Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Vertical Malted Beverage Mile (VMBM), Act III

Ah, the V(M)BM.

Participation in this event has been growing by leaps and bounds over the three years we've been running it, and for some here in town it's the highlight of the season, the pinnacle of athletic achievement, the yardstick by which all running greatness is measured.

Those who find it hard to combine the rapid consumption of gloriously gassy lager with the simple act of running uphill do their best to downplay the magnitude of the event, but as I think anyone who plays in Fort Collins trail running circles knows, it is an extremely prestigious honor to be crowned King or Queen of the VBM ... but maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.
The pre-race chatter had been building for months (seriously), and all eyes were on the women's event where an all-star cast of contenders had been positioning themselves as potential winners. Last year's champ, Mindy "I'm Irish" Clarke, was considered by many to be the favorite. But also toeing the line was the winner of the inaugural event, Celeste "I'm Irish" O'Connor, in addition to last year's runner up, Jessie "I'm from New Jersey" Wilburn. And the depth didn't end there.

We had runners with pedigree. Shalane Flanagan couldn't make it (we're told she can drain a beer pretty quickly), but she sent her sister as a stand-in. Maggie had proven herself earlier in the year on The Big Hill by consuming 15 beers and a similar number of tacos over a 24 hour period, during which time she managed to record 7 laps (49 miles, 12,500' of vert) and a second place finish in the second annual running of the 24 Hours of Towers (official results still pending). And, as it turned out, there were others waiting quietly - yet confidently - in the wings to prove themselves.

The men's race. Hmm, well, as much as I shy away from tooting my own horn, I'd have to say I was about as confident on that start line as Secretariat was before his record-breaking Triple Crown run at the 1973 Preakness, especially after the late scratch of Horsecow Lonac from the field. And while I would normally fear Horsecow's last-minute stand-in - a certain Dakota Jones - before most running events, when it comes to running and drinking, the youngster clearly has a thing or two to learn.
Lonac put up a brave fight last year, but shied away in 2012.

With a good 20+ runners on the start line, it was finally time to get this show on the road. I made note of the fact that the craft brews so many had thought would be a good idea just two years earlier had largely been replaced by the Banquet Beer, aka the VBM Beer of Champions. Maybe we'll see about an endorsement deal moving forward, but for now we'll let it lie.

A hike up the hill to place refreshments, a brief recap of the rules: "if you puke, don't forget to do a penalty quarter at the end," and we were off.
Hey, get that camera out of my face!

Having not skulled a beer since the previous year's running of the VBM, the first one went down in a pretty rough manner - although it did go down in its entirety before I jumped off the line in first place.

I wasn't surprised to have company running up the first quarter mile while I groaned and worked on degassing the tubes. Stevenson was on my shoulder - as he had been in 2010 - but I wasn't too concerned as history has shown that a fast start by Pete has a tendency to end in chunks, while Dakota was right there along with Gisler, the token Boulder'ites.

And so it progressed. The Boulder pretenders fell off the pace, while Pete put in a gallant effort at dethroning the VBM king. At aid station two, Pete was a quarter can back on me; at aid three, a half can back; and by the final aid station it was apparent that I'd just need to keep my stomach from erupting to retain my title. Despite a few bubbly burps on the way to the finish line, I was indeed able to keep all 64 ounces down and cross the line to celebrate the glory of a VBM three-peat.

Pete trundled up 30 seconds later for a strong second, and lo and behold one of the Boulder runners had managed to keep his lunch intact. Gisler (who I'm pretty sure is really from the east coast somewhere) ran in for a strong third-place finish. Burnett can clearly skull beers and proved it with a strong fourth. He was followed closely by Senor May (a former podium finisher), Dakota (who promptly turned around to complete a penalty lap and ended up finishing last according to the official results), and Josh (who'd shown up to run a regular Thursday evening time trial, but embraced the alternative TT with open arms). Then all attention shifted to the women's race.

Seventeen minutes ticked by and right on schedule, and in course record fashion (17:19), Mindy came galloping across the finish line to complete a second Clark/Clarke sweep of the VBM. A proud moment, indeed. The Irish were also to be made proud with Celeste bursting through the darkness to cross the finish line in second (completing the three-year podium grand slam - 1st, 3rd, 2nd).

With Flanagan still out on course, it was looking like it would be an Irish sweep of the podium spots, but ever so quietly, the endurance drinking specialist was upstaged by Nora who, we were told by her proud significant other, has put in plenty of hours of specificity training on the ski-bum circuit.

However, as the one-two in the boy's race showed, real strength in this event comes from growing up as a rugby player.

And then it was on to the after party for tales of debauchery, more frivolity, and anticipatory discussions on part deux of the Festivus activities - el Chub. But more on that later.
Clark/Clarke, Chicken Lady, Gisler.
Jubilation at finishing third.

Tallying the results.

Your 2012 VBM results (as best I could make out):

1. Clark: 12:32
2. Stevenson: 13:03
3. Gisler: 14:15
4. Burnett: 14:44
5. May: 15:12
6. Josh: 16:12
7 (1). Clarke: 17:19
8. Mike M: 18:30
9 (2). O'Connor: 18:37
10. Jesse G: 19:20
11. Will H: 19:45
12. Gareth: 20:11
13 (3). Nora: 22:10
14. Glen: 22:29
15. Slow Aaron: 24:53
16. Sam HN: 25:30
17 (4). Flanagan: 25:50
18 (5). Fast Krista: 25:53
19 (6). Lindsey: 26:00
20. Roberson: 28:28
21. Scott the Hobbit: 29:30
22 (7). Wilburn: 30:09

DFL. Jones: 2:07:33

Honorable Mention:

Wesir & Burch: 17:10 (1st in the relay non-category).


  1. Nick, I'm going to travel over for this someday.

    We used to have a short race locally with an uphill finish of a 400' steep climb. Before you could cross the line, you had to neck a full pint, not easy when you were blowing like a boiler.

    Not sure which is tougher, hence the need to test the VBM.



    P.S. Might be a plane load of rugger buggers with me just to test your theory!

  2. Rumor has it that certain FoCo beer mile types don't completely finish their beers...

  3. Nothing but rumor, my friend, based on very sketchy circumstantial evidence.

  4. Perhaps you should amend the rules to require runners to turn their bottles/cans upside down over their heads before proceeding to the next aid station, or formally completing the course.

  5. As the race official...I have discussed possible solutions to squash any future beverage fouls in the race. As next year approaches we should have some steadfast rules in place. As it stands Nick will hold the title, but was given a stern public warning since this is the 2nd year an allegation was made.

    As Nick stated the relay team does not count since there is no relay division as of yet.

  6. Someday I'll make it out for this. Does the RD provide comped beer and travel assistance for "elite" beer-guzzlers? ;-)

  7. Elites are discouraged from entering. The 'RD' has a streak to maintain. But for you, Joe, I've got beverages and accommodation. You're on your own for travel.


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