I ran the TARC Spring Classic race on April 28th 2012.
The race had several options 10K, Half Marathon (which Tony did), Marathon & 50K. I got very ambitious and signed up for the 50K. Due to recent knee pain and being completely unprepared I DNFed the race. I’ll go more into the reason why later. However, this won’t stop me from reviewing and mentioning how awesome the race was!
The four races are hosted by a group called the Trail Animal Running Club. The races were very low-key with amazing volunteers. There was a total of 300-400 runners. Because there was no chip system in place the registration fee was only $20. No race expo, no selling you crap you don’t need but want, just pure simple running.
The 10K started at 8AM and the other races at 8:15. The race was held in Weston, MA. A place I haven’t visited before but was in awe how pretty all the houses are. Tony and I got there at 7:45AM to get our bib numbers. We then hid in the car trying to stay warm as it was about 45 degrees outside.
The Hobo hat came back from my closet for a visit. You may laugh but it’s so warm!
Neither of us have ever done a trail race before. We haven’t even taken a trail run; even though we’re two miles away from Middlesex Fells Reservation, before. Needless to say we were nervous and excited to start.
We originally planned on staying together. I was running with a gimp leg and figured running with Tony would be a smart pacing strategy vs. me trying to compete with everyone around me. However that did not work out.
The course was a 10K loop. You do 5 loops to complete a 50K. In order for the half marathoner and marathoners to get their exact distance they had a small little mini loop in the beginning of the trail. The full marathon people did this mini loop twice. So within 1 minute Tony and I said our goodbyes and went on our separate ways.
The course was a mix of fire roads (30%) and single track trails (70%). What I thought was going to be an easy flat trail was anything but flat. While there were no switchbacks and miles upon miles of decent, the single tracks were a constant up and down experience. Lots of rocks, lots of twigs, and a few muddy creeks.
The first loop (10K) went by great! I felt strong, I felt awesome! I felt like a movie star running through the woods of a zombie scene.
All the photography was done by the creek or on the fire roads so needless to say I have real photos for the single track trail part.
I saw the clock said either 50-55 minutes when I finished the first loop. I grabbed two Gu chumps from the fuel table and ran on my way. More on how awesome the fuel/water station was later.
The second loop I think was my fastest. I knew what to expect, I knew where to go and I felt more confident about myself. Well almost. Me and the creeks… Well..
I was running in new shoes and really did not want to get them too muddy!
I hit my second loop/ 20K at about 1:50. I looked around for Tony but he was busy being a beast of his own so I grabbed two more Gu Chumps and made my way.
Somewhere in the middle of my third loop, my gimp leg/knee woke up and decided its time to stop running. I slowed my pace and did a half run half walk type of thing. I finished my 30K somewhere around 3:20 where I found Tony waiting for me.
This guy finished the half in 2:21!
Looking back, I probably should have signed up for just the half. I don’t think my body was ready for the complexity of trail running to that distance. I should not have run in Asics that are half a size too big on me. While it’s okay to wear shoes a little big for road running to prevent some toenail losses, such was not the case with trails. I have the blisters to prove it.
The course had a single aid/fuel station that you passed by each time you completed a loop. The volunteers were super cool and refilled all your water bottles for you and gave you anything you needed. Because it was a 10K trail with no water stops people were strongly encouraged to run with a water bottle. I ran the first loop without mine but grabbed it off the grass on the second loop. I’m used to running 15 miles without water so given the cold weather I wasn’t too concerned for just 6 miles. I mixed water with a nuun hydration tab and mostly relied on that for hydration.
In addition to water & Gu Brew the race provided, everyone was asked to bring one snack from one type as designated by the last letter of your last name. This created an almost trail running pot luck picnic! After I DNFed, I munched on delicious brownies, pretzels, sweet potato chips and s’mores. I wanted to make sure that for every calorie I burned, I took in 3x as much back into my body.
Could I have finished the race? Yes, I think I could have finished in between 5 to 6 hours. Although the pace would have been slow for me, it was a pace that more than half the people finished at. However, poor Tony forgot to bring his school books so I felt bad making him wait for me as I hiked/ran 20K more. I think judging by the blisters I got from my half-size too big shoes, it was a good idea to stop as well or at least to change my socks. As much as it hurt my pride, I walked away and went home. I did end up doing a small hike by my house with a friend so maybe I could mentally add that to my mileage towards the 50K.
Also how could I not forget, I got to meet two of my Daily Mile friends! I think this was one of my favorite parts of the race. Putting faces to people who support and motivate me on a daily basis. I think I seem a little dazed in my internal struggle to want to run, but I really did enjoy meeting people in real life and wish I had time to stick around more.
Aside from a bruised ego I walked away with a new love for trail running. I love the support and spirit of all the runners. Instead of a competition, I felt as I was part of a community. The cool part is that TARC often has small group runs in the Blue Hills (south of Boston) and the Fells (North of Boston by me) on weekends. I intend to try to make as many of those as possible. That way, by the time the Summer TARC classic 50K comes I’ll be ready!