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 #24: Joe English Twilight Challenge 6-Hour

Races against the clock. I’m not really sure how to categorize them really. I mean I’ve done a 6-hour trail race before – “To Hale and Back” and lasted 17-miles or so before I decided it was too cold and pulled the plug. Hard to call 4-hours/17-miles an “ultra” anything.

The flip side is that I’ve also done a 12-hour race, where I lasted roughly 9.5 hours before I “finished” (the requisite number of laps) and therefore quit for the day and drove home to sleep (helpful hint: don’t do that). I ran about 40-miles in that event, but I honestly don’t know anything about how long it took me to do any of it.

So I’m in this funny place, because this was my best 50k – I love that I can say that…the N>1 and it’s “my best one.” – but my second 6-hour so it technically doesn’t count toward a 50k PR. Screw it. It counts. Gee that was easy.

Back row is me, Derya, and Mark. Jen is in the middle row on the far right.

It turns out that by my watch, this had roughly 100′ more of elevation than the TARC Fall Classic a couple of weeks ago. The Joe English course is an equestrian trail, so it’s not technical at all, but there are a few spots where the course takes you DOWN quickly and then UP…if I had to guess before hand, I’d have said the TARC trail had more gain, but…here we are.

The course is a 2.6 mile loop, the challenge is to run it as many times as you can in the 6-hours. My goal was 12 – I wanted the 50k mark. My friend Mark also set his goal at 12. My friends Derya and Jen both were shooting for the marathon distance of 10.

I stayed with Mark for the first loop, and part of the the second before he scampered off. I ran into Derya at the end of my third loop and we ran together the rest of the evening, particularly important as her phone died suddenly and since that was her light source it was kind of important for her race that she could see. Were it not for my wheels coming off, she may have had a shot at 12 loops as well.

Sweet swag..although I hate to tell them that “Find Your Wild” is also Ragnar’s tag line…

We caught up with Jen once or twice and some other people I knew who were running as well – I love this event, and I love seeing people I know on the trail as well, even if I don’t know them very well, it’s nice having a few minutes to chat.

I was able to hit 12 loops in just under the 6-hours. Mark went looking for Derya and me, so he eeked out a 13th not much before the 6-hour mark clicked off. Jen, Derya and I were there to see him come in, which was great.

Jen got her goal, Derya got 11, I hit my 12 and my PR 50K, and Mark did his longest race AND hit 13 – he finished 4th and second male.

I love this event – it’s the first one I’ve done now for 4 consecutive years – and I’m so happy to have shared it with friends. So, second 50k in two weeks, second 50k PR in two weeks. Onward and upward!

Results

8/29, M 6/21, 6 12 laps, 05:49:49.12 , 31.4 Miles.

50k History

Joe English Twilight Challenge, Amherst NH10/12/20195:49:49
TARC Fall Classic, Carlisle MA9/28/20196:08:18
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 MA6/9/20189:50:48
North Face Endurance Classic, Princeton MA6/10/201710:11:19

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

2019 Race Recap #17: East End Trail Race 50k

Okay, first things first. Yes, I ran an excruciating half marathon this weekend, but I didn’t run it to race. I looked at it as a training run. It was hot, and challenging, and I did 13 miles. Fine. It’s all the things I didn’t do during the week that did me in today – and much, much less about yesterday. Now, would I advise following this weekend’s routine? Not a chance. That said, I didn’t sleep well, didn’t hydrate appropriately, didn’t actually train well. I was a disaster waiting to happen.

As it happened, a disaster didn’t happen, but a lot of things could have gone better for me today. Like, everything could have gone better for me.

This is a solid race. They seem to have done it right – a 10k (one loop), a 30k (three loops), and a 50k (5 loops). Now, let’s be honest. The 10k loop is closer to 6.5-miles – not a big deal in trail racing, but add that over 5-times and all of a sudden you’ve got 33.5 miles. Those two miles matter big when you’re struggle bussing those last two to the finish.

The venue was great. The organization was great. They could not have done anything to make this a better experience for the runners. Down to the fact they had cooling towels at Mile 4 and the start/finish. Best. Thing. Ever.

Curiously enough, I don’t have much to say for the race recap only because it was the same one race 5 times. It was challenging without being difficult for the sake of difficulty. It was mostly runnable track, except for the fact that I was toast and basically walked where I should have been running.

I expected better of myself. Over the first 16. 4 miles (what an odd number, you might be forgiven for thinking – it’s because my watch died there), there was 740′ of elevation gain. SO basically 1500′ of gain for the race, which shouldn’t have been an issue. I expected to finish in 6 maybe 6.5 hours. I finished in just under 90 – seconds away from DFL, until some rando came running from the woods and claimed that spot.

Building blocks. I get it. I know it was my mind more than body that got to me today. I will be working on that.

That said, this was my 6th 50k and it was my 3rd best – despite being almost DFL. So, not a terrible day. Right? I am disappointed that two months ago I ran North Face a little less than an hour slower – on a mountain with a substantially more technical course. So some backsliding I’ll have to work on before my next Ultra in September.

Results

26/27. 7:51:45

2019 Race Recap #14: North Face Endurance Challenge 50k

In terms of my commentary about the race itself – course markings, watch issues – I don’t think I could say anything differently from last year. This is a very well done event, easy registration, good festival area, good course markings. There were a couple of times this year I found the markings a little wonky, but I think that was more me than the course itself.

What I really want to talk about is my experience of the race. 31 miles is a significant distance under the best of circumstances. This race covers roughly 6000′ of elevation gain – more than a mile going up. It’s quite possibly the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve now done it three times.

Last year I finished in 9 hours, 50 minutes. Since last year, I’ve run 2 road marathons. The distance, while still quite significant, doesn’t feel quite as daunting. I also ran the 7-Sisters trail race, a race that while shorter by 2/3s was more technical and were it longer, and probably not much longer, I would likely say IT was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. So, I feel like I was reasonably prepared for this race.

Truth be told, I hadn’t hydrated well enough over the preceding days. I now know that, but otherwise I was ready. I felt good through the majority of the race. There was a couple of points where I could feel some cramps coming on but was able to hold off any real difficulty until after the mile 26 check point. At that point, however, it was clear to me that my running for the day was pretty much over. Sad really, as there were some imminently runnable downhills that would have been nice to crush.

The thing about technical trail running for me is that it is hard on the body, you really have to stretch yourself, but more importantly than that it’s refreshing, revitalizing. Here’s what I mean by that: in a world where your attention is monetized, you cannot afford not to be paying full attention all the time out here. The odd rock, or root, or decent all demand your attention or you will trip. What’s that person behind you doing? Should you let them pass? Are THEY paying attention?

When I’m running on a road, there’s the occasional car to be mindful of, but otherwise there’s a lot of room for internal dialogue to creep in. I wear headphones and listen to music most of the time to drown out that negativity. On the trail, your mind don’t have that luxury – it has to be focused on the task at hand.

Today, I woke up sore, with a few dents and dings, but mentally quite refreshed. Like spending the day in mediation, being present. It’s hard to do that in modern life, so I’m thankful for having had that time.

I wrote last year that I was bummed about failing to have foresight enough to grab a selfie at “Redemption Rock.” ✅

I took well over an hour off my time from last year, but when you look at my official splits you can definitely see where the cramps really started to affect my race. All in all, a solid effort that I’m pleased with.

RESULTS

2019: 113/164, 8:42.03
2018: 149/175, 9:50:48
2017: 176/185, 10:11:19

2019 Race Recap #10: 7-Sisters Trail Race

I was already put on notice regarding just how difficult this race is when they start putting emergency numbers on the front and all my personal emergency information on the back. I’m pretty sure the only information missing was my Blue Cross member number and blood type. These people are not fooling around.

This isn’t a 10-miler. Not a half marathon. Something in between. But it’s definitely among the most difficult things I’ve done. Somewhere between 11 and 12 miles, the official website says the elevation is “over 3500′” (I got about 4700 on my watch in just over 11 miles). It’s highly technical single track trails on an out-and-back course, which means then that there are some interesting intersections when the fast guys are coming back.

I had it in my head that it would be similar to the “Vulcan’s Fury” trail race in Pawtuckaway NH. That’s roughly the same distance over slightly less technical trails, but upon reflection when I did that race in 2017, I clocked in a little over 1800′ of gain. Sooo, like not like this race at all, basically.

Before the races last weekend, I hadn’t run a trail in quite some time, so one can easily imagine what was going through on that first mile when I realized just how out of my depth I really was. Combined with the rain over the last couple of weeks, this was something else.

To give some context as to just how out of my league I was, over the last 3-miles or so of the race, I was going back and forth with this guy who had started after me (his bib was in the 400’s and the waves went out numerically) who was wearing what looked not wholly dissimilar from a track suit and street running sneakers. Let that sink in: highly technical, glacial-rock and exceedly thick, muddy trails and this cat is rocking a pair of Under Armours for street running….and we’re competing for time. So, yeah, it wasn’t my best performance. For a really good description of the race, here’s an entry from RunnersWorld that helps you get a feel for it (and perhaps some of the psychos who run it).

On a clear day, the views would be amazing: across western mass, likely into New York, Vermont and Connecticut. Sadly though, with the low hanging clouds still stubbornly hanging around (there was a light rain earlier in the day, with the weather hanging around at least into Sunday) the only thing to see was the gray.

My friend Jen also ran the race and didn’t die. Here we are celebrating not having died.

Results

Place GUN

CHIP
PACEGENDERAGEAGE PLAGE GRP
3564:01:594:01:5920:09M4992M40 – 49

Full results

2019 Race Recap #9: Blue Hills Trail Races Fox Trot 10-Miler

Cameron: “I’m dying.”
Ferris: “You’re not dying, you just can’t think of anything good to do.

My favorite descriptor for a negative situation is “Dumpster Fire.” I laugh every time, it’s just such a funny mental image comparing an event or happening to a flaming container of trash. Urban Dictionary contributor Guitarist1234 nails why I start this recap thus:

I knew upon registering it wasn’t going to be a stellar performance, given the race the day before was also going to be of some distance, but after having run that race, I knew how badly out of trail condition I was. I’ve never been a particularly good trail runner, but I’m at least generally competent, and that day I was marginally competent.

Sometime later, I knew it was going to be something substantially below “not a stellar performance” when I realized that I was also going to the “Awesome 80’s Prom” the evening before. So to recap: Trail Half Marathon, 80’s themed night out, 10-mile trail race.

The question isn’t what are we going to do. The question is what aren’t we going to do.”

So at the appointed time Sunday morning, I met my friends at the registration table, and picked up my bib. I had paid $12, I was going to run this race (despite having protested the evening before that I had only paid $12 so it’s not like I HAD to run this race…) I was moving on approximately 4-hours sleep, a can of Monster, and certainly had a head a little larger than usual with a decidedly greenish-hue to my complexion. Dumpster fire.

This course was shorter than the advertised 10-miles. My watch clocked in at roughly, but I have some questions about the watch’s trail accuracy there. Other folks seemed to come in at somewhere between 9.4 and 9.5. The half marathon the day before came in at 13.9, where others’ came in at about 13.4 so I know something’s hinky with the calibration there. BUT what I do know is that it is calibrated with itself, so I feel confident saying that on Saturday there was roughly 1200′ of elevation and Sunday – on a shorter course – there was about 1425′. My point here is that I felt like this was a harder course and it would seem to be backed up by that, despite my having spent the majority of this post discussing why I was such a… dumpster fire.

The race director was clear that this was the wettest he’d ever seen the course. Fantastic. And I can tell you for sure, it was wet. Muddy, at points it was almost a river race. It started on a car road heading up, and my friend Tom who had just said that he wasn’t in condition to race for 10-miles, took off like he had been shot out of a cannon as soon as the horn sounded. So I knew I was clearly out of my element.

I started off “okay” enough, but the wheels came off pretty quickly. My first couple of miles were respectable enough, but by mile 3 the wheels were completely off between my lack of proper preparation, and increasing elevation gain I was toast. From there, I varied between sub-optimal and poor performance wise. I did finally catch up with my friend Jen to come in ahead of her by about 30-seconds, but that was only because of a net elevation loss on that stretch.

For what it’s worth, Tom finished roughly a half hour ahead of me. Meaning he ran a trail race 10-miler with 1400′ of gain at slightly slower pace than my best 10-mile road races.


Results

90/112 1:58:08