This past weekend I had the opportunity to race my third trainer race in my lead up to the Vermont 100 next month, the TARC 100 (the 50 mile version). The TARC100 took place in Weston, MA and began on Friday evening at 7pm.
As usual my journey begins with getting my crap together. The challenge this time was driving alone to Weston (just outside of Boston). A 6 hour straight thru drive, the plan was to stop frequently and stretch out the legs. Stopping while traveling is something I rarely do when I want to get someplace quickly. So I decided I would leave a tad earlier in hopes of getting to Weston with enough time to relax and eat.
The trip itself was pretty uneventful, just tried to keep my mind occupied and get there in one piece.
While I waited for check-in to open, I met Bob Crowley and some other TARC members then I decided to check out what some of the trails looked like. It had rained a bit hard the day before and overnight and so I was expecting some mud and flood.
Headed back, checked in then went back to the Jeep and got ready. Took some time to eat and rest as much as I could. Talked with some other runners then made my way back over to the start area which now had been more or less invaded.
I briefly met the race director Josh, met up with local Rochestarians Gil, Heather and Chris. Shortly after the pre race meeting began. Josh assured everyone it wasn’t that bad, a couple muddy spots, but nothing big. A few minutes later 7pm hit, and we were off. An overnight journey for me was just beginning.
Here is what the course looked like:
Loop 1 Miles 1-25 — Start to AS1 42:02
4.18 miles — 10:03 min/mi
We began by going across the parking lot and up a little meandering hill, which I’m sure made for some interesting shots. This would be the last one I would take until the end of the race. We ran part of the section I had previewed, things were dry and going well. Some of the people took the first 2 miles a bit fast (as usual) I tried to get into my planned pace and effort early and run my race. About mile 3 I noticed my heart rate was abnormally high, so I tried to focus on my breathing and simmer down. Ran a little bit with a runner named Kino whom I met at Cayuga. Our first adventure in the mud and water wasn’t all that bad. It was light enough out to see it, so I just ended up running thru it figuring if that’s as bad as its going to get, I’ll be fine.
AS1 – 00:52
I did a quick fuel up, said hi again to Kino as I was leaving and then carried on. Chris Patterson was there to snap some midchew photos and offer some words of encouragement
AS1 to AS2 – 22:23
2.30 miles — 9:44 min/mi
We made our way across the road and by our cars…and then the mud came. Steady rythmn running came to abrupt stopping. thigh deep mud and water, cake batter consistency. Still, I ran thru as much as I could throwing logic of injury out the window and trying to get as much of the loop done before nightfall as possible. A lot of flat on this section help with getting the speed back up.
AS2 to AS3 – 35:51
3.48 miles — 10:19 min/mi
As I rolled up to the 2nd AS I decided to bypass it as it was only 2.5 from the last one, and I was doing “good”. We instantly hit my least favorite part of the course, the tracks. However later in the race I would be calling for them because I used them as a sight marker for the race. But as they were right now, they were ugly and my least enjoyable part.
AS3 – 02:30
Came into this aid station and began in earnest trying to fuel up and get things right so I would have a good day out there. 10 miles into the race it was starting to get dark in the woods.
AS3 to AS4 – 59:26
4.91 miles — 12:06 min/mi
As night began to settle we entered this section which I would ultimately just hate. I don’t know why, but I just did. I struggled both times thru. The first as I started to battle some stomach issues. The transition to the night started to slow me down and I ended up tripping twice thru here and making a wrong turn. Luckily at the wrong turn I was with a group so we easily corrected. By now the level of mud we had been going thru was rather noticeable and had passed the point of annoying. The “fast” course I hoped far was repeatedly dashed away and hammered out of my thoughts every time I came to a screeching stop to tip toe thru the black sludge, that now mixed with nightime was harder to see.
AS4 – 02:44
Back to the same Aid Station as before but from a different angle. My stomach was rejecting some of what I ate and I began to drink a full cup of Coke each AS to counteract what I was feeling. This would work for a couple miles then get grumpy again.
AS4 to AS5 – 01:03:45
4.97 miles — 12:50 min/mi
Probably the section with the most mud spots, I started to slow down a bit. MY stomach seemed to be improving, but my body was still not adjusted to running on unfamiliar trails in the dark. I kept to my own race, as much as I could. I was still well within my goal time and overall feeling ok. The section ended with a long section on the tracks. By this point we were seeing runners from every direction and never knew if you were ahead, or behind. It just became confusing. At one point I swear I saw the same runner 3 times in 30 minutes. He either had a twin or I was hallucinating. I had opted at the beginning of the race to hold of my music until the second loop and also to bring my skittles bottle along. That was a mistake. I was doing fine without the music, but the skittles shaking constantly became a nuisance and I think I scared some runners as I came up behind them.
AS5 – 05:57
The first time into this aid station was probably my favorite. Hot food. Ramen noodles. Quesidillas. I sat and grabbed some up, took my time fueling to make sure all systems were ok, then took off again.
AS5 to AS6 – 24:38
2.22 miles — 11:06 min/mi
A shorter loop back out then once again onto those damned tracks. 8 times I would be on these things. This time however I caught a root and tripped, let some words fly and resumed. I also picked up the girl who said she was in 2nd place in the 50 miler. She thought (and insisted) we were lost. Not knowing where I was I just assured her to follow me and I may get you lost but in the end I’ll get you to where you are going. So for next mile and a half it was this same conversation over and over. Convincing her that this loop just repeats back on itself and the people she saw were ahead of her, and now these people we were passing were behind us. Ran with her until the aid station, where she was pretty thankful to see it.
AS6 – 01:43
Just a quick grab. The woman stayed there a bit longer and I just wanted to get out and keep on pace. I notice I tend to run alot by myself, or if I ‘m running with someone, just …not talk (unless its someone I know and we have stuff to talk about). One day I’ll master running and enjoying others company.
AS6 to Start AS (End loop 1) – 30:39
2.50 miles –12:15 min/mi
Final section before coming back to the start. Also the section that basically had the mudpit. First 2 miles were pretty ok, but the last mile had some pretty deep and pretty nasty mud. By the end it would become cake batter and very hard to walk on. As I passed the car I decided to ditch my camera so I didn’t dunk it on an inevitable fall, lose the skittles, swap headlamps and grab my headphones for some music. Don’t know how long the stop took, but it was long enough. Then made my way over to the start and began the second loop.
LOOP 2 26-50
Start AS – 01:46
Came into the AS, grabbed some fuel and started up the headphones. I have my Spotify list but forgot to sync it so it took a little while for my music to actually DL and start playing.
Start to AS1 (L2) - 51:41
4.30 miles — 12:01 min/mi
By now my hamstrings were getting a little worked from the stopping and starting every time we neared mud, so I opted to change things up a little bit and go back to my 4:1 run/walk. The only time this changed was when I hit a hill or mud. Walk the hills, walk the mud, run the flats. When it became long flats for the first little while I was running straight thru and then gradually changed over to the RW.
AS1 (L2) – 02:43
Back at the start, more food. 3 times I asked what the distance to the next AS and got 3 different answers. The consensus was 5 miles. This upset me as I was not thinking 100% and needed an answer. So I went thru the start then came back and asked again. No one was confident with their answer. Ugh. I think I wasted 5 minutes. I put the music on and just went for it. Took my first gel in here, not one of mine but a provided one. CHERRY LIME is the worst taste I’ve put in my mouth during a race.
AS1 to AS2 (L2) – 28:33
2.44 miles — 11:41 min/mi
Ah so it was 2.5! Nothing much on this section, just got into a rhythm with the music and tried to stay consistent. I started feeling a 2nd wind coming on and tried to just roll with it. The pain I was feeling in my legs seem to dissipate. Good music and confidence in running on what I’ve already done once.
The mud. Oh the mud.
AS2 (L2) – 01:45
Quick stop, more coke, in and out.
AS2 to AS3 (Loop 2) – 42:17
3.55 miles — 11:55 min/mi
Damn tracks. Who put a bench there? That was the LEAST scenic spot. TRIP. Damn it. I hate these tracks. Flat track, found my rhythm push it again.
AS3 (L2) – 03:01
Sam Jureks aid station. It was crowded with volunteers this time around and I stayed to chat a little bit. Very nice, and happy.
AS3 to AS4 (Loop 2) – 01:04:26
4.93 miles – 13:04 min/mi
40 miles in. Still on pace. Got through this section, only fell a couple times. Lots of stuff rattling in the woods making noise. It was also around here I noticed things getting really slippery. Roots, twigs, dirt. Footing became pretty funny. But honestly I just wanted this section to be done. Coming into the AS I was pretty hungry and ready for some warm food.
AS4 (L2) – 07:32
Came in, grabbed some broth and just chilled for a few minutes. MY goal time was starting to slip as I sat there, but I needed to fuel. Made a big mistake of not grabbing enough fuel and taking nothing with me.
AS4 to AS5 (L2) – 01:11:41
5.09 miles — 14:05 min/mi
I never asked the distance before heading out, and for some reason I thought it was short. 2.5 miles in I was crashing. No fuel on me I would have to suffer thru 2.5 miles. I began feeling woozy. Day light was starting to break and I was catching up to some runners, but my lack of fuel was taking its toll. I kept looking at my watch but it was off on the distance and frustrating me. The tracks…where are those F@#$% tracks?! The highlight of my day was coming onto the tracks, but quickly dashed when I knew how long it felt to get back to the AS.
AS5 (L2) – 05:39
Rolling in I instantly grabbed food, coke and sat down. Breathe. Talk to the Aid workers. Breathe, fuel, eat. RAMEN! I need RAMEN!…it was gone, but they had Miso (?) broth. That didn’t sit well. Quesadillias, grabbed a couple then headed out. 45 miles in, it was time to get this done. During the last section I saw my time goal completely vanish.
AS5 to AS6 (2) – 30:51
2.22 miles — 13:54 min/mi
Pass. Be passed. Pass. Be passed. It was like this for the next couple miles. Back to the tracks, back to the flat. HI HEATHER! Head spinning, legs hurting. Done. Done with the mud. Just want this to end.
AS6 (L2) – 01:55
Rolled into the LAST AS. They were giving out free neck/shoulder rubs. I should’ve taken one but I wanted to just finish. Glass of Coke and 3 watermelons and I was on my way for the final time over the tracks.
AS6 to Finish (L2) – 36:36
2.49 miles — 14:40 min/mi
I don’t remember much of this section. I know I made the decision to run 1 mile, walk the next and then run it home. I must’ve blacked out somewhere in here as apparently 5 people passed me in the last 2.5 miles (again I was told 3 miles!) . I got to the mud section by the cars and I was ready to blow my gasket. It was just insane. I really felt bad for the people who would go through it another 1-2 times on the day. But hey that was their race, this was mine. I came out of the mud quicker than expected and BAM there was my car. SO I just resumed the running and came into the finish line. and boy, did I look pretty.
FINISH TIME: 10:43 19th overall
I sat down and pulled off my shoes. slowly. We had to pour water over them to get the timing chip off. The amount of mud, rocks and yuck in the shoes was just amazing. BUT I must say, I made it thru the whole race wearing the same pair of shoes and same pair of Injijini socks. My feet held up well and looked like they do everyday. Gave a hug and handshake to the RD, and said hi to Chris and then watched Heather come in shortly after me.
What I liked:
-The TARC club was a phenomenal presence, and a joy everywhere on the course. Every club can learn from them and the positivity they all exude
-RAMEN and Quesadillas. Food of the gods for me on race day.
What I didn’t:
-The Mud. Self explanatory. But much like Indiana, it was pretty suck and turned a fast course into a very slow course that at the end of the day just hurt.
-The course design. The largest flaw I saw (and I don’t know how this could be avoided) was during the night hours. As I was more near the front for most of the race, I was constantly getting blinded by headlamps from runners going in opposite directions. Trying to run, getting blinded then trying to pickup the trail after that was hard and taxing. Often it was a group of 5-10 runners. Like being on the highway and getting high-beams flashed in the middle of the night. This slowed me down.
-Time of start. I could’ve went for a 6pm vs a 7pm start. I would’ve like to have gotten more trail done in the daylight.
-The drive. I don’t know if in the end the drive to and from this event was worth it for me. I really struggled getting home (but this was my choice to save money and get back to my family). If I did it over I would stay in Boston for the weekend. Driving alone gets boring, but also dangerous when you are tired.
What went well:
-On the upside, a lot of things. I found a couple key areas that I need to work on fueling wise, but I think I adapted pretty quickly to the course and its conditions. Having experienced Indiana helped this mentally. I don’t think people realize how bad Indiana was.
What to Improve:
-Fueling. Need to make some adjustments earlier in the race and fuel more often so I don’t bonk out.
-Adjusting expectations. I should’ve known that it was not a 10 hour course that day for me by mile 10 and adjusted, but I kept pushing it well into mile 40 when it all caught up to me.
-Electronics. Prepare better, and know when to use them. Never synced my playlist, so while I was running it drained my battery and phone was dead 3 hours later. only half way thru the loop. The camera. I really should’ve taken more pics and video. I just get so Focused on running and racing that I forget to.
Devils Path next weekend with Jamie and Ben. It’ll be a hard day, hoping I’m mostly recovered by then. After that it is the homestretch to the VT100.
In the end
Would I do this race again? I don’t know. Definitely not in these conditions. After Indiana, it was the 2nd hardest race I’ve run physically in my life. Conditions mirrored Indiana so much that I would say if you replaced the cold with dark, they were virtually the same. It is not my kind of course with these conditions. I was happy to NOT have a DNF on my plate again this year, and successfully get another ultra completed and less than a month after Sehgahunda. So I’ll take it.