Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pineland Farms 50K - New PR!



[b]Day 2: Sunday, May 27, 2007
Pineland Farms Trail Challenge
Miles: 50K (31.05)
Time: 5:35:15 – New Personal Record for Distance[/b]

It had been a mediocre 2 weeks for me. After finishing my first 100 Miler in April out in Illinois, I failed to REALLY take any solid time off from running. I even added some tough races. The Muddy Moose 14 Miler in shin deep mud 1 week post race, and a 30 Mile run on a track followed by the 7 Sisters 12 Mile Roller Coaster from Hell the weekend after. I began to take some time off during the week for 2 weeks with a 24 Mile run on the VT100 Course on the weekend in between. This past week I finally got back at it, chipping in some decent trail miles with plenty of hills and a day out on the pavement. I had no idea if I would be ready for this 50K race, but knew I was out to set a Personal Best Time.

The race course is a 25 kilometer (15 miles) off-road roller coaster on well-maintained trails that wind their way through 3,000 acres of forests and pastoral farmland. The trails are 12-16 ft wide, XC ski trails with mainly grass or gravel surfaces. 50K participants will complete two laps of this loop course. With a race description like this, the decision to sign up was an easy one.

Sarah and I drove 2 hours from our campsite in Crawford Notch to make it to the race on time this morning. And as I checked in and began to get ready for the race, I was delighted to run into so many friendly faces, new and old. The folks from G.A.C, bikernate from coolrunning, Bob Dunfey, Laura Bleakley and many many more. It was even great to see race directors Eric Boucher and Ian Parlin.

As Sarah and I started to head for the starting line, I saw Jonathan Whitehead who grabbed my attention. Jon organizes the MMD 50K in New Hampshire’s White Mountains in August, a grueling “fun run” of sorts that takes runners over the Northern Presi’s before running over the Cats and Carters. He informed me that he and 2 of his buddies had registered under the “Team Sherpa” team name for the Team Competition and hoped that was all right. I was ecstatic and welcomed their camaraderie.

All the runners were called to the starting line where I enjoyed talking with Tom Parent, another trail/ultra runner whom I’ve run the Pemi-Loop with before. But before long, cowbells were ringing and this great race was under way. The course wound its way through the woods at beautiful Pineland Farm. From time to time we’d poke out in a pasture where the sun was beating down on us all making for a hot hot day.

The neatest thing was how we’d all wind our way around the course and you’d see runners through the trees or across the pasture heading in the opposite direction, yet they were all of 3-5 miles ahead of you. It was GREAT fun. I made some new friends along the way. Some folks from GAC, Zeus Estrady and his buddy who was training to pace Zeus at this years Western States. I enjoyed hearing Zeus talk about his running adventures at Western States and a previous Vermont 100. The conversation was welcome company. I also got to run with Gabe Robinson from Manchester, NH. I was having such a blast.

From time to time we’d poke out of the woods and there would be Sarah, my fiancĂ©, armed with the camera and enjoying her day exploring the grounds of Pineland Farms. She always gave me much needed encouragement and we even stopped a few times to exchange a kiss. But through all this excitement and pleasure comes pain.

Blisters began to form on my heels as well as on a few toes of mine. I was wearing my toe socks and for this reason was surprised. My shoes have not been the most comfortable as of late and I’m growing increasingly disappointed in them. At the last aid station before returning to the start/finish and the halfway point, I stopped to tape them up. But my feet were so sweaty that the tape just fell off. So.. I smiled and carried on anyway as uncomfortable as it may be.

The second loop was every bit as enjoyable as the first, I walked the course when I felt needed to and just enjoyed my day listening to the birds singing in the hot summer air. Cows mooed in the pasture and I could even hear sheep or goats in the distance. For some time during the second loop, a stunt plane was heard overhead doing loops and barrel rolls above us. This noise got annoying rather fast.

Drinks at the aid stations started to get warm in their cups, fruit that was laid out was drying up and candy melting. It was a hot day indeed and a HUGE thank you goes out to all those volunteers who try to make our day even happier. On my second loop, with about 4 miles to go, I caught up to a gentleman from Florida who traveled all the way up here to run his first Ultramarathon. He was very happy during the early stages of the race, though now he wasn’t talking much. I tried to offer him some encouragement in the form of laughter and reminded him it was almost over. He didn’t seem thrilled.

As I carried on my way I saw Bikernate making his return trip on the otherside of the woods. I offered him thumbs up and he offered one back. Seemed like such a nice guy and wished I had more time to talk to him pre and post race. I then began running with a guy named Jay Brock… this was his first Ultra having run the 25K here the year before. He was tired, spent and grumpy. I knew how he was feeling and tried to get him to stick with me for as long as we could. For a good 3 miles we walked together and ran together. We struggled up the final hills together and enjoyed some laughs together. The usual, “What was I thinking when I signed up?!” was present and I just chuckled with him as we carried on.

As we immerged into the final field, he wanted to walk more, I tried my best to encourage him to run more without words. He kept coming, on the far side of the field, he ran out of gas and I noticed him falling behind. I wished him well and headed for home. I crossed the street with a runner in front of me.. I sped up and tried to catch him and as we ran into the final stretch we were neck and neck. He sped up a little, so did I, he tried to break from me and I from him… he finally looked at me and said, “well, lets go kid.. RACE!” We put everything we had into our final kicks in a mad dash for the finish line. And even though the time indicates Thom finishing behind me… we were together.

As always during the race I thought of my grandfather. My grandfather used to have a tradition at weddings of ringing an obnoxious cowbell to get the bride and groom to kiss. A tradition that will be passed on to be through his last wishes at my wedding. But as I crossed the line at Pineland Farms, we didn’t receive your typical race medal, we got cowbells. I raised my high and rang it loud for everyone to hear, another race for Moe, I miss you pal.

I came in 48th out of 102 runners in the 50K with a time of 5:35:15. A New Personal Record for 50K. I was 17th out of 23 in my age group. Team Sherpa came in 3rd in the Team Competition, just 26 seconds behind the immaculate G.A.C runners. Sarah and I then enjoyed the post race celebration. A BBQ and free beer! I enjoyed talking with fellow runners some more, Jason Patch, Tom Parent, the gentleman from Scotland and race winner Leigh Schmidt. Now its off to Pittsfield for the Ultra Challenge June 9th! The Road to the Vermont 100 Continues and [url=http://www.firstgiving.com/teamsherpa]Fundraising[/url] is going great.

Sarah’s photo’s from the race can be found here: http://web.mac.com/gr8stnface/iWeb/SherpaJohn/Pineland%20Farms%2050K.html