The Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival was one of the most enjoyable running events I have done. Pineland Farms is a working farm located in Southern Maine, about 10 miles west of Freeport. The running festival has taken place for the last 7 years. There are 7 races over 2 days. The selection of events makes it a relatively unique experience. Races take place on Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Between myself, my wife, and two of my daughters, we would compete in 3 of the races.
Southeastern Maine was beautiful. A mix of seaside villages and rolling forests. We stayed in Freeport the night before the race. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, it is the home of LL Bean. I had dinner with my family on Friday night at a restaurant called Linda Bean’s Kitchen. (She is LL’s granddaughter.) The steak I ordered was listed as “genuine Pineland Farms” beef. This might offend my vegan friends, but I was amused to think that the steak I was eating had recently been grazing on the very trails we would run that weekend. When I told my daughters to make sure and say hello to the cattle they passed on the farm and think of this steak, they were not amused.
The Saturday races reflect much of the character of the festival. Things start off with a 10K through the rolling pine forests and fields. My wife, Lucy, ran the 10K. Although the last 3 miles was uphill, she thought it was one of the most beautiful runs she ever did Later, there is a 5K Canicross event. This race requires both you and your dog to cross the finish line together. Seeing so many different types of dogs running was great. And my kids got a kick out of how many people looked just like their dog. (Not a compliment to the bulldog owners!) Since we do not own a dog, this was a spectator event for us.
After that, there is the basic 5K race and finally the Barefoot 5K in which no competitor may wear anything
on his/her feet. My two oldest daughters, Erin and Tara, ran the Barefoot 5K. (I think they would prefer to live their lives without shoes.) The experience of running barefoot through pine forests and farm roads left them smiling, so it was worth it. Considering that their times were comparable to running with shoes, I was impressed with their performances.
Sunday is the day for the more challenging races. There is a 25K, 50K and 50 Mile race that day. I showed up for the 50 miler which began at 6 AM. The sun was up and it was still relatively cool. However, the day promised to become very hot. I was having some stomach issues and even contemplated not running because of them. Nevertheless, I put on my sweatshirt, tied my shoes, and started the race. About 1 mile in, I caught up to Maya Ginns, with whom I had run much of the last 2 NJ 100 mile races at the Ultrafest. She was doing a steady pace and was looking to beat her previous year’s time of 10:35. She had taken 2nd place at the NJ 100 this year, so I knew she was in decent shape to hit her goal. I thought she was a good person to pace with.
The layout of the 50 mile course is a 3.5 mile loop to start and then three 25K (15.5 mile) loops afterwards. Last year I had started out way too fast, hitting the 19 mile mark in under 3 hours. It was a disaster trying to run by the last loop. This year, I told myself to start off slower and save a little for later. Maya and I had set a decent pace, not too fast. I hit mile 19 at 3:24. I felt very comfortable with that and hoped to keep it up for the next 31 miles. At some point, Maya stopped for some Gatorade, while I pushed ahead. I started to pick up my pace a little. The farm is a bit deceiving, because the hills are not very big, but they are relentless. There is virtually less than 3 miles of flat terrain during the whole 50 miles. (The elevation change over 50 miles is something like 14,000 feet.) I came through at 34.5 miles in 6:07. I had a comfortable cushion to finish in my goal of breaking 10:05 I could run 15 minute miles and still do it. However, I also remembered how the heat last year sucked the energy right out of me and I clocked some 17 minute miles towards the end. Luckily, I was paying attention to my hydration, wearing a hat that I was able to fill with ice cubes at the aid stations, and keeping myself supplied with electrolytes. (And my stomach was behaving.)
I actually saw a NJ Ultrafest T-shirt on a runner during the last lap. I pushed ahead to speak with him and find out who he was and what he ran at the Ultrafest. When I reached him and asked, there was no response. I asked again. Again, no response. I guess he was either deaf, rude, or so caught up in his earphones, that he had no clue what was going on around him. So I pushed ahead and left him far behind.
I was literally alone for miles 40-47 with no other runners in sight. By mile 48, I saw a pack catching up to me. 5 runners, all pushing the pace. I could see from their bibs that they were all 50 milers. (Some 25K and 50K runners were still out there.) I got caught up in their energy and enthusiasm to finish and ended up clocking just over an 8 minute for the last mile. Final time, 9:16:07. Maya finished in 9:45:30. It turned out to be a good race.
I highly recommend this event to anyone looking for an ultra and/or trail race with a great atmosphere in a great location.
Swag: Technical shirt, technical hat, beer mug. If you prefer not to get swag, the entry fee is significantly cheaper.
Finisher’s Awards: Runners for the 25K, 50K, and 50M finishers got a cow bell. (The longer the distance, the larger the bell. The 50M bell was big enough for a large cow!) They also received a 50M finisher pint glass and technical hat.
Winner’s Awards: Wooden plaques with Pinelands Farm events carved into them for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers.
Down side: The festival advertised free Merrell socks and free beer to all finishers of all races. Not so for the 50M crowd. (unless they were world class runners.) By the time I crossed the finish line, there was no beer and no socks, both having run out. Two thumbs down to Smuttynose Brewing Company and Merrell Footwear for not being prepared for the number of people at the event.
Up side: Great aid stations. They compete for a cash prize and are voted on by the runners. They go out of their way to help you, to cheer, and to provide the needed supplies while you run. Well-maintained trails. Almost no technical sections. Wide open carriageways and rolling fields that had paths cut through them
Really great report Dan and great time! This is a race I am going to have to put on my to-do list.
Congratulations at Pinelands and at Laurel Highlands!
You are going to kill Vermont!
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