Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Vermont: Green mountains, great brews, and ghosts?

I traveled to Vermont to take on marathon/state number 22 over Memorial Day weekend.  The race took place in Burlington, which was about 3 hours drive from Albany, where I flew into.  I think the drive was 3 hours, even though it wasn't that far mileage wise, because the majority of it was on winding two-lane highways through the tiny quaint towns of western Vermont.  Which might actually also be central Vermont...who knows, it's not a very big state.  But it was obvious to me immediately why it's called the green mountain state.  Truly a beautiful and scenic drive.

And when I arrived in Burlington, right on Lake Champlain surrounded by those green mountains; well, let's just say it made for one heck of a view from my hotel room.  Compared to the tiny towns I had just drove through, Burlington was a bustling metropolis.  I stopped first thing at the race expo to get my bib and t-shirt, and if you've read any of my prior blog posts, you know how I dread those things.  This one was pretty much painless, but there was a really annoying guy chattering over the PA system.  But once he stopped, it felt much less chaotic.   Although, you were still left with the army of folks in variations of Santa and sexy Santa outfits really trying to push registration for Burlington's Santa Run.

I followed Trip Advisor's recommendation on where to eat and went to a great wood fired pizza joint to carb load the night before the race, Pizzaria Verita.  Good call and apparently lots of other people had read Trip Advisor because the joint was hopping.  It was near the main area of town where most of the restaurants are, the Church Street market.  This is a pedestrian mall area which happens to be fantastic for people watching.  I had some post-race veg time on a park bench in the sun and did some serious people watching.  As I sat there, I tried to get a sense of what type of folks live in Burlington, Vermont, but I really couldn't.  All I can tell you about Burlington is that a lot of people came out of their homes to cheer us runners on, and for a small race, it had a lot of crowd support.  There was a small stretch that was light on the crowds, but it was early on in the race.  Finally, a race that doesn't save the lone, desolate stretch of highway with no spectators or shade until miles 20-25! Thank you Burlington!!

The race was rolling hills as I expected, but felt there was a little more downhill action than uphill.  We ran through a lot of residential neighborhoods, and a lot through the downtown area, which was not too bad since there were tons of people cheering us on.  But some great scenic views along the way, running past the lake, through a forest, and past some awesome lake front properties.  I finished with, not my best time, but one of my fastest times for a race since 2013.  I think I made it back to my old habit of the negative split.  I was feeling good the second half, so I just went with it and picked up the pace!  Though sadly, I think there may be some casualties of this race. My two toenails.  But so far, out of 22 marathons, I've only lost 2 toenails.  So if that number bumps up to 4, still not as bad as it could be.

After the race, I enjoyed some local brews to Vermont.  I was unaware of all the beer brewing going on in this state.  Magic Hat brewery is there, and some others that I hadn't heard of.  But they were all pretty tasty.  I think there is even a brewery tour you can take in Burlington, which I didn't have the chance to enjoy.  Next time.  I did partake of my ritual post-race oysters at a great farm-to-table restaurant, Hen of the Wood (which also happened to be steps away from my hotel..very important after you just ran 26.2 miles).  They also had what might be the best cauliflower dish I've ever had.  I know, it sounds lame, but if you're ever in Burlington, and at Hen of the Wood, you should try this.  It was pretty darn amazing.

So... after I left Burlington, I headed south to Manchester, Vermont.  I scheduled myself a massage at the hotel spa, and then sent some time in the hot tub, which was outside surrounded by a great view of the mountains.  I felt utterly relaxed.  Sadly this didn't last long.  

Manchester, don't get me wrong, it a quaint, beautiful town....  With lots of haunted hotels, so my online research discovered.  One of them being the 1811 House at the Inns at the Equinox. Where. I. was. staying.  The former home of Abe Lincoln's granddaughter, Mary.  My online research revealed that guests had heard voices of children, or seen images of Mary.  One Trip Advisor review mentioned that they were in their room and the tv suddenly turned on, and then went to white noise and then turned off. Twice.  So, clearly, I was going to leave the t.v. on so it couldn't turn on by itself!  Tuned in to the Simpsons on FX...I mean, ghosts can't come if something funny is on t.v. right? And of course, there had to be a tree right next to the window, with the street light positioned in such a way that it created a silhouette of the tree against the curtain, which then created shadows throughout the room.  Let's not forget about the tap, tap tap of the tree branches agains the window.  Oh, and did I mention there were no other guests in the house that night?  (See creepy empty hallway photo)  It goes without saying that I got very little sleep that night.  All that post-massage relaxation out the window.  You know, that window with the creepy tree shadows and tapping limbs.

Despite me freaking myself out with every tiny noise and shadow, I did not experience any paranormal activities.  And the hotel itself was very quaint historical home that was very nice and clean.  I would recommend staying there, but would try to go with a group of people, because it was just too quiet otherwise if you've got ghosts on the brain.  And the Equinox resort itself is quite nice. What I would not recommend is the Raven's Blood Margarita from Ravens.  I let my curiosity get the best of me. A margarita, with a splash of pinot noir.  Don't let it happen to you.  That swirly frozen drink from Uncle Julio's is much better. 

My last day in Vermont was spent touring Hildene, the former estate of Lincoln's son Robert.  I didn't have a chance to tour the whole place, I think it is 400 acres, or something crazy huge like that.  The woman at the Information Center piqued my curiosity with telling me there were baby goats at the farm, but I had a hard time finding the path to the farm, and ended up instead being bitten by lots of baby mosquitos trying to get there.  I gave up after losing my s$#t with all the bugs that would not stop swarming around my head and ears.  But I did visit the house which had some interesting historical items and also had a pretty great garden.  And that first picture, that's the view looking out from the edge of the garden. Not too shabby Lincolns.  

I can't say I got a strong sense of what Vermont is. Maybe because it isn't strongly one thing or another. Or maybe because what it is, is subtle.  It certainly isn't action packed.  It leans more to the serene, peaceful, scenic kind of thing.  Which I certainly am not opposed to. Not at all.