What can I say about a guy who runs 100 miles in under 24 hours, and wins a silver belt buckle for this achievement and rushes home and gets it bronzed? As a pacer, confidant, coach. Pack horse, and drill sergeant, I stepped into this guy's aura around mile 68 on this demanding Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Race. There are not very many flat sections on this course.
Mr. Warnica's one criteria for a pacer, who would enjoy the last 32 miles of this race, was "Psychotic and Crazy". Passing a skill-testing question, I was quickly accepted onto the Warnica Racing Team.
The trip to Vermont began with a yacht ride from Inn on the Lake to Gordon's house, that is after Jeff got the propeller out of the rocks. Stashing the trunk with some Cokes and his favourite Pizza (24" Hawaiian), we were off to pick up his able handler, navigator, gastronomique and alarm clock - Mr. Greg Vail.
Ever do a long distance trip with two engineers? They rebuilt everything from Waverley to Calais, Maine. After an overnight in Calais, we were on the road early to accommodate the many shopping stops Gordon had to make between Calais and Woodstock, Vermont. Gordon's insatiable urge was finally subdued after a few hours of outlet shopping in North Conway. "Gordon, Can we get all this stuff across the border?"
Arriving in Woodstock in the early evening, we checked into our motel. Gordon showed no interest in a further training run, so Greg and I did a quick three miles into Woodstock to check out some stores for Gordon's shopping excursion the next day. Everyone was early, but Greg - The rigors of a hard training run. Greg and I did another six miles before we went to breakfast at the Woodstock Diner. The boys ate hearty! After a quick trip to Smoke Rise Farm for Gordon's weigh-in and the handlers meeting, we were back at the motel getting some rest and watching daytime TV.
On the road again to Smoke Rise Farm for the official carbo-loading feast. There were numerous choices of pasta salads, tossed salads, fluids, desserts, and spaghetti, of course. The guys load up again. Where do they put all that food? Handlers need lots of Calories. Right Greg!? Gordon polished off another dessert and we were on our way back to the motel again for an early bed. Up at 3 AM, we were on our way back to the farm for the 4 AM start. Weighted down with two bottles of fluids, Gordon left the starting line in the darkness of a crisp Vermont morning.
Meeting Gordon at the various handlers stations along the way, we noted that he was maintaining his schedule to finish under 24 hours. At mile 68, I was now able to accompany Gordon for the rest of the run. As we left Bear Camp 10 Aid Station, we walked with another runner who argued that we were going the wrong way. Boy was he disoriented? Within a mile we approached one of those Vermont inclines - a beautiful trail snaking its way through a hardwood forest up the side of the companion to the Mt. Ascutney Ski Hill. We continue at a good pace until Gordon's heart rate monitor reaches his high setting and starts beeping. I tell him he has it set too low. We walk until it drops to his low range. I will be glad when darkness falls, then he cannot see the monitor reading. We continue running and walking to Gordon's schedule, stopping at the aid stations for food, fluids, and some talk and supportive comments from the volunteers. These were great people - some had been without sleep already for 24 hours and yet they were so cheerful and supportive.
Into the darkness, now running without lights, keeps the eyes keen for night vision - we continued along roads and trails lit by sparkling stars and a full moon. Fifteen miles to go. Gordon is tired and hurting. His quad muscles are screaming on the downhills.
"There are no downhills in the dark Gordon"
At the bottom of a MAJOR downhill - uphills and downhills were now classified as minor or major - we did some quad stretching exercises to loosen up those tight muscles.
"NO PAIN NO GAIN GORDON. Those squats were easy to do, eh Gordon"
What were those noises? Primordial screams way out here in the wilderness. I now had to devise a plan to keep Gordon running and walking on his schedule. I put him on a timer system. I set my watch for 7 minutes and told him we would run for 7 minutes and then he could rest by walking for 3 minutes. Again in the darkness I could cheat on the minutes and get him to run for 9 or 10 minutes and walk for 2 minutes.
Gordon- "when is that *#*$@$^* watch going to beep?"
"Just another 90 seconds"
Gordon- "Shoot Me. Shoot Me. Shoot Me"
Six miles left! Now Gordon anyone can run 10 K. There will be no more aid station stops until we reach the finish line. We are carrying all the fluids and food we need to satisfy our energy and thirst requirements. Gordon indicates he needs to stop and fix his sock.
"Gordon, you had 95 miles to stop and fix that sock so there is no need to worry about it now. It will either be a part of your foot or your shoe when you finish this run. Get your rear in gear! We did not travel all this way to lose that buckle. Are you a wuzz or a hound?"
The last three miles were excruciating for Gordon. This is where his pacer had to be his meanest and toughest. It was dig down and bare the soul. Blood. Sweat. And tears. Gordon found a sympathetic shoulder to lean on - another runner we caught up to fumbling around on the dark trail - flashlight batteries dead - but that didn't last long after I voiced a few expletives to Gordon. The runner was quite concerned and asked Gordon
"Who is that crazy person screaming at you?"
Gordon quietly told him I was his pacer and friend. There was some emphasis on was a friend.
The finish line was a welcome sight for Gordon. He won his silver buckle, got the albatross (me) off his back, and he could finally rest without screaming and yelling in his ear.
"Let's get motoring"
"Are we going to stay here all night?"
"Pick up the pace'
"Are you a wuzz or a hound?"
"There are no uphills if you look down"
"Don't look at your arches or you will fall over"
This was a great running experience for me and I thank Gordon for allowing me to share it with him- the physical pain and agony, the mental fatigue and anguish. And the spiritual bonding of the two runners committed to one goal. He knew I would enjoy this kind of race where the body can run on abuse. I made a real friend out on that course even though at times I knew Gordon had a certain amount of hate and disdain for me. It did not end here for Gordon. He had lots of walking to do the next day to get to the car- we parked in the farthest spot from the store, always made sure there we some stairs to navigate, and participated in another walking tour of Freeport. Cleanse the lactate out of the body.
I left the team in Saint John and travelled across the Bay of Fundy on the big Ferry, a relaxing voyage spent watching a movie on the panoramic screen and breathing in the fumes of bunker fuel oil. It was only a few days and I received some photos from Gordon highlighting our trip. I particularly enjoyed the technicolor close-ups of a pair of feet - obviously genetic defects. Gordon I now enjoy your passion for Reece's Peanut Butter Cups.
P.S. Gordon ran the last 10 miles of this course on a badly sprained ankle.
A Pacing Psychotic Hound