Friday, November 2, 2012

Ghost Train Ultra 2012- My First Crewing and Pacing Experience

Ghost Train Ultra
October 27-28th
Brookline - Milford, NH
7.5 mile trail out-and-back course
Runner crewed and paced: Jesse Veinotte

RD extraordinaire, Steve Latour gives the runners the go-ahead

The Ghost Train Ultra was my first 100 miler. Upon hearing of my completed attempt, Bob Crowley, of TARC fame, mentioned to me, that "You will always be the the first person to have run and won a 100 mile race in the state of New Hampshire". I never really looked at that way but find it pretty cool. It's something I can brag to my kids about when they get older!  The course, the cause, the volunteers and the awesome runners that take part, all make this event special to me. So when my running mate, Jesse Veinotte, asked me to crew and pace him for this first 100 mile attempt, I jumped at the chance.

Jesse's wife, little son and myself positioned our self on the south end (Brookline) of the trail after the racers took off. The eight minute drive between the north and south side allowed us to get a cup of maple joe from a local place up the street. Our plan going in was to run till we drop. Jesse had 3 time goals on paper and looked solid out of the gate.

I have never crewed before, so I wanted to make sure I had everything in line. Bottles filled, food restocked and questions like "have you been eating/drinking", "how do you feel", and comments like, "eat this" and "no don't eat that". For the most part I think I did OK. I didn't have my med bag when we needed to lance a blister and did it the hard way with a knife (non-sterile) and finger nails. Luckily enough, it was early in the race and Jesse didn't seem to mind. I know from experience, the small things can really irritate a runner with 40-50 miles under their feet, but with Jesse, he just took it in stride.

With Jesse on his way to the north side (Milford), I helped Bill Howard and the aid crew on the south side for a bit. I ended up doing this on both sides while waiting for Jesse and had a blast doing it. I met so many cool people, some trail runners, racers and a bunch of non-running volunteers. We shared running stories and life stories all day long.
Must be red shirt day?
It was around the 15 mile mark when I realized Jesse was feeling good. Maybe too good! He was ahead of all his splits and smiling. After crossing the bridge, I refilled and prepared him for his return to the south side.

The crew then went for lunch. If there is one thing that I've learned from reading posts and race reports, is that the crew and pacer needs to be feed...all day, in order for them to be actually useful. We stopped at a nice restaurant called Chrysanthi's and had sandwiches. I went with the Buffalo Sizzler. Good grub if your in the area.

This process was repeated throughout the daylight hours. We would wait, and wait, and wait, eat, and then scramble for 2 minutes when Jesse arrived. Jesse mentioned around mile 30 that he was going to call it at mile 45. He was tired, his legs hurt and so on. I questioned his manhood and he continued.

That's right, keep walking!

Around this point in the run, Jesse must have met up with Jeff Lane. I've known Jeff for a few years now and know  that he can finish a 100 miler in style. They seemed to be running a similar pace and was hoping this veteran would help the rookie out.

Jesse's Dad came on aboard around 4pm. Amanda and Matthew had been relieved of crewing duties and headed home to get some much needed rest. Dave was a great addition to the crew and had some awesome war stories. No, I'm serious, he was in the Korean War and his stories were unreal.

I continued eating and drinking. I brought a few things myself, but was now munching off the aid table. I'm not sure if this was proper etiquette, but I figured I'd be eating off it in a few hours anyway during my pacing endeavors. I neglected any sorts of caffeine, except for the morning cup, knowing that it would be my saviour come night fall.

Dave and I chatted it up for a bit at the Milford section waiting for Jesse to finish his 45th mile. His mom, Mary showed up to crew for a bit and had the pleasure to witness the lancing of the blister. I know she was concerned for his health but I told her he was in good hands and that I'd get him through the night. I also met Levi, a CO transplant, now living in NH. He was the aid captain on the Milford side and had finished Hardrock this summer. He had some amazing stories to tell about the course, the night running and the experience. Man I love this sport! You can literally live through others' experiences  and travel the country in your mind.

After Jesse headed southbound, Mary took off, and Dave and I headed to get some grub. We made our way to Chrysanthi's for some pizza. The subs were good in the afternoon and the meat lovers pizza was spectacular in the evening. More of Dave's war stories past the time and before you know it, Jesse would soon be at the turn-around. With about 20 minutes to spare, we headed out, made the 2 minute drive down the street (how convenient) and met up with Bill Howard and crew on the Brookline side.

Things were starting to quiet down on the trail. Bill mentioned many had JUST run the 30 mile option today. I must admit that I loved to hear many folks say that today. "I'm just running 30 today". That's awesome. Jesse and Jeff Lane appeared out of the darkness 5 minutes later, right on schedule. We filled bottles and feed the boys rather quickly. A quick bathroom break for Jesse and they were off. Game time for me was now in a little over 2 hours.

Dave and I made the trek back to Milford and I quickly put on my running gear. In the bathroom, I had the pleasure to meet one of my blog followers, who must have recognized me or my trusty Tecnica's. He mentioned that he reads the blog often and now wears Tecnica's as his go-to trail shoe. Thanks (insert name here)! Sorry I forgot your name!!! And thanks for following!!!

I was getting a bit nervous at this point. I have never paced anyone, let alone a first time 100 miler. Jesse seemed to be in good shape but there was still 40 miles to run and many hours ahead of us. I wasn't really sure of the approach I was going to take in reference to pacing him. I've read many race reports and most say to keep your runner feed and hydrated with reminders every 10-20 minutes or so. I thought about talking about mechanics and footwork, but with 60 miles under foot (and the longest distance run by Jesse), I figured any forward progress was good progress.

60 down and 40 to go!!

As Jeff and Jesse came in, my confidence grew. I knew the three of us would talk it up and the miles would tick away. And they did. I quickly noticed that the pace was slow (as it should be, we are at mile 60!), and that I needed to dial it back down and let the boys do the leading. I followed, but had a hard time running. In fact, I fast-walked for awhile before I could find a very uncomfortable shuffle-like walk rhythm.

We talked about races, racers and life. Where we stood in regards to the 100 milers remaining and how many miles to the next aid. Jeff and Jesse had the mileage down quite well by now and I had the memory of the trail like it was yesterday.

From partaking in a few of these 100 mile things, I know that  it hurts less when you run than when you walk. At this point, there seemed to be bit of walking going on. I mentioned to the guys that we should run to the next road crossing then take a break. Cross the road, down the hill and then start our running again at the base. They agreed and we were off. I did this for the rest of the lap and pretty much for the remainder of the race. Just picking landmarks and breaking the race down into manageable pieces. A 100 miles is daunting, but running 2 miles or even a 1/2 is not so bad. Nobody seemed to balk at my selection of landmarks, how close or how far they where, they just ran. I joked that I probably could have chosen a path through the woods, bushwhacking-like, and they would have followed. The 100 mile stare and mindset was in full effect!

The first out and back seemed to go by a bit quicker with our landmark running technique installed. We actually finished miles 60-75 in good time. I believe it was a bit faster than the last two 15 mile splits. Miles 75-90 were a bit slower and the realization of the sub-24 100 miler slowly began to slip away. At one point we had 5 hours to get 25 miles. On a normal day, that would be in the bag, but today was a bit different. My body at this point was spiraling downward. The run-shuffle I adopted from the start was using muscles that I don't normally train with. My upper hip extensors and upper hamstrings were barking at me. So much that I thought these two guys were going to drop me.

I didn't want to mention anything to either of the two but Jeff asked how I was and I replied "fine". I think he knew something was up. That's the last thing I wanted to do. Complain to a couple of dudes that have been running for over twenty hours. I just dealt with it and did my job.

With 10 left and the sun rising in the sky (which was beautiful by the way), we knew 24 hours was out of the question. It was survival time. Jeff took off a bit before the 5-mile turn-around and seemed to be running quite strong for a PR and a second time finish on this course. We joked  that he is now the first person to finish a 100-miler in the state of NH, two years in a row. Solid Jeff.

Jesse hit a few walls in the last 10 miles, but he never gave up. Breaking it down into manageable pieces seemed to help and we just kept plugging away. I got to give many props to Jesse. He never lost his cool. Never got upset when goals times passed by or when times got tough. I learned a lot from him during this race.

In my own experiences, not hitting a goal time, getting passed by runners that (in my own twisted mind) should not be passing me, and just staying in the moment and running my own race are things that I need to work on. Jesse helped me do this. I am so glad that he asked me help out in his first 100 mile experience. Being apart of something like this is so rewarding. Seeing people finish their first ultra, whether it be 30 miles or 100 miles is sweet. Also, being able to see the shape the 100 milers are in is just plain horrifying. They are like zombies for crying out loud!! Like I said, I've never seen this side of it and it was quite startling (do I look that bad???).

IMPORTANT NOTE: All you 100 milers this weekend and in general are BADASS!!! You work 9 to 5's. You have a family. You train at 4am during the work week and run all day on the weekends. Seeing it from the other side and hearing the stories truly makes me proud to be part of this sport. Thank you.

Must give a final shout out to Steve Latour, Buddy Daugherty and Chris and Linda on the Milford-side for putting on a great race once again. Also like to thank Katie Gould at Tecnica for providing us with the footwear. Both Jesse and I ran in the Tecnica Diablo Max for the entire race.

Full results can be found here
Video and Pics from race can be found here

Some more pics from race weekend:

The last 1/4 mile!!!

The Finish Line with the family. Done!!

The Three J's: Jesse, myself, and Jeff


  1. Excellent recap and great job pacing!

    1. Thanks trailgrrl! I am really looking forward to my next pacing and crewing assignment. Anybody need one?

  2. Great post! Nice to see the first time NH 100 milers back together again!

    Steve Latour

    1. Thanks Steve! We both had a blast again. Thanks so much for putting this on. Your efforts are appreciated by so many.

  3. Good stuff! I especially look like my legs are tired in that bridge crossing photo. Great job pacing, thanks again.

  4. Great report. It was good meeting you the other night even if it was in the bathroom. It sounds like Jesse had a great race.

    On a side note have you ever tried the Technica Dragon Max GTX for trail running? I had trouble finding another pair of the Diablo Max in my size before the race and picked up a pair of the Dragons cheap. I used them for the 60 miles I ran at Ghost train with only one minor issue. The ball of my right foot became sore after about 20miles. I had noticed the same issue on a couple of training runs but associated it with rocks or roots. After having the same problem again I have to wonder if it is the shoes. Never had this problem with the Diablo Max.


    1. Brandyn, nice meeting you too. Jesse was a stud and finished it strong. Concerning the shoes, I have never tried the Dragon Max before but will forward this info the the Tecnica rep I deal with. She is awesome and will surely help you out. Email me at justincontoisatyahoodotcom so I can have her contact you.

  5. If they run all weekend, how do they spend time with their family, like you reported?