Yesterday I had the privilege of running the BURCS Free to Run Half Marathon. The course is a 12.5 mile loop and is run in a 1/2, Full, and 50 mile distance in Pittsfield, MA. I’ll admit I was running this race purely to finish the BURCS Badass challenge and get my buckle for the year. I hadn’t really paid attention to what the Free to Run group was about and what the race was benefitting. After a VERY inspirational talk by two of the young women impacted by the FTR program and what they went through, I realized I should have paid more attention. I suggest checking out more info on the FTR org here: https://freetoruntrailraces.com/55-2/
That said, I VASTLY underestimated the course. I knew it was hard… people joked about how hard it was. I’d even seen an elevation map, but to me that was just numbers on paper. That would turn out to be a mistake :). As I said on Facebook, this was step for step the hardest race I’ve ever been a part of. A half marathon run took me 4 hours 41 minutes, almost 2 hours longer than a traditional half. And I earned every inch of that time. Just check out the chart below:
That’s right, of the 4 hours 41 minutes I spent staggering around the course a whole 9 minutes 43 seconds was on flat ground. The rest was spend either going way up or going way down. That 3000+ feet of ascent was killer, but just as killer was the descent! The course was largely single track with a few sections of gravel round and blessedly a small piece of pavement. Going up one of these Rachel grabbed me from behind while I had my headphones in and I shrieked like a little girl 🙂 I MAY have thought it was a bear. In fact here’s a good example of one of the tracks we “ran” down:
I was using my new Ambit 3 Peak watch and had set up the data fields but like a moron I hadn’t put total distance as one of the fields to display! I had NO idea how far we had gone. We were told after we reached the peak we would have a view of the Berkshires. Stupid me, I thought this was that moment:
Yeah, not so much. Right after this we reached the first aid station and found out we were maybe 3.5 miles in. In an hour and a half. And we were staring at another huge climb (see the elevation map at the 1:30 mark).
I won’t lie, that climb broke me. My hips and ankles were just thrashed, and my knees didn’t feel so good either. We staggered along the tops of the ridges for a while with some sections that were joggable but still way too many hills. Finally we reached the second aid station and got treated to this view:
It was stunning, but what really lifted our spirits was finding out we were about 8 miles in and not the 6 I had feared. From the second to the third aid station was a relatively gentle 3 miles but I was well-worn by then. The rocks, leaves, and uneven terrain made it incredibly hard for me to work up any speed and my bad ankle and foot were screaming. The other ankle was tweaky and my knees were just done.
We blazed through the last aid station and stumbled towards the finish. We were told it was all downhill from there and it certainly was. A long, painful, completely unrunnable to me downhill. I’ve never had a problem with downhills before but I’ve never faced anything quite like this one. At least a mile of relentless, painful downhill.
I got really punchy in this section. I kept joking that the trees were out to get me with their roots, and started calling them Tree Assassins. I swear they were lurking out there, waiting to water their roots with my blood. It was very frustrating, all downhill but I lacked the ability to even slow jog it.
Finally we could hear the crowd and managed I managed to lurch my way through to the end. I have never worked so hard for so little mileage. I ran the last 4 miles of a trail marathon on torn ankle cartilage and it felt better than this. This was unrelenting, unforgivingly brutal. And yet some crazy people ran that loop FOUR TIMES! I am in awe.
As we went through the finish our mantra was “Where’s Ben? We want our buckles!” Little did we know we would get to be the first ones he got to give out this year. Most real BADASS runners were running the longer distance. I don’t care, I’ll take it! 🙂
Thanks to all the volunteers who made it a very good day. Despite the miserable time I felt a deep sense of accomplishment with this race. Will I do this one again? Not without a LOT more hill training. If I hadn’t been such a physical wreck on the last downhill I could have cut some good time off. This morning I actually got up early because I was having a hard time sleeping due to the pain. It’s better now that I’m up and moving (and medicated!) but it’s still really unpleasant.
At this point I have 7 weeks until NYC. I had a dream of sneaking in the Hartford Marathon just for fun but I don’t want to screw up my NYC run. I’m going to need a few days to recover from FTR as it is 🙂
Equipment and food used:
SJ3.0 vest and soft bottles
4 scoops orange tailwind
5 dixie cups of coke
2 orange slices
Yeah, I way under-ate. That was a part of what went wrong by the end.