Sunday, December 7, 2014

TARC Fells Not So 40 Mile Race Report: In Which I Time Out

When I first signed up for this race, part of what drew me in was that there was only one female name on the 40-mile finisher list. Yes, yes, I know, silly competitive spirit! :) But there, I said it. I really wanted to be on that list.

As I said, training going into the race went fairly well, but it wasn't quite enough for a 40-mile race, and now that I've run the course, I realize I really should have spent more time on the hills at Bradbury! I hoped I could muscle through, but started to get a bit nervous as the race rolled closer. Intel from Michael Wade pointed to a gnarly, rough course, and coming from him, that had me worried. I wondered if I should drop down to the 32 miler. But that seemed a bit like cheating, so I decided to stick with the 40 and see how it all played out. Then the forecast for race day started looking ominous 10 days out and only got worse as Saturday drew closer. I tried to pretend I was nonplussed, but the idea of a full day out in a cold, cold rain didn't really put me at ease. Still, I reasoned that I have hiked and camped in worse. I would just pack as much as I could so I'd have options. I could do this, right?!

In the end, while the day was wet and cold, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. All the snow from Thanksgiving had melted, leaving the trails, and the many rocky ledges, clear. It rained and misted for most of the day, but it wasn't a hard rain. And temps hovered in the low 40s, so at least it wasn't that 33 degrees and rain, which is just about the worst weather combo there is.

We left Georgetown in the dark, making our way to the start in a parking lot off the Stoneham exit. We arrived a bit before 6am, which left time to mill around, hit the port-a-potty, chat with a few friends and get to the pre-race meeting on time :)

This race is a bit of a different animal, in that they had not marked it to the extreme. There were a few TARC signs in prominent spots, but otherwise it was up to the runners to follow the white blazes on the 8-mile Skyline Trail.

There is also a strict cut off. The race started at 7:00, and due to the early sunset, the cut-off to start the 5th and final loop was 2:30 pm. I figured if I ran 1:45ish per loop, I should be good. That seemed reasonable and doable. Of course, as is often the case, I ran the first loop a bit too quickly, even though I walked most of the uphills and tried to keep things easy. I ended up running with George and Joe for a while, which was nice. The trail was no joke. It really was more of a hiking trail, winding up the steepest inclines, snaking over rocky ledges, with a few hand scramble spots. The ups and downs were short but sufficiently pitched that there was a fair amount of hiking necessary (at least in my case). I got off the trail a few times, but only by a few steps and easily got back on course, so no real harm done. With all the rain, the rocks were slick and there was a fair amount of water on the trail. It sure wasn't a loop I was going to run quickly, that's for sure! I came back to the start in around 1:37, and headed right to the port-a-potty for a quick break. I wasn't feeling terrible but I wasn't feeling great, but I was only one loop in, so off I went again. I tried to hide my blah feeling from Ryan, but I'm not sure it worked ;)

Traffic on the trail thinned out a lot on the second loop and I ran mostly alone. I think this trail would be fun to run in early fall, as the rocky ledges reminded me of Acadia, and I am sure there were some nice views. Of course, yesterday, there were no views and it was really necessary to concentrate hard so as not to slip on the slick rocks. Kristina, the only female finisher in years past, was running the loop counterclockwise [You could run the loop either way. The majority of runners ran clockwise, like I did, but some ran the other way. I stuck to clockwise for all loops so not sure which was better, but I am a creature of habit and didn't want to mix things up along the way!], and every time she passed me she was always smiling and looked like she was flying, just out for a jog. Oh man! I did not look like that, I am sure :) I started to get rather dreary on this loop. The trail didn't allow for much of a rhythm, my left leg was starting to feel tight, it was cold and rainy, and I couldn't quite focus the way I needed to to block all of that out. I just didn't feel like I was having fun out there. By the time I got back to the start/finish, I really wanted to stop. I had a small breakdown, complete with crying, but decided in the end that I didn't want to quit. So I changed my gloves and hat, had a bit of food, and then Ryan sent me off with Tim. I think I came in around 3:31 or so, so not a bad average for the two laps.

I stayed with Tim through the first big climb, but sent him on his way soon after. He was running strong and I didn't have the energy to keep up. I probably should have tried, but I didn't feel like I had it in me. In fact, I think lap #3 was the slowest loop. I was so sure I was done at the end of it, gesturing to Ryan that it was over. He said something like, is there room for negotiation? I must have sighed in such a way that he knew I could be persuaded, even if I didn't want to be, so he told me Carolyn was waiting to run a lap with me. I was pretty cold and wet at this point, so I changed my shirt and put on my yellow Craft jacket and new gloves. That helped a lot. I also had some broth and a sip of coffee before we headed out. Of course, a few steps down the trail, I had to backtrack as I forgot I needed my bladder refilled - I was out of water! Oops! Can you tell my head was not quite in the game?!

I am SO grateful to Carolyn for running this lap with me. It was really nice to have company and being with her got me out of my head, which really wasn't a good place to be. We had a great time chatting away the miles, and I really enjoyed talking with her. She brought Kristina's dog, Jack, with her, and he trotted quietly and patiently along beside her as they followed me along the trail. I had a burst of energy in the early part of the loop and felt strong on the hills, although certainly slowed down on the back half of the loop. Things had gotten pretty sloppy out there, and I was tired, so was even slower on the downhills. However, the mist had cleared enough that we did get a view of the Boston skyline from near the stone tower, which was cool. This loop was faster than the third, but it wasn't fast enough. When we finally reached the "mid-way" (probably more like 5 miles in) aid station, I looked at my watch and realized I was very likely to miss the cut-off. I wasn't upset, I simply matter-o-factly told Carolyn I was going to get cut off. She couldn't believe it, but yup, it was true. She said, well, leave me, go go! But I had too much real estate to cover in not enough time. It was over. I had run for as long as they'd let me and I had to be good with that. So, I finished the 32 with a big smile on my face, and I am really proud that I managed to keep going when honestly what I really wanted was to stop at 16 miles, and maybe even after just one loop.

Shortly after I came in for 32 miles in 7:37ish, Kristina finished her 40 miles! She ran super strong all day, and certainly deserves to be the only female name on the finisher list :) Wish I could have been there, but it just wasn't my day. Huge congrats too to John, Joe and Tim for finishing the 40, and George, Michael and Ally for finishing the 32. Impressive! And of course, many thanks to Ryan for standing out in the cold rain all day cheering us on, and to Irene and Dana for watching Sam while we were gone all day.

I'll be taking a few weeks off in an attempt to reset a bit, and will hope to start off 2015 with a bit of a better mindset than I had during this race. I certainly didn't have my best day out on the trails this weekend, but it was, as always, a great TARC event, with awesome volunteers and a good, if seriously rough, course.

I want to say I've learned my lesson and won't put a race on the calendar so late in the year again, but I don't feel like I am finished with this one yet. I'm already thinking about how I can get that 40 mile finish... ;)


Michael said...

Can't even tell you how close I was to not showing up for this one. Glad I did. Glad you and Ryan did too. Nice work!

Sparkplug said...

Michael, you did awesome out there! Impressive performance, especially so soon after the 100. Way to go!

Anonymous said...

You are tough and have done (2) TARC toughies this year! Congrats Danielle! Beyond amazing accomplishments!!


healthyincville said...

Cold rain. Yuck! Congrats on sticking it out. I have a feeling you'll add your name to the female 40 mile finishers one day :)