Monday, July 19, 2010

Chafing, Pain in the neck, and Taking the Pledge at Vermont 100

I was determined to finish this year's Vermont 100, no matter how long it took me. The 4AM start was comfortable with a clear starry sky and temperatures in the sixties. I ran slightly faster than I would normally start, hoping to get some miles in before it turned hot and humid. As the temperatures started to soar later in the morning, I slowed my pace and stayed at an effort where I didn't feel like I was over heating.

I drank gallons of water and Heed and sweated enough to stay thoroughly drenched throughout the entire day. Despite all my drinking, I wasn't peeing much. That concerned me, but I was feeling good and moving well. Also, my weight was exactly even at the weight checks at 47 and 70 miles, so I was holding my own. I kept my head wet, using the horse troughs and water from the aid stations to douse myself, and I put ice down the front of my running bra every time it was available. I was uncomfortably hot at times, but seemed to be handling it OK. People were dropping early from the heat and humidity, but I just kept telling myself to not worry about pace and keep moving. I was waiting for sundown when the temperature would drop to a more tolerable level.

Kevin met me at the handler stations and was always a sight for sore eyes! He greeted me with an ice cold smoothie and a baggie of ice at each handler station and sent me off with a kiss. I would start looking forward to the next handler station the minute I pulled out of the one I was at! It helped me break down the race into manageable segments.

I never developed any of my usual foot problems because this year the course was the driest I have ever seen it. But in these hundred milers problems of one sort or another are going to happen and you just have to deal with them the best you can. I started noticing some problems with chafing where the elastic of my shorts lining was rubbing my upper inner thighs as I was coming into Ten Bear at 70 miles. My shorts had been soaking wet with salty sweat for almost 16 hours at this point. Instead of stopping long enough to address the issue while it was still only a minor problem, I grabbed a handful of Vaseline and smeared it in the general area of discomfort and moved on quickly. I wanted to get a few more miles in before it turned dark, so I was in a hurry.

By the time I finished climbing the big rocky hill out of Ten Bear, the discomfort had turned into something more like pain. I stopped and tugged the elastic away from my skin and this tore the skin where the blood had bonded the elastic to the skin. I tried to continue on, walking like Groucho Marx and holding my shorts out away from my legs with both hands. A couple of runners passed me and immediately realized what the issue was. The female runner suggested I cut the liner out of my shorts. I had already thought of that and had been searching the ground for a piece of broken glass or something sharp that would do the trick. But we were in Vermont and there was no litter anywhere that would do the job. As we passed some people loading their horse trailer, the woman asked if they had a knife or scissors that I could use. They asked why and the male runner answered, "so she can kill herself." It gave me a good laugh, but the horse people jumped into the trailer and drove away.

After the two runners moved on, I tried a variety of remedies involving one of my dirty gaiters, leaves and grass, elastic bands, and safety pins. Apparently, I am not a "McGiver" type because none of these things worked. I finally got to a manned aid station and asked for scissors or a knife so I could cut the liner out of my shorts. At this point my shorts were disgustingly grimy with sweat and blood. The man working the station didn't want to give me his Leatherman, but the two women there forced him to. They sent me behind their pickup truck and turned the backup lights on so I could see what I was doing. It worked! When I tried to give the Leatherman back to the guy, he acted like he was afraid to touch it. He gingerly took it between his thumb and forefinger and then dropped it onto a paper towel. He probably threw it in the trash after I left.

I was still sore, but I could move better! By the time I got to West Winds to pick up my pacer Melanie, Kevin and she were starting to worry about me. We headed out of West Winds and Melanie informed me that we were still on pace for a sub 24 hour finish. Unfortunately, I couldn't move very fast because of the chafing. Also, the back of my neck was starting to hurt.The pain in the neck got worse and worse and I had to keep stopping to put my hands on my knees and let my head hang forward to take the weight of my head off. Melanie did great keeping me entertained and distracted with good conversation, but I started getting little spasms down my neck and into my right shoulder. I was not worried about any long term effects because I know my fracture is healed and any pain I get is from muscles and ligaments at this point.

I finally told Melanie that I really needed to lay down on the ground and take the strain off my neck. But I didn't want to do it in the middle of nowhere because I wasn't sure I could get up again. So I struggled on to the next aid station, only to find it was unmanned. By this time I knew I had to drop out of the race, but I also knew we had to get to a manned station before I could do that. Finally we reached the Cow Shed Station at around 84 miles and I announced that I was done and laid down on the ground beside a very nice 15-year-old deaf dog who seemed happy to have me beside him. Melanie did try to keep me going. If anyone could have done it, it would have been her. But there was no doubt that I had to drop.

Kevin was contacted by race workers and came to pick us up. He is very supportive and accepting and wasn't at all bothered by my DNF. He just wanted to be sure I was OK. It felt wonderful to sponge off and then climb into our sleeping bag. Before I fell asleep, I vowed to Kevin that I was done with hundred milers. And I meant it!

In the morning Joe told us he had heard us come in during the night. He and most of my other friends had also dropped from the race. Joe said that when he saw what time it was when we arrived back at the tent he thought to himself, "either Laurel just ran the best hundred miler of her life or she dropped out... Let's be real, she must have dropped out." Kevin told him about my swearing off hundred milers and he said in amusement, "you made the pledge?" He had me say it again so he could record it on his Iphone, presumably so he could play it back to me after my next hundred miler. I'm truly thinking there will not be another. Others don't seem to believe me. I guess time will tell.

On the bright side, I feel good today. Muscle soreness in my legs is minimal, my feet are in good shape, and my chafing is healing. My neck is tired as I type this, but not painful. I'll get out on the bike this evening and do some running/walking tomorrow. I enjoyed wonderful scenery, good running, and great company on the trails of Vermont. I felt good for most of my run and my fitness level wasn't the limiting factor. I enjoyed the journey.


  1. Laurel. whrether you took the pledge or not. If you want to run another 100 miler... (am i sane to say this??????) i'm there to support you! - KC

  2. Ouch. I can't imagine how painful that chaffing must have felt. Bummer the neck pain surfaced. Really low finishing rate this year, so obviously it was especially tough. Rest and recover well. Hey, have a question to ask you... will message you through facebook, so please check it out!

  3. Laurel, sorry your neck pain brought you to a halt shy of the finish line. You did well to get as far as you did. As far as you running another 100, if it's longer longer fun, there's no reason to do another. I do say I would have liked to see your Groucho Marx running style :-)

  4. Wow! I am so impressed with your efforts! 84 miles is amazing. Starting a 100 is a victory in my book. Glad to hear you (at least at times) enjoyed your journey. I hope you recover from your efforts quickly.

  5. Laurel, chafing sucks! I enjoyed reading your race story; your race stories are always funny, touching, and entertaining. I liked the part about the man with the Leatherman and also the deaf dog. No need to make a decision about any future 100 milers, just rest and recover for now. Alison

  6. I agree.....toeing the starting line of a hundred miler is impressive enough....You trained and you started the race, I think you are stating it wrong though, instead of saying you DNFed a 100 miler, you should say you ran an 84 miler. I also agree with an, if it is no longer fun, than don't do it. Surely it is too soon after the race to actually make that decision