Monday, August 15, 2011

TARC Summer Classic 12-Hour

(I didn't win this, but it sure is a cool award.....)

From what I can tell here in my remote location deep in southeastern Connecticut, it seems that the Trail Animals Run Club (TARC) up in Massachusetts is starting to do some moving and shaking on the Northeastern ultrarunning scene. They have lots of small, fat-ass type races planned spanning all four seasons. This is wonderful news!

A few months ago, back when I was running quite a bit and had high hopes for myself, I signed up for the TARC Summer 12 Hour run in at Noon Hill Reservation in Medfield, MA. And then I proceeded to get sick for the month of July with Lyme's Disease and anemia and didn't run very much or very fast at all.

Two weeks of antibiotics and five weeks of iron pills later, I decided to go ahead and try to run this inaugural TARC race. I figured I would run for a few hours then settle into a nice long walk in the woods. The race was perfect for my intentions: a 10K loop on moderately hilly trails with lots of rocks and roots and twisty turns to keep me nice and slow. I was actually looking forward to a day by myself when all I had to do was keep putting one foot in front of the other. It sounded very pleasant indeed.

I loved this race. It was low key and friendly, mostly local. There were a total of 40 runners signed up for both races (there was a 6-hour option), with 16 of us signed on for the full day. The race director, Chris Haley, seemed to be everywhere at once. And the volunteers were wonderful, cheering like mad for each runner at the completion of every loop. The whole scene was beautifully uplifting.

I walked out of the starting gate in last place and was delighted to finally meet in real life my blog friend Dan, as well as Emily Trespas, whose name I have often seen but have never actually crossed paths with. We chatted briefly, and then I started to run.

I was very conservative on the first loop, because I was feeling the morning woozies, which have been part of my life for the past month. I find that as long as I start out slowly, my sluggish legs and labored breathing eventually settle down and leave me in peace. So I walked every uphill no matter how mild the grade, and trotted the downs and the flats. After half an hour or so, I felt absolutely fine.

I did the first loop in about 1:25, which turned out to be my average for the day. I met Scott Livingston and his almost-2-year-old daughter, Dahlia, in the transition area. They were there to support Scott's wife, Deb, who would go on to handily win the day. Scott was taking photos and encouraging all the runners. I saw Dahlia and Scott often throughout the day and had quick little chats, which made such a huge difference to me, especially later in the afternoon/evening.

And so the day went. I ended up running four laps during the first 6 hours, mostly by myself, ticking off about 1:25 for each loop. I was surprised that I wasn't dead. Beyond that, I was surprised that I felt like I could keep running. Very surprised indeed.

So I did.

The sixth lap was tough. If you have strong objections to reading about a woman's menstrual difficulties, read no more! Skip this next paragraph entirely!

I had discovered when I woke up at 4:00 in the morning, that Auntie Flo had come to town. Ain't that grand. So I planned accordingly, packed all my necessities, and got on with my day. (But I forgot to pack Tylenol. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.) So by lap 6, maybe eight hours into my run, I started getting terrible cramps. It felt like my ovaries had descended to my hips and settled in for a good long cry, dragging those whimpering fallopian tubes along behind. By some miracle, there was a woman coming out of her house along the 0.1 mile stretch of road on the course. I flagged her down (not completely out of the blue -- I had waved to her earlier in the day) and begged some Tylenol off her, which she was happy to provide.

Back at the aid station 45 minutes later, I felt a bit better, but not altogether healed. How to explain to a crowd of men that I needed just one more Tylenol because I still had terrible menstrual cramps? I had no energy to make up a story about an ailing ankle or knee. I simply bit the bullet and told them. There was some hemming and hawing, some sympathetic words of encouragement, but no Tylenol, no Ibuprofen, no Advil, no nothing. And then one of the 6-hour runners popped out of her car with a bottle of Extra Strength.


I don't know what was in that Tylenol, but that 7th lap was by far my fastest and most enjoyable of the day. I was flying. Deb Livingston had just passed me in the aid station heading out for her 8th lap (meaning she was already 6 miles ahead of me), and as I trotted out after her, I found myself kind of keeping up with her. Which is just not right. But there it was. I tailed her for most of the first 2 uphill miles of the loop (this being some sort of SuperHero-TimeWarp zone), and then she ducked into the woods and promptly dropped me forever on the downhill. But still!

I was feeling snappy. Dare I say zippy?! It was so weird. I have no idea where that odd little second wind came from. The RD threatened to have me drug tested after the race. Cocaine Tylenol? I ran that lap easily 15 minutes faster than any other that day.

Which left me 1:45 minutes to try to finish an eighth lap. I ran the last one slowly, deep in Stay on Your F'ing Feet mode. It was kind of like a warm down. There was no reason to run it fast. There was no way I'd ever run a ninth. So I trotted and enjoyed. It was a pleasant finish to an unexpectedly delightful day.

I ran just over 50 miles in about 11:50, putting me in second place for the females. Deb won the whole race with just over 56. I'm not sure what place I came in overall, because I haven't seen any results yet.

I saw Emily on the way out and she told me she had walked all day and still covered 40 miles. Damn! That's some serious high steppin'!

Thanks so much to Chris Haley and all of the folks at TARC for putting on this event. It was perfect in every way, and I look forward to running the TARC Fall Classic in October. I'd do the winter race in December as well, but it looks like that one's full.

Next up: Pisgah 50K in Chesterfield, NH on September 18th.


  1. Nicely done, Pam! Wow, over 50 miles done...that's impressive, esPECIALly so considering the past month you've had. Congratulations!

  2. Thank you, Paige! Maybe there's something to be said for a full month's rest. I think I'm ready to up the mileage now. We can live parallel lives for a couple of months!

  3. Super race Pam. You're faster sick than I am healthy! I wish I knew you needed Tylenol. I had a whole bottle in my bag (but for a different reason.) :-)

  4. Dan, I wish we'd had more time to talk! It was lovely meeting you, however briefly, and I look forward to seeing you again at the fall races.....

  5. Wow, 50 miles! It took me over 9 hours to run 33 miles on Monday, so I'm impressed. Sounds like you're over the illness. Woohoo! It also goes to show how much we can do when we start easy and pace well. That really is quite speedy. Congrats!! And SO glad you were able to find some Tylenol!


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