CASTLETON ‒ Donna Smyers, from Adamant, trains and races on land and in the water. During the spring and summer months, the world champion triathlete averages 100 miles of bicycling, 20-plus miles of running, and three miles of swimming per week. So far in 2023, Smyers has logged 2,240 miles of cycling with over 138,000 feet of elevation gain.
Smyers, 66, splits her cycling miles between a “stump jumper” mountain bike and a triathlon bike. While she has entered countless triathlons and running races during her career, Smyers has competed in cycling road races just four times.
The Vermont Senior Games state cycling championships, on September 10, were Smyers’ most recent foray into bike racing. Held at Vermont State University, Castleton, the cycling venue attracted senior racers, ages 50 and up. Smyers brought her triathlon bike for the 5k time trial race. She borrowed a friend’s road bike for the 20-mile road race.
The time trial and road race at Castleton were Smyers’ first cycling races since the 2022 National Senior Games, in Florida. At the 2022 Nationals, Smyers earned gold medals for her age group in the 5k and 10k cycling time trials, a gold medal in triathlon, and a bronze medal in the 40k cycling road race.
At the Vermont Senior Games cycling races, athletes tested their speed, riding skills, and endurance. Conditions were humid, but predicted rain showers held off. Ambient temperature was in the low 60s, with just a light breeze.
The morning kicked off with a 5k (3.1-miles) time trial. The mostly flat, out-and-back course had a turnaround at the halfway point. Smyers averaged over 21 miles per hour during the 5k time trial. She crossed the finish line in 9:07. Her time was the fastest among three women cyclists and seventh-fastest among 13 male and female riders.
After cooling down, Smyers switched bikes for the road race. A road racing bike has curved front handlebars rather than the aero bars found on a triathlon bike. Since cyclists can draft in a road race and ride in packs, aero bars are not allowed.
The 20-mile road race began with a rolling peloton start from the University onto Main Street (Rte. 4A). The route was level to gently rolling for the first two miles, followed by a 7.5-mile climb to the Hubbardton Revolutionary War Battlefield. Smyers went out with the chase pack behind the lead men. She tucked into the pack to allow for drafting on the level and downhill portions of the course. Portions of the winding course were recently paved. Smyers reached a peak speed of 43.8 miles per hour on one downhill section.
Smyers held onto the chase pack through the high point of the course, just past the Hubbardton Town Offices. The pack split up as the riders cruised the steep downhill section and pushed toward the finish line. Smyers completed the rolling route in one hour, three minutes, and 37 seconds, at an average speed of 19.5 miles per hour. She eclipsed her 2021 road race time of 1:04:20 and set a new women’s course record.
Smyers placed eighth of 17 women and men in the road race. She earned Vermont Senior Games gold medals in both the 5k time trial and 20-mile road race, for the F65-69 age group.
Hazen Union Teacher Second in Half Marathon
STOWE – During the past six years, Maxfield English, frequently topped the results chart at local road and trail races, from 5ks to half marathons. This year has proven to be more challenging for the Wolcott Masters athlete. Due to a hip-groin injury, English was first on crutches, then walking with a cane, during April.
English, 47, is in his second year as a design and technology education teacher at Hazen Union. He and his students recently built and installed a new trailhead kiosk to help celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Hardwick Trails. He also serves as Hazen Union’s Nordic ski team coach.
English worked his way back to running during the summer months. From June to August, he completed seven of the Craftsbury Outdoor Center’s Tuesday Night Trail races, placing second in the final series standings.
Sunday’s Trapp Cabin Half Marathon was English’s first longer distance trail race since his injury recovery. The field included 24 men and 23 women. Participants completed two 10.5k loops on the Trapp Family Outdoor Center trails. The race benefited Green Mountain Adaptive Sports.
“The weather was near perfect,” said English. “We started with five lead runners, then lost three by halfway up the first loop’s long climb. Kevin Bonanno and I descended together, then pushed each other hard over the flat after starting the second loop.”
By the top of the second climb, Bonanno, was five meters ahead of English. The 25-year-old gained more ground on English on the final technical single-track descent. Bonanno finished in 1:33:14 for the win. English garnered runner-up honors with a 1:34:39 effort.
“Kevin and I agreed having someone with you to push the pace is so much better than being alone in the woods and left to focus on discomfort management,” said English.
Melissa Frazho, 36, was the top female half marathon finisher, in 1:41:36. The benefit event also include 5k and 10k trail races.
NEK Marathon and Half Marathon Draw Local Runners
ISLAND POND – The Third Annual Northeast Kingdom Marathon and Half Marathon drew a diverse field of runners to the historic former railroad town. Participation was up from last year, especially in the half marathon. Forty-nine marathoners and 152 half marathoners completed the scenic loop around Island Pond. Marathoners circled the pond twice.
Sponsored by the Brighton Recreation Department, the September 16 race offered professional timing and basic race support. Participating runners were asked to use their waived entry fee dollars to support local businesses and community fundraisers.
Scott MacHinist, 43, from Island Pond, won the 13.1-mile half marathon for the second consecutive year. His time of 1:21:35 was 2-1/2 minutes faster than last year. Sierra Cooper, 21, from Newport Center, topped the women’s half marathon division for the second consecutive year. Her time of 1:40:40 beat last year’s effort by 4 minutes and 42 seconds. Monica Menard, 55, from Glover, was the fastest nonbinary finisher. Menard crossed the line in 2:07:47.
Benjamin Jones, 25, from White River Junction, and Emily Raymond, 41, from Hinesburg, were the male and female winners of the 26.2-mile marathon. Their respective times were 3:00:36 and 3:27:39.
East Hardwick’s Matthew Millard, the 2022 half-marathon runner-up, took on the full marathon this year. Millard, 37, placed fourth in 3:32:01. Abby Katz, 22, from Marshfield, placed ninth in the women’s marathon division. Her time was 4:28:45.
Walden super seniors Tim Hogeboom, 72, and Elizabeth McCarthy, 70, won the M70-79 and F70-79 age groups in the half marathon. Their times were 2:04:44 and 2:22:14, respectively. Hogeboom placed twenty-sixth of 53 men, while McCarthy finished 43rd of 96 women.
“I had the wind at my back in various places and was thankful that the headwinds were under 10 miles per hour,” said Hogeboom. “The full marathoners weren’t as lucky. An hour after we finished, the wind was blasting, picking up sand off roads and parking lots and peppering runners with a stinging scattershot.”
Support from local residents and spectators, ranging from waves and shouts of encouragement to pop-up aid stations, carried Hogeboom along. “Races over 10 miles long are a bit of a struggle,” he said. “The last three miles of this race were no exception. I walked partway up a couple of steep hills, and my pace slowed significantly. “Smiling helped me persevere to the finish line.”
“It was a no-frills race meant to bring people in to support the community of Island Pond,” said McCarthy. “The weather was cool/cloudy. The wind was a factor on the long paved straightaway down Rte. 105 and for the last few miles to the finish.”
During the last half mile, McCarthy came upon a 26-year-old man walking. He said to her, “I don’t know how you all do this; I just signed up on a whim because my company is a sponsor.” The man shared with McCarthy that he hadn’t run this far before and encouraged her to finish strong.
“I told him that he’d better start running too, because he wouldn’t want to be beaten by a 70-year-old-woman,” McCarthy said. “It’s those little moments of connecting with people along the course that make running so much fun.”
True to the spirit of the NEK Marathon and Half Marathon, Hogeboom and McCarthy enjoyed a post-race meal at an Island Pond restaurant as part of the effort to boost the local economy.
Leaf Peepers Half Marathon and 5k
WATERBURY – The 39th running of the Leaf Peepers Half Marathon and 5k is on tap for Sunday, October 1. The half marathon begins at 9 a.m., followed by the 5k race 15 minutes later. The 5k race begins on pavement, transitions to a dirt road, and ends with a grassy trail. The half marathon course has the same beginning and ending as the 5k race. The middle of the race includes a rolling out-and-back dirt road section along the Winooski River. Race registration details are available at cvrunners.org.