"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." -Teddy Roosevelt
New Gloucester, MAINE -- The objective for Sunday's Pineland Farms 25k Trail Race was pretty straightforward...PR. In fact, back in December I had identified it as one of my Top 3 goals for 2010. Following a very good winter and productive early spring I felt my fitness (and most importantly...my health) were precisely where they needed to be. Now all I needed to do was perform. Before leaving for the event I wrote four numbers on the back of my left hand; 22, 44, 1:06, and 1:28. Those would be my 5k time targets for 7:05 pace through 20k. From experience I know that the last 5k is more about survival than pace but I figured if I hit the 20k split I would be in excellent position to run sub 1:54 (the PR I set last year). The record field of 320 trail runners set off under clear skies, with a light breeze, and temps in the high 70's. Pineland Farms held true to it's name with thick clouds of pine pollen blowing everywhere. The first 5k is mostly downhill and I fought the temptation to put too much 'time in the bank' instead sticking with the plan to be patient in the first 15k. I hit the 5k mark in 21:15...about :45 fast, but fine considering the terrain and the excitement of the race start. Breaking longer races down has always helped my focus. Because this course has the 5k's marked, it's logical to deconstruct the race into five 5k races. With so much focus before the race on the last 5k I actually forgot how challenging the 2nd 5k was on this course. The elevation profile tells the story. Nearly half of the elevation lost in the first 5k is regained in the 2nd 5k and my 10k split reflected it. Actually, around the :46 mark I thought they had either forgotten to place the 10k or it had blown down because I was sure I should have seen it by then. Then as I crested a small hill in the Valley Farm Loop I saw it...:48. I quickly rationalized that my 7:05 pace target had a little extra "cushion" built into the PR attempt so I stayed patient and turned my attention to the next 5k. With most of the elevation gained, the 3rd 5k is a cruiser and I managed to find a comfortably hard rhythm. Just before the 15k mark, at the Valley Farm aid station, I caught TRIAD Racing's Mike Wade. An incredibly talented runner and winner of aR's Pemi Wild Ultra in '09 I was pleased to have caught him but unsure as to how long I could stay with him. I enjoyed the few minutes of conversation and then was a little surprised when he let me go ahead. At the 15k I looked at my watch; 1:07. I had made up 3 of the 4 minutes lost in the 2nd 5k and now squarely back in the game. Just shy of 17k we passed by the START/FINISH area where I exchanged my two 10 oz bottles of HEED and took two ENDUROLYTES. Due to the warmer temps I was purposely aiming for 20 oz/hour of HEED and through the first hour I was right on point. As I crossed the road I had roughly 8k to go but these were certainly the toughest kms on the course. Just before the 20k mark, on a gradual descent, Mike passed me. He looked refreshed, fit, and strong. Bewildered, I wondered for a moment what he had been doing for the last 5k? As the endless ups and downs continued, the 20k was finally in sight. I hit the mark in 1:29:30, ninety seconds behind but still in great shape to pull off the PR. Then it happened. After 21,000+ footstrikes I failed to effectively place left foot to hard surface instead kicking a baseball sized rock on a gradual decline sending me hurtling violently forward in a hands toward the ground "I'm going to graham" catastrophe. In a good news bad news sort of way I saved the faceplant...but the sudden lunging forward sent both hamstrings into spasm. Although I was able to continue to run, the pace was slowed considerably but the stage had been set for an epic physical collapse. In the final field with less than a km to go it happened. My left hamstring seized bringing me to an abrupt halt. I reflexively bent forward in a attempt to relieve the cramp but it actually made it worse. Standing back up I quickly ran through my contingency plan for such a calamity...but I hadn't planned for this. The best I could do was finish the ounce or two of HEED in my bottles and walk as quickly as I could. Runner after runner ran by encouraging me "hang in there...the end is near". Oh how right they were. Within in three minutes of stopping I was able to continue running but with a cadence that looked more like shuffling on egg shells than trail racing. I ran across the finish in 1:58:11 (37th overall). I was actually closer to my worst ever finish (2:01 in '08) than my PR (1:54 in '09). Two disappointing individual efforts in a row, Pineland and 7 Sisters. Both results affected by cramping. Time now for a lot of reflection and a renewed effort to strengthen that weakness. On the team front, the very talented 4 from TRIAD put a whoppin' on us beating us by just under 20 minutes.
"Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction." - William James