After finishing the December 2011 Across the Years 72hr run with 202.6 miles I cried. I could not believe how far we had come in such a short time...I mean it was only 14 months (October 2010) since we had taken our first 100 mile journey together and now...BAM! that achievement was doubled.
Shortly thereafter I received an email from Andy Weinberg with a link to race...something called the Vermont 500 - a 10 day, 500 mile run which consisted of 50 10 mile loops in the mountains of Vermont. My curiosity was peaked and I took a look - even though I just shook my head and laughed at the thought of even attempting such a feat. Nonetheless I looked. The next day I looked again. And the day after that...I looked again. I was already hooked but i didn't even realize it myself yet at that point. But then...out of the blue I received a facebook posting from a fellow crazy Danny Messex and it contained a posting of the same exact race's website. I am sure Danny was just joking around about the race but I don't think he realized just how crazy I was! And when he told me that no one had ever completed the race before I knew that I had to give it a shot.
Did I realize what I was getting myself into? probably not. Did I care? yes, and no. You see I live for shit like this - a chance to test myself, a chance to go against the odds, a chance to make myself feel as if I am good at something, a chance to venture out into the unknown and to take all of my fellow inspirations (friends) with me on an unforgettable journey. This race offered all of that and more. Yeah I was game...I was hooked...I was willing to put everything on the line to take in the epic enjoyment that this race had to offer. I was going to do my best and that is all that mattered. But first I needed to let someone know, and so I responded to danny's post with a "cool, i think I will sign up" or something like that...but I really don't think he believed me so I waited until I officially signed up and replied again..."yep, I signed up." And so it was done. I now had 4 1/2 months to convince myself that I could do it and get ready to go!
I immediately began to tell more of my friends about the race and the responses were mixed. Alot of people thought I was joking, some wished me luck, others laughed and called me an idiot (one person did so directly to my face). I knew that the majority of my friends would support me even if they didn't think that I could complete such a task, but I also knew that there were some out there that hoped I failed miserably and laughed at me. Regardless of it all I knew that I had to give it a shot and that no matter what happened I would be able to accept it so long as I never gave up. and so I approached the race with a "do what you can and leave it all out there" type mentality - a.k.a. I knew that I would have to get my stubborn on!
Time quickly passed - alot faster than I would have liked I must admit - and I found myself staring at the calendar thinking...OMG it is less then a month away....and then OMG it is less than two weeks away...until finally it got to the point were I said...Holy Shit...I fly out in two days and I am not even packed yet! I was totally lost in that here I was...getting ready to take on a 500 mile 10 day adventure - and I had no clue what to pack. 10 days is a hell of a long time for any trip, let alone the trip be for an ultra run in which the weather was to be the unknown. As a result of this I basically had to pack for every conceivable weather event that could possibly happen and just hope that I guessed right or at least got a bit lucky. I think I actually packed and repacked my luggage 3 or 4 times in those 2 days. But then finally I just said the hell with it and prayed that what I had packed would be enough to get me through. And so, with two stuffed to the max suitcases (both at about the maximum weight limit) I headed to the airport and began our journey.
After arriving in Burlington, Vermont, which included a quick stop in Newark, New Jersey (which drove me absolutely nuts with all of the Jersey Shore wannabes and Mobster wannabes) I thought that my trip was meant to be doomed as Budget rental cars wouldn't take my Visa debit/credit card for payment. I was so screwed if I couldn't drive to the race and drive to all of the stores that I needed to to get my food and supplies! But things quickly began to look up as the clerk at the National Rental Car agency told me to come on over and they would see what they could do for me. They were amazing! Not only did they get me set, but they got me in a bigger car for less money! I was so relieved and thankful!
With that now taken care of I packed up the car and took off. One of the things with this race was the fact that we were responsible for providing all of our own food and supplies for the 10 days, except for one hot meal per day. Knowing this going into the race was a good thing because it allowed me to mentally plan for everything that I might need to get at the stores upon my arrival so that I didn't waster a whole lot of time once I got there. And so, with my list in hand I headed to the nearest Walmart and proceeded to buy $212.00 worth of food, munchies, supplies, an ice chest, 2 pillows, and a ton of batteries. then I headed to a regular grocery store to buy a bunch of fresh fruit, because even though I had been at a Super Walmart...they didn't carry any fresh fruit...which I thought was a bit weird. Anyways, after getting all of my stuff I began the 2hr drive to Pittsfield.
along the way I stopped at a neat diner for what turned out to be the world's best bowl of chilli! I am always amazed at how the littlest of holes in the wall can be such good choices for food...little hidden gems!
Stuffed to the brim I continued down the road and ultimately reached my destination...
this sign welcomed us into the far edge of town, just west of the Amee Farm Stand/Barn location which was to be my home for the next 12 days or so. After about 2 minutes later I arrived at the Barn and met Andy, the race director, for the first time.
Andy quickly showed me around and led me into the barn area so that I could set up camp and get ready to roll. I was as ready as I could be, yet as nervous as I had ever been. I kept telling myself that even though I had never had a DNF before (212 races prior to the Vermont 500) that if it did happen that this was the race for it to happen in as this was set to be the most epic race of my little attempt at an ultra running career - ha ha! In other words, I know that I am not invincible. I know that I am not amazing. I know that I am not anything special. I am just an average joe out there trying to have fun and share whatever happens with my family and friends along the way and enjoy the ride for as long as I/we can. Sure it would be great to have a sponsor like Hokas to help me to pay for my shoes but I know that as my motto goes "i complete, not compete" and therefore not being a big time athlete (or even a small time one) big companies don't give you a second of consideration...so I make do with what i can and with what I have and enjoy it all the more because the more of your own blood, sweat, and tears goes into your effort the more epic it is for everyone involved (but that all aside I would sign with Hokas in a heartbeat....lol).
speaking of Hokas (you can see them all lined up under my cot - sorry one shameless plug), I finally got my little battle area set up and I was ready to roll!
Next up...a trip to McDonald's for a Large Sugar Free Vanilla Iced Coffee!!!! Only 17 miles away! I honestly had plans on making this trip a few times as little rewards so that I had something to look forward too each day. But that plan quickly went out the window on this my first trip to the land of the Golden Arches...because what i witnessed next really tore at my heartstrings and made it not feel right to spend my money anywhere else but in this little town. You see, not to long ago, when Hurricane Irene tore its way up the Eastern seaboard this little town was literally almost wiped off of the map as the river flooded and tore houses right off of their foundations and left a swath of carnage and destruction in its path. It was so sad to see...
Life somehow finds a way to go on though and the little town is in the process of rebuilding - which was an awesome site to see! Part of the town that was spared was the General Store and the little "downtown" area, as seen below, this spot turned out to be the supplier of our nightly warm meals (nachos!, mac & cheese, chicken parm, and the best banana smoothies!!!!)
And so, with iced coffee in hand, I headed back to the barn for a few final preparations and a good nights sleep as the race was set to began in less than 24hrs.