I completed my 3rd (and thus far hardest) ultra-marathon this past weekend up in Pownal, ME. After a nice flat 50K in Florida in April of 2011 and then a hilly race in Vermont the following September, I thought I had found something in between the two. I couldn't have been more wrong.
In the back of my mind I knew it might be a tough race when the race director described it as having its share of "gnarly single track", but the total climbing was supposed to be roughly 1000' less then Vermont. Throw in a few days of pouring rain before the race and the fact that it was in its inaugural year, and bam! you got your self one tough race. Just as the website says, "Maine needs some more bad ass ultras!"
We headed out of town around 4:30pm last Friday, picking Jen up in Lexington and then sitting in stop-and-go traffic until we crossed RT 1 (on 95). Jen volunteered to keep Amy and Neil company for most of the race and then run me in for the final few miles.
Julie and Dale hosted us for the weekend and started us off with a wonderful lasagna dinner on Friday's arrival. After a good nights sleep (special thanks to Neil for sleeping straight through) we had a quick breakfast of eggs before heading over to the race.
After picking up my registration and t-shirt we hung out in the elementary school gym for about 45 minutes before heading over to the start line. We admired the award trophies that had been made by the local 3rd graders.
The 50K course consisted of two 15.7 mile loops (yes 2 X 15.7 != 31, but we call that ultra marathon math, you always get a little bonus). The loop begins with a quick ascent and descent of Bradbury Mountain (1.7 miles), followed by flat, but technical back loop (5.4 miles). From there you go around the back side of the mountain (partially ascending and descending, 2.5 miles) before you begin another small loop (the only non-technical part of the course, 2.9 miles). The final 3.2 miles consists of a full ascent and descent of the mountain.
The race started with about 20 yards of grass running followed by a 600 ft climb to the top of Bradbury Mountain (a Mountain I would summit 4.5 times that day). After a solid climb (entirely run, no walking) and jumping over some puddles, I descended down the back side at a good clip before disappearing into the 5.4 mile loop. The course was quite wet, really muddy and slippery, and I did all I could to stay on my feet.
Around mile 5 during a short descent I caught my left foot on a root and went ass over tea kettle slamming into the ground. I bounced up quickly and shook it off impressing a fellow runner. As I reached the 7.1 mile aid station I realized I opened up a nice gash on my knee and the blood had reached my sock. The volunteers informed me that it adds character in which I responded that I had seen worse.
After fighting my way over to the western side of he course and completing the back mile loop I began my 2nd ascent of Bradbury Mountain and back towards the school to complete the 1st lap. With about 2/3 of a mile to go I blew straight through a turn losing the course and descending 200 or so feet over a 1/2 mile before realizing I was going the wrong direction. If there is one thing that can destroy you mentally in a race it is getting lost while going down hill. As I walked back up to the course, I found a fellow lost runner and together we jogged back up to the course as I slowly got out of my funk.
By the half way mark, I had already put 1.5 bonus miles (along with the .4 the race had spotted us), which now put me on pace for the longest run of my life. Upon completion of my 3rd full ascent of the mountain I was starting to feel pretty well and picked the pace back up as a went down the back side. After getting lost once, my mind was already playing tricks on me and after not seeing any trail markers for a 1/4 mile, I was convinced I was lost again and turned around. After another partial ascent, I quickly found out that I was still on the correct trail so I turned around and trucked back down. From there on out I was able to stay on the trail without too much trouble, but had already put a serious hurt on my body.
After some grilled cheese at a near by aid station, another slippery 5.4 loop, and a little more, climbing I reached the aid station at mile 27 where Jen joined me for the remaining 6 miles of the race. Neil was hanging out and cheering me on also which put a smile on my face.
The first 3 miles with Jen weren't too bad with some dirt road and flat wide trails. From there we had our final ascent up Bradbury Mountain through some quite technical terrain before we hit the finish. One trail, nick-named the Billy Goat Trail, required use of all 4 limbs just to keep moving forward.
As we made our final descent, and the grass behind the school came into view, I was thankful that it was finally over. Upon crossing the finish line, I received my 50K Pounders sweatshirt and slowly (very slowly) made my way back to the school to change and get something to eat.
After talking to some other finishers, I quickly found out I was not the only one who struggled with the course. I was glad to have another tough long race under my belt, as I plan for the next year.
- 33 Miles, 6:07:17, 11:07 / mile, 4841' of climbing, ~ 4000+ Calories Burned
- 13 / 41 (4 DNF's for the 50K)
- The 50 mile version (which started in the pitch dark in pouring rain) began with 24 runners of which 10 finished, 12 dropped down to the 35 mile bail out, and 2 DNF
- From what I heard, at least 10 of the 65 runners got lost at some point while out on the trail
- GPS: (Ran out of juice at the 31 mile point)
- To Julie and Dale for hosting and feeding us
- To Jen for running the final 7 miles with me and keeping me from going insane
- To Amy and Neil for being phenomenal race support and cheering me all over the course
The Charity Bet
I didn't hit my goal time of 5 hours, which really was some what arbitrarily selected as I didn't truly know what I was getting myself into. None the less I want to give a special shout out to all of those who participated: Amy, Gary, Nicole, Harrison, and Keith. All donations went to the American Cancer Society in honor of breast cancer awareness month. Estimated total at: $144.60. Click to donate