The Jay Challenge

The Jay Challenge
Jay, Vermont
July 28th 2007

More Photos Here:
Professional Photos by Mathew DeLorme

Wow, I am glad that one is in the books.
I went into this race with very high hopes. After having come off of a strong ultra two weeks ago at the SOB in Ashland – 3rd place, I had myself convinced that I was primed to pounce on this run. Not exactly. I was caught off guard a little bit in the Jay Challenge by the sheer difficultly of the race. Yeah, I read the Race Director’s Warning (below) and his claim that this was the hardest marathon ever put together, but honestly, I thought is was just hype – the classic RD pumping the event up trick. It wasn’t hype or a trick.

I made a few critical errors in judgment in regard to this race. Thinking that because I live in the mountains of the west, no “mountain” of Vermont could hurt me. That was my first mistake. The 9-mile run to the top of Jay Peak was every bit of the 4,000 gain they said it was, but felt like more -- in the attached photo titled Jay Peak we ran up an around the structure on the left hand side of the tallest peak and then down the ski run on the right hand side of the photo. Beautiful country by the way, of which I have gained much respect for. Beautiful except for the swarms of horse flies bouncing off my head and gnawing into my shoulders during the race. Beings that I run in the heat all the time at home and actually prefer it for training, I figured I was dialed in to deal with the elements. Second mistake. It was hot and very humid. Much different than what I am used to in Oregon. I was sweating more at all times during this race than any run at home when its been 100 degrees, which brings me to my third mistake. No water bottles. I reasoned that since there were a few aid stations and that there were multiple river crossings during the run (to keep my body temp down – theoretically burning less fluid), I wouldn’t need to pack any water. That one almost cost me. I was severely dried out the last six miles of the 33 mile race – and couldn’t help by think, “Haven’t I learned this lesson before?” Guess not. This time it will stick though, I am sure of that. I was yearning for those water bottles, the ones I hate so much to carry while racing.

For the first 24 or 25 miles of the punishing run, I was doing fairly well, as I was cruising in 3rd place just a few minutes back from the leader. However, I knew I was fighting a loosing battle. My legs surely didn’t have the spring I was used to and dehydration seemed to be sucking my power. Was it because I’d raced back-to-back ultras (the SOB) too close together? Who knows? The fact was, I knew holding 3rd was going to be tough and I was right. I slowly lost ground and ended up finishing in 5 hours and 57 minutes, coming in 8th overall, out of the 350 that were slated to take the start of the Jay. Not sure how many DNF’d but it was quite a few. I know there were some significant injuries. I heard of a broken ankle, saw what looked like a broken arm and watched a guy get hauled off in an ambulance. That’s hardly ever good. Running full tilt down a ski run can be hazardous apparently? I went down numerous times during this run myself. Tripped on countless rocks and roots, lost shoes in mud bogs, swam, yes actually swam like in a swimming pool swam, on more than one occasion and ran with rocks in my shoes for miles and miles to which some might wonder, “Why would you do that?” Good question. And believe me, if there were away to avoid it I would have, but in this race running 33 miles with rocks and soaking wet socks and shoes is all part of the deal. No complaints there, you play the cards you are dealt, however, I don’t think my feet have ever been more hammered and I know I’ve never had more bruises, punctures, abrasions and cuts from head to toe.

Yesterday during the run it pretty much sucked, but today, I gotta tell you it feels awesome! A little stiff and sore, but still awesome. Another thing to remember, it is never as bad as it seems. During the run, I was telling myself, this is as bad as it gets, I am dehydrated. I made a mistake and there is nothing I can do. My body won’t continue. But instead, I toughed up, thought about my sons back home that would call my cell phone minutes after I told them I should be finishing and would keep calling incessantly until I did answer. Once they got me they would ask excitedly, “Dad, how did you do in the race,” and of course I would have to tell them, “I quit.” That is all it takes for me. My boys put me on a pedestal and if it kills me, I’ll never let them down. I run on…

As it was, I even sucked it up and passed a guy right at the end, feigning like I was still strong as a bull. Another challenge to notch in the belt and the best part, I am one day closer to bow season. Those backcountry bulls and bucks don’t know how much trouble they are in this year! The thing I try to remind myself of during tough races like this – I have felt just as whipped during many of my long hunts the only difference is – after the race I get to take a shower, get cleaned up, grab a burger and a Mountain Dew and sit and visit with other racers on their high for life. During the hunt I get to follow up a ball buster of a day by crawling into a bivy sack on a dark and lonely ridge, sometimes sticky with sweat and other times wet and freezing cold. Instead of the burger and fries, I fire up an MRE or maybe not? Maybe I’ll cap the day by eating a granola bar and some trail mix shivering by the light of my head lamp. Instead of the MD it is iodine purified water. Instead of friendly banter about a feel good and proud morning, not a word is said as I eat, drink and pull the bivy sack over my head searching for sleep that is sometimes difficult to find. Living bivouac style in the wilderness can be tough. Damn tough, and I love it. I prepare all year to be my best in these moments. The lonely bivy camps sabotage many would-be backcountry hunters. In my mind, in either case, I know the pain or discomfort is temporary and that is why on the hunt or in the race, I break it down and simply take it one step or one day at a time. Each step gets me closer to that animal of my dreams or the finish line and each night is followed up by the hope of a new day. Keep hunting hard – you gotta believe to achieve! Cam

For full race results click here – RESULTS

Racer Director's Warning: The Marathon, (33 miles in 2007), is considered by our own participants to be the hardest marathon ever put together; This is a trail marathon, and using the word trail is stretching it. Do not forget to visit our virtual tour of the marathon. You will get the course on a TOPO, elevation details, as well as real pictures all along the course. This will give you a real idea of what our race is all about. One section is actually a bushwhack from flagging tape to flagging tape, and another section will take you on a deer trail leading to a mountain brook. You will run in the brook for about 4 miles. At mile 20 you will cross a 50-foot wide river in order to reach aid station # 6. Only the adventurous, experienced trail runner and fit athlete should sign up for this race. You will get wet and very muddy, and you are likely to end up with scratches on your legs.

This is NOT a normal marathon. Most of our runners double and some triple their PR.

If you have not run a marathon in less than 5.30 hours in the last 12 months, don’t even think about doing this one. We realize that the expense of traveling, lodging, etc makes the trip pretty expensive for some. Okay, your first reaction is that 5.30 hours to make the 18.5 mile cut off point is nothing. This is not a joke. This is a very, very hard race and if you have not run a 5.30 hour marathon in the last 12 months, the chances of being cutoff are very high. Think twice before registering. Our Cut off time at Aid station 5 will be 5.30

Because of the difficult terrain, aid stations are spaced every 3 to 4 miles. It is advisable to run with a water bottle. Most of our past runners took over 1 hour, some 2 hours, to cover the ground between aid station #5 and aid station #6, only 4.4 miles apart.

Rule of Thumb: If you’re not sure this race is for you, it’s probably not

Yours Truly,
Dan Des Rosiers
The Jay Challenge
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