The Sun Came Up

2010BostonFinish

I’m going to preface this by saying that I’m not writing this to be self-aggrandizing in any manner. I’m just trying to process everything that happened yesterday and figured that writing it all down might be a good way to do that. It usually is. So, excuse the verbal diarrhea, run-on sentences, poor grammar and foul language almost certain to follow…

As the sun came up on the morning of the Boston Marathon (April 15, 2013) I found myself driving to work instead of getting ready to toe the line in Hopkinton once again. Many factors lead to that decision, not the least of which was that the Boston Marathon’s punishing course had beaten me twice before (beaten, not broken) and caused me to swear-off road marathons altogether and start running ultramarathons on trails instead, as you do because well, they are easier.

Anyway, the night before this years marathon I contemplated (briefly) banging-out of work and running the course as a bandit. Instead I found myself headed down I-495 at 6am en route to the fire station. Instead of taking the Turnpike in, I found myself driving past the Turnpike and heading down to the Hopkinton exit to take the long way in. As I approached the center of Hopkinton I started to get chills up my spine, goosebumps on my arms, and felt genuinely as excited as when I first crossed that EPIC Starting Line. Even though it was just above freezing, I rolled my windows down and soaked-up the vibes. The feeling in the air was electric.

2011Finish

I thought to myself that it felt as-if running was going to be changed forever today, as I expected (and predicted) a win by Shalane Flanagan ushering-in the resurgence of American distance running (already well underway). I approached the hallowed ground of the Starting Line, slowed the truck to a crawl, and said a little prayer. As I crossed the Starting line I was suddenly and unexpectedly overcome with emotion. The tears welled-up in my eyes and I started to get choked-up (ok, I was bawling). Then I saw all of the ROTC and National Guard units who march the course every year setting-out on their trek. I pushed through the emotion and screamed “Woo-Hoo!” to every unit that I passed while honking like a lunatic, receiving fist pumps, waves, peace signs and “ooh-rah” in return.

As I drove the remainder of the first 14 miles of the course, I went over and over the moments of triumph and heartbreak from my previous two efforts at Boston, and realized that I in fact had unfinished business with that course. I decided that I would most surely make it back someday. But, most importantly it dawned on me that what has been missing in my running (and especially my training, or lack of it) lately was my emotional connection to running. I vowed to myself that I would dig deep and find that connection again.

It was a beautiful day, perfect racing conditions, and I had literally dozens of friends both running and spectating along the course. I was stuck at work, but I watched the entire broadcast (only interrupted briefly by one medical call). I was so filled with pride watching the American women run their race. It wasn’t their results (though impressive) that filled me with pride. What did it for me was when Kara Goucher crossed the Finish Line a full minute behind her teammate, I read her lips and the FIRST thing she said was “How did Shalane do? Where’s Shalane?” Now that’s a team. That is sportsmanship. That is AMAZING! Afterward, during their interview, Kara seemed more broken-up about the fact that Shalane didn’t win than Shalane did, and well, it warmed my soul.

I also have to mention here that it blew me away to see Jason Hartmann come racing to the finish in fourth place for the second year in a row, only about a minute behind the top three. Tell me again how this kid doesn’t have a single sponsor? And then to see the top-10 rounded-out by two more Americans?!?! Man! If they had a team competition in the marathon, the American’s would have at least made the podium in both the men’s and women’s elite division (and our supposed top-3 men had to pull-out). That my friends is awesome! What a great day. The good news only continued as all of my running friends were recording stellar performances (until my tracker stopped giving me updates).

My spirits buoyed by the marathon, I got dressed in my running clothes, laced them up and jumped on the treadmill for a one-hour hill interval run that I hammered-out like a man on a mission. Having run an intense workout, drenched in sweat head-to-toe, I got off the treadmill at 2:45, walked to my room to get ready for the shower. My wife called to discuss a couple of details about our upcoming move and I got off of the phone so I could email our realtor about an issue. As soon as I hung-up the phone, the “Breaking News” came across the TV with a camera shot obviously coming from a helicopter. I stared for a minute trying to figure-out what I was looking at.

It looked like sheer chaos. All I saw was what looked like blood all over the sidewalks and street and trash strewn everywhere. People running around, the grandstands emptied, ambulances, fire trucks police cars everywhere, and smoke… It looked like a war zone but yet there was an eerie familiarity to it all. Then I saw it. The Finish Line. And it all started to sink in. Everything was in slow-motion, then I noticed the caption on the screen that read something like “Boston Marathon Explosion,” and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I could no longer stand. I collapsed on my bed, still naked and sweating. Staring in disbelief. My phone rang again and it was my wife. I answered it “WHAT THE FUUUUUUUCK!?!?! Please tell me this is all a joke. This can’t be real. Oh. My. God.”

My thoughts immediately turned to all of my friends running and spectating. I knew some had finished, but had no idea about the rest of them. I knew some were spectating in front of Marathon Sports and the ticker at the bottom of the screen repeatedly said “Marathon Sports windows blown out by explosion…” I immediately turned to Facebook and Twitter looking for updates from everyone to make sure they were safe. I found most of what I was looking for. But for a few friends I found no such assurance, and I immediately started calling and texting them. My wife called back we talked about the few that I couldn’t find, she suggested I keep calling and she would use her resources on the ground (EMS is a small family) to try to get word of any kind.

By 11:30 pm all of my friends and running family were safe and accounted for. But 3 people were dead and over 130 people in my extended running family weren’t so lucky. I call it my “extended running family” because that’s what it is. Runner’s and their families all have a REAL connection with each other. I started going over all of the “what if” scenarios as information about the victims came to light. The one that really hit home with me was the 8 year-old boy who died and his family: His father was running, and they were there waiting to greet him as he came into the finish, as so many families do. His mother now has a severe brain injury and his 6 year-old sister lost a leg. There was no information available about the father at the time of the report.

finisher

That could have been me. That could have been my wife and kids. I run a 4-hour marathon (my PR is 3:58:25, my slowest marathon was 4:14:09) and would have started in the third wave (most likely as I would have run for charity again), and the first bomb went off when the clock was at 4:09:27 (the other just 15 seconds later). Considering it always takes several minutes to cross the Starting Line, I would most likely have finished sometime within a 10-minute window of the bombs going off. I know you shouldn’t dwell on the “what if’s” or try to connect yourself to tragic events like this, but this is MY home. This is MY community. This is MY family (running family included). And this particular race is so much more than just a race. It is the thread that connects so many runners.

Already people are saying that this isn’t an attack on runner’s or the running community, this isn’t an attack on Boston, this is an attack on America and all that we hold dear. Well,  that may be true, but the Boston Marathon is an International event (was is just a coincidence that the first bomb went off right by all the international flags that line the Finish?). The Boston Marathon is all about connecting with each other, through each step and touching upon greatness through witnessing and performing feats of amazing endurance. For some, its just called running or a day on the job. For others it is a transcendent experience. The Boston Marathon is the penultimate event in all of running. So, yes, an attack on the Boston Marathon was an attack on Running.

Running doesn’t see race, color or creed, sexual orientation, religion, age, size, politics or any of our many differences. Running brings all who run together and levels the playing field. For all but the Elite’s (and even them to a certain extent), running isn’t about how fast you are. Running isn’t about who you are better than. Running is about being better than you were yesterday. Running is about finding the strength to go on even though you want to quit. Running is about pushing yourself beyond your perceived limitations. Running is about sheer will and persistence. Running is about heart. Running is about soul.

An attack on Boston is an attack on my home. So, yes, I take it personally. As-if you attacked my family (because you did). One of the greatest feelings that there is in this World is knowing that my wife and kids are waiting for me at the finish line of ANY race, but especially a race in which so much emotion and hard work is tied-into. I don’t want to forever have to worry about their safety while I am running. I don’t want my kids (and wife to a certain extent) to have worry for my safety while I am running, and most importantly to worry about their own safety while waiting for me to cross the Finish line. The worst thing that could possibly happen from all of this is that they will no longer be waiting for me at the finish line. I won’t let any of these sick motherfuckers take that joy away from me.

I went to bed with all of these thoughts (selfish as they may be) and concern for all of the victims and their families swirling around in my head. And as the Sun came up this morning I made the hour-long drive home in complete silence. Just me and my thoughts. Alone. And then it hit me…

The Sun came up.

WeddingFinish

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2012 in review

This is just sad…

“In 2012, there were 2 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 16 posts. There were 5 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 462 KB.

The busiest day of the year was January 1st with 73views. The most popular post that day was UPDATE.”

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, like, EVER. But, for 2013, I am resolving to not let this blog be SO neglected… UGH.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The London Olympic Stadium is 53 meters high. This blog had about 750 visitors in 2012. If every visitor were a meter, this blog would be 14 times taller than the Olympic Stadium – not too shabby.

Click here to see the complete report.

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The Making of the New Balance MT110

To begin, it’s impossible to look at the creation of the MT110 in isolation. The shoe is the result of more than three years of ideas and evolution, both in the product and in the trail shoe market. This is the shoe that Anton’s wanted all along, but the market for such a light, flexible, low-to-the-ground trail shoe wasn’t there back in 2009. While the MT100 and MT101 were solid shoes, both included concessions to reach a wider market.

By the time of the MT110’s development, Born to Run and the minimalist running movements had caught mainstream attention. Folks were talking about heel-to-drop. They were looking for low-weight, less-structured shoes. They were buying the MT101, Minimus Trail, and their kin in droves.

Read the rest of the article over at irunfar.com and enter Bryon’s contest to win yourself a pair of these bad boys!

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UPDATE

I know. I know. I’ve been neglecting this blog lately. I’ve been dealing with ITBS, and I haven’t been a lot of fun to be around. This is my first REAL running injury and it scares the hell out of me. I haven’t been running. I haven’t handled it well. It took me 7 or 8 weeks to admit I was injured and needed help. I got myself into PT and it’s been a long, hard road. I’m still not 100%, but my therapist has given me the green light to begin training again.

I have to say. I’m terrified. I still get “twinges” of that crippling pain when I’m just walking or doing random things, or nothing. Sometimes it hurts just laying in bed. I just keep thinking what if it is something other than ITBS? Ugh. So, hopefully I’ll get off of my fat ass and get moving again. Hopefully I’ll figure out this injury and if it is indeed something more I’ll be able to get it fixed. This is going to be a big year for me dammit!

I’m tired of being injured. I’m sick of being depressed. I hate getting fat again (I’ve gained 25 pounds since Sept. 25 and that can’t be healthy). One good thing about all of this time off though? I’ve had a lot of time to think. And I’ve got a LOT of plans for the upcoming year. Plans with this blog, plans for side projects, plans for running, plans for a journey run, goals to achieve. My goal for 2012 is to run 2012 miles.

I’m going to run at least a couple of 50-milers and at least one 100-miler with a bunch of other races thrown-in just for fun. Oh, and the journey run? It’s in the infancy of the planning stages, but, I’m thinking 700 miles in 2 or 3 weeks capped-off with a marathon at the end, and it’s all for charity. Speaking of charity…

Lex’s Run 2012 is on! It’s going to be bigger and better than ever! We’ve got BIG plans for the race and we’re expanding our giving… We’ll still be supporting the MDA, but we plan on also donating to the MDF (the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation) and also donating directly to a local family or two in need. That’s right. That means we will be branching-out and forming our own Charitable Organization! Yay!

2012. Big plans, big changes, big year! Bring it on!

There is no tomorrow! Go out and get it today!

Strong Work!

Doug

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2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 28 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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The Vermont 50 (VIDEO)

So, it took some time, but I finally figured-out iMovie on my Mac (Thanks Steve, RIP)! So I compiled the pictures that I gathered from several sources (Thanks to Gene and Jeremy B especially) into a movie set to music. There were three songs in particular that became my training theme songs and thus the songs that were playing on repeat in my head during the race and they were:

  • Lose Yourself – Eminem
  • One More Mile – Paper Tongues
  • Dog Days are Over – Florence and the Machine

So, without any further ado, here is the FULLY edited version with the music mixed and faded properly and captions added in for your you viewing enjoyment:

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Vermont 50 Recap (Part 4 – Conviction)

The Mud Right Before Dugdale's

With the help of my crew, I changed my shirt, shoes, socks, lubed my feet, refilled my bottles, restocked my nutrition with all of my gels and chews that had caffeine in them (Yay!), and all the electrolyte tablets and pills they could find in my gear bags. It was now sunny and in the 80′s (a nightmare for me) and the next 20 miles were going to separate the boys from the men so to speak. It was going to be 17 miles until I saw my crew again. One of the stretches between aid stations was to be 7 miles. So I needed to be zealous with my hydration and electrolyte intake between 30 and 40 miles because I was going to have to have to ration the fluid intake from 40-47.

I was beginning to really worry about Luau. He was in rough shape. He came into Dugdale’s complaining of his right arm and hand tingling. He left Dugldale’s saying his face and teeth were numb. As you can imagine, this caused quite a bit of anxiety for our gang of four. He asked me (assumably because of my medical knowledge) what I thought was wrong. I could tell he was a little scared, and rightly so. Nothing like this had ever happened to him in a race. I assured him that the only thing I could think of that would cause his symptoms were his electrolytes and hydration being “off.” He agreed to eat a couple of Nuun tabs and really push the fluids over the next 4.3 miles (to the next aid station) and then re-assess. This was the first time that any of us had verbalized the thought of dropping.

Jeremy D and myself let Luau know in no uncertain terms that we would not let him drop. We pushed on and kept a close eye on him and his intake. By the time we got to the next aid station he was reporting feeling much better, but again stated that he would reassess at the next station. The rest of the course from here on out was 90% single track and switchbacks. We kind of had to find our place in line with each other and push on. There wasn’t a lot of talking as we seemed to be deep inside our own heads. We were still together and “there” for each other, but we started to disengage. Or at least I did.

I spent most of my time pushing the pace out front. I know this because I kept hearing Jeremy D telling me to reign it in. He was reminding me that we still had a long way to go, and I kept telling him that I felt strong and needed to push it while I could. Somewhere before 40 I got my first cramp. It was in a weird spot on the inside of my thigh. Not the quads and not my hamstring. I would’ve thought it was my groin, but it was too low for that. Anyway, it didn’t really affect my gait, but it was seriously uncomfortable. I popped a Nuun tab into my mouth and  by the time it was gone so was the cramp. We came out of the woods into a wide-open glen and the heat and humidity instantly struck me. Once again we could see the aid station at 40 and once again it was at the top of a hill! Seriously?

Out of the Woods and into the Frying Pan

If you look at the picture above, that is Mt. Ascutney in the background behind the trees. The Finish Line is on the other side of it. The mountain had been taunting us in the distance since about mile 25, when Jeremy B took this pic from the top of Blood Hill:

Yeah, We're Going to the OTHER Side of that Mountain!

We rolled into the aid station at 40 miles and checked-in with everyone on their condition and we were all hanging tough. Luau was feeling much better and was psyched that the aid station was serving ramen noodles. I was psyched because I had to use the porta-potty to pee. In my mind I was convinced that I was on-track with my hydration for the long 7 miles ahead. I exited the John, grabbed another pb&j, filled my bottles and scarfed several handfuls of chips and took off. Jeremy D was right behind me, bellowing at me to slow down, but I was on a mission. It wasn’t long until the group had caught-up with me anyway, but I continued to push the pace as much as I could.

Leaving the Aid Station at 40

My quads were cramping like never before at this point. I was eating Nuun tabs like they were going out of style. In fact they were. I was getting pretty sick of the grape and strawberry lemonade flavors, they were nauseating. Ugh. To make matters worse, on the first series of downhill switchback’s after 40 my left knee started screaming at me. It was the outside of the knee and I recognized it as ITB irritation/pain. My self-diagnosis was reinforced every time I lifted my foot out of the mud or slipped on an uneven muddy surface. I could do this I told myself. Less than 10 miles with some ITB pain and quad cramping wasn’t the worst thing I could be dealing with.

Jeremy D caught up to me on the next section of single track. Up until this point I had banned any talk of time or distance. I just didn’t want to know. I figured I’d be better off just running, without thinking, without doing calculations in my head and without all of that stress. But while he was talking me down, trying to get me to reel it in and come back to the group, I did it. I asked him. He said that we were “somewhere outside of 5 miles” left and we were at about 9:45:00. He told me he honestly didn’t think we were going to make sub-11 hours today. It broke my heart. I almost lost it right there.

I told him that I didn’t have a choice, that this might be my only chance. He said there would always be another race. “Not for me! I have to do it and I have to do it now!” This is not only how I live, but this is how I trained. I had to convince myself that this would be my only chance. After all, who knows? If I failed, who knows what tomorrow will bring? I could have a debilitating illness or an accident of some sort. Hell, I could die in a fire next week. I don’t want to be saddled with “what if’s” for the rest of my life. Besides, if I didn’t make it, what kind of effect would that have on my psyche? I was in a fragile state and needed to steel myself against the possibility of failure.

I thought about all of the late nights of running after putting my girls to bed. I thought about the self-supported marathon on the trails by my house. I thought about the 32 mile run on the treadmill. But mostly I thought about my daughter’s and my family. What would I tell Isabelle when she asks me if I won (she always asks)? What would Lex think of me and all the time and effort I put into training only to fall short? Most importantly, would I even have the resolve to try again? Ever? Would I even want to keep running after this? What about you? My blog readers and twitter/dailymile friends? What would you all think of me after all the build-up and braggadocio? I am “built for endurance,” huh? I have no choice but to leave it all out on the course. There is no tomorrow for me. I am going to go out and get it, today!

The First Mile Marker

I had to get on my horse and get my motor going. So I popped a 600mg ibuprofen and said “Fuck it! Let’s GO!” Once we hit that “5 miles to go” sign I ran every hill that I could, up and down. If it was really steep I ran it until I felt like I could walk it faster and then power-walked as fast and hard as I could. I was driven. I was in auto-pilot mode. I embraced the fact that the next several miles was going to be about just how much I could suffer and keep moving, and I did just that. At one point before Johnson’s (the crew/handler aid station at 47) we came-out of the woods onto a paved road. We ran downhill until we took a right onto Route 4. I knew it couldn’t be much further and ran on the soft shoulder becasue the pavement just sucked the life out of me.

I remember at one point when “the Jeremy’s” came up behind me. They pushed past and as soon as they got in front of me they said “Let’s walk for a minute!” I kept going, pushed through the middle of them and heard an “or not” behind me. There was just no way I was stopping at that point. We made the left turn and headed up into the driveway at Johnson’s. I was able to hold it together until I saw Lex. as soon as I saw her I lost it. I had no idea how much time was passed or how much time I had left for that matter. I just figured that despite the effort I’d put forth the last 7 miles there was just no way I was going to make it.

Coming into Johnson's

I was really looking forward to a dry shirt at Johnson’s, but it was nowhere to be found. However, I was able to take my shirt off and towel myself down. I put on more Body Glide and put my shirt back on. Lex found a few more Nuun tabs floating around and stuffed them into my bottle pockets when she refilled them for me. When she handed them to me I remember her asking me something about how I was feeling about running 100 miles. I told her I’d tell her later if I qualified. She said “you’ve got 37 minutes! Get your ass moving!”  So I hit the aid station table, grabbed a pb&j and a handful of chips and hit the trail. I had no time for dawdling and left the other three behind.

"My name's Doug and I'm outta' heeeeere!"

All I knew was that I had 3 miles left, 2 of which were climbing up to Mt. Ascutney and the last mile or so was down one of the ski slopes, and I was running. I wasn’t interested in taking it easy anymore. I was going to finish under 11 hours if it killed me. Jeremy D caught me again and tried to get me to wait for the others, but I wasn’t having it. I knew Luau was going to finish because, as I told him a couple of miles prior, he’s a “fucking warrior!” Jeremy B was going to finish because he just doesn’t know any better, and as long as those two were together I just wasn’t going to worry about them.

There was a lot of technical trail from this point on and Jeremy B caught us on one of the climbs. He told us that Luau was hurting, but that he was resolved to finish even if he had to walk. Jeremy told us that when Luau told him to leave him, he was in fact walking. Hearing him say this was kinda’ crushing to my spirit, but in the end it just pushed me harder. Suddenly out of nowhere, before we came out of the woods, Luau caught us! Of course he said he’d just used-up all of his reserves to do it, but he wanted to catch-up to tell us not to worry, he was going to finish, and he wanted me to get my sub-11.

We exited the woods again and I was cramping worse than ever when I slowed-up a bit to get out a Nuun tab and Jeremy B passed me. He just kept pulling away, which pissed me off to no end because I couldn’t answer, I had nothing left. There would be no “Kenyan Kick” from me today. Then I saw JB stop to take some pics and when he focused the camera on me I cursed at him and told him he’d better get going because if I caught him I was going to kill him!

JB's Last Picture

Jeremy D was right on my heels when I heard the familiar chorus “Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!” and knew he was cramping. I stopped and gave him my last Nuun tab and said I hope it worked for him as well as it had for me! Now I knew I was truly on my own. Nothing left to ease the debilitating cramping. I was out of Nuun in one bottle and I only had about 8 oz. of water left in the other. Thank God I saw the “0.5 mile left” sign shortly after that. I heard the dull roar of the crowd and music at the finish in the distance, and came out of the woods for the last time onto the ski slope. I saw JB about 10-15 seconds ahead of me on the switchbacks and actually considered jumping the course to tackle him.

Trying to Smile for the Camera

As soon as I started down the ski slope my calves started cramping (I was so glad I put on my Zensah Compression socks at Dugdale’s, seriously). My calves were cramping so bad that I was literally dancing down the switchbacks on my toes trying not to fall. As I came into the finish chute (which was one of the steepest parts of the course, btw), I just let it all out. All the pain and all the emotion came pouring out as I screamed in pain nearly the entire way down the hill to the finish. I saw Lex at one point and she was yelling something at me while running next to me on the outside of the tape.

Top of the Gnarly Finish

If it KILLS Me!

I crossed the finish line and I knew I had done it, but I had to go and look at the timer’s computer screen. The finish line clock was the actual time in military time. My official time was 10:57:45! I had done it with time to spare! JB and I grabbed each other (more like held each other up) and waited at the finish line for JD who finished less than an minute behind me. When he crossed the line we embraced in a long man-hug and were simply overcome with emotion.

Overcome at the Finish

Once we were done with the man love, I found Lex and gave her a big sweaty hug and kiss and she handed me the bottle of Gritty’s Halloween Ale I’d been waiting for all day. The worst part of the day was knowing I had beer on ice in the cooler in the back of our vehicle at all of the handler’s stations! It would’ve been so easy to drop and have a beer!

A Beer and a Medal #itdoesntgetanybetter

We all stayed in the chute anxiously awaiting Luau’s finish not knowing what to expect. About 5 minutes later we saw him in his Autism Speaks blue singlet at the top of the mountain and started yelling our heads off! He looked good and ran strong all the way through to the finish tossing his water bottles to the side and practically leaping into our arms (we seriously had to catch him)! I couldn’t have been more proud of our group. We took a picture of the four of us and headed over for some chow.

The Gang of Four - Luau, JB, Me, JD

While we were eating we asked Lex about Adam and Sarah. She said that they had come through Dugdale’s 30-40 minutes after we did, but that her and Dave had to leave Johnson’s to get to the finish and didn’t see them. And because we have Verizon, she had to walk around trying to find service to text Adam’s wife Jenni and/or Sarah’s friend Gene (who was crewing/pacing her and took a lot of these pictures). When we were finally able to get an update, Jenni said that they had pulled Adam off the course at Johnson’s becasue he had arrived too late to make the cutoff, which was an incredible bummer. But we knew he had been battling with his achilles tendons all day and were massively impressed that he had still made it 47 miles!

Jenni said that Sarah was the last person that they let continue from Johnson’s and that Gene was pacing her the last three miles. Apparently she had 33 minutes to finish when she left. We watched the mountain anxiously until we saw her coming and started screaming and cheering her in! She finished in 11:58:54! Amazing! I know how hard that last 3 miles was and she did it in 32 minutes, wow! She even passed a half-dozen or so others on the way. What an amazing day. Strong work by everyone in our group. New friendships forged, old friendships reinforced, and we all have a bond that we will share for a lifetime.

I will enter the Western States 100 lottery and I will be back to Vermont next year!

There is no tomorrow… Go out and get it today!

Thanks for reading this whole thing!

Strong Work,

Doug

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