Race Recap: Midnight Squatchapalooza - 6-Hour Timed Race

Chase Smith is a Chaski Athlete coached by Coach Kris Brown. He was a former Commercial Credit Associate Underwriter for Bank of America. He's currently taking his Masters' Degree of Business Administration (MBA) program at Bentley University with a focus on leadership. Chase's passion for running led him to victory on his first race after a long time.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here and a large part of the reason for that has been due to a lack of races the last year and a half. However, a smaller, yet still significant part has been a lot of life changes that have just made it more difficult to carve out the time to keep this blog up.

I hope to continue to dedicate more time to it now, and in the future. In the past two years since I have posted, I have finished my Masters of Business Administration at Bentley University, moved into an apartment with my girlfriend in Revere, Massachusetts, worked at Bank of America, moved to my girlfriend’s parents’ house in New Jersey for a year due to the pandemic, left Bank of America, moved into another apartment with my girlfriend in Norwalk, Connecticut, and started a new job.

In that time, I have also had my share of ups and downs involving running. Some of the ups include setting a new Marathon PR of 2:49:37 at the Baystate Marathon in October 2019 and taking part in the Quarantine Backyard Ultra in April 2020.

Some of the downs included DNFing my first Ultra at the TARC Fall Classic 50 Mile in September 2019 and taking two months off for a stress fracture in my tibia in September 2020.

Race Start! Photo by Greg Hudson

I have recently started racing again, as the pandemic has wound down, and it has definitely put a spring back in my step, in terms of my love for running. I have always been a racer at heart and it had been really tough to keep up my motivation with a lack of races.

Right now, my primary goal is to run a new PR at the Boston Marathon in October, but with more races opening up, and the fact that I had not run an Ultra in just about two years, I felt called to find one and run one.

This led me down to the Midnight Squatachapalooza 12H/6H Timed Race in Columbus, NJ put on by Sassquad Trail Runners. As an aside, one of the things that left me even more motivated to run this race was seeing others begin to race again as well.

I attribute part of the reason for having such a strong desire to race to watching all the awesome guys and girls running at Western States and in the Olympic Trials. It was just a great week(end) all around for running and I really felt like I capitalized on the energy surrounding that.

As the title of this post suggests, the race did in fact start at Midnight, something I felt a bit underprepared for, if I’m being honest. I don’t have much night running experience, but that is one of the things I wanted to change since my goal is to eventually compete in longer races and Backyard Ultras that will certainly require that. In fact, I’ll be running the Mountain Lakes Backyard Ultra in New York in August, and that race starts at 6:30 PM, so this would be a great test run! On to the race…

I arrived at the Burlington County Fair Grounds in Columbus, NJ at about 11:00PM after a two-hour drive from my apartment in Norwalk. I quickly picked up my bib and started prepping for the race.

I had planned six bottles of water mixed with Tailwind, or about one per hour. I also had one gel and a couple bags of potato chips, but I had planned to try and run completely off liquids for this race since it was on the shorter side. Fast forward an hour later and I am standing on the starting line, not entirely sure what to expect from my first night ultra, and first timed format race for that matter.

At 12:01 AM, we were off. For this race, we would be completing 2.5 Mile loops with about a third of the loop being on pavement, and the other two-thirds through grass fields. I am a bit directionally challenged when it comes to trail races, so my strategy was to stick behind at least one other person for the first lap, or until I felt confident in my ability to navigate the loop.

We started on the pavement and turned onto the grass field after about a quarter of a mile. I will say that I was unprepared for how tall the grass was and how it would feel; almost like running on sand.

I settled into third place as we moved into the middle of the first lap and I worked to steady my nerves. I knew that I was in good shape; I had been putting together 70-75 mile weeks for the last two months.

I also have a great coach, Kris Brown, whom I have been working with for the past few months. In addition to being a great all-around guy, Kris is an impressive ultra-runner, sporting a top-10 placing at the 2018 Western States.

He is one of the coaches in the Chaski Endurance Collective, founded by Marathoner and Ultramarathoner Tyler Andrews (who previously coached me in 2019). I have been a part of this group for almost a year now and I can’t say enough good things about it.

Kris helped me to carve out a good race plan in terms of both pacing and nutrition. For pacing, the goal was simple: hold a sub-8 average pace for as long as possible. I knew this would be a possibility due to the fact that the course only had 20 feet of elevation gain per mile, but I was worried about the heat and humidity, and how my stomach would react to a night race. Still, I felt prepared. When I hit the first mile in 7:29, I felt comfortable knowing that the effort was not super difficult and all systems felt normal.