Sunday, December 26, 2010



As I sit here in front of the roaring fire this morning, full from fresh waffles made in my new waffle maker, I am reflecting on yesterday's adventure.  Due so some "circumstances" I found myself alone this year for Christmas.  I worked on Friday and was possibly working on Monday so I didn't feel like driving to CT to visit my mom and sister.  Plus I was exhausted from working multiple shifts over the past 3 weeks averaging about 4 hours of sleep a day which was broken down into two 2 hour shifts.  So a little R and R was in order.  Although my interpretation of R and R is different from most other folks.  Some other years I've camped on Mansfield while skiing the summit chutes under moonlight but this year I just didn't feel like driving.  So I created The 24 Hours of Christmas Adventures, an all day run about.  

I was invited to the Carrara family gathering next door for Christmas Eve.  This included many generations of the family and reminded me of my own paison family gatherings.  Lots of food, drink and good company.  A great opportunity to carb up for my adventure.  There were plenty of different pasta dishes to choose from as well as numerous other dishes.  (No squid for me though).  It was hard not to over eat but I had to be somewhat careful as at midnight I would start my adventure.  And desserts too including Joe's homemade bread with his special ingredients.  And of course wine with dinner followed up with after dinner drinks of some very tasty tequila.  By now it was around 8:00 PM so time to go home and prepare for Christmas.  My run was to start at Midnight and go possibly for 24 hours or til I could go no further.  I mapped out 4 loops all starting and finishing from my home so I could refuel and get a change of dry clothes.  A huge challenge in the winter is to stay warm and dry.  Even with the best technical clothing you do sweat some and that sweat then freezes cooling the body quickly.  Temps were looking chilly, around 10 degrees to start and maybe warming to the high teens.  I had clothes layed out and food on the counter ready to go.  Peanut butter and jelly, chicken soup, chocolate bars, etc.  By the time I got myself together, there was really no time for a nap so I would have to forgo sleep.  Been there done that before.  Just before midnight I got my pack together.  This was a brand new back from Santa, a Gregory Wasatch pack from their new active trail series designed for fastpacking.  Thanks Santa!

Gregory Wasatch Pack
Midnight, Christmas is here, time to go.  With headlamp on I was out the door.  As soon as I walked out the moon was shining brightly.  Clear skies and a 3/4 moon, no need for the headlamp to be on.  Loop number 1 consisted of mostly rolling back dirt roads of Charlotte, Hinesburg, Monkton and Ferrisburg through farmland.  A 25 miler.  The temps were in the low teens but falling.  One thing I noticed quickly was on the downhills you created your own windchill but on the uphills you warmed up.  So to regulate body temps I would unzip on the uphills and zip back up for the downhills.  My goal today was also to have a nice steady pace.  This was not a race but rather a fun unsupported ultrarun.  It was very quiet with almost no activity except I did see someone delivering papers back on Dorset St. around 1:00 AM.  On these longer runs I can just zone out and go and have no concept of time.  All I know is that I will be runnng for the day.  Everything is going well but about halfway I notice my hands getting very cold.  Not unusual for me which is why I wear full on winter mitts for running in the cold temps.  But still, I was losing feeling and when that happens my fingers don't function which was starting to occur.  Even my arms were really cold.  For clothing I had on a short sleeve base layer along with a long sleeve zip top under a shell.  Maybe I should have had on a long sleeve base layer.  At one point I had a difficult time operating my zipper and soon I discovered even that wasn't working  Not a big deal as only about 2 hours to go before I would get home to refuel.  Been there before.  But the bigger problem was I couldn't drink or eat as my hands were useless.  Not usually a huge deal for this loop but not eating and drinking early on could effect you more in the later miles of a long run.  Finally I arrived home.  Quickly I was trying to get out of my wet clothes while getting a cup of hot tea going and eating.  I got on some nice warm clothes including a long sleeve base layer this time.  All of a sudden I could feel my body going downhill fast.  I was getting dizzy and lost all energy.  I could barely function and still had a long way to go.  The only hope was to sleep.  Still plenty of time to go.  I set my alarm for 2 hours, dove under my down comforter with still frozen hands and arms and passed out.  Awaken by my alarm I noticed my arms and hands were back to normal.  I got a quick snack in me, repacked my pack and back out for loop 2.  It's amazing what a little sleep can do for you. 

Loop Number 2
Milk truck hard at work
This loop consisted of a mostly out and back to Burlington with a small loop in Burlington.  A 31 miler.   I dislike a true out and back where you run to a point, turn around and go.  I figured a loop would liven it up a bit plus I threw in a hill to help change up the body.  Still dark out and no traffic yet.  I headed north on Mt. Philo Road.  As I ran by the Foote Farm I noticed some activity.  They were milking, even during the early hours on Christmas Day as the milk truck was there filling up.  We should be paying more than $2.30 a gallong for all the work they do.  Pretty uneventful running into Shelburne but the sun was starting to rise although the clouds had come in.  Temps were also starting to rise.  My layering seemed good and I was comfortable just in cruise mode.  From Mt. Philo Rd. I headed north into Burlington using the sidewalk system.  I figured the sidewalks would be mostly snowcovered which would be more cushioning than just running on pavement which I don't like, especially for long distances.  I also wore my Mizuno Ascend trail shoes for running on snow.  And the sidewalks were for the most part snow and ice covered but plowed until I reached So. Burlington.  They do a horrible job maintaining the sidewalks.  They do a quick initial plow and that's it.  Then the overspray from the road plows mucks up the sidewalks which people walk in creating frozen deep foot steps.  Nasty running on this as you can feel your ankle rolling over on every step so I jumped into the road to run.  Also for this part of the run as the temps were rising I changed over to my elf hat for a little Christmas spirit.  I had a lot of folks honking and waving which was fun. 
Church St.
Soon I made it into Burlington, ran down Church street which was basically abandoned, up the hill on Pearl to Prospect and down Prospect back to Shelburne Rd.  The one advantage of running along Shelburne Rd., especially on Christmas day is the number of mini marts.  These would be my aid stations.  And with my handy credit card stopped at Bournes Shell station for a quick breakfast.  A prepackaged cinnamon roll and a full strength coke.  The breakfast of champions!  I started to chill while enjoying my treats so onward I went with still another 12 miles to get home.  I had some GU's along the way too but they were almost frozen so I would have to keep them in my mitt for about 5 minutes before I could eat them but they were definelty not as tasty as that cinnamon roll.  The good part on this loop was the fact that my hands were warm and toasty.  I switched to a down mitt which I had to take off at times to keep from sweating.  And I was able to drink extra fluids that I packed for this 5 hour loop.  The last part of this loop is quite hilly back to the house and I arrive back feeling good but hungry.  I cooked up some chicken soup, had a peanut butter sandwich, some coke and other snacks.  I took my time as there still no hurry.  I repacked and refueled my pack and off on loop number 3. 

Loop Number 3
This was really just loop number 2 with the small end loop in the reverse direction.  Again, the convenience store availability was key in choosing for this unsupported run.  During the ultra races you usually have fully stocked aid stations with plenty of food and drink along with drop bags for dry clothing.  On the way to Burlington I was getting a craving for Coke again and this time hit the earlier Shell station.  I hung out inside while enjoying the ice cold beverage and chatting with the nice woman at the register.  I drank half then stored the rest in my pack.  I wasn't sure how it would hold up being carbonated while running.  But it ended up being fine as I was running easy and not bouncing around too much.  On my way through Church St. I was hoping that Ken's Pizza would be open for the afternoon as I had a craving for a slice of pizza but no such luck.
Hoping for pizza at Ken's
  The Chinese restaurants were open but no way was I going to be munching on that and running.  Done that before and it doesn't work for me.  Heading south on Shelburne Road it was starting to get dark.  What short days.  So I broke out the headlamp.  I also have a blue blinky light on my pack in the back.  I fiigured this loop would take longer than the previous loop as you usually slow the longer you go.  Temps were droping and even the fluid in my pack turned to slush.  But made it home on schedule with 87 miles under my belt so far.  Was starting to feel tired but ate, drank and repacked.  While home on these breaks I would email my neighbor Joe to let him know my progress in case I didn't return for some reason.  My phone also went dead from the cold so it was useless.  The next loop I figured would be my last even though there would have been time for more but I thought an even 100 miles would be nice with time to eat, drink and sleep afterwards.  Plus I still needed to call mom to wish her a Merry Christmas as I was sure she was getting worrried.  Out for the final loop. 

Loop Number 4
This was to be the final 13 miles out and about the Guinea Rd. area of Charlotte.  More rolling back dirt roads.  It was dark without any moonlight as it hadn't come up yet but with clear skies the stars were just magnificent!  Still I could run without the headlamp and see just fine.  Guinea Rd is great at night with all the Christmas decorations lit up.  I cruised the different side neighborhoods and took my time as it was still early enough.  One of my favorite decorations to see is the full size nativity arrangement on the south part of Guinea Rd.  Cows, sheep, the wisemen, all there in full size and lit up.  I guess it was too late to have the music on and the characters moving but still a site to see.  And the other home just down from there with the driveway bushes all lit up with multi colored lights and the house all decked out too.  Very nice!  A great way to end the Christmas Adventure.  From there it was only a couple miles back to the house and was somewhere around 9:00 PM.  Plenty of time to eat, drink and be merry. 

Another Christmas Adventure in the books.  Not the traditional Holiday but I try to make the best out of every situation and to go along with my favorite saying when things may not be ideal, "The longer I run, the smaller the problems become",  and " Impossible is Nothing".

Merry Christmas!