Monday, September 12, 2016

TARC Fall Classic 50 Miler/ TARC Fall 6 times

Well, things don't always go as planned, including goals and plans during some races.   I felt I was very much set up to succeed for the TARC Fall Classic 50 miler.  Maybe I was, but nevertheless, I suffered and did not do as well as I thought I would.  I was suffering in early miles and things never got any better for me.

I ran the Mexico City Marathon 13 days prior, at 7,300 feet of elevation.  I had zero pain after this marathon.  I did tweak my left hip during the race, but rested it the following day, and was able to run 14 miles the next day and remained pain free.  I ran three more times while in Mexico and also cross trained.  I rested.   I didn't run for the four days leading up to this 50 miler.  It is just the way it worked out, but we scheduled our flights to return home from Mexico to Boston the day before TARC, which we needed to be at the airport by 3:30AM!  By the time I got to sleep, it was 1:00am, and was woken up by the alarm at 2:40AM.  Do the math, that is not enough sleep.  One hour, forty minutes.  We arrived at the airport, got on the first flight and I slept for most of the three hours.  Good, and bad.  Good I was able to sleep, Bad, I was not moving.  We made our connection, and in the second flight I did some walking and stretching, but how effective could this be?  I ate well and hydrated properly.  We arrived home and had home-made Mac N Cheese that my mother had made for us.  Everything was packed and ready for the race, the hay is in the barn.  Nothing else that I could do to help my race at this point so I went to bed by 8:30pm, and woke up at 4:00am.  Shower time, then grab my stuff, and out the door I go.

NOT my lucky number!
100% humidity at 5am

Here are a few photos I have taken in different seasons while on some of my running excursions at Great Brook Farm.

August 22nd, the day before we left for Mexico, Patrick and myself drove up here to run the course .  Little did we know that there was a tornado that ripped through here minutes prior to our arrival.  We ran through some lighter rain, then it cleared!

Great Brook in the winter captured while trail running.  
Taken in May 2016

May 2016

The race is held at Great Brook Farm in Carlisle, MA.  While living in Chelmsford just a few miles away, I was fortunate enough to be able to run here, A LOT!  The trails are a nice mix of fire roads, and single track.  There is some elevation gain, but nothing crazy.  

I get there no problem, ended up grabbing my number then chatted with some friends Mindy, Eric, and Patrick.  Next thing I know, it is 6:00am and go time. The race director has a quick preface meeting, and then the 50k and 50 miler runners are off! The 50 mile course is five loops at 10 miles each.  My coach Lisa and I chatted about plans A B, and C.  Plan A was 7 hours.  Plan B was 8 hours. Plan C, just finish.  Do whatever it takes just finish.  She told me to stay with Patrick Caron, who is  my running buddy, for the first 10 miles (Disclaimer: Patrick is not human, he is very gifted and wins most of his races at any distance!). I was able to keep up with Patrick, who was in first place for the first three miles without a problem.  We were running like we do every friggin Tuesday morning at 3:30am, a nice 8:30-9:00 minutes per mile pace.  We started to hit some switchbacks, and then I suddenly lost sight of him.  I am just not that agile to maneuver around all the turns as this young 19 year old!  Actually,in the grand scheme of things it didn not matter.  I never saw Patrick again, he was gone.  Correction, I saw him in my 4th lap, and he was on his final lap.  Meaning, he was more than 10 miles ahead of me at that point in the race.  Patrick went on to win the race easily, by a LAP!  7:05:41 was his official time, just sick as he bested his time from last year by over an hour.  It has been great to train with him, and he is an even better person than a runner!

Here are the race results

I held my ground in second place until mile 7 or 8.  I took my second fall out of six total falls, and my pace was starting to slow down at this point. I smashed my right knee on a rock.  Rocks are not too forgiving.  I asked God for a sign, that everything was going to be OK, that I was not going to get rattled, lost, or out of focus.  Then, I saw an owl.

Not sure what the owl sign was all about at the time, but he flew off, about same time my WHEELS FELL OFF MY BUS.  My legs all of a  sudden started to really get heavy.  I now had the kid's sing: "The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round," stuck in my friggin head.  I was OK with this for a little change from the PAW PATROL, AND PETER RABBIT(Run rabbit run, like you never have before...) theme songs that were embedded in my skull from the previous hour, nice change of pace!  So my pace is still steady, somewhere around 9 minutes per mile, but my ankles felt like Kurt Angle had me in his freakin ankle lock, screaming at me to tap, both legs quads, hammies, glutes and calves felt like HHH was shattering them with a sledgehammer.  HAHA! I had to slip in some wrestling references.  I got Rock Bottomed, Stone Cold Stunned, and Curb Stomped.  I was hurting at mile 10, really, really, really?  This surprised me a lot, as I was on familiar trails, well trained, and ready for this challenge.  

The owlspirit animal is emblematic of a deep connection with wisdom and intuitive knowledge. If you have the owl as totem or power animal, you’re likely to have the ability to see what’s usually hidden to most. When the spirit of this animal guides you, you can see the true reality, beyond illusion and deceit. The owl also offers for those who have it a personal totem the inspiration and guidance necessary to deeply explore the unknown and the magic of life

Lap/loop 2, I see my friend Melissa who is running the 1/2 marathon, which has not started yet.  I was happy to see her, she gave me a boost for sure.  She hugged me, but I recall she said something along the lines of, "Holy shit your are so sweaty!" I thought to myself; geez, I usually don't sweat that much.  Today was different.  It was 7:15-7:30 am and 100% humidity.  It was HOT.  I would rather run in 10 degrees than in humidity, it takes soooooo much out of me mentally and physically.  I ran the second loop and was already trying to not think about how many more miles I had left, and kept reminding myself to just stay in the moment and focus on each steps forward, and focus on the mile I was currently on.  Just like addiction and alcoholism, I needed to ACCEPT THAT I WAS GOING TO BE IN A CONSIDERABLE AMOUNT OF PAIN. Acceptance was the key.  ¨God, grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.¨  The serenity prayer is a great way to live, and it is applicable to ultra running to say the least.  I needed to fully accept and understand that I had to live with it. I WAS NOT INJURED, I was just in pain.  Just in pain.  It is as simple as that.  One of the things that kept me going was knowing that there are more than 25 million of people in America that suffer from addiction.  I struggled, but refused to give up.  It was just pain.

Digger #3

(Left)Apparently doing well to this point, but I do not  remember a photographer.
(Right) Photo was taken by yours truly, and  I was exhausted.

I had 16x20oz portions of Tailwind.  I really believe in this product.

Saw these in my sleep the past two nights, SMH.

See above, SMH.

Do not care if I ever see corn again, seriously...

Speed up to the end of mile 30 and end of my third loopity loop, I am already loopy.  I see Melissa again, I believe that she and Jamie said I was looking good.  I was not feeling good, that I know.  I mentioned to her that I was not sure how the hell I would be able to go 20 more friggin miles, but I would figure it out.  Off I went, this time even slower.

There were aid stations at the start/finish line, mile 3.5, and then after 4 mile loop, you hit this same station, then back to the start/ finish station.  I was now taking more power walk breaks, and it seemed like I was never going to make it to the aid station at 3.5 miles mark.  It seemed like it was an hour from the start/finish.  I just needed to make small goals, breaking it down, just get to next aid station.  Repeat.  It is only getting hotter outside, as the lovely sun is out.  Sunny and humid, just what I needed.  I prayed to God to send me an Angel, a Savior, something, somebody to get me through this hell that I was in.  I made it to the aid station, where I filled up on Tailwind. For those of you who do not know, Tailwind is a nutritional supplement with electrolytes.  Their motto is "All you really need." I still do not eat much while running because of my sensitive stomach, so I heavily rely on Tailwind.  I did eat a watermelon wedge or two each time as well.   I filled up with Tailwind 16 times 20 oz, that is a whopping 2.5 GALLONS OF WATER/FUEL.  3,200 liquid calories that I took in for the race, by far the most Tailwind, most water, I have ever consumed.  I filled up every time I could,there was zero chance I was going down because of hydration.  My goal is still to finish.

Then, I meet Mike.  Mike was my Savior.  I was Mike's Savior!  Mike and I were equally half dead, hurting, and in the same boat.  We inadvertently started running at the same time leaving that aid station, and ended up chatting it up, and ultimately ran, walked, baby stepped the rest of the race together. It was perfect timing for both of us.  One thing that Mike said that stuck with me was that people often ask why we do ultra races, and why someone would want to.  He said, "The fear of being normal!" I think this is great!  You cannot look back at life, and wish you did something.  You just need to do it.  Life is obviously too short.  Why be normal?

I had fallen six times already, never mind stubbed toes and near misses.  My right knee was cut.  My worst fall was a stubbed toe, almost caught myself, stubbed other toe, fall, and my calf went into full fledged muscle spasm.  That was awful.  I just laid on the the ground until it went kinda away.  So, onwards we go, walking, running, walking.  We just kept moving forward.  I noticed we were not running fast, at all.  I mentioned that we should try power walking.  Mike thought this was great, because our legs were getting a break, and we were actually moving FASTER THAN RUNNING! Mike mentioned that there was a strictly enforced cutoff time of 4:00 pm.  This kind of freaked me the heck out.  Really?  There is a chance of DNF, DID NOT FINISH?  This cannot be happening.  I suddenly had a sense of urgency, as I heard Mike say that we needed to be done by 4:00pm.  What?  That is probably not going to happen, WTF!!!  I now had this in my head.  How could we possibly finish by 4:00pm?  We had over 12 miles left to go, and it is 2:30pm.  Yeah, I have not done 8 minute miles all day, and we will need to do THAT the entire rest of this race?  Seriously?  This was the only thing I could think about.  I finally mentioned to Mike my concerns, and he said that we just needed to hit the start/finish aid station for our final lap by 4:00pm. Ohhhhhhh, what a friggin relief.  Game on.  I was thinking about dropping at this point, because there is no way, no point to continue on if we were to receive our DNF.   We ran down hills and flats when we could, but primarily power walked towards the start/finish.  10 MILES TO GO!!!!

I was destroyed by this point, but I knew we would finish.  That made me even more motivated.  We used the power walking strategy, and ran for spurts.  Same thing, just get to 3.5 mile aid station.  Just do the 4 mile loop, aid station, then to the finish line! The problem was, I could not even lift my feet over pebbles. I could no longer run.  I was having trouble planting my feet to walk.  I was very unsteady on my feet, especially down hills.  Again, there was no doubt we would finish, but I was really struggling. My eyelashes, earlobes, teeth hurt.  I was sweating internally.   Around mile 45, I just simply wanted to be done.  I have never wanted to just be done with something more than this!  Every step brought us closer and closer, that I knew.  I have been through a lot mentally while I was using and boozing, but this was the biggest physical challenge I have ever faced.  We had a red truck pass by us at the farm kicking up all sorts of dust.  We were not 100% sure " that really happened." It did  but our brains were also silly putty at this point.  I was not sure Mike even existed, JK, it was confirmed he was there with me!  We kept thinking we saw the cornfield, and the end was near. We indeed could see the cornfield, just not the correct one, the last one was the one we were looking for.  Mike fell down laughing, literally, when I told him "All I want to do is smell fresh cow shit.  Fresh fn cow shit!". The smell of fresh cow shit meant we were less than a half mile from the finish line!  Alas, the heavenly smells lofted onto our runny noses.  We were close to not suffering anymore, at least for this day!  We finished.  Holy crap, done, complete, finished.  9 hours plus of struggling, 11:18:22 good enough for 17th place overall.  If I ran the 50k, I would have finished 11th.  Who knew?  There were people this day who struggled worse than me.

I drove home, showered, saw my family, which is always an amazing feeling. Alejandra, Sebastian and myself went to Five Guy's for dinner, yeah, my favorite!  Sebastian has been tired just coming off three weeks in Mexico as well.  Go figure, he fell asleep in the car!  Guess who had to carry in up 2 flights of stairs?  You guessed it, the guy who can not walk himself!

Next morning, I was soooooo spent. I woke up at 5:30 am, my schedule is way off from the timezone, altitude, and eating schedule differences.  I knew I needed to at least go for a walk to help with recovery process.  I was thinking about a bike ride, but who's going to help get me untangled from my bike when it falls on my at 5:30am in the base.  As I started getting ready, I only had two things to do.  Put on my socks, and shoes.  I like to use Injinji sockets to prevent blisters.  There is a left sock, and a right sock.  I had two left socks.  I stared at both of them in disbelief for 15 minutes, before I got the strength and courage to go UPSTAIRS and make a match.  I could not even touch my knees!!!  Yeah, FML.  I went for the walk.  I walked for 5.67 miles.  On my walk, I found the Ace of Spades.  I will use this card for future RACES!!!

Finally, it is Monday, and I have the day off from exercise.  Ale and I went for a pedicure, and I think the spa specialist knew I was hurting.  She is seen here trying to put my socks and sneakers on.  Yup, I was hurting.  I will try run tomorrow!

Next race is around the corner, the Maine Coast Marathon in Portland.  It just so happens it is on my birthday.  I am thinking that my birthday cake will be made out of Holy Donuts!
Ace of  Spades, I love me some Motorhead!

Two right socks, FML.
Hurting at the pedicure spa.


  1. Great post Henry, way to preserver! I had a great time at the race, mostly because I didn't have to endure he altitude/pollution training you did. What I noticed though, was that the Tailwind solution seemed to get more and more diluted as the race went on. I think they kept adding ice to it to keep it cold but weren't adding additional tailwind to keep the proper concentration. A good reason to crash...

    1. As someone who has volunteered at many races, it is very difficult to keep the tailwind at proper dilution. I'm not sure in this particular case if ice was added without more powder, but often the powder falls out of suspension especially in large quantities with limited tools to mix the solution. I know at one point I did dump the end of a batch and mix a fresh one.