I had a situation where I needed to reset the password on an Ubuntu guest running on vmware server 2.0.1.

I could not hit the escape key fast enough to access the GRUB loader.  I tried many iterations but the guest booted too fast.  What to do?

One way to slow down the boot process is to configure the guest to boot to BIOS.

In VMware Server; power down the guest.

Bring up the web access and click on the specific Guest.  After that click the power tab and you will see an option for:

BIOS Setup
Enter the BIOS setup screen the next time this virtual machine boots

Click the box and click ok

Power up the Guest and you will be presented with the bios screen.

Exit the bios screen and hit the escape key (possibly a couple times) and you will get the grub loader.

There you can edit the particular kernel and add “single” to the end of the line and boot the guest into single user mode where you will get options for what to boot.  Select the option for command shell and there you can reset the root password with the passwd command.