October 2019 Newsletter

Welcome to the October 2019 edition of the Upper Valley Running Club newsletter! Keep your submissions coming — email newsletter@uppervalleyrunningclub.org and check out our submission guidelines here.

Happy running!

Table of Contents

  1. Letter from a Board Member by Rebecca Stanfield McCown
  2. #UVRC
  3. Route of the Month: Maple Hill by Laura Petto
  4. TIGER RUN ON 10/28 by Jenny Williams
  5. Western New Hampshire Trail Running Series: A Newbie trail runner’s report by Christi-Lynn Martin
  6. Ask the Coaches
  7. Perspectives From An Older Runner by Judy Phillips
  8. Running in Zambia by Tim Smith
  9. Great North Run by Laura Hagley
  10. UVRC at Great North Run 2019 by Bill Young
  11. The Vermont 100 Endurance Race by Cara Baskin
  12. UVRC Vermont 50 Aid Station by Bill Young
  13. Comeuppance by Jim Burnett
  14. Vermont 50M by Leah Todd
  15. Vermont 50M by Amanda Kievet

Letter from a Board Member

by Rebecca Stanfield McCown

There is one topic that gets discussed at almost every UVRC Board meeting – who is the running club for? This topic has us constantly re-evaluating who we are serving, who is being left out, and how we can be more inclusive. Joining a running club can be intimidating and push many people out of their comfort zones. As I thought about what to focus on for my turn to write the message from the Board, I decided to reflect on the many runners that I have known in my eight years of UVRC membership.

The runners that just moved to town: These runners joined the Club within the first few weeks of moving to the Upper Valley. They knew almost no one in the area and a co-worker told them about the Club. The first time they joined a Saturday morning run they were terrified and needed their spouse to push them out the door. Their reason for joining the Club was to meet new people, learn about the area, and hopefully make a few good friends along the way. They did!

The busy schedule runners: These runners joined the Club to find other runners that can hit the pavement at 5 am. They can’t make most of the group runs or TNT because of work and family, but the Club has helped them find a solid group of early morning runners. Their goal for joining the Club was to find others to run with at odd hours and still feel connected to the larger running community. Check!

The making gains runners: These runners are starting to feel the pull of racing and pushing for faster times. Running with the Club on Saturdays and joining TNT has allowed them to slowly start joining faster pace groups or jumping in for a speedy 400 around the track with that group they never thought they could keep up with. These runners are enjoying the personal challenge of seeing what is possible and the company and friendship of the runners that are pushing them just little bit more each week. Their goal in joining the Club was to see what was possible with the support of super-fast running buddies. After years of PRs, they would say that goal is checked off, but there is still more work to do!

The new mom runners: These runners were just returning to running after having a baby. They were pushing a running stroller with a bundled up baby, hanging at the back of the pack and so happy to be running at any pace for 30 to 40 minutes twice a week while their baby napped. They went to Saturday morning runs to have other adults to talk to, to be outside but still worried that they were slowing everyone down with their many stops to check on their kid. Their goal for joining the Club was to help them get back to running after childbirth. Goal accomplished – and a few people even pushed the running stroller for them on a couple of runs.

The never set foot on a track runners: These runners didn’t run track in college, high school, middle school or at any time in their young adult lives. TNT was the first time they set foot on a track. They weren’t even sure how long a track was the first time they showed up at TNT, let alone how to decode a track workout. Having no clue what their pace should be or what the workout actually was, they found a familiar face from the Saturday group runs and copied their every move. They did this every week until they could fake the confidence to lead just one 400. These runners still forget if they are supposed to run clockwise or counter clockwise. Their goal in joining the Club was not to run track, but they gave it a try and kind of love it. Surprise goal accomplished!

The every run should be a party runners: These runners are showing up to every race and group run just to be with people and have a good time. A race or large group run is simply a moving party! These runners love getting to spend time with friends, meet new people, eat free yogurt and bagels, and don’t care one bit about their time, pace, or place in the race. They just love running with people – the more people the better. Their goal in joining the Club was to go to a party every Saturday morning and hit up the races with the cool kids. Done and done!

What I love about the UVRC is that all of these runners can find their place. I know because I was one of each of those runners. In my eight years in the Upper Valley, I have needed different things from the Club at different times. I needed Chris Rim to push my running stroller because my kid was getting too heavy. I needed Sofia Hansen and Clair Hunt to run with me at 6am. I needed Mike Kokko to push me to run faster every morning. I needed Lori Bliss Hill to let me follow her around the track like a lost puppy. I needed Kim Shefield to tell me to run with a faster group at TNT. I needed Jim Burnett’s marketing (and the Leb Rec van) to party at races across the state of New Hampshire. And I needed Laura Hagley and Joe Helble to turn me into a fast(-ish) runner. Like everything in life, the Club is what you make of it, and it can be so many different things. My first run with the Club was terrifying, but I would not trade that awkward, uncomfortable Saturday morning for anything.

They say that running can change your life, but I think it is finding your running tribe that does that. I firmly believe that this Club has something for everyone. If you don’t see what you are looking for, make it happen. Volunteer or join the Board and make the Club what you need it to be.


This summer Rebecca encouraged us all to start taking back the #UVRC hashtag by posting your photos and tagging them on Instagram. Here is this month’s submission:

Check out Rebecca’s call to action here.

Route of the Month: Maple Hill

by Laura Petto

Route Name: Maple Hill

Link: https://www.strava.com/routes/21988877

Route Distance: 6.8 miles (from Dartmouth Green)

Elevation: 670 ft

Terrain Type: Sidewalk, paved road, dirt road

Description: This is a beautiful route to run at sunrise or sunset. At the corner of Maple Hill and Willey Hill there is a stunning outlook on the mountains. Union Village is a pretty challenging segment, with some steady portions of 8-10% grade hill. Maple Hill has a small hill, but is flat and dirt after that. Willey Hill is a steep downhill, and I feel like my feet can’t move as fast as gravity is pulling me down. Union Village often has a fair amount of traffic, depending on when you run it, so that’s something to watch for. The elevation is mainly front-loaded in the run, except for West Wheelock Climb at the end.

Variations: Decrease the elevation and distance by starting at the Norwich green.



by Jenny Williams

We are so pleased that the Tiger Run 12K will be part of the Upper Valley Race Series this year. The race will benefit the Finding Our Stride Track and Cross Country programs at Indian River Middle School. These programs were created in 2011 through a partnership with the Finding Our Stride Running Program; Healthy Eating, Active Living; and the Mascoma Valley Recreation Department. They have never and do not currently receive ANY school funding, so private fundraising is absolutely essential to their continued success.

More about Finding Our Stride (FOS): Finding Our Stride’s mission is to build fitness, self-esteem and teamwork for kids grades K-8 at schools where at least 30% of the students benefit from free and reduced lunch. These programs are offered at no cost to runners, schools or families. FOS partners with school leadership to design a program that works best for each school. If a school currently has a running program, such as “Girls on the Run,” Finding Our Stride can help create a running program for boys. The program offers guided workouts 2-3 times per week, led by teachers, guidance counselors and parents receiving modest stipends. Students are provided healthy snacks; transportation to races; running shoes (based on financial need); team t-shirts; and registration fees for an end of the season running event.

FOS is committed to measuring outcomes relative to its three main goals of fitness, self-esteem and teamwork. Below are improvements made in the fall season of 2018:

  • 62% more kids were active at least 4 days per week

  • 33% more kids could run for at least 15 minutes or more
  • 28% more kids felt confident in themselves

FOS encourages all teams to participate in a community run in both the spring and fall seasons. In the fall, everyone runs the CHaD Hero together. Last fall, FOS had the largest Hero team with 337 runners, coaches and family members (see enclosed photo). FOS was also the second highest fundraising team (runners, coaches and families raise funds, thru bake sales, penny drives, and personal asks), contributing over $44,000 to CHaD. In the spring, teams participate in a variety of runs, including the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run, the Bradford Conservation Commission Race for the Top, the Springfield Dam Run and several others.

History of the FOS team at Indian River Middle School: Ben True, Dartmouth Class of 2008 and internationally acclaimed 5K/10K runner, coached the team for the first four years. In 2015, UVRC member Rick Currier became the head coach and Lori Bliss Hill joined him as Assistant Coach in 2016. One of the wonderful things about the IRS Track and XC teams is that they are very inclusive and also highly successful. Rick designs an “A” and a “B” workout for each practice, and welcomes kids who are starting the season with a walk/run. On the other end of the spectrum, the Tigers saw ten of their 34 runners qualify for Junior Nationals XC Championships in Reno, Nevada last November! These runners and their families raised the funds on very short notice to enable each of these runners to participate.

The team is currently funded by Finding Our Stride, Mascoma Recreation, and two fundraising events per year, which are organized and executed by Head Coach Rick Currier, Assistant Coach Lori Bliss Hill and their enthusiastic runners. The Tiger Run is the team’s fall fundraising event and we SO appreciate all the support from UVRC members and other runners.

Indian River School Cross Country/Track will once again partner with Positive Tracks, in an effort to help young people sweat for good! Please visit http://www.positivetracks.org, to learn more about their organization and their U23 Challenges. Positive Tracks matches the first $300 raised through the hard work of the Indian River Team in fundraising efforts, led by event captains Josie Ford and Gunner Currier.

More info on the race: In the spirit of New Hampshire’s 12K race history, come join us on October 27 in scenic Enfield, NH. We will be offering race distances of 12K, which is a certified course, as well as a 5K race for those who want a shorter distance.

A Halloween inspired kids fun run will also be offered, with candy offered on the course. For those familiar with the Shaker 7 race in Enfield each June, you will be familiar with the course, which is almost exactly the same as the 12K we will be offering. Football fans, don’t worry! You will spend the morning on a beautiful fall course and be home by the 1:00PM kickoff.

Link to Register: https://register.chronotrack.com/r/47520

Western New Hampshire Trail Running Series: A Newbie trail runner’s report

by Christi-Lynn Martin

This past June, I registered for the WNHTRS as a challenge to myself to explore trail running. I had completed one trail race (Farnum 5.5, 2017) in the past and it was terrifically difficult for someone with no experience in trail running. I was hoping with some purposeful training I would be able to learn about, and enjoy this new facet of running.

I’ll give you the short review of each race as I remember it:

Six in the Stix – Newport (June 8th 2019) (1:06:50)
My main impression from this race is that I spent about 30 minutes, or the first three miles of the race, regretting my decision to try the trail running series. It was up, up, up- and I had trouble managing my breathing, I realized that I hadn’t eaten enough breakfast, and I found myself walking pretty early on. The second half of the race improved (downhill!) and I soon realized there was a group of runners behind me, who insisted that they didn’t want to pass, and that I was setting a “good” pace. This was my first introduction to what became my favorite part of this series- the overwhelmingly friendly and encouraging trail running community. Even when they did eventually want to pass me, the runners did so with an encouraging word. Other first-trail race impressions: I struggled with the lack of mile markers, but the trail itself was really well marked (as were all the trails in this series). I came in fourth in my age group, which I was proud of.

Frenzy in the Forest – Ascutney (June 15th) (1:08:07)
This was the toughest race for me. The elevation gain was incredible (I don’t have a record but I think it was over 1000’) and the last bit of the course is uphill to the finish. There is a lovely section of the trail that comes down a wide ski trail and that was glorious. In this second race I started to recognize some of the “regular” runners. The best part of this race was that I brought my husband and kids, who did the 5k and were smitten with the whole idea of trail racing (and even more smitten with the raffle prizes!)

All Out Trail Run – Claremont (June 29th) (47:40)
This course in Claremont was a much faster course for me- significantly less elevation gain despite the intimidating “Gravity cavity.” I had my first fall on this course but didn’t get hurt. I also won a prize for the first time ever in my (short) running career: a pound of bacon! This race was also made more enjoyable because a friend agreed to come and run with me- she also won bacon! I was 3rd in my age group.

Frenzy in the Forest- Sunapee -(July 13th) (46:49)
I had some issues with GPS getting to this race and so I was quite late arriving- almost didn’t make the start. As a result, I don’t remember the course very well but it was another one that didn’t have an overwhelming amount of elevation gain, and for the second time in my career- I won a prize for being 3rd in my age group (Maple syrup!)

Hurricane Hill – Hartford (July 20th)
I had to miss this race because of a lack of childcare, but I know that it was horribly hot and so I confess I was not overly dismayed to miss it.

Stoaked – Hanover (August 3rd) (1:14)
This was the longest race of the series- advertised as 12.5km- and so I arrived at the course on race day with some trepidation. A friend gave me a GPS watch though (not knowing my mileage on the other courses was proving to be a continuing source of frustration-) so I was hopeful that having a sense of where I was in terms of distance would help me pace myself appropriately. I had my second fall of the series on this course, and again was thankful to not be hurt. I do find that after I fall though it throws my pace off for awhile. Despite that, I was happy to find out that I was second in my age group!

Chad Denning Challenge (August 24th)
Non-series event- I’m just going to give a plug for the “relay” option in the CDC – I convinced a friend to come run it with me and I was so glad that I did. The course is quite fun and really beautiful, and was well marked. The half marathon is two repeats of the same loop, which makes the relay very straightforward. There were only three relay teams this year- lots of room for more competition next year!

Farnum 5.5 (Lebanon)– (September 7th) (1:01.53)
This is the only race I had run before and so I was gratified to see that I had dropped some time off my last time through the course (1:08 in 2017). The course was just as brutal as I remembered it being two years ago and during this race I fell three times which got tough by the end. This was also the last race in the series and I was amazed to find out that by some trick of mathematics (they drop the lowest score, which was 0 for me after skipping Hurricane Hill) I won the 30-39 women’s age group for the series (but only by 7 points.)

In summary, I am really glad I joined this series – as I got to know more of the runners through the summer and fall it became more fun to either commiserate or celebrate together (depending on the race) after each course was done. I thought each hosting town did a stellar job of putting on the races and as a rule, the trails were all very well marked and easy to follow, and the courses well supported. A big thank-you to all the race and series sponsors who provided the awesome prizes for winners and for the raffles! I’ll be back again next year, but I’m moving up to the 40-49 age group which appears to be pretty tough competition, so I’ve got some training to do if I want to keep bringing home the bacon and maple syrup next summer!

Ask the Coaches

Got a question for the coaches? Send it to newsletter@uppervalleyrunningclub.org and I’ll send it on!

IMPORTANT! I’m completely out of questions. So, UVRC, if you want to see anything from the coaches in the next newsletter, send me a question!

Keriann Ketcham:
Whenever I run more than 5-6 miles, or almost anytime I race and exert myself, I spend at least the rest of the day with an unrelenting headache. I drink plenty of water beforehand, and I try to drink lots of water and Gatorade after. I usually have a sandwich and a Tylenol, too. Nothing seems to work. Do you have any tips?

This one really stumped the coaches. Beyond that advice that Keriann seems to have already taken regarding hydration, they were of the opinion that this issue should probably be addressed by a medical professional. There are a lot of questions they had about health history, other related issues, and other potential stressors, that are hard to deal with in a newsletter setting. And an important reminder, that a running coach is not necessarily qualified to deal with all medical issues, even if running related.

Good luck Keriann!

Perspectives From An Older Runner

by Judy Phillips

Now, I used to run 10ks at a 8-9 minute pace, but injuries (broken collarbone, ribs, toes, bruising head-to-toe, and an upper back injury) sustained in a bad car accident as a passenger 10 years ago really have diminished my speed. I often run through residual pain, and had to quit 3 half’s midway through each in the first half of this year.

So “grateful for each step” became my running mantra. I cannot express how joyful I am after completing a challenge. I’m also grateful I started running very young so have many happy running memories. I am not athletic. Just persistent.

I had an epiphany a few weeks ago. I’m not getting faster, I’m getting “laster”. We run many races in Northern New England, mostly in small towns. The fields are often very small; it’s not uncommon to have fewer than 40 runners in well-established races. In longer races in which there’s a shorter distance offered as an alternative, typically there are fewer older and slower runners tackling the longer distance. So I’m fast becoming very last, and often place in my age group.

Now being such a confirmed back-of-the-packer has its advantages as well as disadvantages. I’ll start with the latter. Since becoming so injured which slowed my pace dramatically, I check with race directors about course limits before registering. Most respond promptly. I respect the rules. I check to see what the cutoff means for each race, i.e.: time limit for road closures, manned water stations, course markings, time clock? My only concerns: will the course remain marked, and will I be allowed to finish – how long will the clock remain up? I’ve gotten to know the best race directors who are kind and generous enough to say “until the last runner finishes”. But if I know I may not be able to finish within the course limit, I understand and am fine skipping that race. Just, please, let me know.

Another disadvantage: running so far behind the pack makes me dependent upon course markings. After 40+ years running and racing, I had an awful experience at at 10k this past summer. The race was in a NH city in which we’ve raced many times, but had not done this particular one, and the course was not marked. There were volunteers until the last turn. I ended up going through the finish the wrong way. I was so embarrassed. One of the organizers came over and asked me about that; I wasn’t happy. I was not going to complain; I just was going to let it go, but the organizers, although very kind, kept saying “we had volunteers” when I noted the turns should have been marked. Well, all the volunteers were quite nice, but none of them were paying attention and I had to flag them down to get them to look my way and ask repeatedly which way I should go. Sorry, this is unacceptable. This is a well-established race in a major NH city. We were in a tiny local race the next weekend with a well-marked course and excellent volunteers, who smiled and waved and cheered and – flagged for the correct turns. Note, I always thank the police and volunteers, especially for waiting for the last few runners.

The biggest advantage: the opportunity for solitary running. Years ago, when I was younger and so much faster, I would speed up or even slow down to “run in a hole”. Back then, I typically had to slow down because my pace was competitive so there were runners all around me. Now, I’m more naturally by myself, and loving it. I enjoy the quiet, or my music, the beauty of the course in Northern New England, the mental strategies to power up the hills as best I’m able, and the meditative quality of running itself, without loud chitchat. I like quiet, and value the peaceful aspect of running.

My lessons learned from years of running have taught me to look forward to challenging myself. In the summer, I’ve learned to welcome the heat. Running so many races in Northern New England, I’ve also learned to embrace the hills; hills have become an interesting distraction during a race, making the miles go by “faster”, as I concentrate on running up the hill and not losing my footing on the downhill.

Now, to sustain this momentum when winter comes…..

Judy Phillips

Running in Zambia

by Tim Smith

West end and last turn of the Kalonje Track

I thought I was running for all my usual reasons; to get in shape, because CHAD was not too far away and because I was stiff from traveling and sitting in a crowded bus for far too long. But I was wrong. I was running to watch kids; kids who know something about running that I too often forget. . .

I was visiting the village of Kalonje in Zambia. My son’s girlfriend, Jane, is a Peace Corps Volunteer there, teaching English in the primary school. She often goes running and the villagers have become use to her Western eccentricities. So when we visited, she invited me on her evening jaunt.

We headed out a dirt track, less than a Jeep trail, but more than a single track, to the north of the village. This is dry country in the dry season. All the grass is yellow. The farm fields are waiting for the rain and the ground is sandy, red and golden dust. The trees are spindly and stunted, I expect due to the perpetual demand for firewood. The air is thick with dust and smoke, for the farmers burn the grass to clear the land before planting in a few months and it is almost supper time and a hundred cook fires are burning.

One of the things I really enjoyed about the village of Kalonje is that it reminded me of summer camp, the perpetual smell of smoke, and the continuous sound of children’s voices. I forget how gray-haired the Upper Valley is until I contrast it with such a young population. In the morning it seems like half the people I see are kids in school uniforms.

So as Jane and I run, kids see us and join in. They all know Jane, for she teaches half of them, and she is the only “muzungu” (white person) in the village. Even the non-students know her.

No parent bats an eye at the idea of their eight, nine, or even five year old running miles from home. They are always near and aunt, uncle or cousin. And so as we run we gather a cloud of bare foot guides, as we head into the bush. They laugh and call out in a combination of Bemba and English.

After a few kilometers it is time for us to turn back. I am particularly impressed by one seven or eight year old girl who sets the pace. The way she drives her knees on the up grade, swings her arms and slices the air with her hands. I tell Jane to watch this one in the future.

Home Stretch of the Kalonje Track

Back by the school we stop to watch a soccer game. My son Robin organized a pickup game on an all dust field under the burning evening African sun. All the boys from that part of the village are chasing the ball up and down the field. It is a special night with that tall white boyfriend of their teacher, and Jane has also released the special soccer ball. It is the only real soccer ball in town, acquired from the Upper Valley’s Grassroots Soccer program.

The the girls don’t join in. About a dozen, ages five to twelve, stand on the sidelines watching.

Around the soccer field (football pitch) is a track. It is all dirt and has the occasional tuft of grass and weeds growing on it. Someone at one time labored not only to clear the oval, but to dig a shallow trench to mark the lanes, all by hand.

I had missed TNT, so felt obliged to run a few intervals. A few of the girls thought this very funny and ran with me for awhile. But as we came to the line to start my last interval I decided to challenge all of them, to goad them on and get them to run with me. I called and waved and used every gesture I could. Even if I didn’t speak a word of Bemba, they knew what I was up to and all of a sudden a dozen girls started sprinting down the track.

They thought it hysterically funny to run with me. I am older than most of their grandparents and with little effort they have passed me going into the first turn. Most of them slow up at that point, but I caught them, and pressed them as we entered the back stretch. Some of them thought this too funny and doubled up laughing, but four of them saw that I had tossed down the gauntlet and picked up the pace. I also had a few tricks left in my legs as we passed the 200 and 300 meter mark. I wouldn’t let them relax.

As we burst out from behind the tall grass at the west end of the track, with 50 meters to go, even a few of the soccer players paused. That last 50 meters is slightly uphill and three of us crossed the line together, gasping for air and with the greatest of deep belly laughter.

And that, I think, is sometime why we should run.

Great North Run

by Laura Hagley

Runners would of course understand how a trip to visit a good friend and previous racing mate (Lorna Young), would turn into a destination race…naturally. Confirmation of my entry to the Great North Run half marathon (GNR) solidified plans for my visit to England. What a pleasant yet surprising discovery, when shortly before my trip, I viewed the entry list to see that the elite start was a separate start (ie. don’t fall behind or it will be very noticeable), and that the race anticipated more than 50,000 runners!

Racing in the UK had some perks…

Dare I suggest that my experience of fans for endurance sport in the UK at GNR exceeded that of endurance fans at domestic events? Perhaps only the Boston Marathon has come close in comparison. Lorna and I chuckled during our warm-up for the GNR, as the “masses” who lined the elite start area fence, peering inward, made us feel a bit like gazelles at the zoo.

After the gun, our group of 40 women thinned out quickly. The race course was lined with spectators the entire 13.1 miles. It took me a moment to realize that those shouting, “Well done lassie” were not merely bystanders training their pets, but rather attentive British fans, cheering us onward. What’s more, despite that just our surnames were on our bibs, these fans cheered by my first name somehow! Clearly, some of the best fans ever.

My cool down begged for an extra mile as I ran along the high cliffs overlooking the Newcastle sea coast. This was followed by a superb 20-minute sports massage, and vegan vegetable curry in the hospitality tent. I became a spectator myself as I sat and ate amidst the company of the day’s winners, Mo Farah and Brigid Kosgei.

For the entirety of my trip, I was spoiled by British hosts… from Selby, to Newcastle, to Liverpool. Hospitality began with gentle guidance from Lorna’s mom upon my attempt to sit in the driver’s seat on our way home from the train station – oops! It continued as we barraged Paula Radcliffe and Nell McAndrew’s for photo ops, and then in Newcastle with a community meal of Raclette with Lorna and my hosts. The trip was finally complete by enjoying copious fresh veggies in Lorna’s Liverpool flat. I would go back in a second, or maybe a year…if not for GNR, then at least for another taste of grilled halloumi cheese among British company!

Laura Hagley, DPT, CSCS runs for Millennium Running’s Elite Women’s team, and has been a member of UVRC since its start.

UVRC at Great North Run 2019

by Bill Young

Lorna Young and Laura Hagley smile for the camera before the Great North Run on September 8 in Newcastle, England.
Taking place over a 13.1 mile route between Newcastle, through Gateshead and down to the coast at South Shields, the Great North Run is the biggest (57,000)- and, organizers think, the best – half-marathon in the world.

Wow. Lorna and Laura started up front with the elite women’s group. Check out Lorna’s mom’s video below including some familiar Olympic marathon runners. Our friends were rubbing shoulders with the some famous athletes. “They were so polite and welcoming.” Mo Farah finished first at 59:07 and Bridget Kosgei was the top female at 1:04:28. Our UVRC colleagues did great in the Great North Run: Laura at 1:17 in 20th place and Lorna at 25th! I lost her time but she was fast. Keep Calm and Dash On.

Sadly, I couldn’t post the video because the filesize was too big!

The Vermont 100 Endurance Race

by Cara Baskin

Faceplant. Sprawled out on a smooth gravel trail, I assessed the damage of a split second misstep with dread. Four weeks prior to my first 100 miler, I found myself in the ER, trying to stop the blood gushing from a hole in my knee that exposed the patellar tendon. Six months of miles and elevation, of obsessing over carefully calculated numbers in a spreadsheet, were lost in tears of disbelief that the start line would eventually elude me.

Fast forward one year and the only spreadsheet that mattered was the Vermont 100 waitlist, where I sat comfortably at 65th. It felt like a nail in the coffin of my 100 miler dreams. Maybe this race just wasn’t meant to be. But then, in a twist of ultra fate, my name crept onto the starting list in early June. Rather than limping with stitches and wasted fitness in the weeks prior to the race, this year I was left with mere weeks to train. The adrenaline rush launched me into a steep and beautiful ramp up. There was barely enough time to think, to plan. No more spreadsheets, no weekly mileage. Every day became a passionate pursuit towards this crazy goal, topping off a year’s worth of dreaming and aimless adventuring to carry me to the start line.

Mid July in Vermont came swiftly and so did the heat advisory. Race day threatened 97 degrees with an even higher heat index. The day prior, a group of us gathered at the finish line to set up. Its red neon letters stood out like a beacon against the neverending greens of the surrounding woods, sending chills down my arms on a humid afternoon. The unknown was real. When will the wheels fall off? How can I possibly drink enough water? Will I even reach the finish line? As we slid a tent out of the truck bed, each of us dripping in sweat from the small movement, the ultra gods opportunistically sang an old tune from the car radio, “I’m losing my mind…” Yes, yes I am.

4am arrived and off we went into the dark of the morning. Nervous chatter between strangers sliced through thick air and carbo-loaded footsteps. At mile one, a steady stream of headlamps turned sharply to ascend the first hill of the day. Nearing the corner, a calm voice next to me disclosed, “They’re all going the wrong way. The course goes straight.” The voice came from Amy Rusiecki, the race director, who began her morning tethered to a visually impaired runner, guiding him, and by chance, me, onto the correct course. For a brief moment, a blind runner and I led the Vermont 100. Victory comes in many forms.

For the next two hours, sweaty, speedy and svelte men cruised by me on the gravel back roads and trails. I tried to turn my brain off to shut out self doubt and worry of the unknown. This is your longest run ever. Take it easy. It’s 100 miles in almost 100 degrees. “Don’t be a hero, be a finisher,” as Amy would say. I backed off and lightened my mood as a pink hue warmed the dusty gravel and verdant woods. This is beautiful and perfect and the epitome of Vermont…but it’s really only sunrise?

Nervous and chatty crews stationed themselves in eight locations throughout the clover-shaped course. I first saw my crew at mile 21, arriving completely saturated and dripping in sweat, with near tears of joy. Mom, Dad and my boyfriend Robert excitedly welcomed me to their picnic of salt pills, sunscreen, sugary snacks, hugs, and kisses. My parents have attended nearly every one of my races since 6th grade and wouldn’t have missed this for the world, and Robert’s devout confidence in me meant I would trade the world to have him at this race.

My race strategy was simple. Eat sugar, drink water, keep it salty and slow down. Wanting to spend as much time with my family as possible, I only stopped at the crewed aid stations. At mile 30 they urged me to sit down as the heat and humidity rose. Mom slathered sunscreen on my ears and Dad shaded me with an umbrella as Robert assessed the calorie count in each pocket of my Nathan hydration vest. Love comes in many forms!

For the next ten miles I thought the race was over. I discovered my hip flexors for the second time in my life and could barely lift my legs over the rocks and roots of the trail. Why on earth would my body choose this run of all runs to stop working? The race had thinned at this point and I found myself alone, battling pain, fear and negative thoughts. But, as pre-race advice so ominously warned, a 100 mile race is a year’s worth of running in one day. And that, my friends, means that injuries pass.

By mile 48, hip flexor worries were long gone and a rising core temperature took center stage. Volunteers vigorously shook cowbells at the Camp Ten Bear aid station, filling the air with noise and droplets of sweat in the 95 degree heat. Melting popsicles, ice water sponge baths, and spray bottle rinses brought joy in ways I never expected. Leaving the aid station I warned my crew to ready the ibuprofen, knowing the race was only beginning, and smiled, reveling in my last solo miles before I picked up a pacer.

“You are a queen!” offered a kind woman during the high of mile 70, as my legs weightlessly carried me up a hill. Less than one mile later, after Robert switched from crew to pacer duties, I sat on a rock with him, crying and nauseous. Such is life. Both sweet and salty foods became repulsive and I shamefully chucked a hummus sandwich into the woods. My body is practically made of hummus at this stage of my life, so to waste such perfect calories meant I’d hit rock bottom. The overwhelming humidity seemed to fill me up until there was no room for those desperately needed calories. Robert lovingly and sternly persuaded me to force down one Gu, as all good pacers do, and, like a child eating broccoli, I grimaced and gagged until those 100 calories of birthday cake flavored goodness brought me out of a deep bonk and back onto a high.

Robert handed me off to my second pacer, Lydia, at mile 76. The sun had set and the temperature plateaued at ‘hot as hell.’ I warned her this would be a slog through the night as I shivered uncontrollably, clutching a Coke as my life source. My needs became few. Ibuprofen in, Biofreeze on, white potatoes packed. And off we went for the last marathon of the day.

Although unable to verbalize my needs, Lydia fulfilled each and every one of them, guiding me effortlessly through the late hours of the race and keeping me out of the ambulances carrying runner after runner. Through mile 88, life was easy. Eat potatoes, run to the next glowstick, hike the crest of the hill, rocket down, repeat. The end became near and my focus narrowed on the light of my headlamp on Lydia’s feet. A man approached me at the last aid station, mile 96.5. “Are you Cara? Liba says ‘keep going.’” A simple message, passed along through a stranger, filled me with gratitude. Showing up at 1am to support strangers and friends alike in achieving their goals, however crazy, instills that feeling of belonging we all crave. Community comes in many forms.

Heading into the night for our last romp, Robert informed us that the 4th place woman was 7 minutes ahead. I turned and laughed, as if I had any chance of catching her. The finish line drew me in, filling the adrenaline tank. I was actually going to finish this thing. And in the top 5! I began to write the story before the story was over. With 1.5 miles to go, two headlamps bobbed ahead at the top of a hill. “I think that’s her,” Lydia mused. “Let’s get her.” As we power hiked past the walkers, two lights turned slowly not to meet our eyes, but to directly illuminate our bibs. Four eyes widened as the 4th place woman and her pacer realized we were running the 100 miler and not the 100k. Go time. Lydia and I made the final turn into the woods and picked up the pace. A fever of excitement took over, as this 100 mile journey became a 1 mile race to the red neon I dreamt of for a year. We spent 9 exhilarating minutes ‘whooping’ and ‘yipping’ at how much fun this was! We both couldn’t believe the night we were having, how goddamn lucky we were to get to do this. The final mile of the VT100 was my fastest of all 100. I put 8 minutes on the next woman, though the place didn’t really matter at all. Those sweaty and heartfelt hugs from Lydia, Robert, Mom and Dad will always carry more weight than a belt buckle on the podium.

The finishers tent looked like a warzone, with rows of cots propping up dirty and wrecked champions. Of all the runners who started the Vermont 100, only 48% of them reached that sign in the woods. I sat slumped and shivering, sipping life back into me in the form of ramen. From faraway cots, the next place woman and I shared a moment of exhausted stares, with 22 hours worth of effort strewn about the space between us. How do you wrap your head around a year’s worth of running in one day? A year’s worth of highs and bonks, gratitude and tears. Now that the chafing has healed and scarred, I can’t help but wonder what else can be discovered in chasing a goal that’s bigger than myself. In taking a trail so rocky and rooty it brings me to the ground, one so windy it hides the peak from view, or one with no certain end. These trails come in many forms; where will this one lead next?

UVRC Vermont 50 Aid Station

By Bill Young

Three hundred fifty runners descended through the morning hill fog to Ralph’s Aid Station at 7.1 miles (11.4 kilometers) in the famous Vermont 50. (50 K = 31 miles).
Thirty one miles is more than 26.2 miles. Fifty miles is more than 50 kilometers.
The UVRC team was ready with fluid, fuel and fun.
Eight year old Andrew MacKenzie climbed into the DartMOOSE suit with the help of his sister Ali.
Runners high-fived, smiled and asked, “Am I hallucinating?”
Colin Smith and Hillary Young were spotted flying through the station.
Were you also out there running so fast we missed you?
We heard that Jermey, Amanda, Kevin and Jim Zoom were running in the 50 Mile race!
Thank you to Mike Silverman, Vermont 50 Race Organizer and UVRC member for putting this event together, setting us up for success, and recruiting such talented and good looking Volunteers for Ralph’s Station.


by Jim Burnett

At aid station #4 – Garvin Hill at the 18th mile of the VT50 Miler, I called it quits. The good news was that it was a beautiful day in the hills of Vermont, clear blue skies, gentle breeze, temps in the 50s – perfect for running – and from the summit of Garvin Hill you have an unobstructed long view up into the Green Mountains where the leaves are just starting to show their autumn colors. The bad news was that despite all my efforts to the contrary, my legs had seized up with cramps that I couldn’t shake, and believe me I tried. I had never quit a race before in 50 years of running. At that moment, as I made arrangements with the friendly and helpful volunteer staff at Garvin Hill to be picked up by the “meat wagon” and shuttled back to the Mt Ascutney Lodge, I was disappointed and, frankly, humiliated.

As the young female runner from Colorado, who had tried unsuccessfully to fight through a head cold, and I climbed into the pickup truck and bumped along the dirt roads back to the start area, my outlook started to change, as I reminded myself why I had signed up for the 50 mile trek over hill and dale, that I figured would take me close to 12 hours to complete, in the first place. Last year I ran the VT50K as a training run for the NYC Marathon and so I thought, “Why not up the ante a bit and run the 50 miler this year.” Signing up would encourage (force) me to build an even bigger mileage base to prep for the marathon, right? It would be just the right “kick in the butt” I needed.

When I was on the hockey team at Bowdoin College, dare I say it, 50 years ago, our coach would schedule a scrimmage with the perennial ECAC powerhouse Boston University the night before Thanksgiving every year. We would go get our butts kicked, then go home for Thanksgiving vacation before returning for our opening game in the first week of December with a chip on our shoulders. What I remember most about the BU skaters is that, yes, they were big and fast, but more importantly they were selfless team players. There were no mighty slap shots from the blue line, they scored their goals by passing the puck until our goalie was out of position and the last man in the chain would simple sweep the puck into the net. It was humiliating for sure, but the lesson was etched into our hockey heads and the BU role model served us well every year without fail.

So, by the time I was heading home from the shortened version of the VT50 for a little R&R, I was congratulating myself for being wise enough to recognize that discretion is indeed the better part of valor and to take my comeuppance graciously and with due humility. “I will lick my wounds and get back on my training schedule for NYC with renewed vigor and motivation,” I thought to myself. Thank you VT50 for schooling me and recharging me just like BU used to do. I can take a punch, Grrrrrr…

I want to thank Mike Silverman and his crew for staging this fantastic race for 30 years and counting. I consider the VT50 one of the premier trail races in our sport. Runners and bikers come from around the USA and Canada to compete and help raise money for Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports and I’m already looking forward to next year.

Vermont 50M

by Leah Todd

I heard music coming from the woods.

I don’t just mean the wind rustling the leaves and grass.

Human music. Guitars. Bluegrass? I had heard people call rural New England “banjo country.” Is this what they meant? Worse, I had been running for eight hours already. Was this music even real?

The trail wound back and forth, around many switchbacks up the base of a hill. I heard the music for a mile. Maybe more. The sounds would fade as the trail took me away, and then grow louder again. Getting closer. Now voices. I hiked, jogged, and hiked some more, then looked up to see a sign: “RACE FUEL AHEAD.”

Above that, a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer case nailed to a tree.

I had reached this unofficial aid station of the Vermont 50-mile trail race, the source of the music and the mile 40 marker of my run. Speakers blared upbeat banjo music. A line of plastic cups with beer filled a small table. I chugged one to a cheer from the small crowd. I ran on. The beer sat surprisingly well in my stomach. Some of my fastest miles came next.

Not every run goes well. Sometimes every mile is a cold hard slog. Memories of shin-deep mud and barely making cutoff times during my last 50-mile attempt were fresh as I ran up and down these perfectly smooth and dry Vermont trails in the first half of the race. Early on, I had stopped to watch the sunrise touch the tops of the trees in the distance. I shouted as golden light beamed through fall foliage. I took a selfie with some horses. Tried to feed some cows. I loved the rolling hills – a mix of gravel and pavement – only a few of them too steep to run.

Grateful, grateful, grateful.

As the miles ticked by, I kept expecting things to get dark inside. Real dark. I tried to reach down and hear what my mind would throw at me. I asked for it: “What’s next? What do you have for me this time?” What came back was quiet. I would say out loud how awesome this was. How great I was doing – even as I awkwardly hiked down the steepest descents, unable to run. I told myself to celebrate every five-mile mark, then every two-miles, then every mile. (“You’re going to get to 35 miles, Leah. You’re going to celebrate the shit out of that. And then you’re going to make it to 40…”) Counting them down, getting them done.

Thich Nath Hanh said, “Peace is every step.”

I found little joys along the trail. The older woman who I ran with for a good 10 miles. Three dudes running a relay version of the race who sped past us at mile 35. “This is where things get fun,” I said. “Define fun,” they said. We laughed. “I mean, interesting,” I said. “This is where you learn something new about yourself.” Eventually, I passed them back – at mile 45. All of it is effort. All of it is good.

I had started the day just before sunrise with Amanda, a dear friend in a new place. A fellow native of the cold Midwest making a home in cold New England. We trained together – that is, we cried together, laughed together, ate together, and spent long days outside on trails – but had agreed not to run together during the race. She outran me on the first long stretch. We hung close to one another for almost the whole first half, then I lost her. She pulled way ahead.

Around mile 40, just after my shot of PBR, the trails turned to singletrack and fun. Swoopy, smooth, and downhill. Just enough downhill to enjoy, not enough to convert my stride to Gumby-legs. I felt gravity and momentum. Adrenaline numbed my pain for a little while, and I actually had some fun. Mile 42…43…44…and I saw a blue shirt through the trees.

I let out a scream – “OH MY GOD, AMANDA” – and the three relay dudes, still in front of me, froze. They thought I’d seen a bear. I remember vaguely apologizing as I ran past them. “I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s just…that was just…joy.”

The deep joy of finding a friend.

It felt like forever before I caught up to her. She was making strong progress at a steady pace. “Man, is it good to see you.” We didn’t talk after that. Didn’t need to.

Sometimes, I think ultrarunning is really just biology. Train the muscles to run, then run some more. Learn how to shuffle slowly on tired legs. Train the mind to expect grief, disappointment, self-doubt and uncertainty. Eat as much as you can, at regular intervals. When it comes to race day, adrenaline can wash you in pleasurable hormones. You may forget you’ve been running for eight hours straight.

At least, that’s the best-case scenario.

Two miles left, I passed three women on a mile-long uphill. I was glad I didn’t look at the elevation profile of the race before I started, or I would’ve run slower in the miles leading up to this.

One mile left, I grunted and exhaled sharply with every downhill step. “Relax, Leah,” I said, probably out loud. “You’re being dramatic.”

A half mile left, the trail opened up into a clearing and I could see the tops of buildings far below – the sweet finish line. All downhill, almost done. I cried a little. Relief and disbelief.

I ask myself again and again why I do this. I ask my running friends why I do this. We spend many miles on long runs talking about why we do this. If I wanted to stay in shape, the stair master at the gym would do. If this was about accomplishment, one look at my race times would prove me completely…average. The awards ceremony at the Vermont 50 finished before I even finished the race.

This kind of running is a privilege. It’s a sign of free time. (I don’t have to work three jobs to earn a comfortable income.) It’s a sign of physical health. (I have all my limbs, and my body so far has complied.) The jury is out on whether running for me is at its core a distraction from existential angst – or a cure.

But last weekend, I just felt joy. I felt underneath it all – the effort, the planning, the aggravation and stress – is the deep and abiding joy of being alive. A lust for life. Certain parts of my life come into clearer focus after the mental chaff fades away: befriending my inner coach and critic, hugging my pregnant friend and neighbor a quarter mile from the finish line, walking out of the finishing chute on wobbly legs into the arms of the person I’m hoping to spend the rest of my life with.

The reason in those moments seemed simple: running is where I feel the most free.

Vermont 50M

by Amanda Kievet

Me and Ollie at the finish

The plan was to take the year off of ultras. I was burned out from training for and running my first 50 miler last May (the Ice Age 50 in Wisconsin) and was looking forward to my first summer in the Upper Valley _not_ spent running very long circles all day at least once a week. That is, until I met Leah.

Leah moved to the Upper Valley this time last year, and we met in the winter through the Wednesday Pub Run. Being a fellow late twenty-something Midwesterner with a flexible work schedule, an active dog, and a similar relationship and history with running ultras, we hit it off.

After a snowy February pub run up Moose Mountain, Leah, John Walthour and I were standing around talking about races, and they were both considering the Vermont 50. Having run the 50k twice, I gave my two cents about the course and left it at that. After the snow melted, Leah sent Anne Peters and I a message: “Just signed up for the Vermont 50M! Who’s with me?” Anne was going to be 9 months and four days pregnant on race day, so that left me. I signed up right after having a successfully not-awful time at the Mt Wash Road Race.

Leah and John on one of our 25 mile training runs.

And then I procrastinated on training until around mid July, taking the “I’ll just run as much as I feel like it” approach. I realized that I didn’t have the drive to do my long runs so I made the decision to add some accountability and invite Leah. Normally, when I train, I do most of my runs alone — especially my long runs because 1) I don’t know a lot of folks who want to wake up early on the weekend to run for six hours, and 2) I have always been pretty insecure about my pace and 3) a lot can happen out there including crying, self-doubt, emergency poops and other icky stuff, and generally not being the best most-likable version of myself.

That Saturday, we planned to run 20 miles. It was about 95 degrees out and 100 percent humidity. It was awful and slow and I almost cried around mile 15, but we made it. And after getting through that, I realized we could handle running through most anything together.

The runs became easier. Leah invited John along and having a third person there turned out to be even more fun. Interesting conversation filled hours of running much better than silence. We shared the burden of planning routes and dropping jugs of water. On one particularly beautiful summer morning run with Leah and our friend Keriann, we ran a big loop around Lake Mascoma and jumped in afterwards all in time for work — summer bliss in a nutshell.

No, it’s usually not fun to set the alarm extra early to fit in a run, or to run through Awful Weather, but having friends around made it a lot better. Normally, looking back on a race involves thinking a lot about the actual race day, but this time it’s looking back on a whole summer of friendship and shared experiences.

But I will talk a bit about the race.

Some UVRC folk before the Vermont50

Well into our summer of training together, Anne asked us if we were planning to run the race together. In opposing unison I answered “definitely not” while Leah answered “yeah!” In my opinion, training together provided the support and encouragement to “just get through” an enormous amount of miles week after week, but the day of the race was for running my personal best. I was concerned that running as a group would mean running at the lowest common denominator. During a race this long, everyone has their highs and lows and I thought if we ran together, it was unlikely they would happen at the same time. With a race cutoff time of 12 hours, we had to average 14.4 minute miles. During our training long runs, we never came in that quick. We agreed to run our separate ways in good humor.

The day before the race, I was freaking out. I headed over to Leah’s where we agreed to meet for a shakeout run before heading to packet pickup. I broke down on her porch — a full on taper tantrum. As I sobbed, she put an arm around me. She understood the unique mix of stress and excitement and pressure that comes with running a race like this, and I was so thankful. Once we were running, I realized I was mostly just antsy to run — a great place to be the day before running fifty miles.

The day of the race we found each other in the pitch black pre-dawn, bursting with nervous energy. We snapped a quick group picture and then lined up at the start. Ok, here we go — ready to run our own races. The anxiety I’d felt at a low level for months and at a pressing I-might-nap-or-cry-at-any-moment level for the past two days melted away as I started my watch. Less than fifty miles to go. This is it: I’m finally doing the thing.

I settled into my own thoughts but I could hear Leah just behind me chatting other folks. A couple easy and familiar miles flew by. We came up over a rise where the early golden sun lit up the leaves of huge maple trees and I could hear Leah just behind me exclaiming how glorious it was! And that’s kind of how things went for the first hour or so — Leah just behind me, but not necessarily running “together”. I tripped on dirt and Leah took the lead while I brushed myself off.

The next miles I mostly remember my feet hurting. Luckily, my crew would be at the Skunk Hollow aid station at mile 12 with backup shoes. I spotted Leah on the rolling dirt roads past scenic farms between miles 12 and 18 (the prettiest, in my opinion). I was feeling great, and seeing her ahead motivated me to push a little harder to catch up. We ran together through the next two aid stations. Then with finding a porta potty on my mind, I pulled ahead a bit before Margaritaville, and by the time I re-emerged hobbling (sitting == bad) she was loading up on snacks at aid station.

She was ready to “walk and snack” and I didn’t want to be left behind so I quickly grabbed a sandwich and followed her lead. We hiked up some hilly dirt roads and talked about some of the less-great ways we were feeling now. I pulled ahead around mile 28 as I convinced myself to “just shuffle”. Shortly thereafter, one of my calf muscles started cramping, plus the mountain bike trails slowed me down significantly. I was cursing the roots and rocks that _almost_ got me, and kind of moaning in pain to myself as I battled with all the thoughts that tend to creep up during these kinds of experiences. “You have to keep going.” “Why, this is so stupid and arbitrary. You’re not even going to win anyways… What’s the point?” “Here’s a deal: You never have to do one of these thing again, but you do have to do this one.” “I know you’re lying.” “Yeah, probably, but just try to believe it and keep going.”

Finally I met up with Doug mile 41. Doug and Irene came up from Boston to pace and crew me and generally be the best friends I could hope for. I nearly cried when I saw him. With him running behind me, my dark thoughts went away, but it still hurt. We picked up the pace and even passed a few people. Around mile 45 I heard this excited outcry from some switchbacks away through the woods: “Oh my GOD, AMANDA!” For about three minutes I thought having Leah on my heels might be exactly what I needed for a strong finish. I kicked up the pace but when she easily caught up to us, I had to let her pass — she sounded fresh and energetic and I just didn’t have it in me to keep that up.

The rest of the race I “hung in there” with Doug and enjoyed the accomplishment of already having run 45 miles and still being fit enough to keep going. Heck, I PR’d my 50k and marathon! Mentally, I felt dazed and confused and on the verge of puking. At half a mile to go I saw my friends waiting for me and I absolutely sprinted. I came through the finish with a joyful jump.

Me and my awesome crew and pacer

In the end, while we agreed to run our separate races, Leah and I essentially ran this one together, and it was great. Rather than run at the “lowest common denominator”, having her there motivated me to run a bit faster than I would have otherwise. I think entering these things with a feel-free-to-run-faster-when-you-feel-great agreement is a great way to go, and I’d totally do it again next time.

I’m extremely proud of all of us: Leah with her amazing finish, John for completing his first 50 miler, and myself for a really strong first half of the race and for finishing well within the cutoff (and in fact 4 minutes faster than my previous 50 miler). I’m also proud to say I was one of only 50 women who competed in this race, compared to 124 men (the 50k was much more evenly split). But I also know I can do better, and I’m already excited to get back on the training rollercoaster, especially if I’ve got some pals along for the ride.

(More photos and adventures on my blog here: https://amandakievet.com/blog/2019/09/29/vermont-50/)

About this Newsletter

This newsletter is put out monthly by the Upper Valley Running Club, the premier (and only) running club in the Connecticut River Upper Valley Region. This month, the newsletter was edited by Amanda Kievet, with article collection by Geoff Dunbar. Any comments, questions, submissions, winter running tips, etc, send to newsletter@uppervalleyrunningclub.org.

Comments are closed.