Saturday, December 20, 2014

TARC Fells Trail Ultra Winter 40 mile - Poor planning

Since last years DNF, I made the TARC Fells Trail Ultra Winter 40 miler a goal race for the late fall and planned to trained specifically for it after the Fall Classic 50k in October. A description of the course that runs five times 8 mile loops along the Skyline trail at Middlesex Fells in Winchester, MA would include rocks, short steep sections, and pine forest areas. Last year's race, I dropped out for no real reason and decided to come back and try to complete the course for some personal redemption.

Watching the weather closely leading up to the race, I tried to plan out my gear that I would bring to try to run 40 miles in rain and 45 degree temperatures. What the weather on race day ended up being was rain and 35 degree temperatures which would aid in ultimately leading to my second DNF at this race (the only other being last year's Fells race). Feeling ready on the morning of the race, I dropped my dropbag at the start line with many changes of clothes and an extra pair of shoes. The one thing I did not have which I wished I did, was another pair of gloves.

Start line, photo by Douglass Guiliana

Lining up at the start line, I felt calm and had a race plan in mind: run the first three laps between 1 hour 20 minutes and 1:25, then naturally slow down a bit on the last couple. I planned to stick to the plan and run at my own pace consistently, not worrying about where I was in placement. The goal at this one was just to finish. I started out with a group of four guys, including Tim Connelly who I ran with at the 2012 MMD race. He finished his first 100 mile race at Cascade Crest 100 this year and runs at the Fells course quite a bit. The other two guys, one was running the 32 mile race and a guy named Ben was running the 40 miler, were running right with us for maybe five miles until I dropped back and started trying to be a little more conservative. After leaving them, I ran the rest of the time by myself, sometimes either passing a couple people or seeing others running the opposite direction.

The first two laps went by quickly, I ran the first in 1:16 after a wrong turn and added 1/2 mile then the second lap I ran in 1:20 (2:36 elapsed). By all accounts, I felt strong and felt that I could keep up at least a 1:25 per lap pace for the next couple. At the end of the second lap it began to rain and at 36 degrees, the rain didn't help. I ran okay on the third lap, slowing down considerably and ended up having trouble keeping my hands warm in my soaked gloves.

Somewhere out on the trail, mile unknown, photo by Douglass Guiliana

Coming into the aid station after mile 24 at around 4:08 elapsed time, I felt like I needed to change my upper layers to a dry set of clothes and try to get my hands warmed up. I had a little soup and grabbed some snacks to try to help get a few calories in and headed out for my fourth lap, still running in what was probably second place at that point. After making it out about a half mile and having had numb hands for the last two hours, I stood at the top of a hill for a little while trying to decide whether I should drop or not. I thought about it for what seemed like quite a while and then decided to head back to the start/finish and get my hands warm. I let the volunteers know, who were very helpful, and headed back to my car to crank the heat and change into dry clothes.

Strava info:

After dropping this time, I didn't feel guilty or upset like I did last year. This decision was made for an actual physical reason, part of which came about by my poor planning, but nonetheless had tangibility. I warmed up and went back to the aid station and had some soup to warm me up before the drive home. I'll just have to go back the next year and give this race another shot.

After the run, I have enjoyed a week completely off from running and an easy week as I begin to head into the winter. It has been a good year for me at the various races and runs up in the White Mts., and I figured I should take some downtime before jumping into another training cycle. At the time I have only two races that are on my radar, the TARC Spring Classic 50k in late April and the Wapack and Back 50 mile in early May. Other than that, I may do a low-key Fat Ass style 50k on the Cape and a couple snowshoe races, but not much other than that so running may take a bit of a backseat for a while.

At my present occupation, I am getting some pressure to try to become a registered architect and take the seven exams that I have been dreading since graduating college in 2011. Since I have actually committed out loud to my employers, I will end up studying and taking one exam per month for the next three months. My plan is to hopefully pass those, and take the spring, summer and fall off to focus on getting out into the mountains and training. Then I will do the same next winter for the last four exams and hopefully be done. I am not looking forward to the intensive studying that will have to happen (if I want to pass), but I need to get off my ass and get them done. The longer I wait, the harder it will be to get back into some resemblance of a "school-mode".

I have some plans that I am still trying to materialize for 2015 and I will update my blog with my ideas as I get a little more figured out.


  1. Would it be rubbing salt in the wounds to tell you that you were leading the 40m race (by a large margin) when you dropped? Looking forward to seeing what you can do in 2015, with a little more training under your belt and some better gloves. :)

    1. I thought I was close to it, but I thought I might have been in second or third. I'm not feeling bad about this one and trying to live in the present rather than the past. Going to give it another shot next year, I'm bringing as many gloves as I can find and I'm not going to trust the weather forecast.

  2. There may have been 1 (or 2 people) in front, but it looks like (from the results) that they dropped. The eventual winner averaged 1:32 per lap and you were on 1:22's through 3. (Sorry, this is my analytical side showing through) Not trying to make you feel bad. Quite the opposite, actually. You we're having a heck of a run! See you at the CCFA 50k?

    1. No worries, it felt like I was doing okay out there. It's hard to tell where I would have ended up, but at least the start of the race went well. I'm thinking about it, 31 miles on sand in the winter sounds like a great time to me. It's one that I've had on my radar before, but never actually made it down.