I am an Ultra Marathoner!
It is still surreal to write those words. Also I guess you can assume the ending of this race recap is a positive once since well I gave it away that I definitely finished. :P
Now this took place on August 13, 2016.
Yes I know that was months ago, but I seriously haven't been able to wrap my head around it actually happening. Enough to put it into words.
Also I am a bad blogger who can sometimes put a race recap off for an entire year. I suffer from pangs of regret and shame when that happens, but then I remind myself these recaps are first and foremost for me. I need to write them whenever I am ready to write them.
So that day for the ultra... is today!
For those that know me, I always hated running. I was overweight and running was the last thing I wanted to do.
We fast forward to me joining Weight Watchers November 2009 and starting to lose weight in a healthy way (for once) and I ran 1 5k in November 2010 before herniating a disc in my back and being sidelined. While I was sidelined, my wife picked up running. Enter those competitive juices. Once I was cleared for activity, I wanted to run. The doctor said it wouldn't happen. Oh sorry sir challenge accepted.
Fast forward again to August 13, 2016. Before toeing the line for this ultra, I had completed 39 half marathons and 10 marathons... proving myself and the doctor wrong. I would run again and become freakin' addicted.
Since 2013, I have set a fitness goal for each year. The goal would push and prod that comfort zone just a little bit more.
Well for 2016, the goal was to complete an ultra marathon. Oh boy! I laugh about when I registered for the race because I was stone cold sober, but the person I was texting (who would later become my coach) was drunk. :)
I chose the TARC 40-miler for my first (and only) ultra!
Thankfully the friend I mentioned earlier, Greg is a sub-3 marathoner, an Ironman and a badass ultra runner, who I am lucky enough to call a friend and inspiration of mine. Greg is the co-owner of At Your Pace coaching. He offered to coach me and I immediately took him on the offer.
I sent him an excel spreadsheet with the races I already had scheduled and we worked out a plan around those. He was great with answering my 34455934503 questions through email and text. We had a google doc excel sheet that we could both edit with the planned workouts and what I actually did. He was great about altering the plan to allow me to continue my runstreak during the training.
A lot of the training was done solo in preparation of the race... oh and in loops!
Yeah the TARC 40-miler was a 10-mile loop that I would complete 4 times. So my training featured alot of loops to get myself used to that type of course and coming back to a "home base" that had fuel refills.
On July 9, I completed the Bear Brook "marathon" as a training run on a trail. Well that "marathon" ended up being 30 miles and my first unofficial ultra. I had such anxiety over that race that I wanted to call it my first ultra and skip TARC. But after some food, a hot shower and a beer, I calmed down and knew I had to finish the 40-miler.
So to say my anxiety levels were rising as the race approached would be an understatement. My poor love dealt with freakout after freakout.
My friend Kelly was coming in from NY for the weekend to support me at the race.
Oh lord now I surely had to make sure to finish when someone travels IN to see you run something. While I was psyched to have her there keeping Tori company and bringing her positive energy, I was also freaking out even more.
Are we seeing a theme?
This was all unknown territory.
I did the only things I knew how the night before: I focused on my outfits and had some wine.
I would've been lost with the wife and Kelly helping me make sure I had everything packed. Each outfit (1 per lap) got their own plastic bag. It was like packing for a Ragnar only all of the running would be happening consecutively.
I picked the TARC race for that reason. There would be a home base. I would be able to see the wife during the run and get some extra motivation and inspiration.
We drove out to Medfield the morning of the race. We had a cooler, a bag of food, my extra outfits and camping chairs for Kelly and Tori. The bib pick-up was super easy and thankfully my fellow ZOOM triathlon teammate and friend Shira checked me in. Unfortunately no swag came with the race and I wasn't about to spend $8 on a cotton t-shirt that I would end up donating.
I was sad I wouldn't have any medal or momento from finishing the ultra. :(
Before I knew it it was time to line up and get the party started. I was happy to see a couple familiar faces in the crowd. My friend Colleen, who I met on Twitter and have known for years, and a blog reader Bethany was there cheering on her husband.
Since I had NO idea what I was doing, I followed behind Colleen and made my goal to stick with her as long as possible. She lost 125 pounds and is a big ultramarathoner.
My big fear was getting lost - like I did during Bear Brook briefly - but I liked that the TARC course had an aid station at Mile 3. At Mile 3 you did a lollipop loop for 4 miles and were back at the aid station for Mile 7 then you had just 3 miles back to your home base. So really I just had to do a 3-mile run, a 4-mile run, a 3-mile run... and repeat 3 more times. I could do that. How is that for some runner math?
The race director went over the pre-race instructions and how the 50k folks were adding a short 1-mile loop before starting their 3 laps around the 10-mile loop to get the 31 miles. Okay self don't follow the 50k folks. :P Thankfully there was a sweet volunteer at the split... and signage!
I had a few goals:
1) Enjoy this wayyy more than the Bear Brook race :P
2) Don't cry as much as that run ;)
3) Stick near Colleen for as long as possible - at least the first loop so I could avoid getting lost
4) Oh yeah and of course... FINISH!
Simply having people around me was already an improvement on the last trail run. I am a runner that thrives on others near me. I can enjoy a solo run every now and then, but for something like this I liked seeing and meeting new folks.
The first 3 miles flew by and before I knew it we found the aid station. Damn it was stocked with snacks. Every race participant was assigned a type of food/beverage to bring for the race. So I spotted my m&m cookies and would definitely be enjoying one of those later. ;) Hello motivation!
The one issue I had while training was not getting enough calories in during training runs. Greg instructed me to take in at least 200 calories an hour which broke down to a Gu every 30 minutes. I tried to stick to that as much as possible, but I was OVER GU by the time race day came. I am forever grateful that Greg worked on my nutrition as well during his coaching. I had no idea how much under my calorie goal was fueling wise for all of my previous races. Haha.
The lollipop loop was a little more "woodsy" aka climbing over rocks and batting away the tree branches than the first 3, which were nice and packed. Oh and minding the bees. I had a great time catching up with Colleen during this first loop. We didn't see each other as much since she moved to NH.
The true BIG climb of the day was during Mile 8 and ended up with spectactular view.
Yes I can see why trail runners endure the climbs for views like this.
Colleen even humored me with a selfie. :) Thanks friend!
We made our way back down the hill and came into home base for the first time. I was excited to see the wife and Kelly, but to my surprise there was a whole crew of my friends there!
My dear friend Frank had organized a secret group chat to ask people if they could come out and support me during my run. I was in tears (for the first of many times that day)!
I was blown away by their support. Not only were those amazing people prepared to wait hours for me to finish, they also all rocked Sparkle Athletic sparkle skirts. :) :)
Mile 1: 12:41
Mile 2: 12:44
Mile 3: 12:52
Mile 4: 12:58
Mile 5: 14:42
Mile 6: 13:22
Mile 7: 13:08
Mile 8: 13:41
Mile 9: 13:16
Mile 10: 14:22
After a quick outfit change (namely tank top, sparkle skirt and socks), it was time to head out for Loop 2. Unfortunately I was so taken aback by the presence of my amazing friends that I didn't take the opportunity to fuel up at home base. I also lost Colleen who hadn't stopped as long as I had.
Okay self - it was time to rely on myself for these next 10 miles. I don't run with headphones so it was just me, my brain and I. I definitely started chatting with anyone I could on the course.
As you approach the Mile 3 aid station, you actually leave the trail and hit the road for a hot second. This road runner celebrated the brief reunion with pavement. :P
Can you tell I was running solo with the increase in photos? ;)
I didn't worry about taking a lot of pics on loop 1 since you know I would have 3 more opportunities to see the same scenery. :P
The race stated that this is a great trail race for first time ultra runners since it wasn't as technical as many others (like the Bear Brook I ran earlier).
While the trail itself was gorgeous and not very technical that didn't stop me from falling. That's right friends. It took until the second loop, which surprised me, but I went DOWN HARD during mile 14ish. I cut my knee open and an audible FFUUUCCKKK could be heard. Luckily there wasn't anyone around me so I was safe from anyone seeing me trip over basically my own feet. I sat for a moment, composed myself and pushed on. Clearly nothing could be done for me until I got back to either the aid station or home base.
Of course I had to take a pic of the scene of the crime!
Proof I got back up and continued pushing on... :P
Also Holy Sweat Batman! Yes I was the person that chose a nice 80+ degree August day to tackle their first Ultra.
Here's how the leg was looking. My poor KT Tape took a hit.
Well I was happy to have the first fall out of the way. Maybe that meant I would be done for the day... let's see! :O)
Just before coming into home base for the second time, I spotted the TARC Mascot, the Yeti, and had to selfie with him. I wasn't sure how long he would be around.
I waved to my amazing support crew and quickly hit the port-o-potty. Priorities people. I took my time at the transition area - changed my skirt and socks - grabbed necessary gatorade and real food before heading out for Loop 3.
I couldn't believe I was freakin' halfway done. Or oh shit 2 more loops to go. ;)
Mile 11: 12:32
Mile 12: 13:25
Mile 13: 13:44
Mile 14: 12:30
Mile 15: 14:17
Mile 16: 14:22
Mile 17: 13:55
Mile 18: 15:22
Mile 19: 14:17
Mile 20: 19:23
Once again I was headed out solo and worried about the inner demons starting to creep into my brain. This race was definitely mentally tougher than physically. My inner demons can be ruthless if they want to be.
But I wasn't about to let them win. Many ultra runners were saying on this day that loop 3 is the toughest mentally. You still have one to go and as I said the demons start creeping in.
I was determined to make this loop the best yet. I bottled up all the love I got from my cheering section and used that to fuel me through the run.
Until I once again tripped and went down. Guess where it happened folks? THE SAME FREAKIN SPOT as the second loop. WHAT are the chances? I might've shed some tears of frustration, but I wiped them away and pushed on.
I knew Frank had brought me some post-run beer too so I had to get back to it. ;) Any sort of motivation I could muster I was pulling out.
Now I was definitely walking at some points on the course, especially after almost tripping. Whenever I tripped on a branch on the ground or had that "almost wind knocked out of me" feeling, my breathing would go off the rails. I wouldn't be able to catch my breathe and my anxiety would start rising. So I would walk for as long as I needed to get my breathing under control. This was something that started during Bear Brook the month before.
Oh man, basically a marathon was down and 14 more to go!
Okay self push up the hill and you will be rewarded with that glorious view.
This time I took a little video that I shared on Snapchat. Of course I had to share my experience along the way on social media. It wouldn't have been me if I didn't.
Woo! 2.5 miles back down to home base.
I might've come into home base yelling: "Why the FUCK did I sign up for this?" Haha. I was just a bit mentally exhausted after loop 3. I do still appreciate Steph getting that on film. Haha.
Some of my crew had to bounce so I shared the hugs before making my final wardrobe change.
And then the best thing happened: Frank said he would be running the final loop with me. Oh be still my heart I was so freakin' pumped. Now I told Frank it might be more power walking than running, but I would love his company.
Mile 21: 16:09
Mile 22: 20:33
Mile 23: 16:21
MIle 24: 13:49
Mile 25: 16:36
Mile 26: 13:48
Mile 27: 14:18
Mile 28: 17:52
Mile 29: 15:15
Mile 30: 20:36
Alright self! Final loop. You can DO THIS! Even if Frank has to drag you part of the way!
There are a billion reasons I am lucky to have Frank as a friend (he is a constant motivation from his weightloss - 95 lbs with WW, his charity work with Men With Heart and his support), but on this day I loved that he wore a sparkle skirt on our run. :)
The guys working the aid station not only noticed that I changed my skirt and socks each loop, but liked that on the final loop I even got my pacer to wear a skirt.
I'm not sure poor Frank has ever heard as much swearing as this 10-miles he spent with me. Haha. He is so sweet to put up with my needs to walk and the breathing issues after almost tripping. He figured it out after the first time it happened and made sure to walk right next to me with his hand on my back after it happened again. It was the reassuring presence I needed.
It was nice having someone else out there seeing what the 10-mile loop looked like, especially the climb during mile 8.
But this time I had Frank take my picture at Mile 37.5 of the race.
Oh my gosh. This journey was actually almost over. I couldn't believe it. All those months of training. The hours spent running loops around my house. The back-to-back 15-milers. The texts and emails with Greg going over strategy and adjusting workouts. The goal of just crossing the finish line upright.
It was all almost over. My Garmin buzzed that it was on low battery. Oh Garmin you better not die on me before I get to snap the 40-mile screenshot I did this all for. ;)
As we came around the little river to tackle the final mile, our friend Dave ran out to see us. He was giving the team a heads up that I would be coming around to the Finish shortly. I had to be on the of the last people out there.
But I didn't care. I was going to finish. I was going to become an official ultramarathoner.
And just like that I saw the Finish Line ahead and I sprinted. Okay I felt like I was sprinting, but I just tried to move my legs as fast as they would go in that moment.
All of my amazing friends, my wife and even Colleen had waited around for me. I had freakin' done it!
Mile 31: 15:17
Mile 32: 14:43
Mile 33: 16:46
Mile 34: 15:52
Mile 35: 17:55
Mile 36: 16:59
Mile 37: 16:29
Mile 38: 18:52
Mile 39: 16:01
Mile 40: 16:20
I freakin' got that Garmin shot I had been dreaming of:
FINAL TIME: 10:09:01
Looks like of my 10 hours and 9 minutes during the race, I was hanging out at home base for about 23 minutes of that. So I was faster than I thought. ;)
I officially came in second to last, but I couldn't been dead fuckin' last and I would've celebrated that.
Never in a million years would I ever have thought I would be able to accomplish this feat.
Look at all those splits! I will never see that number of splits again...
Once I stopped crying and had hugged my crew, which were like the only people left since I was so far behind everyone else, I asked Frank one final question: "where's the beer?"
Cheers friends! :)
Overall, this was the perfect race for my first ultra race. TARC did an amazing job organizing, the other racers were super friendly, everyone brought delicious snacks for the aid stations and it was great having a home base during the race
I can't thank my wife enough for putting up with my freakouts during training and being out in the woods for 10+ hours being my #1 sherpa and supporter.
Kelly for driving in from NY to hang out for the weekend and thankfully keep the wife company during it.
To my crew that came out that day and surprised me, I will never be able to thank you enough for what that meant to me. It was truly selfless of you all to sacrifice your Saturday to come out and wait for me to finish loop after loop.
Frank - you will never know how much life you gave me during that final loop. I apologize for using the F word every other word, but let's be honest - that's just me! ;) I use Fuck like a comma while racing. Now you can see what Page puts up with on a regular basis. :P
To each and every one of you, thank you. Having you follow my journey gave me a bunch of virtual cheerleaders that I carried with me each step of the way. If you ever want to push that comfort zone of yours, remember I am here to cheer you on, pick you up and push you out the door or help you press that registration button.
And last, but definitely not least, my dear coach Greg! You put up with more than a coach should in terms of texts, freakouts and self-doubt. But through each, you picked me up and pushed me back out on to the course. You are extremely patient, motivating and an empathetic person that anyone would be lucky to have as a coach.
If anyone is looking for a running coach, please check out Greg's company, At Your Pace Coaching, today.
Following this run, everyone's question was: will you do it again?
HELL NO! One and done on the ultra path. This taught me I am not a trail runner or ultra runner. I am happy to go on a fun short trail run in the future (well I did for Ragnar Trail after this race), but I am hanging up the ultra shoes.
But I guess like everything else I have done fitness-wise, I will say: never say never.