Friday, November 13, 2015


TARC feels like so long ago at this point, that I almost forgot it ever even happened.....Almost.  It's also become one of those things, I don't even really feel like talking about it.  I think mainly because I don't know what to say.  I don't really know what went wrong.  Even though I've never DNF'd before, there's definitely races I felt that I've tanked but I always know right away the reason it didn't go well. 
Emir said taking this pic was bad luck as I took a similar one on the way to Eastern States....
After Emir's DNF at Eastern States, I pretty much talked him into running TARC with me.  I just felt that he got robbed of finishing the 100 because of weird stuff at that particular event and that if he was doing any other 100, he would have finished.  I wanted him to have confidence in himself again.  Our coach also indicated that he felt Emir was in great position to attempt another 100 in the fall.  It all seemed perfect, to make sense.  We would finish our first 100 together, holding hands (at least that's what it looked like in my head).  Fast forward to lap 3, miles 50-75 and that dream was rapidly diminishing.  We felt good after the first two laps but Emir was panicking already about time cutoffs which didn't go into affect until mile 75, 24 hours into the race.  He was saying "I can't believe I am in the same EXACT situation as Eastern States (well except that was due to extra miles, this was just due to not running fast enough as terrain was different than what we expected)"  And I kept saying "we aren't in a situation!"  But then I started to figure things out in my head and was like "shit."  It took us 6.5 hours for the first lap and 8 hours the second lap which put us at 14.5 hours for 50 miles.  With a 32 hour time limit, we had 17.5 hours overall but only 9.5 until the cutoff at 24 hours.  It didn't sound impossible as that gave us 8.75 hours per lap but it didn't seem good either as we felt we pushed really hard to make the second lap in 8 hours and just didn't have great hopes that we could push like that 50 more miles.  Also, even though we had 9.5 hours until the first cutoff, if we made that cutoff, it only left us 8 hours for that final lap.  Knowing that it just took us 8 hours for lap 2 made it highly unlikely so we would definitely need more than 8 hours which meant lap 3 needed to be 8-8.5 hours to have a chance.  Is your head spinning?!!  yeah mine too as it was during the race. 
There were some really fun times out there

We had discussed pacing a bit with our coach, Caleb, since it was a huge issue during Eastern States.  I just didn't want us to be freaking out about cutoffs.  As it turns out, all 3 of us had a much different impression of what the 25 mile course was going to be like. 
We thought the whole course was going to look like this....
We knew it wouldn't be easy but we thought there was about 1600 feet of elevation per loop with some rocks and roots but nothing too crazy.  As it turns out, the 3 loops, 75 miles, had 10,000 feet and there was a couple sections in the second half of the loop that were very technical, really tough to get any kind of rhythm going.  The worst of these sections was the last part of the loop, probably about 6 miles or so.  It was just up and down these boulders with rocks in between.  We like to refer to this as the major time waster.  We lost SOOOOOOO much time on this section every lap.  Anyway our incorrect ideas about the course had led Caleb to say that he felt 15min/mile pace or 12 hours for the first two loops would be completely manageable for us which we thought was more than reasonable, if the course had been how we thought.  Having that in the back of our minds also contributed to the panic.  We were 2.5 hours beyond what Coach thought would be easy for us and it was not easy to make the 50 miles in 14.5 hours.  
That's the Boston Skyline!  TARC was a very pretty course
The third lap which ended up being our final lap started out well enough.  We were moving along nicely until about 4 miles in, a little less than a mile from the first aid station, Emir started breaking down physically.  He had to stop and stand for a few minutes.  I'm not sure what happened but he must have gotten behind on his nutrition.  He ate something and we started walking.  I think we pretty much walked the rest of the way to that aid station because he wasn't feeling well.   After he got nutrition and more fluids, he started feeling a lot better.  We ran on and off but then I started not feeling great so we did more walking again.  I think eventually we got to the point where we did too much walking so then my body started shutting down.  Also the going back and forth between Emir not feeling well to me not feeling well, starting hitting me mentally.  I started whining "I don't want to do this anymore"  Emir saying : "why?!  this is your race.  YOU'RE the one who should be wanting this more than me!"  Ugh it was not pretty.  But from what I hear, hundreds never are.  Once we got to the smaller section of rock nonsense, Emir was literally stringing me along.  I knew for certain we could not finish 100 miles of this course in 32 hours.  We still had 8-9 miles on this loop and we would be cutting it very close to even make the 24 hour cutoff, which if we did make, left us only 8 hours for that last loop.  There was really no way that would happen.  I just sensed that he was feeling better than me and maybe if he went ahead he would have a better chance of making the cutoff.  I had decided on my own that I was going to drop at the next aid station which was the last one before the time waster section.  There was no way I could get through that section in 2 hours when the second lap it took us 2.5 and we were feeling pretty decent.  I had no desire to climb up and down boulders for no reason.  I told Emir this and told him to go ahead.  He said ok but then didn't leave me.  I knew he was worried to leave me.  I really was fine, I just didn't want to do anymore knowing that I couldn't make it.  I told him this.  Eventually he left me but it was literally only a few minutes before we hit the aid station. 
we had a great time meeting our #bonkproof teammate Shanna.  We had dinner with her friday night and ran some miles together early in the race

I sat for a few minutes, warming up and chatting a bit with the two friendly volunteers.  In that short time a couple other runners decided to drop also because they knew they would not make the cutoff and didn't feel like dealing with that last section of the course.  The volunteers told us it was a short walk up the road to the start/finish area so that worked out well.  I grabbed the car keys from our stuff and then settled in the car with the heat on, I was FREEZING!   With so many things going through my head, it was hard to fall asleep at first.  Normally, when a race doesn't go well, I feel really bad about it.  This felt really different.  I didn't feel like I failed.  I just felt like this course was too hard for me to finish in 32 hours.  If I had 34 hours, I knew things would have been way different.  I fell asleep for a while and woke up to Emir banging on the car window.  He had missed the cutoff by 9 minutes or something crazy like that.  I was really shocked he had gotten that close to making the cutoff and then I felt REALLY BAD about it.  I felt that it was my fault because I was holding him back part of that 3rd loop and he lost more time than he would have if I wasn't with him.  I also felt guilty for making him run TARC with me, only for him to end up with a second DNF.  UGH, why did I do that?!  Now I started to feel bad, that I didn't do well, that I'm a loser and that I caused Emir even worse confidence issues by making him DNF a second time. 
So sad

Emir got in the car.  He didn't seem too upset.  He said that when he finished the lap and they told him he didn't make it, that they also said there were only about 30 expected finishers.  He also said there was a decent size group of runners that were in the same boat as him, just missing the cutoff.  And he had talked with some of them during the last part and they all said the course was alot different than they thought especially that last section where everyone said they lost ALOT of time.  And how they all felt that even if they made that 24 hour cutoff, they would never have made all the cutoffs of the final lap, as they would only have had 8 hours to complete it.  I did feel a little better after hearing all this.  Ok, so there is at most only 30 finishers out of 100 something who started, that's a pretty low finishing rate.  Emir and I can keep going mile after mile forever but we only have so much speed.  We are mid-packers for sure.  And in races like Eastern States and TARC where it's a 25-30% finishing rate, well we just aren't in the top tier, it's a little beyond our level, at least right now. 

Of course, Emir and I relived TARC OVER AND OVER again.  Luckily, it was much more short lived than Eastern States just because only 4 days after TARC was when I left for Bethlehem for the Runner's World Festival.  So once that happened we had many other things running related to talk about.  Also a talk from Coach Caleb helped calm us down a bit.  Basically, he just said, all 3 of us underestimated this race and the type of course it was and we just need to put it behind us and move on.  And I also was able to take some positives out of the whole experience.  I learned what it was actually like to be out on a 100 mile course rather than just being a supporter and pacer.  Most importantly, I do have to remember that I not only ran my furthest distance ever, about 70 miles, I also ran my longest time ever somewhere between 21 and 22 hours (previously, my longest was 13 hours).   I had major watch issues, which didn't contribute to my DNF at all but were annoying and I actually have continued to have issues since.  After trying a few things on my own, I finally reached out to Garmin who responded this morning and I will try their solutions tonight (fingers crossed!).

So basically I took a few things from both the Eastern States and TARC experiences.

1.)  We need to choose 100 milers WAY more carefully than our other races. 
We've done some super hard ultras before but all of those were in the 50K- 50 mile range.  It seems that you can fake it til you make it easier in these distances than a hundo.  While I did know last year's TARC finishing rate was like 15%, I thought it was solely due to poor weather.  It rained for weeks leading up to the race and during the race, it looked like a nightmare.  So I attributed the low rate to that.  I paid no attention to the fact that this the 3rd year of the race and they had changed dates of the race every year so far.  Leading right into that it was only the 3rd year for this race so there was not much info out there.  And there were discrepancies out there as to some of the facts.  We heard anywhere from 1000 feet - 3000 feet elevation per loop and lots of variations on the type of terrain.  We definitely realized we need to look for well established races with decent finishing rates with tons of consistent information to help us make our decision.  Which leads me to my next point.
climbing the power line

2.) We need to choose a race that is suited for US.
I'm not afraid of tackling any kind of race however there are some types of terrain, I could live without.  I'm not super skilled at climbing boulders and navigating super rocky terrain.  I can handle some technicality but there's a certain point where I become totally inefficient.   And if I do choose to run a hundo that is super technical, it has to have a more than generous cutoff to allow me a chance of making it.  I know for a fact, I'm not fast at it, so I need time.
running through the forrest

3.) It's probably best if we don't run a 100 miler together.
This is by far the hardest lesson for me.  Running is something that brings Emir and I closer together.  It's a shared passion and we love running TOGETHER.  It doesn't happen much in training due to life stuff like kids so we treasure our shared racing experiences.  Many of our best moments have come racing together, i.e. our first 100K finish celebrating our 10th anniversary, finishing the Double Blue Ridge Marathon hand-in-hand, you get the picture.  Even though we didn't initially set out to run a hundo together, after Eastern States, it became something I really wanted.  I wanted to cross that finish line together.  I thought for sure it was meant to be after Emir's disappointment at ES.  But the fact of the matter, it's not very practical.  Maybe if we were just running partners, it would be different.  It wouldn't be a problem for one of us to just take off if the other one was struggling.  And that's not to say we don't do that ever, because we have both done that but in a hundred, it's so much different.  Especially because it's so much more necessary in those later miles to have someone to push you through the tough times and if we leave each other, we have no one to help us.  When we are running together, we don't have anyone else to push us just each other which isn't helpful when we both feel like crap.  Thinking back to that 3rd TARC lap, there was so much overall slow down time.  By that I mean, we had to walk because Emir didn't feel good, then he felt better but I didn't feel good.  It ended up being way more "bad time" because there were two of us going through stuff.  I also think sometimes when one of us slows down to help the other one, it can then start to affect the person that was feeling good, breaks their rhythm.  It's just not practical for us to run a hundred together, unless we have a crew and separate pacers so that we can both feel comfortable if we need to separate at some point and do our own race.  But that's not likely to happen, we really need each other to be our crew and pacer.  In addition, us both training for a hundred at the same time, was a bit nightmarish at times.  Both of us having two super long runs a weekend was just crazy.  It's bad enough to have one of us with that training schedule but both of us at the same time?!  We somehow managed it and our kids didn't seem to affected but it was stressful and we pretty much don't want to do that again until the kids are way bigger.
kinda creepy

I was going to say that I have no plans for 2016 until I figure some things out, however I realized that's actually not true.  I've had a lot of time now to get over the DNF and even just finally writing this post, I feel a lot of closure. I do want to run 100 miles and I will.   I don't really want to get ahead of myself though with Philly Marathon next weekend.  I need to stay focused on that first.  As much as I want to get a PR and a BQ that WILL get me into Boston 2017, I just don't know if I can do it.  I've had signs of speed in my legs the last few weeks however I just have this feeling that I'm not sure I can maintain that speed for the whole 26.2.  And I won't know until I try.  So for now, I will leave things like that, focused on Philly and talk about 2016 when it's time. 

This was the glass my beer after the race came in.  I took it as a sign....


  1. Oh man Amy, what a recap. TARC races are notoriously hard, I'm so glad you guys have realized that it wasn't you, it was just a really hard course! Come down here to SC, we have tons of flat, not too technical 100's! ;)

    #3 about racing together... That is what I'm most nervous about with our upcoming 24 hour race. Geoff and I race together alot, but like you mentioned, rarely are we on the same page. I'm down, he is up, and vice versa. You made a really good point about spending way too much "down" time that way. Something I'm going to have to think long and hard about for sure!

    Anyway, thank you for sharing this recap. Your 100 finish will happen soon, I can just feel it!

    1. thank you Heather!!! You and Geoff are going to kill it!!! Plus you are having a crew. We did not, if we had a crew and several different pacers, it would make a huge difference. I can't wait for your race!