“Poor Decisions Make for Better Stories”
What was I thinking, did I actually pay a complete stranger to run a 500 mile foot race,what was I thinking !!
About a year ago I stumbled on to Peak Racing’s website and it was all down hill from there !! At the time it seemed like a good idea so I started making plans to visit the booming metropolis of Pittsfield Vermont. Next thing I knew I was at the General Store eating breakfast and wondering what I had gotten myself into !!
Andy met us (Joel, Michelle, Mark, and 1 more who’s name I can’t remember) at about 5:30 Thursday afternoon at the barn. He explained to us that the course was very runnable and that he was going to do everything he could to ensure that all of us finished the race. Having never met Andy before this set me at ease, but I would soon come to know the real Andy !! At 6pm the race officially started and we headed out into the wilds of Amee Farms and the Green Mountains with smiles on our faces, laughter in our voices, and illusions of grandeur in our thoughts.
Our first obstacle was to cross the river on a bridge made by the great and powerful Pete. It consisted of steel I-beams, 2X4’s, 2X10’s, various other sizes of lumber, a couple chunks of firewood, straps of all kinds to hold it all together, and 300 pounds of rocks to keep it from floating away. I found myself questioning the bridges integrity, but as the days and nights wore on I came to realize it was indeed a sound and sturdy bridge worthy of a 500 mile race, a bridge that the Gods themselves would have been honored to use !! Climbing up the river bank from the bridge was evil and just plain mean, but I would soon realize that it was just par for the course.
After crossing the river and crawling up the river bank we were greeted with a fairly wide trail not too steep complete with switchbacks. However the switchbacks soon ended and were replaced by steep uphills dotted with perfectly placed briars and pink ribbons. After one obscenely steep climb we were greeted with our first section of trail where the trail had yet to be built. Matt worked tirelessly for the first 6 days to get the trail cut in for the 200 mile start, but us 500 milers got to experience the joy of running/walking this trailless section of the trail. Soon after this we were greeted by the top of the mountain, the cabin, and Andy’s smiling face.
A short downhill followed by a gentle up hill climb lead us into the Labrynth. Beautiful and welcoming in the daylight, treacherous and foreboding after dark !! After passing through the Labrynth 5 miles of nicely switched downhill trails were all that stood between us and the barn. The only problem was nicely switched trails were still Peak Races McNaughton style trails, so they were still wicked tough !! Rough and rocky with more stream crossings than I could count, and just for fun a short but steep, straight down off the side of the mountain bushwack through more briars. We next followed an old road bed that lead us across several more streams, downed trees, and washed out areas. Finally we ended up at the river and a mile bushwack the get back to the bridge
Once back at the barn my mind was trying to crunch the numbers, my first lap took roughly 3+ hours on fresh legs. So I soon would be doing 4 hour loops …. 50 miles a day equals 5 loops at 4 hours each for a total of 20 hours, leaving me 4 hours each day to eat and sleep for 10 straight days !! 1 loop in and I was already mentally crushed, was this even possible, how could I hold it together for 10 days ?? So in true DUMASS runner fashion I stopped thinking and headed out into the darkness for my 2nd loop with a smile on my face and a pop tart in my hand.
During my journey I formed many new friendships and bonds with complete strangers. I learned potatoes with bacon in a red plastic cup can only stay in the microwave for 1 minute and 20 seconds, any longer and the cup will melt or the potatoes will explode when you stir them. I made friends with the 3 resident rhinos that live in the Green Mountains, broke a hiking pole, saw a moose, hid from other runners for a day because I had nothing else to do, messed with Mark’s mind as often as I could (sorry Mark :-)), ate 20 chicken nuggets in under 10 minutes, stared at the moon, fell in the river, laughed and cried, ate my fill of sausage gravy for breakfast, payed the price for eating my fill of sausage gravy for breakfast, got lost in the Labrynth, got in a fight with a plastic bag, listened to the coyotes sing every night, played in the rain, cursed the rain, chased a turkey up a hill, got to take a shower after the great and amazing Mo, was able to share my experience with Phil (crew/pacer extraordinaire), and I smiled and laughed more times than I can count !!
A truly remarkable experience that ended with me sitting alone in the dark on a piece firewood with tears in my eyes.