922 runners in a fun, crazy mass start!
Every July Stowe, Vermont hosts a traditionally hot and humid 8 mile running race called the Stowe 8 Miler. It sounds harmless enough and even before I started training seriously I always thought it would be “nice” to do. But this is one tough race! On our drive home from Stowe, Scott and I were trying to come up with a title to this blog post. I wanted to name it the “Hot House of Pain” or some other not-so-appropriate names..…but Scott thought the current title was better and more friendly.
A good downhill before the heat took its toll
There are two reasons why this race is so challenging. It’s not so much the actual race course as the hills are not too bad. You even have a good descent between miles 3 and 4 which is shaded! It’s the heat and humidity that were killer yesterday. And July in Vermont can sometimes feel like Florida with our notorious humidity levels. The race started at 9am and by this time it was quite a bit warmer than it was at 8am. By the time I was half way done with my race, it was getting very hot and humid. I don’t know exactly what the temps were but it sure felt like the high 80s by miles 6-8! Highs for the day were close to 90 up in Stowe and we saw 91F in Richmond at around 4pm. So the heat was one of the big challenges of the race. My coach Jack warned me that this weather is very typical for this particular race! And this year was no exception! Welcome to Costa Vermont!
The second reason this race is very challenging is because it’s part of the 2011 New England Grand Prix Series. So the competition for this race was quite awesome! The fastest runners from all over New England showed up yesterday! It was quite inspiring and fun to see so many fast runners! I ran for Green Mountain Athletic Association (GMAA) on the master women team. And to run on a team for this race, I had to sign up with the USA Track & Field of New England and register for a race number.
Beautiful scenery! Took this photo with my IPhone when I ran the race course on Friday
We arrived early to the start which was around 7:30am and it was still a nice temperature. Even at 8am it wasn’t too hot out yet. But as I was warming up around 8:30am I was feeling pretty toasty doing some sprints to waken any possible fast-twitch muscles. No worries I told myself as it would only be under an hour of racing. A few minutes before the start of the race I took a new electrolyte cap by Succeed which we had recently ordered online. I had just done my second cliff shot and was all nice and hydrated. I lined up close to the front of the start with my other GMAA teammates, Liz, Jess, Sarah, Christine and a few others. By 9am it was getting warmer and we were off like a ‘bat out of hell’. It was a fun, fast and furious start with so many other runners!
Jack thought that my pace for this race should be between 6:40-6:50 minutes/mile. And I thought this would be reasonable too. The first half of the race I was almost on track with a couple faster miles and a couple slower ones. The first mile was probably a bit fast at 6:26 minutes/mile! But with a fast start and so many speedy runners, it was bound to happen! I was conservative going up the first short steep hill on Luce Hill Road. I was then able to recover and do well on the flats and downhill section of Barrows road. I was feeling very hot until the shaded downhill section which was helpful. I saw Anne, another GMAA teammate up ahead and was slowly catching up to her which gave me some extra motivation. When I finally did, it was around mile 5 on the Moscow Road. It was at this moment I finally got to meet and introduce myself briefly to her. I then went on my way to suffer in silence during the growing heat.
It was close to mile 6 where I was really not enjoying the sun and tropical weather conditions anymore! Robyn and Christine, GMAA teammates, caught up to me right before mile 6 and it was so nice to see them! I tried to hang with them for a bit but let them go and kept them in sight for quite a while. I was having a hard time maintaining my pace and was disappointed that I could not run sub 7s. So at that point my goal was to at least have an overall pace of just under 7 minute miles. Scott was on his mountain bike riding the course and taking photos. It was great to see him so many times! He said that I looked like I was hurting on the last 2 miles and it was true. I was very hot! I wasn’t dying but I wasn’t running like I had planned. Right before mile 8 is another short steep climb up to the main road. I ran up this very conservatively as I new the last mile was mostly a gradual uphill. The last mile wasn’t really that bad but I was ready to be done. I did finish up fine and I did well for the masters team. We came in second place out of 9 teams and my time was used in determinning the outcome.
Jess, Liz, and Myself after the race!
My official time for the race was 55 minutes and 4 seconds. My overall official pace was 6:54 minutes/mile which is not bad considering it was one of the hotter years! I was 30th out of 440 women. But it wasn’t about placing. I knew the top 20 women would be running under a pace of 6:30 mins/mile. I was a little disappointed that I just missed my own time goal that Jack thought I could do. I was worried he would be disappointed with me. If I had run a pace between 6:40 and 6:50, I would have been thrilled. I was close, but no cigar . The heat was the big factor. Everyone else I talked with felt it was a very hot and grueling race too. It turns out, Jack was pleased with my pace considering the heat. I am happy now!
Eight miles is not a long race, but it’s hard to pace yourself on such an odd distance, especially in the heat. I still prefer the longer distance races like half and full marathons. I thought yesterday’s race was much harder than my first recent marathon which was also on a warm day. Overall, the Stowe 8 Miler is a great race and I highly recommend doing it for the experience! It will make you stronger whether you are a short distance speed demon or a 100 miler ultra runner. If it fits into my race schedule for next year, then I’ll surely be back! I plan to do better and make my goal, no matter how hot it is! Then again, I do have to remind myself, I’m doing this for fun and the challenge. And not every race can be stellar. Each one is a valuable learning experience! And yesterday’s race was priceless race experience for me!
The best part of the event was the after race party held at the YeOlde Englande Inn. They were serving free Smuttynose beer which was very refreshing on such a hot day! It was fun to hang out with everyone and meet a lot of great folks!
I even got to meet Tim Van Orden from Running Raw who has been very inspiring to me. Being a fellow vegan, raw food enthusiast and athlete, I love to follow his races, training and website! It’s always very helpful! Thanks Tim! And by the way, you ran a smoking fast race! Wow!