Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Race Report - 2010 Pineland Farms 50 Mile

"The Wrong Way to Set a PR"

I said it in last year's post, "Race Report: 2009 Pineland Farms 50 Mile Trail Race" and I'll say it again (but this time with even more conviction) - the Pineland Farms 50 Mile Trail Race is my absolute favorite 50-miler, and not just because my 50 mile PR is on this course.  Why then, you ask?  The race organization, volunteers, post-race BBQ, etc.... is simply first-class.  Plus I get to see all of my good G.A.C. friends who are never shy about cracking open a few beers.

The course is challenging, with relentless rolling hills and several sections of grassy farmland that can be very difficult to run (even Brian and Herb commented on how difficult it was to run some of those tilted, grassy sections).  The course description from the race web-site says it all:
The race course is a 25 kilometer off-road roller coaster on well-maintained XC trails that twist, turn, and roll their way through forests and across pastoral, working farmland. The trails are level, wide (12'), and non-technical with no roots or rocks, but very hilly. Although there are no major climbs the rolling terrain is unrelenting. The surface of the trails is mainly grass and dirt sprinkled with pine needles, pine cones, twigs, and small stones. From time to time runners will be directed off the main trail system and into fields. In the fields the course will follow a path cut by local farmers using their haying equipment. The grass is rough and can vary in height in different places. Some of the cut grass may still be on the path making running more difficult. There are no stream crossings on the course per-se, however, the grass in the fields can be very wet in the morning, and there may be wet and muddy spots if it rains just before the race. The paths in the fields are often not level, tilting severely in all directions.

Like last year, I had very low expectations going into this race (and last year I set a 50-mile PR of 9:06:05).  For the 2009 event, I was sick.  This year I found myself smack dab in the middle of some serious training for Badwater, with absolutely no taper whatsoever.  Looking at the numbers, the 3 weeks prior to the race saw weekly mileage of 84, 107 and 112.  The week leading up to the race looked like this :

Sat. - 26.20
Sun. - 26.20
Mon. - 6.00
Tue. - 18.20
Wed. - 6.10
Thu. - 9.25
Fri. - 5.00
Sat. - 3.20

100 miles in the 7 days prior to the race - not exactly a model taper for a race.  I was told by my good friend and adviser that "you will be tired for this race after all the back-to-back weekends" ... that Badwater is my goal race and "everything else is just training for it."  Well, she was right.  I was tired and my legs were super heavy starting around mile 26 or so.

So here is the quick and dirty version of the weekend.  Bob and Natalia flew up from Florida Friday morning.  Bob, formerly known as "Blogger Bob", now known as "Absentee Blogger Bob" (his last post was like in February), had to "work" upon arrival, so that gave me the opportunity to introduce Natalia to the awesome trails of Rockefeller State Park Preserve.  She killed me for 5 miles.  Brian's flight was delayed from L.A., but it didn't prevent us from cracking open some beers and firing up the grill while we waited for his arrival.  Saturday morning saw another short run (this time with Brian, and this time at an even faster pace), followed by a drive with Bob to pick up our van rental.  This was the conversation between Bob and his new friend Jose who works for Alamo:
Bob (looking at his name-tag):  Hey....Jose.  I'm here to pick up my rental car.
Jose:  No problem sir.  What is the name on the reservation?
Bob:  Gentile.  That's G..E..N..T..I..L..E

[Jose begins to furiously type at the keyboard, looking intensely at the screen.]

Jose:  Sir, I don't have a record of your vehicle rental in our system.
Bob:  No?  Don't worry, I've got my shit together Jose.  I print out everything.  Here's my confirmation.  See, I've got my shit together.

[Jose studies Bob's confirmation sheet with a puzzled look, again stares at the screen, then glances at the confirmation sheet yet again.]

Jose:  Um, sir, well, that's great that you have your printed confirmation, but the problem is that it is for a rental NEXT WEEK, June 5.  That's why you got such a great rate, sir.
Bob:  What?  Come on.  Let me see that.  Shit!
Well, thankfully Jose hooked us up with a vehicle and at a good rate (not those over-inflated Memorial Day Weekend rates), and before we knew it we were all on our way to The Super 8 Motel in Maine.  Also coming along with us was my good friend Herb, a 3:10 (yes, Herb, I got it right this time) marathoner attempting his first 50 mile race.  The right up had some funny moments.  While Brian opted for healthy fruit and veggies, I made sure to load up on cheeseburgers and Dunkin' Donuts.

Brian's Food of Choice
My Food of Choice
Bob, Natalia and Herb Loading Up at Dunkin' Donuts

One of my favorite moments of the weekend came at packet pick-up.  Last year I was so excited to have a low bib # - 4.  I remember being stunned and sharing the news with Chris, Susan and Lori (some of my G.A.C. friends who were at pick-up with us).  Well, my joy was quickly lost when Lori grabbed her bib only to announce that she had won bib-number war by pulling a 3!  I would have none of that this year, and totally destroyed Lori by securing, yes, that's right bib #1 (Lori had #92, so I crushed her, but that's the only prayer I ever have at besting Lori as she once again was awesome with an 8:08:42 finish).  We have already set the stage for next year's bib-war challenge, with Lori claiming she will sit by the computer waiting for registration to open (bib #s are assigned based on order of sign-up).

The only race I can ever hope to get Bib #1 at.
Ok, so the race itself was a mixture of fun moments and difficult, challenging moments.  The course consists of 3 loops, a 3.5 mile mini-loop followed by 3 circuits of a 15.5 mile loop.  It kind of looks like a bowl of spaghetti. 

Let me first note that my nutrition for this race was absolutely horrific.  I didn't eat enough food, didn't drink enough...just terrible.

I started out with Shannon, and together we would spend almost 19 miles together.  Having no real goal but to survive, I stuck with Shannon's plan of walking the up-hills and running the down-hills and flat at a good pace.  Early on we were ticking off sub-9 minute miles.  Shannon would take a turn for the worse at the end of the first 15.5 mile loop, struggling big-time to breathe at times.  The mile splits went from 9s to 10s to 11s.  Once we made it to the end of the first full loop, I saw Shannon's boyfriend Sid and felt comfortable heading onto the second full loop without her.  Somehow I got a burst of energy and began running at a good pace again, with mile splits for miles 19-22 of 9:09, 8:57, 8:51 and 9:05, and I started to feel as if I had a decent chance of breaking 9 hours.

My goal time for completing the 2nd full loop (or, 34.5 miles) was to be at 6 hours overall, which would give me just under 3 hours to complete the final 15.5 miles.  I was thinking conservatively, always reminding myself that I could keep my pace to an easy sub-12 min/mi and still make it with time to spare.  I came through a good 8 minutes or so ahead of time (about 5:52 overall).  Bob had a Phix Energy Drink waiting for me.  I will post more on this product later, but it has been an amazing addition to my training.  Now I know I can do this.  The last portion of the course is about 5 miles, and it has some nice stretches of runnable trails.  Before heading out to that section, you pass the start/finish area, and maybe, just maybe, Shannon (who had called it a day) or Sid would come out and pace for the last 5 miles.  Sue enough, Shannon greeted me as I came in and immediately asked if I wanted Sid to come out.  Hell yes!  Brian made me down a gel (huge help) and Sid and I were off...out to break 9 hours or fail trying our best. 

By this point my legs are literally jelly.  I would start to run up hill only to be stopped dead in my tracks.  It wasn't as if I was making the decision on my own to walk up-hill.  My mind would say "hammer the hill" and my legs would say "up yours, asshole!"  Sid and I would check our time.  We had it, let's enjoy it.  I can't thank Sid enough for going out for those 5 miles.  With about 2 miles to go I see Herb climbing a hill up ahead.  I can tell things are not right with him.  He had run the first 25 miles in around 3:30, and Bob mentioned that he was in 4th place ahead of Brian at one point.  Crash.  He was hurting.  We stayed together for a little over a miles.  He said things (both out there on the course and later in the day) like, "I was very naive about this," and "for the first 25 miles I thought it was easy...after 25 miles is wasn't so easy anymore."  The best thing he said, however, was in response to the question, "What did you learn out there about ultra distance running."  He simply said, "I learned that I have a lot to learn."  I have no doubt that Herb will be super successful at the 50-mile distance once he nails the fueling aspect of going that distance.

With about a mile to go I took off, now in search of a sub-8:50 finish (what the heck, I had a shot at it if I moved my ass a bit).  As I approached the finish line I saw Bob, Brian, Chris and Shannon and they were all cheers as I finished with a new 50-mile PR of 8:49:19.  Not too bad for an old man with tired legs.  In the team competition we moved up a spot from 4th overall in 2009 to 3rd in 2010, finally moving ahead of our G.A.C. friends (in 2008 they beat us by nearly an hour - we were 2nd overall that year but out of 2 teams, and in 2009 they had us beat by almost an hour and a half).  Not in 2010 baby!  Our team total time was 35:00:00 (with Brian at 7:39:10, me at 8:49:19, Herb at 8:50:42, and Natalia at 9:40:49), 39 minutes ahead of G.A.C., and only 8 minutes behind the 2nd place team, Bimbler's Sound.

Of course, I can't thank Bob enough for being a super crew person all day long, crewing for all of us.  We had a great dinner (especially compared to the awful food and service we had Saturday night) and a long ride home, finally arriving around 12:30 AM....plenty of time to get some sleep and head out for a Monday morning 8.5 mile training run. :)

Oh...Bob...don't forget to cancel that car rental reservation for next Saturday.


  1. you're going down in the number war next year Tony!! ;-)
    oh, and congrats on the new PR and the team award. Apparently the GAC needs to put down the beer, wine martinis and your leftover mac and cheese so we can get back on top! Nice seeing you Sunday.

  2. Thats's an awesome time, congrats on a PR! I always say taper is overrated:) In 2005 I raced 22 ultras, and more than half of them I did great at (the other part I was just lollygagging with friends). And - thanks on an update of Bob! Nice to hear he's alive and kicking, really. You are on a great path for the summer, man.

  3. awesome, congrats! i want to do this race next year!

  4. as much as i hated this race, i cant wait to do it again :)

  5. Only you Tony throws in a PR in the middle of the crazy BW training. That's awesome!

  6. Awesome job, congrats on the new PR!