Saturday, October 26, 2013

Race Report: TARC Fall Classic

thx to GoMotion and Topham Photography
It’s funny how things evolve. A few years ago, not only was I not running on a regular basis, but the idea of running on trails was something I had relegated to the closet with my high school XC mementos. Fast forward a few years and now I’m addicted to running as much as I can – and running in my first trail race since my senior year of high school. The event? The TARC Fall Classic – a loop through Great Brook Farm State Park in Carlisle MA on an absolutely fantastic fall day – a clear, chilly morning fading into unseasonably warm temps by late morning. I did the half-marathon (two loops) but runners could also do a 10K, marathon or a 50K. Most of the course was relatively smooth trails with some rolling, rooty hills, alternating with a few miles of fields and a highly technical 1.5 mile stretch towards the end (the Woodchuck Trail).

I had run the course a week before with Eric and Adam, so I knew what to expect. However, the race was structured so that the ultrarunners would go directly onto the trails while the half and full marathoners needed to do an extra field loop or two before hitting the trails. This meant that for good positioning, I needed to haul ass in order to get ahead of as many ultras as I could before hitting the single-track. As evidenced by my pace the first two miles, I did my best, but an unfortunately-timed loose shoelace meant that I lost valuable time and was stuck behind a fair number of runners by the time I started up Indian Hill.

I’m not entirely sure what the etiquette is for passing runners on trails. In my high school days, I would have just bushwacked into the woods to pass someone, but now I don’t want to thrash up the wilderness and am much more aware of the risk of turning an ankle. So when I found myself behind someone on the single-tracks, I typically hung behind them, only passing when a suitable place presented itself. I’m sure I annoyed some foax but it I felt like I essentially stayed on pace.

A clear majority of the race was comfortable, striding up the hills and hammering the downhills. However, the extremely challenging Woodchuck Trail and its immediate aftermath was windy, extremely rocky , and with a lot of quick ups and downs. I traversed it the best I could, trying to keep my feet up, but you can see by the slow pace times how different it was from the rest of the course (miles 6 and 12).

At the end of the day, I scored a 5th place finish with a time of 1:42:25. I didn’t really know what to expect, given that I felt my training was just adequate—I wasn't doing a lot of speed work and certainly not as much technical trail work as (in hindsight) the course demanded--so I was pleasantly surprised by my performance. (Full results here.)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the DIY food tables – easily the best I’ve ever seen at a race. Kudos to the TARC folks for throwing a great event – a challenging race with an atmosphere a perfect blend of friendly competition and campfire party. Perfect weather, good friends, solid run: you can’t ask for more than that!


  1. Great racing that day, Todd! Tons of fun, a great event. Looking forward to more TARC events with trail friends.

  2. Congratulations! Awesome result, and it sounds like a great time.