2019 Race Recap #26: TARCKey Trot 6-Hours

It’s been a week since the race, so I figured I should probably get something written before I forgot everything. First, it was freaking cold, and really just uncomfortable if I’m being honest.

These people are my tribe

I was feeling pretty crummy about how many miles I got in – I mean it was only a few weeks ago I smashed 31 miles at the Joe English 6-hour, and here I was with roughly 21 miles. The big difference wasn’t really the weather, but the elevation gain. 400′ per 5k loop. Joe English gave me 2897′ of gain over that 6-hours and 31 miles. This course gave me 2988′ over just under 22 miles. Not an easy race.

A week on, my knees are still giving me grief.

Here’s a great illustration of what I’m talking about. Elevation gain. Leaves. Challenging but not technical.

I was miffed with myself that I decided I didn’t have one more lap in me – I may have pulled it off, I may not have, the timing was pretty close. I felt like I should have at least tried, but the way my body responded over the next two days – DOMS from hell, I was literally 95 years old – told me I’d made the correct decision.

The course itself was beautiful, a gem really. Who knew that in the middle of Arlington/Winchester/Lexington, MA there was this little gem of hills, and trails, and goodness? It was a 5k loop of hilly, wooded trails. Challenging, but not overly technical. What made it more difficult for me was the fact that because it’s fall in New England, leaves coated the trails, obscuring what may lie underneath. That’s not to say I’d have been faster or gotten further, it’s just to say that since I wasn’t familiar with the trails and couldn’t see, I was probably overly cautious in attacking large swaths of the course. That said, the weather leading up to the race was really favorable so there wasn’t any real moisture/slipping on the leaves.

The best part though was running with friends. We had a big contingent of folks running – and hanging out to watch – which really made for a fun event.

TARC does such a nice job coordinating their races too. Super low frills, low entry fee, “Fat ass” type vibe with the aid stations – bring something for the station please! I can’t say enough good things.

Results:

Overall:37/90 GP:26 21.7 Miles

2019 Race Recap #23: TARC Fall Classic 50k

This race was one of my first few ultras back in 2017. I did three that year: The TARC Spring Classic, the North Face Endurance Classic, and this one. And for the last two years, it was that race that remained my personal record. Now, the North Face is unlike the TARC races – where TARC is designed for experienced and beginner ultra runners, NF is designed to suck the life and spirit out of all.

In 2018, I only did the North Face and again, while faster than my first ill-fated effort, it wasn’t anywhere close to as fast as my Fall Classic time. They may both be 50k, but they’re as different as a sensible Toyota Corolla and a Tesla Model S with a death ray package.

This was my third 50k this year – unlike 2017, I’ve run 2 since NF. The East End Trail Race last month was an abomination. I finished just shy of 8-hours on a course that never should have taken me that long; not only was the course not technical, but to finish it 40-some-odd minutes faster than NF was just wrong.

Let he who hath understanding reckon the number of the kind-of-beast, for it is a human number. It’s number is six hundred and sixty…three.  Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out.

My goal today was 6:00:00. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull it off – I know my usual trail race pace is somewhere around 14:00 – I’m decidedly not fast, but I thought I had a good shot. It was going to be generally cool for the majority of the morning. I got a good night sleep and was ready.

The course is a quick loop around a cornfield and then three loops around the Great Brook reservation trails. Things started sub-optimally when just before the race, my headlamp quit. Turns out, the batteries were corroded. *SIGH* A few miles into the race, I got stung by a bee (wasp more likely) on the big fleshy part of my calf. Then for giggles I fell. I ran reasonably well that loop, BUT I had a bit of a time bomb brewing and I needed to take care of it.

Fortunately for me, I was able to hold out until I got back to the start/finish area, where I was able to (just in time) avail myself of the porta-potty. So that took a few minutes (mostly the time was spent struggling to get my shorts back on) and then to get my hydration vest on.

While I very clearly lost a step on the second loop, nothing much happened of note…well, I got stung again, but at this point it didn’t really matter. The last loop was really difficult; I had to really push through some adversity – nothing race threatening, but just the overall experience. My knees really started to bother me when they never have before. Where normally it’s just exhaustion/fatigue getting the best of me, today it was my knees. No matter how hard I pushed, it was the knees. For the first time in ever, going up on the trail felt better than going down.

The course was super well marked, professionally timed. TARC does such a nice job with these races. Everyone brings something for the aid station, whomever marks the course takes great care – it’s obvious it’s a labor of love. And you can’t beat the entry fee – $25. They do a great job. If you’re into awards or swag, this isn’t your race, but if you like running trails and a challenge you’re in the right place.

So, 50k #7 – and third in four months (WOW! North Face was 4 months ago? Really??) and a PR by 40-minutes. I’ll take it.

Results

33/76 6:08:18.1

Previous 50k Results:

TARC Fall Classic, Carlisle MA 9/28/20196:08:18
TARC Fall Classic, Carlisle MA9/30/20176:48:39
TARC Spring Classic, Weston MA4/22/20176:56:46
East Side Trail Races 50k, Easton MA8/4/20197:51:45
North Face Endurance Classic, Princeton MA6/8/20198:42:03
North Face Endurance Classic, Princeton MA 6/9/20189:50:48
North Face Endurance Classic, Princeton MA 6/10/201710:11:19

2018 Race Recap #14: To Hale and Back

The thing I really love about TARC (Trail Animals Running Club) races is the vibe of the thing. No matter what distance you’re running for a given race, it’s like $22 to enter: Oh, you’re doing the 5k? $22; You’re doing the 6-hour? $22.  The whole scene is really chill too: you’re asked to bring some food for the aid table, donuts or oranges or whatever. Today I was offered a quesadilla, a pulled pork taco, and a couple of donut holes.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, snow, tree, outdoor and nature
Here’s a shot from a little later on in the race, after I ditched the knit hat and nylon jacket. Guessing lap 2, maybe 3 because I don’t look like a sweaty mess and the trail still has a lot of snow. Photo Credit: Mass Ultra

Hale Reservation is an educational organization with about 1100 acres of property. When I was a kid, my parents would buy a summer membership and we’d spend time at the membership beach.  They had these aluminum docks demarcating swim lanes or something along the beach, and my sister and I would bring our buckets out and catch some of the ubiquitous sun-fish in them.  As I was reflecting on that, I actually said to myself “Man, that seems so long ago…” when I quickly snapped back to reality: that’s because it was a long time ago. The last little round window decal I remember was from the summer of 1978 – 40 years ago, there kid.  That IS a long time.

There’s a really good synopsis about this years To Hale and Back winning efforts at irunfar.com about half way down the linked page (sorry, there doesn’t seem to be any HTML anchors or anything to send you to the exact passage.) The first paragraph says everything you need to know for my purposes:

Four late-season snowstorms slammed New England in recent weeks and assured that the To Hale and Back 6-Hour Ultra–the Trail Animals Running Club’s season opener-would be a challenging affair. The snow-packed and often sloppy course conditions at Hale Reservation ensured that course records were safe, but they didn’t prevent Joe McConaughy and Elise DeRoo from delivering winning efforts.

I remember the last time I was there – not as a member as my family had stopped going years before, but my friends family was a member in the early 1980s and invited me along for an outing. I got so sunburned, I remember feeling like there were bugs crawling under my skin like some kind of addict going through detox.  I remember it as a great day, but a horrible afterward.

Now, the region was just hit with its 4th winter storm in as many weeks earlier this week, so I knew the trail would be snow packed and generally gross. I wasn’t quite sure I knew what else to expect from the trails – I hadn’t seen an elevation map and frankly this was my first trail outing of the year so beyond the unfamiliar terrain and snow, I had several months of cobwebs to shake off.

hale

My hope was to get in 20 miles – about 6 or 7 laps, it’s so hard to tell with the trails – but my goal was at least 15. I’ve done TARC 50k trail races in just under 7 hours, but given the snowpack and generally unconditioned self I set expectation low for a 6-hour accumulation. Continue reading “2018 Race Recap #14: To Hale and Back”