Now that I’ve had a few days to let everything settle down, including the achy legs, I’m ready to put down on (metaphorical) paper what would become one of my favorite races so far. That’s a hefty way to start this but you will understand by the end.
I heard of this race, The Vegan Power Ultra, last year and had wanted to run it. I was already running a 50k though (The TARC Summer Classic) and figured doing two within a few months (when I had never done 1 to begin with) might be a bad idea. It was my first attempt at an ultra and I wanted to make sure I finished. So I passed and waited until 2016.
For 2016 though, I decided against the 50k option and did the 25k. I’m really glad I did. Even before the race I hadn’t run enough for 30+ miles and I knew it would result in a DNF with the lack of training. So rather than do that, it was the 25k for me. I’m glad I chose it because it gave me an opportunity to hang with my new-found teammates on the Strong Hearts Vegan Power team.
I also met a bunch of people I’ve chatted with online. This group of racers, volunteers and spectators were all genuinely kind and considerate. I don’t think I saw a frown the whole day. Even when racers got injured and had to drop out, they did so with a smile and didn’t beat themselves up over it. The overall feeling of the day was amazing, I haven’t felt that calm and centered since I went on a meditation retreat a few years back.
But I digress, let’s talk about my night before real quick. Driving to Pittsfield, MA from Cape Cod is a 3.5-4 hour drive depending on traffic. Upon my wifes recommendation, I went up the night before so I didn’t have to drive up that morning and could get a good nights sleep. Being the cheap prick I am I booked a room at the Motel 6 in Chicopee. I got there at roughly 6:30-7pm and quickly check in and headed to Northampton to grab something to eat a highly recommended place, Paul and Elizabeth’s. I decided on the Thai-Style Seitan and Udon Noodle Sauté and took it to go. Honestly, I had tried to order from a place called Bela first but they don’t allow to-go orders and are super high-end, which is kind of bullshit, but whatever.
On the ride home I saw a Target, and we don’t have one of those near the Cape. Why mention Target in a race report? Well this has nothing to do with the race but has EVERYTHING to do with cookies. You see, they are one of the few places to sell Hamptons Creeks “Just Cookies” and I had to have some. So, I bought some.
I got back to my room, and tore into my dinner. I had such high hopes and was let down. First, I was told how spicy it was and that it’s a “good thing I like spice because it’s spicy.” That’s what I was told at least. It wasn’t. The seitan was super soggy and was just like hot mush. The meal was a complete let down, but I finished it because I needed the veggies, carbs and protein for the race the next day. After trying an AMAZING cookie, I went to bed.
No sooner had I gone to sleep, ok maybe a couple of hours after, the flippin fire alarms started going off and multiple fire engines rolled. The alarm went off for nearly 45 minutes and made it impossible to go back to sleep until it was done. Once they left and reset the alarm I was about to fall back asleep made 30 minutes later. The alarm clock on my phone came way too soon and I was not ready to get up, but I had to.
I ate some breakfast and started making my way toward Pittsfield. It’s been some time since I’ve been in any sort of mountain range. I realize the Berkshires are no Rockies, but I was still humbled by the mountains and their grandeur made my heart flutter a bit. I think I lived in the mountains in a previous life. Maybe I was a mountain yogi or something, I feel really at peace around mountains. But anyway…
I arrived and said hello to my brothers and sisters of SHVP and went over to registration. I finally met Ana Wolf, the RD, and she is just as genuinely nice in person as she is online. I wasn’t sure someone could carry that kindness into the real world, but you have to be real person to do so and she is. The event, while somewhat small, takes some major work to do. From co-ordinating volunteers, getting medals done up, designing and printing t-shirts, co-ordinating with the beneficiary of race funds, etc. Ana did it all and with grace, it was never about her but about everyone else. She is amazing.
10am came rather quick and it was go time. I was as ready as I was going to be and hit the first hill, the only major hill on the course, as hard as I could. I had heard people saying how it should be taken slow and I did on lap 2 and 3. I wanted to get out as quick as I could, which time and again, proves to be my downfall as I can’t seem to sustain that energy the whole race. Regardless, it’s how it went this time, again.
The trails were absolutely gorgeous and were marked extremely well, probably the best I’ve seen at a race. They were dry but not dusty. There were spots that were quite rocky and were also filled with roots. At times you could see people who looked like they had been running a mud run as they were quite dirty from clipping a root or two.The days weather was great and was warm but no muggy. The flora and fauna was green and healthy. It wasn’t until later that I noticed I probably touched some poison oak at some point. Yeah, It’s really itchy right now!
Lap 1 went off pretty well. I was 5-6 minutes slower than I really wanted to be but I was having fun and I wasn’t really looking to push it, I just wanted to finish. The third lap, during the last mile, the wheels started to come off a bit and I’m really glad I stuck with the 25k option. I finished my race in 3 hours and 48 minutes. Not an awesome time, it’s not competitive in the least. But again, that was not my goal. I hit my goal; I finished.
I had so much fun. After the run there was all sorts of vegan grub to be had. There was pizza from Baba Louies, rice and curried veggies from Veggie Galaxy. There were other items that folk brought such as brownies, bars and all sorts of treats. I absolutely devoured my bowl of curries veggies and rice. Having burnt nearly 1,500 calories I was famished.
Overall, I would do this race again and again. I hope to make it next year and might even dare to try the 50k option and make it my second 50k race. I don’t think I could pick a better race to support and accomplish that goal. I want to thank my teammates who supported me, supported each-other, supported other runners, supported Ana and more importantly supported Vine Sanctuary, who was the beneficiary of the race funds; over $6000! Thank you to the volunteers who were all gracious, and thank you to Ben Kimball for all the amazing race photos.
I can’t wait to go back next year!!
ps. Congrats to SHVP teammates Jason and Samantha for winning the men’s and women’s 50k races and to our first relay team for taking home the crown.