Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vermont 100 mile 2009, The secret of my success: My Pacers & Crew, a story and a few pictures

With my AWESOME Pacers: Shane and Dan. They were great throughout the last miles of the race in keeping me focused, moving forward and happy. Both were so sweet, entertaining and just made the miles fly by.

I am incredible lucky to have had such great pacers who really made this event seem not as monumental. We kept the conversation flowing, cracked tons of jokes and just had a great time (well at least I did). They pushed just enough to keep me well in advance of the time limits even though prior to getting into their capable hands I had lost a considerable amount of time and was worried I would DNF by timing out.

This is "pacer" Shane. You will read an amusing story about Shane (and how he crushed the spirit of every other runner he paced at VT100 in 2009). But I am stronger and refused to succumb to his long string of DNF'd runners. As hard as he tried I would not be discouraged (Just kidding...he was an amazing pacer, I think the carnage of his previous runners was pure bad luck--or maybe he was mean to them but by the 3rd runner he realized he should not say things like: "Wow you look really bad" or "it probably would be easier if you would just quit" or the classic, "You look really tired maybe you should just give up now")

With my pacer Dan. Several weeks ago Dan noticed I had indicated I was lookng for a pacer for mile 88-100 on my blog. While I am sure based on last year I could make it to the finish line alone. It is considerable easier if you have company and someone to help you along.
Dan was amazing. He said just the right things and pushed the pace just enough to create a nice buffer but was not so tough as to break my spirit.
We had alot of fun during out 12 mile journey and I was able to show him the experience of an ultra from a slower runners view. We saw the burned out car, I picked a few berries and was able to see and appreciate the beautiful sights while still maintaining about a 16 minute mile pace!

Here I am with Tristan and all my drop bags. Because Tristan was only going to be at one aid station (and sometimes he is a little less reliable), I even had a drop bag for that AS. Within these drop bags I had plenty of stuff that I might need along the 100 miles. In reality I probably used less than 10%!
Tristan is a good chauffer and this year performed very well at Margaritaville. He followed my explicit list and even busted it out a few times (which kind of cracked me up because my note was written in my voice, not his general phrasing...in fact I think I might write/speak a bit oddly)

At the end of the race, we run along a signficant amount of single track. Here I am closing in on the finish. I am very excited because I know barring any huge catastrophe I should be able to easily finish sub-29 hours. In fact I had 20 minutes to spare.
I really enjoy this race for the camraderie (with other runners, pacers and crew), the beautiful scenery as well as the awesome race organizers and volunteers. It is an event that will part of my calendar for many years to come!

First, I would like to thank my wonderful husband Tristan for being a great husband! He lets me run wherever, whenever and however I want without any complaints or objections (of course it doesn't help that he has successfully gotten himself demoted to simply be at one aid station and to be my chauffer freeing up his 100 miler weekends considerable:-)

And of course I am forever indebted to my pacers: Shane and Dan. They paced me through some tough miles and made the challenge of running the last miles to the finish seem almost easy.

Here is one of my favorite stories from VT100 this year, my Pacer/Runner story. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed experiencing it.

I had arranged a pacer through the VT100 mile pacer request group. Theresa (my previous pacers spouse) was to pace me from mile 70-88. Last year I ended up dropping her husband, who was supposed to run with me from 70-100. Unfortunately he was unable to complete this 30 mile journey. For those of you unfamiliar with ultra terminology, this means I "dropped" my pacer because I kept going but he did not. This typically happens to elites when they realize their pacer is holding them back but can happen to anyone.

I picked up Theresa at mile 70 at about 11 p.m. in the evening. She helped refill my water bottle and with cutting sparkeley's waistband because I was getting fatter by the minute.

We walk/jogged for a few minutes with her in the lead. At some point I realized that she might be going slow for my benefit, but I had just completed about 5 miles at a 25 minute mile pace and was quite concerned I would not be able to finish in under 30 hours so needed to pick up the pace. As we approached this massive and steep hill, I powered my way up. I could hear her breathing for a while but then started breathing heavily myself. After about 5 or 10 minutes I looked back and there was no Theresa nor any headlamp indicating she was close behind. I knew I was pressed for time so continued on and hoped she was okay (this hill was SUPER steep so I am not sure I could even have managed to go down to look for her). At the next aid station I alerted the volunteers to my missing pacer.

This sort of bummed me out for a bit because I know how challenging the overnight is. It is dark, lonely and depressing. And I am afraid of SERIAL KILLERS!!! Seriously I am running alone in Vermont and am convinced there is about to be a massive crime spree in which either I am killed or I am kidnapped for ransom. Tristan and I are gov't employee's (who go on alot of inexpensive vacations thanks to Southwest--who we LUV), but don't have much money. I am sure if someone kidnaps me, the will just kill me because they might get $5 or $10 but pretty much that is it. Every noise freaks me out. And not in a good way to get me some adrenaline to get some speed but heart attack type adrenaline. At the aid station I ask how far ahead of me the next runner is but they suggest it is close to 10-15 minutes. And as I am running this section, the biker patrol passes me and I ask where the person is behind me. They suggest a mile or so. So I am all alone and frightened. I am pathetic!!!

Well as I approach the next aid station I figure it does not hurt to ask about potential pacers because I know runners DNF throughout the race and I am hoping someone else's pacer might still be up for a 25 mile jog to the finish (and I am not adverse to soliciting aid station volunteers!) They inform me a pacer is looking for a runner but he is ahead of me. Apparently he is agressively seeking business. He is roughing up runners left and right not accepting no for an answer:-) But alas he is not around when I am there.

I continue my fear-fest 2009. This section of the course is challenging and I am able to catch up to some runners in front of me. This is only because they are clearly slowing down. I am trying very hard to maintain a sub-20 minute mile pace because I know I need a buffer for potty breaks, aid stations and just in case fear-fest '09 turns into Pukefest '09!

I stumble on my friend from earlier in the race a nice gentleman who had been pacing an older Korean gentleman (who was making use of an early pacer from mile 47-70 because he was over 60; those of us under 60 have to make it to mile 70 to earn a pacer). We chat briefly but his runner is really sleeping and staggering. I mention that I heard a rumor there is a pacer looking for runners. I ask if it is he. He says yes, but he wants to get his runner to the next aid station. I ask if the next segment I can have him and he is agreeable. It is my lucky day!

In fact my future pacer friend would yell "Go Tammy Go" throughout the Camp 10 Bear Loop as we hopscotched our way around the loop. Initially his runner would go faster then slower. And as we were getting out of the loop because his runner DNF'd he again cheered me on as he passed me (on what I did not realize was his quest to get a runner--and then DNF them:-).

At the aid station I used the porta potty (maybe that was why my fanny pack was so tight!) As I went in, I handed my fanny pack to a volunteer and asked him to ensure my pacer did not go on ahead. I finished peeing (ala Austin Powers) and then went to the Aid Station to start eating and drinking. My pacer arrived and we decided it was time to continue our journey, but this time together. His runner DNF'd at this aid station because he was essentially falling asleep on his feet. We exchanged names, mine Tammy (or "Go Tammy Go") and his was Shane (or "Pacer Shane")

So for those of you keeping score, Pacer Shane has DNF'd TWO runners during this race. And I have dropped TWO pacers during my VT100 miler journey (one in 2008 and one in 2009). Neither of us have a good track record. Pacer Shane suggests not only will he pace me until I am handed off to Dan, if I don't mind he will finish with me. I am fine with this.

Pacer Shane is amazing. He keeps up a great conversation. Keeps me moving forward and unbeknownst to me is suffering terrible with chaffing issues. The next ~10 miles fly by.

As we approach mile 88, when I am to be transitioned to Dan, Shane suggests he needs to stop and get a ride back to the start. I am so appreciative of all his help but understand this is the first time he has run more than 20 miles (in fact by this time he has run 41 miles). Considering his intention to bail, I jokingly suggest to Pacer Shane, "I win" because I did not DNF like his other runners but I did drop him.

Somehow while I am attending to stuff and getting weighed Shane decides to continue the journey with Dan and I. I am so impressed!

Dan is a great pacer and really keeps me moving. He is so encouraging and always has positive things to say. I know we are really pressed for time, but explain I had two long shoe changes and a section when I just was not moving very fast. With Shane we had managed 16-18 minute miles but because of me (and Shane's) tiny little bladders, we kept having "LaTree" breaks as well as one aid station break when I might have been a little slow on the uptake.

Dan gives us a sneak preview of the various sections of the race indicating "we have a long hill" or "steep downhill" or other pertinent information. Shane and I notice that many of these statements are preceded by. "I believe". It cracks us up by the end!

Soon enough we stumble on Tristan. This is good. Tristan was to walk the course backwards to meet up with me and Dan. By the time I finished I had my own personal Entourage. All I really needed was for Shane, Dan and Tristan to wear trench coats and sunglasses and escort me over the finish!

There is always next year to fulfill this dream:-)

Upon finishing I was so thrilled that I had spent so many hours and miles with Shane and Dan. And of course adding Tristan to my pacing team about mile 98/99 just added to this wonderful shared experience. Shane, Dan and Tristan really made the last part of my VT100 experience memorable and great fun.


Jamie Donaldson said...

Hi Tammy,

I am so happy you had a great race! Your determination is remarkable! I hope you felt nmy long distance vibes coming your way during the race! Rest up and enjoy some yummy food!

Noelle MacGregor said...

Congratulations on your run! Hold on to that Shane. He's a great lifelong cheerleader!


Runner Tammy said...


Thank you for these kind words...in fact during the latter part of the race I definitely felt your spirit. In fact since we both know you from mile 88-100 sporadically Dan and I talked about how GREAT a person and amazing athlete you are.

I am already so excited about my trip to MA this weekend for the Race Around the Lake Marathon with my planned "Gingerbread Construction Company" rest breaks!

MacGregors Family,

It was a pleasure to run with Shane! He was so positive and kind throughout the race. Even before getting sucked into being my pacer he was so encouraging. Throughout the mile 47-70 loop I would hear "Go Tammy Go" and would know it was my friend Shane.

He is an excellent cheerleader and such an inspiration! He powered through the 53 miles like it was a walk in the park (and now knowing he was having significant chaffing makes it even more impressive).

Take care,

Dan Rose said...

From now on you're no longer "Tammy Massy" during a 100 miler. You will now become "Tammy Machine"...with the middle name "The".

Next year on the VT entry list I want to see "Tammy T. Machine" listed - you earned that title this past weekend. What an amazing run!!!

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Wow. This post makes Carolina Cletus look almost pithy by way of comparison.

Congrats again, RT!

TonyP said...

Hi Tammy ! Many, many, many congrats on a great, gutsy performance. You made it look effort-less out there, and it was great to see you. Recover well, and I hope to see you soon !

Paige said...

Fantastic report, Tammy! It was so nice to meet you along the course; you certainly lifted MY spirits when they were dipping a bit. You have such great energy!!

Congratulations on your finish!!


joyRuN said...

Excellent race, photos, & recap, Tammy!!

Congratulations :D

Unknown said...

Hello! I found your blog and wanted to drop a line to congratulate you on the VT 100 run! I was a rider this year in the 100. My horse was number 101..I think you took some pictures with him after the race (and on trail as well)! I wanted to let you know how much I enjoy riding with the runners! I chose the VT 100 as my first 100 mile ride because riding with the ultra-marathon runners is a blast!! I hope to see you again next year :)

Runner Tammy said...


Thanks for your encouraging comments...I was only "Tammy the Machine" because of you and Shane's excellent company. Before I acquired you two, I was Tammy the sissy girl who was whining, whimpering and ready to curl up in a ball next to (or on) the course:-)

Our 12+ miles was great fun and I am ready to sign up for the race next year...are you ready to pace me again (or else you could run the race, finish, nap then turn around and pace me creating a 125 mile race)




It was great to see you at VT100 and I really appreciate all of the help you gave me at the various aid stations. And although you were not needed at Camp 10 Bear because Bob had been transported back to your room, seeing you gave me lots of energy!


Congratulations on your finish! You looked really strong out there. It was so much fun to run with you during the early miles of the race.


Thank you! I did have a great time at the race and am ready to sign up for next year's VT100!


I remember you on horse 101 and enjoyed chatting with you after the race. In my previous post you will see pictures of you on your horse during the event as well as my post race picture.

It is really fun to run with the horses and see them a few times during the race as they pass. I wish I was faster so I could have more interactions with the horses because it is so nice to have a "cheering section on the go" as many of the horse riders including yourself are so encouragining!