by Michael Arnstein

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Vermont 100 Mile Race (2010) Report

I was worried about 2 things going into this race: sleep and hyponatremia. If I could get solid sleep the night before the race and no hyponatremia issues like I had at Western States 3 weeks earlier I was really confident I would place top 3 and run under 16 hours.

Photo credit to Tom Sperduto

I went into the race feeling really strong. I ran a total of 92 miles in my 5 day tapper going into the race. I ran 50 miles at Bear Mt on Monday, Tuesday I ran 32 miles, then 3 miles easy wed+Thursday, Friday driving up to VT I stopped at a rest area and ran 4 miles easy feeling fresh. That tapper seems like a lot for most people, but for me it was just regular training and my body felt good. I got to the race site about 7:30pm, everyone was camping out in a field right by the start. It was a pretty cool scene. Real ‘old school’ I liked it. These were hard core runners. People here were looking for an internal race, a personal challenge. I don’t think anyone in this race was really racing anyone but themselves. It’s a cool sport, these are ‘real’ people. I felt very comfortable and honored to be around so many like minded people. I was enjoying the element and sorry I didn’t get to the race site earlier. I set up my tent and had some fruit. I couldn’t get to sleep until about 10pm, woke up about 3:15am and the race went off at 4am. I was groggy, and pretty worried about how little sleep I got. Solid sleep is a critical component to my performance. I was pretty worried that the little sleep would haunt me in the race.

The race starts and I settle in at a pretty slow pace and focused on not falling while running in the dark. After about an hour of night running sun started to come up. I was glad to get rid of the head lamp and not worry about crashing on the trail. I was still pretty tired in my head (not my legs) up until 6 hours into the race. I couldn’t shake off getting such little sleep, and was moving below the pace I hoped for, but I was still pretty steady, just in a lower gear. The course and terrain was very enjoyable. Nothing at all was flat, but nothing was too long or steep either, just endless ups and downs with some really beautiful vistas of New England. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked the race course and atmosphere of the event. It was a very low-key ultra race compared to Western States which was more like a big ‘Ironman’ event with lots of hype and fan fare. The Vermont 100 was way more old school and I really enjoyed it once I got into it. At about 45 miles or 7 hours into the race I really woke up. I finally felt alive and ready to start racing. I was in 6th or 7th place at the time and only 25 minutes behind the leaders. I caught up to Kami Semick who I’m a huge fan of. Kami Semick is one of the greatest ultra runners in the world. She’s plastered all over the running magazines in the NorthFace ads. She was moving pretty fast and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to run with her for a while. I picked her brain on all the ultra experience she has. I got some really good tips and 2 hours flew by like 2 minutes. About mile 65 I was still feeling really good and holding back. I wanted to keep running with Kami and continue to get high quality advice but I felt like I could run 7:15 pace with ease. I really really felt fresh and was worried the leaders were going to get out of reach if I didn’t make a move to catch up to them soon. At this point in the race I really thought I was going to place top 3 and run somewhere in the 15:30 range for the full 100 miles. I picked up the pace at mile 68 and felt amazing. At 12 hours I was at 76 miles and still feeling really good. I was eating my medjool dates and melons all day, but was playing a cat and mouse game with staving off hyponatremia by taking my salt pills. Kami told me she takes 3-4 pills an hour — every hour from the start of the race to the finish. I hadn’t been taking that many, maybe 1-2 an hour until I started to sweat a lot during the midday heat, then I was taking about 4 an hour. At 82 miles I started to feel the hyponatremia effects taking hold. I’m pretty sure my increased pace and effort brought on the hyponatremia problems. I took 2 salt pills and ate a bit. Still felt loopy, so I took 2 more salt pills. Still felt loopy… then at 84 miles the wheels fell off. I was a mess, just shuffling and going about 15minute mile pace and feeling really wacked out. My legs were rock solid, but I was getting all the dizzy/slow thinking/spotty brain activity feelings and it sucks! I took 4 more salt pills. I think I had 8-10 pills in about a 90 minute period. Then finally I started to feel better at mile 92. Yet lots of damage to my top 3 ambitions had been done. I was about 30 minutes behind 2nd place and had less than 8 miles to go in the race. I figured I had a chance to crack top 3 but realized that my current 5th place standing was most likely going to be my finishing place. I really wanted to break 16 hours at this race, and now I was wondering if I would even break 17 hours. I kinda got down on my performance and fell into a bit of a lack-luster feeling for the end result of my race. I switched into new goal gears of just trying to enjoy the day outside and finishing my first 100 miler. I got to mile 96.5 and my man Mike Oliva decided to run the last 3.5 miles with me to the finish. Mike had been meeting me at a lot of the aid stations and keeping me loaded up with cantaloupe, dates, salt pills and anything else I might need. He was an awesome help. It was going to get dark pretty soon, and I had made no preparations for running in the dark. I thought for sure I would finish the race before night fall. Yet I was going to be running the last 20-30min in the dark. Mike got some headlamps from some people he met and we were set for some night running.

At mile 97.8 a guy caught up to me and put in a surge to pass me. I had been taking it easy for the last few miles and just trying to enjoy finishing the last few miles of the race feeling good. But I suddenly didn’t want to finish 6th! I was shocked at how fast I was able to run when I put in some effort to stay ahead of this guy. I literally put in a massive surge! My buddy Mike couldn’t even stay with me on the trail, I was flying. I am certain I was running sub 7min pace and my legs and stride form was perfect, I suddenly had zero fatigue in my legs, I was running as if I was completely fresh. It was the most amazing experience of the day, really amazing running so fast and effortless after 17 hour and 98 miles! It was FUN running fast. Just at that moment I realized how much I missed running fast on the track, and in shorter races. I started to think about my mile repeat workouts, road races and fast marathon running. For the next 15 minutes as I closed in on the finish I couldn’t get my mind off how fun it was to run fast, really fast. I crossed the line, glad to be done. I got the 100 mile monkey off my back, but my heart was thinking about running at top speed again. Here’s what I ate and drank over the 17 hours and 12 minutes of the race: 6 lbs of Medjool dates 3 cantaloupes 1 ½ watermelons 2 oranges 8 bananas 60-64 16oz water bottles 50-55 salt pills I got in my tent, fell asleep pretty fast, but did wake up a few times tossing and turning and listening to people talking outside as they finished through the night.

It felt great to get in my tent and get some rest!

My feet after the race were dusty and dirty, but not really even swollen and only a few small blisters.

In the morning I was blown away when I got up out of my tent with seemingly fresh legs. I really honestly had no soreness in my legs. My shoulders and back were a bit weak, but my legs and even my feet felt really good. I didn’t get any blisters or toenail problems. Then I got this crazy idea to climb Mt. Washington. It’s the biggest mountain in the north east and incredibly beautiful. I pushed my buddy Mike to do the fast excursion with me. The weather was picture perfect and I felt great. He said ok after I promised him it would be worth the extra driving. He wasn’t so sure I was really recovered from the race, I said I would prove it on Mt. Washington. We skipped the race barbeque and awards ceremony and jumped in the car. We broke into some watermelon on the drive over the Mt. Washington and refueled! We got to base of Mt. Washington, the weather was picture perfect. I put some fruit and extra clothes in my backpack and we hit the trail. The temp at the base was in the mid 70’s and in the upper 40’s at the summit! We started to move up the trail at a really solid speed. Soon we were rock scrambling above tree line and in a full body workout with our arms and legs climbing up and over all the boulders. I told mike on the drive over to the mountain that I thought it would take 3-4 hours to reach the summit (in winter it takes me 4-5 hours). We were flying, and got to the top in 2 hours and 1 minute! I felt amazing as if I hadn’t run at all the day before. It was really the best part of the entire weekend, feeling so so strong and so alive even after a 100 mile run the day before.

Here’s the proof if you can’t believe it! My training partner Oz Pearlman did this race 2 years ago and had the most difficult experience of his life. It was a defining moment for him when he had to dig deeper than ever before to find the resolve to keep going and finish. I was hoping to suffer like that, I never feel like I achieve anything unless it was really really hard. I wanted to run faster and make the race more difficult physically, but the hyponatremia issues slowed me down and lack of sleep had me feeling less than energized to push hard. I had a good time more than anything else, which is good, and fun, but not nearly as rewarding as when you need to push yourself to limits you never thought you could handle. Am I some genetically gifted person? I don’t think so. I really mean that. My athletic abilities are a direct result of my training. When you run 180-200 miles a week up and down mountains, when you eat nothing but raw fruit and vegetables, your body becomes a machine that does not break down. I literally could have done the VT100 race on Saturday and then again on Sunday – I really mean that. What will I do next? Well I’m not sure, but I know I can do anything when I eat a fruitarian diet, train hard and get enough sleep! Here is my GPS data from the Vermont 100 Mile: Here is a video of my race and Mt. Washington climb. A big thanks to David Hestrin for putting this together for me! Some cool pictures of me in the local news/paper:


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