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1998 Race Article

From the Valley News, July 17, 1998 (reprinted without permission)

100-Mile Organizer Shows Endurance

Valley News Staff Writer

On the eve of her annual long day's journey into night, Laura Farrell can think of only one thing that surprises her more than the fact that she'll he directing the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run for the 10th time this weekend.

"It amazes me that we got through the first one, pulling it off as well as we did," Farrell says of the ultramarathon she started in 1989 to raise money for what was then the Vermont Handicapped Ski Association, now Vermont Adaptive ski and Sports. "Now, they just happen;"

The first one happened almost in spite of itself. Farrell - then Laura Perry, director of the VHSA - had run in several such ultramarathons around the country and had ridden horseback through others, but she lad never run one. So she joined forces and courses with area veterans of 100-mile horseback rides, and rounded up ski association volunteers and their families into a volunteer force that for 30 hours somehow steered some 200 runners along 100 miles of back roads through the heart of Windsor County.

Every year since, more than 200 runners have paid $175 apiece to VASS for the privilege of putting themsselves through the experience between 4 in the morning of the second-to-last Saturday in July and

10 the following morning.

In the predawn darkness of tomorrow morning, some 250 runners will step to the starting line.

"The first year, I was scared to death that people around here were going to run me out of town for putting on this strange event," Farrell admits. 4'Instead, people fell in love with it."

Indeed, nearly as many volunteers as runners now string out along the course to help the runners with their nutritional, medical and, maybe most important of all, spiritual needs. One of those volunteers, the late Pinky Farrell, introduced the then-Laura Perry to her son Jim Farrell. Now, Jim and Laura's two sons are as much a fixture along the route as the big boss herself.

And while she can now delegate most responsibilities to her volunteer lieutenants, the big boss still handles some details. Wednesday flight, she was cooking potatoes for the 36 aid stations along the course that starts and finishes at Smoke Rise Farm in Hartland, and in between winds 100 miles through mostly out-of-the-way parts of Woodstock, Quechee, Pomfret, Reading, Cavendish, West Windsor and Windsor before doubling back through South Woodstock.

"I'm amazed," Laura Farrell says. "It's still going strong, still a great event, one the runners really want to come to."

One who has wanted to come almost from the outset is Ann Trason of Kensington, Calif., the top woman on the ultramaratboning circuit. Last month, she led all women to the finish of the Western States 100-miler, in California's Sierra Nevada mountains, for the 10th year in a row.

Trason, from Kensington, Calif., did run the last 32 miles of the 1993 Vermont 100-miler to help husband Carl Andersen dethrone four-time champion Eric Clifton. But until now, she's always resisted the temptation to run Vermont because it follows so closely on the heels of Western States in June.

Now, however, Trason is attempting to complete the Grand Slam of ultramarathon running: winning four of the major U.S. events. With Western States already under her belt, Trason aims to claim Vermont, then Leadville in the Colorado Rockies and Wasatch in the mountains of Utah.

"Ann has a real good chance of winning this outright, men as well as women," Farrell says. "Everyone's real excited about having her here."

While Trason and defending endurance ride champion Connie Walker of Plainfield take aim at the top spots in their respective events, one Upper Valley resident will test the 100-mile distance for the first time - Suzette Fegan of Plainfield on horseback. Austin Royale of East Barnard has completed seven 100-milers to date, but this will be his first time in the Vermont event.

After riding in the 50-mile event here the last few Julys, Fegan, an acquisitions services assistant at Dartmouth College's Baker Library, will mount a 12-year-old mare named Myca at 5 tomorrow morning, with the goal of covering the full 100 miles for the first time.

"I've been on 50 miles of it," Fegan says, "so I know that part. And I've been on other parts when I've gone out ridin8. The important thing is that the horse is ready. We've done shorter rides leading up to this -- a 25 miler, a 50, and then a two day 100-miler in Maine earlier this year."

Myca threw a shoe during the Maine event, so Pagan will be carrying extra shoes, nails and a hammer and a file tomorrow, just in case.

"After that last ride, I learned a little," Fegan says. "Fortunately, I'm not he nervous type. I go with the flow. I'm not that competitive that I stay up all night, worrying and worrying."

She'd prefer not to stay up on Myca all of tomorrow night, worrying or not.

"The winning rider usually gets in around 10 at night on Friday," Pagan says. "Any time after midnight, we should be in."

Among the runners, Darrin MacKenzie of Windsor will try, in his seventh consecutive Vermont l00-miler, to arrive within 24 hours, which would win him the only prize they give out at ultra-marathons a belt-buckle commemorating his accomplishment. And Alcott Smith, a Hanover veterinarian, will go for his fifth straight finish.

While most of the course of the l00-miler sticks to back roads, runners and horses will be crossing some major thoroughfares and using the sides of others for short stretches throughout the day. Junctions and times for motorists to be alert for them are:

U.S. Route 4 and River Road near Taftsville Covered Bridge, Saturday, 6 to 10a.m.

Pomfret-South Pomfret Road near height-of-land in Pomfret, Saturday, 7 to 10 a.m.

Barnard Stage Road in South Pomfret, between one and 1.5 miles north of Suicide Six ski area, Saturday, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Vermont Route 12 in Prosper section of Woods took, Saturday, 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

U.S. Route 4 near Lincoln Covered Bridge in West Woodstock, Saturday, 9a.m. to 3 p.m.

Vermont Route 106 between South Woodstock and Hammondsville section of Reading, 9 a.m. Saturday to 1 a.m. Sunday

Brownsville-Heartland Road, a p.m. Saturday to 4 a.m. Sunday.

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