It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but to be fair it’s been a while since I’ve run! My shin set me back in my goal to run 1,000 miles this year, but I’m finally back on track after spending some time focusing on strengthening. After a few weeks of not running, I decided the smartest course of action would be to run a casual ultra marathon through Maine just for fun – I guess I really am as insane as all my other ultra marathoning friends.
We had a group of NPer and TBCers all meet up at the northern most hut (Grand Falls) of Maine Huts & Trails on Friday. At Grand Falls, there was a small parking area about a 1.5 mile hike from the huts where we parked and loaded up our gear to trek in to the hut. The hut was absolutely beautiful, and we ended up having the place to ourselves for the night due to it being the off season. The system has some beautiful cross country skiing in the winter (or so I’ve been told – I’ll have to find out for myself this upcoming winter!) and then has their summer season start in July. Since it was the off-season, we had full run of the kitchen but had to carry any food we needed in, prepare it ourselves, and hike everything back out when we were finished.
We spent the night sipping wine, relaxing around a fire, playing Pandemic, and eating a pretty decent amount of spaghetti. I like to think we were camping, but really it was glamping. The huts were gorgeous and had everything we could need – bathrooms, showers, a wood stove, couches, and a full kitchen! We all hit the hay pretty early to rest up for our journey the next day, but I ended up having horrible stomach issues all night. I probably only got 2 or 3 hours of sleep and spent the rest of the night wondering whether or not I had made the right decision to run after being injured.
We had a lovely 5:45AM wakeup call and all proceeded to stuff our faces with some delicious Bagelsaurus bagels. I was really struggling to get food into myself since my stomach was still not feeling great, but I ate as much as I could and tried to pack a little extra for the run, assuming I’d be starving by mid-morning. We hiked our things back to the cars and our lovely sherpas, Kelvin and Rebecca, drove our big packs to the parking area near the last hut. We all got situated with our running packs & snacks, and set off at a nice relaxed pace towards the second hut, Flagstaff.
Flagstaff was about 11.5 miles from Grand Falls, and we knew we had a long day ahead of us, so we took our time warming up and taking pictures to capture everything. We stuck together until the first stop at the Flagstaff hut, and then a few of us went ahead so we didn’t get too stiff from stopping. I was worried if I waited too long and ended up having to walk from my shin I’d end up holding the group back, so we got going fairly quickly. I was starving by this point so I packed in as many calories as I could before we got back to the trails. The next hut, Poplar, was about 10 miles away, and I was starting to feel it in my legs already. Luckily my shin was feeling excellent, but my IT band started to get a little tender by mile 18 or 19. I wasn’t too worried about it, but was just more concerned I was going to hold Matt back during his training run. We were already going much slower than he’s used to, and he was using this as a training run for the Vermont 100. Luckily, he’s the most amazing and supportive boyfriend I could ever dream of, so as soon as my knee started to really hurt, he made sure I power hiked instead of ran!
Once we got to Poplar, we connected with our sherpa Kelvin and got a plan for the last few miles of trails. We all planned on meeting up at the Airport trailhead, where we’d drive a few minutes up the road (to take off an extra 1.5 miles of trails), grab our packs, and hike another 3 miles up to our final hut – Stratton Brook. The last miles were really just power hiking and ingesting a large amount of anti-inflammatories (for me at least), but we actually kept pretty consistent time because a lot of the trails were overgrown and swampy in the previous 20 miles. We had a lot of slow miles at the start – it was clear that the trails not only aren’t used often in the spring/summer, but are definitely made for cross country skiing. During the winter it wouldn’t matter if the trail had wooden planks under tall grass – it would all just get covered in snow!
We joked about how this was called “The Lazyman’s Ultra Marathon” since it was more than a marathon but less than a 50k but hey, still counts! It certainly didn’t feel like a lazy ultra marathon considering we were on our feet running and hiking for over 7 hours!
Overall, the trip was a huge success and so much fun. We managed to stop at Duckfat on our way up for panini’s and milkshakes, and stopped in Kittery for some Ramen on our way home. We ran, we hiked, we laughed, we napped, and we talked about our bowel movements far too often, as runners tend to do. I can’t wait to do more fun trips like this in the future, and am so grateful to Dan for thinking of it and organizing most of the trip!
I’m so glad my shin was feeling up for the task. I’ve been working on getting my stabilizers stronger so I can continue my training and enjoy fun excursions like this one in Maine. I will definitely be back to these huts – once to check out cross country skiing, and another trip during the summer for some trails! If I can keep up my training, strengthening, and injury prevention, come fall it’ll be time to start training for my next big milestone – 50 miles!