Infinitus 2017

Infinitus is a series of trail races in Vermont put on by The Endurance Society. The races are 8k, marathon, 88k, 100 miles, 250 miles, and 888k. The 888k racers get 10 days to complete the mileage, 250 mile racers have 5 days, 100 mile racers have 2 days, and all the rest get 24 hours to complete their distance.

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As far as I know, only one person completed the 888k. This badass lady (Helene Dumais) was in the race for over 700k. Here she is Friday evening, checking off another lap.

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My buddy Jesse signed up for the 88k race, and I did the 8k. All distance are measured in “Andy miles” because the organizer, Andy Weinberg, creates notoriously long races. For example, the 8k was about 7.5 miles, instead of 5 miles and change.

So, Jesse’s girlfriend Corinne and I were Jesse’s support crew for the day.

Jesse and I arrived at the Blueberry Hill Ski Center on Friday to set up our camp in a nearby field the race organizers had reserved for racers and crew. We borrowed my boyfriend’s 8-person tent and Jesse brought a pop-up canopy and table for our little aid station. We had a pretty comfy setup with chairs and lots of food and drink and bugspray.

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It had been raining all week for the poor runners doing the longest distances. That meant plenty of bugs and unbelievable mud. We set up the tent in the rain Friday night and it didn’t stop until early Saturday morning, which meant that our shoes were soaked before we even lined up at the start. Corinne arrived around 10:00 p.m. and we all hunkered down to try to get a good night’s sleep. I dreamed that it rained on my food bag and that the only thing to get ruined were my all-important, miracle race breakfast food: strawberry frosted pop tarts. Seriously. They are the best.

Jesse’s friends Jen and Richard were running, too. Richard was running the 100 mile, so he started before 8:00 a.m. on Saturday to get ahead of the crowd. Jen had signed up for the marathon, but bumped herself up to 88k Saturday morning.

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Jen and Jesse looking strong!

Jen, Jesse, and I started together at 8:08 a.m. with all the rest of the 8k, marathon, and 88k racers. It was a pretty big crowd and we lost each other pretty quickly as the trail narrowed and passing became more difficult. I caught up to Jesse about 30 minutes into the race, just before we reached the first real climb up Hogback Mountain toward Mt. Romance. (real names!)

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Official Photo (ES is so generous and offers their photos for free)

We peeled off some layers, took out our trekking poles and hit the slope as hard as we could. At the top, Jesse left me in the dust going through the deep, deep mud along the ridgeline. His two trekking poles stabilized him so well that he just flew through the mudpit that was the trail. With my one pole, I managed not to take a nosedive into the muck, but I was still slowed down by it. I passed a good number of people without poles who were really struggling. That was miles 2 to 3 or 4. Maybe some day I’ll invest in a GPS watch.

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Official Photo

The rest of the first loop (the 7.5-mile “8k” race) had intermittent mud, along with some really fabulous undulating trails, before plunging back down to base camp. I passed Richard on the downhill and asked what I could get ready for him at the aid station before his next loop.

At the finish line, the longer distance runners continued straight to a loop of approximately 20 miles. I finished, met Corinne, and we prepped some things for Richard. Jen arrived a little after him and helped get him on his feet for their 20 mile loop. We agreed to meet them at what we all thought was mile 14, at the reservoir parking lot up the road.

Corinne and I tidied up and dried out the tent as best we could in the meantime.

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Our tent and the neighbors’ pop-up

Then we packed what we would need to resupply Jesse, Jen, and Richard and headed out to the reservoir in my car. I brought some art supplies and we whiled away the wait by making a masterpiece of a poster. (art by Corinne, lettering by yours truly)

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After a long wait, we started to get worried about Jesse. We kept recalculating his pace based on the time and the supposed mileage and were just about to split up and send one of us back to base to ask for news when he came across the dike.

It turns out that the reservoir was mile 18, so he had actually made pretty decent time for that distance, but was feeling pretty low until he saw our incredible art work. He didn’t stay for long since we were going to see him again in 2 miles (actually, more like 3.5, but who’s counting? Not Andy!).

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I drove Corinne back to base, grabbed some new cold meals for Richard and Jen, picked up my nook, then turned around and went back to the dike by myself. Corinne resupplied Jesse at base camp, and about an hour and a half later, Richard came up the hill to the reservoir. He brought news that the last time he saw Jen, her ACL was hurting and she was going to drop out at the (actual) 14 mile aid station. Richard had some chocolate almond bark, opting to eat his real meal back at camp in 2 miles (a.k.a. 3.5 miles) and I drove off to meet him there.

Corinne and I asked around in base camp to see if anyone had given Jen a ride there from the aid station, but no one had news. So, we asked for directions and headed out there ourselves. The 14-mile aid station is at the end of access road 92 in the Green Mtn. National Forest and we found out from the guys there that Jen had decided to tough it out and finish her original marathon distance goal.

We got back to camp just as the sun was setting. Knowing we’d have a long night ahead of us, Corinne went to the tent to take a nap. I wandered around a little, enjoying the evening (no more rain!) and taking advantage of the ski center’s wifi. I went out to check on the finish line just as Jen was crossing it, limping badly. She told Andy there was no way she could do the 88k with her ACL screwed up and that she was pulling out. He gave her a medal anyway, since the marathon distance had been her original plan.

She plopped down in someone’s chair at the aid tent and I grabbed her some ibuprofen and water, then a snack and her fleece jacket. After she was feeling a little better and moving around with less pain, I let her know that I was going to cook some pasta for dinner and that she was invited if she wanted something hot.

Corinne was still snoozing (smart gal!), so I just set up my MSR butterfly stove and put on a pot of water. When car camping, I like to bring plenty of fresh food, so we had angel hair pasta with fresh spinach and chopped basil, with sun dried tomato pesto, parmesan cheese, and a little olive oil. The water took forever. I should maybe have used my Jetboil to start heating the water up, then put it in the pot and gone from there. That is one of the drawbacks of my little Jetboil– it’s super fast, but the cup is not big enough to make a meal for two or three people. I know you can buy larger pots and pans for them now, so maybe I’ll look into it. I’m a little down on the brand, though, since the piezo died the second time I ever used it.

We three gals had some hot dinner and then Corinne and I geared up to meet Jesse in the Mt. Moosalamoo (real name!) trail parking lot. He was dreading this hike in the dark. The trail goes 2.4 miles straight up Mt. Moosalamoo, then follows the ridge line before plummeting back down. He knew he was slowing down with fatigue and was worried that this section in the dark would really bring him down mentally.

We met him with a thermos full of ramen, some gatorade, and encouragement. He went off into the woods not far from a couple other groups of racers.

The next section was a tough one for us, as well (though, of course, not nearly as tough as for Jesse). It was after 11:00 p.m. and we were going to meet him at the 14-mile aid station (for real this time) around 1:00, when I would join him for the last 6 miles (read: 7.5 miles) as a morale booster and pacer. Corinne took a nap and I tried to read my book (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), but I fell sleep several times before deciding just to slowly start putting my gear on. I was cold, but I knew I would warm up once we got going, so I took off a couple layers and added my miracle, super cheap, old, long-sleeved Champion shirt from Target (ye gods, I wish I could find this style shirt any more. I would buy a hundred of them!). My trail shoes were still wet from the morning, but oh well! you gotta do what you gotta do. I filled up my Nathan hydration pack and ate a pop tart (of course!). Corinne grabbed everything Jesse might need, adding it to his pre-made drop bag, and we hopped in the car.

We didn’t have to wait long before we saw Jesse’s headlamp bobbing through the trees. He came in just after a group of young guys and one gal, but they settled in by the campfire and chatted with the aid station crew while Jesse had a snack and got ready for the last push. It was 1:00 a.m. when he and I left the check point.

A guy named Matt caught up with us as we left the road and headed into the woods again. He was good company and was glad to have companions through the dark.

Jesse set the pace pretty fast, so we steamrolled up some hills and flew across the muddy sections of the trail. Eventually, he lost a little speed and I took the lead to give him a break from setting the pace and watching out for trail markings. When we made it to the reservoir, the three of us turned off our headlamps and marveled at the stars and the Milky Way in the pitch black sky.

From the reservoir, you can almost taste the beer waiting for you at the finish line, so I set a fairly fast pace to get those guys home. There are some landmarks that Jesse and Matt were looking out for– a huge boulder on the left, a trail marker with a number 7 on it, another one with a number 6, then the pond and the finish line– and we counted them down as we trudged through the mud. Jesse crossed the finish line and got his medal around 3:50 a.m. on Sunday morning, four hours ahead of the cutoff time, after 20 hours of racing.

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Corinne met him with a blanket, a beer, a chair, and some foot care. Everyone in the ski lodge was just exhausted, but pretty damn happy!

We got a couple hours of sleep before the sun woke us up. Jesse was a trooper and helped us pack up the tent and load the cars. We decided a good hot breakfast was in order, so we set off for the Pittsfield General Store. Coffee, water, eggs, and homefries later, all was right in the world. Jesse hobbled off into Corinne’s car, we bid au revoir to friends and acquaintances from the race who met us there, and headed home.

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Corinne and Jesse being adorable at the Pittsfield General Store

I am a little sad that I did not get to race a longer distance. The original plan was that both of us would run the 88k, but I had surgery this spring and did not have enough training time after my 8 weeks of not being allowed to run. Jesse and I are signed up for the BERC 50-mile Free to Run race in Pittsfield (MA) State Forest in September, though. I am looking forward to that adventure even more now that I’ve seen what incredible people these ultrarunners are. Every single person at Infinitus was generous and so full of joy. A huge thank you to Andy and his whole crew for putting on a fantastic event. I look forward to running with you again next year.

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