Spring is a wonderful time - time for birds, flowers, and 50 kilometer races. This is also the time of year I like to ramp up my weekly running mileage and weekend races are an excellent way to tune up for summer adventures. I'm fortunate to live in an area where there are many spring ultras to choose from, one available within reasonable driving distance almost every week, while I wait for conditions to settle down a bit in the mountains. The Trail Animals Running Club (TARC) Spring Classic 50k is one of those races, and provides one of the fastest trail courses around.
Last year I got lucky and happened to win this race when the leader, who had opened a sizable gap with my chase pack, dropped out due a knee problem. Quite unexpectedly, I found myself in first place as my running buddies dropped off the pace one by one. Being the inaugural year of the race, I also happened to set the course record.
This year it was clear that things were going to be quite different. A quick browse of the entrants' list revealed that I was thoroughly outgunned and, barring another lucky break, I wasn't likely to come in first again. Not that it makes any difference, I've certainly spent my fair share of time as a mid-packer and I primarily run to push my own standards. This time around, the standard to be pushed was 4 hours. Like my sub-3 hour marathon goal, I want log a 50k time starting with a nice, big, fat 3.
It's always good to see my running friends at the race start. Conversations are generally brief as I anxiously go about my preparations, making sure nothing is forgotten and agonizing over what to carry and wear. At the line I was cold in just short sleeves but knew things would warm up as soon as were moving. And move we did; at a 6:30-ish pace right out of the gate I tried to settle into a comfortable but sustainable pace, while seeing how long I could hold on to the front runners. This year there were two, Scott and Mike, one of whom introduced himself as my cyber-stalker (Hi, Mike!). I kept them in sight for about the first 5k before I was more or less on my own. After backtracking a bit to make up for a missed turn (which was clearly marked) I finished the first loop in 45:47.
Loop 2 went alright, with minimal slow down, except for one spot where I slipped off a log and bashed my knee pretty hard. It hurt for a few minutes and bled pretty good, but ultimately didn't cost me too much and I hit the start/finish area in 45:54. Loop 3 doesn't really stick out too much in my memory and I completed it in 46:53.
|Photo: Jamie Anderson|
To make a long story short(er), I did dilly-dally too much, and with less than a half mile remaining, I watched my watch roll over 4:00:00. My goal slipped away and I finished in 4:02:54 for third place. Scott Traer laid down a solid winning time of 3:24 with Mike Galloob hot on his heels in 3:29 or so - very impressive performances by them both. Relaxing in the the sun at the finish, I was also got to witness several friends come in, some setting new personal records, and others finishing their first ultramarathon.
Personally, I came away with a new a new 50k PR, and can draw a decent amount of satisfaction from that. Perhaps most importantly for me, I got a good long run in and my legs were in decent enough shape the next day that I was able to log another 17 miles. While I know I lack speed, I think this says good things about my base and endurance, and it's good to have a solid foundation to build the rest of my training on.