Tuesday, October 13, 2015

2015 TARC 100 Race Report

Perhaps one of our friends, Michael, who ran the 50 last year with me, said it best when he said: "I honestly don't know what it was about that 50m course that made you want to double down. But, I give you credit. You got some cojones, lady. Have fun out there!"

Can I pinpoint why I picked this race? Why I called me to me? When I finished the 50 last year I said it was the hardest thing I had ever done. OK then, let's go do that twice :) But that is what I decided to do, and so it was that we left the rest of the house sleeping as we sped off into the darkness at 3:00 am on Saturday morning, bound for Hale Reservation and 100 miles.

It was cool and crisp, and the weather forecast was calling for sunshine and moderate temps all through the day and night, pretty much the perfect running weather for mid-October. We arrived in plenty of time to check in, use the bathroom, catch up with the Trail Monster crew and listen to the final instructions before our pack of 72 runners (100 entrants with a number of DNSs) set off with a Yeti howl into the darkness.

Picking up my bib on Friday afternoon

Trail Monsters Sean, John and I, all going for our first 100!

About to head off into the darkness

Due to the chilly temps, I decided to go with a long sleeve shirt and shorts, plus beanie and gloves, at the start and I think it was the right call. I also had a few "good luck" charms in my pack, because, well, you know, it never hurts ;)


We took off up the hill out of the parking lot and I fell in behind Sean, a line of headlamps behind us. Although Sean and I chatted on and off, the first miles were mostly quiet as we followed the reflective ribbons in the darkness. The course, while similar to last year's 50, had been "smoothed" out a bit, with some modifications made to lessen the two-way traffic and some of the more "unnecessary" sections they seemed to have added in just to get in the mileage, and so while I recognized spots here and there, there were definitely some new stretches of trail. The course was a mix of very runnable wider "carriage" roads and singletrack with several short but steep climbs sprinkled in, lots of rocky, rooty "nasty bits" and many little PUDs (pointless ups and downs) throughout the woods with a lot of rocky outcroppings along the way. 

I will admit that I was a bit nervous in that first lap as my legs didn't feel as fresh as I would have liked and my stomach was feeling off. Luckily, the aid stations were all about 5 miles apart and they all had port-a-potties. I didn't stop at the first one, instead just taking an oreo from the table and continuing on with Sean. About an hour and a half into the loop, the sky began to lighten and Sean and I fell in with a guy from NY, chatting away as we were able to turn off our headlamps and climb the paved road near Grossman Beach, about 9 miles in. By that point, I was desperate to use the bathroom so I said goodbye to the guys and hit the port-a-potty before continuing on into the aid station. By the time I got a cookie and headed off across the beach, they were long gone and I was on my own. I was a bit bummed as I had hoped I would be able to hang with Sean for a while, but I knew that it was early still and the overall goal was to run my own race. 

Between Grossman and Naonet aid stations, the course took us to up Naonet Peak, with a view of the Boston skyline. It was a stout climb and at this early hour, there were only a few people at the top, enjoying the view on a beautiful Saturday morning. From there, the course wound in and around, passing several ponds and a waterfall, finally bringing us out to Naonet aid station, where Carolyn was aid station captain. It was great to see a friendly face out in the middle of the woods and I had a big smile on my face as I pulled up. Carolynn and her friend had also made some fun signs leading up to the aid station, which was cool. 

Pulling into Naonet

Inspirational signs (It didn't feel hard yet, but I knew it would at some point...)

From there, it was about 3 miles to the road crossing, although those miles seemed to go on forever. Not quiet sure why, but it was that way every lap. I ran out of water at some point along that stretch and was glad to see Ryan before the crossing; he had trekked out from the start/finish with a backpack full of supplies, and we swapped out my beanie for my blue brimmed hat, he took my pack and refilled the water before giving me some extra gels, got me a Fastbreak to eat and sent me on my way. The crossing also featured a lovely guard rail that we had to get over. I was way to short to gracefully leap over it like Sean did (shown below) and I figured this was really going to hurt later on! (Luckily they were able to lower it for the 3rd and final laps). Ryan's notes indicate that I left the road crossing, about 18.7 miles in, at 9:01 am.

Trail obstacle 

Ryan helping me refill my pack

The section after the road crossing was the worst last year, and I really appreciated that they had smoothed it out a bit this year, taking us on a different loop to and from the farm so as to shorten the rocky PUD-filled sections around the powerlines. But they didn't take out the darn gravely hill that was known as Mark's Knob and while short, man was that one steep gasline hill! From there, we wound out to the fields and to the final aid station. Then it was back to the road crossing for the final 1/2 mile. 

Final stretch before the beach

Sam, Mom and Dad and Irene and Dana were all at the beach when I came in for the finish of lap #1 at 25 miles. I was so happy to see them!

First lap

Crossing the beach

I stopped to get a new pair of gloves, along with dumping the crap out of my shoes. For some reason, I got a lot of debris in my shoes along the course and had to stop a number of times to dump things out. 

Shoe dump

Hugs from my little love

Then a quick pack swap and I was on my way. According to Ryan, I headed out at 10:26 am, meaning a 5:26 lap. My stomach was still not feeling great, and at 6 hours in, I finally stopped and took two Advil and chewed several Tums. Despite not feeling great, I stuck to my fueling plan and ate every half hour. I really did not want to sabotage my race by not eating so the gels went down when the Garmin beeped. I managed one packet of chews in lap one and another in lap two, but otherwise, stuck to gels. The waffles didn't get touched - I knew they would seem too hard in the cold weather and I didn't want to deal with that. I was also stopping at each aid station and grabbing at least one thing. I think I started in on coke around mile 30 ;)

Coming into Grossman Beach at mile 34

George, Ann, Tom Whittaker and John were out at Grossman with Ryan when I came in at mile 34 at 12:30. Then it was another 9 mile stretch till I saw Ryan and the family again at the road crossing. By then, the day was warming up. I had rolled up my sleeves, taken off my gloves and was warm, but still comfortable.

Waiting on Mama at mile 43

Crew life ;)

Running me into the aid station

Into the aid station

Running along with me

Photo by Dave Metsky

Ryan handed me a Fastbreak, which I only managed one bite of. I did have a baggie with some dried strawberries in it from one other crew spot that I managed to down instead. I *think* it was along this stretch in this lap that I ran some miles with Pablo from Montreal. It was nice to have a bit of company out there and we had a nice time chatting away the miles. 

While I was running, Sam was having fun on the playground :)

On the slide

On the slide with Neenie

I realized out there that I had slowed down a bit and set a rather arbitrary goal to come into mile 50 before 11:15. I figured that would be a slow-down from the first lap but would at least put the lap under 6 hours. I managed to make it with a few minutes to spare :) When I think back to last year and the fact that the 50 took me 11:44 and I was in much worse shape, I am pretty happy with 11:15 for 50 miles and to be feeling still decent. I did take another 2 advil at 50, had to use the bathroom again, and stopped to drink some smoothie, change my shirt and re-Glide, as well as change my socks and have Ryan Glide and put vaseline on a hot spot on my right foot, but overall, it was a fairly efficient aid station stop and I was out again at 4:26 pm (6:00 lap time). I was also lucky to have Neal, Mike and BoomBoom come out from Boston to cheer me on and hang out. Thanks guys! And of course, it was great to see the family again :)

Coming in for mile 50

Hugs from Sam

More hugs before I headed out

Getting organized for lap #3

Headed out

I had made a conscious and very deliberate decision going into this race to NOT recruit a pacer for lap #3. Yes, I could have had a pacer and perhaps it would have been a wise idea, but for me, a big part of why I wanted to do this 100 was to push myself, to see what I could do, to see what I was made of, so to speak. I knew I could run 50 miles myself (see TARC last year) and that meant I really didn't want someone to run with for those remaining 50. I wanted to do at least some of those miles by myself. I knew it would be a test, to head out after 50 miles alone, knowing it would get dark out there and into the unknown in terms of mileage run. But wasn't that the point of this whole adventure? And so, despite a brief "I wish you were coming with me" to Ryan, I felt good heading out into the relative unknown. I still felt pretty strong, my body was holding up and I had two hours before the woods got dark. In fact, I think, in the end, those first miles of the third lap were the strongest I felt all day. I just felt good. 

Sometime in this loop, before it got dark, I passed a man, running the 100k, who happened to be blind, right before it started to get dark. His guide was calling out instructions, letting him know about the terrain. I ran next to him for a while in the grass by the lodge where a wedding reception was going on, and after passing by, I couldn't help but be inspired. I couldn't imagine doing this trail without being able to see. It was tough knowing exactly where I was going. Happy to say that he did finish. What a wonderful story, and wow, what resilience and fortitude! 

I turned on my headlamp around 6:00 pm, just as the woods were beginning to be awash in the dimness that comes before sunset. The terrain was forgiving in this stretch and I felt strong, pushing, taking advantage of the feeling. When I passed one guy and his pacer they asked if I was doing the relay. Ha!

Ryan, Amy, Mindy, Neal, Mike and Boom Boom were all out at Grossman at mile 59. I left there at 6:49 after a brief stop to eat some grilled cheese and do some preventative chafe maintenance. I had had to stop in the port-a-potties many times and it was catching up with me a bit, so to speak!

Grossman in the darkness

Gotta sanitize!

Ryan said I looked better there than I had in all the miles previous. Don't know why, but I was glad to have turned things around, at least for the time being :) Then it was out through the woods and up Naonet in the darkness and on through the woods back to Naonet aid station. David and Jordan were there, serving up coffee and donuts. It was fun to stop and chat with them for a few minutes, enjoying the friendly faces and banter. And then it was off again, into the darkness.  I think it was around here that I first caught up with the woman in 2nd place. We ran "together" for a bit, lamenting the difficulty of the course, etc etc. before she took off at some point. 

Soon after Naonet, my Garmin beeped low battery and then blacked out completely. I had gotten in 65.1 miles and 15:30 before it died. I was now watchless. I think, in retrospect, that this was not a good way for me to be. With no data, no feedback, I had no idea how fast I was moving, etc., and in the darkness and with the late hour, I definitely slowed down but had no way to track it. But ah well. Amy gave me her Garmin when I got to the road crossing at mile 69 (9:32 pm) but it never picked up the satellites ;) This is also where I picked up a bag of Panera chips which were like the best thing ever, and Ryan neglected to put any gels in my pack, totally not his fault, as I didn't check, but my stomach was surprisingly starting to give me hunger signs and I really would have eaten more gels if they'd been there! At the farm aid station I got some coke and chips, but nothing else really looked appealing. 

Then it was back through the nasty rocky section to the road and in, to pick up Val and head out for the final 25! 

Headed out with Val into the night

Before leaving, I stopped to have some broth and change into my warm Sugoi hoodie, new gloves and new hat, and fresh socks, but stayed in my shorts. The start/finish area had quieted down a lot by then, with many people asleep or gone for the night. We headed off up the trail at 11:37 pm (7:11 lap), and I told Val that I was going to be slow. I couldn't run and eat at the same time, so I had to walk. I was also feeling very tired (duh!). She was a great pacer. She was patient and encouraging, and would ever so gently tell me that there was runnable terrain ahead, and after a few extra walking steps, I would get into gear and run after her ;) I really appreciated having her out there with me! I was in some sort of odd state where I was wobbling and wanted to lay down to sleep, I was hungry, and I wanted to walk but I also wanted to move so I could get it over with ;) We meandered on in the darkness, moving slowly but surely. 

Val had on Mindy's Suunto, but without her glasses, she couldn't read the output. I ate a few gels and had my chocolate when I felt hungry but never really asked about mileage. I just kept moving, mostly slowly ;) We hit mile 84, Grossman, at 2:29 am. I had some grilled cheese and we continued on. Apparently, unknown to me at the time, at this point the top three women were only about 4 minutes apart. Funny, as I didn't see the woman in 1st all day long. By the time we hit the mile 93.7 aid station, the 1st woman's lead had grown to 25 minutes, but again, I had no idea. I was surprised, but happy, to see my parents out there. I still thought it was the middle of the night not early morning, so I couldn't believe it!

Dad and Ryan at mile 93.7

Road crossing

Happy Santas at the guard rail

I could barely walk up Mark's Knob. I was so tired. I contemplated asking Val if I could lie down for a few minutes. Then when we reached the field, Val said something about the sunrise, and I asked her what time it was. It was 6:17 am. I could hardly believe it! How the hell had I been out there for so long? I was a little upset. I really wanted to be finished! This spurred me on and I managed to run all the fields and the long straight stretches of trail paralleling the fields. Then somewhere, we caught up to Katelyn, the woman in 2nd, and her pacer. We were right with her. Then they got confused, we called them back, we got ahead. I was stressed. I didn't come to the race to compete. I came to the race to finish, to run my own race. And so, since I had to pee, I stepped aside and let them pass. I told Val I was too stressed to try to stay ahead. But we caught up again, and then fell back, and although I realized I was giving up my chance for 2nd, I just didn't feel I had enough to decisively pass, so we stayed behind. I gave it all I had along the gravel powerline stretch after the last road crossing but by then it was too late, she was too far gone. Still, I have no regrets, even if 2nd would have been nice ;)

In the end, I came in at 7:29 am, with a final time of 26:29:40, only 1:28 behind Katelyn, and 13:14 behind the woman's leader. I guess our close finish created quite a stir along the course and everyone said it was very exciting. Funny! ;) 

Running up the beach with Val behind

Final push up the steps to the finish!

100 miles complete!

DONE and done!

Top three women

I felt an incredible sense of happiness, relief, exhaustion, excitement and thankfulness at the finish. I was smiling broadly as I crossed the beach and ran up to the finish line. I had done it. I ran 100 miles!!! ;)

8/30 finishers (72 started; 100 original entrants)
3/4 women (6 started, only 4 finished)

So 3rd female, but also 2nd to last female ;) HA! 

Thank yous:

There is no way running a race like this is a solo affair. I had help before, after and during the race. And that help, encouragement, love and cheering is what makes this whole thing so special and what enabled me to not only make it to the start line, but to cross that finish line 26+ hours later. First and foremost, of course, is Ryan, who supported me all the way, encouraged me, picked me up when I got down and agreed to crew me all day and night on our 16th anniversary. Am I a lucky lady or what?! Also, of course, Sam, who, although she sometimes did not want me to go out on my runs, seemed to understand that I needed to "practice" for my 100 and that it was important to me. I hope that some day she'll look back and realize that all my hard work paid off and that, if I can run a 100 miles, she can do whatever the hell she wants to do too ;) To my parents and Irene and Dana, who may think I am completely crazy, but who support me anyway, and who took care of Sam all weekend so we could stay up all night and hang out in the woods, I really appreciate your love and that you came out to the race to cheer me on! Having my family there to support me made this all the more wonderful.

To Ann, George, Tom, John, Amy, Mindy, Val, Neal, Mike, BoomBoom, who all came out to the race to support me, thank you! Your friendships mean so much to me. And Val, who paced me through the night on the final lap, I don't think I could have done it without you. Thank you for your unflagging encouragement along the way. 

Of course, a race like this doesn't happen without the race directors and their crew, and the Trail Animals put on a great show! To Carolyn, David, Jordan, Katherine and all the other aid station volunteers, you were amazing - the support along the course was wonderful. Josh, you put on one tough, fun race! I know there is an amazing amount of logistics that go into producing an event like this and I so appreciate it! Thank you!

Random Thoughts:

The hooting of the owls, the smell of the hay-scented ferns, the dew covered grasses out in the fields, the swirling pinks of sunrise above the Powisset fields on the second morning, the cheering of a group of students near the waterfall mid-day on Saturday, the smiles and reiteration of "Don't worry, I'm a relay runner! Don't get discouraged that I passed you. I've only run 7 miles; you've run 57!", the brilliant fall foliage reflected in one particularly still, flat pond near Grossman, the sounds of the DJ announcing the bride and groom booming out into the night as I ran along a pond, the appreciation of the Naonet crew when I told them why I was pacer-less on lap #3, the chatter with fellow runners, the fact that I did not fall once, the cheers of my family as I came into the beach, the signs of encouragement at Naonet, the bouquet of gels made by Ryan for our anniversary, the sign made by my family, the invincible feeling I felt flying off in the night down the trail before Naonet peak, all these feelings/thoughts/memories make this weekend's race all the richer. 

Made me tear up :) Loved my sign!

Gel bouquet ;) Such a thoughtful hubby!

Ryan asked me why I thought this was such a hard course, why so many dropped. I have no answers for that, I can't put a finger on the difficulty of it. I don't know if I had an advantage others didn't having done the 50 last year, and never having been one to avoid a loop course, but it was always doable to me, even as I was barely moving up Mark's Knob on that last lap. I never had thoughts of stopping. I never wanted to quit. Even when I had slowed considerably, I never dawdled, I didn't stop unnecessarily or lounge at the aid stations. I was always moving, I just wasn't always moving fast ;) I ran my own race, and while it was not perfect (see 11:15 first 50; 15:14 last 50 ;)), it was the race I had in me this weekend and of that, I am immensely proud. I am sure that as time goes on, and I think back, I will feel some regret of what might have been, but honestly although I had a pie in the sky hope that I might hit 24:00, I knew that realistically 26 to 28 hours was probably what would happen and I certainly hit that range. Not to mention, as a first time 100 miler, just finishing was the TRUE goal!

Food and Gear:

I packed a lot of stuff that I never touched. Mostly, I subsisted on the gels I had brought with me, a mix of Honey Stinger Pomegranate gels along with two Peanuts Butter Gus taken in the early laps, a few Salted Watermelon Gus in the later laps, and a mix of VFuel gels mixed in. I had the number 40 in my head for # of gels total that I would need; not sure I brought exactly that, but I must have consumed at least 35 gels over the course of my 26 hours. I also ate two packs of Honeystinger chews, one Fastbreak, some dried strawberries, a bag of Panera chips, some smoothie mixed with Osmo Recovery, along with one bar of Awake chocolate (1/2 eaten on lap #3, the other 1/2 on final lap) - all brought from home.

Items taken from aid stations included other chips, lots of coke, three cups of broth, two oreos, an apple slice, some watermelon pieces, a bit of Holy Donut, 1/2 a grilled cheese and a few bites of cheese quesadilla.

I started out in my Atayne TMR long sleeve shirt with shorts. Shorts stayed on all day. Wore gloves and beanie on the first lap, and changed to brimmed hat at mile 19 and picked up new gloves at mile 25. I made two sock changes but stayed in my magenta Inov-8 290s the whole time. My feet felt great. I changed into my bright orange Stonecat shirt at mile 50 and picked up a beanie and new gloves again; then into my warmer, thicker Sugoi hoodie for the final lap.

I used Ryan's Petzel headlamp for the morning then went to my Black Diamond detached battery pack headlamp for the night. Both were comfortable.

Gear piles (compiled by me and complete with ziplock bags with sticky notes inside to tell what clothing was where, etc etc ;))


Almost immediately after finishing, I began to shake and had to get into dry clothes. Looking at photos it is also obvious that I was extremely swollen under my eyes and in my sinuses. I can't remember looking like that except after Sam's birth. Not sure if it was exhaustion, water retention or some combination. Weird. I also had a very sore, scratchy throat in the last lap, probably due to breathing in cold, dry air. My quads and calves were sore but I had no cramping. I had no blisters at all; only the one hot spot under the callous on the outside of my big right toe which never got worse because we attended to it at both 50 and 75 miles. I had hardly any chafing either. My feet were definitely tender, and my back and shoulders were a bit tight.

When we got back to Irene and Dana's, I started shivering again and then began coughing and had to use my inhaler twice. I took a shower and then lay on the couch with Sam and took a few short cat naps, finally reviving enough to eat some real food.

So tired...

Sam keeping me company while I nap ;)

After my shower, I rubbed Max-Freeze on my quads and calves and put on my compression socks. I also elevated my feet for about 10 minutes. That was all I could take.

I had a lot of trouble walking around Sunday and mostly stayed on the couch, but on Monday morning, while still stiff and creaky, I could get down the stairs OK while holding tightly to the railing and was fairly mobile during the day. Compression socks were worn all day. The overall feeling was exhaustion. As of today, I was able to walk downstairs almost normally and I have no truly sore body parts, although my feet were still a bit swollen and tender. I am still tired ;)

Overall, I feel my body held up very well and I am really happy about that. No doubt the cool, dry weather helped a lot in that regard!

Looking Ahead:

I am planning to eat a lot this week and rest as much as I am able. I also plan to take these next two weeks off - as in NO running. I may have felt decent during the race but I know my body took a beating and it needs a break. I have no immediate plans to run another 100, but will admit that while we were talking about food and what worked on Monday, I said, "well, next time..." Oops ;) Ryan and I have signed up for the Grayson Highlands Marathon in April down in VA in Grayson Highlands State Park and I am very excited to go back there. It was one of our favorite stretches along the AT and I will be glad to revisit it and can't wait to explore a bit with Sam and hopefully be able to find her a "wild" pony to pet along the trail. After that, who knows? But I am sure I can come up with something... ;)

And Finally... huge congrats to my teammates Sean and John for great races! John WON overall, in his first 100! Sean continued on a fast track and ran an incredible 23:31:53. WOW!! So impressive. Way to go, guys! Proud to have you as teammates!

All I can say is WHAT A WEEKEND!!!


unstrung said...

no words for how awesome this is. so impressed by your determination and attitude. great report as well. congrats and rest up, you deserve it!

Anonymous said...

D! What a great race report! You were strong and steady throughout, never breaking stride or your game face! Such an amazing run to see! There was no doubt in my mind you would do this! I'm so proud of you! Wear that buckle proudly!!


Osprey said...

Great job Danielle. All the Monsters are very proud of you. Hope Sam gets to see those ponies in Virginia.

Bart McCarthy said...

This is a great race report! Thanks for putting in the time to write it up and post...I'm running the TARC 100 this year as my first 100. There is not much written about it so I appreciate the info in your report. Thanks again and good luck on your future races!