Tuesday, October 9, 2018

2018 Farm to Farm Ultra Race Report

For years, I've been saying, "I should really run that race," but it has never fit into the schedule or been a top priority due to what I've been training for. But this year was the year! Farm to Farm not only fit perfectly into the schedule but the fact that it was mostly run on pavement was a positive, and not a negative as I would normally see it, due to the fact that I wanted a race that would help me prepare for JFK in November. And so, with that, I signed myself up! In fact, when I got to registration, Tanya told me I was the first to register this year 😂

I will say though, that as the race got closer, I started to wonder if I was doing the right thing. I have been doing some road training as well as some speedwork this cycle but had I done enough? Probably not. The fact was that this race included only about 4 miles of trail and maybe 4 miles of dirt road, which left 23 miles of pavement to run. Eeek! When Emily and I ran a loop of the course last month, my feet were killing me by the end. And I had to run another loop?!? Oh boy. Not to mention, I really had no idea how I should pace this type of race. Knowing this was mostly a road run, I was worried it would be easy to go out too fast and have a horrid positive split. Ryan and I talked through a time goal as well as strategy, and I just crossed my fingers and hoped I could pull it off!

In typical Danielle fashion, I wanted to get there early to make sure I wasn't feeling rushed, but we needn't have worried, as we were able to park right next to the tent by the farm, and it was such a small race that there were no bib pick-up lines, and no bathroom lines. We chatted with Chandra, Tanya and some of the other runners, and waited for the start. It was an overcast morning, with sunlight shining through the breaks in the clouds over the farm. Such a pretty setting!

With 10 minutes until race time, rain started to pitter patter on the roof of the tent. Huh. I had looked at the weather Saturday night, and had thought it was supposed to be nice out! Oh well, nothing to do but just get started. It did make me glad I had put on my arm sleeves though!

Just as we were about to head down to the start line, I felt a small tap on my shoulder and turned around. It was Emma, who had come to watch the start! What a good friend :) So sweet of her! I really appreciated the support!

A quick start line photo and we were off. Two men shot out quickly, followed by one of the other women, Amber, who I only know vaguely as a friend of a friend, and another guy. My plan was to keep it comfortable the first loop, thinking 9:00s or there about would be reasonable for the road portions, and I didn't want to get caught up in anyone else's pace, so I just let those four go and settled in. With such a small field, I knew this would probably feel more like a training run than a race but it didn't feel too lonely out there, as I could see runners ahead, and as this was essentially an out-and-back course with only a small trail loop at Crystal Spring Farm, there was a string of runners doing the 50 mile (and later the 25k), who we saw heading in the other direction, and that added some nice energy. Jasmine and Billy were out there running the 50 miler, looking strong as always, and it was fun to cheer them on!

The roads on this course are some of the few I really do enjoy running. There are fields with distant ocean views, oreo cows grazing, pretty houses to look at and nice rolling terrain. Of course, while racing, the rolling terrain feels a bit hillier than while lollygagging along on a training run, but my plan was to run it all and just keep steady. It's about 6.5 miles from Wolfe's Neck to the turn-off onto the Crystal Spring Farm trails, which went by easily enough, and since I love the farm trails and felt good, I really enjoyed the change of pace as I ran through the woods and blueberry fields. It was on the trails that I caught up to Amber and passed her, chatting with her for a bit before I pulled away. I didn't stop at the aid station on the first loop, but truly appreciated that the volunteers were there!

Oreo cows! (FB photo)

Foliage along the road (FB photo)

Crystal Spring Farm trails (FB photo)

And then it was back on the roads. It's a nice downhill to Bunganuc but then it is essentially a climb all the way back to Wolfe's Neck, even if a very gradual one. I knew the Freeport line was about 5k from the start/finish line, and those final three miles seemed to go on forever! But I also knew that at some point, I'd get to see Ryan and the other 25kers as they headed out. Based on my pace, I figured I'd see Ryan about a mile out, and sure enough, I did. He was leading the way and looking happy, as one should a mile into a race 😉

I was feeling solid as I turned into the farm and Emma ran over to see if she could help me with anything. It had been cool enough that I hadn't needed a ton of water so I thought I'd save the time and not refill my bladder. I knew if I really needed to, I could either refill at Crystal Spring Farm or the unmanned water stop along Bunganuc on the second loop. I dropped my trash, picked up a few gels, noted that the guy who had been running near Amber was stopped at the aid station, and then took right back off onto the course. Looking down at my watch, it read 2:21. Perfect.

When Ryan and I had been talking race strategy, he said to not be afraid to go for it in the "out" on the second loop. I thought about that as I ran back down the road alone. It would have been easy to just sort of mellow out and not push through these miles, as there was no one around to "race" and for fear of having it all fall apart in the later miles, given that I still had a ways to go. I am not sure I "went for it" in the typical sense of the word, but I focused on making sure I was still moving along at a decent pace, running strong up the short little hills along the way, and hoping the rain, which had picked up, wouldn't become a true downpour! I passed a few people here and there, either running the 25k or the 50, and had a nice boost coming up Woodside as I saw Ryan running back towards Wolfe's Neck, looking good, followed up shortly by Jasmine and Billy, still all smiles despite being far into their miles for the 50. I could see one guy in red ahead, who I recognized as one of the guys who shot off like a rocket at the 50k start, walking up the hill, but he looked back, saw me coming and started to run 😆 That's OK, I caught up with him at the entrance to the Crystal Spring Farm trails and passed him.😏

Saw a bunch of the 25kers in the farm trails, including Rebecca and Amy, both looking good. My legs didn't feel quite as spry as I ran along the trails this second time around, but I did the best I could. As much as I had said I wouldn't walk, I did for a very short stretch after the aid station, as I had taken a second cup of coke and wanted to keep moving, but then it was right back to running!

Only the "back" leg remained! I did have to stop to pee along Woodside, but otherwise, I knew I was in the home stretch and that only about 5 miles to remained once I hit Bunganuc. Looking at my watch, I thought there was a good chance I could get under 4:45 if I was able to keep up the pace and not woos out in these final miles!

But oh, it hurt 😉 All that pavement was catching up to me for sure! I focused hard on keeping my legs moving and for the most part it worked, although my quads were threatening mutiny in the last 1.5 miles! Ouch.

Still, I was all smiles as I crossed the finish line, happy to be done, happy to have executed what I felt was a solid race, happy to finish feeling good. Turns out I managed to just barely eke out a negative split on the course with a 4:41:22 finish line and I was 2nd overall and 1st female too, so I will not complain! Of course, that being said, it was a very small field, but still. Looking back over my race records, this was a 50k PR as well, although I think it has to come with an asterisk as this essentially a road race whereas my previous PR from Gator Trail was trail. Still, not too shabby a day for this 43 year old!

2/7; 1st woman

 Ryan had a great race too, coming in first place in the 25k and finishing just a hair over 2 hours. Speedy!

Mom and Dad came over with Sam once the rain diminished and got out on a pumpkin hayride 😀🎃 What fun! So happy to have them there cheering me on at the finish line, and Emma and Iona too! Thanks guys 😀

We hung out for a short bit, chatting with Ian and Emma and some of the other runners, enjoying some of Tanya's soup and getting our awards - gift certificates to Fleet Feet! - before heading home for leftover pizza and birthday cake. I will admit to being completely exhausted  but it was a good tired 😄 All in all, it was a great Sunday and I'm so glad I finally got around to putting Farm to Farm on my race schedule! A small race field but with big heart, great support and a fun course. Many thanks to Chandra, Tanya and all the other volunteers for making this happen!

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