Thursday, May 29, 2014

Redemption Run

I signed up to run the 2014 Pineland Farms 25k Trail Race for one reason. I wanted a shot at redemption.

I first started coming up to New Gloucester, Maine for this trail running festival back in 2010 and have loved it ever since. Unfortunately, the last couple trips to the Pine Tree State have been less than kind to me. Two years ago, this roller-coaster of a course did a number on my knee. Last year it was the mud (and my calf) that did me in. This year, I was determined to avenge my recent losses, conquer the course and once again get back down under that elusive 2-hour barrier.

In preparation for this year’s race I took a look at my training log from 2010, to try and get some sense of where I needed to be, pace-wise, in order to run sub-2. I ran my current course PR of 1:55 that year and had 5k splits that looked something like this: 21:00, 25:00, 22:00, 22:00 & 25:00. Knowing that I am nowhere near the shape, speed-wise, that I was in in 2010, I added a minute to each time to come up with goal splits of 22, 26, 23, 23 & 26. Figuring something close to that would get me within striking range of 2 hours.

Upon arriving at “the grove”, I was pleasantly surprised by the cool-ish temperatures and
dry-ish trail conditions. Perfect for running fast. Or, fast-ish. I was also happy to see that, in addition to the usual GCS Men’s contingent, we also had a group of Gate City ladies joining us. Including: Terry Berna, Emily Soucy, Laura Joyce & Jill Whitney. With help from Kurt Berna, I set up the team tent then picked up my bib for the race. I couple miles warm-up and I was ready to go.

The first 5k of this race is always absurdly fast, so I resolved to run conservatively on the
early downhill miles. I let the fast guys on my team go (which was just about all of them) and just tried to stay comfortable. At the first 5k mark, which I passed in 22:04, Kurt Berna had about a 30 second gap on me. A gap that would pretty much stay intact until the final loop at Oak Hill. I was close to my goal time, so I just kept on chugging.

The second 5k is sneaky hard. Lots of ups and down. But mostly ups. During this section, I got to see the front of the race, which included Gate City Striders - Ryan Kelly (2nd) and Todd Callaghan (3rd). Both looked strong and ready to pounce on the leader. This pumped me up and I powered my way up the hills. I passed the 10k mark in just under goal pace - 25:12 (47:16) and worked on trying to gain some ground on Kurt, who was just ahead.

The third 5k has a net gain of almost zero feet. But that’s not to say it’s flat. In fact, I’m not sure this course has anything that could be construed as flat. Everything is either up, or down or highly cambered. The first part of this section is fast down, then it hits the course low point and starts winding its way back up towards the start/finish area. I suffered appropriately and hit the 15k split in 24:32 (1:11:48) – way off my goal of 23 flat. And Kurt was nowhere to be seen.

The fourth 5k also has a near net gain of zero. But with the opposite profile of the previous section – which is to say it’s all up to the start/finish (course high point) then across the street and back down Oak Hill. This is the portion of the race when I usually can hammer and reel people back in. Such was not the case this year. Try as I might, I just couldn’t bring Kurt any closer than that original 30 second gap. Worse than that, my 20k split of 24:16 (1:36:04) all but eliminated the chance for me to break 2 hours. I’d have to run a sub 24 minute 5k on arguably the toughest 5k of the course to make it happen.

The final 5k of this course is an absolute killer. It messes with your mind and your body. It comes at the hottest part of the day and when you’re at your most tired. Lots of climbing. And, lots of twists and turns. So, you can catch glimpses of the people in front to you, but you can’t quite seem to reach them. During this portion, I just focused on pushing as hard as I could without blowing up. Which was quite a challenge considering my lack-of-speed training had my right calf twinging and left me on the constant verge of puking!

I blew past the Final Mile aid station and ran as fast as my calf (and gut) would allow. I managed to

pass one lonely soul on the final “field of death” before I crossed back over the road. And, unlike last year (and the year before that) I managed to hold him off on the finishing stretch. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a 1:59:xx as I neared the finish line timing clock. Just. A little. Bit. More. Whew! I did it!

A final 5k of 23:32 (shockingly, my fastest final 5k at Pineland ever!) gave me a total time of 1:59:36 (7:42/mile) which was good enough for 31st place and 9thin my 40-49 AG. Not too shabby for an “ultra-slow” guy! Kurt finished a full 2 1/2 minutes ahead of me (in 22nd place) and ran a new 1:57:06 Pineland PR of his own!

My Gate City Strider team took home the trophy (a case of Shipyard Summer Ale, actually) for first place in the 25k Team Category. We were lead by first time Pinelander Ryan Kelly, who won the race outright with a well-timed final mile kick. Todd Callaghan ran a strong 3rd, Denis Tranchemontagne took 8th and Justin Soucy rounded out our scoring in 18th. Later, we toasted our good fortune (with our free beer) and basked in the glow of the sun, the blue grass music and the victory! Ahhh.

Finally, I just wanted to mention that the entire experience up at Pineland Farms really couldn’t have been any better. The Trail Monster Running Club did a fantastic job putting on this race as well as the other 6 races that made this weekend-long trail running festival. Whether you like the short stuff (5k & 10k), the long stuff (25k, 50k & 50m) or the wacky stuff (barefoot 5k & canine-cross 5k) this is the place to be. And, if you haven’t already, I urge you to check it out. It’s well worth the trip!

Next Up:
6/7 - TARC 50m – Because 10m and 15.5m races are just too damn short!

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