Somehow, it is the end of March and the first race of 2016 is in the books! While certainly not my optimal performance, I had an absolutely amazing time out on the trails at Hale Reservation at another incredible TARC event. Two days before the race, I woke up with a pretty nasty cough/cold that made me wheezy and gave me a sore throat. The idea of running for 6 hours seemed pretty unappealing, but I tried to look on the bright side. I decided to think of it like this: if I weren’t running the TARC event, I would be running alone. The race started to seem a bit more appealing, but I wasn’t as excited as I had been a few days prior. Either way, Saturday morning rolled around and Colleen and I made our way to the Hale Day Camp.
Colleen and I got to the reservation about 30 minutes before the start. We got checked in and got all of our gear set up. Running a short 3.5 mile loop made it possible to carry very little gear each lap which was amazing. Each lap I only had a water bottle, and in between I made sure to get my calories in. The loop itself was probably my favorite TARC course to-date. It was a great mix of technical single-track and some fire roads. While there weren’t any major climbs, there was a decent amount of up and down. The hardest part of each lap was running across some sandy beaches along the pond that absolutely killed my legs!
At around 9:10, the 6-hour runners were off after the speedy 5K group took off running. As soon as we started running, I didn’t feel on top of my game. My breathing felt labored and I didn’t feel well-rested. I was able to at least convince myself that I didn’t have any set distance to cover. If my body wanted to quit after 3 loops, that would be fine. I just was out there to enjoy the trails. Since the loop was relatively short, the first loop felt more like a warm up. We came back to the aid station where I grabbed my water bottle, ate a little bit of Gu, and took off. I was looking to keep my time at the aid stations short, because it really is deceiving how much time you can lose eating food or chatting with the wonderful volunteers.
Lap 2 my main goal was to keep it consistent with lap 1. I was at a bit of a disadvantage with the aid station time, but I did my best to keep my pace even and stay focused. I started to feel a bit more at ease, but still not great. I found myself focusing more on my health than on my running which was really distracting. My throat was sore, I was coughing, my nose was runny. It wasn’t the best. But as the miles clicked by, it started to feel more comfortable. Lap 2 was pretty much on par with lap 1, and I kept rolling along. Lap 3 was the absolute low point of the race. I was only 25% done, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep my pace, people were passing me. It was at this point when I started bargaining with myself: “6 loops would be okay, maybe 5. Well, as long as I run for 20 miles that is a good long run”. Lap 3 was the pits. But pretty much as soon as it ended my spirits reversed. Physically, I felt a bit stronger and I really wasn’t feeling fatigued at all. It was all in my head.
When I went out for lap 4, my main concern was still consistency. With Bear Mountain coming up in about a month, I want to make sure to have an extremely even race. I was using the 6 Hour as a way to test my pacing and endurance, so having the set loop to repeat made it great practice. By the end of the day, all of my laps were within 6 or 7 minutes of each other, which I would consider great pacing (at least for me). I was making sure to keep fueling. I switched to just drinking tailwind and having some Gu in between laps. Laps 4, 5, and 6 were all really smooth and even. At this point, I started to set my goal for the end of the day. I knew I could definitely do 7, I would really like to do 8, and 9 would be a great day given how I was feeling.
When I started lap 7, Colleen was in the aid station to start lap 6. She was flying! And feeling amazing! And an amazing burst of positive energy to keep me going. She was super supportive and encouraging for me to keep running. At this point we had about 2 and half hours left of running, but she was certain I could go for the full 6 hours. We left the aid station together and ran together for about half the lap. I got it in my head I had to run each lap exactly the same, but really I probably should have taken it down a notch and just enjoyed the next few laps. I hollered to Colleen I was going to go off ahead (which she didn’t hear) and took off. Even though I tried pushing it, I was only in the aid station a minute or two before Colleen.
At that point, Colleen had hit her 4 hour goal, so she was calling it a day. I tried to keep it quick at the aid station and went out for lap 8. By this point, my sickness felt like less of a burden compared to good old-fashioned tiredness. I had been running for 4 hours and change. Fatigue was setting in. But also, there was a ton of time left! So I knew I could make 9 laps, and just over 50K happen. I finished up lap 8 and then went out for lap 9 with just over an hour left. Since I figured I wasn’t going to make the cutoff for going out for another lap, I eased up a bit and just tried to enjoy the last lap. I was pretty beat up, but the course was still a ton of fun, and the sun started to break out. I wound up finishing lap 9 at around 5 hours and 36 minutes, right after the cutoff for starting one more lap! Josh, the race director was super supportive and said I should go out to try and beat the sweep crew, but I was tired and pushing that hard seemed impossible and stupid. I called it a day at 9 laps, 5.5 hours of running, and 31.5 miles covered.
Once again, TARC put on an incredible event. The course was incredibly well marked, all the volunteers were amazing, and every runner was super friendly! This was also the first “cupless” race I had ever been to, and I thought it was awesome how little waste this resulted in. As a tune-up for Bear Mountain, I was incredibly pleased. Sure, I didn’t feel 100%, but I was really pleased to be able to get 50K done. While I am a bit under my goal mileage for the event and for the the week, I still think this was an amazing event that I will definitely be back at.
TARC Hale and Back
- Nike Terra Kiger 3
- Nathan Speedraw
- Garmin Fenix 3
- Gu, Tailwind, Junkfood
- Ciele GoCap