Friday, May 30, 2014

Pineland 25k

"Are you doing Pineland?" asked Emma on Tuesday.

"Oh no, I don't think so..." I paused.

"You'll do it," she said, eyes twinkling as she skittered off to be with her newly-born tomboy, Gnarlin/Iona.
Training real hard here with Dr. Corszhi.
I signed up that night. I hadn't trained. In fact, I'd only just started running a couple of weeks ago after 6 weeks off. But hey, I still had four days.

A ridiculously awesome marsh run with Squirrel and Bullwinkle accidentally
 commemorated the Night I Signed Up For Pineland.

A double good omen!

How do you train for a 25k in four days?

Well, don't try this at home, but here's what I did:

 - (1) long hike (long as in time, not so much distance.  Anything longer than it would take to run 25k would do)
- (1) day of trying to do a short tempo the morning after said hike, and completely failing.
- (1) day of being too sore to bother trying anything.
- (1) day of just a little kayaking and then fishing with my friend's daughter's 3 foot long pink plastic Disney Princess fishing pole, nevermind the therapy I'm going to need about what I did to those poor earthworms.


With a recipe for success like this, it was clear that there could be no failure. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The hike took place the next morning, Wednesday. Sea Level Runner and I headed out to the Baldface Circle Trail over South and North Baldfaces near the Maine/New Hampshire border.
C makes it look easy... Not surprising based on how he trains.
I ran a bit in the more runnable spots, but mostly trudged the earth-covering trudge of a soul who's constantly ravenous for the world above tree line. 

The bare expanse near the first summit was a damn fine granite face. Bliss was carried in via wind from most directions, accumulating in last season's dry grasses and in timeless lichen blooms. The early spring colors seemed hushed. dormant. C had not waken them as he sailed on up ahead.
The Presidentials still have snow. We saw only a few tiny patches in the shadows.
My climb was slower, but steady. With each step I was so thankful that my physical form was finally cooperating with the parts of me that make decisions. This gratitude is always, always on my mind - more than ever.

Snow lingered in the gullies of Mt. Washington off to the west.  I wondered how much would be left in three and a half weeks, when I am running up there for a second time in as many years.

Spectacular trail along the ridge.

Baldface Circle Trail Info: 

  • Time and distance: We were in motion on the Baldface Circle trail for about 6 hours, and 10+miles, including a stop at the Emerald Pool and a bit of exploring on the sort-of-ridge.
  • Difficulty: This hike is extremely steep in parts, and would be quite treacherous and dangerous if wet or icy. I would definitely not want to bring little kids or my camp groups here. I would definitely bring confident, experienced hikers/trail runners with good footwear here.
  • Runnability: Some of the trail is very runnable and some isn't. Parts of it require climbing and using your hands.
  • Length: There are some very intriguing opportunities to do extended loops in various directions.

That face, on the left, is what we just climbed, and yes, it's that steep.
Emerald Pool - Now the name makes sense. Not shown - fantastic cascade preceding this!
I slept voraciously that night, got up early on Thursday, tried to run, and failed. I ran, alright - ran out of time after about 2.7miles -- I'd been out for close to an hour.  My quads were so shot, I could barely progress down the trail! Perhaps pathetic, definitely amusing. I had biked and biked throughout my 6 weeks of rest -- definitely my most active "rest" I've ever managed -- but rather than keeping me in shape, it just seemed to harsh on my knees. Frustrating.

I didn't try running on Friday or Saturday; I had two crazy and motion-filled days of work that perhaps were useful in averting stiffness. I was far less sore, at last, on Saturday. I fit in a short kayak in the evening, and then of course the aforementioned "fishing" during when I was supposed to be looking for things to eat and wear, doing sleep, and all that.  

Sunday happened: I pried my creaky self out of the car at Pineland to get my number. I felt rickety and understood that today was probably going to be my first DNF. My only long run in the past few months was at the Andy last Saturday - a merry occasion in the pouring rain with Disa, Axel, Val, Mindy, Danielle, and Tim. That was only 10 miles, and I was tired and dragging by the end. And the Andy is flat. Pineland is not flat. 

I caught sight of Nathan and Chandra and was soon fastening myself to a number. I realized I was obsessing over the distance when I wasn't actually even worried about that. Let go. I just needed to stay in the moment and stop if anything stopped feeling good. No big deal.

I'd bought some lightly-used Tailwind a few days ago and couldn't remember how much to use (I'd only used it once before), couldn't decide how much water to carry, and couldn't figure out how long I'd anticipated being out on the course. "What do you think, 3.5 hours?" I asked Ian. Suddenly I silently wanted to do it in 3 hours. Because 5 miles per hour, people. Aim low. Not necessarily classy, but - attainable.

Pineland Trail Running Festival is a pretty spectacular event. If you aren't familiar with it, it's a two-day trail running festival with distances from 5k to 50 miles. The shorter races are on Saturday and the longer ones on Sunday. The courses are varied and engaging, but graded and generally smooth. The hills are accurately described on the website: "relentless".  The aid stations are loaded with anything a runner could want. I only stopped once for some water because I was using Tailwind, but this a definitely an event where you can get away with carrying little of nothing.

As many of you surely are already aware, Pineland is an excellent choice for people who are just getting into the longer distances and/or experimenting with gear/nutrition. It's safe. There's tons of support. There are bands. There are cows. It's even spectator-friendly as runners in the longer races pass through the start/finish areas several times along the way. That said, the hilly terrain makes it a great challenge for runners at any level, and the idyllic vistas sometimes make you feel like you are  running through a postcard.

I ended up carrying about 5 scoops of Tailwind in about 60oz of h20 in my Nathan pack. That stuff is amazing! I probably drank about 50oz over 15 miles, sipping frequently. I never felt hungry or headachey during the event. 
My drug of choice.
I found myself running with Tami for about the first 6 miles. This was a most welcome serendipity, as each of us was focusing on "being in the moment" as the day's mantra. We admired moss and discussed runs past and future. I was so glad to have had good company to start things off well.

I was alone-ish for the middle miles, focused and content, feeling less and less creaky. Only the very old Achilles thing was on the radar. Minor. Just don't do anything stupid, I reminded myself. I faced the hills readily, carefully, and thinking thanks to the Baldpates for resetting my quads.

At around 10 miles, I seemed to be running with a fellow who we'll call the Nigerian Scammer, though he wasn't either of those things. I liked him immediately. I found myself slowing down a little bit to hear what he had to say. Eventually he divulged that he was a chemistry major(!) Our conversation made the miles fly by --  I ended up responding to one of his comments about language vs. thought by bringing up Andy Clark's "Gesture As Thought" essay & language-as-organism theory. He seemed very interested in it and curious about how it worked. Most people neither give a fuck about nor understand this shit! Never thought I'd get to discuss Andy Clark during a run!

This-all kept going right up until the Finish Line, at which point we exchanged hugs, and then went our separate ways. Funny how you can learn so much about a person and not even know their name, all in the course of a long run. I hope we can run together again someday, Nigerian Scammer! 

Whoa. Done, so soon? Is a 3 hour run "short" now? What a snob I sound like...

Trek For Peace in action.
After finishing, Luette appeared and presented me with a sort of bouquet of kale. I chuckled and snacked. I fucking love Luette. We ran our first 50k here at Pineland two years ago when I was preparing for my Grand Teton climb. I thought it was very sweet that she came all the way out here just to say hi and give me kale. Kale is kind of just one big goofy meaningless joke between us. The perfect gift.

I sprawled about with my fellow Trail Monsters, more and more of whom trickled in as they finished their 50k and 50mile runs. There was sun, there was rain, there was sun again. I began to feel very warm and sleepy and content. I wondered if I could just close my eyes for just a couple minutes...

Monsters huddling a bit during some rain.
"Someone should go run Ann in," thoughtful Scout mused. This seemed like a great idea and I wanted to be the someone. It would be a good opportunity to properly catch up with Ann as she conquered yet another 50k. Immediately upon moving, there was the headache! Ack! I cursed myself for putting my hydration pack away and slowed down a bit. My bad for not drinking a bunch after my finish. Need to make a note of that for next time. I am still, after all these years, figuring this stuff out...

Fortunately Ann was very near -- I found her partway down the last big hill, about 2k from the end. I think we were both glad to see each other. She looked strong as ever but implied she was pretty ready to be done. I asked her all about Massanutten and soon we were rounding the last turn of the last field before the last road crossing. A familiar figure loomed up ahead, perched on a rock in a little birch grove. It was a certain Tim. Now we were three, and in a couple minutes, our Annie was in and there was much rejoicing.

We reunited with our little pack of Trail Monsters. They looked good, and well-run. Scout saw a tiny owl face on a leaf. Jamie was talking about fishing. Elliot was wearing Carhartt coveralls, just like his race-director dad.

 "We're running the Scuffle course tomorrow morning at Brad, if you wanna join..." said Scout...
Scout and Amy pat the Hedgehog during our Brad run, the morning after. 

1 comment:

  1. Love this post! So happy you are back running and feeling good!! I'd say your training plan for Pineland worked perfectly :)


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