Monday, August 1, 2016

Nordic Trail Festival: A Weekend Full of Fun

This past weekend we headed up to Presque Isle for the Nordic Trail Festival, held at the Nordic Heritage Center. This was the third year of the festival, and the 2nd to include running events. Ryan has always wanted to do one of these timed events, and despite a few reservations, I did finally agree to doing the 6 hour run with him as a co-ed team. My reservations mainly included the fact that Presque Isle is a four hour drive and the fact that I was a bit hesitant about the relay, as I simply am not as fast as Ryan and I didn't want him to get too competitive about the whole thing. However, in the end, I am SO glad I agreed to the event. We had an awesome weekend - the venue was amazing, the volunteers and organizers were super friendly, the atmosphere was fun, there was enough to occupy Sam for 6 hours while we ran, and truly, the area was just insanely beautiful. It is definitely something we will keep on our radar so that we can return again!

Despite Ryan's attempts, we only managed to get one other Trail Monster to join us for the weekend, with John signing up for the solo 6 hour run. We all took off around 1:30 on Friday afternoon, making our way north up the highway. Although I have been farther north in Maine, it has always been toward Katahdin and/or the Forks, so it was a new experience to drive past the Millinocket exit, and we were pleasantly surprised to get some interesting  and different views across the valley to Kathadin in the distance.

The road opened up after Bangor, and we had smooth sailing until we got off the highway for Houlton/Presque Isle. There, traffic slowed us down a bit, but the views were amazing. There were wide sweeping views over the rolling hills and potato fields as far as the eye could see. It really was lovely.

Open road

Potato fields and Mars Hill

Mars Hill windmills

Mars Hill

We stopped in Presque Isle and met up with John at the Governor's Restaurant for dinner. The food was delish and the portions were huge. YUM!

Set and ready to conquer their "Meatloaf Mountains"

Sam had just a wee bit of energy after being pent up in the car for 4 hours ;)

After stuffing ourselves, we stopped at Quoggy Joe Lodge to pick up our packets, and then headed down the road to the Nordic Heritage Center to set up camp for the weekend.

Trail love, indeed

Trail Monster camp

Beautiful clouds

Evening light

Sun setting over the Nordic Heritage Center

Sun setting over the Nordic Heritage Center

Sun setting over the Nordic Heritage Center

After setting up camp, we took a drive back into town to get some jugs of water for the weekend and were greeted with this gorgeous view across the valley as the sun set.



We didn't get to bed until late, and even then, it was a fitful sleep due to a poorly functioning pump for our air mattress, but no matter, the race didn't start until 12:30 so we had plenty of time to relax in the morning.


My girl


TMR family


We headed up to the lodge later in the morning to watch the Biathlon and for Sam to run in the kids race. 

Ready to race

At the start

Off and running!

Coming in across the field

Sprint to the finish

Finish line kick

Then it was back to camp for a quick bite to eat and to get ourselves organized, and then up to set up our gear in the shade and await the pre-race instructions. It was warm and sunny, but there was a nice breeze and not too humid. They had two bouncy houses set up for the kids, a few food trucks and music playing - it was a festive atmosphere.

Trail Monsters ready to run 

TMR selfie

The runners started a minute after the 6 hour bike race although the bikers and runners each had their own course out on the system. The run course was a 5k loop; our strategy was for Ryan to start first, and for each of us to run two consecutive laps before trading off. The hope was that we might be able to have Ryan sneak in one extra lap at the end if there was time and energy. 

The start

And they're off!

In between running segments, each of us hung out with Sam and got organized for our next leg. In the end, Sam made friends with some of the other kids, and just wandered around getting her face and arms painted, jumping in the bouncy houses, eating snacks, playing and generally having fun while occasionally checking in with us. It was the perfect set-up for runners with families!

Getting her hand painted

Zebra heart ;)

Having fun with nobody ;)


I only got a few shots during the race itself...

Ryan coming through after loop #1

John heading out onto loop #2, after he took a wrong turn, of course ;)

Me finishing my final lap

John finishing up his 50k run

Ryan came through his first segment in around 50+ minutes. I knew I'd be slower but I still wanted to give a decent effort. It was an odd race to pace for, as essentially it turned into three 5.8 mile "races." I decided I would push but keep fairly steady, not knowing how I'd do starting my run at 1:30ish and having to go back out 2 more times later in the afternoon. The first mile of the course was the fastest, as it included a bit of pavement running near the start/finish, some less technical singletrack and a nice downhill through the fields by the camping area to access the rest of the loop. The final two miles were out in the woods and were rolling and technical, but still runnable. Ryan described the course as a less twisty Island, and I'd say that was pretty true. There were rocks and roots and turns and twists and some ups and downs but I never had to walk due to steepness, etc. The trails were nice and dry, and the woods were pretty with some colorful mushrooms and indian pipe to be seen, a few streams to cross (one on a diving board for a bridge!!!) and apparently, there was a young bear seen by some of the runners, including John, on the second lap.

My watch clocked each lap at 2.9 miles and my first two laps came in at 1:01; I was fairly pleased with that given the technical nature of the course. In between each running segment, I changed my shirt, checked in with Sam, went to the bathroom, refilled my handheld and had something to eat and drink. I didn't end up taking in a gel until the final two miles in my 3rd and final run segment, when I was starting to trip a bit over myself. Otherwise, I ate things I knew would settle fine in my stomach in between my three running segments, like grapes, fig newtons, oreos and a few chips; I also drank some gatorade. 

I was able to keep my loops fairly steady with my second two laps clocking around 1:03. When Ryan came through between his 5th and 6th lap, he said, "I'm garbage," so I knew the final few miles were going to be rough for him. I also knew we likely wouldn't get in an extra lap after I got in my 5th and 6th laps, as the final lap needed to be started by 6:00 pm.

I headed out right around 5:10 for my final segment and while Ryan told me to just enjoy it, I planned to try to maintain my pace for as long as I could. Lap #5 wasn't bad, but by the 6th lap, I was losing it a bit. I never had to walk but I did slow. Still, we were psyched to each get in almost 18 miles for a total of 12 loops and almost 36 miles overall, which put us in 2nd place for the co-ed teams! 

2nd place co-ed team awards with a tub of Gatorade as a prize

After finishing up, I sat for a while composing myself ;0 and then we cheered on the other runners and bikers finishing up their events. John came through after 6:30 looking just a wee bit tired, but still got his official 50k finish, and came in 2nd in the male solo 6 hour run - nice! Soon after, we headed over to grab some food at the food trucks and got ourselves showered up in the lodge locker rooms (so nice!!). While we ate, they did awards and then we watched the final event of the festival, a hysterical race around a small circle with big guys on little bikes ;)

Big guys, little bikes

Goofy festival fun

The music went on late in to the evening, but thankfully Sam fell asleep anyway. It was a long, fun, tiring day and I'm so glad we went to the effort of driving up to enjoy it! We really all had a blast!

RESULTS (with Ryan's loop times starting with a 2x:xx and mine with 3x:xx :) )

After packing up on Sunday, we headed to Bangor to eat lunch at Dysart's. Once again, yum!


Brownie Wonder

From there, we headed up the road for a short walk in the Bangor City Forest, and in an "it's a small world" moment, we ran into Jamie and Kate on the road as they were headed to the pet store. Random but such fun! So, they joined us for a walk out through the forest and along the boardwalk in the Orono Bog. Such a cool spot and a nice 1.5 mile walk to finish up the weekend!

Look who we found!

Bangor City Forest selfie

Out walking

We found many HUGE high bush blueberries along the way - what a treat!


Blueberry bushes

Fringed orchid


Fringed orchid and wild rosemary

Along the boardwalk

Northern Pitcher plant


So pretty

Pitcher plant

Grass pink orchid

Pitches and bog

Pitchers and bog

Love the colors


Hackamatack pine

Along the boardwalk


Cotton sedge in the bog

So pretty

My girl

More pitchers

Blueberries galore!

Along the bog

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