I have a confession to make. A lot of the time, at least recently, I don’t love running. I have not been “loving the process”. I haven’t been thrilled with my races. Most training runs feel like a slog. While a bit demoralizing, I think it’s to be expected to be honest. In 2016 and 2017 I accomplished more than I had ever really expected as a runner. Two 100 mile races, half marathon PR, 5K PR, a Boston qualifier. It was just success followed by success followed by success. Everything had such tremendous payoff it felt incredibly rewarding. Now, it feels like I am just going through the motions. Seven Sisters was a bright spot of running with friends and craziness that was genuinely exciting. I’m still anxiously awaiting The Bear, since 100 milers are so challenging and unique, but TARC Spring, Wachusett, and to some extent Escarpment felt like a grind. There were moments during Escarpment I thought “I fucking love running”, but a lot of that race was punishing and challenging. The mentality was taking a toll, but on Saturday, all I could think was “I really fucking love running!”
Sure, the TARC Summer classic was still 31 miles. And 31 miles is a long way. And whenever you go a long way there are some low points. The point is that every low quickly left and was replaced by gratifying highs. The race, the community, and my performance all culminated in a great day. I’m hoping that I can take this rekindled energy and train hard going into the Bear.
A large part of what made the day work was treating the race as a training run. Normally, I think this is a bullshit excuse to wipe away a sub-optimal performance, but I had 40 miles on my legs from the week leading up to it, had run 24.5 miles on my long run the previous Sunday, and hadn’t done anything to really treat it as an A or even B race. So while I undoubtedly spent parts of loop 1 doing mathematical gymnastics to estimate a finish time, I quickly let any thoughts of performance and position slip away. I was going to run 31 miles and I’d either be in first place, last place, or somewhere in between. What’s funny is that I had tried to do the same thing at this race two years earlier and failed miserably. So, after three years of ultrarunning, I can safely say I know how to use a race as a training run.
Like two years ago, I think the TARC Summer classic is one of the most enjoyable courses I have run! It has a mix of everything: single track, fire road, hills, techy sections. A 10 mile loop is just long enough to stay fresh but short enough to seem manageable. What’s also amazing is that I can summarize the race in three sentences.
On my first loop, I settled in to running by feel and enjoying the day, and after about 5 miles everything clicked and it was smooth sailing.
I fell right before the start on the second loop, but it got me fired up to run faster than the first loop!
On the last loop, I fell again and felt a bit sorry for myself, so it went a bit slower but I still finished in 5:34 (in 2015 I ran a 6:39)!!!
Boom, easiest race recap ever! Honestly, it is difficult to write a report about a race I have already run. Especially when the goal was supposed to be the same. This year though, I was able to have a spectacular time. I feel reinvigorated for the final 6 weeks leading up to the Bear 100! Can’t wait to see how it goes.
Hey guys, I do still exist! And I still run! Life has been a bit crazy – I started a new job and spent some good time with my favorite physical therapist for a few different injuries. Thankfully, I’m feeling more settled and less injured now, and ready to start training again. We’re also starting to run with Goose now too, so expect some cute puppy pictures!
First of all, let me recap Matt’s 100 Miler: everyone there was insane. Like in a good way, but still. I can’t believe how amazing everyone there was, especially Matt. It was a wonderful experience to be his crew chief! He inspired me to find my first 50 miler – if he can run 100 miles in 21 hours, I can run 50 miles. As long as my shins and knees hold up through the fall, I’ll be building my base up and starting training in mid-fall!
With the change in schedule and learning a new job, I’ve been running a lot less, and it’s been bumming me out. I’m finally starting to feel more comfortable in my job, and antsy to get back on the training train! I want to run commute (because Boston traffic DEAR GOD WHY WHYYYYYY) but am torn about not wanting to be sweaty for the rest of the day. If you’ve got any advice on run commuting at a place without a shower, or know of any gyms near Union Square that will let me pay for just showers, bring it on!
For now, I’ll be training and building my mileage back up so I can start training for the next big thing! In the fall I’ll be running the Cambridge Half Marathon with team Bantam Cider (you should join too!) and a few 5k’s as well. I’m still trying to decide whether or not I should do the TARC Fall Classic 50k, but I’ll make the call in a few weeks after I get training started.
I promise to be better at blogging now that I’m more settled into my new job!
I think the Spring Classic was my 4th TARC event, and each one is better than the last. What more can be said about the events TARC organizes? Low key, high energy, and extremely supportive are just a few of the great things that come to mind about their races. Seriously, I am so lucky to have them as my local trail running group and can’t wait to run, volunteer, cheer at more of their races. Even with the wet weather, volunteers were cheery and people were excited to run. The Spring Classic is fun because of the huge range of events that happen simultaneously. I was running the half marathon, but there were races ranging from 10K to 50K. The looped course meant everything was commingled, which meant I was never running alone.
I got to the start right when the mandatory race meeting was ending (oops). I picked up my bib, got set, and looked around to see who else was running. Colleen was supposed to be there, but a last minute foot-issue meant she was taking an unplanned rest day. I knew a few November Project people who were hitting the trails, but I absolutely did not expect to see 10+ people out to run or just feed off the event’s energy. It was great to see so many familiar faces to help me get excited. A friend was visiting over the weekend, so I may have had a slight hangover at the start of the race and anything to get my energy up was necessary.
This half was my last long-run before the Bear Mountain 50 miler. I was using it as a test drive, wearing all the gear I plan to rock next weekend. By the end, I was happy with everything, but I hope it is dry on race day. In terms of goals, I didn’t have any. My friend Steve asked what I was aiming for when the gun went off, but I had no answer. Hangover + week out from a 50 miler = just wanting to get the race done. Either way, it was a race so I knew I couldn’t just take it easy. In the back of my mind, top 10 seemed reasonable.
Like I mentioned before, the runners for all the different events are mixed together on the trails. The course is a 10K loop, with some minor add-ons for the half and full marathons. In terms of keeping the race interesting, its great, but it does make it hard to know who you are really competing against. By the time the crowd thinned out a bit, I really had no idea what position I was in so my impromptu goal became pretty meaningless. The course itself is one of my favorites. It is an awesome mix of single track and fast fire road with some rolling hills that just makes for incredibly fun running. Also, TARC manages to make some of the most intricate courses that constantly twist and turn, making for a hugely engaging run.
So, the gun went off, we ran the half marathon add-on, and by the time I started on the loop itself I had no idea what position I was in. Steve and I were neck and neck and settled into a comfortable pace. Since there is no add on for the 50K runners, we spent the first few miles passing people sharing encouragement along the way. Since I ran the 50K last year, I had a pretty good memory of the course which helped pace myself a bit. My stomach felt pretty awful at the start, so I was really hesitant to push and have the potential to blow up. I kept calm and just enjoyed the run. The weather said there was a minor chance of rain and it was cool and muggy. I quickly warmed up and did my best to take frequent sips of Tailwind. Originally I wanted to run without a bottle the first lap, but since this was a test run of everything for Bear Mountain, I decided to carry it the entire time.
By mile 4 or 5, my stomach started to settle and I saw some runners who I knew were running the half so I decided to push. Given the unreliability of a GPS watch in the woods, I don’t know my exact pace but I picked it up to about 80% perceived effort. I put a bit of ground between Steve right before getting to the most technical section of the course. I love technical trail running, but being so close to my spring goal race made me a bit hesitant from fear of injury so I was running a bit timid. To compensate, I tried to push hard on any fire road. Towards the end of lap 1, the rain started to come down hard which I was happy for since I was getting hot. Running anything longer than the half I would’ve been pissed because for the most part raining=chafing.
I finished lap 1 30-40 seconds back from two other half marathon runners. Since I had my bottle and gu on me, I didn’t need to stop at the aid station and I began to dig a little deeper to try and catch the two runners. Given the curvy nature of the course, I would catch glimpses of my competitors in the distance, but I couldn’t tell how far they really were. Was it right in front of me or did I have a major turn or two before I was on the same part of the trail they were? Honestly, it made for a fun race because it became less about my overall goal and more about running each step strategically. I passed one runner about 2 miles in and did my best to remain consistent. When I passed the second runner, I did my best to surge and put some ground between us. However, this was right before a technical section of trail that he blew past me on. My heart sank as I thought that I would have no way to regain the ground given my strategy, but I held on and put distance between us on the fire roads, by the end leading by just 20 seconds. I finished in 1:43 and change, good enough for 7th place. Arbitrary goal achieved!
I really had an awesome time running the TARC spring classic. It had been a while since I have run anything shorter than an ultra, so running something that didn’t take 5+ hours was really invigorating. Honestly, had I not been hungover I think sub-1:40 would have been achievable, but given the proximity to Bear Mountain it is probably best I spared my legs some abuse. Besides keeping me moving the first 5 miles, Steve had an awesome race for a 9th place finish just 3 minutes after I came through. Every other November Project runner had an amazing day. I think the best part about trail running is the lack of seriousness. Sure, people have goals but everyone just looks like they are having a blast.
I can’t believe it’s been almost 3 months of training! Week 11 went pretty well, considering I’m still on the tail end of this lingering illness. I started on Tuesday with a shortened run, only got to 3.5 instead of my scheduled 5. It went pretty well, as did my 6 miler on Wednesday. It was very windy, but I still managed to break 9 minute miles with an uptempo progression run. It’s been a while since I’ve actually completed a speed workout due to my shins followed by the cold I had, so it felt good to run hard.
Thursday was a pretty rough day, starting with our dog being sick all night Wednesday night, so I ended up pushing my run to Friday instead. Matt and I did a short 3 miler since we didn’t want to overdo it before the TARC Hale and Back on Saturday. Poor Matt was sick for his race, so we went to bed nice and early Friday to rest up as much as we could for the race!
I decided to sign up for the TARC to Hale and Back 6 hour race last week, with the plan of doing either 20 miles or 4 hours – whichever I hit first. I went into the race feeling really strong, and I ended up totally kicking ass. The course was a 3.5 mile loop, so I assumed I would get 5 loops in (17.5) miles, but I actually got in 6 loops! It felt great, and I was so proud of Matt for running 31 miles with this terrible cold.
Sunday was a tough day in the motivation department, but I still managed to get my planned 6 mile run in on the river. Matt took the day to rest (because I all but forced him to… He sure is stubborn) so I put on a podcast and just forced one foot in front of the other until I magically ended up back home.
Overall, it was a good week, though I did feel guilty for shortening a few runs. It certainly doesn’t help that Gustav has been waking me up at least once every night for various reasons (you know, because 1AM seems like a great time to chew on an elk antler) and I’ve been oversleeping in order to get my rest in. I’m not the kind of person that does well without sleep when I’m not training, so when I am training I don’t mess around with sleep. I work with 3 boys between the ages of 4 and 9 so I would probably go insane without a solid night of sleep. All I can hope is that the next few weeks my shins stay in line, I don’t get another illness, and Gustav starts sleeping through the night!
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.
Who knew that they held ultra marathons in Millburn, NJ? As I wrapped up week six of my training plan, I happened to stumble across a couple hundred runners competing in races essentially in my parent’s backyard! It was great to see such a strong, local group of athletes out there and definitely made Saturday’s long run a bit easier. While my sights have been set on some big-name races this year, I never want to lose touch with the local trail running scene. In Boston, we are lucky enough have the amazing Trail Animals Running Club (TARC) putting on cheap races and social runs. But if I happen to leave the city, I always want to be connected to the local crowds that make the sport so great.
In terms of training, week 6 was a bit lighter, which was much needed after week 5. I logged just over 60 miles, with my first trail miles in a couple of months (hence seeing the local ultra). Aside from the long run, everything just kind of flew by this week. Training is becoming a routine, so it never really feels like I am running six days in a row.
I started the week off running some miles along the river. Nothing too special, just a night run alone. I did happen to remember that I needed to get a new pair of shoes. Every step I took, they felt dead, so the 10 miles felt a bit more tiresome than expected.
Since I had a work event in the evening, I woke early on Wednesday to get my run in. The run called for 6 miles at marathon pace plus some extra more casual miles. Normally, runs like this are easy, but having only run 9 or so hours beforehand, I felt wiped!
Thursday I did 7 easy miles on my own. Really nothing special to write home about here, just a normal easy run!
Friday I squeezed in a quick 10K between work and heading back to NJ for the weekend for some family time. It was kind of fun to be under a time constraint because it meant I had to run a certain pace. This was my first run on my replacement sneakers after Tuesday’s discovery, and what a difference new shoes can make! I didn’t feel nearly as achy or worn as I had on runs from earlier in the week.
Saturday I got to hit the trails! My parents live close to a park in NJ with a couple dozen miles of trails. After the long drive home, I decided to sleep in a bit. When I finally hit the trails, I was shocked to see a group of 15+ people running together. A little later, another group passed. I shouted “Is there a race going on?” to which someone responded “Yeah, a 50K”. As it turns out the “Febapple Frozen Fifty” was going on, so some people were running much more than 50K! While I didn’t hop in, there was some great company on a run I thought I would be completely alone during. Maybe next year I’ll add it to the race calendar.
On Sunday, I woke up completely demolished from running 17 miles on trail. While I originally intended to run trails both days, I decided to play it safe and stick to the road. I logged 8 easy miles before heading back up to Boston.
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.