Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Salomon Trail Running Festival at Pineland Farms 50 Mile

"If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be." -- Maya Angelou

As we celebrate the life of the inspirational poet, teacher, and civil rights leader, it is important to look within oneself and see what we are truly capable of. 

Race: Salomon Trail Running Festival at Pineland Farms 50 Mile
Location: New Gloucester, ME
Date: 5/27/2014

Distance: 50 Miles
Goal Time:  8:00 (3 hours 39 minutes faster then Virgil)
Actual Time: 7:38:35 (9:10 / mile) (3 Hour PR)
Place: 13 / 96 OA, 4 / 29 AG

This past weekend we headed back up to the trail running festival at Pineland Farms (now sponsored by Salomon) for our 3rd year in a row.  We stayed with our friends Julie and Dale again and brought a full entourage with us (Laura, her friend Aishling, Jen and Keith).

This year I was graduating to the 50 mile race after having taken on the 25K and 50K races over the past two years.  The festival is always a good time with multiple races over two days in such a family friendly setting.  Two years ago Amy was 8 months pregnant with Neil and last year was just before Neil's first birthday, so it is a fun benchmark to look back at.

Neil and I got over to the farm around 9:30 Saturday morning (Amy and Laura biked over).  We ran into Erin, Tim, and Keagen upon arrival.  They were doing the switcharoo with Tim running the 10K and Erin running the 5K.  Next up we ran into Dana who was doing the 5K with her dog on Saturday and the 25K on Sunday and our friend Sue who had recently moved back to Maine and was doing the 5K.   Shaun, Chris, and Alison were also in attendance (and ran the 25K on Sunday).

Jen, Keith, and Aishling showed up just before 11 and in time to watch Amy, Laura, Sue, and Erin head out in the 5K.    Following the race and our complimentary beers, we headed to the market to get lunch before heading back to Julie and Dale's for the afternoon (and to let Neil get in his nap).

Race day began bright and early with a wake up time of 5am.  After a quick bowl of oatmeal, Keith and I were on our way.  We arrived at the race just after 5:30 and were ready to start within 15 minutes.  After sizing up the competition, aka looking at like minded people wondering how they too got themselves into this predicament, the race director gave us a quick briefing and then we were off.  

The course was a 3.5 mile pre-loop that mostly followed the 5K route (that I had jogged the day before) followed by three 15.5 mile loops (which I had run cumulatively over the past 2 years).  There are no terribly challenging parts of the course, but none of it is flat either.  The constant ups and downs due take a toll on you.

Keith and I took off strong dropping two sub 8 minute miles before slowing down on the 3rd mile due to the hills.  After we began our first full loop, we ran into guy named Daryl who directs the Stone Mill 50 down in Maryland.  After couple miles quickly passed by as we chatted, Daryl took off claiming to see us later when faded (I caught him around mile 27). 

We were holding a pretty good groove over the first 14 miles with the occasional walking of a hill.  As we crossed through the middle off the course (the course was divided with about 10 miles to west of the start / finish area and 5.5 miles to the east) the 50K was lined up and just about ready to start.  We were still holding well under 9 minute pace at this point and were wondering if we could get through the next 20 miles before any of the 50Kers caught us.  

We finished the first full loop feeling good and began our way out on the second.  A couple of miles later Keith's lack of training / rest started to catch up with him (A week and a half in the Adirondack's with high school students is probably not the ideal rest week).  By mile 25 Keith said he was going to bail at 31 and sent me on my way with the task of going sub 8 (which I was still chuckling at the idea of).  

I picked the pace back up and as I went through the middle section and waved to Amy and Neil and
only half coherently responded to Amy's question of where's Keith with "Who's Keith."  Snapping out of daze, I stopped and told her what was happening, gave her a kiss, and was on my way.  I was still feeling good at this point and managed to knock out the next 5 miles in the high 8s / low 9s. 
As I finished the second lap Neil was their cheering for me.  It was a nice adrenaline boost as my legs were really starting to hurt and I knew the next 15.5 miles were not going to be an easy task.  By mile 38 I was really having to push and was looking hard to find any increase in grade so I could rationalize walking.  

The mindset in races like these presents an interesting paradox: "Do I walk (less pain) or do I push on running (less time)".  Rationally I generally push towards the second, which is why contemplating ever doing a 100 miler seems so mentally taxing to me.  

At this point in the race I was primarily living off of shot blocks, Swedish fish, and Gatorade.  Looking for a PB and J I found some similar concoction made out of a tortilla, but tossed it after a couple of quick bites.  The primary rule of ultra running, "Don't try to eat anything on race day you haven't tried during training." A sure recipe for disaster (the same rule hold true for long distance triathlon).  

As I reached the 40's each step hurt more and more.  In an attempt to take my mind away from the pain at hand I thought back to a book that I read called "Eat and Run" by ultra runner Scott Jurek.  Two main passages that came back to me.  The first had to due with the fact the impact of running is often worse then amount of energy needed to move.  I still had plenty of energy, but the impact of each step were sending sharp pains through my quads (which lasted for about 3 days following the race).  The second had to due with how we rationalize our actions.  “Rational assessments too often led to rational surrenders.” At this point in the race, I was attempting to irrationally think rationally, if that makes any sense. 

Luckily, I was able to pull some strength from the runners I was passing as they shouted words of encouragement (All I really wanted to do was just lie down on the side of the trail).  I have to give credit to all those out there crazy enough to tackle an ultra.  Being on the trails for 30 plus miles is tough day no matter how you spin it.  

As I reached the mid section on my final loop the clock read 6:48.  If I could just hold 12-13 minute pace for the final 5.5 miles then I would achieve my goal of 8 hours.  After two sub 10 minute miles, I re-calculated that I now needed 15ish pace.  Finally as I got into the final mile, I could feel the magnetic pull of the finish and was able to speed up to sub 9 minute pace.  

As I popped out of the woods, Keith appeared and jogged me into the finish.  I tried my best to smile for the camera, and even laughed a little as I looked at the race clock: 7:38:35

3 hr, 25 second Personal Best

After I collected my awards (a giant cowbell, a pair of Darn Tough Socks, a pair of Salomon trail running gators, and an aluminum water bottle), I thought I might collapse.  Luckily Dana appeared out of nowhere got me some water and saved the day.  A few minutes later Amy and Neil made their way over and I quickly grabbed some food, my two free Shipyards, and finally found a spot to sit down (not sure if I was ever to stand again).  

Additional Notes
- The weather was nearly perfect for a 50 mile race: 48 degrees and overcast to start the day and warmed up to sunny mid 60s around noon.  
- Special thanks to Julie and Dale for hosting us, our friends, and helping out with Neil.  Makes the whole weekend that much more fun and easier on all of us.
- Special thanks to all our friends for coming up for a fun weekend and coming to the race / and or racing.  
- Congratulations to Erin for taking 2nd women overall in the 5K

Less then 7 weeks until the Leadville 50 Miler.

- Multisport Maniac 

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