This is going to be a long one, my friends, so buckle up and settle in! TL;DR, it was hot, we were on track to finish, but ended up with a DNF due to lightning storms.
The 100 on 100 Relay is a 100 mile relay race that takes place on Route 100 in Vermont, starting in Stowe, and making its way all the way down to Okemo resort in Ludlow. Teams of 6 runners each run 3 legs over the course of the day. This year’s race was on Saturday, August 13th, and my team started at 6:45 am (teams receive start times based on runners’ projected paces and finish times).
Hot, humid, and overcast, with intermittent rain. Forecast promised high likelihood of severe thunderstorms, and flash flood warnings.
The team van picked me up around 3 on Friday afternoon, and we headed to Stowe. The scariest thing for me about this weekend was that I only knew one of my team mates, and the other four people were a) complete strangers to me, and b) had all done this race together numerous times, so I was an outsider. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. My teammates are all interesting, fun, kind people, and we got along great.
We arrived at our condo in Stowe around 4, and settled in for a bit, eating snacks and having a couple of beers. Team captain Chris and I went out around 6 to pick up the pizzas we had ordered, and check in at registration/packet pickup. It was well-organized, and we were done in less than 30 minutes.
For the rest of the evening, we ate pizza, watched the Olympics, and chatted, and then were all in bed before 11, because we had an early wake up call for Saturday.
Rob, center, is executive director of the race–he was also Burt in Mary Poppins with me and Chris!
Our official start time was 6:45 am, and there was plenty of coffee and some yogurt under the tent. Chris was runner number 1, so we lined up outside near the start at about 6:35 for final instructions. Just as we got outside, it started to rain a bit, but nothing too awful yet. Pre-race communications had made it clear that in the event of severe weather, the race would not be cancelled, but teams should pick up any runners if there was lightning/thunder, and make individual decisions about whether or not to finish, and that was pretty much what was reiterated here. Safety first.
And they’re off!
The first leg is only 2.5 miles, and ends up looping around right back to the start for transition #1, so we hung out, using the portas, drinking our coffee, and giving Melissa, runner #2, a pep talk. Before we knew it, Chris was back and Melissa was off, and we piled into the van.
The way these relays work is that you can’t shadow your runner, so you end up leap frogging down the course, checking in with your runner if they need it, and then ultimately driving on to the next transition point. We made it through the first several legs, and then it was my turn. As runner number 5, my overall description was this:
This running experience is for your long distance runner seeking a “Postcard” tour of Vermont terrain. Yes, Vermont is very hilly and unpredictable, but the three legs for this runner aren’t either. The first leg is a very flat and enjoyable run of middle distance through beautiful Vermont farm land. This is a “Postcard” run that leaves you smiling and fulfilled, without having to work too hard. The second leg is the longest of the event, but mainly flat, with seemingly endless views. Be sure to stop towards the end of this leg at the river for a cooling dip, you will need it after the distance. The third leg is sure to satisfy with an intermediate distance and a lakeside finish. You’ll have seen it all and will be ready for the finish line! Total distance: 17.5 miles.
My first leg would be from Harwood Union High School to the Waitsfield Town Common, a distance of 5.2 miles.
I got a bit carried away by the downhill in the first few miles, and ended up running miles 1 and 2 in 9:34 and 9:22 respectively. I slowed down considerably in the flats, as it was disgustingly humid, but I still felt ok. My team met me at about mile 2.5 for some water, and I continued on my way. Unfortunately, I had completely underestimated the hill from mile 4 to the finish, and I was absolutely bagged by the time I got there. I power-walked most of the hill, but was able to run through the finish and hand off the slap bracelet to JP.
I managed a smile for the only course photographer I saw
After a quick stretch, we hopped back into the van. My right Achilles and calf were really bothering me, so I decided not to run in my Nikes anymore. I don’t think they’re going to work out :(. I refueled, drank a bunch of water mixed with Gatorade, and changed my clothes over the next few transitions. It continued to be really humid and spit rain, but we were grateful that at least the sun wasn’t out.
My next leg was from Rochester Elementary School to the Ted Green Ford in Stockbridge, a distance of 7.3 miles.
This route was mercifully flat, dare I even say mostly downhill? A couple of small rollers mixed in were nothing to write home about, but it was one of the longer legs on the whole course, and it was still gross humid. I was sweating profusely, but I had my Amphipod and took sips of water every few minutes. My teammates met me at about the halfway point with extra water, and I took an unbelievably refreshing sip of sugar-free Red Bull, which totally hit the spot. I was on my projected pace for most of this leg due to the downhills, but I slowed down a bit toward the end because I was so hot. I made it to the transition area with an overall pace of 10:17, which I was super happy with.
I chugged a Red Bull and ate some popcorn, a meat stick, and a slice of cold pizza to refuel, while chugging more water and Gatorade. My clothes and shoes were soaked, and I was glad I had ended up packing three pairs of shoes. I got changed at the next transition, which was also the beginning of the third set of legs, meaning we were almost done.
Chris set off for his third and final leg, which was 6 miles of uphill going toward Killington. We met him at the halfway point, and gave him some water and chews. He was still looking strong and feeling positive, so we drove to the next transition area. A few minutes after we arrived, there was an insane flash of lightning and a huge boom of thunder–the storm was literally right on top of us. We piled back into the van just as a torrential downpour started, so we zipped back down the mountain to find Chris. We was only about half a mile from the transition, and he jumped into the van, soaking wet and exhausted. We drove back to the transition area to try to decide what to do. Technically, by picking Chris up and driving him to transition, we had already DNF’d. He was willing to be dropped off back down the hill and finish his leg, but the weather was looking really bad, and Melissa, who was up next, had decided that she wasn’t comfortable running with thunder and lightning around.
We pulled up a forecast, and the radar showed storm cell after storm cell rolling through pretty much on top of each other for the rest of the night. We decided to skip Melissa’s final leg and drive to the next transition to see if Todd wanted to run his final leg. When we arrived at transition, there appeared to be a break in the weather, so Todd put on his safety gear (reflective vest, rear flashing light, headlamp), and set off. Visibility during this leg was AWFUL. There was a ton of fog, and it was kind of scary thinking of him out running in that. We met him halfway to give him water, and he was fine, so we drove to transition. Ryan was game to try his final leg, so we got him suited up in safety gear and waited for Todd to arrive.
Not 5 minutes after Ryan set out for his final leg (we literally hadn’t even made it back to the van yet), there was a flash of lightning and accompanying thunder, so we drove straight to Ryan to make sure he was ok. It was almost full dark at this point, and spitting rain, but he waved us ahead and said to check in after another mile. More thunder, more lightning, more rain. We pulled over less than a mile ahead, and when Ryan found us, he jumped back in the van. We had a team conference on the way to the next transition, and JP and I, the final two runners, decided that we weren’t comfortable running our final legs with the storms. Things on the road had gotten pretty chaotic at this point; runners were running on both sides of the road, vans were pulling over left and right, and normal Route 100 drivers were NOT happy with the slowed down traffic. I saw several drivers make really abrupt and unsafe passes.
Feeling completely united in our decision, we drove to the finish. As we arrived, there was one of those insane, bright, forked flashes of lightning right over us, one that left afterimages on my eyeballs, and we all just looked at each other and said, “We made the right choice.” Thankfully, we were still able to get our medals, and we partook in the post-race buffet–chicken, pulled pork, baked beans, veggies, sandwiches, pasta salad, and cookies. You could also get a beer or hard cider for $3, or a beer plus commemorative pint glass for $6.
Left to right: Melissa, Me, Chris, JP, Ryan, Todd
We ate our dinner and drank our beers, and headed to our condo for some showers, more beer, and sleep.
Despite our DNF, I had an absolute blast with this race, and if it weren’t so damn expensive (registration, condo rentals Friday and Saturday nights, van rental, food etc), I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. That being said, I probably will do it again, I’ll just have to budget better for it 🙂
It was just such a cool adventure, and the atmosphere was completely supportive and fun. Every van that passed me while I was running honked the horn, rang cowbells, and/or shouted encouragement. Every runner who passed me murmured a “Looking great” or “Nice job” as they went by. Transition areas had a party atmosphere. I never once encountered a porta-potty without toilet paper. My team was awesome. And I know that if the weather conditions had been different, I absolutely would have finished my final 5 miles.
Rather than feeling disappointed in our DNF, I feel extremely proud of all we accomplished. It was a tough day and a tough course–high humidity, intermittent rain, and lots of hills. I’m even MORE proud of us making the best decision for us in the moment, for our safety and peace of mind. There is such a culture of “tough it out, no pain no gain” in running, it can be really hard to look objectively at a situation and keep yourself safe. I know lots of teams finished in spite of the storms, and that’s great for them, but it wouldn’t have been great for us. It’s ok not to continue when you don’t feel safe. It’s ok to get a DNF. At the end of the day, we were all safe and happy, if tired, and that’s what counts.
Have you ever chosen to DNF due to weather conditions? Would you race in a thunder storm?