Predicting Pancakes in the Long Run…

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Good day race fans! As the weather finally seems to be warming up, it’s time for a few things to happen. Firstly, time to put away the skis and snowshoes, and break out the trail shoes and bikes. Secondly, it’s time for the maple sap to run and make delicious syrup. In the spirit of these different things, it was time to take part in a race that celebrates both! Yup, this report is a brief recap of the inaugural Mad Trapper Pancake Prediction Run! The premise is pretty straightforward. At the Ark, there was an 8k out and back run on the dirt roads near the property. No watches,  no GPS, no electronics. You guess how long it will take you, and the person that guesses closest, wins. That’s it, that’s all. After the race, you retire to the Ark for a full maple syrup pancake breakfast. Read on to see how I did.

As with all races at the Ark, you really never know who might win. Most times, it depends on who shows up, but this time, it would all be about who had the best internal timepiece I suppose. But I had a plan! Part of the plan involved not carrying a camera with me, so sadly, I only have a few pictures from the event, and they’re all from the post-race feast.

So what was my other magic plan? Well, for starters, with a 50k trail ultra in less than a month, I figured I really needed to try and squeeze in a long run, and figured the best way might be to just repeat the course a few times for good measure. Which led me to conclude that I could predict my time more accurately by pre-racing it right before the start. Seemed foolproof. Run at my long, steady distance pace (LSD), and time it on the first loop. Use that as my predicted time, then do a final cool-down loop to get me 24k total of running before eating. With that in mind, I showed up early and did just that. It was raining, and fairly windy, and with the hills and gravel, I figured I should have the best sense of timing of anyone coming in ‘cold’ and making a prediction.

My first loop was a pretty pedestrian 48 or so minutes, so I used that in my prediction and figured I would replicate the effort pretty closely a second time. Of course, regardless of what you think, having others around you mentally pushes you a little harder. To counteract that, I actually waited about 20 seconds at the start and let everyone go out first so that I wouldn’t get caught up in a group. This worked well, and I was running slow and steady. I could tell quite early that most people would be far faster than their predictions. The times had been quite high, but many of the people were ahead of me, and I was confident I wasn’t running SLOWER than my prediction. That being said, I just kept it steady, enjoying the day, and chatting with other racers as I went.

As I was still heading out, speedy Dave McMahon flew past on his return route. He had predicted 43 minutes. I believe he ultimately got 34 minutes or so. He definitely got caught up in the competitive mode. I felt I was more or less on pace, if not slightly quicker this time. On my first loop, I’d had Mike’s dog Fred with me, and I had spent some time trying to keep him off the road away from cars, so I guess that time added up.

As I climbed the final 300m to the Ark up the hill, Dave was there, circling, waiting for me.  That’s when he told me how badly he beat his prediction, making me wonder if a) he was just trying to trick me into slowing down or b) if I was also too fast. However, it was too late to think about. I crossed the line, and Mike told me I’d run a 44:55. Dang. 3:55 off my prediction. The current ‘leader’ was only 15 seconds off, but I was sitting in 2nd. I headed back out for my final 8k cool down, and cheering on the remainder of the competitors on course. I’d been assured there would be lots of food left.

In the end, I ran 27k, as I had run 3 full loops, plus another few km before the race had gotten underway. As a result, I was ready to eat when I got back to the Ark. As I entered, there was a big line for the buffet, so I changed. Once back out, I saw that the food was basically gone (for now), so I just chilled out while waiting for the additional food to make it out. Little did I know it was Monique working away upstairs making this amazing spread of food. Orange juice, eggs, potatoes, pancakes, sausages, bacon, and beans! It was AWESOME! Of course, you could top it all off with as much maple syrup as you wanted from 1L bottles at each table, fresh from the sugar shack.  I had a great time just sitting around, getting stuffed, and trading racing stories with other people for the next hour.

After the food, the final winners were announced, and I was nowhere in the mix, 1st, 2nd and 3rd actually finished within 13, 14, and 15s respectively of their predictions! Oh well, maybe next time. In the end, it was a pretty small crew of about 30 or so racers that made the trip, so it was a nice size for socializing.  This event was just what I needed to start my transition into the summer race season. I felt so good that the next day, I followed up my 27k run with another 32k run at home :-). Volume is my friend at the moment, and will help make sure I can run injury-free in a few weeks at the 50k race in Bear Mountain, NY. Tell then, keep up the training everyone, and rest easy knowing we are finally into warmer temps!

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