No time goals, no expectations. All I wanted to do was finish the TARC 50K. For the first time since I started ultra running, I decided to use a race as a training run. TARC races are so accessible, it seemed foolish not to take part in the race and use the time to help me prepare for my 100K in October. So, I decided to drop my name onto the waitlist, and a few days later it was decided that I would be running a 50K in the middle of August. Signing up for the event on such a whim was actually kind of refreshing. Normally I spend hours reading race reports, studying the course, and looking over my training plan to see if the race is a good choice. The Summer Classic would be the first race that I essentially just showed up for. Since I was treating it as a training run, I did not taper, rest, or in anyway try to recover to perform at my best. By Friday, I had already run 35 miles that week and done my first day at Harvard Stadium in almost a year. My body was tired, and late nights at work guaranteed I would not have an optimal race day.
As soon as I woke up Saturday morning, I realized that not having a great race was actually going to be a bummer. I love racing and competing against myself, so starting a day knowing I would have no shot at a PR or even a competitive time took away some of my excitement of the day ahead. The ride down to the race, with my friends Harry, Kristen, and Tom, was filled with me throttling expectations and knowing that I would have to continually tell myself it was a training run, not a race. Either way, I was still excited about getting time on the trails. By 6:15, we were at bib pickup and besides the unique location and decoration, everything about it made it apparent it was a TARC race.
Everyone was excited to be there, and volunteers were quick and encouraging. TARC puts on phenomenal events and it is clear how passionate they are about what they do. Besides the amazing race directors and volunteers, I have to say the best part of TARC is how well they mark their courses, nothing like being able to run and not worry about getting lost.
We waited a bit for the event to start, and our group made me more and more excited to race, not to train. By the time the course briefing happened, I was ready to try and win the 50K. Before I had even taken a step, I had let the purpose of the day get away from me. When we were finally sent off, I was running faster than I had wanted to from the very start. The 50K is arranged so there is a small loop that the runners run first to make sure that they end at 31 miles. After the small loop, the rest of the 50K runners and I made our way onto the 10 mile loop. I really have no idea what place I was in at any part of the race, but I know for the first loop I was towards the front. I was trying to run an even effort the entire time, but even a couple miles in I knew I was pushing too hard. Being caught up in it all, I could not bring myself to slow down. On the first loop I think I fell twice, twinging my knee with one of the falls. I was really not having a great day from the get go. I ran a good portion of the first loop with Karl, who while being a trail runner for many years, had never run an ultra marathon before. Having the company was great and made me remember I was just out to enjoy the day.
Throughout the first loop it was clear TARC Summer Classic course is easily one of the most fun courses I have run. It is pretty much all windy single track with rolling hills that is an absolute blast to run on. The course really only has one major hill, Noon Hill, which came around mile 8. After that, more rolling, windy single track back to the start of the course. I already knew I was going to have a rough second half to the day, so when I got to the aid station I took my time and tried to change mentalities. Thankfully, Colleen had gotten there and seeing her and having her positive energy was a huge pick-me-up. I wasn’t feeling great, and it was starting to get hot, but at least someone was proud of how I was performing so far.
I went into the second loop making sure to just cruise. It was a gorgeous day, the course was insanely fun to run, and I was lucky to be out there running at all. I definitely started to enjoy my run significantly more on the second loop. At least until I got stung by something on my calf around mile 14. I had heard the horror stories of the wasp attacks from the previous year, so I was worried I had just encountered the same problem. Thankfully, I only got stung once, but the pain was still pretty intense, and being on my leg was really distracting. The sting throbbed and ached for another 2 hours or so before settling down. It was a really unpleasant distraction and my mood soured from there on out. Shortly after the sting, Mike caught up with me. A runner from Western MA, he was used to the rolling hills and loving the course as much as I did. Mike and I chatted and talked about how it was probably going to be a longer day than we anticipated. As we climbed up Noon Hill, Harry came roaring past us. It was really amazing to see Harry having such a strong day, and while he joked to get me to run faster, I knew it wasn’t in the cards. Mike and Harry pulled away, and I finished the second lap on my own.
As I came in to the start after Lap 2, I was seriously thinking about dropping. I wouldn’t because I was not ready for my first DNF, but I felt like crap. But then, Colleen offered to run my last lap with me. It was exactly what I needed. Colleen was super positive and encouraging, and quick to remind me what I was doing out there today. I am running a 100K in two months! I am trying to qualify for Western States in two months! Today was about running for a long time and having fun doing it. We walked for a mile or two before shifting into a slow run-walk combo for the rest of the lap. Colleen was great, telling me stories, jokes, and anything to make me forget how crappy I was feeling. As the heat picked up, I started to feel more depleted. I marched towards the end of the course to finish 17th, with a time of 6:39.
A day later, I can’t believe how much fun I had at the Summer Classic. Sure, I felt like shit, but the amazing volunteers, my friends and Colleen cheering me on, and just being able to run for 6 hours and still be able to walk the next day are all reasons why I do this. Also, I think as I devote more time and energy to ultra running, I need to keep perspective of why I do it. This is my hobby, how I relax, and how I define myself. Not every single day has to be a peak performance, and not every 50K is going to be my best one ever. The more time I take to settle in and just enjoy days like the Summer Classic, the longer I think I will last in the sport of ultra running.
- Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 2
- Balega Socks
- BOA Shorts (Out of this world)
- Salomon Adv Skin3
- Garmin Fenix 3
- Gu, Roctane, Chomps, Tailwind
- Ciele GoCap