Vermont 50 MTB Race
by Rick Harbison • October 12, 2018
It was another great year for the Vermont 50. This race never disappoints, and never gets any easier -- 50 miles, 8,000 feet of climbing, 6am start in the dark, temps in the high 30's... One perk about starting at 6am is the sunrise is usually quite epic.This year did not disappoint.
My overarching (now multi-year) goal for this race is to do it in sub 5 hours. In the last few years I've managed to shave a few minutes off my time, going from 5:15 to 5:10, but I haven't been able to crack the 5 hour mark. This year would prove to be even more difficult as the course was slightly longer, wetter, and had more windy, technical singletrack.
The first half of the race has the most amount of dirt roads and doubletrack so I went out quick to take advantage of the faster terrain while I was fresh. As in previous years, I signed up for the Sport Division, which was probably a mistake since I had to pass all the slower Experts that started 5-10 minutes before. (I mostly race Expert, but when I first did the VT50 a few years ago I signed up in Sport since I hadn't raced in awhile and fell into the routine I guess).
At around the halfway mark, with some of the biggest climbing out of the way, I was still feeling strong. I knew I was in the lead (for Sport), but I usually cramp up (debilitatingly) at around mile 35, so I was waiting for that hammer to drop, and then there's always the possibility of a mechanical... Nevertheless, I was cautiously optimistic the race was going well.
The second half of the course featured A LOT of singletrack. Not to complain of course, but after awhile you start wondering if there can be too much of a good thing. With about 45 minutes to go I began to realize the 5 hour mark was close, but slipping away. I picked up the pace as much as I could manage, but the single track made it difficult.
In the end I finished in 5:01:46. Once again the sub 5 hour race eluded me, but I was close! I ended up winning the Sport Division (and a large thing of Maple Syrup) and came in 55th place overall. All in all I'm happy with the effort, shocked I didn't cramp, and thinking that next year I'll go out with the Experts and hopefully make up 2 minutes somewhere.