I hate Vermont.
That's actually a lie. I'm trying to convince myself that I hate it because after what happened this past weekend, my love for the Green Mountain State is nearing ridiculously stupid proportions.
First of all, the state is beautiful. Like, unnaturally (or naturally, in the literal sense) pretty. No state has a right to be that friggin' gorgeous.
Secondly, said ridiculously-stunning state enabled me to achieve my next gigantic accomplishment of this year: The Green Mountain Relay.
Allow me to explain. Please hold your thunderous applause and standing ovation until the end.
This is a 200-mile relay across the great and beautiful state of Vermont. A team of 12 runners takes turns running legs of various lengths and difficulty levels from Jeffersonville to Bennington. You drive two vans from checkpoint to checkpoint to switch runners. You run all day and all night. In all elements. You eat in your car. You sleep in your car. You don't shower. It's hard.
And it's incredible.
I ran this year with a team I adored. Half was from last year's Mass Dash relay, and half were newbies I just met. All of them were amazing, and ridiculously talented runners. Our team averaged an 8-minute mile pace, so we knew we'd be okay.
And we were. But not without adversity.
Running on little training and a healed injury was difficult for me. My first leg was labeled as "Easy," 3.9 miles. It took me through a country club, along a grassy walking trail, and through a graduation party (literally. I almost grabbed beer as I ran by). It was mostly downhill at 11 AM in the morning.
Not too bad.
Leg two was "Moderate." All downhill or flat for 4.9 miles. At 10:30 night in the cool Vermont air. I could smell the trees and fields, and looking up, I've never seen so many stars. Like someone shook salt on black paper. The most beautiful run I've ever had.
Leg three was labeled as "Hard." What it should have been labeled as was "Just F*cking Kill Yourself Now." A 5.2 mile run, 4 of which was uphill, with a little descending reprieve before it went back up again and then down in the last 1/2 mile.
Halfway up I started to walk. I could not get my body to move.
I was having trouble breathing. I hadn't eaten properly since 2 PM the afternoon previous. Several vans stopped to help me, including mine. At mile 3.8, I physically could not make my legs move.
Or so I thought.
Ted, one of my teammates got out of the van and said "We're gonna run to the next mile together, and then Vanessa's gonna run with you."
"I can't do it."
"Yes you can. Mind over body."
And we ran.
I was nearly in tears as I reached the end of that downhill breather where Vanessa was waiting, waving her arms and smiling at me. I wanted to punch her happiness, and she, as a marathoner, would have understood.
"Come on girl, there's your one-mile-to-go sign!"
We ran and walked. And Brooks joined us. And Jason. And they kept finding weird things to say to keep me going.
"We can get breakfast after this!"
"You're doing great, girl!"
"Ooh, look at the pretty pine tree!"
"Just another tenth of a mile!"
"F*ck the Ultra Runner bitches."
"Just think about that cup of bacon!"
"Brooks is hangin' back for the nice rear-view."
"Coregasm, girl! You can do it!"
And I made it up the last hill. When we got to the top of the dirt road where it was all downhill for the last half, I started to cry.
But I ran the rest of the way. With my team running alongside me.
When I high-fived my teammate Tim to take over for the next leg, I could have collapsed. I couldn't breathe. Ted came over with some Citomax for me; Jason told me I couldn't sit down (the bastard). I walked out my legs, sucking in as much oxygen as my little lungs would allow. I was pouring sweat.
And after 5 minutes, when the Citomax kicked in and my consciousness came back...I felt awesome.
I had finished my three legs. And now I could eat bacon.
I hurt. I was dirty and tired. But I finished. That hill did NOT beat me. As Jason said, "The hill only beat you if you turned around."
We got breakfast and crossed the finish line at 30 hours even when the rest of our team finished around 1:30 PM. I got home, showered for what felt like 2 hours, ate a delicious dinner from Husband (steak and potatoes, nom nom nom), and slept for what was literally 10 hours.
My quads are now dying. But I'm not.
I made Vermont my bitch. And I got a medal for it:
It was one incredible experience. I'm so proud of myself, but more proud of my team: Ted, Brooks, Kent, Jason, Vanessa, Amanda, Nate, Josh, Tim, Alan, and Jess, I could not have done it without all of your love and support the whole weekend.
Thanks for helping me accomplish this feat...
Thanks for making Vermont beautiful.