Tuesday, May 16, 2023

2023 Pine Tree Marathon and Salem, MA

Two days after running the Maple Leaf Marathon in Vermont, I ran the Pine Tree Marathon in Portland, ME.  This post picks up where the last one left off.

Saturday, May 13

After spending an extra night in Vermont, Deb and I drove to Portland.  As soon as we got to Maine, we stopped at a visitor information center, where one of the guides gave us directions to a nearby lighthouse.  Our next stop was the Nubble Lighthouse at Cape Neddick.

There are numerous other lighthouses along the Maine coast, but we didn’t have time to see them all.  Instead, we continued to our hotel in Portland.

When we arrived, they didn’t have a room ready.  While we waited, we went to see five lighthouses in Cape Elizabeth and Portland.  The first was this lighthouse at Dyer Cove, near Two Lights State Park.  There are actually two lighthouses here, but only this one is visible from the road.

Next we went to Fort Williams State Park, where we saw the Portland Head Light.  The museum isn’t open this early in the season, but we were able to view the lighthouse from two different angles.

From there, we could also see the Ram Island Ledge Light.

Next, we drove to Fort Preble, where we could get a view of the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse.

Our last stop before returning to the hotel was Bug Light Park.  From the park, we got a nice view of the Portland Breakwater Lighthouse, which is affectionately known as the Bug Light.

By now, our room was ready, so we checked in, unpacked, and got settled into our room.  Then we went for dinner at Moe’s Original BBQ.  I don’t typically have BBQ for a pre-race dinner, but Deb was in a mood for pulled pork.

I didn’t get to sleep as early as I wanted to, but I managed to get about six hours of sleep.  I was hoping for more, but that was enough to get by.

Sunday, May 14

Sunday was race day.  My race number was the same one I used for the Maple Leaf Marathon, since both races were part of the same series.  That meant I didn’t have to get there early for packet pickup.  We also didn’t have to allow as much time to drive to the race venue, since our hotel was much closer this time.  That gave us the luxury of setting our alarms 15 minutes later than we did on Friday.  The race started at 6:00 AM, so we weren’t exactly sleeping in.

We had to leave before the hotel breakfast started, but we had leftovers from our dinner on Saturday.

The overnight low was in the mid-40s, and it was supposed to get into the low 50s by the time I finished.  That was deceptive, however.  When I ran this race last year, there was a cold breeze blowing in from the coast.  When I took another look at the forecast, I saw that the “feels like” temperature was in the upper 30s.  With that in mind, I wore my cheetah outfit, with a long-sleeved polypro shirt underneath.  Those were the warmest clothes I brought.

The course was a loop around Portland’s Back Cove.  We started and finished at Back Cove Park.  Deb and I arrived at Back Cove Park just as the sun was rising.  When I got out of the car, I was surprised how cold the wind was.

The race started with a short out-and-back.  Then we had to do seven laps around the cove.  I’ve run this race twice before, so I was already familiar with the course.  It’s mostly flat.  The only hill is the climb up to a bridge.

I ran a marathon on Friday, so I knew I wasn’t going to be fast in this race.  My plan was to run at a pace that felt comfortable and not worry too much about my time.

As we started the out-and-back, we were running into a stiff headwind.  I didn’t think I was running fast, but it felt tiring almost immediately.  I slowed down a little.

Coming back from the turnaround, the wind was at our back, so it felt easier.  I ran the first mile in 9:32.  I knew that was too fast, so I slowed down.  After that, my next several miles were all slower than 10 minutes.

There was a single well-stocked aid station in the start/finish area.  While I was running, Deb was volunteering at the aid station.  When I finished the out-and-back, I was still cold from running into the wind, and I didn’t feel thirsty.  I still took the opportunity to drink some Gatorade, knowing it would be 3.6 miles before I got another chance.

The trail we were running on was mostly gravel, but it was firm.  I don’t think it was appreciably slower than running on pavement.  There weren’t any roots or rocks that you could trip on.  It was a good running surface.

In my first full lap around the cove, my pace was between 10:00 and 10:15 per mile.  I wasn’t trying to hold any particular pace.  I ran at a pace that felt relaxed.  I paid more attention to my effort than my pace.  I knew I was starting the day with tired legs, so I paced myself conservatively.  I didn’t want to be suffering in the second half.

In my second lap, my pace continued to slow.  I felt like my effort was about the same, but my pace was now closer to 10:20 per mile.

I was only seven miles into the race when the leader lapped me.  By the end of that lap, four more fast runners would speed by me.  I would see some of them again before the race was over.

I experienced the wind in different ways as I ran around the cove.  It was coldest near the start/finish area, where it was blowing in from across the cove.  On the west side of the cove, we had a headwind.  It was tiring running around that side, but it wasn’t as cold, because the wind wasn’t blowing over the water.  I felt the wind least on the north side.  There, we were partially sheltered by all the trees alongside the adjacent parkway

The most wind-exposed area was on the east side of the cove, where we ran across the bridge.  There, we had a tailwind.  Everywhere else, I felt cold, but crossing the bridge, I always felt sweaty.  When I eventually returned to Back Cove Park, I would feel the cold wind off the cove while my clothes were still somewhat sweaty.  That made me even colder.  I repeated this pattern with each lap.  I was hot at times and cold at times, but overall, I think I was dressed about right.

In my third lap, my pace slowed to about 10:40.  I felt like my effort was still the same, but my pace kept degrading.

My slowest mile of the race was mile 13.  That was early in my fourth lap, as I was running into the wind.  At halfway, I was on pace for a time in low 4:30s.  I expected to continue getting slower, but my pace stabilized after that.

I was just past the halfway mark when the leader lapped me for the second time.  He wouldn’t be the only one to do that.  There were other runners who I lapped multiple times.  The runners varied in ability by a wide margin.

For the first half of the race, my pace was trending slower.  In the second half, I started to reverse that trend.  I wasn’t consciously trying to speed up, but I may have subconsciously picked up my effort a little as the remaining distance felt more manageable.

As I neared the end of my fourth lap, my shoulders started to feel heavy.  Apparently, I didn’t just start the day with tired legs.  I also had tired arms.

I always felt warm crossing the bridge, but my fifth lap was the first one where I started getting hot before the bridge.  In that lap, I started to sweat as I climbed the small hill leading up to the bridge.

When I finished that lap, Deb asked me if it was getting warmer.  I told her it probably was, but I wasn’t noticing a big difference yet.  In my last two laps, I started to feel the difference.

My sixth lap was the first one where I made a conscious effort to pick up my pace.  I realized my pace had improved in my fifth lap, and I suspected for the first time that I might me able to run negative splits if I could keep picking up the pace.  At first, it was a measured effort, but I got more confident toward the end of the lap.

On the north side of the cove, I noticed a change in my stride.  My stride was slightly shorter, but my cadence was noticeably faster.  I didn’t do this consciously.  It just happened as I put more effort into improving my pace.

This is the wind-sheltered side of the cove, and I started to feel sweaty even before I reached the small hill that leads up to the bridge.

I picked up my effort going up that hill and across the bridge.  I ran mile 22, which included that hill, in 9:42.  It was the first time since mile one that I was faster than 10 minutes.  My next mile wasn’t quite as fast, but it was also faster than 10 minutes.

As I started my last lap, there was no doubt in my mind that I could run negative splits if I kept picking up the pace.  I wanted to run faster, but I was just beginning the section that’s into the wind.  There was a limit to how fast I could run without wearing myself out by fighting the headwind.  As I got farther around the cove, there was less wind resistance.  Then I really picked up my pace.

I ran mile 24 in 9:18.  That was my fastest mile so far, but I knew I could go faster when I didn’t have any wind resistance.

The next mile was all along the north side of the cove, where I barely felt the wind.  I ran that mile in nine minutes even.  I felt hot and sweaty all through that mile.

As I started up the hill for the last time, I was determined to keep up the same pace.  I knew I would get hot, but I didn’t have that much farther to go.  I kept up my effort going across the bridge.  After the bridge, there was a nice downhill section, and I ran it for all it’s worth.  Then I tried to keep up the pace as the trail leveled out.  When I got my split for mile 26, it was 8:35.  That’s almost a minute faster than my first mile.

I wished I only had two tenths of a mile to go, but I could see the finish area in the distance, and I knew it was closer to half a mile.  I had known for some time that my watch would measure much more than 26.2 by the time I was done.  It turned out to be 26.45.  I’m not suggesting that the course was long.  I’m just saying my watch had a significant measurement error.  That’s not that unusual for a GPS watch.

The last section of the course has several turns, as it weaves through a construction area.  I kept up my pace all the way to the finish.  I finished in 4:27:40.  I don’t know my exact time for the first half, but extrapolating from my Garmin data, I’m estimating it to be 2:16:49.  That means I ran the second half about six minutes faster.  I knew I was running negative splits, but I was still surprised to do it by such a wide margin.

My overall time was 10 minutes slower than my previous race, but it was faster than I was running in February and March.  I’m happy with that.

This was my fifth marathon or ultra in Maine.  I’m still working on my fourth circuit of the 50 states, but I want to eventually finish five circuits.  I’m getting closer.  I’m now done with Maine.

During the race, I didn’t eat any food at the aid station.  I just drank Gatorade.  After the race, I made up for lost time.  I had two cups of Gatorade, two meatballs, an energy ball, a small cupcake, and a cheese quesadilla.

After the race, Deb dropped me off at the hotel.  While I was getting cleaned up, recovering from the race, and soaking in the whirlpool, Deb went shopping.  She had never been to this part of Maine before, so it was her opportunity to drive up to Freeport and go to the L.L. Bean outlet.  She also went to two flea markets in the greater Portland area.

For dinner, we went to an Italian restaurant called Tuscan Table.  I went to this restaurant when I was in Portland a year ago, and I thought Deb would like it too.

Monday, May 15

Instead of flying home, we spent one more day in New England.  After breakfast, we drove to Salem, MA.  Deb has always wanted to go there.

Our hotel was right in the heart of Salem’s historic district.  We arrived early in the day, but we were able to check into our room right away.

We skipped lunch in favor of doing as much sightseeing as we could before dinner.  We started with places that were within a mile of our hotel, so we could walk to everything.  Our first stop was the Salem Witch House.  This museum was originally the home of Judge Jonathan Corwin, who presided over the Salem witch trials in 1692.

On our way to the next museum, we stopped to take a picture of the Bewitched sculpture in Lappin Park.

Next, we went to the Witch Dungeon Museum.  This museum includes a reconstruction of the dungeon used to imprison people accused of witchcraft, as well as other criminals.

Next, we walked to the Salem Witch Museum, next to Salem Common.  When we got there, we found out you can only buy tickets online.  We decided to skip that museum.  As it is, we already didn’t have time for all the places we wanted to visit.  Instead, we walked to Herb Mackey’s Metal Sculpture Yard.

We spent about an hour and a half touring the Peabody Essex Museum.  Then we walked over to the cemetery on Charter Street, where we saw the Salem Witch Trials Memorial.  Finally, after walking back to the hotel, we drove to Proctor’s Ledge.  This memorial is built on a site where people accused of witchcraft were hanged.

That was all we had time for before dinner.  We had dinner at Rockafella’s, which was just a few blocks from our hotel.

After dinner, Deb started packing, so she wouldn’t have to get up as early the next morning.  I didn’t need as much time to pack, so I had time to go back out and view some of the historic homes that have been preserved by the Essex Institute.

Tuesday, May 16

Tuesday morning, we drove back to Boston to fly home.  The drive was much slower than we expected, but we allowed plenty of time.

Race statistics:
Distance:  26.2 miles
Time:  4:27:40
Average Pace: 10:13
First Half:  2:16:49
Second Half:  2:10:51
Lifetime Marathons/Ultras:  482
Maine Marathons:  5

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