrained (I was) and the knee (it sucked). But after that pill, I conked out until 5:45 the next morning. Race day was here, and I was as ready as I was going to be.