A Weekend in Vermont

AJW's TaproomHere in North America, the third weekend in July has been, for the past few years now, as far as I can tell, the biggest 100-mile race week of the year. With three popular 100 milers taking place at once, the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile in California and Nevada, the Hardrock 100 in Colorado, and the Vermont 100 Mile in Vermont, over 600 runners toe the line collectively to run 100 miles on that weekend alone. To borrow a phrase from Tropical John Medinger, it truly is a weekend of “endurance debauchery.”

I was fortunate enough to spend my weekend of “endurance debauchery” as a spectator at the 30th annual Vermont 100 Mile. Having run the race five times, I was eager to return and experience it from the other side and what I saw was truly extraordinary.

As one might expect of a race with a 30-year history, the good folks at the Vermont 100 Mile have the race logistics completely dialed in. Race director Amy Rusiecki runs an incredibly tight ship and on race day is seemingly everywhere from bouncing around to and from the different aid stations to greeting every single finisher with an enthusiastic smile and a hug. Members of the HAM radio crew, many of whom have been working the race for decades, are some of the hardest working I have seen at an ultramarathon as they have the added responsibility of tracking, in addition to over 300 runners, another 80 or so horses and their riders in the companion 100-mile horse race. And the aid-station crews, from the raucous party crowd at the Margaritaville aid station to the all-night crew from the infamous Gil’s Athletic Club at Bill’s aid station, are incredible. Truly, in the 36 hours I spent in and around the race, I was repeatedly impressed by the people of the Vermont 100 Mile.

Then, there is the race course itself. A single figure-eight loop which meanders through the pastoral Vermont countryside and is made up of a blend of farm roads, snowmobile tracks, singletrack trails, and gorgeous “Sound of Music” meadows is an absolute stunner. Featuring a deceiving 17,000 feet of elevation gain, this race is relentlessly rolling. Additionally, and perhaps amazingly, the race course traverses over 58 pieces of private land which means, of course, that in addition to the usual public permits from various agencies that are necessary for putting on such an event, RD Rusiecki also has to individually negotiate race-day agreements with all of these land owners, some of whom have for decades offered up their barns, stables, fields, and driveways for the weekend in order to allow the event to happen.

In this age of loud and flashy races, the Vermont 100 Mile has a decidedly understated old-school feel. The start/finish is in a large field, with no cell service and 12 miles from the nearest town. In the middle of the field are two huge banquet tents, 15 portapotties, and about 500 people camping out in all manner of things from tarps to hammocks to everything in between. All of the electricity for staging the event comes from one lone power pole which serves double duty as the structure which holds up the starting-line banner! The pre- and post-race festivities honor every competitor equally and celebrate the process as much as the product that is so much a part of the long-distance running endeavor. In short, if you’re longing for a piece of ultrarunning’s yesteryear, look no further than the Vermont 100 Mile as I’m sure it won’t be much different next year. And it will be well worth the trip.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Frost Beer Works in Hinesburg, Vermont. I made time for a visit to this wonderful, little seven-barrel brewery and it did not disappoint. Of particular note was their Lush Double IPA which takes the New England IPA idea and makes it better. Just the right amount of fruitiness and not at all bitter for a DIPA, the Lush Double IPA is certainly a keeper and well worth a try if you’re ever in the area.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • With 30 years of history, there are many iRunFar readers who’ve run the Vermont 100 Mile and 100k–probably many times for many of you! Leave a comment to share your thoughts on the race, its course, its community, and its feel.
  • Were you at this year’s running of the Vermont 100 Mile as a runner, crew, volunteer, or spectator? Share your experience in the comments section.

Tent city at the 2018 Vermont 100 Mile start/finish area. Photo: Dave Priganc

A typical scene in Vermont. Photo: Dave Priganc

Some of the medical volunteers from Mt. Ascutney Hospital, including Vermont 100 Mile medical director Dr. Rick Marasa at the far right. Photo: Dave Priganc

Visually impaired runner Eric Strong finished the 2018 Vermont 100k, his longest run over 35 miles. He was guided by Jonathan Faryadi. He said after finishing that he wanted to return for the 100 miler next year. Photo: Dave Priganc

Runners arrive to the Spirit of 76 aid station, which is at mile 76 of the Vermont 100 Mile and mile 38.5 of the Vermont 100k. Photo: Dave Priganc