Wednesday, May 29, 2013

More Cowbell!: Mudland Farms (5/26/13)

SRR at the Tent...

Race: Pineland Farms 50k
Location: New Gloucester, ME
Goal Time: 4:45
Actual Time: 5:47:53

At the end of the Pleistocene Epoch (10,000 years ago), the glacier that covered most of modern day Maine receded.  During the glaciation process, parts of the earth’s crusts had been pushed down up to 100 meters. Thus when the glacier had receded, the ocean poured into and flooded valleys of Southern Maine.

In places the ocean received clay sediment or rock and gravel sediment created ridges on the ocean floor.  However in some places, the sediment built up over hundreds of years to build a “glaciomarine delta.”  As the crust up lifted these deltas were raised above sea level.  These silted deltas provide great agricultural land.

Much more recently – Saturday – a huge band of clouds covered Southern Maine.  These clouds were visible accumulated groupings of frozen and liquid water droplets and vapor.  As the droplets condensed in to heavy droplets, they become heavier than air.  Once these droplets and vapors condensed into heavier droplets that were heavier than air, they were pulled to the ground – like Newton’s apple – by gravity.

So many of these droplets were pulled to the ground that they created rain: vast amounts of rain that came down in heavy sheets. These heavy sheets of rain hurdled to the ground and struck the dirt that had been built up by the aforementioned glaciomarine delta.  This water from the rain joined with the dirt on the ground to create MUD.

Even without the mud, the rain on Saturday was bad enough that Tim and I were glad we didn't pick a race and felt empathy for those who did run Saturday's races (10k, 5k, Canicross (doggy) 5k).  The hardy souls that represented SRR in the torrential downpours got our props.




By Sunday, the rain had stopped but the mud stayed on. Over the 25km course (2 loops for the 50km and 3 loops + for the 50 mile), there were vast miles of mud. And all sorts of mud: thin layers of mud in some of the woods, sneaky mud hiding under pine needles, hills that made for mud surfing.  But the worst mud was the fields and fields of ankle deep slimy mud that would continue for up to three miles, completely unarrested except for puddles so wide they could not be jumped.

These unjumpable lakes of icy Spring water were of varying – and unknown - depths.  Two were less deep than the mud.  One was knee deep.  (My first time across, I looked back at the people behind me and yelled: "Watch out that s**t is deep!")


The three-mile stretch from the 5km to the 10km mark was the absolute worst. This slipping and sliding through empty fields with the occasional icy bath for your leg. The first time through I rolled the ankle I twisted in Pittsburgh three weeks ago.

By it was the second time through that was the near death of me – and probably a moment of self-realization that every ultra runner has to deal with and accept. The pain had become so bad in my ankle that I could not get proper stability on the mud.  It was painful to run on it: Hell, it was painful to stand on it.  In these wind-swept open fields from 30km to 35km, I was slipping and sliding in pain on my right ankle as the wind hit in cold blasts at gusts of 20 mph.

I stood there a second and looked back out over these fields: noone near me, no road, no house.  I was desolate and destitute.  I imagined myself in black and white in some Ingmar Bergman existential allegory of death.  I knew that I still had 11 miles left.  I also knew that the next two miles were going to be REAL hard.  I also knew that the 9 miles after that would be comparatively easier. So I gutted out the 2 most painful miles of my running career.  As I put in three miles averaging 17 minute pace, the goals of breaking 5 or 4:30 had not only vanished, but seemed like fools' errands.


Without the ankle issue, I'm sure I would have run near 5 hours.  In the second loop, I couldn't effectively run on the deep mud or on the downhills because it hurt my ankle too much.  This left the 35 meters of flat dry trail and the uphills to be the fast parts.  Yes, let's review, the uphills in a trail race were the FAST parts of the second loop.

Until about 28 km in the race, my ankle didn't bother me too much.  It seemed like I might have dodged a bullet and pulled off something. But slowly into the first mile of the real bad mud, it dawned on me how much my ankle hurt from stabilizing.  Fortunately, I realized that I could only do what I could do.  Once I used a clever gambit of my knight and bishop to fight off Bergman's Död, I accepted my duty.


I just needed to run 9 miles through pain and just finish - DAMN YOU, PLEISTOCENE EPOCH!!!.  While I was passing 50 mile runners (and some stragglers from the 25k), many 50 km runners just blew by me in that last 9 miles.  With every step I cared less about the pain and the mileage in front of me seemed less daunting.  At 48 km, I thought I should start running hard to finish faster.  Then I thought: Why?  So I coasted in the last brutal 2km.

In the last 200 meters there is the biggest of puddles/ mud pits. Over the race a trail had been created around the puddle.  This was now filled with more mud.  I was trying to navigate through two trees off to the side, when a woman tried to push me and said: "Excuse me, I'm trying to finish..."  Well, I sprinted to the end to make sure I beat her.


As I crossed in pain but under 6 hours: Take that Död, I'm not going with your dance.  I was handed the "finisher medal:" a cowbell!


I had once listed the 5 hardest athletic undertakings:

This race moves into 2nd...


Alex White took 3rd in the 10k on Sat on 2nd in the 50 miler on Sun
Brian Tinger took 1st in the 10k and 4th in the 50 miler
D-Fizz took 2nd in the 50k
Kate Hails was 3rd in the 5k and successfully defended her 25k title
Scot DeDeo won his age group in the 50k with a 5 PR (god knows what his time would have been on a halfway decent course)
The SRR-Tree Bien Teams took 3rd overall in the 25k and 50k races
Milly ran her first trail race. 

SCOTT WITH WATER BOTTLE AND COWBELL!!  Click for Scot's blog here


  1. Impressive racing all around, and way to stick with it and finish! Now rest up and get that ankle better!

    1. Thanks Greg. The good part is that the past 3 days I haven't felt pain in my ankle at all. I think it's just so much duller than those in my quads and IT and calves and big right toe.

  2. We'll have to get you into a race on tough trails someday :-)