We all have our favorite events for one reason or another. One of mine is just over the mountain from me, tucked away in Goshen, Vermont. Infinitus is put on by The Endurance Society and is billed as a rugged trail race (registration is now open for 2017). Rugged is putting it mildly with distances raging from 8k to 888k. Yes, you read that right, 888k or 551.8 miles. I was signed up for the 48 hour option, my goal to beat my mileage of 26 from the previous year. Many had a goal of 100 miles in order to earn a belt buckle as is customary at 100 Mile Ultras. Anyway, the rugged miles are only a part of what makes this one of my favorite races. It is like a family reunion, people I only get to see once or twice a year. These people have amazing hearts, incredible grit, and unbelievable courage.
When I showed up on Thursday evening to get ready for my 48 hour challenge, the 888k runners had been going for 7 days at this point, the 72 hours had started that morning. There was an energy in their air that wouldn’t be dampened by the oppressive heat.
Camp was set, hellos were said, hugs were shared, and it was time for food with Ryan, Yitzy, Boh, Stephen, and two others before getting some much-needed sleep. Morning came way too fast and as base camp buzzed to life and we were all giddy with anticipation, or trepidation, I am still not sure which! Andy Weinberg, one of the race directors, asked me if I was racing every time he saw me because I didn’t put on my shoes until the last-minute. The answer was always the same, yes Andy, I am racing!
I had no plans to stay with anyone, no formula on how to achieve the most miles, I was simply going to go until I couldn’t anymore. I wanted more than I got the previous year (26 miles) and I wanted at least one of my loops to be in the dark. As we were lining up, I chatted with Devin, Jessica, Amy, and Amy, and we all kind of state we would stay together as best as possible.
The best view on the 7 mile loop. Scott, Hannah, Amy, Amy, Jessica, Devin
The canon sounded and we were off, running, way too fast. Not a pace I could keep happily. Luckily it wasn’t long until we were across the road and into the woods facing the first of many climbs and we all slowed to a crawl.
Might as well kiss the creepy stuff, clowns and all.
It wasn’t terribly long before we started encountering the creepy things that Andy and Jack, although I firmly believe this is more Jack than Andy, like to place on the trail to entertain us.
Selfies with a creepy kitty.
Many shenanigans ensued as we took photos with the creatures and paraphernalia we encountered.
Just a quick break!
Up and up, down and down, and it before we knew it we were finishing the 7 mile loop.
Jumping for joy!
I succeeded in hiking up with little to no rest, running the downhills, and despite the shenanigans was pretty happy with my time.
7 mile loop is finished!
In base camp, we were to refill our packs, check out feet, and we had hoped to be back out on course within 20 minutes. It was closer to an hour. This MUST change for next year. Too long.
Time to tackle the 20 mile loop.
20 mile loop.
This was going to differ from the previous year and was, from what we had heard, nowhere near as sad. The bugs were not as bad, the mud was much drier, and while longer, it wasn’t as miserable. We were about to find out.
Always kiss the creepy things! It somehow makes it less creepy.
More creepy things.
We saw a bear flank! Water station 1 and we all took a quick break refueling, refilling, reapplying. About mile 9 of this loop, I roll my ankle. It sucked! I stand off of it for a few, start hobbling along, and then seem back to normal. No view at the top. More hiking up, more running down. No mini rolls but as the miles truck on, I can tell that I am compensating, that my gait is changing.
Contemplating what I have done and what I still must do.
After a really long run down to the 2nd water station, our group has gotten separated at this point, I am starting to hurt. Jack is arriving to drop off ice, we chat for a few, he takes off, I wait a few minutes as a I see two of my group approaching, but I don’t wait for them after a quick hello.
The sign says that we have 6.5 miles to the end of the loop. I continue my walk/hike/run method, I start to cry because my body hurts. I come up on another racer who is clearly hurting, I try to get him to move with me but he says I am moving much faster. I move on. My cry turns to sobs as my body hurts but I eat some food, take a quick break, and then pull up my big girl panties and take off down the trail. I am good, I’ve got this.
These reminded me of you, Mom. Pretty pink Wild Columbine.
Time passes and I see some pretty pink flowers that make me think of my mom. She used to take close-ups of flowers when she hiked. I stop to photograph them and lose it. I sit down, I cry, I scream, I talk to my mom. For the second time, I stand up, pull up my big girl panties and take off down the trail.
One more break at the dam, more food, a few minutes to take in the beauty, and time to finish this lap.
Ahead of me I see where the 20 mile loop and 7 mile loop come together. I know I only have about 2-2.5 miles to go. I breathe a sigh of relief and feel the tears coming again. At that moment, I spot a runner just coming into view where the trails merge and before I can open my mouth, Ryan calls out. He is just finishing his second 7 mile loop. We walk together, chatting, I expect him to take off at any minute but he doesn’t. We finish the loop. I didn’t cry again.
Little muscle release to get Ryan back out on the 20 miler.
Back at base camp, Ryan, Yitzy, Mike, and some others are getting food and gearing up to go back out. I know that I need to rest my ankle and reevaluate. I have done 27 miles. I visit, I help the boys get ready to go back out, I contemplate. I want more than I did last year, so that means a 7 mile loop. I want a night lap which means I need to wait a bit. Do I go out tonight or do I shower and get some rest. After rolling my ankle, I don’t know if the 20 mile loop again will be a smart decision. Back and forth I go. Eventually, I decide a shower and sleep is my best option. I can hang out all day, rest my ankle, and get a night lap on the 7 mile loop. I won’t have enough time to attempt the 20 mile loop. If I did the 7 mile loop that night, I might just attempt the 20 mile loop again, which would not have been wise.
I crawl into bed and get a text from Ryan, “vomiting,” so after a little back and forth and finally no response, I guess he is out of service and head out to greet the pack at the 2nd aid station. Several people come back with me, they are done, others continue on. Daylight brings a new day and I am the only one planning to go back out.
The 8k, marathon, and 88k runners are arriving, there is more hugs, hellos, and great energy. Before we know it they are off. The rest of us are hanging out under the tent, recovery care, ciders, cheering of the runners. We are getting ready to go for food, snagging Orla to go with us.
It was HOT. Refilling the ice.
More time hanging out under the tent, more recovery, more ciders, more cheering. We made many new friends, Dani is just up the road from me in Waterbury! The day was simply fantastic and before I knew it, it was time for me to start getting ready for my final 7 miles. I had no plans on who was going with me but it didn’t take more than a few minutes to have Shannon and Jamie ready to go.
Awesome guys. Jamie and Shannon, I will take you on course with me anyday!
They were content to let me set pace and the only time they were ever ahead of me was during my pee stop. We climbed and climbed, we ran and ran. We had a great pace going. I was a bit worried about how I would feel coming upon the clown in the dark. I was prepared, it wasn’t as creepy as I feared.
Look, it’s the sign post, look it’s the pond, let’s go! Running across the road and to collect our medals. Andy was ready and waiting. Our friends were hanging out on the cool concrete floor of the barn. None of them were ready for us to walk through the door. This 7 miles was about 30 minutes faster than my first 7 mile loop. I am exhausted, knowing that I made the right decision to work my way out of the 20 mile loop because I would have attempted it.
I stay up waiting for friends to finish, worried because of text messages, relief when they are on course, and finally they are in and I can go to bed.
Will Bradly – 888k Racer – As the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man
Morning comes and with it, the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man, the winner of the 888k crossing the finish line in one of the creepy masks from the course, more good food, time with friends, and packing up.
Till next time!