Next week is Memorial Day, and you know what that means… Marathon weekend in Burlington. Vermont City Marathon here we come! We got a couple 2 person relay teams running and a few people doing the full 26.2 for the first time!
XC Running team at Champlain College
This past Saturday was the Rollin Irish Half Marathon. We had 5 people complete the hilly 13.1 mile curse in Essex, Vermont. Eric Heiman, Dayna Comeau, and Ethan Farmer all completed their first ever Half Marathon. Brian Culmo and Elias Connolly also ran great. We had multiple top 3 finishes in age group races. Brian Culmo placed 5th overall and 3rd in the 20-29 age group with a time of 1:22:53. Ethan and Eli took 2-3 in the under 20 age group with times of 1:41:06 and 1:53:23 respectively. Dayna finished in 1:59:34 and Eric ran 2:00:43. The course was tough with some classic Vermont hills on mostly dirt roads, and the wind became a factor in the last 3 miles with a strong headwind. The race was a culmination of a semester of training for the team throughout the cold winter. The team’s hard efforts paid off on Saturday with these great results. Much of the team is now shifting focus to the Vermont City Marathon at the end of May where we have some people competing in the full 26.2 for the first time as well as a number of 2-person relay teams. From there it will be on to summer training
Winter break is long gone and we’re getting back into the swing of things here at Champlain: classes, homework, cross country, and squeezing a social life somewhere in there, too. We’re now in Week Two of pre-training for the marathon (half marathon for some of us, full for a few others). Having a set training schedule is really helpful when you’re busy with so many other things; it can be hard to gather the initial motivation to step out of my warm, cozy dorm room, so that gives me the push that I sometimes need. Plus, once I’m out there, I remember how nice it is to be able to get outside and away from the piles of work in front of me, to clear my mind and hang out with my teammates instead of staring at my computer screen.
This is my first winter in Burlington. You know those times when people warn you about something, and you say Yeah, yeah, I know it’s cold in Vermont, I’ve heard all about it. And then you get there, and right around January expletives start streaming out of your mouth because you can’t feel your face/ears/hands anymore. No? Just me? Whatever. What I’m saying here is, it’s cold. There’s no getting around that. But after I got over the initial shock and stopped shouting swearwords, I realized it’s not quite as horrifying as I thought. I tend to find that I might be cold for the first five, maybe ten, minutes of a run, and then I’m fine. Once you get started and get in your own little zone, whatever’s surrounding you doesn’t matter all that much. And we just got awesome sweatshirts that my co-captain Brian designed. AND your friends will think you’re a total badass for running in 10 degree weather. Badass or crazy, maybe. I don’t know. Either way you’ll seem cool, I swear.
Hi everyone! I’m Alicia Tatone, a first-year Professional Writing student at Champlain College and a co-captain of the XC team. When I’m not running I like to read, write, draw, and take long walks on the beach… wait, nevermind. This isn’t that kind of site. Anyway, I’ll be popping up on here somewhat frequently for the next couple of months, posting updates about my training for the VCM Half Marathon in May. I ran cross country and track all throughout high school, and continuing to do so since coming to Champlain last fall has been wonderful, but this is something entirely new for me. I’ve never considered racing to be my foremost priority as a runner – it’s something I do as a part of my team and to work on improving myself, for sure, but it’s not why I run. I didn’t decide to run this half marathon to finish in first place, to win a medal or a prize (although, admittedly, prizes are pretty cool… I wouldn’t mind winning a pie at some point). Those things matter to some extent, but what matters most to me is challenging myself. I know that I’m capable of running 13.1 miles, and I’m going to prove it to myself. I’m going to do it.
With that said, what I’m setting out to accomplish is easier said than done. Most goals are. There are always obstacles, distractions, something or other that can stand in my way if I let it. That stuff tends to make me a little nervous, as by nature I’m easily distracted. I get excited about something, decide to focus on it, then get excited about another thing and then another thing and then I might lose track of at least one of those super cool things. Thankfully, though, that’s where the Champlain XC Team comes and swoops in to my rescue. Having a team full of awesome people, all set on achieving similar goals, is so helpful when trying to accomplish something. Running with a few other people, or even just one other person to keep you company, is exponentially better than running alone. It’s always nice to have someone to share conversation (or perhaps misery, if you’re running hills or some other particularly gruesome workout) with. That, along with having a training plan that spans from the time I go back to school after winter break right up until the race in May, is how I know I’ll stick with what I set out to do. Having the sort of support system that a team provides is pretty awesome. Also, pasta parties. Pasta parties are awesome too.
The Green Mountain Marathon and Half marathon was held on Sunday, Oct 14th in South Hero, VT. Brian Culmo (’15) ran in the half marathon and came in 5th place overall, and 2nd in the 20-29 age group. He ran a personal best time of 1:23:19. The course was very flat but strong headwinds from the open fields and lake nearby caused issues for all the runners for about 5 miles on the way back on the out and back course. The rest of the team was volunteering at a water station for the half and full marathon. Everyone braved the cool temperatures, wind and occasional rain to aid the runners of both races. The team stood outside for the good part of 6 hours, but everyone seemed to have a good time volunteering and hanging with each other.
It was just Brian Culmo running at the Art Tudhope 10k in Shelbourne, VT on Oct 6th. the race was held near Shelbourne orchards and the lake on mostly flat dirt road. Brian ran the 10k course in a personal best 37:25 coming in 3rd place overall. the ominous rain held off, but the winds did not as the returning 3 miles in the out and back course featured a strong headwind to contend with. The flat course offered a chance for fast times and the racing did not disappoint.
Authors Note: There are specific details, stories, quotes and other happenings that you won’t find in this post, or any post due to the agreement we made before the race began; what is said and done on the course, stays on the course. That agreement, created in blood and sweat, we honor to the grave, so information provided below is edited for content. In addition, Miles 3-9 were mostly a blur to us all, and information might be presented out of chronological order.
The six of us arrived at the 1:00pm start line about 8 minutes early; hoping that they wouldn’t give the same speech to us that they did in the morning; an overdressed “Spartan” reading from a script about leading the troops into battle and that not all of us would return; but instead be just a memory. Half of us, who have completed Tough Mudder would argue that this start wasn’t looking promising, and to be honest, we weren’t really paying attention.
The race began with 500 people rushing the start line through clouds of smoke and fire and an audience of about 1,000 people cheering on the last set of runners to hit the course. The time: 1:03pm. When the six of us crossed the start line, we didn’t realize that it would be pitch back before we would cross the final obstacles. Spartan, like all adventure races, attempt to make you miserable, cold and muddy right off the bat. During a slight uphill we jumped in and over three trenches about 6 feet in length and 10 feet apart through waist deep muddy water and nearly inescapable mudslides if you fell in. Everett took lead and instead of trying to jump over, decided to nearly cannonball into the first chasm. Two fire hoses shot into the air and on all of us and less than 1/10th of a mile in, we were drenched and cold.
Slowing climbing one of the slopes we began a series of over/under obstacles; over 3-6 foot walls and under cargo nets, back and forth until we were about 1/4 of the way up the first peak. We were then greeted with more trenches, about 4x as big as the first, requiring you to trudge through waist deep water for about 20 feet or so. It was here that we were presented with our first view, even though we were still far from the first peak. A 12 foot cargo net was next, and it was the only thing holding us back from our second major climb to near the top of the first section of Killington. At the 2/3 mark of the first peak, we ducked under about 50 feet on barbed wire hidden on the course, where Spencer took a nice chunk of flesh out of his forehead; the makings of hopefully a badass scar.
Up this climb, we also tackled two 7-foot walls, me nearly killing Nick and breaking his shoulder, and other racers helping us climb and help each other over the wall. The walls were the first obstacle we were required to be creative with, and doing this particular race on ones own had to have been a challenge.
The walls marked our last uphill climb for a little while and we completed our first mud crawl and monkey bars obstacles. The mud crawls have and will always be one of my favorite obstacles. You’re crawling in mud, water, grass and most importantly; jagged rocks. The barbed wire fluctuated from being around 9-12 inches off the ground, and trying to get through with a Camelbak posed a challenge for some of us. The easy method: tuck and roll… and roll and roll and roll.
The obstacles were easy. They weren’t always simplistic to complete on the first time; requiring 30 burpees per fair, but the obstacles were the easy part of Spartan. The hills; the HILLS would be the actual challenge. After climbing the first three miles or so, it was safe to say that on our first major descent towards the start line, that while we were looking forward to what the Beast could offer us, we were hurting. Mile four marked two more obstacles; a traverse walk (think horizontal rock climbing) and the first rope climb. The traverse wall got half of us, and out of any obstacles we failed going forward, I think this was the one that was the most frustrating. Eddie and Jordan were waiting for us at this point and we took a picture break before we continued on for Miles 4-14.
Team Eye Sex completed the first four miles in a horrifically slow time; but time wasn’t the point. Our objectives were finish line or die, time was irrelevant. Mile 4 marked another mud crawl, an opportunity for us to stay cold and muddy, and this time it was all uphill. Imagine being on your hands and knees, being sprayed with cold water, covered in mud and climbing uphill on your stomach. For the average person; this sounded to be a nightmare; for most of us – another Saturday adventure race. For Brian, a perfect opportunity for Eye Sex.
It was during this moment that Nick and I plowed into each other, Everett screamed when his bandana got caught on the wire (NBLB = No Bandana Left Behind) and Spencer and Devin were rolling along trying to get up the muddy hill. Getting through the barbed wire probably took us about 15-20 minutes before we began our second climb up the second-highest peak at the mountain. We were expecting to go straight to the top when a sudden turn brought us back down once more to face the obstacle we were the most familiar with from the morning session: The Tarzan Swing. An obstacle that more than 80% of people failed in the morning was more challenging doing it, than watching it. Call it exhaustion, call it a lack of endurance; I’d prefer to call it a one-way trip to Burpee Island for more of us. Worth it. I actually enjoy burpees, although after the entire course, I don’t think any of us enjoy them anymore.
After Tarzan Swing, the beast was winning, but we weren’t giving up. A hike through the woods in flat and slightly uphill sections lead to us a 150lb boulder on a pulley that we had to pull up 20 feet and then set it down nicely; “Don’t just drop it!” the stoner-of-a-volunteer yelled at us. It was here that Everett learned the difference between pink and blue and just because he wanted to lift the boulder that matched his camelback and bandana; man needs to read/listen to instructions so he doesn’t have to do certain obstacles more than once. After the boulder, another steep climb, through the woods; rounding out Mile 5. In front of us a board with 100 combinations; a word followed by a seven digit number. We were instructed to memorize this number and we’d have to repeat it “much, much later” down the course. Hotel 143 5526. I’ll never forget it.
More obstacles; mostly ones none of us remember their existence or order they came in came through Miles 7-9 until we reached the Sandbags. Challenge: take a 70 pound sand bag up a steep hill, get your picture taken, then bring the bag back down the mountain. Exhaustion was pretty abundant at this point but we all thrusted through it; we had no choice. Another lifting challenge, then a water challenge on a singular rope out to hit a bell and swim back. Darkness was beginning to set in, and head lamps and glowsticks were now going to be required for the remainder of the race. After search for my headlamp, I came to the realization that I left it in the car and started popping 20-30 glowsticks to hand out, hopefully no one on the course noticing that I didn’t have a head lamp.
We splashed through more mud, up some hills, down home hills and entered the final wooded climb. I love rock climbing and I love hiking, but this wasn’t either. This was a full-blown scaling the side of the mountain one foot at a time, climbing over 2,000 feet in less than 2 miles. I speak for the group that this was a breaking point for most of us, and constantly looking straight up seeing climbers 30-40 feet from you nearly above your head and line of vision was nauseating. It was without a doubt one of the toughest parts of the day, and at this point – it was near blackness. At least an hour into the climb, if not more we emerged at the top, and the sky opened. There’s a difference between rain in your daily commute, or running from building to building, and when you’re at the top of the mountain with no cover or protection and your only direction to go is down.
Rain, appropriately enough made the final obstacles a bit more challenging; my personal favorite being the log jump – a series of 7 logs in a row you had to jump one by one to get to the other side without falling. I think we all passed it. Another steep climb, after we had thought to be at the top brought us up the actual peak, and the pouring rain; the combination of being 12 miles into the Beast and the temperature averaging just at 50 degrees made the final descent to be freezing.
The last two miles needs no words, and I don’t want to go into much detail on this part of the course, but we’re still having dreams about it. Think a 2-mile long mudslide down the mountain on trails; hearing ankles and bones popping, screaming people, sliding down 10-20 feet at a time only to find a tree to grab onto and stopping yourself, and doing so without a headlamp. For Everett’s sake, for proof in writing; Everett was my hero at this point. Did we all have support from each other on the course and did we meet some very nice girls (Hi Candy, Hi Jennifer) – yes. But Everett stepped up and was my shining light down this final hill so I could see. If only he read instructions and stopped doing the “Ladies” section of each of the lifting obstacles, I would’ve given him the “I saved your life” he so desperately wants, but alas – we all have our faults.
It wasn’t until this final descent that we split up; not for any other reason but our safety. This was extremely dangerous, unbelievably stupid, and made us never want to run in the dark in the race again. A few more obstacles, throwing a Javelin that I think we all failed (did anyone do burpees on this?) and jumping over the final firepit to end at the finish line.
There was no grace, there was no sense of entitlement, and all inhibitions we may have had with one another were thrown away at the start line. We all had breaking points, we all had a sense of fear down that final mountain. We finished together because we started together; we had a goal and we accomplished it. Spartan’s slogan is, “You’ll Know at the Finish Line.” Undeniably true statement.
“We did what we were trained to do, what we were bred to do, what we were born to do… Hundreds leave, a handful stay. Only one looks back.” – 300 (2006)
3:45am would be the death of us as mortals and the birth of Spartans. A 21-hour adventure from BTV to Killington, VT for six men looking for a challenge of epic proportion, one that none of us could have expected or prepared for. The air was cold and windy, a condition we would get used to throughout the day and there was still 2 ½ hours until daylight as our two cars began the drive to Killington Mountain Resort, about 2 hours away. On arrival, still in darkness, four trailers bearing “Spartan Race – You’ll Know at the Finish Line” stood in front of us in the volunteer parking lot and complete with muddy, cold and emotionless faces completing obstacles we knew we would conquer before the day was over.
To provide some context, Spartan Race is a series of Adventure Races located throughout the United States and six other countries that features 3 different lengths. The Spartan Sprint is a 3.1+ mile race with 15+ obstacles, Spartan Super (8+ miles, 20+ obstacles) and finally the Beast coming in at 13.1+ miles, or half-marathon length plus 25 or more obstacles. People throughout the world compete in multiple Spartan races and lengths throughout the year and earn points based on their standings and places throughout the year. By completing one of each of the three of the races, (Sprint, Super and Beast) one earns the Trifecta Medal (if all three are completed in the same year.)
Killington, VT hosted the 2012 World Championships of Spartan Race and we would have the opportunity to interact (even briefly) with Spartan legends during our volunteer session, as we cheered them through the race. First prize: $5,000.00. Further, anyone interested in completing the Ultra Beast (basically the beast, but run twice) the winner would receive $10,000.00. We found out that morning that the course was more than 13.1 miles, but no one gave us confirmation of the official distance until we finished that evening.
After moving our cars into a lot we probably shouldn’t have parked in, but we were all glad we did, we headed to the registration table to get signed in for our volunteer section. We were Section #1, received our T-shirts, Gatorade, water, sandwiches, chips and granola bars, and after an uncomfortable 75 minutes of standing around, we were led by our Volunteer Coordinator onto the course and would begin a 6-hour volunteer shift. Five students; Brian Culmo, Spencer Cray, Everett Ackerman, Nick Pugs and Devin Carter and I were in two different locations towards Mile 4 and Mile 14 of the course. Mile 4 was a water obstacle called “Tarzan Swing” which featured a 25+ yard swim out to a bridge where a rope ladder would lead up 10 feet above the water to four hanging ropes. These ropes, tied off at the bottom would be handles for competitors to swing from rope to rope to a 5th, white rope with a bell tied on the end. By crossing the obstacle, using brute upper body strength and a little bit of strategic management, one would hit the bell, fall in the water and head over to shore – about a 30-35+ yard swim. The catch: only about 20% or less actually completed this obstacle, leading to the majority of participants heading to what we declared, “Burpee Island.”
Spartan is cruel and more demanding than most adventure races for one reason; if you fail an obstacle, you complete 30 burpees; an exercise that demands stamina, a strong stomach and willpower to get you past your first set of ten. Burpee Island was heavily populated throughout the day, requiring all failing competitors to swim an additional 50+ yards and do burpees; IN the water.
Burpee Island: Population – 2,000+ people.
Leading runners into this cold, grueling swim was Everett at the loud speaker, explaining the obstacle, yelling at a few to go faster. Brian and Spencer greeted the runners coming into the obstacle, Nick stationed originally at Burpee Island and then visiting me on the Island of Success – the beach you’d reach if you hit the bell and completed the obstacle. Devin took one for the team and was stationed at the Javelin Throw – a 30 foot throw into a straw target, or 30 more burpees would be required.
Knowing that we would all be running this course at 1:00pm during the Volunteer heat, we all took notes on how competitors were doing, and tried to get a grasp (literally) of how to complete this obstacle. The whole purpose of volunteering, other than our desire to help out at multiple events throughout the XC season, is that if you volunteer for 6+ hours, you get to race for FREE ($13.14 total cost because of insurance.) 6:45am-12:45pm got us to the race early, warmed up us (the only time we would be warm that day) and got us ready for the exposure to the extreme elements and course that is Spartan.
We were released a bit early, since our Coordinator knew we were running the race, and I’m not sure if he felt sorry for us for the pain we’d endure, or he just had an exceptional memory, but 6 hours after we first met, he wished us good luck and we took off to the parking lot to suit up.
Glow sticks. Head lamps. Camelbaks. Backpacks. Clifbars. Candy. Powerbars. Clifshots. Powergels. Gu. Ten items that would give us our only hope throughout the race, we were required to carry the entire race. Spartan decided that this would be the first race to be mostly self-supported, with only two water stops along the course, neither of which would have any energy or fuel; just water. They also reminded us that we could treat any of the water on the course ponds, if we have the equipment.
We grabbed our bib numbers, pins, tracking chips, timers, wristbands and all required equipment to reach the start line, filled up our backpacks with all nutrition and fuel, and rushed to the starting line; our race starting in 8 minutes. The start line was filled with the last heat of the day, a nervous tension throughout the air, some smiles, but mostly deep breathing and loosening up.
Nearly 12-hours after our day had begun, we were starting what would be the toughest experience of our lives; a race that would bring us closer, reveal our breaking points, and ultimately a test of determination and will-power that would bring six men together for an experience we will never forget.
Part 2: Start to Finish coming soon!
This Tuesday the team ran at the last of Catamount 5k trail run races. The course was different as usual, it was a new black arrows on yellow, which meant it was way faster, flatter, and wider trails than usual. The new course, and less than 5k distance made for a seemingly very quick race. everyone ran well, with some great performances on the trails. There was a nice sprint finish amongst Ethan and Everett, and everyone enjoyed running fast on the trails. Despite forecasted rain, the real heavy weather held off until after the finish, with only light rain and winds to contend with during the race.
Results (distance <3 miles ish)
Div Place Name Overall place Time
3 Brian Culmo 5 16:39.2 7 Spencer Cray 13 17:52.5 8 Jacob Mott 18 18:42.2 9 Ethan Farmer 21 18:48.7 10 Everett Ackerman 22 18:49.5 13 Elias Connolly 36 19:55.5 16 Eric Heiman 75 23:12.0
4 Katherine Ramsey 51 21:04.9
Seven students raced last Sunday morning at the Archie Post 5-Miler, Vermont’s oldest road race of 44 years. The five mile course sweeps through back neighborhoods of South Burlington and winds into UVM’s bike trail back to Gutterson for the finish. In one of the fastest and most competitive races Archie Post has seen, with both male and female records shattered, Champlain XC held their own among the competitors.
Katherine R. (37:47), Alicia T. (40:35), Ellen V. (41:30)
Brian C. (30:18), Jacob M. (35:59), Elias C. (38:19), Eric H. (45:15)
Brian C. led the team coming in 22nd overall out of the pool of 115 runners. Solid times for a first race of our XC season with plenty of opportunity to lower these times drastically over the next two months.
Oh, and Elias won a pie. First XC Runner in Champlain’s history to win a pie by winning his age group.