Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tour de Vermont, Part 1

Mark, Captain Dan, Chris and Me...before Mt. Mansfield
This adventure is not the sort of thing I can explain and have it make any sense, to be honest, so I'll just go ahead and tell the story.

For the past year or so, a group of us have been meeting at the RMHS track every Thursday night for a workout, and then heading to Grumpy Doyle's for a few beers.  We call this the "Thirsty Thursday" workout.  The core group of 4, who showed up just about every Thursday even during the darkest, coldest nights of winter, were: Mark, Dan, Chris and me.

None of us are really sure how it happened but at the bar over a few beers after one of those cold, dark workouts in the snow, we came up with the idea to do a pub run of sorts across the state of Vermont.  I think we were probably drinking Long Trail when  this discussion happened or maybe one of us brought up that Vermont has the highest concentration of brew pubs per capita in the US.  Either way, over the course of a couple of Thirsty Thursdays, the plan was born and it quickly gained enough steam that none of us could stop it.  It took a few tries to find a weekend that worked for all of our families, but we eventually settled on July 22nd-25th and each of us put it on our respective Family Calendars meaning that the wives had signed off and it was law.

I'm fairly certain that several of our wives only agreed because they never actually thought we would go through with it and, to be fair, it sounded so half-baked and pointless that I can't say I blamed them.  But for reasons I can't really articulate, none of us ever wavered even for a minute.  It was as if--similar to the weekly emails that fly around on Wednesday evenings and Thursday mornings looking for a roll call for Thirsty Thursday--once you said you were in, you were in.  As the day got closer one of us would sometimes say to the others, "So this is gonna happen, huh?" and the rest of us would just sort of nod.  I can remember during one momentary crisis of faith trying to reassure Chris, who has done the least amount of running of all of us and was beginning to worry about the mileage.

I said, "Think of it like this: we're gonna wake up in the morning, get some coffee eat some breakfast and then go for a 90 minute to 2 hour jog.  Then we're gonna jump in a river, get some lunch and a couple beers and hang out for a while.  Then we're gonna go for another 90 minute or 2 hour jog.  Then we'll get some dinner and some more beers.  And that's it!  That's all you have to do for the whole day is run twenty miles or so.  No wiping asses, no screaming kids, no chores, no email, no customers to deal with, no wives.  Nothing."

"I can do that," he said.

There was a fair amount of planning that went into this thing but when the day finally arrived we still basically only had the roughest outline of a plan.  Chris pulled into my driveway at 6:20am, I grabbed my backpack (which I'd packed at 3am after getting home from the FORR road race that three of us help organize), sleeping bag and camping pad by the kitchen door and jumped in his truck.  We headed to the Starbucks on Walkers Brook to meet up with Mark, Dan and Mark's brother Evan, who would serve as one of our two "sherpas."  Our other sherpa would be Mark's other brother, Kyle, whom we would pick up in Hooksett, NH on the way up.  When Chris and I met Evan is when we found out that the Sherpas were bringing bikes...details.

Dan and The Map
On the ride up I drank two 32 oz. bottles of Gatorade and a medium Dunkin Donuts coffee.  And I was still a bit dehydrated from all the beers I drank after running around in 97 degree weather organizing a road race.  I got a little nauseous at one point but I kept that to myself so as not to ruin the vibe.  We were all pretty psyched that it was finally here, this thing was really going to happen.  Our next stop was at a Target in Hooksett to pick up Kyle and already Dan was breaking out the map.  After months of planning we still hadn't exactly figured out a route, or places to stay for 2 of the 3 nights....details.

We'll have a sixer of this one.
We made a couple of other random stops in search of a bike pump and a sleeping bag (details) but eventually we made our way to the Trout River Brewery in Lyndonville, VT, otherwise known as Point A.  It was 11am and roughly as hot as the surface of the sun but none of us even cared, we were just excited to get going.  After some more consulting of The Map and planning a meeting place with Evan and Kyle we bought a six pack of Trout River Red, drank a ceremonial first beer in the parking lot and got the show underway.  It was actually happening.

It didn't take us long to reach the edge of Lyndonville and then we were out on an open road running past farms with absolutely no shade at all.  If we hadn't been so excited to be underway we would have been a little worried about how hot it was.  I had never been to this part of Vermont.  It was beautiful.  The first leg was fairly easy, just rolling along toward Wheelock in farm country.  After 7 miles we came upon Evan and Kyle who had found a good place to set up a water stop for us.  It was right by a river so we decided to take a swim to cool off and let Mark try to catch the Brook Trout that we had all just spooked by jumping in the water.

They call it fishing, not catching.
We probably rested for a half our by the river, enjoying the water before putting our shoes back on and heading back out.  During the rest, Evan had gone around the bend on his bike and came back to report that the road we were heading to was ridiculously uphill.  He seemed overly excited about this, actually.

Stupidly, I was looking forward to some uphill--after all we'd come to the Green Mountain State.

Lambs for the slaughter.
We started running, turned a corner and crossed a bridge and there we saw Vertical Mile Road.  It's actually a misnomer--it's at least three miles long.  Some locals came by in a car just as we were posing for a picture in front of the road sign like a bunch of flatlander tourists.  "You guys gonna run Vertical Mile?  Good luck with that! Hahaha!"

The first mile of Vertical Mile Road wasn't all that bad, really.  It was steep, over 10% I'd guess, but it was over relatively quickly.  The problem was that was just the beginning.  Vertical Mile road when on for another couple of miles with a couple of long uphill sections and then went dowhill only briefly before connecting with Stannard Mountain Road.  And that is where we started to make deals with God.

The laughing and chatter had mostly died out once we were a good hour into that 2nd leg after the stop by the river.  And this was starting to get genuinely hard now. We covered 10 miles of mountain dirt roads with names like Minister Hill Road, Wheelock Mountain Road and Stannard Mountain Road.  When all the road names have either Hill or Mountain, you know somethings up. And we got a lot of strange looks from the locals who must have been wondering what in God's name the four shirtless Massholes were doing running in the middle of absolutely nowhere in the heat of the day.  I'm pretty sure we wondered ourselves a few times.  There was a lot of dehydration, staggering, swearing, getting chased by dogs, nearly getting run off the road by dump trucks, dunking our heads in creeks by the side of the road, eating dust, deer flies, cresting hills only to see that the hill kept on going and a lot of other stuff I can't even remember.  But eventually we caught up to Evan and Kyle parked at what sure as hell seemed like a good spot to stop for a bit and go find a brewery.  It was 2 o'clock in the afternoon of day 1. 

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