Monday, June 17, 2013

TARC 100 Mile Race - Pacing

I first found out about the TARC (Trail Animals Running Club) 100 Mile/50 Mile Race through a facebook group that I belong to. The race was slated to be the first 100 mile race in Massachusetts and the race directors, Josh Katzman and Bob Crowley, are a few of New England's ultrarunning standouts - so I knew it would be a well organized and fun race to run. My running partner and friend, Justin Contois, emailed me to let me know he was thinking about signing up for the 100 mile race and I decided that I would pace him for a portion of his run.

Course Map

The race consists of four 25 mile loops that travel through conservation lands in Weston, Massachusetts and had an unusual start time of 7pm on Friday night. The trails are mainly singletrack with some doubletrack fire roads and almost no pavement, which piqued my interest immediately. With very little elevation gain (I measured 928 feet in 37 miles), the course had the potential of being a fast 100 mile PR for anyone who wanted it.

For a few weeks leading up to the race, most of New England received many rainstorms that brought June's rainfall total up to 8" above normal. The rain did not stop until the morning of the race and the trails became wet and muddy due to their low-lying characteristics and close proximity to water sources throughout the entire course. The mud, especially on the 20 mile section, was unrelenting. There were thigh deep mud and running water patches everywhere along the trails and there was no way to skirt around them because the rocks that you could try to cross on were usually underwater and somewhat slippery.

I originally planned to run the last 25 mile loop with Justin as a pacer, but looking at the race details I noticed that pacers could join the runners after mile 50. I sent Justin a message letting him know that I would be available to pace him for his second 50 miles instead of just the last 25 miles. What's the difference? It would be fun to get in a couple of extra miles.

I arrived at the race at 2:30am, which was a little early to make sure I was ready for when he finished his 50 miles. I heard when I got there from Josh Katzman that his race was not going well and that he would need a good pep talk and a kick in the butt to get back out there and finish. I saw him come in to the start/finish aid station at around 5:20am and he didn't look good. He was running with Eric Ahern for most of his second 25 mile loop and they both sat down for a few minutes before deciding to head out. We made our way through the 4.5 mile loop back to the start/finish and then Justin was reassessing whether he would want to go out for the long, winding 20 mile loop that was where the majority of the mud existed.

Mile 2+/- running through the mist with Justin, Eric Ahern, and Ian Parlin, Mile 52 for them

Early morning light

After arriving back at the start/finish, Justin was deciding whether he was going to drop and encouraged me to become a pacer for Eric Ahern so I wouldn't be out there for no reason. Eric did not have a pacer for any portion of the race and after Justin made his decision to call it a day, I headed out on the muddy 20 mile loop with Eric. Initially I didn't know if I would run the whole 50 miles or just a portion of it.

The first portion of the loop started out okay, but soon we arrived at the muddy sections. I saw what Justin and Eric meant about the mud very quickly, not long after we started I had mud up to my thighs and this would continue for the remainder of the run. It was hard to get into any rhythm for a long stretch because there was always another river/mud pit crossing coming up around the next turn.
One of the drier, runnable sections
Singletrack ferns

Some wildlife along the trail, this guy was pretty big

Eric making his way through a large muddy section

Some deep mud

One of the runnable field areas
Eric made his way through the course very well and I had some great conversations with him, which helped tick the miles off. We ran from aid station to aid station, I have found that in the longer races it helps to have small goals rather than think of the big picture while you are trying to make it to the finish.

Singletrack forest, the majority of the trail was like this

Still running all but the steepest of hills

Shoe sucking mud pit

Cruising through the heat of the day

Another muddy crossing
 It was unfortunate that Justin had to drop out of the race, but running with Eric made the trip to Weston worthwhile. He is a very strong runner, finishing second at the Wapack 50 miler the last two years, winning the 2013 GAC Fat Ass 50k, the 2012 Fall Classic 50k, and several other races. He ran this race with a hell of a lot of determination to finish this race of attrition. By the time the race was over, many people had dropped and headed home. I finished up my day at the Ripley aid station (Mile 85 for Eric), and left him with 15 miles left to finish. He ended up finishing in 9th place with a time of 22:08:17 for the 100 miles, with a few bonus miles because he took a wrong turn in his first loop. Full results can be found here. I had a great long run of 37 miles and have to thank the volunteers, race directors, and fellow runners out there that make very organized events like this fun. Without them, there would be no race.

My upcoming plans are to run my first Pemi Loop in the White Mountains, NH on July 6th with Justin and then run the Bear Brook Marathon in NH on July 27th. I also signed up for the TARC Fall Classic 50k in October. The remainder of the summer will be spent doing some long runs in the White Mountains and enjoying spending time with the family.


  1. Well done man. Thanks again for coming out to help me and my tired ass.

    1. Thanks Justin, there's always next year.