After thinking about it for some time I’ve gone & got myself signed up for a new trail race (and my first ultra), the TARC 50 this June. Four months from tomorrow! This is going to require some thinking, a somewhat different training strategy than what I’m currently doing.
Briefly, some notes on this weekend’s Wrightsville Beach Marathon.
I took a short hop from Boston down to Raleigh-Durham early Saturday morning, meeting up with YJP & Turtle at the airport. It being noon we started to look for food pretty soon, and settled on Noodles-R-Us Inc or what have you. From there, we drove two hours of backwoods North Carolina down to Wilmington. We got off the highway once to find ourselves in a town that I excitingly misunderstood to be named Hog Slat (that’s actually just the name of a company).
Wilmington itself was nicer – after some unnecessary hotel clerk drama we checked in to dump the dog before heading down to the expo down near the finish line. The expo location was in a large tent in a field near a development of high end stores called the Mayfaire Town Center that seemed a little out of place with the surrounding area (which was mostly undeveloped). I couldn’t find a Wrightsville Beach Marathon hat which I was a little grouchy about. Also bummed because we got there a little too late to see Frank Shorter (two time Olympic medalist in the marathon).
Post-expo, we grabbed a light deli dinner then went to watch the Lego Movie (somewhat more than mildly amusing). Bed by 10pm.
Race day – I was woken up pretty much every hour through the night as it was the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day and our hotel was regional headquarters for drunks far & wide. I finally got up for good before my alarm went off at 3am. At 5 we left for the finish line, where we caught a shuttle bus a few miles up the road to the start. It was lightly chilly, kinda nice actually, my first race in some time in short sleeve shirts and no gloves.
The race start was in two corrals. Frank Shorter was there and gave us a little conflicting advice (“it’s no excuses weekend!” followed by “start slow then ease off”). It was almost pitch black at the start – daylight savings time + 6:45am gun = no sunglasses. It’s a fairly small race so I just stayed at the back of the first corral, then fairly quickly worked by way up to where I wanted to be with the 3:30 pace group. I hadn’t really thought prior to the race that I’d run a 3:30 throughout, but after screwing up the math so badly in Tokyo I was happy to have someone else do the heavy lifting on thinking for once. Plus it was nice to run with company.
The course is fairly flat – I ran two roughly equal 13 mile loops. Even though the event is the Wrightsville Beach Marathon you only run along the beach for just over a mile on each loop, and you can’t actually see the water from that road. But there were some pleasant bridges over the intercoastal waterways you can see on the map. Pleasant might not be the right word – visually appealing, but one issue was the drawbridge surface which was a fairly large, sharp grate. On my pace group’s second pass through the biggest bridge one of our members fell and tore up her leg pretty well, she was bleeding down her ankle for the rest of the race. This is the same issue that Chicago solves by putting out their fancy colored carpets. Our pace leader mentioned the local DPW didn’t want the race folks to do that due to some regulatory issue – if that’s true it’s just dumb. YJP also saw someone who had gone down in the same location, it’s definitely a spot where the course could be better.
The aid stations along the course were themed with local college teams (mostly UNC, Duke & NC State. Amusingly enough it didn’t even occur to me that running in my Kansas shirt might get me some negative reactions (I had some gentle boos at mile 21), but generally the volunteers were supportive. The stations themselves were well stocked, though I mostly stuck to their water turning down several chances for gels (Hammer, I think). I took one of my own Gu’s around mile 7 and then a pack of sports beans starting at 13. I should have taken my second gel later when I started to bonk but was having stomach issues so I just didn’t. Next time I think I’ll do one Gu & two beans, those are easier to deal with stomach-wise near the end. I didn’t find any bananas on the course but did snag a twizzler from some kind soul somewhere in the 20s.
Because I was running with a pace group I really had an easier time of things, and pretty much turned off the math side of my brain during the race. I felt myself struggling with the pace around mile 20 (after picking up an orange wristband to show that I was on the final lap). I was debating stopping for a restroom from mile 18 on but didn’t want to lose my group, unfortunately by mile 22 they were escaping from me anyway, and my pace dropped from ~8:00 to 9:00+. At that point pretty much just slogged it home death-march style. Finish was unspectacular, other than YJP being there for a high-five as I came across the line.
After the race I felt surprisingly good (one might even say “happy”), much better than I felt in Tokyo. My final time was 3:34:23, my fastest of the four I’ve run this year – good for 85th place among 477 finishers (~18%). The mats were at odd locations (mile 3.5, 11.3, 24.1) so I’ll just say that I know I was safely under the 3:30 pace at half (1:44-something), and Strava’s breakdown of my GPS data showed 8:00 or under splits until mile 20 (with three sad looking 9+ miles at the end). Sometimes you kick, sometimes you get kicked.
A much needed warm shower later (thank you late checkout!) YJP, Turtle & I went down to see the actual ocean and found beer & burritos at a Mexican place called Tower 7, pretty decent post-race grub. By this point though it had started to rain for real so we just bagged it back to Durham for the airport so that she could drive on home. It’s not a perfect experience, to fly in & out on consecutive days, I would have rather stuck around a while to have seen Wilmington a little better. Maybe next time.
Next up, oh hey it’s next weekend, the Georgia Marathon. This is my last road marathon of the spring, last at this distance until next September. I won’t be off completely though – I’ve registered for two ultramarathons – a 50K (the TARC Spring Classic) in April and a 50M (the TARC 50) in June. The latter of these is the same race I DNF’d last summer, hopefully it will go better this time around.
Song of the week, On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons.
A brief recap of this weekend’s TARC 50. I’ve been pretty excited about this for some weeks. My first attempt at an ultramarathon.
I decided to take the day off work on Friday to finish getting ready. Since the race wasn’t until 7pm Friday running overnight I tried to stay awake late on Thursday to help sleep in Friday, but was up at 5:30am, excited & couldn’t get back to sleep. Ok.
Got out to Weston at 4:30pm, parked in a field not entirely far from where we did out test runs. Walked over, got my number & shirt, found a place to dump my drop bag. Talked to a number of people, friendly guys. Most people seemed to be running the 100 but I found a few other nervous first timers in the 50 to commiserate with.
7pm, start: the first mile or so was backed up single track, which was fine with me as I was trying to tell myself to stay as slow as possible. My goal was to run a five hour first half, 12:30 splits, leaving me with seven hours (and plenty of walking room if needed) to deal with the second half.
The first 4.5 miles were uneventful, crowded. These trails I knew, had run through most of them on the prior Weston excursions. Mostly was able to avoid the mud. At 4.5 we hit the start again and cross south to the 20.5 south loop.
Almost immediately it became clear that the mud was going to be unavoidable, and in fact it was harder to try than to just blow throw. Soon after I realized that, we hit the first creek crossing (of which there were many). The first few were fairly shallow, ankle deep, but they progressed up to shin, and eventually knee deep. Some had rocky bottoms and were easy, others mud bottoms that tried to steal my shoes. A few were flowing quite quickly, making balance difficult, but I didn’t fall in any of them.
The water itself actually wasn’t too bad, almost refreshing. What would have been ideal would have been solid banks on either side to dry back out on, but instead there would be more like 10 to 100 yards of mud, creeks, then more mud.
Around mile 13 I had a stumbling incident and almost fell, bruising the middle toes on my left foot. I had to stop and try to empty my shoe of mud as there was some painful rock in my left midfoot. My half marathon time was roughly three hours, well above what I expected. I also started to feel sick at this point, nauseous, like I really needed to find a bathroom or a bush. There was an aid station at mile 15 but I missed the portapotties there somehow. The five miles from here until the next aid station at 20 were pretty miserable for me. When I got there I realized (TMI sorry) that it was all a false alarm, just that I felt crappy GI-wise for no good reason. My times were getting slower and slower here – this five miles took an unreasonable amount of time (splits averaged ~14:30). Every time I looked at my watch I felt like another half hour had passed yet I wasn’t making any forward progress.
Mile 20, finally, the Gun Club. i felt like I could hear it an hour before i actually foud it. From there, miles 20-22 were an out & back, but mysterious to me because even until we were approaching the aid station again, I couldn’t orient myself and thought we were still moving away from it. I was thoroughly lost at this point. I followed tight behind an old guy who looked like he knew where he was going. Around here I started feeling a sharp pain on the back of my ankles where the skin had worn away by the mud & grit that had gone down the back of my socks. Next ultra: tall socks.
At mile 22 I was back at the Gun Club aid station – this place was really the highlight of the race for me. I had felt so bad entering it the first time at mile 20, had a cup of miso soup and left feeling normal. Second time through at 22 I had some ramen and broth, this was almost a magic cure-all. Soup is a great renormalizer.
From here there was a three mile leg back to the start, the end of loop one. I found pretty good trail for a mile or so here before we hit the mud again. I started to realize here that I wasn’t going to make it anywhere near the time I told Steven it would be. And not that I can do math particularly well after 6+ hours of running, but I was coherent enough to realize that unless my second lap was faster than the first one, I wasn’t going to make the 12 hour cutoff for the 50 milers.
Into Burchard Park at 25 (or 26.5 by my watch) just after 1am I found Steve directing traffic into the chute. He had a chair for me, helped me sit and get water (my hydration pack had been empty for several miles). I got my shoes & socks off and wasted another liter of water trying to clean the layer of mud off my ankles so I could assess the damage – both were bleeding pretty well down the back. We tried vasoline + tape but the latter wouldn’t stick (perhaps a bad combo in retrospect). Eventually we just went with the non-sticking tape held in place by new socks & shoes.
I told Steve I was thinking about dropping, to get his reaction and looking for validation. Another runner I had come into the end of the first loop with mentioned running the first leg of the 2nd loop then dropping at ~50K and this seemed reasonable to me. The first leg was mostly mud free (and definitely free of river crossings). So I did that too. I went back out, ran the last 4.5 at a fairly decent clip, came around into the main aid station and dropped out of the race. I was feeling pretty good, and good about the decision. The guy who took my timing chip seemed disappointed in me but I want to run for me, not for some other guy’s expectations. If that’s indicative of a lack of mental or physical toughness, so be it. My final time was 7:01:11 over 31.2 miles, a 13:30 split.
I’d really like to take another shot at this distance, in a daylight race, with better preparation on my part. I feel like it’s an achievable goal. Actually I objectively know it’s achievable. To lower the risk for a second DNF I’d need to do more trail work, I need a trail home base of sorts, to get into a regular pattern. Perhaps the Fells on the way up to Burlington, or Bradley Palmer in Ispwich. As of now I don’t know of any trails I can reach on foot from my home, though maybe some exist.
Song of the week, Maria’s Bed by Bruce Springsteen. I didn’t run this race with music so unlike usual this selection was entirely post-hoc.
Another weather related update from the organizing committee for tonight’s TARC 50.
We ask that you plan accordingly and bring extra changes of dry clothes, shoes, socks, etc and lots of layers and plenty of skin lube. The evening will be wet and chilly and as you get soaked, you’ll easily chill. We’ll do our part of have soup and hot drink where possible at aid stations, medical will be prepared as well – but you’ll need to plan on having a dry drop bag (plastic bag or bin – we’ll have a covered area for drop bags to shield from the rain) or head to your car for a dry change of clothes, shoes, socks, etc. as you pass through the start/finish area. This type of weather will cause more than usual twisted ankles, blisters, work on your morale and give you chills – especially overnight – so think about layering, wool, wicking socks, bring extra towels to dry your feet, blankets to warm you during transitions, layers of rain and warmth tops and bottoms.
I’ve kept my mileage roughly steady this past week but have dialed down intensity with the heat, and leading in to my small taper for the TARC 50 next weekend. This will be my first attempt at an ultramarathon.
For those interested in following my progress, there’s a webpage you can check out. Courtesy of alphetabization, I’m currently in 72nd place. I honestly can say I don’t care if I am DFL next weekend or not, I just want to finish. I DNF’d my first true marathon back in 2005 and don’t want to have that happen again. The race itself starts next Friday at 7pm, and the 50 mile version must be finished by 7am. I was outside tonight at 9:20pm and there was just a hint of light left in the sky, and given we’re still two weeks out from the equinox it won’t be getting any darker. Sunrise is officially at 5:07 on June 15th but it will be getting light 30+ minutes before then so at most there will be 7 1/2 hours of true darkness. Run to the light.
Steven and Vihann are planning to be at the midpoint in the course around midnight next Friday, around about when I’ll be finishing the first 25 mile lap. I’m really grateful to them for this.
I have been asked to relay the following information: THE COURSE IS VERY WET. There are many ankle and shin-deep puddles of water. We are hoping that the coming week of sunshine dries it out a little bit, but be prepared for shoe/sock changes and take whatever precautions necessary for inevitable soggy/waterlogged feet issues. Also: THERE IS POISON IVY. There is not much we can to to get rid of the plants so again, take whatever precautions necessary if you have allergies, etc. Of course, if you are from this area, you know that lots of water + heat = mosquitos. Do not forget insect repellent. Other than that, the course is really quite gorgeous! It’s runnable, beautiful…loaded with ferns and green as all get-out!
Pretty good week, pretty good weekend. No race for me this week so the main goal was to get the miles in around our little heat wave which I was just barely able to do despite taking Saturday off completely. I just about cooked my brain on the long run Friday after work and had to take some water/thermoregulation breaks but such is life in the summertime.
Next up for me is still the TARC 50, getting actually kinda scary close in less than two weeks. Steven & I are going to do some nighttime test trails next week, I’m rather looking forward to that.
Also, special cheers to YJP for finishing her trail half today – she texted from mile 9 that the dude who was winning the half (at whatever point) had also run the 50 miler the day prior – that’s crazy talk, I love it. It may be apocryphal though, I looked through the results a while trying to find the guy but couldn’t. Anyway, props to her as she pushes through her 13 medals in 2013 goal. Which I’m on pace for as well, but let’s not jinx that by thinking about it too much.
Song of the week, Blame it on the Tetons by Modest Mouse. I had to mangle the lyrics a bit to get to today’s post title.
3 Responses to “Blame it on the weekends, God I need a cold one now.”
Pre-race: Drove down to the North End and was able to park easily on Hanover St. Met up with Team HB, hondo & I walked over to the Seaport. The expo hall was crazy crowded – as I was exiting to the street at about 6:30am there was a mass of individuals pushing in as another group was pushing out and I started to have an agoraphobic episode – to me it seemed dangerously crowded, bad organization to have this many people going in and out the same doorway. Since the bombing I’ve had a few mental issues in spaces I can’t escape from.
Start: Quite a few cops (including Ed Davis) spoke before the start. Lots of love for Sean Collier. Pace was a bit slow for the first half mile, but not too bad. I was lined up with the 7:30 pace group and people mostly respected the times. Hondo said the back of the pack came to a dead stop a few times d/t bottlenecks here at the beginning.
Mile 1: Saw Steven & the boys here. I’m not sure Eben saw me. Running a 6:47 split here, need to bring it down.
Mile 1.8: Saw LEZ at the corner of Staniford & Cambridge. She was on the far side of the course, I’m not sure if she was stuck there for the entirety of the race or not. From there, up over Longfellow (a red line train passed us on the bridge) then west headed on Memorial Drive.
Mile 3ish: Up over the BU bridge overpass. This has been shut down to traffic but they let us run over it. The surface has been stripped down so that there’s a series of parallel metal bars between what looks like small cobblestones. Interesting surface to run on, to say the least. Happy once I’m past this nonsense back to the pavement.
Mile 5.2: Katyucia’s house! She is off partying in Brazil right now but still I wave hi. The cupcake van that’s there sometimes on Sundays is not awake yet.
Mile 6.2: Turn around on Mem Drive. Back to the east! It starts to rain a bit more here.
Mile 7.7: See CNHB & Erin on the far side of the road. They actually see me before I could find them. I try to pick it up my pace a bit once they’re gone since I’m not scannning for them anymore. The outbound side of the course looks very crowded – I think they said there were 10,000 runners today, too many really for the course.
Mile 9: The Mass Ave underpass – someone standing above the overpass made eye contact with me and screamed (loudly) for me by number. Funny how these random interactions with strangers can be such a boost.
Mile 9.5: There’s a bunch of hay alongside the road here (Cambridge-side just prior to returning over Longfellow) – wet hay of course has a distinctive smell, reminding me of circuses, and makes me think of CNHB’s elephant encounter which was right around here somewhere.
Mile 11: The course here overlaps a bit of the BAA 10K course, then the 5K course. First it runs around the south edge of the Public Garden, up Comm one block then down through Downtown Crossing. Lots of homeless here at this hour, there’s a disconcerting smell of hot dogs. I’m vaguely aware that my pace which has been pretty steady sub-7:15 isn’t dropping, and here I start thinking that I might be able to PR.
Mile 12: Post-office square & Steven again. Again I’m not 100% sure Eben sees me, dang it! One mile & home. I kick my splits back under 7:00.
Finish: Across the line by the Seaport. Good crowds here, good support, vibe. Finish with a watch (and official chip) time of 1:35:32, a new half marathon PR for me by 11 seconds over Chicago. I’m not at all frustrated by such an incremental improvement over 9 months given the ankle injury I suffered the week after that trip – I’m actually quite happy to be back where I was before. This is my second distance PR in the past month (the other being Nashville for the marathon on 4/27), both in the rain. :)
Song of the week, prompted by the busker in Government Center last night and stuck in my head throughout the race as I had no music today – You are what you love by Jenny Lewis.
Next up, the TARC 50 in three weeks. A lot to get ready for between now and then.
One Response to “You are what you love, and not what loves you back”
This blog has a regular readership somewhere safely in the single digits. The point of it is mainly a record for myself, striving for a larger following would be counterproductive to how I think of the forum. Which is why it was surprising when a friend who is not in what I think of as my regular readership told me yesterday I should update more often. Ok. I will try. You though, anonymous lurker, could also do your part and leave a comment every now and then so I know you’re really here. :)
No race for me this week. Honestly I’m glad for time off, I feel as though I’ve been dragging since New Jersey. Next week is my Reach the Beach ultra so it will be a short week of work for me as I’m taking Friday off.
So while I didn’t have anything going on (other than a TMIRCE meetup run Saturday) there are still three races I want to mention.
1) YJP ran her first trail race today and reported live-in-race that she saw a snake. Which is awesome. She’s prepping for a trail half, new territory.
2) A friend from work who is young and too fast for his own good ran the Cox Rhode Race marathon down in Providence today. This past week he mentioned he was doing this so I gave a half-thought to signing up but found it sold out already. I just now went and looked up his time – 2:55, placing 18th of 1200+. An average 6:42 split. Unbelievable. Congrats John. I’ve no idea if he’s happy with this but personally I would be thrilled.
3) The other thing I considered doing today but ultimately didn’t was the Gil’s Athletic Club Mother’s Day 6 hour trail race. I need to do a long trail run (or, several) to get ready for my TARC 50. Which frankly is giving me a massive panic attack when I think about it, leading me to quite rationally stick my head in the sand whenever it comes up.
My mileage was a bit short of my weekly goal but with RTB next weekend I think I’ll manage to average up to 40/week for the month.
Lastly, and most importantly, Happy Mother’s Day! Both to my own (who is excellent) and my sisters (almost as excellent), as well as to assorted other moms in my world. It’s a tough job, I wouldn’t want (or be able) to do it.
Song of the week, Yo La Tengo’s Our Way to Fall.
2 Responses to “I remember the way it made me feel”