If you haven’t heard yet, I am super proud to say that the TARC 50 and 100 Mile Endurance Race was a complete success! After dropping out without finishing at my first 50-miler, and then basically crawling to the finish line at my second, I finally found the strength and endurance this time to run a competitive race. I finished in 11 hours and 10 minutes, and I was the second place female! To not only finish, but also do extremely well makes me so happy that I could cry, and crossing that finish line with my head held high will always be one of my proudest moments!
The race started on Friday evening, so Jaime, Peter and I headed down to Boston right after work to set up camp. We brought a tent so that we could take a nap after the race, since we would be running all night.
After getting set up, we headed over to the start to get checked in, leave our drop-bags at the aid station and make last-minute preparations. The race started at 7:00 p.m., and it was a beautiful evening for a run!
Photo taken just after the start by Michel Caron
Peter and I started the race together, and the plan was to stay together for the whole 50 miles. After that, Peter was planning to do an extra 25-mile loop in order to bridge the gap between 50 miles (the longest distance he’s run so far) and 100 (what he’s hoping to complete next month). This was essentially a training run for him, and he wanted to be conservative with his pace and not push himself too hard. For me, this was the culmination of my training so far this year (I’m not doing the 1o0 with him), and I wanted to go all out.
We ran across a parking lot and then directly onto a single-track grass trail heading up a steep hill. It was a very slow start while all the runners jammed up trying to file onto the trail and climb the hill. Then, the pace continued to be very slow for the next couple miles as we struggled to pass slower runners on the very narrow trail. Finally, after a couple of 13-minute miles (much slower than I wanted to go!), we got past all the major congestion and were able to pick up the pace.
The course consisted of a 25-mile “loop”, which was unbelievably confusing and convoluted, but thankfully, also extremely well-marked. I was completely paranoid that I was going to zone out and miss a turn, especially in the dark, but by some miracle I managed to stay on course for the entire race. Many others were not as fortunate.
You would not believe the mud on this course! There were mud pits that you could easily lose a shoe in, some coupled with puddles halfway up my shins. Also, there were more stream crossings than I could count, the worst of which was well over my knees!
One of the many “lose your shoe” mud pits
One of the mud pits with deep water ~ photo by Ian Parlin
Stream crossing at the deepest point ~ photo by Michael St. Hilaire
Needless to say, I had wet feet for the entire race, and my shoes were full of mud! This was something I anticipated (see my pre-race post here), and my motto was “plan for the worst conditions you can imagine–if it’s not that bad, you’ll be happy, and if it is, at least you were expecting it”. I think that mental preparation worked because honestly the mud wasn’t any worse than the “worst conditions I could imagine”, and I was ready to deal with it!
Thankfully, though there were a lot of nasty places, the majority of the trails were absolutely perfect–mostly flat, smooth and dry. I ran for miles and miles at a time without encountering anything to slow me down.
The First Half
Peter and I managed to get in about 8 miles before it got dark and the long night began. I was pleasantly surprised by the brightness of my new headlamp though and had no trouble at all seeing where I was going. At about mile 10, the two of us came to the third aid station and ended up parting ways. It wasn’t intentional, but Peter was taking a long time browsing through all the food, and I was impatient. I decided to walk up the trail while I ate my PB & J sandwiches and wait for him to catch up. He still hadn’t shown up by the time I was done eating, and I didn’t want to wait around all night, so I started running and just hoped that he would catch up later. He never did. :/ I finished the first 25 miles in 5 hours–right at my goal pace and was still feeling GREAT! Also, I learned that I was the first place female! This gave me a huge adrenaline rush, and I was determined run that second half as fast as I could.
The First Setback
Shortly after I started out on my second loop, I started feeling intense pain in both of my Achilles tendons. As far as I could tell, it was resulting from the back of my shoes putting too much pressure on them. I’d never had this problem before, even though I had worn the shoes for several long runs, including a 40-miler. Soon I was in agony, and I knew I could never finish the race in this condition and started thinking about my options. I knew that I would have access to my drop-bag again at the 30-mile mark, so I decided that I would change to a different pair of shoes then and give it until the next aid station to see if there was any improvement. Thankfully, the shoe change did the trick, and I had no problem with my achilles for the rest of the race!
The Second Half and Hitting the Wall
While I was changing my shoes, the second place girl passed me. Once I got going again though, I quickly made up the distance between us and passed her within a few miles. I was able to hold the lead again for awhile, but unfortunately, I had to stop at an aid station to use the port-a-potty, and she caught up to me there and left me in her dust. I was slowing at that point, and by mile 40 I had hit the wall and felt like I had nothing left. I had no energy, I was hurting all over, this 5-mile section of the course was super muddy, I couldn’t get in a good running groove because I had to keep stopping to slosh through mud and water, I was tripping over everything and even fell once. I was super discouraged. I started thinking that I didn’t care anymore about whether I finished in 2nd place, or even finished at all. I started hoping that I would make a wrong turn on the course and show up at the wrong aid station, where I would gladly accept disqualification and a ride back to the finish. I took me about an hour and a half to cover the 5 miles to the next aid station, which seemed like an ETERNITY.
My Second Wind and a Strong Finish
Once at the aid station at mile 45, I got fueling up again and started coming out of my slump. I think my underlying problem was that I was just low on energy. Also, the sun was rising, and I could see again! That alone was so encouraging! At this point I had just a short, 2-mile loop until the next aid station, and I was able to run most of that and started feeling much better. At the end of this loop you come back to the same trail and there’s two-way traffic for a ways until you get back to the same aid station. I saw here that there were several girls not far behind me, and my competitive spirit re-emerged.
I pulled myself together and said, “I’m still in second place, and I’m not going to let any one take that away from me.” I set out on those last three miles determined to give it my all and finish strong.
Photo taken at mile 47 as I set out towards the finish with renewed determination.
As you know from my opening statement, I was indeed able to hold off those other girls and finish in second. The third place girl was only 40 seconds behind me! I am so glad I was able to renew my focus and make those last three miles count!
This is what I looked like after the race.
Notice the layer of mud on the outside of my socks!
My battered and very muddy feet! Amazingly, I had only one tiny blister on the top of one of my toes!
The three of us relaxing at the campsite for a bit before heading home
It was 6:00 a.m. by the time I finished, and Peter finished about an hour after me. His hamstring was really tight, so he decided not to do the extra 25 miles as planned because he didn’t want to risk an injury with the VT100 only a month away now. Jaime finished about half an hour after him and had also decided not to do more than 50. It had been a LONG night for all of us, and thankfully, my parents were there to pick up the pieces and bring us all back home.
I’m feeling pretty battered right now–nothing like running 50 miles as fast as you can! My plan is to take two weeks off to recover, and then ease back into a regular, though much less intense, running schedule for the rest of the summer. I will probably do a couple of 50K’s this fall, but so far I haven’t signed up for anything yet. And of course, I’m looking forward to pacing Jaime in the VT100 next month! After that, mainly I just want to do a few “fun runs” with Jaime and Peter on the Appalachian Trail and the Long Trail in VT. We have many more adventures in store!