Six Chelsea Teens Entering Green Mountain Relay Race

Front Page / Jun. 12, 2008 12:00am EDT

By Cornelia Cesari

Six Chelsea Teens Entering Green Mountain Relay Race By Cornelia Cesari

There are many ways to celebrate the summer solstice. Six Chelsea teenagers are preparing to spend the shortest night of the year—and the days on either side of it—running the length of Vermont.

These athletes, under the guidance of Donny Wilcox, are in training for a grueling undertaking, the 200-mile Green Mountain Relay. The race, in its third year, begins about 25 miles from Burlington and ends in Bennington. The course follows scenic Route 100 through the Green Mountains most of the way.

Many of the 100 teams who run the race have 12 members, but Chelsea’s "ultra team" has only six: Robin Kennedy, Jodi Emerson, Samantha Bonasera, Charlie Mao, Jasmine Braman, and Andrew Richardson. This means that each runner will run six legs of the course. Typically, they will run five miles, rest five hours, run five miles, and so on, running an average of 33 miles each.

"This isn’t about competition," relates Wilcox, "it’s about doing it. The fact that they are committed to doing it and have been doing it—they’re already successful."

Most of the runners have been working with Wilcox all year on basketball drills, weight training and conditioning every Sunday at 8 a.m.

"They don’t have to do any of it!" Wilcox marvels. "It is great to see kids choosing to challenge themselves in this way."

The team would welcome support, as there is significant cost to the endeavor. The entry fee, gas money for a couple of cars, medical supplies, equipment, and food is estimated to total about $300 per student. Sponsors have come forward, including Erik Anderson, Gary Thrasher, Maria Lamson, Friends of Chelsea, Windshield World, Portland Glass, VT Mutual Insurance Companies, Progressive Ins. Co., MK Richardson Agency, Kevin and Cookie Braman, Donny and Russell Wilcox, and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Dr. Rob Rinaldi is a Chelsea resident, veteran of 25 marathons, and also a podiatric surgeon on the staff of Gifford’s Sports Medicine Clinic in Sharon. Dr. Rinaldi lent his financial support, and then went further: he invited the team to his house and spent considerable time educating the kids about marathon running. He prepared them for the types of effects the runners are likely to encounter, from a medical point of view and an athlete’s point of view.

Of great importance to runners is the change in recommendations around hydration levels. The mantra used to be, "drink early, drink often." However, recent research demonstrates that athletes suffer a fluid-electrolyte imbalance when they over hydrate. The dangerous condition of hyponatremia is a dilution of the amount of sodium in your bloodstream. The new mantra is "drink before you’re thirsty."

"We talked about socks, blisters, and toenails," Dr. Rinaldi shared. "We also talked about my concerns about a race like this. The problem is not the running, but the recovery afterward when they could end up stiffening up between runs. We talked about how to overcome it and prepare yourself for the next leg of the race." Despite his concerns, Rinaldi has confidence in the teens and thinks they’ll have a good race.

Eighth grader Jasmine Braman, the youngest of the runners, is feeling "a little nervous but excited. The more we talked about it," she reports. "The more interested we all got, partly because we're the only ultra team that’s still in high school."

Actually, at 13 years old, Braman does not meet the minimum entrance age requirement, but was granted a waiver, based on her training progress. Braman is certainly not the only 13-year-old who is eager to rise to a challenge… but it's a pretty good bet that she’s the only one who will be spending the entire solstice weekend running down Vermont.

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