by Rick Harbison • October 17, 2019
It's hard to believe, but this is my 5th year in a row doing the Vermont 50. As with the other times I've done it, this year the weather held up beautifully. I've heard horror stories about doing the race in 40 degrees and rain and mud, but so far I've lucked out with good fall weather and dry conditions every time. This year the temperature at the start was mid-50's, so no need even for arm warmers.
My big goal this year, as with every other year, was to try and finish in under 5 hours. I've made steady progress on this goal over the years (from 5:15 to 5:10 to 5:05 to 5:01 last year), so I knew I had a chance if I could manage to not cramp and put together a good race.
This year I had a couple of things in my favor. I had a good spot at the start and went out hard early so I was able to avoid the conga lines in the beginning. I was also able to tuck in and get a beneficial draft with a few small, fast groups on the road sections. Familiarity with the course certainly helps too for knowing where to pace your efforts and what's coming up next.
After the first few hours I had a feeling I was on pace for under 5 hours, but hoping I hadn't burned too many matches early. In previous years I've cramped up rather spectacularly at around 3:30 hours, so I was relieved when I passed that mark. At the 4:30 hour mark I was still feeling ok, but doing the math in my head I knew it was going to be close.
For the last prolonged climb (about 500 feet or so up a meadow) I decided to stand up and attack. I really didn't want to have a situation like last year where I missed by a minute. At one point I got stuck behind a slower rider on the last single track section and felt bad for hounding him, but he finally moved over and I let it rip on the final downhill.
After all that, I managed to finish in 4:57:19. Not a huge margin, but certainly happy with it. A major goal accomplished and a monkey off my back. As far as results I placed 62nd overall, and 22nd in my division.
Next year I'll have an infant to contend with so I'm not sure what that'll mean for riding and training, but hopefully I can do this race again and who knows, maybe improve upon my time. Many thanks to Bikeman for the support and the Vermont 50 race organizers for another great race.