Pineland Farms 50K Race Report
I am not one to shy away from challenges too often, unless I know it will result in serious injury, embarrassment or even possible death. In those cases, I pass. When the idea of doing a 50K ultra marathon first floated into my mind, I did think it met the criteria of injury, embarrassment or even death. But I warmed up to the idea as I watched my long run mileage creep up into the mid teens on my weekend training runs.
I accepted the challenge after talking to my running/training partner, Julie, who has many ultra marathons under her belt. She knows how to poke and stir up the little competitor in me and after asking for recommendations, she felt the Pineland 50K would be a good start for me. She has completed it many times, placing high in her age group, so I trusted her on it.
This was a whole new experience for me. You just don’t don your running clothes and go for a very long run. Well, perhaps the elites do. But for guppies like me, it takes some preparation. I acquired a small plastic clear box that would fit the essentials: first aid kit, extra shoes, socks, food, jacket and anything extra I was nervous about. For instance, would my battery die on my iPod or GPS? I had two charging sticks in case they did. What if I didn’t like my trail shoes? I brought a pair of road shoes. What if the unthinkable happened? I brought an extra pair of shorts….
Yeah, I was that newbie.
I was signed up for the 50K. That’s about 31.1 miles. Or about 14 miles longer than my road long. This was unchartered territory and thankfully I was quite naive to really ponder the whole distance thing.
Pineland Trail Running Festival is held in New Gloucester, Maine. It is a weekend long event sponsored by big companies like Salomon, Kind, Shipyard Brewing, LL Bean. It is held at Pineland Farms, a 5000 acre working farm and it is absolutely gorgeous.
The 50K course is broken into two loops, the front loop and back loop. The front loop is about 16K and the back loop 9K. Julie and I placed our “drop boxes” early Sunday morning at the half way mark. The 50 mile race had already started, so there was already a buzz in the air. I was nervously excited.
Promptly at 8:00 am the 50K race started. I knew within the first few miles it was going to be quite the challenge with the “rolling hills”. I didn’t complain out loud, but boy was I mad at myself to agreeing to this torture.
At around mile 3, Julie disappeared. I knew she was having some calf issues so I decided to stop and wait. Around the corner a minute or so later, Julie hobbled along. Seems as though the calf “popped” and she was going to have to walk all the hills if she was going to complete the race. 28 more miles to go. Not good.
I trudged on at her insistence. I felt bad, but what could I do?
The hills didn’t stop. And even though I thought the fields would be a nice change, I hated it. The hay fields were beautiful and had been freshly cut, but they were canted and full of ankle twisting ruts. There was no way that I could run “road fast”. Everything slowed.
25K Elevation Profile
At around the 16K mark, I made my first real pit stop at the Final Mile Aid station. I decided to change my soaked socks, eat a little, hydrate and see if Julie was making her way. After 5-7 minutes I decided it was time to continue on. Just as I was ready to leave, I saw Julie hobbling up. Her calf was giving her a real hard time. A temporary solution was to try and lift her heal higher. Fortunately for her, I brought a new pair of insoles and a sharp knife. She cut one of the insoles heal off and placed it in her shoe. It seemed to have helped. After helping her out a bit and letting her know not to be afraid to quit, I went on my way.
Coming out of the back nine I changed socks again and this time my shoes. The Salomon Speed Crosses are awesome, but they are made of Gortex, so they not only keep out moisture, they retain it as well! Seeing the the finish line clock was so disappointing when I was making my way out for the second loop. I was doing terrible. 3:29 for the first 15.5 miles. The plan was 3 hours. Well, that wasn’t going to happen. I knew it had a little bit to do with the long breaks at the aid stations, but still, the clock time knocked me down a bit.
I did have a little more confidence and higher expectations heading out for loop 2. I knew what to expect. I knew the fueling and the hydrating was going well. I knew what was starting to hurt. I also knew music is a great detractor for me, so I got plugged in and put my head down. I paid attention to the pain, but I didn’t give in to it.
Fortunately, the temperature stayed constant. The sun tried to poke its way out of the clouds a couple of times, but I think it was scared away by the many angry runners telling it to stay away!
The hills were starting to really annoy the hell out of me. I was walking a lot of them, even the small rises. But I knew it was the only way I would finish this race. I was replenishing on water, GatorAid and Mountain Dew. I had more soda that day than in the last two or 3 years combined. It felt weird and forbidden, but the sugar caffeine combo that MD is known for was perfect in this situation and I didn’t dwell on the evilness of it for too long.
For the final 10K I finally felt the end nearing. I switched out socks again because I could tell my feet were prunes and a blister was possibly forming. I truly wanted this damn race to end. I dealt with all the different emotions – anger, sadness, giddiness, indifference – all influenced by the levels of blood sugars. But I was done.
I crossed the finish line at 6:44:59. Not a time I wanted, but it was my first ultra marathon and my first trail race, and I should be proud of that time. The first 25K came in about 3:29 and the second 25K came in at 3:16. It was a “negative split” so what the hell! And the time was good enough in my gender/age division for a 3rd place finish! I was thrilled!
As for Julie, it looks like she may have torn a calf muscle. She did finish the race thru shear determination. Despite her being disappointed in her performance, she was truly excited for me. Without her advice and experience, I would have never been able to complete this race.
1 Clif bar
2 Caramel Gu’s
5 Swedish Fish
2 small baked potatoes
3 Medjool dates
1 half PB&J sandwich
1 package of Watermelon Sport Beans.
5-6 cups of Mountain dew
3-4 cups of GatorAid
5-6 cups of water
1 salt capsule
2 bottles of water carried in my Ultimate Direction vest
Recovery has been better than expected. I was truly beat Sunday night, and my quads were sore Monday, but I was back to normal on Tuesday.
So the question is, will I do it again? The answer is yes. I need to chose between ultra running or training for a BQ marathon. I haven’t decided yet. I am letting the glow of 50K accomplishment die down a bit and then I will reach a decision.