Runners Of Vermont is an ongoing series here at the VTRunCo where we get to meet and start to get to know some of the amazing people that call Vermont home and share our affinity for running. So, sit back and enjoy. The people profiled here are the main reason Vermont is such a great place to live and run. Also, if you know someone that lives and runs in Vermont who you think should be profiled here… Let us know. We’d love to be introduced and give them the opportunity to share their perspective on Vermont’s running scene.
How did you first get involved in running and what was it that kept you coming back? Did you develop your habit easily, or was it something you had to work at?
Running arrived in my life just as my short career as a competitive Dance Dance Revolution player came to an end. Yes, you read that correctly. Some time in my adolescence, it became evident that I needed regular cathartic movement to feel normal and running eventually became my primary outlet. I ran my first marathon at age 18, then my first ultra at age 19. I’d like to keep running ultras into my seventies.
Racing… Did you start racing right from the beginning? What has been your favorite or best racing experience… Your worst… Why?
Gary Cantrell once called most races “feats of finance” and I agree. I love racing, and especially supporting local race directors, but I can’t afford to race frequently. I often seek out fatass events, low-frills events, and FKTs for this reason.
I’ve been fortunate enough to perform well at a handful of races (2nd overall at Thunder Rock 100-mile in 2016, 1st overall at Kilkenny Ridge Race 50-mile this year) but my favorite race experience came from the Plain 100 in the eastern Cascades of Washington. For the unfamiliar, Plain is a self-supported, unmarked ~107-mile trail race through the Wenatchee National Forest. You carry what you need, filter your own water, and follow a map with course directions. Runners are tracked at checkpoints by the local SAR organization (who is also the race’s beneficiary) but at no time are SAR members allowed to provide directions or answer questions. If self-sufficiency is your vice of choice, Plain is the place to test your mettle. And except for the Barkley, it’s the cheapest Hardrock qualifier!
Do you have a favorite distance…Why?
100 miles is the way, the truth and the life. Anything can happen. Nothing is for certain. After ten journeys of this distance or longer, it still terrifies and captivates me each time.
Any pre-race rituals or superstitions?
Drink all the coffee.
Non-racing experiences… Besides racing and training, what are some other ways you enjoy running, or running has improved your life? Your favorite non-racing experience… Your worst?
To be human is to run, and to run is to be human. Our species exists because of our ancestors’ ability to run long distances for persistence hunting. Even though humans have technologically superseded the need to run, the act of running is one of the few activities that makes perfect evolutionary sense without explanation. Thus it is a natural action, and one that sustains and enriches daily life.
To be comparative is also naturally human, whether one is comparing self to self or self to others. So, while I can’t race as often as I want, the world of FKTs helps to scratch the comparative itch. I’ve been involved with FKTs since 2011 and currently hold several, including the 170-mile Cohos Trail in NH (66 hours) and the 91-mile Cross-Vermont Trail (19h19m). Moving almost continuously for nearly three days on the Cohos Trail was the most profound experience I’ve had, during which I blew through many self-imposed barriers and realized that limitations are blurrier than expected.
Running In Vermont… What do you love about it? What do you wish was different?
Mountain running in Vermont, and New England in general, is a constant practice in adapting to adversity. Nothing about New England trails is casual. I like to tell people that if you can run in the mountains here, you can run anywhere. Will New England runners get left behind on the buffed-out singletrack of the Western US? Probably. Will we perform well in serious, technical mountain environments? Definitely.
Do you have a favorite route/trail here in Vermont? This doesn’t have to be a route you run regularly. We’re looking for something you think is special and think other people should experience.
I have a lot of favorites, but I’d rather encourage folks to become actively creative in their own routes. Running can be an artistic practice if you continually push yourself to design new routes, go places you’ve never been, and even get yourself lost once in a while (have a backup plan to get un-lost, obviously). Vermont is your canvas, go explore! Make sure to respect posted and private land.
During a typical New England winter what do you do to stay in shape, keep motivated, and have fun? Do you continue to run? Do you engage in any other activities?
Run-ski-snowshoe-repeat. Do it all. Winter is the greatest season. Keep your mountain legs strong with weekly skimo events at Bolton Valley! 😉
Can you provide some advice for running during the cooler months then into and through winter?
Have a pre-made hot beverage ready for yourself the moment you finish. A thermos of hot chocolate, coffee, hot Gatorade (my favorite), hot cider, whatever – it’s a great thing to look forward to during a cold run.
Do you have a mantra or strategy to get you out the door when you don’t feel like running, through those tough moments in training, or during a long event?
“Suffering is not enough.” This phrase was written by Thich Nhat Hanh and references the Buddhist idea that the baseline of life is suffering, caused by clinging and attachment. It is very easy to give in to our daily suffering (pain, loss, mental health issues, etc) and become too exhausted to rise above it. Running is one way that I override suffering with joy, and this phrase helps me remember to keep searching for those joyous moments.
Favorite/best piece of running gear you own or wished you owned?
My Scala cowboy hat that my friend Caballito Blanco gifted to me. It’s comfortable, acts as a great sun shade, vents well, and it turns heads during races.
Favorite thing to eat during a long run/race?
Quesadillas, avocado, anything one would consider “real” or “whole” food and is calorie-rich.
Favorite aid station food?
Whatever is strange or novel. I have an iron stomach so trying new things on race day hasn’t proven difficult yet.
Favorite reward (do you do anything to treat yourself… food or other) after a long training cycle/race?
Diner food. I always try and locate the best local greasy-spoon diner for post-race gorging. My all-time favorite is the Hartland Diner in Hartland, VT. Where else can you get smoked salmon hash?
Next season what event or events are you are most looking forward to… Why?
I’ll be in the Hardrock lottery again, so hopefully that! But I’m also ready to run the Bear 100 next year to gain another Hardrock qualifier if I don’t get in. I’m always looking forward to the Cape Cod Frozen Fatass in mid-winter; it’s the only race I do every year.
What are 2-3 Vermont running events/races that people should check out?
Support new race directors and race organizations! Nor’east Trail Runs and Ironwood Adventure Works are both regionally based race organizers putting on fantastic, new events.
What’s the best piece of running or training advice you’ve ever received?
“It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.” – Mark Twight
Do you have any running/training tips or tricks you’d like to share?
Smile more. Recognize that training, racing, even just being in the mountains are huge privileges not enjoyed by most. Be a mentor. Take a friend along. Share the resource. Leave no trace.
Who is a Vermont runner that inspires you… Why?
I’m inspired by every Vermont runner that spends as much time volunteering as they do racing.
Anyone out there you want to give a shout out to? Sponsors/Friends/Partners/Coaches/Etc… Why are they important to you?
GoodVibes – for seven years of constant partnership and support.
Billy Turbo – for living, thinking, and running outside of the box. Like, really far away from the box. Can you even see the box?
Caballito Blanco – for leaving me behind on the descents.
K-Wall – for being the best co-RD, running partner and birthday twin!
Daddy Longlegs – for teaching me how to breathe.
Thank you for taking the time to read this far. Stay tuned for our next installment of Runners Of Vermont. Our goal is to keep posting until we’ve profiled everyone that lives and runs in Vermont! If you know someone that runs and they live in Vermont… Please connect them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.