Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival 2018
Pineland Farms is not just a farm. It’s a big conference center, business center, educational center, recreational center, as well as a working farm. It’s in southwestern Maine, a few miles north of Portland, and they manage to fit a 25K trail course on their 30-something km of trails without doing a lot of out and backs or repeats of loops. Admittedly the course looks like what would happen if you dipped an eel in paint, gave it a jolt of electricity, and let it wiggle on the map for a while, but still, they achieved their goal.
We’d been planning this event for some time and wound up with six Axe Murderers attending: five signed up for the 50K (me, runnertype, MyMomRuns, Kat, GatsbyBird), one for the 25K (call her Runningprof), one friend in the 25K, and Runningprof’s non-running DH. MyMomRuns arranged a rental house for the weekend, on a lake not far from the race, and we convened on New Gloucester, Maine. Several attendees flew into Boston and drove up, others drove from home (in both cases the drive was from Michigan). I drove with MMR and her friend and for the first time in my life visited Niagara Falls. Impressive! Got to the house at the same time that runnertype arrived and enjoyed the pizza the others had picked up.
Packet pickup was at the race site on Saturday. They were holding the shorter events that day: 5K, 10K, canicross 5K, Kiddie K, and barefoot 5K (ouch). So we got a chance to suss out the start/finish, think about where to park, and drop off the food items the race had requested. There was a “free for runners, everyone else pays” food tent supplied mostly by donated items. I had brought both lemon bars and chocolate chip cookies from home, donated the lemon bars to the race and kept the cookies for the house. We got our numbers and other race paraphernalia; all items including the race shirt were ‘purchase in addition to race fee’, almost all of us had bought a shirt, I bought a pint glass, MMR bought a hat. GatsbyBird had plans to meet a friend in Portland for lunch. The rest of us headed for Freeport and the coast. Spent some time (and money!) at the L.L. Bean flagship store, had a good lunch and libations at a restaurant that had the biggest inflatable lobster any of us had ever seen on the roof, and headed back in a cold rain. We made a stop to walk across a swinging bridge before we reached the house, then had a pickup dinner and spent a long time playing Cards Against Humanity. This is not a game you’d want your parents, your children, your clients, or your students seeing the cards you throw in, especially when plenty of beer and cider has been consumed! Fairly early night, the 50K started at 8 AM but we wanted to get there early to find parking and show off our Axe Murderer shirts and prop axes.
I practically bathed in bug spray before we left, I didn’t want to be out in the woods with every mosquito, blackfly, tick, and deerfly in southern Maine headed in my direction. It was low 50s with clouds but no rain forecast – perfect running weather. Got to the race and had our pictures taken by an amused race director. We explained the origin of the team name a number of times:
Runner: I’m going to [insert place name] to run with a bunch of women I met on the running board.
Family: What? People you met on the Internet?
Runner: Yes. Your point?
Family: You don’t know these people! They could be….um….axe murderers or something!
Stashed the axes and a few drop bags under the EZ-Up of a friendly running team, whose sign said “Running FUCK Yeah!”, and heard the race director asking us to make our way to the start chute. We lined up towards the back and were listening to the usual instructions (don’t litter, let the race know if you are dropping… ) when I spotted a man a bit further up in the chute with “LDR” on the back of his shirt. I knew LDR from runango was planning to be there, so I squeezed through the crowd and said “Hi, are you LDR?” (DIdn’t know his given name.) He looked surprised that a strange woman with a rather ominous shirt was accosting him but said politely “Yes, it stands for Long Distance Runner”.
“Do you post on runango?”
(stick out my hand) “Hi! Arimathea.”
Big grin and a returned handshake. “Hi! Nice to meet you.”
Runnertype comes up also to meet him, they’ve Facebooked but they haven’t met in person. I think that’s the modern day equivalent of “we’ve howdied but we ain’t shook hands.” We chat for a couple of minutes then the race starts. GatsbyBird takes off first, she’s wicked fast, MyMomRuns shortly thereafter. MMRF and Runningprof are doing the 25K which didn’t start until 10. Runnertype, Kat, and I start near the back and shortly ARE the back.
First portion is along a lawn near the woods. We trot gently along. Kat is planning to walk most of it but she does walk fast. RT and I are jogging. We decide to stay together for the first lap at least. Kat wants to do this but she is concerned about both the time limit and the distance – but she has a badge for her Road ID that says “ultra finisher” and she would like very much to put it on her Road ID after today. RT has done one ultra in her life – coincidentally I was with her then too, that was Dances with Dirt Devils Lake in 2010 – and she’d like to finish a second. I just want to finish this one within the time limit, which is 11 hours (7 pm) for this race, so I can get Maine.
We pass the first 1K sign. 2% down. We can do this! RT mentions “relentless forward motion”. I counter with “relentless CONTROLLED forward motion” and promptly do an uncontrolled forward motion onto the trail. I swear and get up. Gashed left knee, mud all over my palms, that seems to be the major damage. And a white shirt isn’t going to stay white very long at a 50K but it would have been nice to keep it clean a bit longer than that.
First stretch is through a wooded area, then down a path to the first aid station. I’m glad to see the portapotty and so is Kat. I let her go in first (one of those situations where “after you” is really the politest thing to do) and once we have both emerged we grab water and the three of us take off again. All the race will be alternating between woods and grassy areas, this is woods then the only paved stretch of the race. I think this is about .5 km. Down a small hill and follow the red arrows into more woods. We’re counting off the kilometers already.
A few km of wooded trail, then we finally get to another aid station. This is “Yurt” which we will be going by several times. They are playing what sounds like “Earworms of the 70s” – at this point it’s the Village People’s “It’s Fun to Stay at the Y-M-C-A” at earsplitting volume. Past the aid station the first time, wait for RT to use the facility, then off around a very large meadow with lots of twists and turns in the edge. The “trail” is a mown row on the edge of the field, rough footing and extremely cambered. There’s a fairly long uphill at the far side of the pasture, then we swerve back for a second pass at the Yurt aid station. More disco. Kat discovers the deliciousness of hummus wraps and salted potatoes. I’m sticking to watermelon and Chex Mix. They have a lot of food out, that’s good, and plenty of water which is even more important. Not sure why all the maple water (except that this is New England) and it sounds interesting but I’d rather not try a different beverage during a race. Somewhere in this section we get passed by the lead runners for the 50m and from then on we see 50 milers from time to time.
We see LDR passing the aid station, he’s a small loop ahead of us. We head off into the woods. This is a substantial hill but it’s pretty, we pass ferns and rocks and a number of clumps of violets. Spend some time going up and down hills in the woods, then emerge into another pasture. There are a lot of cornstalks in the field to our right and we figure we know where Pineland Farms plants its corn maze. There is a stretch of muddy trail but it’s not bad, it’s more bouncy than soggy/splashy. We also pass a field with a small herd of dairy cows. They are udderly fascinated by all these runners passing by. One trots along beside us and she’s running faster than we are. Bah.
We do some circling of fields and back to the Yurt aid station for the third time. More food and more disco. Bid the Yurt staff farewell and head out, we’re now at about 12 km.
We run through more pasture and we see a lot of 25km runners charging out, they are at 3km and we are 10km ahead of them. Figure grumpily that they will catch up with us before we finish the first 25k. Past Valley Farm Aid for the second time and we have a steep uphill followed by some fairly steep downhills. (No rocks or roots on the trail, my arse.) Pass the 16km mark just before we run through the start/finish area and then off over a bridge and a timing mat to the smaller second loop of the course.
There’s no aid station in the start/finish area but there is one just as we start into the loop. At first we think this is easier, it’s basically flat after we get around a big pasture. RT remarks on the pretty cemetery that’s just across the road. Back into the woods for Gloucester Hill. This is some climbing and descending, we start to get passed by 25Kers and the number increases steadily until there’s a stream of them passing us. We finally reach another aid station. As we’re standing there waiting for one member of the group to finish in the portapotty, a runner comes limping back up the trail. He wiped out and landed on his shoulder, the aid station people fix him up. It doesn’t look like he dislocated anything. We can’t do anything they could so we keep going. Runnertype comments that we do have a doctor here, to which Kat’s response is one word: Meow. Message is loud and clear: she is a veterinarian, not a human doctor!
During this stretch RT’s back is bothering her a lot and she decides to drop at the 25K mark. Kat has been talked into pressing on, though she is feeling the effects of these miles. She’s planning to walk the second half. We circle the last pasture loop, cross the road again, and get to the start/finish. RT peels off to the finish and Kat and I go back out for Round Two.
This is easier in some ways because we know what to expect. About 2 km in I pull ahead and Kat tells me to go at my own pace. I am not much faster than she is, we know we’ll see each other at the finish line and probably several times as the course doubles back on itself. At 4.7 km I see MMR coming back from the yurt loops, so she’s over 7km ahead of me. Nice work! They are STILL playing disco at Yurt. I cannot imagine how bored some of the aid station staff are with that pounding at them all day. No great difference from the first time. The cows have been brought in from the pasture – MMR observes later that we ran until the cows came home and then some.
It does seem that the second loop is shorter than the first, which obviously was not the case unless we cut the course which I am certain we didn’t, but it sure as heck isn’t that short. I keep moving forward. I’m being passed by 50 milers at frequent intervals. As I leave the Yurt aid station for the last time I see a 50 miler coming into there for the first time. She’ll make it, I think, she’s only 6km behind me, but that is one long day. At one point I see Kat through the trees and shout encouragement to her.
I make it back to the start/finish area, see MMR, Runningprof, Runningprof’s DH, GatsbyBird, RT, and MMRSO kicking back at the finish line. I tell them Kat’s a few minutes behind me and head out on the last loop. I do see more this time than last. A lovely rock with moss all over it and flowers rooted in the moss. A taped off cut through which requires us to take a long loop. An aid station with volunteers who have been out there all day, they are awesome – and then 1.5 km later the same aid station’s back view, we come within a few yards of it. Sigh. Press on. See Kat again, tell her I’ll see her in a few minutes at the finish line. She’s chugging along. I find a root with my toe, trip, throw out my hands, and recover before I actually fall, thank goodness.
I finally see the Last Aid Station and then remember that there’s one more pasture loop at the end of this segment. Bloody hell. Around the field, should be running but I can’t pull much out and I want to run at the end. Finally get to the end of that loop and back across the road. Cross the bridge with the mats, turn, and the finish line is right there. Whoa! I was thinking it was 10:45 and my time is 9:45, we started an hour later than I thought. Hot damn! Cross the finish line, get my cowbell (substitutes for a medal), RT hands me a diet Coke. I sit for a few minutes, then go in search of food and socks.
They are out of socks and taking names and addresses to mail them. The guy ahead of me tells the RD that he’s probably the furthest away. I raise a skeptical eyebrow. He says “I live in Virginia.” I snort. He stares. “You live further away?” I don’t even bother to answer, just give the RD my name and address. About the time I get to “California” Mr. Virginia admits defeat.
They are also out of all pizza except pepperoni, ugh, and all the baked goods are gone. They do have Kind bars though. I grab one for later, and get beers for others. Kat appears at the end of the chute. Word spreads rapidly that it’s her first ultra (I may or may not have had something to do with spreading that news). Wild cheering. She comes in in 10:00 and change. Excellent job! GatsbyBird was 6:02 which was a PR by 30 minutes for the 50K distance, MMR was 7:38 which is also most respectable. She’s been putting in some serious mileage. MMRF and Runningprof both came in in under 4 hours.
RT goes to get the car and we all pile in and drive home. The hot tub at the house is on, which is good because the hot water tank is NOT on. GatsbyBird takes a quick tepid shower, as do MMR and I. Kat, who said she wanted to sit and get her breath back for a while, has no hot water at all. We are not impressed. Eat all the leftovers for dinner, Runningprof and her DH go out to get something, then MMRF realizes his glasses are missing the little screw in the earpiece so he and MMR have to go to the drugstore to get a glasses repair kit. They come back with pizza. We don’t even have the energy to get up another card game. Bedtime for everyone.
Long drive back to Detroit but it was a good race. It was friendly and well supported and we got the feeling that everyone there was so pleased to see us come to their event. (Well, except the YMCA staff complaining about the amount of TP and paper towels the runners used. Did they want us not to wash our hands?) We talked to people who come to this every year and they love the race, and we learned that this was the best weather they’d had for a long time. I didn’t pick up any ticks which was my biggest fear, and the knee will be fine soon. We had a great race and that was the Maine goal!