TARC Summer Classic 50K Race Report

The TARC Summer Classic holds a special place in my heart as this was my first official 50k finish! I never recap it because I got busy with work and it just went into the abyss so I will have to do the justice this year.

I believe this was the third year the race was held and it’s always held around mid to end August. This year it was on Saturday August 16.  Registration is only around $25 with all fees and while you don’t get a medal, or a useless Tshirt that will end up in Goodwill, you do get a rocking, running good time!

The TARC Summer Classic consists of two races, a 50 miler and a 50k. Each year, I originally sign up for the 50 miler but as always since my summer running had been minimal, so I dropped down to the 50k.  It was a distance I knew I could handle in 13 hours even if I had to walk the course. I couldn’t make the same assumption for the 50 miler, so a week before race day I did my annual please Race Director drop my distance plea.

So the night before the race, I was actually really nervous. My longest run in two months was a road 13 miler. Since my TARC 50 DNF, I have focused all my energy into my half ironman training or at least complaining. Tony and I were originally going to get Ethiopian food but switched to Italian last second because I wanted some pasta in my tummy. Close enough?

photo 1 (15)
I packed a lot of things for the day because I wasn’t sure if my body would remember that it can run for more than two hours. I packed my trail shoes, my cushy road shoes, camelpak, water bottle handheld, change of outfit and everything in between. Luckily, I only ended up using my handheld waterbottle for the whole race.

photo 2 (14)

The race starts at 7AM with a short trail briefing at 6:45. It consists of about 3 10 mile loops and a little extra small loop for the 50K runners to get to 31 milers. I have originally planned on getting to the race start around 6:30 to have enough time to get some food in my belly but we got pulled over around a stretch of a speed trap, you know the kind that drops down randomly to 30MPH on a rural road. They let us go with a warning, but the time it took the officer to look us up and everything ended up eating away any eating cushion I had.

Anyway, the race is technically 15 miles or so outside of Boston or at least its southern point. For me it ends up being almost hour drive. Its a 10 mile look with a variety of terrain, including some great trails along the Charles River and the surrounding wetlands and views from the top of Noon Hill. Covers several sections of the Bay Circuit Trail system

My first loop, went great. I couldn’t quite remember what the course was like so I just slowly kept taking in the easy mile to bank up on some time for the climbs and this one section with turny,  dead trees that I despise. So according to official splits, my first loop was 2:06 and I felt great. I knew since I didn’t eat anything for breakfast I had to stop after my first loop and get some real food in me.

I was happy to report to myself that the course is about 80% runnable with about 10% slightly annoying and 10% really annoying rocky climbs/descends.

My second loop around mile 12-13 I took an easy dive. Yup, same spot I felt last year. I dusted myself off and moved forward. Around then, the news spread that there’s an angry nest of wasps that’s been awoken on the trail. Suddenly, I realized that on my first loop, the buzzing I heard wasn’t a giant fly, and felt freaked out all over again because I wasn’t sure where on the trail they were, just that at some point, I would have to figure out how to get around them.

Well, even with a bees ahead warning, I still ended up not seeing them until, I was smack in the middle of hearing them on my second loop. I just ran as fast as I could, almost falling on my face, but still running until the buzzing stopped.

photo 3 (10)

I finished my second loop in about 2:20, so 15 minutes slower than my first loop. Unfortunately not the plan, but I stopped to eat a PBJ sandwich, plus my wipe out and the looking out for bees but me on a slower, steadier root that was more familiar to my pace last year.

The third loop turn around was faster, I only grabbed a small piece of PBJ and just ran/walked as I ate. I knew I had to keep moving, because if I stopped, there was not getting back up. I heard that the nest of angry wasps was finally eliminated letting my head rest easy. I’m not sure if I’m allergic but I don’t want to find out. My final loop clocked in at 2:29, more steady with the time of my second loop. Also, I’m 90% sure I got lost. My Garmin clocked in around 32.5 miles versus the 31 miles. TARC races use a lot of twists and turns, and two way roots to make up the mileage so it’s easy to get turned around a bit and bank up some more miles. That being said, the course is really well marked. Whenever, I run a nonTARC race, I’m always freaking out that I’m lost because there’s always less trail markings.

photo 4 (6)

My official time is 6:54:47, giving me a lovely 3-4 minute PR with a whole lot less training. I may not be a full time trail runner, but it’s nice to remind myself that I’m stronger than I think.  9/25 Gender place and 32/73 overall place. Out of the 73 that started, I saw there was 12 DNFs and who knows how many DNSs. Since the races are so reasonable priced many people just don’t always show up if they’re under-trained.  Would I have loved another 6 hour 50K, of course, but I’ll take what I got on that day, and I’ll accept it with pride and gratitude of what my body can do.

2014 TARC Spring Classic 50K Race Recap

In 2012 I DNFed (Side note, I laugh when I read my race recaps from 2 years ago, so young so arrogant I was)

In 2013 I DNSed, granted I was a few states away running a road marathon instead

In 2014 I rose from the ashes as a muddy phoenix

See me and the TARC Spring Classic have a long history. It’s always 6 days after the Boston marathon that destroys my quads. I’d like to think that I’ve gotten pretty good at recovering quickly. It helps when you don’t race too hard, but no matter what pace I run Boston, I’m always limping for a week or so. Don’t disrespect those downhill courses I guess.

The TARC Spring Classic course is also the site of my 2013 failed 50 miler attempt that turned into 26 miles of swimming.

Needless to say that between my complicated history with the Weston trails, my slow Boston Marathon recovery and the fact that I’ve avoided trails since October 2013 like the black plague, I was a bundle of nerves. My expectations were so low that a large part of me hoped I would oversleep my alarm and not show-up.

Luckily I didn’t, and while a little behind schedule, I got to the starting area just in time. Suddenly I was surrounded by familiar smiling faces that would accept me whether I ran 10K that day or 50K, whether I ran a 7 minutes mile or a 30 minute mile. And I began to calm down.

And then I realized my Garmin wouldn’t turn on. I was ready to turn around, get into my car and go take a nap instead. I quickly told myself to woman up and stop being a wimp. Animals that hide in a car because their running watch isn’t working, will be the first road kill. Before I had time to figure out something else, the race started and off I went, naked as the day I started running.

It’s weird trying to recap a race without any idea of what pace I ran or which mile or even my 10K splits. All I have are guesses. In a good way it was nice because I didn’t feel the normal anxiety that I do on trails because I always feel like my pace is too slow. I only had other runners to judge my pace on and since for the most part, I didn’t get passed too many times, I can only assume whatever pace I was on, was good enough.

It also helps that Weston trails are 98% most runnable trails you will find in New England.

TARC 50K 4

What else am I forgetting? O yea, this little thing called mother nature and her wrath for me whenever I am running. About 20 minutes into the race, it started to rain like crazy. The trees provided some coverage, but I was starting to get soaked.

TARC 50K

After my first 10K, I stopped for water and at my gear to trade my wet long sleeve for my rain jacket. On my second 10K, I stopped by for some water at the aid station and a PBJ. Since I had no watch or anything, I asked a volunteer what time it was who told me it was 10:20 so at the pace I was going at about 65 minutes per 10K, My third loop felt a lot harder than the first two as I recalled DNFing on this loop two years ago. I knew there was only one way for me to not, I had to make the decision to skip the aid stations between loop 3 and 4. I grabbed some potatoes, picked up my cell phone from my gear since I wanted to take photos on my fourth loop and back out I went.

TARC 50K 3

Although I spent most of the 31 miles alone without my watch or cell phone, it really was a beautiful run.

TARC 50K 5

I even began to appreciate the mud with each new loop… JK, no I didn’t, I was having minor flashbacks.

TARC 50K 2

We did have some minor bumps on the trail that seemed to feel like mountains when you’re on your 25th mile, but for the most part, the course was really runnable and fast had I been in racing shape, versus recovery shape.

I felt really tired on my fourth loop and did a good amount of walking. While my first two loops were about 65 minutes and my second loop 70 minutes, I think my fourth loop was about 85 minutes. That’s a huge variance in a 6.2 mile loop.

But here’s the funny thing about ultrarunning (even at my minor level), you go through so many high and lows between glee and tears and this was no exception. On my 5th loop, I don’t know what exactly happened, but i felt like I was running my first. I brought an extra pair of shoes and rocks, but my Mizuno waveriders worked well enough that I felt no need to change. However, my jacket was starting to soak through, so my 5th loop, I wanted to start out fresh and dry. I switched tops and off I went like a gazelle.

Except this part

TARC 50K 6

This part still sucked… There were three muddy hell crossings, this is the 2nd worse one. Unfortunately, I was too focused on not getting my shoes sucked off to take photos at the other two spots.

And I don’t know for certain, but I’m pretty sure my 5th loop was my fastest because according to official results I ran 5:44:35, a 45 minute PR for me.

I knew this week was going to be a PR worthy week, I just didn’t expect it to come from a 50K.

As for medals and tech shirts? For a $22 race? These are the trail race medals:

Trails Races Medals

Ghost Train Trail Race Recap

The Ghost Train is a two day event of running, running and more running. Technically it’s centered around an ultra event that starts on Saturday. The race consists of an out and back 15 miler that you can do over and over and over again. The majority of the ultra runners are after the coveted 100 miler, while some settle for a “measly” 50 or 30, or a 15 miler like me. Race registration was only $20 for the 15 miler and $40 for the ultra distance. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, you’re gonna have to run more miles ;).

There’s no finishing medals or race shirts or any other usual road race extras but that’s what keeps the cost low and I love it. The energy and support from the volunteers and fellow runners is all you need and what keeps me coming back for more trail races.

I did get this little bag of treats when I picked up my number though.  I might have consumed half of the candy on my ride back home.

Ghost Train Goodies

The “official” 15 miler race starts on Sunday morning as many of the ultra runners are wrapping up their 100 miles of running through the day, then night and more day. If you ever want to get inspired to never take a walk break during a short little distance like 15 miles, just get passed by, by someone on mile 76 of their 30 hour journey! For someone who has no shame in admitting that she has taken walk breaks during every half marathon, or marathon that she raced, I found it in me to push through and not walk anything but 100 meters or so of this crazy steep (but super short) hill which was part of my strategy that I’ll explain later.

Anyways Sunday started out miserable. I woke up at 4AM, with a mild wine headache. Saturday night we had an amazing but heavy Italian dinner where two bottles of wine might have been killed through our experience with KitchenSurfing (post on this later). After realizing I still had 90 more minutes of sleep, I rolled over and tried to get more rest. Giving up by 5:30 AM because I realized that the noise I was hearing outside my window was POURING rain! I prepped my outfit the night before thinking it was going to be in the 30s for the race. Got my tights on, Underamour and went to kitchen to make some tea. 5 minutes later realizing if I run like that I’m going to prune up from my own sweat. Ran back upstairs and started digging around for Capris in my laundry that I have yet to fold. Tony was still attempting to sleep and was not thrilled as I’m running around our bedroom looking for something less warm to run in.

My friend Anna was awesome enough to pick me up from my house and drive to the race. In pitch rainy darkness, we made the hour drive up to Milton, NH. When we got to the race start, we saw that the pouring rain never made it up to this part of NH, but that it did bring some warmth over creating perfect high 40s/low 50s running weather.

Ghost Train Start all

We also met my friend Ryan at the starting line.

Ghost Train Food

I love the chips pockets!

Ghost Train More Food

In typical ultra fashion, there was no lack of food there for sure. Anything you could imagine, the volunteers would provide for you. The 15 miler start was the 7.5 mile turn around point for the ultra. They had a fire going for some grilled cheeses, potatoes and hot soup!

Ghost Train start

Photo credit Anna

The race started at 8AM with a happy group of about 100 15 miler runners. Within about a mile or less you hit “the hill.” It’s not really that bad of a hill, its super short (100 meters? Never running track, I’m not too sure of my distance perception) but it was straight up. I decided right away first its only mile 1, second most of the course is flat, third of all I shouldn’t be breaking myself one week before NY. You lose a lot more energy going up than you’ll never make up on the downhill. So I slowed down my effort to a recovery pace and similar on the downhill as well so I can switch immediately into racing pace on the flat.

Sure I got passed by a ton of people on the up and down of the 100 meters hill, but I know my strengths and luckily for me, 95% of the course played into that strength. I love trails, but I’m not a trail runner. Every rock, root and pile of leaves leaves me into a panic of analyzing each step that makes me ridiculously slow and tired. I’m a road runner at heart. Luckily, trains don’t like technical terrain either, and this race was on a rail trail, which was flatter than most local road races.

After the “hill” and hoping over a guardrail to cross the street, the course stayed pretty much flat and I got into my groove. I started to pass all the people that burst up the hill earlier. My hangover was finally going away and I was hitting faster times than I was planning. I have NYC next Sunday so I tried really hard to not go faster than 7:30s (my overzealous goal pace for next week). I want this following week to be a taper week and not recovery, so when I saw my watch go into 6:50s on the more flat, mild decline part of the trail, I tried to cut back on effort. I started my taper the past week, so running fast was feeling good, but I needed to curb the running self destruction I tend to do to myself.

The course itself was beautiful! The volunteers, and organizers put a ton of work into it to decorate it for the season. I was planning on taking photos on the second half of the race but got caught up in the excitement. Luckily Anna took some photos that I’ll share.

Ghost Train Ghost

They also had decorated milk jugs for lighting and so many small but super cool details that just perk you up and make you smile. It didn’t help that it was also Fall in NH so the trail is at the height of it’s beauty with the changing falling leaves!

The one other photo that I wish I had was of this crazy long tube tunnel you run through. When I looped back through it towards the finish of the race (approx to my memory mile 4 and 11?) It felt like I was tripping in a scene of Trainspotting. I swear I saw dead babies in the tunnel ceiling.

The race does have one mile of road running that consists of 1/2 mile on Camp Tevya property and 1/2 mile along route 13 due to landowner dispute. The sensation on your feet of hitting pavement after running on trails is definitely a funny feeling.

Ghost Train Liana 2

Photo by Tricia Tucker

Ghost Train Liana

Photo by Tricia Tucker

As we 15 milers made our run through the trail, was saw many ultra runners still making their way through their 30 hour journey. It was motivating and inspiring that any pain that I felt seemed relatively irrelevant. I’m usually miserable for the last 5K of a half marathon, so I imagined that after mile 13, I would mentally have no desire to run those two extra miles. However, seeing so many individuals accomplish these amazing fleets, really crushed any mental wall that I end up building during races.

Ghost Train Results

My finishing official time ended up being 1:56:26 (I started my Garmin about a minute into the race). This was good enough to be 2nd overall female (of the 15 miler) and 14th finisher from the 99 runners that finished. Finally a respectable race result to prove that I don’t always finish almost last ;).

Ghost Train Finish

Three happy and accomplished runners!

After the race, I changed, drank several cups of warm water, two cups of chicken noodle soup, some grilled cheese sandwiches and many pumpkin flavored Dunkin Donut munchkins. When I got home, I continued my tradition of eating everything in the house as I laid around in pain from the Core Fusion class I took on Saturday (My arms and chest feel like throbbing jello!). I like to think the pain is fat cells dying.

Did you race this weekend? How did your race go? It not, tell me something else you did this weekend!

After DNF, what’s next?

I’ve been a little quiet this week… it’s hard to write about writing, when a race you wrote about training for half the year ended in well… this.  I’m hitting all the stages of grief now.

Denial… maybe it was all a dream

Anger… blaming my light, mother nature, other runners but most of all myself

angry bunnySource

Bargaining Maybe if I run 50 miles on my own it will count

Depression… After Friday night, I didn’t even want to look at my trail running shoes.  I didn’t even want to think about running.  I wanted to wallow and wallow in my self-pity. Tony was great though, he hosed off the 20 pounds of mud off my shoes and compression socks and it wasn’t until Tuesday that I finally ran them through the wash.

I punished myself on Saturday by making myself scrub the kitchen floor in hopes of making it clean like an OCD maniac (I don’t clean very often, or ever because I’m terrible at it).  Then halfway I got tired and lazy and the scrubbing got downgraded to mopping & moping while no one was there to look.

I really wanted to wallow in my self-pity, but NOBODY would let me!  Everyone has been so kind (or controlling) and every time I try to mumble something degrading, I’m shut down!  Sometimes a gal wants to whine and mope you know 😉  However, I am too lucky with all the amazing support of friends and family I’m surrounded by.

T-dawg even dragged me to a celebration dinner we planned earlier even though I didn’t really do anything worth celebrating besides not breaking a leg (literally).

DNF Dinner

We went to Turner Seafood in Melrose with some friends.  I ordered a margarita that has an oyster inside.  It was amazing! It was like a bloody Mary made love with a dirty martini and popped out an oyster baby inside.  I ordered the tuna burger and Tony ordered the fried seafood platter.  Definitely will be coming back here again.  At least I will for my new favorite drink.

Acceptance

I’ve accepted it.  I finally washed my legs from the mud.  dirty feet

Just kidding, this is what my feet looked like AFTER a hose down Friday night  I wasn’t allowed anywhere until I washed the mud off.  Although days later, many foot soaks later and a pool swim later, I am still finding mud permanently engraved into my toes and feet. Sorry sexy red sandals, I’ll have to wait before I wear you again.  Hello Toms.

I’ve accepted, Friday night was not my night for a 50 miler.  I’m okay.  It sucks, I spent a lot of time training and looking forward to it but that’s okay.  I spent a lot of time TALKING, WRITING about it, but that’s okay.  I plan on having many years of running ahead of me and there will be a 50 miler in my future.  Maybe not this year, but there’s always next Spring.

What’s next?

In less than a month I’m running my first TRIATHLON!  July 14th, Appleman Triathlon in Littleton, MA.  It’s sprint distance which doesn’t have a real standard.  This triathlon will be HALF A MILE swim, 10 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run.

Where’s my swimming.  So far I can swim 50 yards in the pool with only one mouth full of water before I grab the wall.  I only have to do 16 times that distance in open water in less than 4 weeks.

So needless to say, my focus for the next 3-4 weeks will be learning how to swim.  I’m trying hit the pool one way or another every other day before my arms fall off.

I’m signed up for another 50 miler.  TARC Summer Classic.  There is still a chance I’ll drop down to 50K.  I’m not planning on keeping up high mileage training like I was the TARC 50 miler last week.  With summer heat and activities, I think I’ll go about 50-60 miles of running and just see how I feel come August 17th.

Before that, I’ll be running a trail marathon, Bear Brook Trail Marathon July 27th.

That’s about it for the summer.  I’ve accepted what happened and I’m moving on and enjoying all the perks and wonders I have around me.

Now if it would only stop raining and being cold in Boston.

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!

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!

2013 TARC Spring Thaw 6 Hour Race

The 2013 TARC Spring Thaw was held on Sunday March 24th.  The race features a 3.5 mile trail loop that you run as often times as you can in 6 hours.  For the second year in a row race director Emily Trespas and all the volunteers put on a fantastic event on trails owned by the Andover Villiage Improvement Society.  The race ran from 9AM-3PM and was capped at 100 people.

Emily also drew this beautiful Yetti stencil we all got. TARC races really are the best!

This was also my first ultra and I was super nervous.  While I know I should be hitting the trails as often as I could to train for my first 50 miler, the winter this year had other things in mind as it kept dumping snow weekend after weekend.  So I’ve been sticking to the roads and happily avoiding the snow-capped jagged rocks and stumps of the trails.

I didn’t know what to expect, I’ve run a TARC race before (last year in Weston) and the trail was much easier than running in the Fells, but I wasn’t sure what was in store in Andover.  Furthermore, mother nature decided to dump 9 inches of snow on Wednesday that barely began to melt until Saturday.  Luckily, by Sunday, only a few inches of snow remained but I was still scared enough avoid absolutely any goals.  I was at a loss of what to expect from myself other than a determination to last 6 hours.

Confession – I have never ran more than 4 hours at a time in my life.  The few times I remember running that long, I remember being exhausted, so I was still at a loss how I was going to last 6 hours running.  However, the goal was clear, keep moving, keep running, keep walking, keep crawling until 6 hours are up!

I woke up at 6:45 excited for the race and eager to test out my new hydration pack!

Yup even before running, my hair looked like a squirrel that was electrocuted. Anyways I got up, got dressed and headed out to meet up with another TARC member who lives near by to drive up to Andover.  She was awesome enough to help me with a ride to getting to the race.  THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

I skipped breakfast because TARC races always come with food, and my stomach is pretty iron.  When I got to the race, I was greeted with bagels, fruit, gu, pbj sandwiches.  I munched on a sesame seed bagel (big mistake as I was burping sesame seeds for about 7-10 miles), and a few pieces of pbj.

At 8:30 there was a brief meeting and at 9AM we were off.  Unlike Saturday, I positioned myself at the end of the line.  I’m pretty slow and I didn’t want to get in anyone’s way but I also wanted all the runners in front to pack all the snow

(I got this photo from someone on FB but I forgot who, sorry =()

The first 3.5 miles were slow, snowy, crunchy and of course I had my first wipe-out within 30 minutes.  There was a bridge, there was ice and I went down before I even knew what was happening but luckily aside from my pride nothing else was hurt.  The first mile I ran in over 13 minutes as I was getting used to the feel of the snow but by mile 3 I had a nice fast 11:40 minutes per hour pace going.

The beautiful photos I’ll be sharing below were taken by Scott Mason. Amazing how none of the snot dripping off me made it to the photos! In fact, dare I say, I think I’m looking pretty good, maybe not Scott Jurek on the trails good, but you couldn’t even tell that I was terrified of falling with each step.

2013 Spring Thaw Woods

My second lap was stronger and I was dipping into a few 10 minute miles.  I stood strong for about another lap or 2.  I was running, and I wasn’t hitting the adrenaline levels you hit in a road race, but more of a happiness on a different level.  I would say meditative, but I really can’t stand it when people call runs meditative; I’m huffing & puffing so there is nothing meditative about me when I run.  However, I was running the whole time without my headphones and most of the time because I was too slow to be with the wolf pack and too fast to be with the others, I was on my own and I think I liked it.  My main focus was the trail with one step in front of the other and just breathing in the fresh crisp air.  Luckily, all the runners in front of me left footsteps and I followed those without getting lost once.  Had there been no snow, I’m sure I would have gotten turned around at least once per loop.

I hit a wall around mile 19 similar to marathon and questioned about just how far I wanted to go.  Did I really need to run more than 20 miles I asked?  However, after a few pep talks, and snacks from the AID table I ventured back into the woods.  I thought about putting on some music, but resisted and didn’t take out my phone once during the 6 hours.  Probably aside from sleep, this is one of the longest times I’ve been digitally disconnected in a while!  One of the volunteers kindly refueled my camelpak (because I wasn’t sure how to and my brain was dizzy) with Gu Brew which was kinda tasty.  I hate Gatorade and would rather dehydrate and die but the pink Gu Brew was tasty.  Truth is that I didn’t really need my camelpak on this race.  There was an amazing aid table every 3.5 miles, but I love having it.  It was light and I barely noticed it, and any time I wanted a sip of something sweet, it was there to comfort me.

It was also around mile 19 that I also learned to love downhill.  Now the course wasn’t very hilly.  According to my Garmin total elevation gain was 7,627 feet but when you’re running for 6 hours any rise in elevation is a sign for sadness.  On my first lap, every time there was a decline, I would slow down and be terrified of slipping but by my 3rd loop, I was bombing down the hills, well as bombing as you can be at 11 minute miles haha.

Somewhere between loop 6 and 7 I had about 3 more falls on flat muddy surfaces.  You see after a few hours of running, all the snow was stumped into glorious mud.  For at least two of them I have quite the audience behind me.  Most of the trail was turned into a mud bath where both my feet would be taking a swim at least once a loop.  Luckily, no blisters or issues arose.  I guess wearing sock liners worked.

After my 7th loop, I was ready to quit.  It was about 5 hrs 10 Min into the race and I wasn’t sure I could do the last 3.5 miles in 50 minutes. Yet, somehow with the support and more pep talks from fellow TARC members I was talked into going for the 8th loop.  I grabbed a PBJ and was about to enter the woods when I bit my cheek trying to eat my food.  I bit it hard and could taste blood mixed in with jelly!  I was in pain and began to walk wobble back to say I’m not doing another loop.  However, I saw my new friend who I drove up with coming out of the woods and ready for her final loop.  Alright, if she was willing to risk, I figured I have no excuse so in I went, bloody cheek, covered in mud and only perseverance to push me forward and maybe a few thin mint Girl Scouts cookies.

Reji who was volunteering took a photo of the snack table and this showcases probably only 20% of all the food types that were available during the race.  My favorite were PBJs followed by Thin Mints.

Yea picture a short little blonde girl grabbing a bunch of cookies and running into the woods.  That was me!

I finished my last loop at 5:56:52 just barely making the cut.  As soon as I crossed the finish line, my mind couldn’t even gather the strength to form sentences so I just sat down and breathed.

In the end I found out I placed 22 out of 91 so not too shabby for a trail rookie and a girl’s first ultra in a snow filled forest.

WHAT I WORE – Because you know you care

  • Target Tech Short Sleeve
  • Adidas Boston Marathon Long Sleeve – Love that thing and that’s why I was doing laundry on a Saturday night before going out to a bar.
  • Calvin Klein Tights – I really should get another pair, but I keep hoping weather will clear up and I won’t have to worry until next year
  • REI Silk Sock Liners – saved my feet every wet run thus far!
  • Adidas athletic socks
  • Camelbak – Didn’t need but loved having and barely noticed
  • Innov-8 Roclite 315 – shoes that kept my toes from getting broken

Looking back I don’t think I would have changed anything about what I did during the race.  None of my gear/clothes had any issues and I was grateful for everything I had on me.  I paced myself to the point that I was actually running all 6 hours.  Other than walking by the aid table, I was fortunate enough to never have to walk on the trails… something I’ve never been able to accomplish in a road race.  I end up taking a walk break at some point even in half marathons!  I made some amazing new trail friends and just had a great Sunday in the woods!

Do you prefer trails or roads?