Tuesday, May 8, 2012

TARC Spring Thaw 6 Hour Report

Better late then never with a Race Report!

On, March 18, 2012, I ran my first timed race, the TARC Spring Thaw 6 hour.    This was the inaugural year for the TARC Spring Thaw 6 hour, and my first timed event ever.
Race director Emily Trespas, of the Trail Animals Running Club put on a fantastic event on trails owned by the Andover Villiage Improvement SocietyHere she describes her efforts to clear out the trail before our race!  Emily is awesome. 

The course was a 3.5 lollipop loop with a 0.5 mile “stick” and a 2.5 mile loop. The stem started in the parking area of Andover High, but quickly darted off road into the woods.  Then, there was about a half mile “stick” on the lollipop, and we took a left at a bench to begin the loop.  The trail  was all single track, and all very runnable, but certainly not easy.  While nothing was overly technical, one did have to pay attention to the footing.  It was rocky, but not too rocky.  It was rooty and stumpy, but not too rooty and stumpy.  There was mud, and some of it was thick, but just enough to make it fun rather than miserable.  We only had to jump over one log.  There were two wood bridges, which were dry, and a few muddy patches with logs covering them. Between mile 1 and mile 2, the course ran next to a large beaver pond, but somehow, magically, did not require us to actually go through the beaver pond.  How did Emily manage that?  There were a couple of hills, but they were all short, and only one of them, at around the 2 mile mark, was a definite walker.  Just after mile 2 on the loop, volunteers were manning a campfire and were roasting marshmallows (yum!). About a half mile later, there were some goats.  And then, you reached the bench at the stem of the lollipop. At the end, if we felt that we didn’t have time to complete a full loop, we could either run to the 0.5 mile mark and back for 1 mile, or to the 1 mile mark and back for 2 miles.  We just had to inform the crew of our plans before we left. 

As for my goals, I wasn’t too optimistic going in.  A couple of days before the race, I made the mistake of sorting the other entrants by their ranking on ultrasignup and in the process, I discovered that I was one of the lowest ranked women.  Boo!  I was hoping that this wouldn’t be my first DFL.  My distance goal was to complete a marathon, but given my level of ability, while it wasn’t a stretch, it also wasn’t a sure thing.  I ran a marathon in 5:24 at Stone Cat, but that was an easy course in excellent weather.  It took me 6:10 to complete Nipmuck, which is a more difficult course

Beyond distance, I had some training goals in mind, though.  They were as follows:
1.     Stay out for all six hours, which I was definitely fit enough to accomplish.
2.     No caffeine binge.  Don’t get me wrong, I love caffeine, and I drink the hell out of it.  But there’s no excuse for the way I’ve been consuming caffeine at races.  If I don’t get this problem under control, I’m probably going to have to move up to crack.
3.     Stay AWAY from the gummy bears.  I have a real weakness for those little bastards, even when not running.  
We were greeted at the start by Race Director Emily Trespas and a Yeti.  No kidding, a Yeti!

The weather was in the 50s and nice to start out with.  In the pre-race briefing, we were informed that timing would be done using a wall-mount clock at the start/finish area, and a pen and paper to count the laps.  There were 75 runners, and at 9AM sharp, we were off!

          I remembered my sorry-ass ranking, and how outclassed I was at this event, and stuck near the back as we headed out in the conga line.  The trail was a bit crowded during loop 1, but everyone was in good spirits and chatting as we ran through the forest.  It got a little hairy on the stick of the lollipop, as the faster runners were starting their 2nd loop and the slower folks were plodding through the end of their first. 
Loop 1 time:  40:30.  Total miles, 3.5

To start Loop 2, I took off my arm sleeves, grabbed my handheld, and headed into the forest again.  This time the crowd was a bit more spread out.  I picked up a marshmallow at the campfire.  As I was approaching the aid station, the Yeti jumped out from behind a tree and almost caught me! 
Total time:  1:21.  Loop time:  40:30.  Total miles 7.0

I refilled my handheld, grabbed a couple of Oreos, and headed out for Loop 3. This was probably my low point.  My stomach wasn’t feeling so great, and the people I was running with kept talking about poop and farts.  As fascinating as bowel movements are (and I’m not being sarcastic in the least), it didn’t help my stomach.  So after checking in, I went and hit the portapotties over by the baseball field at the high school.  They weren’t all that close to the race site, but oh well.
Total time:  2:04 total, Loop time: 43:00.  Total miles 10.5.

I refilled the handheld again, grabbed some potato chips and a few cookies, and headed out.  Some absolute saint brought ginger snaps to the aid station.. I felt much better during Loop 4, but started to feel a bit sleepy.  Sleepy?  At 11 AM?  I decided that I would dip into the magic caffeine and have ONE cup of coke for my next loop.
Total  time:  2:54 total. Loop time:  50:00.  (The porta john trip was tacked onto this loop).  Total miles 14.0

To start Loop 5, I grabbed that ONE Dixie cup of coke.  Ten minutes later, I was flying.  I was passing people left and right, and I felt amazing.  Caffiene is a beautiful thing.  And this is how I overdo it with the caffeine every time.  I drink it, and it rocks my world, so I drink more!  And then I drink MORE!  And MORE!  But I wasn’t going to let that happen this time.
Total time: 3:39 total. Loop time:  45:00 for the loop.  Total miles:  17.5

At the start of Loop 6, it was beginning to get hot.  I grabbed a handful of ice from the aid station and shoved it in my cap.   I had a half cup of coke, grabbed a pretzel and more ginger snaps, and dashed back out.  I was feeling really strong and confident, and was enjoying the idea that I didn’t have to pace myself anymore. 
Total time:  4:22.  Loop time:  43 minutes.  Total miles:  21

I still felt great heading out for loop 7, but things were starting to fall off the rails a bit mentally. There were snakes on the trail!  And every time I’d approach, I’d hear them slithering away through the leaves.  I love snakes, but the noise would scare me and I’d run really fast for a few yards.  Near the goats, I passed a dude hurling.  Then the hurling dude passed me 5 minutes later , and left me in the dust  (ouch).  I was also trying to figure out whether or not I’d have enough time to risk an eighth loop.    Trail math was NOT working out at all.  I decided that I needed to make it in by 5:12 to be able to confidently complete an eighth loop, but did that even make sense?  I didn’t know.  As I came back in from loop 7, lots of runners were sitting down, deciding they were done for the day.  And, just as I was running towards the check point, I saw my daughters dashing towards me.

 But the clock said 5:08, which meant I had enough time for loop 8.  I yelled, “I’m going around again! Whoohoo!”
Total  time:  5:08.  Loop time: 46 minutes.  Total miles: 24.5

Loop 8.  Now, could I finish the loop?  I wasn’t sure.  I had 52 minutes to do it, which meant that I could walk a bit more than previous loops, but I still needed to keep moving.  I should make it back, but only if nothing went wrong.  I felt okay, but I couldn’t manage to swallow the two ginger snaps I took out with me.  The whole loop, I was trying to figure out if I had enough time to finish.   I was starting to doubt it, and I felt like there was no way I’d complete the loop.  But just as I hit that low point of self doubt, I heard a crowd, and saw a handful of people sitting on the bench at the base of the stick.  Yay!  I was going to make it! 

Final time, 5:56:58, Loop:  46 minutes.  Total miles:  28. 

I was definitely not DFL, YAY!  It was good enough for 4th out of 21 ladies!