Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The TARC 100K Trail Race

This past weekend I took on and completed my first 100K trail race.  This is now the furthest that I have ever run and it gives me confidence that I have what it takes to someday take on a 100-mile race.

The race took place at the Hale reservation in Westwood, MA and also involved the surrounding
The course - 100k = 2.5 Loops
trails of Noanet Woodlands and Powissett Farm.  The trails were about 80-90% single track with a little double track, roads, and open fields mixed in.  Lots of rocky, rooty terrain were involved with rolling hills and a few short, but steam climbs.

Like most TARC races, there were a number of options at the TARC 100: 100 miles, 100k, 50 miles, and marathon.

I hatched the plan to run my first 100K late last year.  This seemed like the logical step forward in my ultra running career.  After completing the Leadville Silver Rush 50 in 2014, I needed some time away from long distance racing. As 2016 started, I was ready to see if I had what it takes.

After tough races at the Boston Marathon and Big Horn, I really needed a win. I prepared more for this race than any other race I have ever done.  Part of it was the distance, part of it was knowing I would be out there for 12ish hours, part of it was making sure that what happened at Big Horn didn't happen again.

After Big Horn, I was a little crushed.  With over 7k miles under my belt in the last 2.5 years, I thought I had this thing down. After an easy week, I got back to work and got over to the Fell's for a loop of the Skyline trail(very technical). A couple of weeks later I did it again.

I officially kicked off my training for this race back in August with a 90-mile week including 36 miles on my birthday (19 on the Wapack trail -- also very technical).  The following week, I kept the intensity in top gear summiting Pleasant Mountain and then a 2/3 summit again the next day.  The following weekend I headed out for a 24-mile run, which was to include two loops of the Fell's Reservoir trail but had to abort part way through.  Something wasn't right.  I shouldn't be working this hard to run the pace I was going.

The next two weeks were both low volume and slow as I nursed a lower abdominal injury.  It hurt like hell when I sneezed, and I was worried that I may have a hernia (later confirmed not to be true by a doctor).  I continued to run every day, but dropping the intensity, staying off technical terrain, and minimizing the hills.

The first week in September, I decided that I would make a final go at training for the 100k.  If I could put in a solid three weeks of training, I could get through this thing.

I started the month off with a 90-mile week and got three consecutive 20 milers in Labor day weekend.  The following weekend I knocked out 24 miles at Coast-to-Cure NF and then 40 miles the Saturday after that for a total 242 miles.

At this point, I knew I was ready.  Now to just back off a little and prep for the race.

Two weeks out I got down to Hale for a course preview with the TARC folks. Special thanks to Chris Martin and crew for showing us the course and helping us see what we were about to get into.  We knocked out a relaxing 20 miles on the day (I know that sounds silly).  13 days to go.

The Pre-Race Race
After a 106 day hiatus from racing after Big Horn, it was time to get back into it.  October was set to be a busy month with two 5k's, a 100k, and pacing half of the Baystate marathon.

On October 2nd, I took on the 4th annual Dan Scharfman Memorial Run.

Dan Scharfman Memorial 5K
Location: Belmont, MA
Date: 10/2/2016
Distance: 3.1 miles
Goal: 17:59 (5:46 / mile) and / or Defend My Title
Actual: 17:44 (5:42 / mile) Place: 4 / 423 OA, 1 / 22 AG (18-39)

"The Dan" has always been an important race for me; Both paying tribute to the great man that Dan was and being able to represent at a local Belmont race.  

Over the past year and a half, Dan's children have moved away and recently Merle sold the house.  While we are sad to see them go, we were excited to have new neighbors, especially with kids ages near ours. 

Last year I was the overall winner, so there was a little pressure to repeat, but with a 100k six days out, I was mostly concerned with just getting through the race healthy.  

As we lined up to start, a teenager came over and said "You won last year right? I came in second."  I knew some fun was immediately ahead.    

We started out quick hitting the 1/4 mile mark around 5:30 pace.  My goal was to keep everyone in sight until we hit the down hill and then run away from them again if I could. By the one mile mark, I knew this wasn't going to be the case.  We had just clicked off a 5:47 (2 seconds faster then last year) and the lead runner (who was also an adult) was starting to pull away.  

For the next two-ish miles, I just trailed two teenagers hoping that I would be able to out sprint them as we hit the track. As we turned out of the high school with a 1/4 mile to go, they made their moves, and I simply just didn't respond.  

I hit the finish in 17:44, 6 seconds slower than last year, but still good enough for 4th place and to win my age group.  All and all I was happy with the performance, considering I was trying hard not to run too hard.  

Final Prep
My final preparations for the race are detailed below.  When you are heading out for a full day event, there are a lot of things to take into account.

Leave House: 7:45am (~35 minutes) Catch ride down with Keith
Race Start: Checkin: 8 - 9:30am Briefing: 9:45am Start: 10AM
Pacing: 1st 21 - Keith (Pace 9:30-10 per mile) 21-62 (Wonder around in the woods aimlessly)

Clothes / Drop Bags
3 sets of underwear, socks, shirt.  
1 long sleeve shirt, tights, jacket in case of rain
1 extra pair of shoes, sweatshirt
Change at mile 21, 37, 46.

Setup: Bag at start / finish, bag at Grossman's Beach

Where to See Me
- Membership Beach (Start / Finish) - Mile 12, 37, 62.
- Grossman Beach (1/2 mile from Start) - Mile 21, 30 (Road crossing), 46, 54 (Road crossing)

Tailwind (1 camel pack every 2 hour = 300 calories)
Eat gummy food every 4-5 miles.  
Eat sandwich + banana every 3 hours (may need to slow down to digest following eating)

Finish / Getting Home: Aiming at 12 hours (10:24pm), will need ride home (Amy).  Drink Beer.

The Race

TARC 100k
Location: Westwood, MA
Date: 10/8/2016
Distance: 62 miles
Goal: 12:24 (12 / mile)
Actual: 12:11 (11:48 / mile) Place: 2 / 18 OA

Keith and I arrived at the race start around 8:30.  We checked in, I dropped off my bags, and then went and sat down with Mike and his friends (they were crewing for their friend Liz).

The race started promptly at 10am and similar to most ultra's that I run, I went out in the lead for the first few miles.  Keith and another runner, Austin, came with me and we chatted about past races for a while (Note: While Keith was officially registered for the 100k, he planned to bail at mile 21.  Between work and being a newish parent, he simply didn't get the training in).

Shortly before we completed the pre-loop (12 miles), Keith managed to get us turned around and running at a couple of the hundred milers.  We quickly realized we had lost the course and got back on track (we probably added less than a 1/4 mile).

As we got back to the start / finish, two additional runners (Marek and Jesse) passed us (which put us tied for 4th).  I knew full well going into this race, that it was going to be tough, and competing for places was going to be secondary to finishing.

The next 9 miles Keith and I just chugged along. We socialized with some hundred milers as we caught them and just kept cruising.   We eventually arrived back at Grossman Beach, mile 21, Keith's bailout point.  While it wasn't hot out, it was somewhat humid, so I used this opportunity to change into dry clothes.

I headed back out with 41 miles to go, knowing I probably would be spending the rest of the day by myself.  Somewhere around mile 22-23 I hit a groove and was feeling great.  As I stopped to refill my camel-bak at mile 25, a volunteer asked how I was doing.  I replied with "Feeling great" and she told me to repeat whatever I had done 5 miles earlier.

Shortly there after I caught Jesse, who looked to be having a rough day, and then Austin almost immediately after that.  Now I was in second overall, and simply just had to hold on for another 36 miles.

I was still feeling really good at mile 30 when I saw my friends again and just kept plugging along.  My legs were starting to hurt some, but other then the rocky terrain, I wasn't having too much trouble running.  Two of the last three miles of the course, are quite technical with switchbacks.  As I struggled through them for the second time, I knew they would be even tougher in the dark.

As I popped back out at the start / finish for the second time, I knew the real pain was about to begin.  After changing my shirt again, I headed back out; 25 miles to go.

The next 9 miles really weren't that bad.  I did a little more walking, specifically on the climbs, but pushed to keep moving otherwise.  I knew the more I got in before it got dark, the better off I would be.

By mile 44, the sun was starting to set and between the tree cover and it being overcast out, we were losing light quickly.  I picked the pace up with the goal of getting back to Grossman Beach before it got dark and would then throw my head lamp on.

As I got back to the beach, Mike helped me get the head lamp setup and said that the leader was about 15 minutes ahead and his friend Liz (who he was about to start pacing) was 20 minutes behind.  When I asked about the other two guys I had passed, he simple said "Gone." I then mumbled something along the lines of I'm hurting and took off.  As I went back into the woods, it was so dark I wouldn't have been able to take another step without a light.

About 2/3's a of mile later, my left foot hit a rock, and I went down hard and the head lamp went flying.  After a quick swearing fit, I got back up, re-situated the head lamp, and began moving again. Running in the dark was kind of surreal.  The trail markers had reflective tape on them and you could see them from about 50 yards away.  The arrows at turns had reflective tape as well and I felt like I was just floating through the woods as I weaved around.

I finally saw Amy at mile 56 road crossing.  I was pumped that I had just 6 miles to go, but was well aware that it may take me another hour and a half to traverse.  After a hand full of peanut M&M's and a quick chat with my friend Mark from SRR who was volunteering, I headed back out into the darkness.

I had about a mile of trails, two miles of fields, two more tough / technical trail miles, and another mile of easier trails until the finish.

As I got back to Powissett farm and hit the fields, I regained the ability to run without staring intensely at my feet.  While my legs really hurt, the ability to reduce my focus helped immensely. I swear they were cheering for me at the aid station for 10 minutes seeing my head lamp out in the distance.

Photo compliments of
David Metsky
With a quick handful of watermelon, I was off.  Time to tackle those two dreaded miles before the finish.  Mile 60 proved to be the hardest mile of the day.  Giving everything I had I dropped a 17:34 and for the life of me, didn't understand how I could be pushing so hard and moving so slow.  Mile 61 wasn't much easier, but knowing how close to the finish I was, I just pressed on.

As I hit the final road crossing / half-mile to go, I stepped over the fence, thanked the volunteers, and knew nothing could stop me.  As I appeared back on the beach, the crowd cheered, I crossed the finish line and immediately sat down.

-- 12:11:29 -- 11:48 / mile -- 2nd Overall - GPS Track

Happy with my performance, I just sat there.  Josh, the race director and Marek, the winner / new course record holder (who finished nearly an hour earlier) came over and congratulated me.  After a few minutes, I changed, grabbed some tomato soup, and washed down two Advil with a beer.

My legs were throbbing, but I was feeling accomplished. After having botched my last two long races, I needed a win on this one.  I finished 12 minutes and 31 seconds under my goal and taking second overall was just icing.

A little bit later, Liz finished (who had also just completed her first 100k) taking 4th overall and we relaxed and reminisced about the race for a few.  Around 11:45 we called it a night and headed home.

Thank You
Special thanks to my wife Amy for putting up with me both on race day and through this training cycle.  Thanks to Keith for running the first 21 with me.  Special thanks to Mike and his friends.  Having people out there cheering for you makes all the difference.  Special thanks to the entire TARC family.  You guys always put on unbelievable events and I can't wait to do another.

Whats Next
I learned two important things at this race.

1) I can push through anything if I want it enough.  I was really hurting at mile 46 and even more at mile 56.  Just breaking the course up into segments and focused on moving forward was how I got through it.

2) My limitation seemed to be governed largely by the technical terrain and then even more by the loss of light.  While I knew I had this limitation, I was pleasantly surprised to find a groove each time I hit the fields at Powissett farms.

So what's next, who knows? There may be a 100 miler on the horizon or a multi-day stage race.  All I know is that I am not done yet.

- Scot

Notes and Quotes
  • My fastest mile was 8:11 and slowest was 17:34
  • My average pace was more then twice as slow then the previous week's 5K
  • "Don't underestimate how much dry underwear can increase moral." - Me
  • "I have never pushed my body so hard to get so little." - The other Liz (In reference to her race at the Leadville 100) 
  • "I fell four times." - Me "I fell four times too." - Mike "You only ran 10 miles" - Me
  • "Were you running from the clowns." - a woman at the store the next day after I explained why I was moving so slow because I had run 100K the day before.

1 comment:

Greg Soutiea said...

But wait? You wear underwear when you run?