TARC 50 Miler Pre-Race Thoughts

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been fairly quiet about the distance elephant in the room.

I signed up for the TARC 50 miler January 1st as soon as registration on ultrasignup opened up.

Sure last year was a disaster for me, but this year is a new course in a new location with a 7AM vs. 7PM start time. I learned that my choice of light really sucked last year. Luckily, I won’t need it for more than an hour at most this year.

What I did learn was that the new course, at Hale reservation, unlike the familiar and super runnable Weston course, will be hillier and more technical. It’s about an hour from my house, so I never made it out there to research or train.

My training during the winter was nonexistent as the trails were iced over near my house. I ran roads, but barely hitting the mileage I’m used to.

My training during the Spring was unmotivated at best. I was focusing on some new job responsibilities so double long runs on weekend were put to the end of the list of things I mentally wanted to handle. O and the fact that it snowed here well into April didn’t help.

So yea, lower mileage, no double back long runs, and I hit the trails for a total of three times since last fall will probably not helping my case.

And worse, an injury a month before the race. My knee was hurting a little bit at the end of May. I self diagnosed myself with runner knee, took a two-week break after struggling with it for a week and am now back to my perfect running self. However, this also left me with several weeks where I barely hit 30 miles. I’m happy to be back and healthy, but losing the peak of your training to injury isn’t a strength.

I debated DNSing

I was going to cheer on my friends and not even bother running. I had a few slower marathons that left me discouraged.

Then I convinced myself that I’ll only do one 25 mile loop to check out the course.

Now I’m all in. I have 7:45 hours to one loop before I start my second one.

What I do have on my side:

Incredible support from friends and TARC volunteers on the course… I have never ran a race where I felt more taken care of than at a TARC event.

A 15 hour limit which equates to a an 18 minute mile pace.

I’ve “raced” a good number of marathons this season ranging from a 3:22 to a 4:10 across the country – New Orleans, Little Rock, Atlanta, Boston, TARC 50K, Providence, Olympia, Burlington.

I’ve done a lot of things I didn’t think were possible for me.

I ran a 3:24 marathon after training on 4 hour-long 20 miler training runs which included breaks on my living room floor wondering how I can ever go on.

I ran 28 miles in 6 hours on snow and ice with barely a long run in training.

I ran a 50K in the summer heat while as usual being under trained. My first 50K which I regret to never have written about.

I will add a 50 miler to my accomplishments, I know I will.

Go On

TARC 50 Miler DNF

DID NOT FINISH, I guess is always better than a did not start.

Sadly the 2013 training season peak race will end with a DNF.  I don’t have a lot of regrets for my training going into the race.  I don’t know if much could have prepared for the two weeks of pouring rain that the course took.  My mind just could not handle the mud, swamps and darkness that the 50 miles held.  Emotionally, I hold on to some regret, but logically, I know I walked off the field with no injuries, no physical strains and am back on the road and trails the next day.

To summarize.

164 Registered for the 50 miler

66 Finished the 50 miler

41 Finished the 50 miler in under 12 hours

About 40 or so of the registered runners didn’t even start

190 Registered for the 100 miler

65 Finished the 100 miler

So my DNF was in very good company.  A lot of amazing, strong runners, that I admire and look up to ended up DNFing the course.  I have to keep reminding myself that because otherwise the guilt and wounded pride starts breaking me down.

The TARC 50/100 miler was not designed to be a challenging course.  I believe that it was designed to be very friendly towards those going for their first 50 miler or 100 miler.  And Bob Crowley & Josh Katzman along with the countless volunteer helper did any amazing job.

I took Friday off and spent half the day napping and sleeping and grazing.  I met Tony around 5 and we drove to Weston to get there at 6.  After getting my number, time chip and debating back and forth whether to use my Camelpak or my handheld, the prerace meeting started.  I don’t know how, but maybe the excitement, the great company and everything else made the hour fly by because before I knew it, it was 7 PM, the race was starting and I forgot to grab my gaiters!

Photo by Michel Caren of the start
Photo by Michel Caren of the start

There are three aid stations that you pass by multiple times.

4.5 Miles – First loop went great.  I had an 11 minute going pace which was my target for the first 25 miles.  There were a few puddles of mud, a few streams to cross but for the most part it was very runnable.  I felt great.  As I passed by the station that Tony was volunteering at, I kissed him and ran off still in high spirits.

The next 5 miles got worse.  The puddles got bigger and deeper.  There was a flowing river with rocks we forded through.  And it started to get dark.

Next 5.3 miles were in darkness and got muddier and worse, but by mile 15, I still felt okay.  However, I could see my pace quickly dropping as the swamp and pools of water got deeper and longer.

Somewhere around mile 19, I questioned whether I could make the 12 hour cut-off.

By mile 22, I knew I would not make it.  At mile 23, I was still planning on running the 4.5 mile loop to get to 30 miles or so for the night.  Even though I wasn’t going to make the 12 hour cut-off and such, I still wanted to end the night on an ultra.

Mile 24, 25 were mud, water, slippery socks, mud that tried to pull your shoes off and was barely runnable to me.  It was in those two miles, that solidified my decision.  I was walking off the course as soon as I get to 25 mile to complete my one loop.  I had this awful feeling that if I kept going, I would have injured myself.  Mentally, the mud had broken me.

No me but someone took this of how deep the water was
No me but someone took this of how deep the water was

Tarc 50 MudThis is a photo of the course during the day after more water had dried up.  I was running this in the dark, dead of night.

I reached the 25 mile aid station around 6 hour mark.  I learned later that I was the 73rd runner in the 50 miler to reach it.  I wasn’t the last one, or the only one not making the cut, I was middle of the pack.  I knew there was no way I would finish 25 more miles in 6 hours.  I learned way later that they extended the time cut-off from 12 to 15 hours.  I’ve spent way too much time wondering if I should have went on if I knew I had more hours.  The 6 hours that I ran on did not seem tedious and long, they actually flew by but maybe that;s my selective memory.  Maybe I would have kept going if I knew I had 9 hours and not 6 hours to finish the second 25 miles of the course but to be honest I was not having fun.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my fellow trail runners, the volunteers and aid stations were amazing.  I really REALLY wanted to keep running just so I could stop by and hang out at the aid stations.  Everyone was so amazing.

However, I was not prepared for the 25 muddy miles in the dark

1. I learned that my flashlight was not as bright as it seemed before
2. I learned that my headlamp is brighter about 10 miles later after using a useless flashlight but I could not figure out a way to hold it.  Having it on my head did not work.
3. I only had one pair out of the three pairs of shoes that I brought that would work in the mud.  After 25 miles, I needed either a hose or a new pair of shoes to get rid of the 10 pounds of mud I was carrying.
4. Running on mud and water makes you legs shaky. My hips hurt and I felt that if I kept going, I would either fall or twist my ankle in the mud.  I got really scared for my safety.
5. I was having a lot of difficulties on the two-way parts of the trail that were single track. It felt like everyone’s headlamp’s were brighter than mine and aiming straight for my eyes.
6. Running through the night wasn’t too bad. On the part of the trail that was runnable, I learned to trust my footing and my lighting. I actually did not get sleepy at all, and when I got home, I could barely fall asleep for an hour or so at 3AM

I have regrets for not going past my limits and succumbing to the weakness of my mind but I’m also grateful that I left the course with no injuries beyond my pride and was able to run the next day.

I thought about signing up for another 50 miler this summer but honestly, I don’t want to run double 20 milers on the weekends while the weather is hitting 90s.  I loved it in the winter, but summers are for biking, swimming and lazy days on a meadow.  Besides I have my first triathlon in a month and I start my training today! However, I will be back, probably not the fall since I work 6 days a week, but next Spring you’ll see me.  Maybe for TARC 2014 and maybe for much more!  Tony even said he won’t be too mean to me if I train for a 100 miler!

Final Week of Training – TARC 50 Miler!

So did you end up cashing in (more like cashing out ha!) on some of the Running Day deals?  T & I are in for RnR New Orleans (Feb) and Georgia Marathon (March) for 2014!  Two new cities, two new states, two new marathons, lots more fun.  Anyways, I added that and a few other goodies to my schedule (NYC!).

So last week was my last week of actual “training.”  I’m currently in taper week and with lack of running, I have to warn, I haven’t been the most pleasant.  Does anyone ever feel like a royal b— when you don’t get a workout in?  I guess drug addicts would say the same thing on their withdrawal symptoms.  I’ve been too cautious of cross-training because I don’t want to make my other muscles sore. However, I plan on picking up with swimming and biking after the 50 miler since I have a sprint triathlon a month away!  (Oops forgot to add that to the calender).

Anyways, last week.  Last week felt great and I have to confess, the biggest struggle was keeping my mileage down.  The problem is that when you start running high mileage weeks, after a while they become easier, and you feel great so you want to keep going, more running, faster, longer, stronger.  Problem is, this “great” feeling is a GREAT way to get a one way ticket to Injury City.  You start to skip your easy runs, you start to skip your rest days and before you know it, instead of feeling great, you feel pain.  So instead, I have to remind myself to take a step back.  To slow down and focus on my goal for June 14th.  Taper isn’t just a one week process, for it to be effective it should be done gradually and that’s what I tried to do while fighting my addictive nature to run more.

Monday – 2 Miles
I felt guilty about taking a rest day since I didn’t feel like the Spartan race counted as running miles on Sunday.  However, every muscle besides my legs hurt. The humidity and my smarter half of the brain feeling guilty about not taking a rest day made me cut the run  at 7:short.

Tuesday – 21 Miles
Double duty run.  8 miles in the morning and 13.1 in the evening!  8 miles on incline 2, 7:50 pace felt great.  A little less great in the evening run, with barely 8:30 pace.

Wednesday – 8.35 miles
Kept it slow with a 9 minute pace to try to recover from Tuesday

Thursday – Rest Day
Was too busy to run so rested it up instead

Friday – 5 miles
8 minute pace, but forced myself to keep it short

Saturday -14.1 Miles
Debated on how far too run. I didn’t want to take my run too long and not feel my best less than a week later.  I decided 14 miles was a fair compromise.

Sunday
5 miles.  Struggled once again to not run too much.  Felt weird but fun to take an easy weekend!

Total Miles 55.5

Total Feelings – Antsy! I want to get my 50 miler done!  Nerve-wrecked!

Meet the TARC 50 Milers!

Community.. Love… Running… Three words that can pretty much sum up TARC.  What is TARC? Trail Animal Running Club, but more than just a running club, it’s a culture and a way of living.  There is no cost to join and no obligation other than a love of running and respect for the trails and each other.  I’m still fairly new, fairly slow, fairly inexperienced.  However, I have always been treated as well as any ultra veteran winner.

The closest I’ve gotten to an ultra thus far has been my 6 hour race with 28 miles.  However, that will all change on Friday when I toe the line for my first 50 miler.

I’m not going to lie.  Training for me hasn’t been easy.  I’m still learning to balance sleep, running, and friends and family.  I haven’t been the greatest at it but I’m learning.  But enough about personal struggles.  What I really wanted to know is who are my fellow 50 milers, how did they train and what’s their plan? I got the idea after listening to DFL Ultra-running podcast (check it out, it’s like running with friends!) tribute to the TARC 100 that’s the highlight of the race I’m running.  They interviewed 10 individuals who are running either the 50 or 100 miler with similiar questions.

However, that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to know more 50 milers, who they are and how they trained.  So instead I came up with 6 questions and asked my fellow 50 milers to answer in any detail they had time and desire for.  What came out was a spectrum of answers and further shows the diversity of ultrarunners and the reason why I love being part of the TARC community.

The Questions

1. Name/Age/Gender if you wish to share –
2. Is this your first 50 miler? What’s your running history?
3. What distance have your long runs or races been leading up to TARC 50?
4. What was your weekly mileage at the peak of your training?
5. What pace/fuel strategy do you plan to follow?
6. What gear are you planning on using during the 50? (Could be as general or specific as you want to type)

I’ll start with myself:

1. Liana/26/Female
2. First 50 miler, started running marathons over a year ago.  Have done 7 marathons and one 6 hour race.
3. I did a 6 hour race in March for 28 miles. Otherwise I’ve done a few marathons in April & May but most of my training runs have been 20 miles or so. I’ve been doing double long runs usually a 20 miler and a second double digit the next day. A few times I did a marathon and a 20 miler but that was only once or twice.
4. Usually 60s, made it up to 80 or high 70s a few times.
5. Might target 11-12 minute pace for the first 25 miles, and then try to survive the second 25 miles. Going to try to eat something every 5-6 miles at the aid stations.
6. Innov-8 trail shoes, 2xu compression socks, Fenix flash light & a headlamp, camelpak maybe for the second loop (still debating if I need it for the 1st 25 miles).  Bug spray and my handheld bottle if I don’t use the camelpak.

Interview 1

1. Justin Shireman/34/Male
2. First 50 miler/7 marathons…started running again three years ago after a long hiatus.
3. A couple marathons
4. 50-60
5. Whatever gets me to the finish line within 12 hours
6. Headlamp and possibly flashlight.

Interview 2

1. Gary David, 43, Male
2. First 50. First marathon was in 1996. Run about 13 marathons or so, two Ironmans, two 50ks, plus many many shorter distances (half-IM, half marathons).
3. longest was 29 miles. Generally training 13 hours a week including bike and run
4. Between 40-50 run miles. Also was biking.
5. Conversational comfortable pace. Drinking around a 16 oz bottle about every hour (depends on conditions), 200-300 cals an hour
6. headlamp, handheld light, ultimate direction SJ pack, nathan handhelds, Brooks Cascadias, Garmin Forerunner 305, clothes.

Interview 3

1. Linnea Anderson, 27, female
2. This is my third 50-miler. I ran my first at Stone Cat last year and my second at Rocky Raccoon in February. I started running (for more than just extra conditioning for other sports) in 2007 with half marathons, then ran my first full marathon in 2010. I started trail running and training for ultras last spring and have done several 50Ks in addition to the 50-milers.
3. I was injured on and off from November to April, so a lot of my training consisted of just trying to get the mileage back up. I had an excellent base from last summer/fall, so I haven’t found it to be too difficult to get back into it. As preparation, I’ve done two 50Ks (TARC Spring Classic and Pineland Farms) and several 3-5 hour trail runs.
4. My peak mileage was around 50 miles with several strength workouts as well. I’ve tried to keep the mileage very reasonable to limit the chance of re-injuring myself.
5. I’ll take walk breaks, but I don’t follow a strict run-walk plan; I just walk hills or when I feel I need a break. When things get tough and running gets very mentally challenging, I find it helpful to give myself a limit – i.e. “I can walk to that tree” or “When my watch hits :45, I’ll run again.” For fuel, my mainstay is Clip2 from Succeed! mixed with coconut water. I call it my “miracle drink” because of how it brought me back from a rough place at Stone Cat. I’ve also been training with Tailwind and the Succeed! Amino mixes as well. I’ll probably start with Tailwind, then transition to a mixture of Clip2 and Amino with coconut water. For food, I just eat whatever looks good at the aid station – which, at TARC races, is usually almost everything!
6. I’m using my Black Diamond Storm headlamp and one Knuckle Light for the dark hours, which is most of the race. I’ll carry one handheld and some drink packets since the aid stations are so close together, and just refill with coconut water when I go through the start/finish each time. I’ll wear my new favorite shoe, the New Balance Leadville (NB1210).

Interview 4

1. Tracy Gariepy, F, 35
2. This is my first 50! I was registered for the 50 at Stonecat last year, but about a month before the race found myself with a stress fracture of the 2nd metatarsal and in a boot/crutches. No Stonecat for me  I’m an avid half- and full-marathoner, especially Disney races. I annually do the Goofy Challenge at Disney World, which is a half marathon and full marathon all in the same weekend. Last year I did my first two 50k trail races (Pineland and TARC Summer Classic), which would have been perfect training for Stonecat, had I been able to make it.
3. My longest run for this 50 miler is only 20 miles, with a few 18’s. I had a bad run at the TARC spring classic where I intended to do 50k, and dropped after 30k
4. My weekly mileage has been about 50 miles.
5. For any training associated with trail/ultra training, I always just run at a comfortable pace, whatever that may be that day. For road races I work a lot more on speed and pacing. At this TARC 50, I’ll be running with a friend who is generally slower than me. I’m hoping that by running slow with her will make up for the fact that I’m not fully trained for this distance. I don’t have a specific fueling strategy. I eat when I’m hungry, drink when I’m thirsty.
6. I hate carrying gear when I run. It kills me to do it, but I’m going to have to suck it up and wrap a headlamp around my fist (found a cheap one at REI), and maybe also carry a flashlight. I’ll wear a waistpack with two small water bottles, but mostly rely on aid stations for refueling.

Interview 5

1. Thomas Dorr 38 year old male.
2.this is my first 50. I started running again about three years ago leading to my first marathon last year . This year I have done two marathons leading up to this
3. Two spring marathons and several 20 to 25 mile runs
4. 60-70 miles
5.slow and steady, I think the hard part will be slowing my pace from my shorter races

Interview 6

1.) Lauren Farkash /44/ Female
2.) second 50 miler – have also run several 50k, paced husband and friend in several 100 milers, have run 27 marathons, trying to complete one in each state, running since I was a kid
3.) long runs have been up to 3 hours, with a couple of recent marathons
4.) 75 miles per week at peak
5.) no strategy, running with a friend who is training for VT 100
6.) Basic gear: shoes, handheld hydration, headlight, spi belt for gels and s caps

Interview 7

1. Beth Campbell/44/female
2. This is my second 50 miler. My firsts was in January at the Avalon 50 Miler on Catalina Island in CA. Afterwards i was hooked! I’ve been running as a sport since high school xcountry and have been running marathons since taking on a bet from my brother in 2000.
3. For training I’ve been running more for time on my feet rather than distance. it usually works out. i’ve also been trying to do back to back long run days; usually Saturday and Sunday. My Longest was an awesomely difficult 5 1/2 hour nighttime trail run (7pm -12:30 am) with some of my crazy running peeps. We wanted to try to acclimate to starting at 7pm like we will be doing for the race. Not an easy transition for this 4:30 am runner.
5. My weekly mileage never got over 50 miles a week. I work full time and have 9 year old twin boys … 50 is all I can manage without losing my mind or dropping from exhaustion.
6. Depending on the temps I was planning on carrying a camelback so that I can be self reliant. Headlamp is the only other must. Trying to travel as light as possible!

Interview 8

1- Andrew B / 30 / Male
2- This will be my second 50 mile race start. I started the Wapack 50 in 2012 but only did the first 43 miles. Longest run for me ever was 60 miles at the 2012 TARC Ghost Train. I ran in high school XC but quit after graduation. Took up running again about 2 years ago. Ran about 1200 miles last year.
3- Longest was the TARC 50k in late April … closer to 32 miles. Other than that I did a few 10 mile runs in May and another 9 last weekend when it was like 90 deg out. We’ll see if my laid back low-mile approach was a good or bad idea next week!
4- Best week was about 40 miles. Monthly: April 130 / May 150
5-Pace is keep it slow! I always go out too fast, I have recently been practicing what a 12 min pace feels like – I will start off at this pace. Since my GPS will not last for the race, I’ll use a regular watch and a pace card with each station at my calculated time for a 12 min pace. Fuel – eat at every station and pack some cliff bars to eat in between stations.
6- Pack is a runner’s belt w/ 20 oz water bottle and storage for several bars. I will just wear my headlamp. Only other thing I need are shoes: new balance mt101s. These shoes are literally falling apart but I can’t find anything new to replace them with the same profile so I am praying they can last one more week.

Interview 9

1. Anthony Tieuli / 40 / Male
2. No, this will be my 2nd 50 Miler. Ran the StoneCat 50 last year. I’ve been running regularly since 2010 when I was running mostly to train for sprint triathlons. Picked up the distance bug late in 2010 and ran my first Boston in 2011. Ran my first ultra (Pineland 50k) in 2012 and have run a bunch of marathons, 3 or 4 more 50k’s, and a 50 Miler in the last year or so.
3. Mostly 50k races and marathons as long training runs. the last few weeks have been more shorter (10-15 mile) back to back days.
4. 50-60 miles.
5. I don’t have a pace strategy, I just go by perceived effort. I don’t let my heart rate or breathing get out of control. For fuel, mostly gels and water and maybe some perpetuem. I tend to not like the junk food at aid stations, but I do like to eat fruit. Of course all bets are off after mile 35. I’ll eat whatever my body tells me to.
6. Inov8 Trailroc 255’s, Injini 2.0 Socks, Black Diamond Sprinter headlamp, Ultimate Direction handheld water bottle and/or Nathan Vaporwrap hydration pack, Hammer Gels and Hammer Perpetuem.
Check out Anthony’s blog InsideMyTrailHead for some awesome race recaps!

Interview 10

1. Dave Will 42 m
2. Yes. 42 marathons, one sub-3, an ironman, and a few 12 hr adventure runs. Been running for 25 yrs.
3. Mid-twenties on trails.
4. 70’s
5. 11-12 min pace steady, regular fuel.
6. Camelback, GU brew, PB&J, chex mix, turkey jerky, endurolytes, headlamp, nipple band aids!

Interview 11

Dari Whitehouse 50 Female

First 50M – to celebrate turning 50 on 5/27/13. I’ve been running since 2008.

1 – 50K, 5 marathons, 3 1/2 marathons, blah blah blah

My long runs in prep for TARC included the Boston Marathon in April (crossing 57 seconds before the first blast), and a nighttime 40 miler on Martha’s Vineyard in May, along with misc. 20 milers.

My mileage was lower than I would have liked due to my experience at Boston. On average, about 50 miles per week, I guess. I’ve had a pretty hard time reclaiming my passion for running since 4/15. My son, his gf & my best friend were at the finish line and it’s been a tough period for us all.

Gu every 4 miles or so, salt caps, gatorade & water, pretzels, PB&J sandwiches, pieces of protein bars & honey stinger waffles. I’m hoping for a 12min pace but really I have so little trail experience, I’d be thrilled just to finish without a DFL or DNF due to time cut off.

I’ll use a hydration pack. I dehydrate pretty easily due to past chemo treatments. Knuckle lights & a headlamp (maybe), trail shoes plus two back ups due to mud & anticipated rain this week.

Dari is also a 4x cancer survivor and now a Boston survivor.  NPR did a small piece about her and her son.  “Just some insights into who I am and why I’ve looked forward to this run so much. I’m hoping for a cathartic and dare I say, freeing run in the woods with amazing friends on Friday. As a 4x cancer survivor and now a Boston survivor, I’m grateful everyday I get another chance to get it right.”  Check it out, it’s fairly short (only 9 minutes long) PRX interview.  

Interview 12

1. Emer O’Donoghue 50 F.
2.Yes. Running since 1995. This is my first 50 miler. I ran a 50k last year to celebrate my 50th birthday. Pinelands. I have run 6 marathons. I am a mountain runner and have done the series since 2001. Missed 2007 and 2012. Back again this year.
3.20 mile is my longest run. I have done the first four mountains of the USAFT-NE Mountain series. Sleepy Hollow, Wachusetts, Bretton Woods Fell race and Ascutney last Sunday.
4.53 miles.
5. Go out easy and hold on!
6.Shirt and shorts, something I usually run it.

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Someone also posted this chart of the runners.  Trail running doesn’t discriminate!

If you want to track any of us because you are really curious to see where we are at 3AM on Friday night when you are warm in your bed look here.

There you have it! I hope you enjoyed that and if you’re planning on running the TARC 50 or 100 Miler, share your answers!