The Forethought: VT100 Part I

This is Part I. Part II can be found here. Part III is here.

In The Beginning

A few months ago I decided to sign up for the VT100. At the time, I hadn’t yet run my first 50 miler but with some running background, I thought it would be a good idea. April came and I ran my first 50. My legs hurt and recovery took a little longer than anticipated, but part of me was still excited for my first go at 100 miles. Soon enough, July 19th came and my first attempt at a 100 was underway.

Of the many things I remember from racing – be it true or not – is that the sleep you get two nights before a race is more important than the night before. I tried, and I think I did a fairly decent job getting in bed early and racking up a decent eight hours or so of sleep. The night before the race was a totally different story for a number of reasons.

Leading In

On Wednesday my father came out to help me put siding on our house. Over the last year we have connected two shed dormers and raised the roof line on our house; the siding was the final step. Consequently, the three days prior to the race were predominately devoted to finishing the house and not preparing for Saturday. All my final packing, planning, making food, got put on hold until Friday night. Friday itself was spent trying to register and finish the siding.

I showed up to registration, got my packet and weighed in – 156.6 pounds and a blood

The tents on Silver Hill.

The tents on Silver Hill.

pressure of 137/78 (whatever that means) – I moseyed over to register my vehicle on foot and was told that I actually needed the vehicle to register it. Oops. I figured knowing the license plate would be good enough. Wrong. Not a big deal, it just meant that I’d get home, and come back to register the car before the 4:00 PM meeting. Unfortunately, what is normally a 10 minute drive was more like 20 with all the local road closures to VT100 traffic – thank you cranky neighbors… So instead of having a few minutes before the meeting and after the siding was completed to get my stuff together, it meant I was going to do it after the meeting, which meant after dinner, which meant after my wife got home, and more than likely meant after the kids got to bed around 8:00PM.

The Strategy

To say that I had no strategy for this race would be a lie, but to say I had any realistic idea about strategy would also be a lie. The previous 50 miler I ran was on similar roads – though no trails – and I managed to run that just under seven hours. I knew that to try and run an equally fast opening 50 would be stupid and that I should go out conservatively, but as to what conservative was, I had little idea. I knew I could run ten-minute miles for the first 50 fairly easily and probably roll through the 100k at the same pace. It sounded manageable; I was sure I would blow up, so the idea in my head was to push that out as close to the end as I could. The problem was that ten-minute miles means an 8:20 50 mile, or a 16:40 100 mile, or in other words, way too fast. Regardless, anything faster than 10:00 was not on my agenda.

One of the big dilemmas I was having concerning building a strategy was the idea of a DNF. I’ve had a couple of DNS’es thanks to over zealous race choices and a bit of a drinking problem, but I’ve never DNF’ed. Dabbling in the ultra world, I’ve come to grips that a DNF will eventually occur, but I’m not ready yet. Running my first 50 I knew I would finish. I was confident in my conditioning and ability to push through, sure 50 miles is far, but it’s not that far, even if I had to walk it in for a 15 hour finish. A hundred miles was a whole different beast. The idea of not finishing was an actual reality, especially if I went out too fast.

In the end, I ended up writing down a number of aid stations on a piece of paper with different arrival times based on pace. Ideally, I would go through the first 50 no faster than 8:20 and just hang on for as long as I could and hope that could get me back to Silver Hill of my own volition.

The Crew

Yes, I affixed a deer skull to the grill of my Man-Van. Just for the race, mind you.

Yes, I affixed a deer skull to the grill of my Man-Van. Just for the race, mind you.

For me, one of the most stressful things about this whole thing was organizing my one person crew. I managed to rope my brother into driving around all day and helping me out. I first planned to meet him at the Stage Road station about 30 miles in. I could estimate a ball park as to when he should plan on being there, and even estimate times for the next two or three handler stations, but after that, I had no clue. It would be a waiting game on his part. A time to kill some forced boredom. Even when I could tell him where to be and when, I had no idea what to tell him to be ready to do. I gave him a laundry basket stocked with things I might need: extra shirt, shoes, sun hat, band-aids, food, drink, even a camera if he should decide to capture a sliver of what I was attempting on some sort of digital film. In the end, I think a couple of drop bags could have replaced my crew as I didn’t use him much at all. And I’m willing to guess drop bags are probably cheaper and come with less guilt.

So It Begins

All my stuff: SKORA Fit, Orange Mud Vest Pack, Generic white shirt, camo bandana, and of course, the mandatory 'poop' bag just in-case (these were provided by the race due to previous participants unrully poo habits...).

All my stuff: SKORA Fit, Orange Mud Vest Pack, Generic white shirt, camo bandana, and of course, the mandatory ‘poop’ bag just in-case (these were provided by the race due to previous participants unrully poo habits…).

I set the alarm on my phone for 2:45AM, enough time to perk a cup of coffee, grab a quick shower and get to West Windsor by 3:30AM. Between the hourly, startled wake-ups searching for the cell phone to reinsure me I hadn’t slept past the 4:00AM start, and the cranky toddler who kept waking up proclaiming to all that she was apparently dieing of thirst, my potential 6 hours of sleep turned into something less.

The drive to the start was less than memorable and I ended up parking in the far lot and walking down Silver Hill in a strung out crowd of strangers, all moving towards the din emanating from the giant white tent below. There were like minded runners, with tired faces, emotions still asleep, chipper crew members  in their street clothes downing their coffee and laughing at inside jokes, and sleeping babies resting on mother’s shoulders, completely unaware of what their parent was about to embark upon.

Despite the headlamp induced, shadowed faces surrounding me, I recognized a few people I knew, and as we congregated 30 yards behind the starting line, the conversation turned to everything but what we were about to do. Eventually the starter began talking and everyone’s focus began to shift.

Post-Partum: VT100 Part III

The FITs

FitA couple days before the Fourth of July, I got a nice little package in the mail, sent by the kind folks over at SKORA Running. I knew they were sending me a new pair of kicks, but I didn’t have a tracking number and it came rather quickly, so it was a bit of a surprise to say the least. I also had no idea of the colour.

What I did know was that it was a pair of their newest offering the FIT. I have to admit, the FIT scared me a little bit at first. All the talk around the internet and their website tout it’s padding and cushy ride, a sort of “Introduction to Zero Drop” type shoe. Being used to running barefoot or in the CORE or PHASE with an 8mm stack, the double 16mm stack of the FIT also gave me some fright. To top off my fears the FIT is also a tad bit narrower than the CORE or PHASE and I wasn’t sure how that would fit my flipper like feet.

Padded heel.

Padded heel.

As soon as I get shoes out of the box, I do a full inspection. Sure pictures online are nice, but once you get a shoe in your hand you notice things you’d otherwise miss. The first thing I noticed is the cushion. Not the cushion of the sole, but the cushion in the heel. I wouldn’t really describe it as cushion so much as padding. The padding is what you would find in something of a traditional shoe and it seems to envelop your heel. Your heel is still free to move about, but the padding keeps things sort of loose feeling but tight at the same time. Almost like it doesn’t exist, if that makes any sense. I actually prefer this to the heel of the PHASE and the CORE, a fact that totally caught me off guard. (I was planning on disliking this shoe…).

The next thing I noticed upon inspection was the insole. The insole is huge, a full 6mm, bigger than anything I’ve run in in sometime. To be honest, I haven’t noticed a difference between it and my other shoes, so it gets a pass.

FIT insole on the top, CORE on the bottom.

FIT insole on the top, CORE on the bottom.

As with all my shoes, I took them out of the box, put them on, and wore them around the house for the first couple of days. I do this so I can send shoes back if they don’t fit, but it also allows me to tweak lacing systems to better fit my feet. I always start with the laces super loose and then tighten them down; surprisingly with the FIT, I ended up tightening the laces back to their ‘factory preset’. I’m fairly sure it has to do with the 3d-dot printing being super stretchy and flexible. While the forefoot of the shoe does fit somewhat tight, it stretches and doesn’t cause any problems like a traditional canvas/mesh shoe that doesn’t stretch.

I don't think I really run like that...

I don’t think I really run like that…

At first, I started out planning on just using them for low mileage days pushing the stroller, or just taking it easy. However, that plan has quickly changed and the FIT has become my new go to shoe. Depending on the day I will take the 6mm insole out which leaves the shoe with a 10mm stack, but more often than not, I’m running with the full 16mm. I have yet to notice any significant difference in ground feel or handling when running on roads, track or trails.

When I got my CORE, I fell in love and thought nothing would replace it. Sadly, it’s been pushed to the back of my closet and the FIT is now my go to shoe. I was planning on running the VT100 in the CORE, but  now I’m planning on wearing the FIT. We’ll see if any problems arise, but I kind of doubt it. I doubt the 3d dot will last as long as the leather of the CORE, but that just means I might have to give the FORM a try…

As an addendum, I should mention that while I normally wear a size 10, I wear a 10.5 in the FIT. I could probably get away with a 10, but it would be tight.

You can connect with SKORA on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram, or on their website. They have a plethora of running related information, and a crackpot customer service team that is beyond helpful.

More Reviews:
SKORA Core
SKORA Phase

Taper, Pacing, and A Crew

With VT100 in just about a week, my taper is in full swing. Typically, I’m not much of  a taperer. My miles aren’t really high enough to warrant a taper for a 5k. Even a 50 mile race, I might take it easy the week before – drop my miles a bit and not do any real long run or speed work – but it wouldn’t be a three week process. I’m not sure if it’s a proper fear of what’s in store, or all the training plans out there that have a taper at the end, but either way, I’ve decided to do a bit of a taper.

I’ve dropped my mileage, cancelled long runs, and opted out of any speedwork. Where as I was putting in a minimum of 50 miles a week before hand, this week will be around 40, and Sunday-Friday the week before will be two mile days.

Because I don’t really implement tapers, I’m not sure how I should be feeling, but I’ve been feeling great. Physically, my legs are starting to feel fresher. The little niggles are dissipating, the sore Achilles isn’t so sore (though this could be due to some other extraneous factors), even my mental outlook is improving. I’m still terrified of what’s to come in a little over a week, but the excitement is brimming.

With the reduced mileage I’ve also been able to think more about the race. Perhaps I should have been doing this long before two weeks out, but I’m learning, I think… Being that this is my first 100, and not having any idea how my legs will handle on the back half, it makes planning anything a bit difficult.

First, there is the pacing. In April I did a 50 miler on much the same terrain as VT100. I went out too fast with some 7:30s and managed to finish with an 8:22 pace. Things slowed down, a lot. I guess that’s to be expected, but I don’t want to drop off too hard. Consequently, I want to go out conservative, but what is that? 10:00 miles sounds pretty damn conservative, but that’s an 8:20 50 and a 16:40 100. That would almost certainly be top-10 and probably top-5. That assumes no slow down, but all the same even sub-17 seems a bit over zealous to say the least. I suppose it’s something that I will figure out n race day, but I will start knowing that I need to keep my miles in the double digits and hopefully, it won’t bite me in the ass too hard.

The other thing I’ve had time to sort of think about is my crew. Initially, I had a crew of three. Two newbies and one veteran who was going to pace me. As things would have it, my veteran had things come up and will be doing his own race the same day as VT. One of my crew will be working in Burlington during the day but will be able to make it back by evening. That leaves my brother as the only crew person I will have. At this point I’m playing with the idea of having a crew. One of the nice things about the VT100 – depending on who you ask – is that there is a plethora of aid stations and places for drop bags. Really the only thing I’d need my crew to do is carry some things I might need, and possibly give me some motivation when I’m wavering. So yes a crew would be nice in that sense, but it also means I need to plan things out for them – things I don’t even know – like when and where to meet them. In the end, it might just be easier to look after myself.

This is essentially a ‘home’ course, if you will. I live two miles from the course and know the last 30 miles quite well. I’m hoping this gives me a bit of a boost should I actually make it to the last 70 miles. But no matter the outcome, I’m really looking forward to the adventure in store.

If you’re in the area and want to volunteer there are a number of opportunities before, during and after the race. Let me know and I can put you in touch with the appropriate people (or you can just go to the VT100 website…).