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.
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.
We also met my friend Ryan at the starting line.
I love the chips pockets!
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!
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.
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.
Photo by Tricia Tucker
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.
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 ;).
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!