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.
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?