Ghost Train 100 - 2012
A++ Small race. Highly recommended.
Sure, running a beautiful and arduous mountain race has its place. But you can't say another race is inferior or not worthwhile when the vibe and reasoning behind it are different. Each race has its own personality and family of volunteers and organizers. We are lucky that these individuals want to share their locale, traditions and time with the running world at large. It doesn't matter which little part of the world we run, how far the views are or how steep the climbs are. To me what matters is getting out with like minded individuals and embracing the things that make us human. Sharing grit, determination and pain. Traveling great distances on battered feet for emotional satisfaction. The psychology of exchanging lows for highs.
The course is made of 15 mile loops (7.5 out, 7.5 back) between Brookline and Milford NH. Much of the course follows an old rail trail so it is almost entirely flat. A few small hills here and there. One small section along the road where landowners had a dispute about land use (Or so was the rumor). There are a few road crossings but the roads are rather quiet. The area isn't too populated as a whole.
Over the course of the run you pass through swampy sections, ponds, lakes, a summer camp and maybe even a yard sale if you are lucky. Full stocked aid stations were situated at either end with an aid in the middle with some scattered items (Turkey Thai meatballs which were all the rave).
Throughout the day and night the course became decorated before our eyes. Tons of freshly carved pumpkins! Candle filled bags lined the trail in parts. Super creepy ghosts on the course. Seriously, you're running along in the middle of the night and a skeleton in a white robe is looming in the distance. At one point a very nice lady said that there were reports of a bear on the course. I freaked a little and after the brain sugar got low I thought every pile of dark leaves was a bear. At one point I was more convinced than ever and stopped in my tracks. I thought maybe it didn't see me so the logical thing seemed to be to shout "WOO" at it really loud. In the event it was actually a bear, probably a bad idea to startle it.
Also spooky? The friggin' 30 pound fish that kept jumping out of the lake and belly flopping back down. So loud. Like a crack of thunder out of nowhere. I was alone for most of the race, but you did see the occasional person going in the opposite direction. The area has some abandoned stone stacks too that look like they were old roads or bridges. Some sections you can still see the wooden railroad bars. At night it was a beautiful and serene romp in the woods!
My favorite part was running through a giant drainage ditch looking thing that passed under a highway. The echo of your feet and the darkness made it feel like some kind of deprivation chamber. At night I would turn off my headlamp to embrace the feeling of swimming in darkness. Well, I did until I started worrying about giving someone a heart attack if they ran into the tunnel 70 miles into the race to see me cruising through it without a light.
The race allows for people to drop at any 15 mile increment up to 90. At that point a short loop is done to get the 100 miles, and then you can keep going if you want in more 15 mile increments.
For me personally this was an entirely different experience from all the other 100s I've attempted. I didn't throw up once and I was able to consistently eat throughout the entire race. I was a bit nauseous but nowhere as bad as it usually is. In retrospect the only thing I can guess is that the Gu Brew was able to keep my stomach going. At the two ends of the course I always drank 3 cups of Gu brew. I had a few Gus, Cliff bars, potatoes (lots of potatoes), pizza, meatballs, soup with noodles…. oh! Lots of those fake candy orange slices. Love those. My stomach actually growled in hunger late into the night! Growled! I ate a goo at mile 80! These things were never possible before. Being able to eat is so huge. Purely from a mental standpoint it was so much easier to stay focused and motivated. It seriously felt like a different sport from the other races. I felt like I was cheating. It was still hard. Just not any harder than it had to be.
The weather was perfect running weather. I was shirtless most of the day and into part of the evening. After that all I needed was a long sleeve tech shirt and a windbreaker on my last long loop.
I wore 110s up till mile 60 and switched into the Hokas. They did what they were supposed to do, I didn't feel the ground. I think by that point my feet were already sliding to a bad place because they felt almost as bad as Umstead for the last 20 miles. I was in 3rd place until the last 15 or so where I wussed out and walked a ton. I am leaning towards using the Hokas for the entire winter beast and seeing what happens to my feet.
There is a sappy aspect to this race that involves some deep emotional attachment, but the internet doesn't get to hear about that. It was highly motivating and played a part in me finishing this race. 'nuff said.
I still don't believe I actually accomplished this. I highly doubted my ability to finish a 100 in less than 24 hours. I want to be excited but part of me really doesn't believe it happened. Maybe the course was short. Who knows what is possible without the foot pain? The last 25 miles took me something like 8+ hours. I should be able to trim that.
I completely forgot a watch and there were no clocks visible on the course. I went just about the whole race having no idea how fast I was going or what time of day it was. It was a really cool feeling in a structured life of meetings and being at work at certain hours and eating at certain times. Only in the last 5 miles did I ask someone what time it was. Life without clearly delineated time, bare of even the eating and sleeping cycles. Distance became the new time. I thought a lot of t = d / v.
In post race discussion I realized that most of the memories of the race disappear quickly. I don't know if it's my mind choosing not to remember painful events, or something to do with reduced brain function. It also feels like how you define yourself in the physical world changes. Take sitting at your desk at work for example. You define yourself by whatever task you have at hand and your mind wanders and you talk to people and sometimes you pay attention to how your body feels in the chair or the sound of your voice. Your focus defines a feeling of self. Sometimes in running it feels a little blurry. You're just breath and motion. You push away much of the physical world.. Hrmm. Thoughts to be brewed.
Nothing to bitch about here. A really good god damned weekend racing and otherwise. Time to listen to what Sandy has to say.