Monday, May 26, 2008

Race Report - Pineland Farms 50 Mile Race

The short of it is that I set a new 50 Mile PR (by over 30 minutes) at the Pineland Farms 50 Mile Trail Race yesterday, finishing in 9:27:35. The inaugural 50-Mile race (there was also a 50k and 25k race) was one of the best that I've participated in. The course was very challenging (with over 6,000 feet of elevation gain according to the GPS - elevation chart to follow) and is described as "off-road roller coaster" with rolling terrain that is "unrelenting". The course was marked extremely well and the volunteers were fantastic. The post-race BBQ was great as well (free food and Ipswich beer).

The long of it .....

Meredith and Eddie made the 2 and a half hour drive from Philadelphia to my house Saturday afternoon. After arriving at about 2:30, the three of us headed off to Wayne's house (about a half an hour away) to begin the almost 5 hour drive to the Super 8 in Freeport, Maine. For all of us, the decision to run the 50-mile race came only days ago. Wayne volunteered to assume driving duties (thanks a ton Wayne). The drive to Freeport was fairly innocuous. Arriving at 8:30 PM, we quickly found Emmy and Frank - they had a room across the hall from us. There were a ton of other friends staying at the Super 8 as well, but we basically hit the grocery store for some last minute supplies and sacked out. There were also quite a few folks from the Kickrunners community participating (Frank, Emmy, Staci, Meredith, Eddie, Adam, Nate, Movingon, Sarah, etc...), many of which I got to see finish their respective races.
Wayne's alarm sounded at 3:45 AM on Sunday. Adam (The Professor) had graciously allowed us to use the microwave in his room to heat up some Dunkin' Donuts coffee - my ultimate pre-race jump start. We chilled for a bit in the room, gathered our gear, got Wayne's drop bag ready, and headed over to the race to pick up our race packets. With 30 minutes or so left to kill, we all just hung around and talked about what our goals were for the day (mine was a 9:40).

Initially, as he prepared for the race, Eddie did not appear to be in the mood for pre-race photos.

But, he eventually dragged his tired rear end from the ground to grace the camera for a few shots, the first with Emmy and the second with Adam (The Professor).

The 50-mile race started at 6:00 A.M. (the 50k was slated to go off at 8:00 A.M., and the 25k at 10:00 A.M.). The 50-miler has a 13-hour time limit. About 65 runners began the race (I believe all but one finished. The race course consists of well maintained trails that wind through forests and across pastoral farmlands. Some of the open meadows were very difficult to run as they were slanted in one direction. For the most part, this course can be simply described as hill after hill after hill after hill.....up, down, up, down, up, down - truly relentless. The 50-milers first do a 3.5 mile loop, followed by 3 laps of the 25k loop.

Wayne and I set out to run as much of this race together as we could, both of us reaching for the same goal. After the start, we quickly pushed forward on the 3.5 mile loop, and soon lost track of Emmy, Meredith and Eddie. Frank busted it right out of the gate and was flying ahead of us. With the temps in the mid 40s at the start, and knowing that they would rise in the the mid to upper 70s, we tried to get in as much mileage as we could early on. We flew through the first 19 miles in about 3:20 - about a 10:3o pace - way too fast. Before the start, and along the way, we saw some of our friends from G.A.C.. I was able to catch up with Chris and his wife Susan a bit before the start (I ran most of the 39.2 mile of insanity at the North Face Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain with them). It was great to catch up with Chris. He set a goal to finish today in under 11 hours so that he'd qualify to put his name in the hat for Western States 100 next year. Mission accomplished for him.

I digress.....ok, so 25k loop #1 was out of the way and we were way, way, way ahead of our goal time, almost too much so. We decided that loop #2 was going to be the "survival loop" - just make it through at a steady pace and leave it all on the line for the final loop. Loop #2 felt pretty good, except for the open meadows. The temperature had risen quite a bit, and in the open fields it was impossible to find any cover from the sun. The fields were also very, very slanted, all to one direction, making it very uncomfortable when running. My right leg was constantly taking the brunt of the discomfort. There was a nice stretch of very runnable downhill at the back end of each loop, and I welcomed that every time around. Loop #2 was no exception. Wayne and I were still moving well, although I did hit a bit of a low point during this loop. Our pace had dropped quite a bit, but that was perfectly fine as we were way ahead of schedule. I had no intention of pushing loop #2 as hard as I did with loop #1 and had to make sure I left enough in the tank for the final 15.5 miles. There are a bunch of portions of the course where you pass other runners going in the opposite direction, or you can see them running on the other side of the switch-backs. During loops #1 and #2 I was able to catch glimpses of Emmy, Frank and Chris - they were all moving well, except Chris was having some trouble with his hip. Wayne and I caught up with Frank at around mile 30. He seemed to be having some difficulty, but was still moving forward. I recall that I finished the second loop (about the 34.5 mile mark) with somewhere between 6:20 and 6:30 showing on the clock, plenty of time for my goal of 9:40, and in good shape to do even better then that.

I started the third loop on fire, moving very quickly through the first few miles. I could taste the BBQ and beer waiting for me at the finish line. I ran about 1/2 of the hills in the first loop and walked most of the them in the 2nd loop. I had every intention of running them all in the third loop - wishful thinking, although I ran a good portion of them. I separated from Wayne at about the 40-mile mark. Although he was moving well and on pace for a new PR, his hamstring was giving him fits and he insisted that I press on without him. He was running with this girl that we had met along the way - she would later catch up to me for a bit when I slowed down to check on Wayne - she told me that she was trying to catch me and almost did, but when I started to run all the hills she say "no way". I stayed with her and chatted for a little while, but she was moving slower then I was, so off I went.

During loop #2 I started to get passed by some of the 50k and 25k runners. During loop #3, I began to catch up to some of them. I managed to find Staci with about 4 or 5 miles to go. She seemed to be doing very well, with a 7:30 finish in the 50k within reach. I stopped to talk to her briefly, but was very anxious to get moving. I found running the last 10 miles alone to be challenging, but peaceful. The heat of the day was in full force, reaching well into the 70s. But I had done an excellent job staying hydrated and taking S-Caps. This was actually my first time using S-Caps during a race (I know...I broke the cardinal rule - never try anything out for the first time during a race), but they worked very well. I also did well with my caloric intake, mostly eating gels and Cliff Shot Bloks, but occasionally grabbing an item or two from an aid station table. As the temperatures rose I was happy to see that all of the aid stations had ice which helped tremendously to keep my fluids cool.

I continued to pass other 50k runners and was moving quickly on the down-hills and the few flat sections. Any steep hill (and most of them "looked" steep to me at this point) was walk-city. With 3 miles to go I knew I had 9:40 made, barring some unforeseen tragedy. When I reach the final aid station (about .6 miles from the start/finish - although the posted sign claimed it was .9 miles - not a chance) I thought that I had a shot at a sub-9:30, but wasn't too sure if I'd make it. I pushed as hard as I could, running the last hill before descending down to the finish line. When the finish clock first came into sight I was actually surprised to see it at 9:27 and change. With one final push, I crossed in 9:27:35, which I believe is good enough for 20th place out of 65 runners. My old 50-mile PR of 10:02, set early this year at Rocky Raccoon, was no more, by just over 30 minutes.

What was really sweet was the finisher gear - a gold cowbell to all 50 mile finishers (the 50k finishers got a silver one), a Pinelands Farm Trail Challenge beer glass, and a pair of Inov-8 Debrisocks. They also had a great BBQ which, unlike a lot of other races I have run, stayed open until the very last finisher crossed the line. After a quick beer I started to see the rest of our friends finish. Emmy came through somewhere in the 9:35-9:37 range, a new PR. Wayne busted through at 9:45, a new PR for him by over 30 minutes. Staci finished the 50k in about 7:45, a great time. Susan (Chris's wife) made sub-10:00. Frank finished in about 10:10 or so, a great effort. Chris easily hit his sub-11:00 goal. After 2 hamburgers and 2 more tasty beers, I hit the YMCA to take a quick shower and change for the ride home. Wayne and I hung around the finish area waiting for Meredith and Eddie. We had heard that they were going at it together. At some point Adam (The Professor) and Movingon finished.

Finally, the happy couple came through, with Eddie smashing his old 50-mile PR by over 70 minutes ! It was a great day for everyone, with so many PRs being set. Overall, this race was amazing. The RDs were fantastic. The course was challenging, well marked, and gorgeous. Everything about it was just fantastic and I would highly recommend it.

After Eddie and Meredith grabbed a quick bite and hit the showers, we started our trip back home. Yes, after a long drive on Saturday night, 50 miles of running on Sunday, were were back in a car just hours after finish the race. Wayne took the steering wheel again and drove us back to his house. From there we drove the final 30 minutes of our trip to my house, arriving just after 1:00 A.M. I had a little bit of trouble getting to sleep, but finally did at around 2:30 A.M. 5 hours later, the 5-year old would make sure I was up for the day.

Here is a quick look at the elevation profile and my hear rate data, both taken by my Garmin Forerunner 305 (click either for a larger view).

Elevation Profile

Heart Rate Data


  1. Incredible performance, Anthony! You will have a runner's high for a month from that stellar finish :) Congrats again and thank you for sharing your report.

  2. way to 30 min smash ur PR Tony!!! great re-cap...Love that gold cowbell & what neat functional socks for the trails... & a Beer mug to boot...yupper I think the goodie bag has me coming out to do this race next year for sure :-)


  3. WHOOOO HOOOOO!! That's awesome! Wow, 30 minutes off, is a good hunk of time :-) Sweetness!

  4. Great race. Congrats on the new PR. And by 30 minutes! WOW

  5. a PR is one thing, but 30 minutes is outstanding, nicely done!

    btw, I've added an additional boat pic to my blog :D

  6. Great report and congrats again on setting a new PR!

    I'm jealous of that cowbell.

  7. Great job! Congrats!! What a course! I'm always so impressed with Ultras.

  8. 30 min is some great improvement!!! Way to go have fun and kick ass, Tony! Congrats to Mer and Eddie too!

  9. Again, Great race, nice report and very cool to nab a PR!!

    Thought you'd appreciate this email I got today:

    Subject: RE: Pineland


    Thanks for the note. Still working on the race report.

    I was 4th overall despite a couple real strategic blunders. I went out too fast and didn't eat properly - you'd think I would learn at some point.

    Anyway, I was in 2nd place (Leigh Schmitt was out of sight after the first 100 yards) around miles 27-28 and then the wheels started coming off. It's weird as I felt really strong up until that point. It was a 3 man race for second as 3 of us kept leap frogging eachother. Once my energy level dropped, the other two put some distance on me. I made a comeback in the last 8 miles, but it was too late at that point.

    My legs are fine, so I know it was just a nutrition issue. I brought home my age group award which is hand-made and looks freakin awesome. Will post a photo soon. You have to do this race next year. The RD's do a great, great job and it's a really pleasant course.

    Anyway, it was a great learning experience and it definitely helped me in prepping for the big dance.

    If things go well this week, I may try to join you guys this weekend. We'll see how I feel after a couple runs.

  10. Yes, I'm still planning on the NF 50 run on June 21st. Hopefully you can make it. I'll be putting together some details soon...