How do you make a small mountain feel like a big one? Run it ten times. And spending more hours running it than you were sleeping the night before also helps.
This Saturday was supposed to be the 35th running of the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run which Jamie had spent the past 7 months (at least) physically and mentally preparing for. As he was traveling out to CA Jamie found out that the race was going to be canceled this year due to the effects of forest fires in the area. You can read more about this situation and what Jamie got up to instead of running 100 miles this weekend on his blog.
Every year on the same weekend as the WS100 a group of guys in Southern Maine have been organizing a Western States Commemorative Run at Mt Agamenticus. This 6 hour, fat-ass style run also serves as a good opportunity for folks planning to run the Vermont 100 in July to get in a last long run on some very hilly terrain. The course is a 3 mile loop that people run as many times as they can, or want to, between 7 am and 1 pm.
Last year Emma and I went along with Erik and Jamie for only a few laps (we weren't training for any ultras then) and got to meet a few members of the Southern Maine and Massachusetts ultra running crowd. This year we planned to cram in as many laps as we could in 6 hours, as my last long run before I begin tapering for VT, and for Emma it was partly prep for the Escarpment Trail Run at the end of July and partly just for the fun of it (it's not really necessary to train for 6 hours for a race that will only take you 4 hours).
Emma and I drove down to York with Jim, and shortly after we arrived so did James. Everyone brings food and beverages to share and as we were setting out our contributions to the "aid station" we got to say hello to a few familiar faces and to meet a few new folks before setting off on the first lap. Members of GAC made up the biggest contingent of runners, but Trail Monsters in our matching shirts were awarded "Best Dressed".
The 3 mile loops starts off on an unpaved section of Mountain Road that descends about 180' over the course of a mile, then turns onto a flat double-track trail for about 1/4 mile, and then the climbing begins. Mt Agamenticus used to be a ski area many years ago and the trail we take up climbs what I'm sure was a fun hill to ski down. The Vultures View trail climbs about 480' over 3/4 mile and features a variety of terrain from lose gravel to stone steps to large expanses of smooth rock face. Once at the summit it's a short run across the grass in front of the old ski lodge and fire tower, through the parking lot and then down along the Horse Trail. This single-track has some fun switchbacks which force runners to keep the pace under control before opening up on the double-track Ring Trail that make a gradual descent back to the starting point of the loop.
After getting split up on the first loop Emma, James, Jim and I stuck together and found a good pace to run for the next 7 laps. The pace was interrupted a few times by fits of laughter where I had to stop because of stomach pains or fear of choking on my Lara Bars. Nothing worth repeating here though, I'm sure it wouldn't be funny out of the context of a 6 hour run. I think it was on our 5th or 6th lap when we eventually caught up to Erik who had arrived late. His tardiness was excused since he had run 50 miles on the Wednesday last week.
Although it wasn't too hot on Saturday it was extremely humid and I was sweating like a pig (and smelled like one too!). This was made all the more noticeable by the fact that it wasn't hot enough for the sweat to evaporate so I stayed soaked the whole time. The good thing about sweating so much is that it gave me a good opportunity to put my nutrition/hydration strategy for the VT100 to the test. I was drinking Hammer Perpetuem, taking S!Caps every hour, Gu every 90 minutes or so, eating solid foods and drinking soda at the aid station. I was happy to find that I never felt dehydrated, hungry or low on energy.
I also tested out a new set-up I put together for night-time running. Inspired by the Go-Motion packs I saw at the Inov-8 open house in December, I recently bought a Petzl Myo XP headlamp and mounted it to my CamelBak chest strap with the battery pack on my back. Unfortunately I found that the plastic backing of the headlamp caused chafing on my chest after a few hours and I know that I'll be running in the dark for more than just a few hours during the VT100. So this needs a bit more work to get right but I'll work on it and post the results here.
After 6 hours and 11 minutes Emma and I finished our 10th lap with Erik who (I think) finished his 7th. James and Jim both completed 9 laps. Thanks to the Trail Monsters for the great company on this run, to the fine folks of GAC, and to the local boys who put this fun event together every year. See you all in Vermont!