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Building the Ideal Race Calendar – Preparing for Vermont 100

Building the Ideal Race Calendar – Preparing for Vermont 100

Written by our own Race Director, Amy Rusiecki for QT2 Systems.

Once the credit card gets processed your entry fee (gulp) – it’s real.  You’re running this year’s VT100.  It’s time to think about finalizing your 2024 race calendar. You’re already signed up for this summer’s Vermont 100 (yay!), so now you need to focus on the smaller details of how you get from where you are now to ready to rock by July 20th . What should you be doing to gear-up for that? What tune-up races should you do, and what distances should you consider? With so many options, sometimes it’s hard to decide!

Amy during a race, running along the gravel and dirt roads of Vermont

I will admit that there’s no perfect answer to this. Even in my household, my husband and I sometimes have differing race calendars because we approach our build-up to a goal race differently. (Then again, it could be because we sometimes have different race goals also.) Either way, below are some suggestions on what the ideal race schedule would be, to get you from now until Vermont 100.

Whether training up for your first 100k or 100 miler at Vermont, you’re a seasoned runner who eats hundos for breakfast, or you’re running the Grand Slam, ideally you want to do 2-3 spring/early summer races as tune-ups before the big goal race.

These will allow you to test the legs out, remember how to run those long miles, and determine your fitness level (so you can pace the VT100 appropriate for your fitness). Doing too many races can have you reaching the starting line in mid-July feeling tired and burnt-out – and that’s no way to enjoy the beauty of Vermont! However, not doing enough pre-race can have you unsure of your ideal race pacing, and your under-trained quads will certainly be barking early on with all the ups and downs that VT100 provides. The key is to balance it all, and reach the starting line fired up and ready to crush this year’s race!

The best way to dip your toe into the 2024 ultra season is to kick things off with a 50k. Since this is an early-season ‘dusting off the cob-webs’ effort, you’ll want to do this between 12 to 20 weeks out from race day. Ultimately, that means choosing a March or April 50k race. As with most training, specificity is always a bonus – so it’s great to find a 50k race that mimics the terrain and sharp rolling hills of the Vermont 100 course. However, it’s equally important to have fun at the 50k race, so if there’s one that you’re super stoked on, don’t worry if it’s ‘VT100-like’ or not!

Between your kick-off 50k and Vermont 100 race day, you’ll want to do a 50 mile race (or potentially a 100km, for the 100 mile runners). This is one of the most important runs of your build-up, so treat it as such. Test out as many aspects of your VT100 race strategy as you can – follow your planned fueling and hydration, wear the shoes and hydration pack you’ll be using, and test out different ‘cooling down’ methods. This is your dry-run for the Vermont 100, and you want to learn from it! This race should be scheduled between 5 and 10 weeks out from race day, so that means early-May to mid-June. Again, you’ll benefit from finding a course that is similar to the Vermont 100, but I also believe it’s important to do races that inspire you!

Pro-VT100 tip: if you run a 50 miler similar to the Vermont 100 course, you can reasonably expect that your VT100 finish will be 2.5 times longer than your 50 mile time. Use that info to properly pace in the early (downhill) miles of the VT100 course.

Selfish tip: I direct a race called the Chesterfield Gorge Ultra, which was specifically started to act as a ‘last chance VT100 qualifier’ for runners.  The race is on June 1-2nd, in West Chesterfield MA, and has options for a 50k, 50 mile, 100k or 100 mile race.

For those who want another race to add to their calendar, you can throw in a 3rd build-up ultra between these other two races. Since this is sandwiched between the 50k and 50 mile/100k efforts, you can opt for either distance. I’d also advise that if you do this, that you consider doing your first 50k in mid-March and do your last 50 mile/100k effort in early June. When making the decision of whether to do a 3rd tune-up race, it pays to know your body. Consider if you’re someone who thrives on having a bit more practice and mileage in their legs to prepare, or if you’re better suited to approach Vermont feeling refreshed and almost antsy to go.

Regardless of what you decide, there are no right or wrong answers to how your racing schedule should look – it’s as individual as you are! Luckily, there are plenty of amazing races to choose from – so find some that inspire you, suit your style, or fit your busy schedule and have fun! Respect that racing is only one aspect of your preparation to achieve your goals at the Vermont 100, but it’s an important one! I hope you all come to Silver Hill ready to enjoy 100k or 100 miles of adventure through the rolling hills of Vermont!


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Written by Jack Pilla, Run Formula Coach


In running the VT100 five times I can’t remember it not being hot and humid so runners should count on it being that way this year too.

Like any other element you would prepare for in your training such as hills, altitude and night running, you should spend time training for the heat, allowing your body to slowly adapt.

I find it takes 5-10 days for the body to physically adapt to the heat.  In doing so the body learns to reduce thermal and cardiovascular strain by increasing plasma volume and increasing sweat rate.  Choose not to heat train, this could be you:


OK, so you want to train for the heat.  With 3 weeks until the VT100, you have plenty of time.  Instead of planning every run to avoid hot sticky days by running in the early am or end of the day, take some time to train in the heat of the day.

But do it gradually.

For the first day, don’t pick a 90 degree day to get in a 5 hour run.  Maybe start with 30 minutes in the heat.  Then gradually increase your time out there each day.  Later, as you get more comfortable, add some hill work or speed work.

Also understand that running in the heat will increase your heart rate and effort so slow down as much as needed to adjust.  Your heart rate may increase 5-10 bpm, so you make need to take it down a notch to avoid blowing up.  But with heat training your heart rate should stay lower.

Here in the northeast we are experiencing a heat wave so it’s an opportune time to heat train.

What if you are in a colder climate or can’t run in the heat of the day?  Maybe it’s an early spring race and there has been no heat to train in?  You can spend time in the sauna, gradually increasing the time and even do some core work if there is room.

Another way which I’ve done many times for spring races is to over dress.  I’ve worn winter running clothes in May, long sleeve shirts, winter hat, etc.  You might look like a fool when everyone else is running in shorts and a t-shirt but it does work.

And then there’s the humidity on top of the heat that will increase your sweat rate and your body’s need to replace fluids and electrolytes.  Make sure to work on your hydration during this heat training and figure out your body’s needs.  Last month Beth wrote on article on hydration, make sure you are up to date on that.


In running the VT 100, I always had a goal to run the race and have fun, no matter the finish time. Feeling good for the most part and avoiding the death march to me was a successful day.

Yes, there will be high and low periods throughout the race but hopefully more positive moments.

Keeping the core body temperature low will help you have a good race day as it improves appetite and digestion because as core temperature regulates, blood can be shunted to the gastrointestinal (GI) system for absorption of nutrients and fluids.

Conversely, as core and skin temperature rises, the body sends blood to superficial capillaries to promote both sweating and heat loss via convection and conduction; thus drawing blood away from GI system and therefore digestion slows.  So keeping the core cool should be a priority.  Here are numerous ways to manage the core temp to hopefully make it a successful day.

Start with heat and core body temperature management as early as possible.

Don’t overdress.  If you feel warm waiting at the start line, you’ve already overdressed.  You will warm up almost immediately.  If you are wearing a hydration vest, that may adds another 5-10 degrees of body heat.

Arm coolers can be worn, wet and/or stuffed with ice to promote cooling.

Mr. Hanky.  That cotton bandana that you made fun of, it has a purpose.  Soak it in water at the aid stations or from a stream and wrap it around your neck.  You can even add ice to it when available.

Wear a light weight, breathable running cap.  It will protect you from the sun.  And just like Mr. Hanky, you can add ice to it and also dip it in water.  Speaking of ice, you can add to your sports bra.

Along the VT100 course you will notice large water tubs and/or hoses for the horses.  It’s a great source to wash the sweat off your face and cool the core.  I’ve even know a few runners who have completely immersed themselves in these tubs to stay cool.

Streams, also along the VT100 course there will be some streams.  This is another great source to do a quick water bath to cool down the core.

Sponge baths, not sure what will be on course but occasionally you will see a bucket with sponges.  Use them, it will feel great.  Have a crew?  Have them bring around a bucket and sponges.

Body Glide:  With heat and humidity for most athletes comes sweat.  With sweat chaffing can occur.  Body Glide or other types of body lubricants can help avoid most of the chaffing.  And make sure to reapply when needed and put everywhere and anywhere.  I’ve seen runners taken down by serious chaffing.  I usually carry around a small stick or have ready in a drop bag so I can reapply throughout the race.


With the heat and humidity we also get nasty flies, big blood sucking horse and deer flies.  Bug spray?  They laugh at it.  Wearing a running cap helps keep them off your head and if you wear it backwards, it protects the back of your neck which is a favorite spot for them to bite.  You can also use the hat to swat them where your arm can’t reach.

Heat and humidity are just everyday challenges we face in running long distance races.  Be prepared for the worst and make heat your friend.

Proper heat training can lead to big performance improvements and a successful race day.  Have fun!!

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The Importance of Strength Training for Running

The Importance of Strength Training for Running

Written by Jack Pilla, Run Formula Coach

Ok, you’ve been working on getting in the miles and building your base for the VT 100. What else could you be doing? How about some strength work and strength training!

Just Running Isn’t Enough

Distance runners need to acquire a sizeable level of general strength in both the legs and the upper body to be successful. Just running doesn’t work all the muscles needed to get this strength and can cause an imbalance. With the proper strength program, workloads of greater intensity can be managed more easily. Greater muscular strength decreases the risk of joint injury or overuse injuries by minimizing connective tissue stress (bone, ligament, tendon, or cartilage) thus maintaining joint integrity. A progressive resistance exercise program helps strengthen these connective tissues, making the entire support system more durable.

Some recent studies have shown that as few as six weeks of proper strength training can significantly reduce or completely relieve many common injuries. It also reduces the recurrence of many other common injuries. By strengthening muscle, as well as bone and connective tissue, strength training not only helps to prevent injury but also helps to reduce the severity of injury when it does occur.

In addition to injury prevention, strength training improves performance. Studies show that with as little as ten weeks of strength training, 10K times decrease by an average of a little over one minute. The research has also shown that running economy defined as the steady-state oxygen consumption for a standardized running speed, will be improved due to strength training. By improving running economy, a runner should be able to run faster over the same distance due to a decrease in oxygen consumption.  Improved running economy would also increase a runner’s time to exhaustion.

Coming Up With a Strength Training Plan for The Vermont 100

Strength training for the runner can be divided into three time periods: Pre-season, in-season and post-season. During these blocks of time, the volume and number of sets performed changes to keep pace with the different seasonal demands that running presents.

The greatest benefits of strength training for runners should be gained during the pre-season. This is the time to maximize your strength for the upcoming race or higher-mileage season. Volume (sets times repetitions) should be the highest during this time of year, which complements the lower running mileage. When trying to increase strength maximally, doing three sets per exercise (with about a two-minute rest between sets), and five to six repetitions per set has been shown to be most effective for athletes. Determining the amount of weight or resistance to use is somewhat a trial and error process. The last repetition should feel as if you couldn’t do another. If your last repetition seems easy, add five to ten percent more weight or resistance. Total body training two to three times a week during the pre-season will suffice, giving adequate time for full recovery after a workout.

The in-season for most runners comprises the greatest portion of the year. It could last from mid-April to mid-October. The goal of the in-season strength program is to maintain as much strength as possible. In-season training mainly requires one to two strength training sessions per week with only one to two sets of eight to ten repetitions per exercise.

The final third of the training calendar is referred to as the post-season. For most runners the post-season is from mid-October to mid-January. For competitive runners, post-season starts when your racing season is over. The first four weeks of the post-season are a time to recover. During this time, strength training can be performed two times a week consisting of only one set of eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise with adequate rest periods between sets. After four weeks of recovery, increase your strength training volume to two to three sets of each exercise with 60 to 90-second rest intervals.

So, how do you go about designing the most effective progressive-resistance exercise program to improve running performance? What type of equipment should be used: Free weights, machines or resistance bands? Any of the above, just do it. No single method has been shown to be superior. But the key to success is to train regularly. Give each body part attention about two to three times a week, maybe 20-30 minutes per session total. Train the muscle groups most in need of conditioning that will be of greatest benefit to running.  Place greater than normal demands on the exercising musculature for desired increases in strength to occur. Work the muscles throughout their full range of movement so that strength gains occur in the full range of motion.

Typical Strength Training Program for a Runner

Muscle Group &

Quadriceps, hamstrings, hips
Squats, Dead Lifts and Lunges
Heel Raises
Shoulder Shrugs
Upper Back
Dumbbell Rows
Elevated Feet, Push-ups
Triceps Kickbacks
Lower Back
Superman Exercise (lie stomach down, lift feet and arms like superman flies)
Gluteal and hamstrings
Good Morning Lift (basically a deadlift with bent legs) 

Some Is Better Than None; How To Get It Done

Make it fun! Make a list of exercises to check off, challenge a partner to do it with you or have your running group do crunches/push-ups with you after your run. The triple-dog-dare usually works! Still don’t think you have time for this or that it’s too complicated? Then take the simple approach, 100 sit-ups and pushups daily. It doesn’t have to be consecutive either, just 100 of each per day!  Up for the challenge?!? 

Coach Jack at an aid station in the Vermont 100

(Coach Jack at the VT 100 with runner Nate and Joe)

About Coach Jack

Jack coaches marathon and ultra trail runners with The Run Formula. His first ultra was the VT50 in 2004. “The next year I ran my first 100-miler at the VT100,” where he finished in 6th. He continued to run the VT 100 for the next four years coming in 3rd three times and then in 2009 was the overall winner (at age 51!). Since then he has traveled all over the country and in Europe running some of the most difficult and most scenic ultra-distance races. Run coach bio here.

Learn more about preparing for the Vermont 100

Head over to the Vermont 100 FAQs. This page is chock full of additional info about weekend schedule, lodging, the course, aid stations, drop bags, crews and pacers rules, and much more.

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Hardening the Quads for the VT100 Hills

Hardening the Quads for the VT100 Hills

I remember running the VT100 in 2009.  I was with the lead pack around mile 40 going up a fairly long steep hill.  About midway up a young runner went flying by, strong as ever.  Wow, we thought.  He’s got this race.  Never saw him again… until just before Camp 10 Bear the second time around.  There’s that long jeep trail going down which seems like for miles.  About midway on that downhill we saw that runner struggling and walking on the downhill.  As we went by, he said he did lot of hill work to prepare but didn’t do enough downhill training and blew his quads on the downhill running, thus losing his chance of winning the VT100.   I’m amazed how many runners not only at the VT100 but other hilly 100 mile races where runners are walking the downhills in the later stages of the race when they should be taking advantage of gravity and running the downhills.

With that said, prepare now for not only the uphills but even more important, the downhills.  The hills are relentless at the VT100 and those dirt roads in the summer are as hard as concrete.

Hill Training Tips

 Why Run Hills? Strength Gains.  Injury Prevention.

Physiologically speaking, hill running;
1) Increases your aerobic capacity that enables you to use less oxygen at increasingly longer distances.
2) Improves your running economy that enables you to use less oxygen to run at a faster pace.
3) Increases your stamina that enables you to run farther at a given pace.
4) Builds strength in your gluteal (buttock), quadriceps (front of thigh), gastronomies (upper calf), and soleus (lower calf) muscles.

Biomechanically speaking, hill running…
1) Improves your stride length (from uphill running) and your stride frequency (from downhill running).
2) Increases your ankle flexion that enables you to “pop” off the ground more quickly, so that you can spend less time on the ground and more time in the air.
3) Teaches you how to run relaxed.


  • Short Hill Workouts (60 seconds) helps with your sprint speed and anaerobic capacities.
  • Longer Hill Workouts helps build endurance, strength and mental fortitude.
  • Both will improve your form.



  • Stand tall with a slight forward lean
  • Full extend your straight leg behind you
  • Drive your hips into the hill
  • Legs back and lift your knees
  • Pump your arms back
  • Roll your mid foot into the hill, not just your toe
  • Keep your torso centered over your pelvis


  • Lean and go
  • Shift your foot strike forward
  • Lean into the downhill but not too far
  • Quicken your cadence
  • Keep torso centered over your pelvis
  • Maintain an even effort
  • Try not to hit the brakes

When planning a hill workout alternate each workout between short and long hills.  For the short hill workout, choose a hill (ideally at 5-10% grade) that may take 60 seconds to reach the top.  For the long hill repeats, start with ¼ mile uphills (also 5-10% grade) and gradually increase the length each workout building up to mile or longer repeats.

The number of intervals will depend on your level of training, maybe start with 2 or 3 repeats and increase each week. After you reach the top don’t stop short, but instead “run-through” the finish line at the top. Then catch your breath and immediately run back downhill at a similar effort. Wait until your heart rate and breathing rate slows down some, approximately one to two minutes. Then repeat.  Run the hill at a moderately hard effort, but at pace that you could hold for the duration of the climb and then run the same kind of effort down.

The Sound of Music Hill - It's signing your name!
Be careful with downhill running as it is an eccentric contraction meaning that the muscle is lengthening while it shortens, truly playing a tug-of-war with itself.  And downhill running can be very injurious to your knees, so try not to “pound” the road on the downhill but instead run smooth and fast with minimal braking.  If running on a hard surface, a more cushioned shoe will help take some of the impact.  And make sure you warm up well before and cool down after.

Remember: Hills Are Your Friend!!


Written by Run Formula coach Jack Pilla, who won the 2009 Vermont 100.

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Recover Like a Pro

Recover Like a Pro

Training for 100 km or 100 mile run is a big commitment – you’re excited and ALL in. At this point in the year, you’re probably in your early base period of building miles and adapting to the new weather pattern that comes with the arrival of spring. In Vermont, we call this mud season!

As weekly mileage starts to creep up, so should your focus on recovery strategies. These choices are nearly 100% within your control. The best athletes execute these techniques as consistently as workouts to improve personal performance, month to month and year over year. Recovery is just as critical as training. Increased training stress demands rest and requisite nutrition to achieve the desired physiological adaptations that lead to improved fitness, durability, and cognitive sharpness. Without a consistent recovery strategy, the athlete risks a) tissue breakdown which can lead to countless possible overuse injuries, b) fatigue, c) elevated stress, d) hormonal imbalance, e) impaired mood, f) foggy thinking, and g) lack of motivation.

The first key recovery tool is rest. Breaks from intense running should be built into your micro and macro training cycles. Short-term active recovery immediately after a hard or long run session might look like a 5-10 minute cool-down easy jog or walk. At The Run Formula, we also recommend doing 10 minutes of daily self-myofascial release with a foam roller and softball to work out any muscle adhesions; and then stretch to maintain muscle and connective tissue elasticity.

It’s equally important to prioritize sleep every single day which enables the body to reset hormones and rebuild tissues that break down during training. Dr. Amy Bender advises that high level athletes get 8-10 hours of quality sleep per day. Check out a podcast on the topic from Dr. Bender here. Keep in mind the magical power of a mid-day 15-20 minute power nap or brief supine-lying rest periods. During each 7-10 day period of training, it’s critical to have at least one “no run” day. While this can be tough for some athletes psychologically; stay positive by visualizing your muscles, bones, connective tissues, and cardiopulmonary system soaking in all the nutrients for a stronger you.

At the macro-cycle level, plan to take a recovery week at 50-60% of the total volume of your biggest week in the previous 3-5 weeks. So let’s say that your training cycle looks like this: build week 1 = 5 hrs, build week 2 = 5.5 hrs, build week 3: = 6 hrs, recovery week 4 = 3 hrs. Repeat this cycle starting week 5 with the week 3 volume and adding 10% each consecutive build week. These recovery weeks are just as important physically as they are psychologically. Training commitment generally means saying no to other healthy activities and fun with those you love. Try to plan extra family or friend time during your recovery weeks to maintain social connections and a circle of support. Balance, balance, balance.

The second critical factor in recovery is nutrition and hydration. Soreness and fatigue associated with endurance training can be mitigated with a focus on fueling the body for exercise and nourishing the body for recovery. In general, a daily plant-strong diet provides the key nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to support demands of running high volume. Be sure to include ample protein and carbohydrate for your body weight and training goals. For specifics, consult with a Core Diet dietician. Set a daily hydration target of same # ounces of water as 50% of your body weight (lbs). So a 150 lb person should aim to drink 75 oz of water per day. This does NOT include the hydration needed for exercise itself. Refer to this blog about during exercise hydration needs.

About 30 minutes prior to each workout, fuel your body up with 8-10 oz of sport drink that includes water, carbohydrate, and electrolytes to run the engine. Also take about 100 calories of easily digestible snack such as apple sauce, pretzels, half an energy bar, or sport blocks. During running take as much fluid as is needed for your sweat rate and the humidity. Energize the body during the run with about 75-100 calories every 30-40 minutes; 1 gel or a few gummy blocks. Immediately after a training bout take a recovery drink with a ratio of 3:1 carbohydrate to protein. The purpose of this small meal is to increase insulin levels with carbohydrate in order to facilitate the delivery of protein and carbohydrate to muscles cells. This recovery act will have the single largest impact on your next workout. Without it your muscles lack the glycogen and tissue-building amino acids necessary to train the next day. We like chocolate milk or Klean Recovery.

If you find yourself feeling run-down, getting frequent colds, or simply grumpy; take an honest assessment of your commitment to recovery and overall life stress management. Recovering like a pro will expedite your fitness gains and elevate your overall enjoyment factor while chasing this big goal.

Written by Lindsay Simpson

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Planning your training and racing for the months ahead

Planning your training and racing for the months ahead

I often find March to be the hardest time to maintain focus for a peak race at the Vermont 100. March is when weekly mileage (and weekend long run mileage) starts to creep up. March is also when I hit my limit on ability persevere through cold and wintry conditions as I’ve likely ran every dirt road and good road loop within drivable distance. The trails are often reaching the icy time period when they are unrunnable for a few weeks (up to a month) as everything transitions from winter to spring. It’s just a tough time to stay motivated! So, it means it’s a great time to take the time to plan out the coming months of training and racing.

While everyone approaches thing differently while gearing up for the VT100, here’s some broad guidance on timing (working backwards from the race, which is what’s easiest to do when planning). So, race weekend is July 19th – 21st…that’s our starting point.

Most folks use a 2-3 weeks taper leading up to the race, which means that your training will be cut back and your body will be gearing up starting July 1st or July 8th through race weekend. Your biggest training week is the week before taper.  That means you should hit peak mileage during the week of June 24-June 30th, or week of July 1-7th (depending on the length of your taper).

The ideal time for a big tune-up race is 6-10 weeks out, so during the May 13th to June 9th window. For folks running the 100 miler, you want to be looking at a 50 mile or 100k race. For those running the 100k race, you want to be looking for a 50k or 40 mile (6 hour?) race. Keep in mind that if you need to complete a qualifier race, it must be completed and submitted by June 1st.  (A great option for a qualifier race is the ‘last chance qualifier’ at Chesterfield Gorge Ultra on June 1-2nd).  I typically aimed to do my last goal race around 8 or 9 weeks out, so May 20th through June 2nd, as it gave me enough time to recover from the race and get in one more solid training block before VT100 tapering.

It’s beneficial to have more than just the one ‘tune-up’ race to build-up the mileage.  However, this is a personal preference on the runner’s part. Mid-April to early-May is a great time to do a marathon or 50k option prior to your tune-up race. If you’re not one to do too many races, that’s also a great time to start including some longer training runs to practice fueling, nutrition, even test out your race kit.

Once you have your races and goal weeks scheduled, it’s much easier to fill in the training in between the big stuff and start to build your training plan so you are prepared to have a strong day at this year’s Vermont 100!

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Offseason Adventures in Building Fitness

Offseason Adventures in Building Fitness

Winter can be depressing for many endurance athletes, including runners. It can often mean more time on the “dreadmill”, the indoor trainer and/or bundled up for slippery runs. I’m not going to lie I spent many years doing that- hours upon hours on the trainer in the winter, running on the dreadmill several times a week when conditions were nasty outside. However too much of this indoor training over time can eventually burn you out. If it hasn’t happened already consider yourself lucky. If you live in an area that sees a fair amount of snow there are other options you can build in to supplement your base training that will not only offset the boredom factor of indoor training and be a lot more fun, but also can build significant fitness!

Wherever possible I try to build adventure into my own training and the athletes I coach. With my athletes this typically happens the most in the winter base period because once the more specific phases of training set in you just have to get the sport specific work done if you want to reach your goals – there’s no shortcuts! But what if there were things you can do in the winter that would supplement and maybe even build aerobic fitness AND were super fun? There’s so many options now. Fat biking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, alpine touring skiing and skimo, and split boarding. I’m going to touch on these a bit then focus mostly on alpine touring because I am biased and it’s the most fun and most conducive for muscular endurance.

First off you should know that as an athlete and a coach I am HUGE on muscular endurance. Anyone who I coach knows this and has heard me repeatedly speak about protecting your muscle mass by keeping your body in an anabolic environment as much as possible– especially for the masters athletes out there. Ultrarunning is a strength endurance sport and your success in ultras will hinge on your ability to run strong in the later miles (having muscular endurance). In its purest form, you can build muscular endurance by running up a steep hill, or swimming with big paddles, or biking at high muscle tension, low cadence. Now you know where I am operating from. Everything I do in my own training and with my athletes involves a consistent dose of workouts that stimulate muscular endurance.

Now for the good part- each of those winter sports listed above are great for building muscular endurance. So, pick your poison. If you are not a skier or snowboarder how about fat biking or snowshoeing? And keep in mind both of those have options for racing if you are looking to further test yourself. Cross country (xc) skiing is an excellent option for building fitness- Western States champions Steph Violett, Nikki Kimball and Scott Jurek all came from a xc ski racing background and rely on that for cross training in the winter. I spent many years xc skiing before learning about alpine touring (AT) gear. Alpine skiing was my first sport and I grew up doing it here in Vermont so when I first discovered AT gear I had to try it! It’s the ultimate combo of aerobic training and downhill skiing – especially if you like finding powder stashes before anyone else finds them. If you are an alpine skier then hands down your best bet is to try AT skiing which is essentially skiing uphill on skis with climbing skins for grip then transitioning to downhill skiing at the top. This allows you to ski anywhere (resort, side country, backcountry). The current AT ski gear is very impressive with how well it can get you uphill and how great it skis down (depending on your setup – can be as well as on regular alpine gear). The gear has an uphill mode and a downhill mode. When going uphill your boots have a big range of motion and your heels are free like xc skiing so you can stride up the hill. At the top you switch your boots into downhill mode and lock your heel into the binding, so you can make regular alpine turns just like you always have. As mentioned, people do AT skiing in the backcountry and at ski resorts that have an uphill policy.

And remember my comments about muscular endurance? AT skiing arguably stimulates your body to build muscular endurance more than any of the other sports listed. If you like to race, then you might want to try ski mountaineering racing or “skimo”. There’s too much to explain about this cool sport so check out this video – again this is skimo racing (a short world cup video) which is sort of the lightweight, high speed, high suffer factor, intense brother of AT skiing. Ultrarunners such as Rob Krar, Killian Jornet, and Emilie Forsburg incorporate skimo into their winter training. Wait- you’re a snowboarder then check out splitboarding! This is the AT option for snowboarders! Oh you’re a tele skier!? – well you already know everything I’ve discussed above. Come ski with me!

Below is how you might build in some of these winter sports and have it count toward your VT100 training:
• Snowshoeing/ winter Hiking = 35% running, 35% biking (use run hr zones)
• Snowshoe running = 100% run (use run hr zones)
• XC skiing (classic technique) – 55% Run, 35% Bike (use run hr zones)
• XC skiing (skate technique) = 35% Run, 55% Bike (use run hr zones)
• Alpine Touring skiing (includes telemark skiing) = 100% bike for the uphill skinning time (use run hr zones)
• Splitboarding= 100% bike for the uphill skinning time (use run hr zones)
• Fat biking = 100% bike (use bike hr zones)

Downhill skiing (liftserve or downhill portion of AT/splitboarding)= count as lower body strength work on 1:1 basis, e.g., 1 hour of accrued downhill ski time = 1 hour of strength work.

Winter doesn’t have to be depressing – get outside and do some adventurous workouts that build muscular endurance and bring a huge smile to your face!

At the time of this writing Stowe, Vermont has one of the deepest snowpacks of all ski resorts in North America and coach Spinney has been skinning up and getting fresh tracks daily at Stowe.

John Spinney is an endurance sports coach at QT2 Systems brands. He provides detail oriented coaching for committed cyclists, triathletes and runners. He also runs quite a few training camps and loves working in a squad atmosphere with motivated athletes. He believes that the best fitness comes from training that embraces adventure.

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Race Day Game Plan – Last Minute Preparations

Race Day Game Plan – Last Minute Preparations

Written by Jack Pilla, Run Formula Coach

Pre-Race Preparation, the night before:

  • Get your drop bags in order and placed in the designated areas.
  • Coordinate with your pacer if you have one.
  • Go over any specifics with your crew.
  • Eat – Pasta is always a good choice or some other favorite non-spicy dish but don’t pig out. (Thursday night would be better for the big meal). White pasta is more easily digestible than wheat.
  • Have all your race gear ready to go before bed.
  • Get to sleep. (You might bring earplugs too if you are camping).

Morning of the Race:

  • Most races start in the pre-dawn hours so have a small snack an hour before such as a bagel or banana but whatever you do don’t try something new at this hour.
  • Drink 10 – 12 ounces of fluid before your race.  Stay hydrated but don’t overdo it.
  • Hit the port-o-let early enough so you don’t miss the start.  (Bring your own tp as sometimes the portolets run out).
  • Don’t forget to check in before the start.

Ultra List of Goodies to have on hand

(Just a quick reminder from last week’s blog)

  • Electrolyte Replacement
  • Fuel Belt, Camel Back or other hydration gizmo
  • Body glide or similar
  • Headlamp with new batteries
  • Good socks and extra socks
  • Good trail running shoes and spares
  • Band aids/first aid kit/blister repair
  • Duct Tape
  • Extra clothing and night clothing for colder temps
  • Hat


(As reproduced from the Wasatch Front 100 and modified for the VT100)

  • (10) Wear new shoes.
  • 9) Wear old socks.
  • 8) Waste energy getting mad at little things.
  • 7) Try for that terrific 30 hour “SUNTAN”. Would you stick your head in a microwave?
  • 6) Forget to plan for difficult weather: wind, rain, cold, heat.
  • 5) VT has no big hills, so no need to do hill training, right?
  • 4) Forget to consume calories
  • 3) Think you are staying hydrated by drinking at aid stations only.
  • 2) Rely totally on ribbons to guide your way. Does the word “lost” have meaning to you?


  • 1) Not making friends with Mr. SALT and Mz. ELECTROLYTE.


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Vermont 100-Planning and Mental Preparation

Vermont 100-Planning and Mental Preparation

By Lindsay Simpson, The Run Formula Coach

It’s now less than a month away from the big day. You’re training your body for the huge challenge ahead. You’re running the miles, doing the core and strength work, practicing technical trails, and getting in lots of hill climbing and descending. And of course you’re practicing your hydration and fueling to prepare your digestive system. As you move into the taper phase of training, this is a good time to sharpen your plans and mental state for completing VT 100.

Here are a few specifics:

Study the course profile and aid stations.

As you may know, the course is almost 70% rolling dirt road and about 30% trails, with a teensy bit of paved road thrown in. Overall, you’ll cover about 17,000 ft of elevation gain, and loss. If we do the math, that’s about 170 ft of climbing per mile. This is a good ratio of miles to elevation that you can match during training. So a 50 mile run week should also aim to cover about 8-9,000 ft of climbing and descending. A couple other notes about the course. Notice also that the first 25 miles are relatively easy compared with miles 60-85.

A good fact to realize now, so it isn’t a nasty surprise when you’re many hours in and very fatigued. Secondly, there are 25 aid stations for the 100 mile event. The longest runners will go between aid stations is only 5 miles. This is a massive help out there; and can be a big time suck.

Spending just 2.5 minutes at each aid station will add up to a full hour on course. You don’t necessarily have to stop at every aid station. If you have crew and/or pacers, be sure to review the aid station list with them and discuss when and what you might want for support.

Prepare your mental mantras and strategies.

Our visions of success keep us motivated and engaged through the long months of training and through the challenges of race day. Maybe you want to run faster than last year? Will you be chasing that large sub-24 hour finish belt buckle? Or perhaps you are excited to cross under that beautiful finish line in the woods? (For more on goal setting, check out Jack’s blog here.) Regardless of your finish goal, it’s inevitable that you’ll experience physical, mental and emotional highs and lows at different points throughout the event.

To handle these tough moments with grit and grace, you’ll need a prepared list of strategies that help you continuously tune your mind to the positivity channel. Prepare in advance by rehearsing a powerful, simple mantra such as “Strong mind, strong body” or “I’m tougher than this hill”. Think deeply about why you’re tackling this goal. Your “why” is a powerful tool to call on when you encounter a rough patch. Another useful strategy is simply counting – foot steps, cows, or other external stimuli that distract your brain from pain. For more on mental strategies, check out Deena Kastors’ new book “Let Your Mind Run”.


Be ready to solve problems.

You can plan and plan and plan, and the unexpected is still going to happen on race day – especially in an event this long. The best predictor of your success is going to be your mental flexibility and willingness to problem solve. This race has 30 years of history and countless helpful people on course; including aid station volunteers, veteran runners, medical professionals and your loved ones. When you find yourself in the thick of an unforeseen challenge, ask for help. Chances are someone else out there has experienced the same issue and can guide you to a solution.

We all want to see you at the finish line.

Thanks again to THE RUN FORMULA for providing us with these training tips!

The Run Formula

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Nutrition and Hydration for the Long Haul

Nutrition and Hydration for the Long Haul

By Beth Shutt

Who gets excited when talking about race nutrition and hydration?  No one?  As a registered dietitian (and coach!), I will say, nutrition and hydration actually “excite” me.  They are two variables that you have 100% control over.  You cannot say this about many things on race day!  You can’t control the weather, you can’t control the competition, you can’t even control (to some extent) how your body will feel.  But you CAN control what you put in your mouth to fuel you for 100 miles or 100km.  So, let me share a little of my excitement with you!

First, a little story.  A friend of mine made her first attempt at the 100 mile distance in Vermont several years back.  She was well trained and ready for the day.  But by mile 60 she was feeling pretty dizzy.  By mile 70, when she picked up her pacer, she added some confusion to the dizziness.  At one point, her pacer kindly asked “you know you are only talking to me in a whisper, right?”  I laughed when she was telling me this story, envisioning my friend suspiciously whispering so the trees couldn’t hear her…. But by mile 83 she was sitting at an aid station, and then laying down and then, she woke up in the hospital.  And just like that, her day was over and her goal not met.  Classic signs of hyponatremia (abnormally low sodium concentrations in your blood caused, in this case, by drinking too much water).  My friend had eaten well and drank fluid, but she only drank water and a “little electrolyte here and there.”  And that mistake cost her the day.

Below are some tips to helping you manage your hydration to avoid making these same mistakes, and successfully cross that VT100 finish line with a smile on your face and a loud WOO-HOO!  (although if you’d like to whisper, that’s okay too, it just won’t be because you are hyponatremic though :).

  • The first step in figuring out the hydration riddle, is a sweat test so that you can calculate your fluid needs. This simple test can be done at home as below:
  • Weigh yourself with no clothing on, before the test.
  • Run for 1 hour at roughly the same intensity and (if possible) the same conditions that you will race at/in.
  • Do NOT drink anything during the test run or urinate during the run.
  • Weigh yourself, again with no clothing on, after the test.

The difference in weight #1 and #2 is what we are looking for.  Each pound lost is equal to roughly 16 oz of fluid.  That then converts to your fluid needs per hour.  For example: weight #1 = 146.3 lbs, weight #2 = 144.8 lbs ——> the difference in weights = 1.5 lbs x 16 (number of ounces in fluid/lb) = 24 ounces/hour.

 (file photo-our race is now cup-less)


It is important to note that we do not need to replace 100% of our needs and SOME level of dehydration is acceptable in training and racing.  However, even being dehydrated by 2% affects performance and, in addition, the nature of ultra running (ie: running for 24 hours straight!) doesn’t leave much room for error.

  • Our next consideration is sodium concentration of your sweat. This varies widely among individuals and can be anywhere from 450 mg/16 oz of sweat, up to 700 mg/16 oz of sweat.  Clues as to whether you lose a lot of sodium in your sweat (a “salty sweater”, I like to call them) or not, include – is there a ton of salt on your singlet/hat/face/skin when you are done with a workout?; do you cramp often in training and racing?.  If you answer “yes” to these questions, you are likely towards the higher end of the range.  Multiplying your sweat test weight loss (from above example weight #1-weight #2 = 1.5 lbs) by the amount of sodium in your sweat (per 16 oz of sweat), will net you a rough estimate of your sodium needs per hour.  So, in our above example (1.5 lbs weight loss during sweat test), let’s assume an average sodium concentration of 575 mg/16 oz sweat) = 862.5 mg sodium/hour.
  • So now that you’ve determined how much fluid you need to drink and roughly how much sodium you need, the next logical question might be – WHAT should I drink to meet these needs?!? Here is the answer: SPORTS DRINK!  Or, more specifically, an electrolyte and carbohydrate rich solution that provides roughly 500-700 mg sodium and 40-50 grams of carbohydrate/serving.  Many sports drinks meet these guidelines – Gatorade Endurance, Tailwind, Base Hydro (sports drink served on course at VT100), Skratch Exercise Hydration, and the list goes on and on.  In addition, remember you will be eating sport fuels and food that also contain electrolytes to help you meet your needs.

(file photo-our race is now cup-less)

It should be noted that “water” is not on the list above.  I simply do not recommend using it as a source of fluid in ultra distance events (or really any endurance events, for that matter), as it only serves as a “blank”, washing away critical electrolytes that you’ve already taken in and putting you at risk for hyponatremia.  Sports drink, on the other hand, provides the fluid simple sugars AND electrolytes that you DO need, all in one shot.  Seems like a no-brainer to me!  And my friend from the opening story would agree.  She uses sports drink now and has since seen multiple 100 mile finish lines.

  • Next, know how to adjust. You might see anything (and everything) on race day temperature wise, including heat, cold, humidity, wind, rain, snow? (I wouldn’t put it past Vermont…), etc..  So although you choose to do your sweat test on an 80 degree day, what happens if race day dawns 35 and wet with a high of 50?  Your sweat rate will obviously be lower in the cooler weather and higher in the heat, so pay attention to how you are feeling, if you are thirsty, and also the frequency and appearance of your urine.  A good goal is to urinate once every 3 hours.  If you are having to pee every 30 minutes, chances are, you are drinking more than you need to.  On the other hand, if you are 6 hours into the race and you don’t even feel like you HAVE to pee, you are likely very behind on the hydration front.  Also, you should urinate with some volume (a small “tinkle” doesn’t count!” and if you can see the color of your urine, it should be light yellow (vs a highly concentrated dark yellow).
  • I have one final tip in managing your racing hydration strategy. What you do in racing, do faithfully in training as well.  You cannot expect your body to tolerate X oz of sports drink in the race, if you do not consistently practice taking in X oz of sports drink on your training runs.  That would be like showing up at the VT100 finish line without having done any long runs!
  • Okay, wait – ONE MORE THING! (I promise this is it).  KNOW the signs of hyponatremia and discuss these with your pacer so that both you and your team can keep an eye out for impending trouble.  Things to be on alert for: headache, confusion, decreased consciousness (all of which my friend had!), seizures, muscle spasms or cramps and weakness/fatigue.

I hope these tips help you think about and prepare your hydration strategy well for race day!  If you are interested in delving further into your fluid AND calories needs (we didn’t even discuss what to eat!) and coming up with an entire fueling strategy, check out the fueling plans offered by The Core Diet.  As a VT100 athlete, you can get a 15% discount on a fueling plan with the code ‘VT100’!

Beth Shutt is a registered dietitian and the Operations Director at The Run Formula.  She’s been an endurance athlete for over 25 years, including racing professional triathlon for 6 years.  She has made every nutrition mistake in the book (including drinking water!) and loves to help people NOT make the same mistakes.  She can be reached at

The Run Formula

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May 1, 2018  Written by Jack Pilla, Run Formula Coach

Figuring out exactly what you want to achieve is the first and most important step.  Do you want to run faster, a podium finish?  Or just feel fitter at the end?  Or just finish?  When setting goals, there are 2 types of goals.  Outcome goals are a result you’d like to achieve, and process goals as the processes you will need to repeatedly follow to achieve that result.  Both are equally important in having a good race.

In setting your race day goals, here are some things to consider:  BE SPECIFIC WITH YOUR GOAL

What exactly is it that you want? Include an element of specificity for the outcome: “I want to run sub 24 for a 100 miles or maybe I want to finish before the second sunrise or I just want to finish.


Ask yourself why is it important to you?

They should be things you want to achieve for yourself, and not for someone else. Training to reach a goal requires a lot of hard work so if the goal you’re working toward has deep meaning for you, you’ll find a way to persevere.  Let your running be about your own hopes and dreams.


Your goals should require you to reach outside your comfort zone while remaining within the realm of possibility. And if you’ve done the training then you will be more confident in setting and working toward these goals.


Write down your goals so there’s no question of what you are aiming for.  Regularly seeing your goals is a way to keep yourself honest and working toward that goal with your training and should create excitement to get you out of bed each day for training.


You’ve trained long and hard and have done the work, but in a long distance race like a 100 miles, things can and will happen.  More often than not, you will have to make adjustments on course.  Some are minor and will allow you to stay on track while others may alter your race day goals.  Plan ahead and think about possible challenges that might occur along the way and what you could do to keep moving forward toward your goals.  But also be realistic and think “ok, what if it’s 100 degrees on race day and it’s not going to be my best day, then look at alternate goals.”  I like to have a number of goals for race day.  “A” goal may be an outcome goal to PR or place in the top 10 or place in your age group.  But if you’re at mile 50 and you are way behind where you thought you would be, don’t punish yourself, be positive and go to plan “B”.  Think, “yes I’ve run this far, I may be off where I wanted to be but I still feel good.” Then go to your process goals as another way to measure success and work on things like executing your fueling plan and keeping the energy high and your hydration good all day long so you can still finish strong.  If it’s a really bad day but you are still moving and not ill or injured, then plan “C” may be to just finish to get that finisher’s medal.

While you are out there running, have a good attitude and enjoy the day. Think about all the training you’ve done with friends to get to this race, look around at your surroundings and views and the wonderful people you’ve met along the way, and just enjoy the race and smile.  Try to have fun with it no matter how the day is!  I’ve had some really good races where everything went according to plan “A”.  But I’ve also had some really bad races where the wheels have completely come off and I had to make the decision to either drop or keep moving forward.  I threw goal “A” and “B” out the window, went to goal “C” to just finish and then had fun chatting with other runners, spending time eating all the food at the aid stations and thanking the volunteers, and enjoying the night sky.

Either way, when you cross that finish line you will have an amazing sense of achievement that you should be proud of.  This leaves you with much more confidence to go on and achieve your next goal, from running races to other areas of your life!

The Run Formula

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Winter Training for Summer Success

Winter Training for Summer Success

Written by Lindsay Simpson, Run Formula coach

So you’re in, congratulations! You’ve marked your calendar for July 21 and it reads “VT100 Baby!” While July warmth and humidity may be hard to imagine when you’re blasted with sub-zero temperatures, snow, ice and 20 mph winds; it really is important that you get creative and disciplined with your training now to ensure that you’re ready for race day. Here are a few guidelines and strategies to build fitness and durability to handle more run training when the snow melts.

Time on feet is a smarter measure of volume versus mileage. You are going to be slower in winter at the same level of effort you might exert in warmer weather. Cold muscles simply do not work as efficiently. Footing is slippery and slow due to ice and snow. Plus, due to limited daylight hours, many runs are done in the dark which makes us instinctively more cautious. Plan your weekly and daily volume in hours and minutes so that you have measurable objectives and can let go of mileage as an indicator of training achievement.

Run frequency equals durability. A few run miles completed on most days of the week is far more advantageous for your VT 100 readiness than is completing only a few long runs per week. As runners, sometimes we hold a detrimental mindset of “all or nothing”. Life, sickness, and weather happen. If you find yourself unable to execute the entire planned run, try to do at least some of it, unless you are sick. Your soft tissues; muscles, ligaments and tendons become more durable with frequency of use over long periods of time; weeks and months. Prepping your body to handle running for a full day in July begins with consistent time on feet now.

Get run specific strong now to prevent injuries when run volume increases later in the spring. You don’t have to join your local gym. Focus on simple, body-weight exercises that you can do in three to four 15 minute sessions per week at home or on a break at work. Here are a few exercises we recommend for leg and core muscle that power your running: hack lunges, single leg deadlifts, monster walks with resistance band, eccentric calf raises, 3 minutes of continuous planks – front, then sides.

Enjoy other winter activities, but don’t kid yourself about their value as run training. Here are some guidelines. First, we recommend establishing heart rate zones and using this feedback as a reliable measure of intensity across different activities. Snowshoeing can be counted as 1-1 run volume, provided the effort is comparable to planned run intensity for that training session. We love Dion Snowshoes because they are small and lightweight, limiting changes to your run gain. Classic cross country skiing can be counted at 55% of planned run volume. So if you’re aiming for a run of 1.25 hrs, you’ll need to ski about 2.25 hours to meet your training objective for the day. Skate skiing can be counted as 35% of planned run volume. One solid day of downhill skiing, don’t count the chairlift ride time, is worth about an hour of strength work.

Above all, keep in mind that the toughest days only make you mentally stronger for the monumental challenge of running 100 km or 100 miles. When you’re on course in July, sweating and smiling up the hills, you can think back and draw confidence from all the hard winter training you completed.


Lindsay Simpson getting a 2015 VT 100 finish line fist pump from her husband John Spinney.

About Lindsay – I coach ultradistance trail runners with The Run Formula. My first crack at a race longer than 50k was the VT 100 km race in 2011 when I surprised my shorts off with a win in 12:18. I took a longer, much bumpier path to the 100 mile finish line, finally making it in 2015 with a time of 20:15. I am a lifelong runner, learner and lover of all things Vermont. Run coach bio here.

Official Coach of the Vermont 100
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Interview with ‘Nipmuck’ Dave

Interview with ‘Nipmuck’ Dave

After race directing the Nipmuck Trail Marathon in Connecticut for 26 years and retiring from 30 years of Occupation Therapy work, adaptive athlete Dave Raczkowski finished last year’s VT100 on his handmade titanium crutches with 6 minutes to spare.

Tenacious and gritty, this interview reveals Dave’s humility (“I don’t know if I like being called a rockstar”), his backyard training regime (“I probably should be doing more hills”) and respect for the distance (“the VT100 doesn’t just happen during a few days in July”).

Here we go!

Q. Hi Dave. The Race Director wants to interview a few Vermont 100 rockstars. Would you mind answering a few questions?

I don’t know if I like being called a rockstar. I’m more of a spiritual advisor.

Q. Give us an idea of your training. Where do you train? How has your training been?

I probably should be doing more hills, but I find myself just getting in long runs. On Tuesdays, I run 4 hours and do 1 hour of weights. On Wednesdays, I run 6 hours. On Thursdays, I run 8 hours. I’m kind of procrastinating about doing the weights. I train in my ‘backyard’. I’m pretty satisfied [about] how things are going mainly because nothing hurts. I have a neighbor at the end of my road you always says, “Have a nice walk today,” and I wave, muttering under my breath, “I’m not walking, I’m running.”

Q. How many times have you finished Vermont? Do you have any advice for the first timers?

6 attempts, 3 finishes. The Vermont 100 doesn’t just happen during a few days in July.  It’s all the time because I’m constantly training for it.  So, first timers should choose very carefully where they live.  As long as the house has a good roof and the toilet flushes, that’s good enough.  That house should be in the middle of at least 10 square miles of woods with many miles of trails going through it. And take [the race] mile by mile. You can’t think of the whole thing. When you’re at mile 49, think about mile 49 – not mile 50 or 60.

Q. What is your favorite part of the event?

The first 10 miles and the very last mile. The worst time is from midnight ‘til 2:30AM before the race starts.  I know I should be resting, but I’m just ready to explode.  After the race starts that energy just flows out. That first 10 miles is effortless, more like floating.  I don’t remember the specific aid station, but the one [where] some GAC members  dumped a bucket of ice water over my head [editor’s note: Birmingham’s Aid Station, mile 53.9]. Arriving at Silver Hill is like having a circle that is almost completed. All the preparation has been done. Now you just let the events unfold in front of you.

Q. Do you have any advice for race directors on including an Athletes With Disabilities Awards Division at their ultra?

We mostly accept what we got and just deal with it. We want no special treatment.

Q. Do you consider yourself an adaptive athlete?

Very much so. I worked for 30 years as an Occupational Therapist in a Nursing Home, so adaptation is kind of like my middle name.

A Bit More

Dave will be running without a pacer (“when my mind is dark, it’s best to deal with myself”) and using handmade titanium crutches he had custom welded (“it was hard to find a guy who’d do it”).

When Dave isn’t running, he voluntarily maintains 22 miles of trails for the Connecticut Forest and Park Association but, he remarks, “my main pastime is being very much in love with my wife. She’s not a runner but we see eye to eye on a lot of stuff. As love affairs go, we got blessed.”

Nipmuck Dave, we’re all excited to meet you on Silver Hill Meadow and will be cheering you on to your next VT100 finish.

For more VT100 interview, race day prep tips, FAQs, and more, be sure to peruse the entire VT100 blog or use the category sorter at the top of the blog home to find relevant article! 

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