During one of our “research American real estate” sessions Jesse & I discovered Vermont as being a beautiful and reasonably priced area of the country that we wanted to explore. Neither of us had spent any significant time on the East Coast (he had a work trip and I’ve been to NYC) and so we found an excuse to go check it out: The CircumBurke Marathon.
One Wednesday evening, after we watched the 3rd Presidential Debate, we took the redeye to Boston. We picked up our tiny Ford Fiesta rental car and started driving north. Neither of us could get over how small the East Coast felt. We flew to Massachusetts, had lunch in New Hampshire, spent the night in Maine, and were in Vermont for dinner the next day. It had me nostalgic for Europe and reflecting on how big the states in the West really are.A few things to note about the East Coast: 1) Toll Roads; 2) Parking meters that only accept change; and 3) The No-Small-Talk, No-Nonsense attitudes. All three were hard to get used to and that I definitely take for granted in our corner of the world.
We spent our first night in Portland, ME. Cheesy, but it had to be done. The town is definitely a coastal city and we enjoyed the next day exploring the Portland Head Light, America’s 2nd oldest lighthouse.
We took off from there to our AirBnB in Vermont. We drove in the torrential rain through the White Mountain National Forest and eventually realized we had to run a marathon in the morning and needed to find some food. We knew our room had a full kitchen so we begrudgingly stopped at a Walmart and grabbed some pasta, eggs, and granola bars. Good enough.
We were greeted in Vermont by our hosts and they were impressed that we were running the event (it’s mainly a mountain biking event to which they recently added the running component). Their son was biking it as well and they told us it was a pretty tough course. “No worries,” I thought. “Portland is always muddy and 3,000 ft over a marathon isn’t too much climbing”. We went to bed, crawling into the softest flannel sheets in existence.
Morning came and we calmly got ready. The starting line was a mere 6 minutes from our door, so we were a bit spoiled for race day. It was cold and we both struggled with dressing ourselves properly. We ended up in merinos with ultralight jackets, gloves, and hats.
The course was a loop over and around the ski hill. We started at 8 AM along with a few hardcore mountain bikers who would do the loop twice. The cyclists doing the loop only once would start at 10 AM. We were off…and Jesse lost me right away. About a mile in I was ripping my jacket off, along with my gloves and headband. I was running without the bladder in my pack and just a flask in the front pocket and was thankful I for the weight to be off my back for a long run.
The course was beautiful. The fall colors definitely did not disappoint. The forest floor was covered in brilliant oranges, reds, and yellows, often blindingly so. It was muddy and perfect. Around mile 2.5 I started chatting with a girl who thought I lost a hat. I told her the story of the man behind me who threw it aside after he couldn’t find its owner either and we decided to run together for a while. “A while” turned into the rest of the run and I enjoyed her company immensely for the next 6+ hours.
The first “aid station” was a cooler with a water jug and a pump. This was confusing and I rejected the measly offering. A few miles later was the second aid station with an actual tent, table, person, and race fare. We leap-frogged with a few women for a while up and down the hills and just enjoyed the beauty of the run, talking about all the things in the world.
Aid station #3 featured chips, cookies, and ramen. I gave the ramen a try and was disappointed to find it was flavor-less and had gone cold. Not ideal. We were off again, on cross country ski tracks now, and the first of the mountain bikers caught us here.
We were on the backside of the ski hill and fighting the mud and cyclists. It took up a lot of time to move off the narrow track to let them pass, but I had no time goals in mind. Everyone was quite supportive and it was easy to feel like a badass when the hardcore bikers were so complimentary. Then there was the funny story about the ibuprofen and salt tablets..!
Eventually my legs began to tire. The hills were hiked more frequently and the energy was slipping. Aid station #4 was at the bottom of a hill and was crowded with cyclists. We grabbed some chips and kept on. We joined another woman for the final miles and her good-nature and interesting life stories helped the miles tick by. Her watch read over 27 miles, mine was reading 23 miles, and the volunteer told us we had 4 to go. It was a confusing time for us all.
Eventually we emerged from the trees and raced down the hill, past the chair lift, under the inflatable finish line, the clock was finally stopped: 6:49:43. I could sit down. I could chat with Jesse. I could drink something warm. I could check another marathon off my list.
We had some pumpkin soup, listened to the band, lost at the raffle, and when I began shivering all over, we left. We drove the 5 minutes “home”, showered, crawled into the soft bedding and slept. It was a fantastic day. We later realized the course had a bit over 4,100 feet of elevation and concluded it was indeed a tough run.
The next morning we awoke to the most beautiful winter wonderland. The same view from our window was now bright and clean with about 3-4″ of snow. The orange and yellow in the distance gave the landscape an inspired pop of color. The resident chickens scurried in front of the window, Jesse began playing Christmas tunes, and I was happy.
Our opinion of New England is now slightly biased, as we went during the second half of October…but it was gorgeous. We drove north to Newport and had brunch, then drove south to Burlington and wandered around Lake Champlain, stopping for maple syrup and souvenirs along the way. It was windy and cold, but driving through rural Vermont was incredibly scenic. After a few hours in Burlington we drove to the capitol city of Montpelier for dinner (although it was secretly in search of Bernie Sanders). We ate a lovely Italian dinner and then headed home.
The next day we slowly packed up and drove back to Boston. We spent a very small amount of time at Boston Common Park and then headed to the airport. After a series of unfortunate events, we ended up being stuck at the airport for a while, waiting for skies to clear up in San Francisco for us to head home. Several hours later, we were boarded and headed back West.