Up until one minute after the race start, I considered the TARC Spring Classic 50K to be just a training run… not something I’d run hard. But I felt good, the day was crisp and sunny, and I was running a TARC race — life is good! The momentous snow of the winter is gone. (Was it ever really here? Did I really spend the entire month of February running on a treadmill? How did I make it through a 2.5 hour run on a treadmill?)
So yeah, this race was supposed to be just “time on my feet.” No speed involved, because speed plus ultra distance requires recovery, and with the VT 100 and UTMB looming, I don’t have time for recovery. I must be constantly pushing the limit yet not exceed the limit. With this race, I definitely pushed the limit.
The Twin State 50K
My first ultra of the season was actually a month ago, in VT, the low-key Twin State 50K, which I ran last year. Because Mr. P was on call for his work, I drove up to VT by myself, ran 50K essentially by myself, and finished in a muck of excitable French Canadians.
Twin State 50 Starting Line
Twin State 50, Mile 12ish Aid Station, AKA a guy on the side of the road with Oreos
Twin State 50K Finish Line! Cue the cheering Quebecois
So Twin State was a good race for me, given the hills. I finished slightly over 5:35 and showed great sportsmanship by not ratting out the Quebecoise who I saw cutting the course. Overall a nice way to commence the season after the horrific Spring Thaw.
Back to the Spring Classic…
With the Spring Classic coming a month after Twin State, and with my legs feeling strong and injury-free (thanks mostly, I suspect, to my renewed commitment to strength and mobility work) I knew I could do a pretty fast Spring Classic 50K. It’s a really flat trail, as far as 50Ks go. The weather was ideal. And the course is 5 loops of 6+ miles, so I only had to carry a handheld water bottle and I could grab PB&Js at the end of each loop.
Mr. P volunteered to go early and help park cars. Little Boy and I arrived at the race start in Weston just as the main parking area was filling up. Little Boy thought it was hilarious to see Daddy in the safety vest, directing cars to various areas of the field. They left shortly after the race start, as I didn’t want them to spend a Saturday spectating an ultramarathon.
When the race started, I was accidentally (really!) at the front of the pack and I could see that there were no 50K girls in front on me (confirming my suspicion that several of the really fast girls who signed up to run were not, in fact, running). During the first mile, about 5-6 girls did pass me, but I still had the motivation and the feeling like I could finish this race near the front of the pack.
So I went for it.
TARC Spring 50K — in the first mile feeling cold, focused — photo by Edith Dixon
The first loop was crowded as the shorter distances began to pass us and the pack settled down. I was thrilled that the course wasn’t terribly muddy — the last race I ran in these woods was the TARC 50M almost two years ago, which was epic mud. My miles ranged from 8:30 to 9:40, which is much much faster than I typically go on trails. The second loop was more being passed and passing. I told myself I was going to “calm down” but I felt exceptionally good.
After each loop I passed through the starting line/aid station/drop bag area, where I filled up my handheld with water and grabbed two quarters of good ole’ PB&J. I ate nothing else the entire race, not even my typical “Oh, I earned them” peanut M&Ms.
Cruising on the second loop
The pack really thinned out on the third loop, as most of the half-marathoners had finished and the ones remaining were mostly walking and easier to pass. I finally passed another 50K girl I was leap-frogging with and didn’t see her the rest of the race. I slowed down a bit but still managed 9:40-11:00 minute miles.
The fourth loop was the loop that I dreaded. Miles 20-26, things get lonely, minds turn zombie. My legs still felt pretty good but my energy was falling fast and it took more effort to maintain my pace. Towards the end of the loop, I could hear two girls chatting distantly behind me. It took about one mile but they passed me; one was a 50K girl, the other was apparently a pacer. I was totally fine with her passing me except when the pacer girl said “Good luck!” to me, and in my tired mind I took that as an insult. Most people say “Good job!” or “Keep it up!”… but “Good luck?” Did I look like I was hurting so much that I would need, like, luck?
Luckily that was right before the end of the fourth loop, so I was quickly distracted by the thrill of going through the aid station and the PB&Js and whatnot, and then starting my fifth and final loop. Ah! Mentally I was relieved; every inch of trail I passed, I told myself “Last time I see that rock. Last time I cross this grass field. Last time I run this mud.”
I passed a few 50K guys on this loop. Towards the end of the loop I passed one guy who was breathing heavily. My passing seemed to invigorate him, and for about one mile I could hear him panting behind me. The fear of being “chicked” finally pushed him passed me about 2 minutes from finish, though he was wheezing like a dying man.
Finish! 5 hours, 36 minutes. 6th girl out of 33. (It turns out the girl with the “good luck” pacer was a mere 30 seconds ahead of me, but I had no way of knowing.) Overall another great TARC race.