Report on the Pineland Running Festival and my first 50k race.
Finding ourselves in the middle of what appears to be new weather trend – spring hurricane season – we wisely opted not to camp out Friday evening. Instead we drove down early Saturday morning and the four of us arrived at Pineland Farms, New Gloucester, ME in the pouring rain. Not just rain, but 37-degree wind-driven pouring rain. The girls stared out their car windows in disbelief. We weren’t really going to make them run a barefoot 5k in this right? Yes, we were. I had gotten a sub for my Saturday morning yoga class (thanks Becka), I was signed up to teach a Yoga for Athletes workshop after the race and the girls had been excited about running this race for months (I’m pretty sure my 5 year old was motivated entirely by the promise of finish-line bling). We were committed. So we tumbled out of the warm-car-cocoon into the refreshing elements. We quickly regrouped and huddled under the tiny registration tent and watched as it periodically caught the wind and dumped several gallons of cold water onto the backs of unsuspecting runners. Georgia thought this was hilarious, even after it happened to her.
Pre-Race Kid Pee
It was almost time to start running and I insisted the girls pee in the porta-potty. If you have a 5 or 6 year old you understand that 1) They hate taking off and putting back on wet rain gear and 2) They would prefer to pee directly into their rain pants rather than get anywhere near a porta-potty. I am deeply sympathetic to this point of view and the next morning before my own 50k race I chose to pee a few feet into the woods next to the start line. But I am fast and experienced and have developed a nearly invisible ninja-like stealth pee-on-the-go
The 5k barefoot runners lined up in the ankle-deep soggy mud-grass at the starting line and off we went. Itwas wet and the mud was fabulously soft and slidey. At first both girls were giggling and having fun plunging full-on into the pudding-like goop. But after the first mile Georgia began to slow. Fortunately that’s when Jerome showed up to run with her (we decided 5 year olds should be allowed to have pacers even on 5ks). Lucy and I forged ahead and had a fabulous time running together. She chatted the whole time and she seemed to get faster and stronger with each mile. In between her steady stream of cheerful chatting she would mention “a really bad side cramp” or “it’s hard to breath” but she kept right on running. For the first time I could really see my running self in her. With a ¼ mile to go she stripped off her raincoat and sprinted. She glowed and pumped her arms harder as the crowd cheered her across the finish line. It was a magnificent and a true highlight of my parenting life so far. Ten minutes later Georgia and Jerome came up the trail. Georgia hates the feel of raingear and had taken it all off, so now she was cold, which kept her from running so she was getting colder. It took a little cajoling to get her to finish line, but she made it and she was very happy to receive her very own gold metal water bottle. I think she’ll stick to fair-weather running for now.
Getting ready for my 50k
I spent the evening doing foot-repair surgery. I had a deep crack in my forefoot from what else? Shoes. Over the last few years my tender unshod feet have lost all their shoe calluses (it’s true, barefoot running makes your feet softer and lot less funky than shoes do). But this spring I needed more forefoot padding to ward off a stress fracture and nearly constant top of the foot pain so I picked up a pair of Newton MV2s. Which I’ll admit make running pretty cushy. Except for the blisters. I had already spent several weeks trying to heal the crack that resulted from one particularly hot 26 mile run through Acadia National Park earlier in the month. And I thought I had it made until I plunged into the mud that morning. A few hundred feet down the trail I felt an ominous “ripppp”. The whole crack reopened and was now packed full of mud.
Actually there’s more to the pre-50k-race evening. Before we left home that morning Jerome had filled three thermoses full of warm kitchari for me to eat during the race, but somehow in my super-glue induced delirium and his over all super-hero exhaustion, we determined we had left them at home. So while I sat sorting out coco-hydro and Lara bars, he kindly headed off to Whole Foods to get replacement soup. An hour later he returned with a quart of split pea soup and we were just about to go to sleep when he accidently kicked a bag on the floor and it clinked. Yup, there were the thermoses of kitchari. (Thanks honey.)
Seven hours of sleep later, I awoke with my period (Five days early. Nothing like tapering to induce a shorter cycle.) And of course my sister-in-law had nary a tampon to be found. So I mentally willed my body to postpone the flow for a day and off we all went, 30 minutes north in a light drizzle.
We got there with just enough time for me to get out of the car, pee in the bushes and walk to start line. Perfect timing.
The runners who hadn’t run the day before were all trying to keep their feet dry for the first few hundred feet – skirting puddles and running through the woods to avoid mud. That left the middle of the trail open to me, and off I went, right through the calf-deep soup. Soon after, everyone surrendered and brown became the official color of our race.
I ran really well for the first 10 miles. I was excited to be running with a group of runners that ran my pace. That has literally never happened before. I am such a slow runner (10+ minute miles) that in any shorter length race I am quickly dusted and left with one or two slow-bees. Usually a retired doctor, or an out of breath mom running her first ever run ever. But here I was, solidly in the middle of dozens of other runners. Wow, that was cool.
But somewhere around 15 miles I lost the pack. It must have been while I was drinking the amazingly delicious hot thermos of kitchari that Jerome and the girls left for me at one of the aid stations. Or perhaps when I stopped to give them all hugs at the Yurt aid station where they camped out to cheer me on where I passed three times during one of the hardest sections of the race. The deep mud in the fields was incredibly hard and tiring to run through and there were several steep muddy hills and a few knee-deep stream crossings to navigate. More than anything, the feeling of “slow going” is mentally hard when you know you have a long ways to go.
Once out the woods (at around mile 24) I tried to pick up my pace. I was alone on the trail. I played leap frog with a few of the same individuals, but didn’t find any company to stick with. The whole concept of trail-racing camaraderie definitely didn’t apply to my firstultra experience. The rain held off, the sun even came out briefly, and the birds kept me company. I made a mental list, it was all the usual suspects, old friends really, but still, I wished I had a fellow runner who could share in my warbler enthusiasm:
Black-and-white warblerBlack-throated green warbler
Common yellowthroat American redstart
Great crested flycatcher
I was running fine though my ankles were tired from all the mud-wobbling. No matter how much I felt like Iwas pushing the pace, I couldn’t break 12 minute miles. So at mile 27 I decided to trade in bird songs for human songs.
I pulled out the itouch and earbuds I had stashed in my back pocket and rocked out to U2, Stevie Wonder, Led
Zeplin and R.E.M. (Thank you 80’s). I crossed the finish line at 6hrs 48 minutes, well fed, well hydrated, well sung and well loved! I was hoping for a sub 6hr run, but this was my first ever ultramarathon race (by 5 miles), and I’m proud of how I ran it. My epoxy foot patch held, kitchari is still the greatest running fuel ever and Jerome is the best friend a running-mom could ever ask for!