Vermont City Marathon Relay: Race and Burlington Recap

Well that was fun!

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It’s funny how we can look back on events that, in the moment, might have been painful and hard to get through, and find our memories of them completely positive. This past weekend, running the Vermont City Marathon relay, was a crazy experience and it was such a blessing to have my roommate there to rehash everything, commiserate on the struggles of running in extreme heat conditions, and celebrate both of our triumphs.

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The weekend got off to a great start at The Neighborhood, where Kelly and I got some traditional pre-race-day breakfast. WAFFLES – (pictured) Oh and cannot forget the Cream of Wheat (capitalization necessary). I have not met another restaurant that can make CoW as well as these guys – seriously, there is magic in the bowl. Of course, I finished almost everything and then realized that I had just eaten more dairy than I probably had all week… the day before the race. I was definitely worried that it would come back to haunt me, but it never did (hooray!) I didn’t feel super awesome after the meal and had some pretty annoying upper GI troubles, but I think that could probably just be attributed to eating a lot of food and not necessarily to the milk products in the cream of wheat and whipped cream. Made me think my past issues weren’t dairy related after all (this was later re-confirmed after I successfully had some REAL Ben & Jerry’s ice cream … no time to waste on the non-dairy, sugar bomb stuff they now sell… and did not implode). We had some time before catching the Megabus up to Burlington, so we pit-stopped for some Union Square donut holes to enjoy on the way, and some very necessary caffeine from Starbucks.

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Despite the mostly beautiful GREEN drive up through Vermont, our adventures hit a bit of a road-block when our Megabus decided to overheat just 15 minutes outside of Burlington. Our dear Megabus driver let all the passengers know that it would be HOURS before backup arrived, and we were basically on our own to figure out how to make it the rest of the way. What was definitely a headache and a half could have been WAY worse. We got super lucky — after having one uber driver cancel because we were – hello – in the middle of the interstate, we ended up sharing an uber with two girls who were also heading to Burlington for the weekend. Our uber driver was so nice – literally an angel for picking our poor souls off the side of the road. I have no idea what we would have done if the bus broke down any earlier in the trip. Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about that any more! I’ve heard so many more horror stories about Megabus, it was about time I had some bad luck after taking them for years during college. Never again!

Arriving in Burlington, I was quickly reminded how much I used to pine for this city. UVM was actually my top choice in colleges when I was applying back during my senior year of high school. I remembered falling in love with the charm of Burlington, the views of the lake and mountains across it. One thing that stuck out to me this weekend was just how much friendlier the people in Burlington were compared to Boston. I think the city has hardened me a little – I don’t think I noticed this coming from Minnesota, but coming from Boston the contrast was insane!

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After settling in our Airbnb, Kelly and I set out to the Expo to pick up our bibs and hunt for dinner. We had originally planned to stop at a grocery store and pick up the makings of a simple pre-race dinner, but use of the kitchen in our Airbnb was questionable. Instead, we decided to use the extra meal to explore Burlington’s food scene, settling on an Italian restaurant where the options didn’t seem to heavy or questionable for our digestive systems to handle. I don’t know the last time I ordered spaghetti and meatballs at a restaurant (honestly I don’t know if I’ve ever ordered this), but it seemed like the best dairy-free option that combined simple carbs with some decent protein and not too much grease. It was certainly delicious – I ate about half of it (saved the rest for later which ended up serving me really well post-race) and felt like a true Bostonian with my giant balls of meat. We ended up doing quite a bit of walking despite sitting in a bus all day, and by the time we went to bed, both of our legs were pretty tired. I said a silent prayer that sleep would reinvigorate us and not leave us with screaming legs the following day.

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We woke up to a decently cool morning, and my nerves of running in muggy heat were partially assuaged. I ate my race day breakfast that worked really well for me during my first half (a cliff bar and a banana), and added some homemade snickerdoodle hummus (ummm this stuff was bomb, I will definitely be making it again) for a bit more staying power since I wound’t be running for another 3 or so hours. We both took a nuun tablet with some water before heading out to make sure our electrolytes were well-stocked in preparation for the ravines of sweat we were likely going to put out (nice picture right?) I hoped that in combination with my salty, carby dinner, my body was FULLY STOCKED with whatever reserves it would need. I ended up not needing to dip into any of my jelly bellies on the road (though I did pick up freeze pops from some nice Burlingtonians around mile 6 and 9), but by the way I was feeling during the last mile I probably could have.

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I walked with Kelly to the starting line and watched all of the runners take off before hitching a ride on the shuttle to the 2-person relay exchange zone, a few miles south. I did some yoga and tried to read while waiting, but soon enough it was time to get ready for the first runners to start passing us! It was insane to see the first marathoner go by right around 1 hour and 15 minutes. In 80 degree heat at that point! The exchange was set up so that marathon volunteers with loudspeakers would shout the bib number of an incoming relayer so their partner could get ready to change the wristband and start the second leg. We were supposed to be organized based on bib number, but everyone basically ended up in one big crowd and I just tried to listen for “6266,” headphones and HRM at the ready. When I did hear our number called, I said a quick omg and scooted off with our bags, found a smiling (made me feel so much better to see her NOT dying!) Kelly, traded the wristband for our gear bags, and made sure to take a quick selfie (priorities). My time didn’t start until exiting the exchange zone, so I had a quick second to get situated, turn on my music, and start tracking the race on my watch.

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It was very strange to be running alongside of so many runners with different goals. Besides the marathoners and 2-person relayers, there could be up to 5-person relay teams running shorter legs. Everyone was running at a different pace, and combined with the heat and extra water stations, it felt like there was a lot of walking happening around me. I tried to stay focused on how I was feeling, and run, but not too fast. I couldn’t help feeling a little guilty running my first miles around marathoners trying to get past the worst of it. But pretty soon, I found myself in the throws of the “worst of it,” and filled my mind with strategies for cooling off. I snagged a baggie of ice some great folks were handing out and stuffed this down my bra for the most of the race. Between that, and running through almost every sprinkler and water gun I could find, I looked pretty damn ridiculous. How I looked was the last thing on my mind, though. I was determined to get through the 13 miles and hopefully without any crazy passing out, bathroom issues, or injury. I remember asking myself what mile I was on right around the 16-mile marker (my 3rd mile), and figured that was the kiss of death. I reminded myself that even though I felt bad running in the heat, my body was doing fine — my lungs were working with my legs, my heart wasn’t going crazy, and I knew that I had the fuel to keep me going. Kept having to repeat these silent “thank you body” messages throughout the course, especially as I passed stretchers and ambulances caring to those whose bodies betrayed them.

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lol.

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By the time I hit mile 23, I knew that I would finish. I decided to skip a few water stations (I had been taking water at pretty much every other one before that) since I normally don’t like to overdo it on the water while running. Looking back, this was probably a mistake, and by the final mile I felt pretty nauseous and exhausted. Had a few close calls with vomiting during the last mile (my pictures from this stretch are of course the ones that ended up being posted and I look absolutely ill), and a cruel blow-up finish-line-looking-thing showed up in my vision too early, so I sprinted… only to realize it wasn’t the finish line. I didn’t exactly race through to the end, but it felt like I was racing to find a port-a-potty afterwards. There was a serious shortage of these at the finish – not cool.

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Miraculously, it didn’t take a heart surgeon to help me locate Kelly, and I felt 1000x better after seeing her (and chugging a chocolate milk she gave me in like 2 seconds). We celebrated our awesome finishes, and she told me that they had actually just discontinued the race because the weather conditions had turned “extreme.” Thankfully, we finished in time to receive an official time, but anyone who finished after 4:30:00 wouldn’t be considered officially finishing. So insane. She recapped her leg of the race and we agreed that she had the harder half — the first leg runners ran a 3 mile out-and-back on an interstate without shade or water. And apparently one of the early water stations ran out? Certainly made me more thankful for my route through the neighborhoods and generous sprinkler action.

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After partaking in the post-race festivities (pizza and chips ended up really hitting the spot – definitely needing that salt! could hardly finish the beer — Kelly had a few extra hours to recover for that one) we headed home to freshen up for an afternoon of brewery hopping. I finished off the rest of my spaghetti and meatballs before we left, and by the time we headed out, it had started to storm. We shared flights at some of the closest breweries — Switchback, Queen City, and Citizen Cider. For some reason I was really feeling the cider and not so much the beer — the hops were just a little too much unfortunately! We headed back downtown to put our name in at Farmhouse Tap, a place one of Kelly’s coworkers had recommended we definitely try. Since it was an hour wait, we decided to go for dessert first and hit up the original Ben & Jerry’s for some ice creammmm. No regrets. After going all-in on the dairy and not really feeling any repercussions, I’m starting to doubt my intolerance to it after all (though this kind of changed after I had my first taste of siggi’s greek yogurt this week 😦 ) When we finally got our table for dinner, we decided to both get one of their “famous” burgers — I got the turkey burger that seemed to be kind of thanksgiving inspired with some cranberry marmalade — and agreed that it was pretty much the best thing we had tasted in a long time. The buns were buttery soft, and the flavor combinations were absolutely on-point. After dinner, I realized how full I was and how much food I had just consumed. Definitely well-worth it after the sweaty milage, and hit every craving like a nail on the head. This food filled day didn’t stop us from hitting up a few more must-see places before heading out the next day. We stopped for coffee and some newspaper reading at the adorable Muddy Waters coffee shop, and had a delicious brunch at Penny Cluse (they had a wait from literally minutes after opening).

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Overall, the weekend combined lots of my favorite things. Running, food, beer, lakes, sunsets, and nice people. Thankfully, our ride back was a smoother one, but a much longer once since greyhound had more stops along the way. But I’d take that to a broken down bus ANY day, thank you very much. Now on to that 26.2 thing…

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