Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pineland Farms 50 Mile Race Report

Spoiler - I finished.

I ran my first (and, quite probably last) 50 mile race on May 27, 2012, at the Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival.   If you haven’t been to the Pineland ….   GO!   2013, BABY!   This event a must-run.  Race directors Erik Bouchet  and Ian Parlin work some magic to put on an enormous event, with 1600 runners this year, that somehow still manages to keep the friendly, laid back, small-event vibe.  Pineland Farms itself is an interesting place.  It was formerly the Maine Schoolfor the Feeble Minded, which appears to have, in olden times, enslaved developmentally disabled men on the farm.  Currently, it’s a slave-free working farm with warmblood horses, organic hippie meat, and a hippie dairy.   During the winter, it is a cross-country ski resort, and during the summer, you can get married there.  
Because it’s on cross country ski trails, the course is wide and can accommodate a lot of runners.   The course itself is non-technical, and consists of a 25K loop.  The loop further twists around the ski area, at one point returning to the same aid station 3 times within a couple of miles.  It winds through lovely forests dotted with wildlowers and then cuts through paths mowed in the hay fields.  The course is relatively easy, very well supported, and overall ideal for my first attempt at 50 miles. 

And then there’s the party!  The start/finish area is in The Grove, where everyone and their brother sets up camp, including Smuttynose Brewing.  My kids love this event.  Typically, the girls stand out amongst their peers because they have so much more energy than the “standard model”, but not at Pineland.  At Pineland, they get to run around like maniacs with all the other wired ultrakiddies.   It’s fun for us, too.  Since we only rarely see any family, aren’t really connected to the local community, this is one of those rare occasions when we can drink a beer with some grown ups and let the village raise our kids for a few minutes. 

 On Saturday, there are 4 shorter races – a 10K, a 5K Canicross, a 5K, and a barefoot 5K. 
Super Fast Canicross team!
 The 5K Canicross has to be the most amusing race I’ve ever seen.    Now, understand I’m afraid of dogs.  But even I was rolling on the grass laughing as the dogs came in.  A whole lot of dogs ran below a 20 minute 5K, by the way – very impressive!

Gabe, my husband, and Audrey, my 9 year old daughter, ran the 5K.   They had a great time, but Gabe won’t let me post any pictures because he wore just his Ranger Panties and no shirt.  This is the first time he ventured out for a run shirtless, despite my insistence that ranger panties simply do not go with a shirt.  Here's a pic before my husband took the shirt off.

They also had some races for the kids – here’s mine doing a wheelbarrow race.

This is not a wheelbarrow race – this is just a couple of kids playing in the grove.

Then we enjoyed some beers in the grove with Brad and his family. 

Back at the campground, Saturday evening, I managed to squeeze in a quick 2 miles on the trails at Bradbury Mountain State Park with a guy named Marcus, who agreed to give me a ride to the start in the morning so I wouldn’t have to wake the kids up.  I was dreading the wakeup, honestly, since the race started at 6AM.

Race Day! 
The wakeup turned out to be a lot easier than I had thought it would be, because the group at the site next to mine were also running the 50m.  Seeing others doing the same thing makes it seem so much less nutty.   I made myself a Starbucks Via and ate a “Glorious Morning” muffin.  I think “Glorious Morning” means lots of fiber.  

Marcus and I made it to the race in plenty of time.  I put my down my drop bag, applied body glide, lip balm and sunblock, and then got in line for the porta johns.  While enjoying my Glorious Morning in the portajohn, I noticed that my shorts were on backwards.   Ah, the hazards of dressing in the dark in the campground.  I lined up with Jason Robillard and Theresa Withee, but knew I would be letting those speedy people go pretty quickly. 

Of course, even though I only ran about 1K with Theresa and Jason, during the first loop, I went out running too fast.  Mainly, I ran most of the first 10 miles fast because I was having a fascinating conversation with a guy named Craig.  Eventually, around the 10 mile mark, I wised up and told Craig I wasn’t going to stay with him and let him go on ahead.  I knew I needed to go slower, but how much?  During the back half of the loop, I convinced myself that everyone I ran with must be much faster than me, so I let them all go on ahead.   This was a mistake. I really might have been able to keep up with Craig.  And I probably could have kept up with most of those other people.  I shouldn’t have sold myself so short. 

I went through the start / finish, which was about the 19 mile mark, as the 25K was assembling.  It was a huge rush to go past the crowded area.  There were so many spectators, and all of the spectators and runners cheered loudly as I passed through.  I had about 15 minutes of quiet on the trail before the fast men came through.     It was terrifying, and I don’t think I ever recovered.  I tried to stay to the side, but all the guys coming from behind were so big.  I felt a THWACK on my shoulder, lost my balance a bit, and then saw a huge guy go tumbling into the trail in front of me.  The faster you go, the harder you fall!   Jerk – he never apologized or checked to see if I was okay.

 Then some of the ~ 9 minute milers made heartfelt inquires as to my well being, when they noticed I was walking the hills at what, for them, was just after the 2K mark.  Our bibs were different colors, and I pointed at my orange one, and told them I was doing great!  And really, I was, physically, although it was rather warm.  I was also concerned that I’d end up running this loop with some fresh 25K runner who was going too fast.   I should not have worried about this.   I hardly saw any 50 milers during this entire second loop, except for Brian Rusieki, the male winner, who lapped me near the Yurt, and subsequently about 4 other guys and Amy Lane, who also lapped me.  It was a bit warm, but I generally felt very good.  I was properly hydrated, well nourished, and nothing hurt. 

Here are my kids running with me as I passed the grove during the second loop, at about mile 30.
About Mile 30.

World's Cutest Pacers!

I hit my drop bag at Mile 35, for what was supposed to be a quick re-application of Body Glide, lip balm, and sunscreen.  But I noticed that my voice mail alert was beeping.  I was a bit concerned because I was worried that something might have happened to my children (of course).  Then I saw that the voice mail message was from my mother.  Another round of panic hit me, as my grandparents were both ill. If one of my grandparents had died, my husband would need to get in touch with my parents about funeral arrangements before my parents hopped a flight.  So I checked my voicemail.  For better or for worse, my mother was just calling to say hello.  She had apparently forgotten that I was running my first 50 mile that day.  I guess the mothers that remember their daughters’ marathons only exist in HondaCRV commercials after all.

I felt very good at this point, still, and was excited to go out on another loop.  I was also looking forward to the company, as I had run a good portion of the second loop alone.  There were a number of people hitting their drop bags wearing orange bibs.  I figured I’d see them out on the trail soon.  I was wrong.  They were all dropping. And I was ridiculously far into the back of the pack, due to my overly conservative race strategy.  Nobody was out there. I passed a couple of people during the first mile of the 3rd loop, and I think those guys ended up DNF’ing. 

That’s when I started to get really, really bored.   The trail was lovely and full of wildflowers, including little bluets, which are my favorite, and lady slippers, which might be my third favorite, but I’d seen it twice already.  I was bored like I had never been in my life. And I was so alone, all by myself.  I knew I had hours left to run, and I just so badly wanted to be doing something else or at least seeing another human being.  I focused on running aid-station to aid station, but I overstayed there mainly because I was so lonely.  I managed to run with the Coutos for about two miles, but mostly we leapfrogged one another.  They are nice but they are a couple, ya know?  I couldn’t third-wheel on them for too long.    All the fun was gone on Lap 3.  I had been transported into this black and white world where all the fun was erased and replaced with anti-fun. 

I saw two cutie patootie baby woodchucks out there, just sitting on the trail chewing on leaves.  Awww!  Fortunately, I was with the Coutos at the time, and the Mrs. warned me not to pet them, because she was sure they would bite.  The warning was appreciated.  That brought up my spirits for about five whole minutes.   Too bad there were hours left of not-fun.

I thought the hardest part of the course would be passing the beer tent at mile 45.  But when I got to mile 45, the situation was far worse.  The beer tent had been disassembled.  Instead, Ian Parlin ran over from a picnic table to pace along side me and check up with me on how I was doing. I was doing great, really, I was….  I felt wonderful.  Did I look so bad that the RD was concerned about me?   But a few seconds later I saw the kids again, and Brad, who had finished his first ultra.  They cheered me on, and the kids paced me to the Final Mile aid station.  I sent Audrey back to Gabe with my drop bag. 

The last five miles were awful.  Again, nothing hurt, but I was in a downward spiral of boredom.  The more bored I got, the slower I ran.  And the slower I ran, the more boring the course became.  I have to give a shout out to the fantastic young dudes at the Oak Hill aid station, who were amazing cheerleaders. I was convinced that when I went through the finish line, I was going to collapse – not because I was exhausted (I wasn’t, not really), and not out of pain (nothing hurt), but out of some sort of mental breakdown.  I realized then during those last 5 miles that I am just not cut out for races that last longer than 8 hours. 

I was determined to run the whole last mile, which actually, turned out to be not very difficult at all, and I even started enjoying myself again.  One of the exciting things about this course is that if you walk about 100 yards away from the finish line, you can see the whole last mile of the course winding through fields.  I could see my family waiting for me, and I waved to them.  My girls ran into the finish line again with me, much like they did last year for the 50K, and helped me collect my pint glass, hat, and super awesome red cowbell. 

Going through the finish!

I didn’t collapse at the end.  In fact, as soon as I saw actual human beings, I was fine.  The crowd had thinned and only a few dozen people were left at the finish.  I got a hug and congratulations from my local pal Brenda Morris.  All the folks who were staying at campsite next to me were still hanging out, presumably to watch the last people finish.  They are an incredibly classy bunch. I think I will stay till the last person is in from now on.  But they didn’t have long to wait after me.  Even though there was nearly an hour until the cut-off, the guy who came in DFL finished only a few minutes after I did, and there was nobody else on course.   Alas, I didn’t even get the honor of DFL.

So, I don’t think I’ll do another one of these.  I could probably train up and get faster.  And, actually, I’m not that slow.  I can pound out a 24 minute 5K.  But I doubt I’ll ever be able to train the lazy out of me, and over the course of 50 miles, the lazy is going to win.   I’m wondering if it is essentially “out of my system” now.  Fine, I ran 50 miles, and I ran it badly.  Or did I?  I’m completely uninjured, and I physically felt great the whole time.  Would things have been better if I’d simply not run so damn slow?  I may never know because I told my husband to take away my credit cards if I ever start thinking of running a 50 miler again. (Update, May 2013 - I ran another, and I had a great time.  But you knew that was going to happen, didn't you?)

The aftermath:

The Bradbury Mountain State Park showers are awesome because they have a handicap bench,  which came in handy when I wanted to wash the grime off my legs.  I need to get a new watch, because this is what the band and clasp did to me.

Chomp - under the left rib.  Doesn't hurt, though.

 I want a Soleus 1.0, but I’m on the fence about that, because I quit running.   Only I backslid pretty quickly on that one. The 50 miler was on Sunday, and Tuesday I was in DC.  It was 96 degrees, but I went out for a 3miler anyway, on the little wooded trail behind the conference center.  Two days off my 50 miler, and was dusting the other attendees.  I had a great time, so I went back out twice on that path the next day.  I don’t think quitting running is going to work. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

TARC Spring Thaw 6 Hour Report

Better late then never with a Race Report!

On, March 18, 2012, I ran my first timed race, the TARC Spring Thaw 6 hour.    This was the inaugural year for the TARC Spring Thaw 6 hour, and my first timed event ever.
Race director Emily Trespas, of the Trail Animals Running Club put on a fantastic event on trails owned by the Andover Villiage Improvement SocietyHere she describes her efforts to clear out the trail before our race!  Emily is awesome. 

The course was a 3.5 lollipop loop with a 0.5 mile “stick” and a 2.5 mile loop. The stem started in the parking area of Andover High, but quickly darted off road into the woods.  Then, there was about a half mile “stick” on the lollipop, and we took a left at a bench to begin the loop.  The trail  was all single track, and all very runnable, but certainly not easy.  While nothing was overly technical, one did have to pay attention to the footing.  It was rocky, but not too rocky.  It was rooty and stumpy, but not too rooty and stumpy.  There was mud, and some of it was thick, but just enough to make it fun rather than miserable.  We only had to jump over one log.  There were two wood bridges, which were dry, and a few muddy patches with logs covering them. Between mile 1 and mile 2, the course ran next to a large beaver pond, but somehow, magically, did not require us to actually go through the beaver pond.  How did Emily manage that?  There were a couple of hills, but they were all short, and only one of them, at around the 2 mile mark, was a definite walker.  Just after mile 2 on the loop, volunteers were manning a campfire and were roasting marshmallows (yum!). About a half mile later, there were some goats.  And then, you reached the bench at the stem of the lollipop. At the end, if we felt that we didn’t have time to complete a full loop, we could either run to the 0.5 mile mark and back for 1 mile, or to the 1 mile mark and back for 2 miles.  We just had to inform the crew of our plans before we left. 

As for my goals, I wasn’t too optimistic going in.  A couple of days before the race, I made the mistake of sorting the other entrants by their ranking on ultrasignup and in the process, I discovered that I was one of the lowest ranked women.  Boo!  I was hoping that this wouldn’t be my first DFL.  My distance goal was to complete a marathon, but given my level of ability, while it wasn’t a stretch, it also wasn’t a sure thing.  I ran a marathon in 5:24 at Stone Cat, but that was an easy course in excellent weather.  It took me 6:10 to complete Nipmuck, which is a more difficult course

Beyond distance, I had some training goals in mind, though.  They were as follows:
1.     Stay out for all six hours, which I was definitely fit enough to accomplish.
2.     No caffeine binge.  Don’t get me wrong, I love caffeine, and I drink the hell out of it.  But there’s no excuse for the way I’ve been consuming caffeine at races.  If I don’t get this problem under control, I’m probably going to have to move up to crack.
3.     Stay AWAY from the gummy bears.  I have a real weakness for those little bastards, even when not running.  
We were greeted at the start by Race Director Emily Trespas and a Yeti.  No kidding, a Yeti!

The weather was in the 50s and nice to start out with.  In the pre-race briefing, we were informed that timing would be done using a wall-mount clock at the start/finish area, and a pen and paper to count the laps.  There were 75 runners, and at 9AM sharp, we were off!

          I remembered my sorry-ass ranking, and how outclassed I was at this event, and stuck near the back as we headed out in the conga line.  The trail was a bit crowded during loop 1, but everyone was in good spirits and chatting as we ran through the forest.  It got a little hairy on the stick of the lollipop, as the faster runners were starting their 2nd loop and the slower folks were plodding through the end of their first. 
Loop 1 time:  40:30.  Total miles, 3.5

To start Loop 2, I took off my arm sleeves, grabbed my handheld, and headed into the forest again.  This time the crowd was a bit more spread out.  I picked up a marshmallow at the campfire.  As I was approaching the aid station, the Yeti jumped out from behind a tree and almost caught me! 
Total time:  1:21.  Loop time:  40:30.  Total miles 7.0

I refilled my handheld, grabbed a couple of Oreos, and headed out for Loop 3. This was probably my low point.  My stomach wasn’t feeling so great, and the people I was running with kept talking about poop and farts.  As fascinating as bowel movements are (and I’m not being sarcastic in the least), it didn’t help my stomach.  So after checking in, I went and hit the portapotties over by the baseball field at the high school.  They weren’t all that close to the race site, but oh well.
Total time:  2:04 total, Loop time: 43:00.  Total miles 10.5.

I refilled the handheld again, grabbed some potato chips and a few cookies, and headed out.  Some absolute saint brought ginger snaps to the aid station.. I felt much better during Loop 4, but started to feel a bit sleepy.  Sleepy?  At 11 AM?  I decided that I would dip into the magic caffeine and have ONE cup of coke for my next loop.
Total  time:  2:54 total. Loop time:  50:00.  (The porta john trip was tacked onto this loop).  Total miles 14.0

To start Loop 5, I grabbed that ONE Dixie cup of coke.  Ten minutes later, I was flying.  I was passing people left and right, and I felt amazing.  Caffiene is a beautiful thing.  And this is how I overdo it with the caffeine every time.  I drink it, and it rocks my world, so I drink more!  And then I drink MORE!  And MORE!  But I wasn’t going to let that happen this time.
Total time: 3:39 total. Loop time:  45:00 for the loop.  Total miles:  17.5

At the start of Loop 6, it was beginning to get hot.  I grabbed a handful of ice from the aid station and shoved it in my cap.   I had a half cup of coke, grabbed a pretzel and more ginger snaps, and dashed back out.  I was feeling really strong and confident, and was enjoying the idea that I didn’t have to pace myself anymore. 
Total time:  4:22.  Loop time:  43 minutes.  Total miles:  21

I still felt great heading out for loop 7, but things were starting to fall off the rails a bit mentally. There were snakes on the trail!  And every time I’d approach, I’d hear them slithering away through the leaves.  I love snakes, but the noise would scare me and I’d run really fast for a few yards.  Near the goats, I passed a dude hurling.  Then the hurling dude passed me 5 minutes later , and left me in the dust  (ouch).  I was also trying to figure out whether or not I’d have enough time to risk an eighth loop.    Trail math was NOT working out at all.  I decided that I needed to make it in by 5:12 to be able to confidently complete an eighth loop, but did that even make sense?  I didn’t know.  As I came back in from loop 7, lots of runners were sitting down, deciding they were done for the day.  And, just as I was running towards the check point, I saw my daughters dashing towards me.

 But the clock said 5:08, which meant I had enough time for loop 8.  I yelled, “I’m going around again! Whoohoo!”
Total  time:  5:08.  Loop time: 46 minutes.  Total miles: 24.5

Loop 8.  Now, could I finish the loop?  I wasn’t sure.  I had 52 minutes to do it, which meant that I could walk a bit more than previous loops, but I still needed to keep moving.  I should make it back, but only if nothing went wrong.  I felt okay, but I couldn’t manage to swallow the two ginger snaps I took out with me.  The whole loop, I was trying to figure out if I had enough time to finish.   I was starting to doubt it, and I felt like there was no way I’d complete the loop.  But just as I hit that low point of self doubt, I heard a crowd, and saw a handful of people sitting on the bench at the base of the stick.  Yay!  I was going to make it! 

Final time, 5:56:58, Loop:  46 minutes.  Total miles:  28. 

I was definitely not DFL, YAY!  It was good enough for 4th out of 21 ladies!