Sunday, February 3, 2019

TARCtic Frozen Yeti Report: 31 and 44

At some point back in the fall, Linda messaged me asking if I was going to run the TARC February race. They had revived the TARC 100 miler in a new fashion, making it a 30 miles to 30 hour ultra race and hosting it in the middle of winter. It was intriguing and sounded like it would be a good impetus for winter training. But on the other hand, much like the TARC Hale and Back, this had the making of 'well that sounded like a good idea at the time' kind of event 😂😂

Still, this weekend rolled around with us driving down to MA on Friday evening so that both Ryan and I could head over to Hale on Saturday morning for the inaugural running of the TARCtic Frozen Yeti. I had initially had grandiose ideas of possibly running 45 miles to commemorate my 44th birthday that Sunday, but as the event grew closer in the side view mirror, I realized I needed to revise my thinking. I had recovered pretty well from JFK in November, but the reality was that I had only managed two 20 mile runs in January so 30 would be more than enough of a stretch!

We headed out around 5:50 am and caught a glorious sunrise as we drove along. As we neared the Hale entrance, a thick dusting of snow coated the ground and the park road was incredibly icy. Traction was most definitely going to be necessary! It was cold, around 5 degrees, but thankfully the true deep freeze had passed and at least we weren't going to be dealing with sub-zero temps!

We lucked out and arrived early enough to snag one of the parking spots near the Powissett Lodge, which served as the start/finish line as well as the one and only aid station of the race. Each "loop" of the course was ~15 miles, comprised of three separate 5 mile loops, all of which started/ended at the lodge. This allowed for a nice indoor aid station and meant that each loop was split up into easily digestible portions. They did a great job of differentiating the loops, with each loop marked with either red, white or blue marking by the lodge. Out on course, we followed the typical TARC signs and pink reflective tagging. 

I have raced a lot of miles at Hale - probably around 200 at this rate! - so many portions of the course seemed familiar, and it was fun to run down the finish line steps of the TARC 100 😍

After a few words from the RDs, and a quick photo by Carolyn, we headed outside for the Yeti howl and then off we went, up an icy, snow covered stretch of pavement. 

I knew I wasn't going to be racing this event, so I settled into what felt like a nice comfortable "all day" pace and tried to stay upright amidst the conga line of runners once we got onto the singletrack. Hale is not a truly difficult place to run but the singletrack is technical and the trails are winding. There aren't a ton of big ups or downs but there are enough little steep inclines and descents to keep you on your toes. Add in the rocks and roots plus the current conditions which meant that in between all those rocks and roots there was tons of ice covered with a thin dusting of snow, and conditions were interesting, to say the least!

I fell in with Christopher, RD of Wapack and Back, and we chatted away the first red loop, which ended up being around 5.5 miles, climbing up and over some of the higher points of the park. Christopher kept me amused with his ultra stories and I enjoyed chatting with him. Several times he said, hmm, I really shouldn't be running with you, this is too fast, so I wasn't surprised to lose him back at the lodge where I continued onto the white loop without stopping in at the aid station. It was cold but I had warmed up nicely and with my bladder hose tucked into my jacket, I had no issues with my water freezing, thankfully! 

The white loop looped up and around through the woods and crisscrossed the powerlines, and by then, runners had spread out and I was mostly running alone, catching glimpses of a few people here and there through the woods, and soon enough I was back at the lodge for the final blue loop. I found this final loop both times around to be the hardest mentally as it seemed to go on forever and took us on several sections of trail that seemed as if the mileage was just for the sake of mileage and not because it traversed the best trails. However, it did take us next to the ponds along Membership Beach and the finish line beach for TARC 100, which was fun, and running along, I could hear the ice shifting and groaning.

Trail sights...

Noanet Pond

Ice floe along the trail

As I was running the gnarly singletrack in the final stretch back to the lodge, I heard a "Woohoo" from up on the road and so knew that Ryan was headed back out on red loop #2 and therefore, wasn't too far ahead, but far enough 😉 I had planned to stop at mile 15 and go into the lodge to change clothing if necessary, refill my pack and get some real food to eat, and I most definitely dawdled here. I had only had 4 gels through mile 15 and could tell I needed to take in some additional fuel. So I chatted with Carolyn, filled my bladder, changed my hat and gloves, went to the bathroom, and managed to eat 4 Oreos, 1 piece of bacon and have some coke before I headed back out onto the red loop for time #2. 

I passed a few people here and there, but ran alone with no one in sight for much of the rest of my time out on the trails. I was still feeling pretty decent on red loop #2 but by the time I got back to the lodge, I was wondering if I would find Ryan in there, as he had said he wasn't sure if he'd get past 20 miles, and honestly, I would have been fine to have found him there, as 20 on these trails in these conditions would have been more enough! But alas, Ryan had obviously headed back out, so I had no choice but to eat another oreo, have another cup of coke, change my hat and gloves again and head back out! 😂  Plus, really, although my mind had momentary thoughts of stopping, I had no real reason to, as I wasn't hurt and was still moving well enough, it was just that I had been out there for 4+ hours and nothing more. 

The temperature had warmed up but the wind had also picked up and somehow on this second time around, it seemed the ice had gotten a bit more slick. I spent a fair amount of time picking my way up and down the inclines and tiptoeing along the edges of large sections of ice. My energy was fairly solid but I was definitely walking a bit more here and there on this stretch.

Back at the lodge, I once again wondered if I'd find Ryan inside, didn't see him there, resigned myself to another 5 miles, changed hat and gloves, had another oreo, a piece of bacon and two cups of coke and headed back on out. As I walked around the edge of the lodge, another runner was headed out at the same time. I told him he could feel free to sneak around me, but he said, nah, I'm not in a rush and I asked him how far he was planning to going. He said, I'm not sure, I'm thinking 45, but after we finish this blue loop, they'll let us off with dignity, so we'll see. HA! Indeed. Dignity, I said, that is totally all I'm going for 😂😂

Caught in the act 😆

Final loop

I was happy to find that I felt fairly solid in those final 5 miles and although there was inevitably walking and a bit of moaning about the endless feeling I had about this blue loop, my pace was decent overall and I finished with a smile, happy to be done but feeling pretty good about what I had pulled off for the day. Ryan had finished well ahead of me, darn him, 😂😃 but seriously it was my own fault, as overall, I did a lot of dawdling at the aid station, adding 22 minutes to my time with stops 😑😁 Still, I finished well within the range of what I had thought I would, with 6:23 moving time and 6:45 overall time for what my watch captured as 31.6 miles. Not too shabby for an ultra on February 2nd! 

Many thanks to the RDs and volunteers for putting on a fun event and doing a great job with the course, the aid station, course marking and overall atmosphere. TARC never fails to deliver! Even bigger props to all the runners who got in their miles on this course in difficult conditions and to the four people who completed 100+ miles in the 30 hours. Wow!! Impressive. 

After hanging out for a bit and chatting with Carolyn and a few other runners, we packed up and headed back to Irene and Dana's. Sam had had a great day hanging out with them, playing pool, cooking and relaxing! Many thanks Grammie and Grampie 😌😍

Homemade chicken noodle soup followed up with birthday cupcakes was the perfect finish to a fun day on the trails! 

This morning, I was happy to feel pretty decent without a lot of stiffness or hobbling, and after the requisite cup of coffee, we went out for a big post-long run breakfast before Ryan, Sam and I got ourselves organized and headed home. The skies had lightened and temps had risen by the time we got back in Maine, and I told Ryan I thought we should take advantage of the nice afternoon and head out for a short hike. There may have been a bit of grumbling on his part at my suggestion, but even so, he and Sam nicely indulged my idea of a birthday walk 😘 so we donned our spikes and headed out into the Cathance. There had been a fair amount of traffic so the trails were fairly well packed, the river was running really high with some incredible layers of ice, and there were tons of animal tracks to ponder along the way. A lovely walk in the woods! (1.0 miles walked)

Her real feeling about this idea 😂

Cajoled into smiling 

Cool layers of ice

One lone ice pancake

Running down the hills!

My girl 💕

Lots of snowshoe hare prints 💜

Finished up the day with dinner and cupcakes that I made for myself on Friday, because birthdays just aren't birthdays without Mim's crazy cake! 🎂

And so with that, 31 miles are done and I'm now 44. Didn't quite get an equal amount of miles for years, but it was a fun weekend full of running, family, time spent in the woods and cupcakes so I have no complaints! 😍


Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, D!! Congrats to both of you on a ''fun'' run and glad no emergency gear was needed!


Sparkplug said...

Thanks Ann :) And yes, glad no emergency or super cold weather gear was needed on our end too!