Tuesday, April 29, 2014

TARC Spring Classic and The Groton Road Race

This past weekend I raced twice and set two personal records which both involved the number 14.  First, a 14 minute PR in the 50K at the TARC Spring Classic and second with a 14 second Stroller PR at the Groton Road Race 5K.

TARC Spring Classic
Location: Weston, MA
Date: 4/26/2014

Distance: 50K
Goal Time:  4:12:57 (1 second below PR)
Actual Time: 3:58:23 (7:42 / mile)
Place: 3 / 108 OA
The TARC Spring Classic was my first ultra of 2014 and the first real stepping stone on the road to the Leadville 50 Miler (Mid July).  I knew going in my result would be interesting as I have increased my volume significantly over the past 11 months.  The course was a fairly flat 10K loop in the Weston Conservation land.  I knew that as long as I ran intelligently, then I should be able to PR without a problem.  

As race day got closer and weather forecast got worse, I began questioning what I was doing and what my real plans were.  As I lay in bed last Thursday night, I was having my obligatory pre-race breakdown.  But after a solid nights sleep, and quick pep talk from Amy, I said to myself, Go for it and if you feel awful by mile 18, it is ok to pack it in (This may have been a compete lie to myself, but anyway I digress).   

When I awoke Saturday morning, it was 42 degrees with forecasts of light rain for the day.  I opted for long sleeves with pants in a hope to avoid getting cold during the race.  It is kind of funny to think this. Normally if racing in the mid 40's, I am going to go with shorts and t-shirt. When you are heading out on a 4ish hour run, you aren't going to be running that hard. 

I left the house around 6:45 and arrived at the race site shortly after 7 (Out of the 6 ultra's that I have run, this was the first one in Massachusetts, not to mention only 15 minutes from my house).  I met up with a few other runners from my running club (Shaun, Dana, and Julia) and took it easy until the 10k race began at 8.  A few minutes later, the rest of the races started and we were on our way.  

Gotta give it to TARC for figuring out how to hold a 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon, and 50K concurrently.  With the 10K taking off first, and then the mararthoners and half marathoners peeling off to get in their "pre-loops" (small side trail to make their distances match up correctly), I quickly found myself alone with the leaders.  The top two runners made it clear within the first mile they would be off on their own so I settled into 4th place.  Jostling for position at the beginning of an ultra generally doesn't bear much fruit.  
The course was a 10K loop that was 70% single track and 30% fire roads.  The hills were rolling except for one good climb somewhere in the middle.  There were four stream crossings per loop with the last one being quite a mud pit.  The sole aid station was at the start / end of the loop.  

My GPS watch doesn't always work that well in the woods and is even worse when the course has lots of tight turns.  Add some tree cover that was made worse by the rain and it wasn't overly useful on the day other then reminding me to eat.  It had the first lap at 6 (instead of 6.2), the second at 5.87, and got worse from there.  

As I came through the rest stop the first time  (at the completion of the first lap), I slapped five with Julia (who apparently had just won the Women's 10K), and rocketed back out on the course. 

I kept cranking out the miles at a solid clip and before I knew it I was already over 18 miles (3 laps) in.  During that span I dropped from 4th to 5th place, but managed to climb back into 4th just before the end of the fourth lap.

As I embarked on my 4th loop, I tried to stay focused.  I figured if I could get through this one without too much trouble, then I had the will power to muscle through the final loop without a problem.  As I reached the first stream crossing of the loop, I flawlessly scampered across a 4'' diameter log impressing the photographer on the far side (slightly sad that I wasn't able to look up as I was too focused on what I was doing).  As I completed "the climb" I slowed down some to let my heart rate drop.  I was starting to feel a little bit of fatigue, but my muscles, joints, etc. where holding out pretty well.  At this point I had about 9 miles to go and still felt pretty strong. 

Somewhere within the next mile is when mud on the course finally caught up with me.  As I was descending a fairly wide, but slick section my right foot came out from under me and I flew down the hill landing on my right shoulder.  Slightly embarrassed, but laughing, I rolled through it, popped back up, and kept on going.  I figured being covered in mud from head to toe added a little more character (and made it look like I was working hard).  

As I got through the final mud pit / stream crossing of the loop, the 3rd place runner came into my view.  I still had over 6 miles to go and didn't want to make a move to early.  As we finished the 4th lap, I passed him at the aid station and as I saw him toss his cup and quickly get moving over my shoulder I knew it was time to go for it.   

I ran the next mile probably somewhere in the 7:20 range hoping to convince him to just let me go.  He stayed within view for about a mile and a half and then I never saw him again until after we both finished.  

On my final lap, I hammered straight through the streams and mud pits.  I made it halfway through the lap, somewhere around mile 28 before body really started to tighten up.  This was about 4 miles further along then my last 50K and I truly believed that I was strong enough to just muscle through.  

As I made my way to the final fire road with the sounds of the finish in range, I picked the pace up and smiled.  As I hit the finish and stopped my watch, I laughed a little, not really having had any idea how long I had been running.  
3:58:23 -- 14:35 PR
After a few cups of hot tomato soup, a change of clothes, and loads of various other foods (rice crispies, oreos, and a quesadilla to name a few), I made my way home with a happy performance.  

Special thanks to TARC for putting on a great race and to my SRR teammates for coming out to the trails and sticking around and supporting us.  
Groton Road Race
Location: Groton, MA
Date: 4/26/2014

Distance: 5K
Goal Time: 19:57 (1 second < Stroller PR)
Actual Time: 19:43 (6:21 / mile)
Place: 22 / 867 OA

This year was my third year doing the Groton Road race and my second year pushing Neil in the stroller.  We love doing this race as it is a really family friendly environment and our friends John and Sue Ann live around the corner and always host a BBQ after the event.

This year in addition to running the 5K, Neil participated in the Tot's Trot, his third race (Neil has promised to provide his own race report later this week).

One of the reasons that we like the Groton Road Race is that the races are held sequentially (Tot's Trot, 2K, 5K, 10K) and there are always a ton of people out cheering.

Neil and I started somewhere between the 7:30 and 8 pace area, but quickly got stuck behind a family of four.  It took us about a 10th of a mile to get out of traffic and from there it was pretty smooth sailing.

We knocked out the first mile in 6:39 and the steep down hill towards the end of the second mile allowed us to drop a 6:15.  I always enjoy racing with the stroller as you get a big rise out of the crowd.  I had at least three sets of people let me know that I was in the lead for strollers and then one woman yell "He is a asleep.  I love it."

As I passed one man at the end of the second mile, he yelled "I'll see you on the up hill in a minute." Laughing, I just thought "No you won't."

As we approached the track at the end of the race I realized if I pushed the last quarter mile I probably could set a new stroller PR.  Amazed at the strength left in my legs after my run the previous day I sharply picked the pace up as I hit the track and finished strong. 

19:43 -- 14 Second PR -- 5:07 mile pace for the last 10th of a mile
Moving Forward

Looking back on this weekend I really do believe in my training, maybe now more then ever.  This past week I hit 80 miles for the first time and managed to do it on a week where I set two new personal records.

More than that as I walked up the stairs Monday morning at work my legs barely even hurt.  Don't get me wrong I had some aches, pains, and some tightness, but I was not doing the runners limp that I had done so many times before.  Running everyday and taking care of myself has made me stronger, improved, and much more resilient.

With a new sense of confidence I am looking forward to what has yet to come.

Next Up
5/4: Spring Spring Duathlon (3.1, 13, 1.5)
5/11: Mom's Run 5K (Neil in the Stroller)
5/25: Pineland Farm's 50 Mile Trail Run

T-75 days to the Leadville 50.

- Multisport Maniac

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