"I have arrived. I am home. In the here. In the now. I am solid. I am free. In the ultimate I dwell." --Thich Nhat Hanh

Friday, October 23, 2015

TARC 100 - Wicked Epic Fail

Still bitter from my DNF at Eastern States in August, and with some persuasion from Amy, I decided to sign up for TARC 100. I was still in great shape and I recovered quickly after Eastern States. Why not give it another try. I was going to be up there anyway to crew and pace Amy. It was a perfect opportunity for both us to have a pacer for the entire thing. It was not meant to be.

I have thought long and hard about this race in the last few weeks. I contemplated not writing anything at all, but I have been doing a post for everything so far. Before I signed up for Eastern States, and while Amy was trying to pick her first 100 mile race, I did look at TARC. There were very few race reports about it, especially since this was going to be its 3rd year running. Each year in the past race has moved dates. It was spring, then summer, and finally fall. Last year finishing rate was horrendous. I contributed the low finishing rate last year mainly to the weather, not even thinking about the terrain. I spoke with several people about the races in New England, and I figured that after Eastern States, everything would be "easy". There is no such thing as an easy 100.
Early morning hours
TARC 100 course is a 25 mile loop on the Hale Reservation right outside Boston, that you had to complete 4 times in 32 hours. It is out on by Trail Animals Running Club out of Boston. It had a little bit of everything, but mostly it was single track. While doing our shakeout run day before, we though that the course was very nice. First few miles were rocky, but not Pennsylvania rocky, and very runable. Talking about TARC 100's elevation profile in the Facebook group, it was decided by many there that this course was approximately 1600ft per loop. Great, we thought, it should be very similar to our trails at home. On paper and by the course description we felt very confident going into it. The cutoff started 24 hours in at 75 miles, and there was no doubt in our mind that we would be making that easy, if not even finishing around that time.
High point - Still feeling good. That is Boston in the background
Alas, it was not meant to be. I am not going to bore everyone with annoying details about each loop. Honestly, I really don't want to think about it anymore. Yes, it was runable in many sections. Darkness made it hard to go faster, but everyone was dealing with that. First 2 loops went by in a blur, and I felt that we went from 5am darkness to 6 pm darkness quickly. I barely remember the day light hours. Everything started going bad on the 3rd loop. It got fairly cold, and we went from feeling hot to cold to hot to cold with layers that we were wearing. We hit a pretty bad low point shortly into the loop mainly due to nutrition and it took us a bit to get out of the funk. By the time I came around, Amy was feeling funky and vice versa. We still felt confident that we would make the cutoff, and be good to go once the sun came back up. Slowly but surely we were falling further and further behind and with 6 miles to go to the start line, Amy was calling it quits. She knew that she would not make the cutoff with 2.5 hours to go, especially with the toughest section yet to come. She told me to go ahead if I wanted to. I hesitated for a while. I wanted to make sure that she was ok, and she would be able to get to the next aid station. I think I waited too long. Once I knew she was fine, I wanted to give it my best shot to beat the cutoff. After all, can it be possible that I would get timed out at the similar distance 2 races in a row? I was having PTSD.
Still happy
I left Amy shortly before the aid station and kicked it into gear to make the cutoff. The first 3 miles were fine, but the last 3 miles of the loop were THE problem. I believe that this section single handedly cost us the race. It was a constant battle of boulders and rock, quick ups and downs where it was impossible to keep any normal pace on fresh legs, let alone 70+ miles in. I pushed on as hard as I could, but the battle was lost. With 10 min to go to 5am and 24 hours, I slowed down. I still had almost a mile to go and I knew it was done. I crossed the mat at 75 miles (77.5 on my watch) at 24:09 missing the cutoff by 9 minutes.

This DNF felt different. It is hard to describe. While at Eastern States I was fresh and ready to go another 30 miles without an issue, here I felt beat and defeated. There was no way to keep pushing to make all the remaining cutoffs. They were strict and even if I had made the 24 hours, I would have struggled with the rest, knowing about 2 sections that are enormous time wasters. I felt more sad for Amy as this was her A race for the year. I wasn't mad. I was disappointed.
Coming into an aid station
What went wrong? Was it my training? I don't think so, I felt fit and ready to go. The nutrition? Possibly considering some low points. What was it? I am still trying to figure that one out. Part of it was my mental state. I underestimated the course and didn't have my mind fully committed to it. My mind was still stuck on Eastern States perhaps.

What did I learn?
1. Well, number one thing I learned this year, is to pick better races. I need to do a better job of picking a race with a proven record. I cannot go into the unknown especially with the cutoffs. On a good day, could I have gone faster. Probably. It is hard to tell. I think most of my lows were nutrition related. Once I got some food in, I felt much better.

2. Double and triple check the course and elevation! Those 1600ft ended up being over 3000ft per loop. At the end of 3 loops I had over 10000ft of elevation gain.

3. I need to work on my time at aid stations. I lost a lot of time at these, even though there was no need for that. It is easy to lose track of time 20 hours into a race.

4. Running 100 miles in the dark sucks. Like I said above, I felt that we had no time in the daylight. We started in the dark, and unfortunately finished in the dark. Maybe summer race next year?

5. My gear was great. Altra Lone Peak 2.5 and Injinji socks were a winning combination for me. No issues with my feet at all after 24 hours. I do have to work on my layering for these colder races. I think was more the length of the race and body rebelling rather than clothing choices.
Getting dark again!
I have to give credit to all the volunteers at TARC. They were incredible, enthusiastic and very helpful. Such a great group of people.

I am ready to put TARC 100 behind me. I walk away disappointed in what could have been, yet eager to get out next year and try another 100 miler!

Go forth and run.

Call for comments:
- Tell me about your DNFs. How did you deal?
- How do you push the limit when running against the cutoffs?

My feelings on the way back home from the race


  1. Emir, Sorry for the disappointment, but thanks for sharing your experience. It sounds like you and Amy ran well and fought through lots of ups and downs. Now you're both stronger for the next time.

    1. Thanks Doug! Planning any 100s soon?

    2. Hey Emir, At least one this spring (not sure which yet), and maybe another later in the year. Everything is still up in the air! Ready to go after another yet?

  2. I also completely underestimated this course (and I had even done the entire loop 2 weeks prior so I should have known better!), and had a heck of a time overnight with the cold temperatures and relentless rocks. Good job to you nonetheless, and very nice writeup. Maybe come back next year for another attempt? See ya 'round!

    1. Thank you Jack. Not sure if we are coming back for TARC next year, but maybe in the future. Unfinished business.

  3. You should keep your shoe accessories, and sock aid. It is long and adventurous road for the bike riding. You should also carry few aids with you to be safe and sound.


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