Race Report: Vegan Power 25k, Pittsfield MA

On Saturday, June 18, I ran the Vegan Power 25K in Pittsfield State Forest, Massachusetts. The Race Director is an old friend from my herbalism-shamanism days. It was wonderful to see her again, and to participate in this trailfest of an event that she's created with some other great people!

And all for a good cause! This year's record-breaking proceeds go to VINE Sanctuary in Vermont, supporting animals rescued from the meat, dairy, and egg industries among other things. VINE stands for Veganism Is the Next Evolution.

Since I'd switched over to the 25k (instead of the 50k), my start time had changed from 7am to 10am. So instead of camping out on Friday night, I could just get up early on Saturday to drive the 2ish hours from Vermont to Pittsfield. The race was set up so that 25k participants could pick up bibs after the 50k had already started (basically right up until 9:45), which I really appreciated.

I packed everything I could think of, because who knows what one may encounter! Maybe it's goofy to take so much stuff, but I had a whole car with me, so why not?? Here's my inventory:

Post race bag:
  • Complete change of clothes, including underwear
  • Flip flops
  • Wallet
  • Cookie
Hydration vest to wear during race:
  • Water
  • GU Roctane mix in handheld bottle (stashed in back of vest)
  • Toilet paper just-in-case
  • Bandana
  • Lip balm
  • Smart phone
  • GU roctane gels
  • Half eaten Lara bar (leftover from children)
Drop bag, to leave at start/finish point in case I needed anything during loops:
  • Sunscreen
  • Deodorant
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Body glide (aka anti-chafe balm)
  • Picky bars (energy/recovery food)
  • Extra sneakers
  • Extra socks
  • Extra shirt
Cool bag (left in car during race):
  • Freezable ice-block
  • Recovery shake (chocolate protein powder with water)
  • Wet body wipe (towel thingy I got with my Stridebox once)
  • Extra water
I also packed some CDs for the trip, and a printout of directions that I wisely ignored in favor of my phone's talking GPS app.

OK, so I leave Brattleboro and get to Pittsfield State Park with well over an hour to spare before the 25k starts at 10am.

Race registration is at this cool Nature Center that used to be part of the CCC program (Civilian Conservation Corps).

The race start/finish is at the Lulu Brook area that seems perfect not only for picnics and grilling, but family swimming too (check out the small pond in the background).

Another view of the Lulu Brook area, showing the convenient comfort station where runners can refresh before or after their race.

The 25k is 3 loops of 5 miles, and we started 3 hours after the 50k folks--10am. So people were already on-course and doing an amazing job by the time the 15-milers started.

The race director gave a great kick-off speech, and then we started to run. Straight up a hill (I quickly started walking the hill). Here are two things I did not know about the Vegan Power course but learned quickly:
  1. There are a LOT of switchbacks. These are not the types of switchbacks à la Tour de France that indicate you are going up or down a hill. They are random switchbacks, where the trail just twists and turns through the woods. If my GPS had been able to accurately trace the route, it might have shown that I was running a twisty word such as "houyhnhnmism." The effect of the switchbacks was remarkable—before the end of the first loop I started to wonder what was wrong with me and why my heart was racing. By well into the second loop I realized that I should really, really be walking some of this stuff in order to finish well or at all.
  2. There are a LOT of roots. Not everywhere. Not always. But there are at least 1000 roots to deal with on any given loop, and that takes a lot of focus, which means a lot of energy. A side effect of so many roots is that people fall. I fell in the middle of my second loop and tried to pop up again. From what I've read on facebook, many other people also fell—some more than once. It's really hard to avoid those bazillion root snags!
Here is some race data:

Loop 1 split: 57:44. Here I was getting to know the course and being confused by the effect the switchbacks were having on my body. Drinking Roctane, no hydration vest yet. Getting out of breath!

Loop 2 time: 2:01:00. I was feeling pretty great on this loop after the Roctane (which contains caffeine). Picked up hydration vest filled with water only. Took a hard (but at least not bloody) fall about halfway through.

Loop 3 time: 3:12:51. This loop took FOREVER. I wasn't hurting from the fall much because I kept moving, but I was ready to be done by halfway around (as I'd anticipated would happen from my 11-mile trail run practice race). I was talking myself through the second half of this loop (OUT LOUD!). I finally finished after approximately one million years.

This little style of logs piled up around a longer log became my imagined halfway point on the loop. Every time, I was so happy to see it again.

The Vegan Power races have EXCELLENT vegan treats at the finish line, including this pizza from Baba Louie's that I can't stop thinking about. I've tried to replicate it at home already--olives, artichoke hearts, broccoli, roasted red pepper, tofu, vegan cheese... YUM.

I plan to run this 25k again next year. Maybe I'll bring my family to splash about in the pond while I run. Thanks Vegan Power for a great day!

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