The Endurance Society organization is filled with symbolism. Physical Strength and Mental Fortitude. Their mission is twofold: creating exceptionally challenging experiences with various races and engaging members in community involvement. I chose to race the Infinitus 100-mile division. Infinitus’ theme is reminiscent of the leminiscate symbol or mathematically meaning to a potential infinity. The concept is straight forward. All races start at 8am, distances vary from 888 km (551 miles) to 9 miles, and the new course for 2022 crosses Mount Moosalamoo and Romance Mountain in a figure eight design.
- Rated in the top 10 toughest trail races in the Northeast according to The Trails Collective.
- In the pre-race meeting Race Director, Andy Weinberg, noted that this race has an average 50% finisher rate.
- As of this time the 2022 100-mile division finisher rate was 47% (17 finishers, 19 did not finish). There was 33% female participation (4 finishers, 8 did not finish).
- In the week prior to race day, the forecast was predicted to range in the mid-70s to low 40s over both days/nights with showers and thunderstorms. Actual weather on Friday was overcast and humid with highs in the mid 70s. Saturday was partly cloudy with rain showers in the late afternoon.
Located in the Green Mountain National Forest in Ripton, Vermont. The course is divided into two sections.
- The short loop travels up and back from Mount Moosalamoo for about 9 miles. The first 4 miles climb sparsely used trails just over 2,000 ft with a short vertical bushwack section towards the summit. The deceptively delicious last 4+ miles are runnable single track.
- The loops meet at Silver Towers. Runners could set up their base camp in this central location. Some chose to set up their personal aid in their vehicles, some chose tents, and others set up on the camp beds.
- The long loop travels up to Romance Mountain for a total of 18 miles. This loop can be further broken down into the very runnable 6 miles slight incline out to the mountain, 6-mile hilly loop, then a return net decline back to the base camp. The loop contains many boggy areas with some sections chin deep with sticky thick dark brown shoe sucking mud.
- The trails are very well marked. While it is not overly marked, the course requires that you pay attention. In any tricky areas there were multiple pink markers and large ground arrows. Overnight, the reflective strips were easy to identify.
- Total elevation gain for the 100-mile division was a little over 17,000 feet of gain (just the climbs).
The event location is at Silver Towers. The camp offers overnight retreats for individuals with mental and physical disabilities. Donations from the 2022 race totaled over $6,000. The camp has dorm style lodging with comfortable bunks and wheelchair accessible bathrooms. Luckily for any post-race runners, each toilet had handrails and benches in the showers. An outdoor pool, large cafeteria, and outdoor tenting is available as well.
How is it possible that I haven’t fully raced since last year? I’ve really been enjoying fastpacking and planning FKTs for the past year and didn’t realize how much racing has been missing from my life. My bucket was filled this past weekend. I missed this. The nerves, the doubts, the camaraderie, and the hope all intensified as you try to complete a course within a specific timeframe. Infinitus has a 48-hour cutoff. Forty-eight hours is a deceptively long time, perhaps too long if you don’t have a solid strategy.
For the past 6 months I’ve been working with Sayard Tanis Coaching. In her first assignment, I created a poster image of me as a metaphorical mountain goat. In my eyes, they are always perched on steep ledges without fear just living their lives like it’s no big deal. I was constantly asking Sayard questions about her racing strategies since I always run, by choice, without pacers or crew. I’ve always been impressed with her responses about mental fortitude and believe that guidance unlocked the key to my success. I arrived at the start line confident and ready to take on anything thrown my way.
Infinitus is known for unpredictable weather and endless amounts of mosquitos. With rain predictions, I packed more clothes than ever for a long-distance race. When it came to clothes, my priorities were warmth and not letting my feet break down. My plan worked relatively well. I changed clothes at least once per loop. Once I passed the 54-mile mark, I changed socks every 9 and 18 miles. This included covering my feet in alcohol to dry out the underfoot pruning and maceration. I’d let the alcohol dehydrate my skin, then apply lubricant and new socks. Other than general soreness, I ended up with zero foot problems.
Mentally, I broke down the race into sections. I wanted to get from aid station to aid station in hopes of not getting overwhelmed.
Lap 1: Some things you do for money and some you do for love, love, love. The Mountain Goats.
I was able to get a relatively good night rest and set up quickly in the morning. My dorm mate, Katie, who I know from running the North Face 50km in New York many years ago was already up. We wished each other good luck and went our separate ways early on. As I made my way towards the start line for the pre-race meeting, I spotted a familiar face. Hi Fernando! We knew each other from prior races in New Jersey, it was so nice to see another familiar face.
In my excitement during the first loop, I wasn’t really paying attention to pace. I was high off nature. My tapered legs felt springy and I was definitely going out too fast. In the back of my mind, I knew this was happening but didn’t want to slow down. I blame it on the excitement of the race environment. I was so excited that I even got into battle with a bog! As I was crossing one of the many muddy sections, my footing slipped off a log and I fell backwards into waste deep slop. It was the cushiest fall, but I had to get moving pretty quickly because of the mosquitos. If you aren’t moving quickly, the mosquitoes would swarm and start nipping at any exposed skin. I splashed around in the mud and finally arose and climbed forward out of the bog. I silently chuckled at the stupidity of it all.
Unfortunately, a mile before getting back to base camp I started to get leg cramps. I almost buckled when my hamstring started to cramp. After stretching for about 10 minutes, Fernando offered up pickle juice which really seemed to help. I was grateful, but incredibly frustrated with my body. There was no way I was going to quit this early into the race. So my strategy changed to a power hike until I could run without cramps.
Lap 2: And now there are three.
The clouds were thick, but still no rain. The sky looked ominous. I completed my self-care which included a change of clothes, foot care, resupplying on gels, and packing my waist and head lamp. I rolled my quads and hamstrings with my poles for good measure and headed out on this loop with Fernando. Our paces were different but leapfrogging with a friend always makes the time go by quicker. I climbed Mount Moosalama- “The Moose!” with passion. I knew that I’d only have to do this four mile climb once more after this. I hadn’t seen Fernando in awhile and figured it was nice to have a bit of company while it lasted. As I descended off The Moose, I heard some chatting and laughing coming up from behind. It was Fernando with another friend who became our trio. Andre was running Infinitus as his first 100-mile event. He seemed reserved, but incredibly nice. We quickly made a pact that if our paces matched we’d run the night section together.
With our pact sealed we ran into base camp. I took time for foot care, changed into extra layers for the night, rolled my quads, and met the guys in the main cafeteria. It was dinner time so I stuffed my face with as many calories as possible. Another bit of comfort and much gratitude… Crystal, a runner I recall from New Jersey was so helpful in preparing my meal. Pasta, beans, and crumpled Cheez Its mixed together washed down with a bottle of flat Coke.
The winds picked up dramatically throughout the night. They were howling against the trees and I fully expected to get caught in a torrential downpour. I was grateful to tackle this section with both guys. Our paces had slowed into the dark hours as we navigated the rocks, roots and bogs with our headlamps. Navigating across the slippery bogs became endlessly more challenging. I was constantly clacking my poles together to notify the night animals of our presence.
Around 3AM my eyes became heavy with 4 miles to go before arriving at base camp. There was one point where I sidestepped across a bog and nearly slipped off the trail. I rebalanced and became a bit more alert. I needed to get some rest so that I could pick up my pace again. When I finished this loop, I rested my eyes and awoke about 45 minutes later ready to tackle the rest of the race.
Lap 3: They’re all mad here. Granted you must be mad too, or you wouldn’t have come here. Welcome to Wonderland.
Self-care required a complete change of clothes as I wasn’t really regulating my temperature so well and felt cold, foot care, rolled my quads and hamstrings with my poles, ate a minimal amount of food. I noticed that my appetite was nonexistent. I was a bit concerned but wanted to tackle The Moose for the last time. It was now Saturday and I wanted to summit before the next set of race participants (88km, Marathon, and 9-mile divisions) got on the course. Although difficult, the four mile climb was quiet and peaceful.
I had split from the guys by this point, was tired but alert, and finally able to get a few quicker running miles in as my legs were allowing it. Midway through the long loop my lack of fuel caught up with me. I started to feel emotionally labile and took my first intentional stop midcourse. The humidity was thick making matters worse. I sat on the corner of a log and started forcing Spring Energy Awesome Sauce down my throat as my stomach became a bit queasy. A few runners passed and checked on me, I was fine and appreciative. I just needed to get to the next aid station. I didn’t sit more than 5 minutes as the mosquitos were in full assault mode. They swarmed against my neck, arms, and legs nipping through my clothes. I arose from the log and felt well enough to pick up the pace. One mile from the aide station the sky opened up into a downpour. I picked up the pace to get to the aid station as I felt my eyes welling up in tears. Why am I teary? Do I need more food? I’m going to get cold and wet? I don’t want to stop running because of the downpour! My mind was racing and I knew it was spinning out of control. This is what I wanted to avoid. I needed to be calm in all circumstances. As I arrived at the aid station and sat down I put my elbows on my knees, bowed my head, and quietly let all the tears and snot come out of my face. I felt the rush of emotions fall out onto the ground. It was embarrassing, but very real and humbling.
By happenstance, Claire was running the marathon and recognized me from her volunteering duties on Friday. She’s a tiny English pint of a girl who packs a punch of personality. She and I both knew I was okay but needed to get moving. After stuffing my mouth with grilled cheese and hot bacon, she had me follow her out on the course. It is amazing what a shift of perspective will do for you! I was 70 plus miles into the race, my arms and legs were on fire from all the mosquito bites, my feet were macerated from all the rain, and each step was horribly painful. Claire began chatting about her life and I listened intently. We were clicking off decent miles despite the rain, water logged trails, and bogs that had managed to double in size. I willed myself to move more efficiently as I didn’t want to lose her. This continued for many, many miles. I did ask her to slow down a time or two as I was becoming dizzy. I countered it by stuffing gummy bears down my throat and balancing it off with salt tabs. Little did I know that gummy bears would be the only nutrition I could tolerate for the last 20 miles.
Lap 4: Para Mikey 3/2/1981 – 4/9/22. Descanza en Paz.
Eighteen miles left. I signed into the course board. Andy was there and asked me to hold on. Then he put the fire in me. Keilynn, you can get 3rd place but you’re going to have to work for it. The other girl is about 30-45 minutes behind you. I tried to play cool and smiled. I was scared, excited, and nervous internally. Eighteen miles and 30-45 minutes was a competition and I prepared myself for it.
More self-care- a final change of clothes, foot care, rolled my quads and packed two baggies full of gummy bears. They were all I could tolerate, but they were enough. I went into pacer / crew mode. Keilynn, you can do this. It’s just another long run. You’ve been doing this for the past six months. Just another long run. You are starting fresh. Sayard has prepared you for this. I set strict time limits for the first six miles and reached the aid station an hour before sunset. I quickly filled the baggies with gummy bears and put on my night lights.
I continued to will myself forward as the poles dug deep into the mud. Through the trees I saw the most beautiful sunset and continued on. As darkness fell, I kept spotting glowing eyes from my light. Clack, clack against the poles. I’m here, don’t mess with me. I came across a small bear running across the trail. Was this real? It didn’t matter, just 12 miles left. Clack, clack. Clack, clack. Don’t mess with me. My feet were painfully sore, but I separated the pain from my desire to finish. I cursed at my emotions. Clack, clack. Clack, clack. I slipped between rocks into the bogs. Who cares? The end is near. I felt my quads locking up with each downward step. But who cares? Just 6 miles left.
In the darkness I felt a presence. My eyes kept imagining that tree barks and rock formations were animals and people. However, this presence was real. Another runner, Jared. Another deal. We stayed together to finish this beast.
We reached the final aid station and warmed by the fire pit. The temperatures dropped significantly. I tried to eat a hot dog, but barely had a few bites. I returned to filling my two baggies with gummy bears. The volunteers, as they all have been throughout the course, were stellar. With 6 miles left, we turned on our headlamps and headed into the darkness.
The last mile is always the longest mile of a race. I no longer hurt. I no longer wanted to be in the woods. Jared and I kept wondering why Andy had added extra mileage and extra mud onto this last stretch of the course. He’s sick. There’s definitely something wrong with him. I was inspired by Jared’s eagerness to see Andy at the finish line. He was competing in his longest race, the 88km division. Andy was his college professor and he spoke so highly of him. I learned of Andy’s Ted Talk and how his lectures were always really good. And while I really enjoyed these stories, this was still the longest mile.
As we approached base camp, the fire pit was slightly glowing. There were a few people awake, quietly clapping us on. It was the middle of the night and we had finally made it. We crossed the finish line to accept our awards from the volunteers. As with many endurance events, there are quiet endings in the wee hours of the night. Very fitting. I received my buckle and 3rd place female award. Looked up at the sky and told myself I did it. I really did it.
17,448’ elevation gain.
41 hours. 40 minutes.