Monday, April 25, 2011

TARC Spring Classic 50K (32.75 miles) Race Report - Déjà vu all over again.

The TARC Spring Classic was held this past Saturday under less than ideal conditions. Unfortunately, the meteorologists got it right this time and the rain, wind and cool temperature arrived as predicted.  That didn't stop this inaugural event from being a complete success.  Close to 200 runners in four different races ranging from 10K to 50K (50K measured in Crowley miles) enjoyed the pine covered forest trails of Jericho Woods in Weston, MA.  And let me not forget to mention the mud and water which increased in depth and viscosity with each passing loop.  The harsh conditions proved to be the undoing of many 50K runners as indicated by the 68% finishers rate.  That's more reflective of a 100 mile race than it is for a 50K.

Pre-race gathering - Rob, Me, Emily, Steve. (Photo credit: Unknown Runner)

TARC mascot fires up the ultra crowd! (Photo credit: Steve L)

I made the drive to Weston with my friend RunninRob who was looking to bag his first ultra finish.  He couldn't have picked a worst day to attempt it.  Actually, he could have but why would he?  Rob ran a strong race (I knew he would) and officially joined the ranks of "Ultra Runner."   His journey to the dark side is now complete and there will be no turning back.  Congrats man!

Rob, #25 was all business and got it done. (Photo credit: Kevin Z)

I, on the other hand, was not expecting to break any records.  I have only been running three days a week averaging 18 miles per week during the past two months.  This was not done out of laziness but more out of concern for my ailing IT band.  I was hoping by keeping my mileage to a bare minimum I would be able to run pain free.  This worked well when I kept my runs under 10 miles but I have experienced some knee pain during my long runs on the Bay Circuit Trail.  I was certain the pain would return at some point in the race. I just wasn't sure how early, or late it would occur.

Since my bud Steve L. trains even less than me but still manages to finish 100 mile races, I figured I would try to hang with him during the race for as long as possible. This worked out very well as both of us were very comfortable running the same (ridiculously slow) pace and with taking walking breaks as needed.  Our friend Paul, who started the race a little late, caught up with us and ran a few miles with us before disappearing off into the woods.  I manged to miss a turn on the first loop even though it was clearly marked with multiple flags and tape.  I didn't realize my mistake until we ended up in someones back yard.  Yay, bonus miles!

 Steve and I should take these races more seriously but then we wouldn't have as much fun. (Photo credit: Kevin Z)

Snack time. (Photo credit: Emily T)

My running mate for the day. (Photo credit: Kevin Z)

The rain held off during the first of five 6.55 mile loops but started soon after Steve and I began loop two.  At first it was light and steady but soon became heavy.   I'm not sure if this motivated us to move faster but loop two was our fasted split of the race.  We actually ran very consistent split times, except for the last one which was our slowest.   The slow final loop was a function of fatigue, more mud than previous loops and seriously aching knees, mine and Steve's.

By the third loop my knee pain had become pretty severe and was effecting my stride.  I was expecting some difficulty with it but not this early in the race. Steve's knee wasn't doing much better.  I was a little bummed about the knee but decided there was no way I was taking a DNF.  I knew Steve was thinking the same thing even though he did mention the word "marathon" once.  I'm sure he was just testing me to see if I would bite.  No way Stevo!

One of the few climbs. (Photo credit: Rob Mac)

It was almost one year ago to the day when I first noticed symptoms of ITBFS while running in the Traprock 50K in April 2010.  I skipped Traprock this year even though I had registered for the race.  I wanted to give myself an extra week of rest before taking on a 50K.  It's sort of ironic that had I run Traprock last week I would have had the severe pain return in the same race that it started in. April is not a good month for me.

After many hours of running side by side, Steve and I battled it out for the title of "Dead Last Ultrarunner."  In the end I was victorious based on my incredibly slow time and the fact that "S" comes after "L" in the alphabet.  Hey, I'm not proud. I'll take a last place finish any way I can get one. Take that Steve!  Oh, and thanks for pulling me through loop number four.  You were moving so fast I was sure you miscounted and thought you were on your last one.

The last two finishers.  We received loud cheers from all the volunteers.  They were so thankful we finished and they could finally get out of the rain and go home! (Photo credit: Rob Mac)

Co-Race Directors Bob Crowley and Josh Katzman and all of the volunteers did an amazing job of marking the course, staffing the aid station and having someone on the course directing runners.  Events like this can't happen without the support of many people willing to give up their day so that we can play.   If you've never volunteered at an ultra event give it a try some time.  You'll find it can be just as rewarding as running.

Super crew of volunteers!  (Photo credit: Kevin Z)

Thanks to all for a super day!.......Hey, where's my ice pack?

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