Pineland Farms 50 miler 2011
I seem to be in races with entertaining finishes quite often, and this race was one of those. I wish I would have been able to enjoy the entertainment more than I did, but it could have been worse. I made some lemonade, but them lemons didn’t want to give up the juice.
Last year at Pineland, I was fighting a GI bug that I got from my son ran by myself for 30 miles after getting dropped by Brian Rusiecki. This year I just wanted to come back and see what I could run when healthy. The family and I found a great B&B right near the start, which is definitely a little easier than camping. The original plan was to camp, but the weather forecast was all over the place, so we decided to play it safe. The surprise of the day was getting a honk from Kevin Tilton as I ran the mile from our B&B to the start. I had no idea Kevin was running, but was glad to have someone else to possibly run with. I was hoping to run with Brian, but he has run very fast on these trails, and I wasn’t entirely sure how fast I’d be able to run. It was incredibly humid at the start, with water falling off the trees just due to condensation, but the temperature was only in the low 60’s.
The race starts off with a 3.5 mile loop before three 25k mile loops through farm fields and forests. The footing is generally pretty good, but the course has almost no flat terrain at all; it is a never ending ride of rolling hills. A group of six of us completed the first small loop right around 7 minute pace, and proceed to continue with that pace on the first 25k loop. Neither myself, Brian, nor Kevin was really driving the pack that often once we got past the first 10k or so. We lost one runner around 15k, but the other two guys were still with us going into the last 5k of that first loop. These last few miles have several significant hills, and Kevin and I moved into the lead during this section. Brian had been making up ground on the downhills following some of the earlier hills, but was content to let us go as we approaching the start of the second 25k loop.
I told Kevin we just need to stay patient and get to the last loop in good shape, as the hills suddenly get bigger at the end for some strange reason. We took turns leading, and after a while would just switch the lead without any discussion at regular intervals. The pace felt comfortable, and I was able to relax when we went through aid stations as Kevin took a little more time. I had my own bottles of concentrated Gatorade and ice tea, and Kevin was relying on the stations at this point. The farm field miles were much easier during this loop after all the runners had packed down the grass. Although the fields were pretty soft, it was actually a good thing as it allowed for a bit of leveling on some of the heavily cambered sections. When the fields are hard and dry, the slanted sections are hard on the ankles and hips. It started to get warm on this loop, and I was regularly throwing water on my head to keep cool. Kevin and I could spot Brian occasionally, and although we seemed to be extending our lead, he still seemed to be pretty close.
As Kevin and I reached the last few hilly miles of the loop, he started to put a few seconds on me on each hill, and my legs didn’t feel good enough to make a hard effort with almost 20 miles of racing left. I thought my quads were just tired, but I was probably starting to run low on electrolytes. I let him go as we started the last 25k loop, and wasn’t sure I’d see him again. He seemed to be running pretty easily up the hills all day, and although this was his first ultra, Kevin has run plenty of 4-7 hour mountain runs. My plan was to try to maintain contact while conserving energy for the last 10k.
I was still only about a minute behind Kevin with about 22k of racing left, but my quads were getting tight on the hills. I tried to back off the pace and let them recover, but it wasn’t really helping much. At 8k into the loop there is a rather large hill, and my quads shut down at this point. I tried to stop and stretch, but the cramping got worse, so I just shortened my stride and tried to keep my legs from tearing themselves in half. I needed to slow down, but I also clearly realized that I needed salt badly, which meant getting to next aid station as quickly as possible.
During this section of the course, there is a spot where you are about 200 meters from the Yurt aid station, but have over a mile of course left before you actually get there. My quads were cramping horribly at this point, and I was concerned about what would happen to them if I kept running. I slowed and was inches from pulling off course and heading straight to the aid station to get some S-caps. At the last minute, I deciding to keep crawling on the course and see if I make it to the Yurt without my quads tearing themselves in half. I finally got there and begged for S-caps like a crazed animal. Thank you, Mr. Aid Station Man, for running to get them and saving my race. He asked me how many I wanted, and I said all of them. I came to my senses and settled on four. I really had no idea how many to take, but overdosing probably wouldn’t have helped much.
I wasn’t surprised when Brian came around the corner right as I was leaving the aid station. He could tell I was in trouble, and offered more S-caps when I told him about my cramping. I ended up taking about 4 over a 15 minute period, and was hammering Gatorade at the remaining aid stations. I must have had 20oz of Gatorade every 3k for the last 12k of the course. While it may sound like I wasn’t taking in much water and electrolytes prior to that, I was consuming 30-40oz over those first two 25k loops which included 3 scoops of Gatorade. This is the same schedule that allowed me to run well over much harder terrain at the end of the Bear Mountain 50 miler. It was warm towards the end of Bear Mountain, but I must have been losing salt much faster at Pineland. It was definitely hot on that last loop, as dumping water on my head would only help for a few minutes.
The good news is that the S-caps and drowning slowly seemed to work, and right as my quads were starting to recover a bit, I spotted Kevin through the trees with about 10k left. Now, this course is so convoluted I’m not sure if was a minute or 3 minutes ahead, but he looked like he was hurting. I was guessing that I must be gaining if I could see him after losing so much time due to the cramping. I didn’t actually have my normal stride back, but my quads were contracting AND relaxing, which was a big help. After all the slow running, I wasn’t all that tired and it was frustrating to not be able to open up my stride.
I think I hit 17k right around 5:41-42, and focused on trying to run 40 minutes for the last 8k. My legs were not liking hard turns or steep downhills, but they actually felt good on the uphills. I came around a corner someone near 19k, and there was Kevin, walking. I asked him if he wanted to run it in together, as I was pretty sure Brian was long gone, but his legs were done. Team Inov-8 had officially self-destructed on the men’s side. I was thankfully able to run the rest of way to the last mile, where Steph and Gavin were waiting to cheer me on. As I ran past, Gavin took off after me at full speed, with his cowbell going like mad. He fully expected to be able to keep up, and Steph yelled to me so I could see how far he had gone. Being 4, he was pretty upset at not being fast enough to catch me, and was too sad to run the final few meters into the finish when they ran across the field to meet me. I wish I would have stopped and gone back to run with him the last mile, we both would have had a good time.
Brian got his third win in 6:13, I was 7 minutes back in 6:20, and Kevin pulled off the course at mile 47. If I had known that it was going to get to 83 F on race day, I probably would have run the 50k. I don’t do well or enjoy racing in the heat, but I might have had a pretty good day with a bit more salt early on. There were many great PR’s despite the tough conditions, and Amy Lane had a great race to win the women’s title. I went with my Road X 233’s, which worked fine on most of the course. I had to be careful on the few mud holes, but I stayed upright and they dried out very quickly. Kevin was pleased with his X-talon 212’s, and I saw many 295’s and a few pair of 190’s on the course. My friend Greg ran a 17 minute PR in his 318 GTX’s despite taking a 10 minute detour to observe one of the fine farm roads in the area.
The RD’s, Erik and Ian, really do a great job with all the races over the weekend, and the aid station crews are practically professional compared to some of the other ultras I’ve done. They know how hand cups, defizz the soda, and can refill a water bottle before you even realize you gave it to them!
Pineland always makes a great vacation even if I can’t manage to have a decent race. The highlight of the weekend was heading out to Popham beach after the race. We had promised to bring Gavin to the ocean before heading back to Mansfield, and Steph found quite the spot. Gavin and I played in the waves almost until sunset, and then we drove down the road to Spinney’s to have dinner while we watched seals play just offshore. I continued to replenish my sodium naturally through the ingestion of my third lobster of the weekend, with plenty of butter. I then drove home, and my day that started at 3am Sunday ended at 12am Monday.