Why I Ride…
A heartfelt account of racing with the Vermont 50
(editor’s note-this is why I’m volunteering 60+ hours per week for two months!)
My first VT50 was in 2000 when I came up to crew for my brother who was running the race. Just days before I had been at the funeral of my closest college friend who tragically died in a motorcycle accident. I was devastated by the loss and not really sure how to handle it. It was a beautiful fall weekend and I managed to get out for the start, awed and a bit puzzled that so many people would elect to get up so early to go race 50 miles. I spent the morning cruising around the area to the different aid stations to catch up with my brother or driving into Woodstock to get some breakfast. By mid-day I found myself sitting along a dirt road watching all the racers come through and I was struck by what a positive experience it was. It was a beautiful thing to watch so many people push themselves through the course. I ran with my brother for the last several miles and I was thrilled to cross the finish line with him and still see people cheering him on. I knew that I had to return one day to race myself.
Finally, in 2007 (I believe) I was ready to race the VT50 on my own. Signed up for the singlespeed class, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into other than wanting to return to the site where I first felt the desire to race and where I somehow felt the need to honor my friend. It was a rainy year and the course (and I) were slow. But the sense of camaraderie I felt with the other racers was like nothing I had experienced. I chatted with other riders as we suffered up the climbs. I congratulated people as they passed me and they did the same as I passed them. I was blown away by how connected I felt to everyone out there. The sense of accomplishment I got from finishing was so rewarding. Injured in 2008, I couldn’t return, but I vowed I would.
In 2009 I got back and raced ss again. This time I was in better shape and ready to push myself harder. Again, the positive spirit of the group was so good and I finished the race significantly better, ending up 5th ss and, I think, 21st overall. A commitment to the VT50 was born. In 2010 I returned with my wife and first daughter for the weekend. I remember running into you at the Brownsville store the day before the race while we ate giant pancakes as a family. We loved spending a couple days in Vermont, taking our daughter out for walks and the race, again, went better than expected. Somehow I ended up finishing 15th overall and at that point I was now recognizing familiar faces along the race course, catching up with people like old friends even though we only saw each other for a few hours each year on the roads and trails around Ascutney. A love affair was brewing. In 2011 I had my best finish yet, coming in 5th overall, 2nd singlespeed. I had the same great feeling of finding old friends and bonding with everyone. The volunteers were amazing, as always, and I left Vermont on a total high.
This year I return for my 5th VT50 to race. Earlier this summer a student of mine (I’m a middle school math teacher) died in a bicycle accident and three days later I crashed while mountain biking and put myself in the hospital for a couple days. I vowed that I would recover in time to race the VT50 (I have) and to honor both my college friend and my student by finishing as best as I can. Your race has a spiritual quality for me. In years past I have found myself in tears in the latter part of the race because I am so grateful to be alive, to have great friends and family and to be so fortunate to participate in an event like the VT50. I’m overjoyed to make it back this year – I can’t wait for this weekend. I know I will suffer through the climbs and push myself to the limit and that I will have the amazing memories of those no longer with me, along with the great spirit of my new VT50 friends to carry me through.
Thank you for putting on this race and for letting us all gather in Vermont to ride and run together for whatever reason we do it. I’ll be racing for Kyle and Merritt and for my wife and kids. I’m not sure that I’ve even adequately described what this race means to me. Please know that it is very special for me and, likely, for so many others.
I hope I’ll get to see you to thank you in-person.