Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pineland Farms 50-Mile Trail Challenge Race Report

Like the previous two years, some benevolent God smiled on New Gloucester for the third annual Pineland Farms Trail Challenge. Unlike the prior two runnings, this version included a 50 Mile option on top of the traditional 25K and 50K. I had run the 50K the past two years, posting pretty good results (5th place each year in times around 4:12 and won my age group both times) but I had very little idea of what a 50 mile race would be like on the course. I should state for the record that I have run a 50 mile training run out at Pineland. This was during last summer's training for the Vermont 100, but this was my first race. To add to the mystique of what this race would have to offer, this was only my second attempt at racing 50 miles. So I entered this race expecting some surprises, and I did not disappoint myself, especially when I thought I saw Papa Smurf. All told, I had a great race. If you would have asked me to tell you about the race after mile 40, I would provide an entirely different assessment!

I arrived at Pineland near 5 AM to give myself time to set up our little camp for the day (sun shelter, chairs, etc.) and to pick up my race packet. Sitting in the registration area when I arrived was my buddy, Jamie Anderson, suited up in his new Trail Monster singlet. As I pinned on my race number and got things in order, we chatted about Jamie's upcoming Western States 100 and my pacing duties, as well as game plans for the day. As we were sitting there chatting, my buddy and Vermont 100 pacer Brian walked in. He is recovering from a nasty case of plantar fasciitis and was planning on running a few miles of the start with me. If there was an All Star league of 100-mile pacers, Brian would be an excellent inductee. About 15 minutes before the race we all headed over to the start area where runners were congregating for the 6 AM start.

The Pineland Farms course consists of a 25K, or 15.5 mile, loop. The 50 mile course consists of three loops with an additional 3+ mile loop at the beginning that brings you back to the start. Each loop consists of two sub loops which are divided by the Start/Finish line. Therefore, a runner in the 50 Mile race passes the finish line 6 times. On a hot day when you are exhausted and being chased by smurfs, this is sheer cruelty and demands the most of one's discipline to keep running. I can attest to this fact.

As the gun went off at 6:05 AM, there were roughly 70+ runner for the inaugural 50 Mile race. Included in this group was Leigh Schmitt, the winner of the 50K for the past two years. There was no doubt in my mind that this was his race to lose, and he did not disappoint. The start was a bit chilly so I donned my Moeben sleeves (awesome product that is very much like cycling arm warmers but with the added touch of pockets on the upper arm to stash a gel, some S-caps, or the like). They were perfect to combat the chill on my arms while allowing me to display my new Trail Monster singlet. This was in fact the first race I have ever run as part of a team (and one our team would have won if not for a freaky shoe choice by a team member - you know who you are!!!).

Toeing the line, I had no idea what game plan I was going to follow. I had somewhat settled on the idea of just going out easy with Jamie and hanging with him for at least the first lap. I am pacing him in a month at Western States so I am always looking for opportunities to "practice". However, once the cow bell went off and we got a mile in, I couldn't stand watching scores of runners go by so I severed the cord and ran my own race. Brian joined me just before we completed the first mini three mile loop and ran along for the next few miles. At the Yurt aid station near mile 6, I stopped for a bio break which turned into an epic struggle with the toilet paper roll (never be the first in a new porta john if you need to get out fast) and I wasted about 5 minutes. By the time I emerged for fresh air, Jamie and Emma had caught me again. Hating the thought of losing all that ground, I turned up the pace and raced through the terribly cambered fields for about 15 minutes before catching the group I had been running with. My legs were feeling really good at that point so after emerging into the Valley Farm Loop around Mile 8-9 I split from this rag tag group and set out on my own.

It wasn't until about Mile 20 that I caught up with the lead woman and eventual women's winner, Aliza LaPierre of Team Inov-8, that I had company. I ran with her for the next 15 or so miles. Her consist pace was really helpful in keeping me focused and moving. She motored right up the hills. At this point I had resorted to power walking the hills and then I'd catch her pretty immediately on the downs. This is a similar tactic I used at VT 100 and will continue to do so in future 100s: walk the ups and run the downs and flats no matter how tired. It works well for me.

I must admit that starting the third lap was extremely hard. Seeing all those nice, clean people eating MY hamburgers and drinking MY beer was tough. But I soldiered on, now in the company of Aliza's husband who was pacing her the last lap. I hung with them until about mile 41-42 when I stopped at the last Yurt aid station for a refill. At this point I was pretty overheated and was filling my bottle with water and ice at every stop. I had failed to eat properly early on and this had left me in a pretty good bonk. Also, I had started ingesting Coca Cola at about mile 30 so the sugar spikes and crashes were pretty obvious. The only way to combat this is to keep drinking the junk. Luckily it did work wonders on settling my stomach. The potatoes dipped in salt were pretty good too, but at this point it was too little, too late. The rest of the race was a struggle, and one I endured by my lonesome. My vision started getting freaky in the Campus Loop and continued into the Gloucester Hill and Oak Hill loops. I was having a hard time focusing and I was stumbling ever so slightly; enough to worry about finishing. A couple times Papa Smurf actually tried to trip me up, yet I kept motoring.

As I passed through the start on my way to the other side of the road for the final loop I really wanted to pull into my tent and go to sleep. (This was when I saw a friend with what appeared to be six beers in his hands yelling encouragement to me and if I had the energy I would have run over to him and taken "my" beer back!) Passing the finish line so many times is really cruel and unusual punishment. Anyway, I moved across the street and ran in a daze until I got to the Oak Hill Aid Station where my buddy James was working and I saw the "antifreeze" on the table. It has been probably 10 years since I last drank Mountain Dew and good thing. James filled my MD cup with ice and I downed it quicker than a shot of tequila. After sitting there for about 10 seconds, James asked me not so kindly to vacate his space. So I did, but not before grabbing a handful of M&Ms! Boy were they good. Mile 47, the last pre-Mountain Dew mile was run at a +13 Mile pace. The last two miles, post-Mountain Dew were about 3-4 minutes quicker. I finished strong and happy, carrying my two kids across the finish with me as I have done at every "big" race since Ironman LP. (This was the first time Riley wanted to be put down because I was "stinky".) The finish line was a blur and I talked to many of my friends but really have very little recollection of the conversations I had 10 minutes after I finished.
Very strange.

At any rate, my time of 7:50 was a PR (my first 50M was the JFK 50 in November 2006 and was done in something like 7:54 and the course is considerably easier than Pineland). This finish was good enough for the 34 and Under age group title for the 3rd year straight but not quick enough to even be considered in the same hemisphere as Leigh Schmitt's unbelievable 6:35 something. It also earned me another one of the coolest trophies out there (by my opinion): a trail shoe footprint in "mud" and another cow bell medal! You just can't have too many.

Despite how I felt, this race was a tremendous confidence booster for my pacing duty at WS 100 and my race at VT 100. All told, I had a great race. If you would have asked me to tell you about the race starting at mile 40, I would provide an entirely different assessment! Good times.

If you are so inclined, check out the results at the Pineland Trail Challenge website. If you are even more inclined, sign up for one of these three races next year or if you raced this year, upgrade to the next distance. This is the best directed race in the New England, designed and run by runners for runners. Oh yeah, there's free beer.

Monday, May 26, 2008

All Prize Winners

This weekend was a good racing weekend for the Wells family. On Sunday I once again claimed the title of "Lawn Boy" at the Pineland Farms Trail Challenge 50 Miler. This is the title given to the 34 and Under age group winner. I have come to love this title as this is my third year straight winning this award. Next year I will have to relinquish this title; I become old at 35. (Pineland race report to follow shortly.)

More exciting was Kelly and Riley's performance at the Cumberland Memorial Mile and Half Mile. Riley ran the half mile for the first time and placed 3rd in her age group!!! Check out the results for the Cumberland Memorial Mile. (Note that 1st and 2nd place in her age group were 4 years old!) She won an ice cream cone for her effort. Expect great things from this little runner. And like her mother, she was smiles the entire time. Next up was Kelly in the Mile. It has become quite a Memorial Day tradition that Kelly brings home a pie from this race. Today was no exception. She won her age group and we feasted on a strawberry and rhubarb pie!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

50 miles...

Tomorrow morning at 6 AM the gun goes off for the inaugural Pineland Farms Trail Challenge 50 Miler, and I will be among the starters.

This week's running has been all about leg preparation for tomorrow's race. Tuesday and Wednesday I ran pretty quick over a 6.3 mile course from my home (both early morning, pre-work). Thursday and Friday I ran shorter runs from work, just to keep the legs fresh. Today I rested the legs, with the exception of the half day I spent volunteering at the race start. This was partially for fun and to hang out with friends and partially to fulfill my 8-hour volunteer commitment for the Vermont 100. It was a fun day and I had the whole family with me helping out, and we all had a great time.

Now I am off to rest, and hopefully to get a full night's sleep (my kids don't grant me this wish often). I am a little nervous about the run. I am not sure why, since the race is well done and the weather is looking great (sunny and 70). Also, I got my official Trail Monster running singlet and will proudly be wearing it tomorrow. Here's to a great race!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Some good miles and Pineland 50

First off, congratulations to James Demer for his 7th place finish at the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 miler in VA this past weekend. James completed this extremely difficult course in 25:23:30, allowing him the honor of seeing two sunrises while running! To read more about James's race, check out Jamie's blog. Jamie was James's pacer, which is the same role I am to perform for Jamie at next month's Western States 100.

Last week I got some pretty good mileage in. Just over 60 miles which included a couple early morning runs to work, the last on Friday at 14.5 miles. I ran a different route than I have been running and I thoroughly enjoyed the new scenery. Not that this is a new route to me but new in the mode of transportation. I usually will bike this route home so when I ran in Friday morning it was in the opposite direction, hence a new route. The run was good but a little slower than I am used to running my morning runs in due to the number of hills that dot this course. Also, I rode the bike for the first this season a couple times this week which left me a little tired. Good training run, with the last couple miles done at a 7:15 pace and the last half mile at 6:45.

Friday morning stats: 14.5 miles / 1:52:20 / 7:46 pace

Saturday was my only non-running day last week and I spent the morning with the family and got an early jump on some yard work. The day wasn't completely training-free; I got to mow the lawn with Riley in a backpack on my back. Sunday AM I was back at it, hitting Pineland at 5 AM in a slight drizzle and I met up with my buddy Jim and his running buddy Chip. Chip is also running the Mount Washington Hill Climb and the two of us will be ferried down the hill by Jamie after the race. The three of us really had a great run out there and surprisingly only came across a few other runners the entire three hours I was out there. This shocks me given the fact that the Pineland Farms Trail Challenge is only next weekend and the deer flies have not arrived en masse yet.

Sunday stats: 19 miles / 2:53:03 / 9:09 pace (I am guessing this is the pace I will be lucky to keep at next weekends 50 miler) / 2300 feet of elevation gain and loss (see the elevation chart)

So Sunday is the Pineland Farms Trail Challenge. I just signed up tonight to run the 50 miler. In my mind, this race is the premier event of the Maine running season. Great race. Great directorship. All around great time. Sign up now. In light of this race, I will take it pretty easy this week with a couple rest days mixed in versus my standard one. This should keep my legs nice and fresh. Here's looking forward to a great race!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Saving gas...and another tattoo?

The first half of this running week has gone well. I took off Sunday for Mom's day, which allowed me to get up and cook breakfast for the family and then take the kids to watch Mom run the Mother's Day 5K in Portland. As she always does, Kelly barely broke a sweat and smiled the entire time.

Monday's run was quite easy and done with the boys at work. We hit the L.L.Bean 10K course at and extremely pedestrian pace, clocking in 6.1 miles in 47:36 (7:46 pace), nothing spectacular. We were all quite tired from the previous weeks running/racing. Yesterday I got out sans technology so I have no idea for how long or how far I ran. The primary goal was to deliver a number of packages to the post office to receive postage. It's always rewarding to perform chores without having to burn gas...and I got a good workout in to. I continued the run after the post office drop for a total run somewhere near 5.5 miles in near 37-38 minutes. It was a quick run, aided by the stop at the post office after the first mile.

Tuesday night I biked home from work (my first time on the bike since last summer) so I could run in this morning. The bike ride was done at near 70 degrees while this morning's run started off in the mid-30s. A little chilly for mid-May but it quickly warmed up. The run was 12 miles in a nearly identical time as last Friday's run, 1:32:00, a 7:38 pace. My plan is to repeat this bike home, run to work tomorrow. It works out well and also reduces my gas expenditure. I recommend everyone try it. This regimen will fix what ails us all.

And tonight...there is another tattoo in the family. But it is not ink in my skin but my wife Kelly's. She lived up to her part of the bargain and got a Tree of Life tattoo, like me, but with a very feminine touch to it. Jen at Sanctuary Tattoo here in Portland did it. Great work from a very cool woman. Check out the photo.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Great job Blaine

Here's a shout out to Blaine Moore for winning the Providence Marathon on May 4th. Not much I can say but wow! Given that this was the inaugural edition, I am assuming this race will be on Blaine's radar to continue his streak of being the only winner of this race, ever. Go get 'em Blaine. Hope to see you back in the dirt soon.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

100th Post and 50 Mile Jitters

Welcome to my 100th blog post! I first "blogged" on July 15th, 2007, a mere two weeks before my first attempt at running the 100 Mile distance. Here I am ten months later posting number 100 a little over two months before my second 100 Miler. Hopefully what I have written has struck a cord with some of you and given humor to the rest. As I do with my running pursuits (and all other aspects of my life) I will continue to improve my blogging with every post. My mission will remain the same: show what a cancer survivor, who pre-cancer was fairly unmotivated in the way of running and fitness in general, can do when faced with a life-death situation and given the chance to turn his life around. Having said that, let's talk training...

In two weeks I have my first 50 Mile race of the season: Ian Parlin's most excellent Pineland Farms Trail Challenge on Memorial Day weekend. This is by far the best race of the year in Maine, and I challenge anyone to disagree. If you do, come with some pretty good reasons because all I have to say is cowbell and free Gritty's beer!!! So to prepare for this race, I have stepped up my training. Since it has been over a week since my lost post, I am going to only fill you in on the highlights. I have hit the part of my training where my weekly mileage starts creeping up to 50+ mile weeks to 75+ in a few weeks. The last two weeks I have got in the 50 mile weeks largely by adding back-to-back long runs, which is a superb training idea for ultras. The last two Fridays I ran to work (love using less gas) followed by a long run at Pineland on Saturday. This works well for me because it gives me at least one day of the weekend when I can wake up with the kids and try to help Kelly in the kitchen. Plus sleep is good.

Details. Yesterday's work run was pretty uneventful after the first ten minutes. During that initial ten minutes, I heard a pileated woodpecker but was unable to find it in the trees. A quarter mile up the road as I rounded a bend there sat not five feet from me not one but two pileated woodpeckers on a telephone pole, nearly within arms reach. What a cool looking bird. They both hopped from the pole to a nearby tree and as they landed they splayed their wing feathers giving me a great view of their entire wingspan. After that there wasn't much to note. Total run was short at 13 miles due to early morning work I had to get done.

Today I met Jamie at Pineland at 5 AM. What I thought was going to be a wet, sloppy slog through the wet trails turned out to be one of the most pleasant running days yet this season. We ran together for about 10 mile before returning to the parking lot to meet the other runners who decided to "sleep in" and join us at 7 AM. In the past I have also noted to myself how few runners take advantage of the great running Pineland has to offer. On any given Saturday or Sunday I might only see one or two runners. Well that changed today. By the time we had set off with the 7 AM late sleepers, our group had swelled to 17. I found this to be a bit unsettling, to have this many people running together (on a non-race day) on the trails that I have always run solo or in small groups. But I am ecstatic that this many people have discovered the great running out there. Eventually the group did break up and even Jamie split off from me leaving me to run with my L.L.Bean buddy Tom and a new running friend I met today. We ran another couple miles for what added up to a 23 mile day for me in 3:28. My overall pace was just around a 9:00 minute mile.

Now I have to say one last thing. To get this nice even 23 miles I had to add on .22 miles once I reached the parking lot and all the other runners. In the past I have come out publicly and stated that to add on such trivial miles at the end of long runs for the simple sake of finishing with a nice round number is sheer insanity and makes no sense. Well today I am saying I am a hypocrite since I also fell for the maniacal pursuit of the even number. I have to ask myself though: does running 23 today make me a better runner than if I had run 22.87?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

L.L.Bean Trails and Pineland

So I am back from vacation and already miss the warm weather. Tomorrow I am heading out early in the AM for a long run to work and the temps are planned in the mid-30s,a far cry from the mid-60s I was running in last week. Regardless, I am looking forward to a nice, early AM jaunt to start the day. Not a bad way to save some petrol.

Unfortunately, last week I missed my goal of 10-milers everyday, by a long way. I did get in a couple good 10-milers and a shorter 5-miler (although a profitable $$$ one). Frankly, I got bored of running on a flat beach. If you would have asked me a couple weeks ago if I thought I could ever get bored of running on the beach, I would have laughed at you. Now I know how much I enjoy the woods of New England.

This past week I got back to the woods. Yesterday and today I hit the trails behind L.L.Bean's corporate HQ for some fantastic, yet wet, runs. The rains from earlier this week left the trails quite waterlogged but very passable. It was quite nice to break up the road runs.

As stated above, my runs last week tapered off after the initial couple 10-milers with a single 5-miler. I found myself not wanting to take any more time away from the family time that is way too rare with both my wife and I working full time jobs. So I slept in and spent the mornings and afternoons with the kids. The one 5-miler I did get in netted me a nice Benjamin that I found washed up in a jetty, and which I distributed to my bar mates later that night. After Thursday and a 17 hour drive over the weekend, my next run was on Monday. I have got a run in each day this week, with one day spent on the treadmill and a couple days spent in the woods. Tomorrow I head out for a road run to work and then Saturday I am planning on running Pineland for the first time this season. I'll be out there at 5 AM if anyone is bored and needs something to do.