Drifting Away

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Guest blog by Michael Wade

With all my goals pretty much met for 2014, the TARC Winter Classic 32m was all about having fun. The 8 mile Skyline Trail in the Middlesex Fells is no joke, even for just one lap. So, 4 laps would be a pretty sizable challenge. But one which, given my results from this year, looked like something I could handle with ease.

Then the rain came …

I woke up at 5am on race day to the sound of pouring rain. The thermometer read 34 degrees. Perfect weather for sleeping in! “To go, or go back to bed?” That was the question! I pondered it for about a minute before deciding to give it a go. Let’s have some fun! Right? So, I got up, fueled up and jumped in the car for the white knuckled (black iced) drive to Stoneham.

On the way, I heard a song (earworm) that would stay with me all day …

“My face above the water - My feet can’t touch the ground (touch the ground). And, it feels like… I can see the sands on the horizon. Every time you’re not around.”

By the time I reached the Fells, the rain had slowed to a drizzle. Still not ideal, but manageable. I saw all the usual suspects, pre-race: Danielle Triffit(running), Ryan Triffit (not running), Kristina Folcik-Welts (running), Eric Nguyen (not running), Jesse Veinotte (running) & Emily Trespas (not running). Heck! Half the people I knew, weren’t running today! So I wondered, just 5 weeks removed from Ghost Train, if I shouldn’t be joining them?

The race started and was warmer than I originally thought it would be. Luckily, I opted for the short-sleeve shirt (and shorts) as it heated up even more with the first climb.  It was steep. It was wet. It was slippery. It was perfect! Perfect for killing myself, that is. I followed the course in a clockwise direction hitting each rocky hill: Bear, Winthrop, Sheepfold, Gerry, Silver Mine, Little Pine, Big Pine, Ramshead, Quigley, & Nanepashemet. It was like a “Greatest Hits” of hills!

“I’m slowly drifting away (drifting away). Wave after wave, wave after wave. I’m slowly drifting (drifting away). And, it feels like I’m drowning. Pulling against the stream”

I finished the first loop in a much-too-fast 1:33. I was hoping for somewhere around 1:40’s for each of the 4 laps – which would bring me in at about 6:40. Typically good enough for a top-5 finish at this race. Something I could live with, but worried I could maintain, given the recent 100 miler in my legs and my un-planned “quick” start.

Of course at this race, since there was also a 40 miler going on at the same time and runners going in either direction (CW or CCW), it was virtually impossible to know exactly where you stood - relative to the field. So, I naturally followed up my fast first lap with another 1:33 – a matching pair! This included following John Rodrigue off course for a little bit. Excellent! 

“I wish I could make it easy. Easy to love me (love me). But, still I reach to find a way. I’m stuck here in between. I’m looking for the right words to say”

Lap 3 was where things started getting difficult for me. The rain picked up, my legs slowed down and it seemed to get colder as a result. I slipped a few times but never went totally horizontal. So, needless to say, I was thankful to get back to the start/finish in one piece. I grabbed a long-sleeve shirt, a hat, and a cup of chicken soup. 1:41 for the third - with one more to go!

I pretty much ran “all out” for the final lap. Hopping logs. Scrambling up (and down) rocks. Charging the “flats”. And sprinting through puddles. I put my “ultra” head down. “Just get me there!”, I said to myself. And, eventually, I did. I crossed the line with a lap time of 1:41 (another matching pair!) and a final time of 6:29 – good enough for 5th place overall and more than 10 minutes under my “goal” time!

“I’m slowly drifting away (drifting away). Wave after wave, wave after wave. I’m slowly drifting (drifting away). And, it feels like I’m drowning. Pulling against the stream …”

I wanted to stay and “hang out” after the race, but even with wearing every stitch of clothing I brought with me, I was still shaking with cold. So, I jumped back in the car, cranked the heat and drifted away…

…back to Nashua. And, back to my off-season training.

See you all again in 2015!

Mike is our resident Ultra Guy. Follow his Ultra adventures on his blog Rock n Runner.

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