The eighth running of the Pineland Trail Running Festival took place on May 25 and 26 in New Gloucester, Maine. The festival is comprised of a series of trail races. On Saturday, a 5K, barefoot 5K, 5K canicross and a 10K took place. On Sunday, the 50 mile, 50K and 25K races were held.
I signed up for the 50K, which would be my first ultramarathon. From everything that I read, Pineland Trail Running Festival would be a good entry point. The trails are wide and non-technical, but there are still challenging, but runnable hills. My only concern was that it was scheduled two weeks after my first marathon.
One of the biggest wildcards going into the race was what the weather would turn out to be. Memorial Day weekend in New England can be cool and rainy or it can be hot and muggy. The week leading up to the race was pretty rainy. We received notification from the race director that when the first course marking were put out on Wednesday that the course was wet and the grass (part of the course crosses through mowed farm fields) was slippery so that we should plan on having wet feet for the duration of the run. But the rain only continued from there, and on Saturday, it rained all day through the 5Ks and the 10K. Plus temperatures were getting lower and lower. The projected temperature for start time was the low to mid-40s with a high for the day in the low to mid-50s. Some places in northern New England actually got snow over the weekend.
When I went to bed on Saturday night, I went to sleep with the assumption that we would be running through mud and that we’d be running in the rain for the duration of the race. I also knew that this was going to be a slow day for me. If you read my Delaware Marathon race report, you’ll recall that I was recovering from peroneal tendonitis (my ankle) for the four weeks before the marathon, so I had not run for those last four weeks leading up to the marathon. For the two weeks in between the marathon, I had managed to squeeze in a few runs and had run a total of about 21 miles (some of them on pretty dead legs). So my goal for the day was not to get a DNF and to enjoy it the best that I could. Beyond that, I threw out all my previous expectations that I had when I initially registered for the race.
So now I had to figure out how to prepare for the race with no experiences to draw from and no friends who are ultrarunners to talk to. Luckily, I had discovered Ultra Runner Podcast months ago and had been listening (and relistening to) it obsessively. [As a side note, I was originally looking for a fall race, but it was this response on March 3 from Eric or Scott of URP that made me choose something sooner: "Nice job on jumping into this wacky sport. I'd always recommend choosing an event sooner than that, but that's me."] Based on the interviews with nutritionist Sunny Blende and my marathon experience, I felt like I had a pretty good sense of what I would need nutrition-wise to be successful. My biggest concern was that I knew that my feet would be very wet and that I was concerned about blistering and tearing up my feet. Eric and Scott had interviewed Dr. David Hannaford (a sports podiatrist and ultraunner), who had recommended John Vonhof’s book Fixing Your Feet: Injury Prevention and Treatments for Athletes, which I had bought. So I spent some time reading his recommendations (one of which was a coating of Desitin Maximum Strength Original Paste).
The schedule for Sunday was the 50M would start at 6:00 AM, the 50K at 8:00 AM and the 25K at 10:00 AM. Since I live just over an hour’s drive away, I woke up early Sunday morning and prepped myself. In addition to the standard preparations of Band-aids to prevent nipple chafing and Vaseline to prevent chafing elsewhere, I applied a layer of BodyGlide liquid powder to my feet followed by a generous coating of Desitin. I then slid into a pair of Injinji toe socks (my sock of choice for long runs) and put on my New Balance MT110 trail shoes (this would be by far my longest run in these shoes so I hoped for the best). I then hopped into the car and drove north, arriving around 6:40. Thankfully the rain had stopped and it seemed like it would be a cool, overcast day for the race.
Once I arrived, I picked up my bib and t-shirt. I then began the waiting game (which is always the worst part of the day). Slowly, more and more runners began to show up (there were 206 finishers for this event). Finally, it was time to start. We were called to the start line for a quick briefing, and then we were off.
It wasn’t long before we got to see the trail conditions that we would have to deal with for the rest of the course. The course is two 25K loops, so after our first loop we’d pretty much know what to expect for the second half of the race. Within the first mile, we were already ankle deep in mud and puddles, and it was clear that there wasn’t going to be any way to avoid it (no running around the edges to avoid them, etc.). It was time to accept the conditions and to embrace them the best that we could.
At times, the mud would pose some significant challenges, especially on the downhills where it was more like skiing than running. Even if I hadn’t set aside any pace expectations prior to the start, it was very evident that today would not be a day to expect a PR.
At the beginning, I felt pretty good, slippery mud and some pretty deep puddles along the course were definitely taking their toll on me. This was compounded by the fact that the course has a fair amount of ups and downs (see the elevation profile below from my Garmin, which also showed an overall elevation gain of 2,270 feet and elevation loss of 2,267 feet). Going into the race, I had made the decision that I would walk any significant hills (at least for the first loop) to save some energy for the second half. So I followed that strategy and trudged forward.
Overall, most of the way through the first loop, I was feeling pretty good. It was at that point, I heard another runner behind me greet me by name. It turned out that I knew another one of the runners. She was running the race with a friend, so I ran with them for the rest of the first loop and the beginning of the second loop. They appeared at a time when I needed a little bit of push, so I was very thankful to have them there. Part way through the second loop, however, I dropped back and continued the rest of the way on my own.
Just under six and a half hours later, I was nearing the finish line. When I was approaching the end, I was greeted by the cheering of my wife and youngest daughter who had drive up to cheer me on after my wife had run a 5K earlier in the day near home. Once again, it was that extra push that I really needed. I crossed the finish line at 6:34 (134 out of 206). Given the trail conditions, the fact that I had run my first marathon two weeks prior and that fact that I was coming off an injury that had prevented me from running for four weeks, I was pleased with my results.
Overall, this was a great event that I would recommend to anyone in the Northeast. Here are some of the reasons why:
- Wide, runnable trails — I never felt like runners were blocking me and I couldn’t get by (even in the beginning)
- Well organized — I have no complaints from registration through completion
- Good number of aid stations that were well stocked (although it would have been great if they had gels so I didn’t have to carry any)
- Well maintained trails
- Hilly, but the hills were manageable (especially if it hadn’t been so muddy)
- Cool cowbell and a nice water bottle for the finishers
- T-shirts, hats, etc. were optional so that registration fees could remain reasonable
- Many “repeat” runners who had run the event in previous years, which is always a good indication of an event worth running
Like many other ultrarunners, I spent the few hours of the race thinking that this would probably be my first and only ultramarathon. Now that it’s a day later, however, I’m sitting here writing this report thinking about the possibility of my next event. I’ve already registered for a fall marathon, isn’t it time to register for a fall ultra too?
As I was posting my race report for the Market Square Day 10K, I realized that I never wrote a report for the 1791 Trail Run 5K at Berwick Academy. So here it goes …
Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was going to run this race. There were a few factors that were going against it: (1) I had run the Pineland Trail 50K the previous Sunday and (2) my youngest daughter had a day-long softball tournament at school on that same day. However, I was interested and I wanted to support some friends that were helping to organize the run.
As the morning of the race rolled around, my body was feeling pretty good (issue #1 eliminated) and I found out that my daughter’s first softball game of the day didn’t start until 10:15. Since Berwick Academy is located a couple miles away from my house, this would give me time to run the race, go home, take a shower and then get to my daughter’s school (issue #2 eliminated). So I got ready for the race and was on my way.
This was the inaugural running of the race, and the field was small (48 finishers). I arrived about 45 minutes before the race, paid my $20 (which got me a t-shirt and a cinch bag). Most of the runners were students or parents with a smattering of other runners such as me.
The race took place on Saturday, June 1, which turned out to be very warm with a touch of humidity. It had rained a little bit during the week, so we would expect to find a little bit of water on the course, but not much.
Let’s talk about the course. It was not a traditional trail race. It was (not surprisingly) a cross country course. What do I mean by this? Some of the course went along the soccer field and along the lawns of the campus as well as through trails in the woods. But no complaints from me. It was all very runnable.
The trails were well maintained and non-technical. There were a few spots with some incline that posed a challenge to runners as well as one area with a slightly aggressive downhill. In places there were some roots, but for the most part, the trail was flat and packed with very few rocks and roots to get in the way.
I had not great expectations for my performance for the day. I ran an 8:44 pace (which placed me 12th overall and 2nd in my age group), nothing stellar but it was a good recovery run.
At the finish, there was plenty of water as well as a nice selection of breads other things to eat.
If you’re curious about trail running or new to trail running, I would definitely recommend running this race next year. Assuming no schedule conflicts, you can expect to see me there too!
The York Days 5K took place in York, Maine, on Sunday, July 28. It is the fourth race in theSeacoast Road Race Series, which my wife and I are running this year. Being part of the Seacoast Series meant that the race would be one of the larger 5K races in the area.
We arrived at York High School, where the race would start and finish, early enough to get a decent parking spot, pick up our bibs (there was no pre-race pick-up … and we won’t mention that they didn’t have any record of our registration) and to warm up a little bit. The weather was relatively cool for a summer day, and the cloudy skies were occasionally giving way to rain.
After warming up, the crowd of runners had grown significantly, and we started to see many familiar faces. It was then time to head to the start line. We made sure that we seeded ourselves appropriately at the start line so as to avoid delays from the crowd as much as possible.
Just before the start of the race, a friend and I decided to run together to ensure that we would push each other. The national anthem was sung by a “barbershop quartetish” (but it was more than a quartet) group, and then we were off just as it started to rain slightly.
The course was relatively flat and fast with a small uphill about halfway through and a stretch along the ocean (which was much too short in my opinion). Our strategy was to go out strong and to keep pushing. And that’s what we did, keeping a pretty steady pace with negative splits of a couple seconds for each mile.
In the end, we finished with a 21:49 net time and a 7:02 overall pace. This was good enough for me to finish 68th out of 820 runners as well as to finish 9th in my age group. In reality, I wanted to run faster (at least sub-7:00), but I’ll have to save that for another day.
The Seaside 4 Miler took place on Sunday, September 22, at Fort Foster in Kittery, Maine. This race is an annual fund raiser for the Kittery PTA, and the race director is a friend so it is a “must do” race. Having said that, it’s definitely a race that all local runners should check out.
The course is a relatively flat and runnable course. The start and finish are at Fort Foster, which is the remnants of a fort built in the late 1800s and used again during World War II as a coastal defense site. From there, the course is designed as a combination of an out and back with a short loop at the halfway point.
There were plenty of volunteers along the route both at water stops as well as to make sure that runners were following the course and were safe from traffic along the way.
Much like my race the previous weekend, I intended to run this race at a relaxed and slower pace since it was the weekend before the marathon. But once again, that strategy went completely out the window as I felt well as I started to run.
Four miles later, I ended up finishing with a 28:14 time and a 7:04 pace. The best part is that since this was my first four mile race, it was also a PR!
Make sure to run the Seaside 4 Miler next September, and then spend the rest of the day at Fort Foster enjoying the Maine coast!