JFK 50 Miler

Oct 30th, 2010 - Race - Pathfinder's Trail "25k" - New Gloucester, ME - 13.3

Day 303 - Like steroids to Sammy Sosa, Maine has been very, very good to me.

Portland was the site of my first BQ'er. Sugarloaf was the site of my first sub-3 hour marathon. And the place that I find myself on this very chilly fall morning was where I brought home a lot of hardware during the Pineland Farms Running Festival back in May.

I discovered The Pathfinder's "25K" (more on this later) Trail Race earlier in the week when I was looking for something to run in order to fill a gap in my JFK training "schedule". MCM on Sunday would have been perfect, but I was too slow on that registration button.

This trail race looked to be the next best thing. Besides, I like to get away once in awhile and run a low-key race somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Also, when I saw BAKED PIES as the main prize, I knew I had to go.

So, while the rest of the Masssoles crew were down in DC for the "Keep the Fear Alive" rally, and MCM on Sunday, I was freezing my ass off listening to the 20 minute pre-race instructions from the RD.

Well, not just me. There were 50 runners for the 5K, and another 25 for the 25K. We all huddled together around the start trying to keep warm (30 degrees), while patiently waiting for the RD to finish up his instructions.

The only thing you can really do at these pre-race meetings is hope and pray that the organizers have marked the course well enough to prevent runners from getting lost. I always find it odd that RD's feel the need to give turn-by-turn directions before a race, especially at a trail race. Unless you have a photographic memory, or in this case, good listening skills, you're not going to recall a single thing during the race.

Too make a long story sho-- TOO LATE!

OK! Fine. I'll make it even longer now!

With the early wake-up call, and the late night last night, I only managed to get four hours of restless sleep before hitting the road for the two hour road trip up to New Gloucester, ME. I didn't want to put Rachel through 30 degree temps, and have the boys get kicked off the non-dog friendly Pineland Farms property, so I went at it alone this morning. Besides, I wanted the pies to myself!

I left Tewksbury around 5:30AM and got to the race site a little after 7:30AM. I thought I was cutting it close with only 20 minutes to register, take a poop, and get myself ready for the 8AM start, but things tend to move at a different pace up here in Vacation Land.

As usual I had a couple of goals in mind for this race:

A) Win me a home baked pie
B) Win me an ice tea maker
C) Win me a $25 gift card to the Maine Running Company store

Back up goals:

D) Test out all of the gear that I'd be wearing at JFK in 3 weeks
E) Steal me some home baked pie

Race gear:

- GLRR cap
- GLRR Sweater Vests
- GLRR Happy Shorts
- Under Armor compression shirt
- Under Armor compression family jewel warmers
- North Face Compression Arm Sleeves
- Zensah Compression Leg Sleeves (Thanks Roadrunnersports.com!)
- Injinji Tetra Socks
- Newtons
- 2009 Boston Prep 16 Miler ear warmers
- 75 cent mittens from Wal-Mart
- 1 packet of GU

The 8AM start time rolled around and the RD was still trying to get his volunteers in place. It wasn't until about 8:15 when we were finally lined up at the start, and then another 5 minutes of ass-aching shivering, before we were given the GO command.

I followed a lead pack of four runners into the trails, one of them barefoot and another wearing VFF's, so I knew right away that I was chasing at most only two other runners in the 25K.

The 5K and 25K course went their separate ways about 1/4th of a mile into the race, and to my surprise, everyone in the lead pack, except for me, went to the 5K course!

I quickly looked back and didn't see anyone else on my tail. Wow. This is going to be interesting.

The trails at Pineland Farms are simply amazing. They are not overly technical, and hardly contain any single tracks with rough terrain. The downhills, littered with loose rocks, present the only real hazard here. The course provides an awesome workout with nonstop rolling hills, open grassy fields, and a few mud puddles thrown in to make running even more fun!

I expected all of this after running in the Canicross and Barefoot races back in May, in the same vicinity, only this time the weather was a lot cooler and there was much less humidity. Humidity makes a huge difference in a trail race, moreso than road running, since a lot of the heat and humidity that gets generated becomes trapped under the canopy of the trees, and you definitely feel the full wet sweater vest effect.

The first mile, mainly downhill, came and went in 6:26. I had an expected goal pace of 7's for the entire run, so this wasn't a surprise. I knew it was definitely going to get harder from here on in.

We entered the first section of open terrain around 2.5, which lasted for less than 1/4th of a mile. This short stretch, however, did give me the chance to quickly look back at my lead. The 2nd place runner was entering the section as I was exiting, so I had about a 30 second lead at this point. The good thing was that he was wearing white, so he stood out against the green/yellow backdrop. I was hoping that I could blend into the environment with my slime green colors, but unfortunately, nothing around me was radioactive.

My main focus was on pacing and running form. I pumped my arms and lifted my knees on the uphills, and pushed my speed to the max on the downhills. The downhills were a piece of cake as long as I didn't lose my footing. On the tough uphills though, I made a conscious effort to keep my cap's visor just below my sight line so that I could only see about 3 feet in front of me. This is a huge mental boost when you can't see the entire hill in front of you. Once I got to the crest of each hill, I would push my pace back to race pace.

I managed to get a glimpse of my competition during a couple of switch backs between miles 3 & 4. I still had my 30 second lead, but the switchbacks made the lead look deceiving, with him less than 10 physical feet from me at certain points.

My heart and pace would skip a beat each time I saw him through the brush. I hate being chased through the woods!

There's nothing worse than running a trail race with doubt, fear, and anxiety.

Doubt comes from thinking you are lost during a trail race. Not much doubt on this well-marked course.

Fear comes into play when you are running on a really technical course, like Wapack, where one mental slip up will result in a physical one. Pinelands is about a 5 out of 10 on the technical meter when compared to a course like Wapack.

Anxiety attacks you when you know you're being hunted.

I was having an anxiety attack.

I continued to push myself even harder to suppress the anxiety, and to try to give myself some breathing room.

Other than stepping into a few mud puddles here and there, the next 6 miles went by without incident. I still had my 30 second lead, and it didn't look like 2nd place was gaining much ground on me. I figured I had about 5 miles to go before I would see the finish, so I just continued doing what I was doing.

A little after Mile 10, I decided to take the only GU I had on me. I took only a small portion of it since I had no water, or expect to see any water for at least another two miles. This was to help prevent any issues that might arise over the next 5 miles, and to not crash shortly after finishing. I didn't expect to use any more of the GU, but held onto the remaining GU just in case.

At this point, it was my race to lose, and there was no way I was going to stop pushing with 4 miles to go. Barring any major catastrophe, like going off course, I was going to get me some PIE!

And right on cue, before mile 11.5, I went off course...

We were again in an open field, and the only sign of a trail was a freshly mowed path. Unfortunately, somebody decided to also mow straight ahead, as well as to the right, without posting any race markers to indicate which direction to go!

I quickly made the decision to go straight ahead where the course quickly turned to the left. I then ran smack into a portion of the course that we had already crossed, and a piece of tape across the trail blocked my progress. DAMN!

I turned around and to my shock, the 2nd place guy was right where I was 30 seconds earlier! I raced back and saw a look of surprise on his face. He stopped dead in his tracks, turned around, and continued on the other path.


Nearly 12 miles of running with the lead, only to give it up because of an unlucky brain fart. It was demoralizing to see him in the lead by about 10 feet, but I knew I still had at least a 5K to catch him.

I was struggling a little bit to get my footing on the grassy terrain with my legs feeling heavy. I needed to remind myself that he was probably struggling too. With my 11.5 miles of experience, I knew how much more physically and mentally demanding it is to lead a race. I had to get myself under control and focus on being patient about taking over the lead again. Too soon and he'll catch me again, too late and I'll regret it.

We entered the final portion of the multi-trail course and to my luck, it was the same exact course that I ran at the Canicross and Barefoot race 5 months earlier! I knew exactly what was ahead of us, including the location of the final hills on the course. This was where I was going to make my move. I figured that if he countered on the uphills, then he would be expending a little bit more energy than me.

We got to the first of two final hills and I made my move. I passed him on the right, and crossed back over in front of him as the course turned quickly to the left. I then cut off his tangent to the right, as the course went back to the right.

I really pushed it into another gear on the downhill portions. I knew I was breaking away at this point as his footfalls were falling further and further behind.

We came across the final water stop at around mile 13, and with only 2 miles to go, I knew I could last without it. He followed suit and made the same decision.

I knew that the course was going to open up to another open field after the final hill. This was the finish area of the Canicross and Barefoot races earlier in the year, but it couldn't possibly be the finish for this race since my Garmin indicated that we've only ran 13.1 of the planned 15.5. Or could it?....

To my shock, I heard the other runner make a move after we got to the top of the hill. Why was he pushing the pace with 2 miles to go!?

I saw my answer when I lifted my cap's visor above my sight line. It was the finish line clock!

He passed me slightly after catching me off guard, but I managed to re-take the lead with about .10 to go. We were going at an all out sprint to the supposed finish line. I didn't want to take any chances, even if the people at the finish would eventually tell us to continue and run through the area to get in the additional 2 miles, so I did my best impression of running a 400 at track.

I edged him out right at the finish to take the victory by 2 seconds!

(Closer than it looks)

I was pretty drained, but quickly regained my strength with the knowledge that I had won the race!

I congratulated Andy on the outstanding run, and he was pretty pumped with his own performance too.

We went over to talk to the RD, and I told him that the course was either short by 2 miles or we just ran the fastest 25K of our lives!

The distance was confirmed as other runners crossed the line with their own Garmin readouts. The consensus was that the course was about 13.2, so the RD made the wise decision to just call it a half marathon, and had the race timers adjust the pacing on the final results.

I was really relieved to learn that others had ran the same short course, since I didn't want to win the race due to the fact that I had cut the course short by two miles.

The low-key awards ceremony was held and I received the following:

A) Home baked pie
B) Ice tea maker
C) $25 gift card to the Maine Running Company

3 for 3 and I didn't have to steal any pie!

I got the ice tea maker (didn't even know there was a need for something like this!) for travelling the furthest to get to the race. In a day full of surprises, this was the coolest one!

The pie was incredible (sorry Rach), and I stopped by the Maine Running Company in Portland, on my way home, to exchange the gift card for two pairs of Injinji tetra socks. This running store absolutely rocks, with everything priced at what you would find them priced at on any online store. I wish we had a store like this in the Acton area...

All of my gear worked well and all systems are a GO for JFK. I just want to point out that the Zensah compression calf sleeves were excellent, and I highly recommend these for cold weather running. I am pretty sure that it helped prevent my calves from cramping during the race, and quicken my recovery post-race.

I definitely plan on returning to this race next year to defend my "25K" title, and I will definitely bring along as many people as I can find to support this great event!

Official Results

(round and round we ran...)


  1. So um, is it bad if I have no idea what I'm wearing for JFK? Help?

    Great job by the way! Sounds like a fun race!

  2. Katy, don't worry, just bring your freckles, smile, and winning attitude and you'll be on that podium at JFK!

    All seriousness aside, comfort is going to be key. I'll let you try out a pair of the Injinji Tetra socks to see if it's something you want to try for JFK. I've used them at my last 6 marathons and not one blister or foot issue.

    I also recommend getting a pair of the Zensah compression calf sleeves. Great for cold-weather running, and from the looks of it, JFK is gonna be cold.

  3. tl:dr

    But I like the sound of $0.75 mittens...

  4. NP,EJ. You didn't miss much. The best part were the mittens.