Kate and I left at 7am. The plan was to drive her to Bangor to drop her off at her folks house, and she would meet me at the marathon on Sunday and drive back down with me. She was great company on the drive up. We initiated a quest to find a new Tim Horton's other than the one in South Portland we already knew about. However, none were found immediately off any exits off the highways, so we finally settled for Dunkin' Donuts near Augusta.
We reached Bangor and when we were close to Kate's house, she asked if I had ever seen Stephen King's house. I hadn't, and was excited to check it out. We drove by it and I snapped a quick picture, not wanting to linger long out of respect, whether he's used to folks doing the same or not. I love King's books so it was a real treat to see where the living legend resided.
I dropped off Kate and met her father and then made the short drive over to the island, where my first stop was the race expo to get my bib number, timing chip, and all that jazz. My bib number was 50. Cool. I like round numbers. Last year I had 40. I took this as a good omen.
After that I secured my campsite at the Blackwoods Campground, about five or six miles outside of Bar Harbor. After getting my tent set up, I changed and went for a quick run from the campground and along the rugged coastline. I stopped a few time to take in the views and watch the waves crash ferociously into the rocks. Mt. Desert Island is truly one spectacular place. I love it there.
Stats for Saturday's run:
Ran 3.0 miles @ 7:28/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 145/169
Paved roads, some trails.
Mid 50s, sunny.
After the run, I changed and went to Bar Harbor to get lunch and do some shopping. I ordered a sandwich at a deli and sat out in the courtyard to devour it. They actually messed up my order and I didn't mind as it was very good, but the counter guy came out and insisted on giving me my real sandwich and only charging me for one. I was hungry, and ate both.
Afterwards, I attempted to get some early Christmas shopping done, but I noticed the downtown was more crowded than usual for this time of year. What gives? Even with the nice weather and the leaves at their peak colors the crowds still seemed excessive. I made my way down to the waterfront where I saw two huge cruise ships docked about a quarter or half mile offshore, with several shuttle boats going to and fro to both. Ah, that's where all these people came from..
Went back to the campsite and took a nap and then headed out to the pasta dinner where I saw Andrew and his wife and daughters, Mike and his wife JoAnne, and Katy and two of her friends. The pasta dinner at this race is always good, but I found the meat sauce to be especially good this year, and had two huge helpings and was tempted to get a third. I also picked Andrew's brain on some ham radio stuff, a big hobby of his and something I've been wanting to get into recently.
The real treat of the evening was a speech by Joan Benoit Samuelson. I was impressed by her unassuming demeanor and sincere desire for everyone to do well at the race. She was a lot of fun to listen to and very generous to field several questions by the audience and she appeared happy to answer them while at the same time being very humble.
I returned to my campsite afterwards and slept very soundly that evening. Out like a light.
Sunday - Race Day
I arrived at the race at 6:45am, an hour and fifteen minutes before the start. I like getting to races early so I have plenty of time to make any last minute adjustments without stressing out about the time. I soon found Mike and Andrew, and we stayed warm in Andrew's hotel room until close to the start of the race (his hotel was right at the start line). Temps were a bit chilly in the lower-40s, but I decided on starting off in just a singlet and shorts.
I also found Kate and her father at the start line just before the race. She jokingly yelled to me "try to finish this time!" as I walked towards the starting field and I got a good laugh out of that. She was with me during my DNF at the Hyannis Marathon last February as a result of going out to fast. Hopefully it'll be a while before I make that mistake again and it was a good lesson learned.
Like the Vermont 100, I didn't really feel nervous at all while waiting for the race to start. Again, and thankfully, the mindset of running smart, doing my best, and having fun was all I could do, so why worry? I had a soft goal of running 3:21, but if I needed to go slower to ensure a good finish, so be it. I took my position and BOOM!, the starting cannon went off and we began running.
The MDI course is extremely hilly. As a result, splits have the potential to vary considerably depending on whether you're going uphill or downhill. I knew I'd like to try to get in most of my splits in the 7:30s during the first half of the race, as slowing down in the even hillier second half (especially miles 21-25 which are insane) on tired legs is pretty much inevitable. Fortunately, hitting those splits in the beginning of the race felt comfortable and they seemed to tick along quickly and smoothly.
I reached the first major spectator point about nine miles into the race. I saw Kate and her Dad and they cheered me on, which was of course appreciated. The crowds in general are also amazing. They don't line every inch of the course like in major marathons, but when you see them at key spots, they are really cheering you on and makes it easy to hear people single you out. It's nice.
Onward and upward and downward and upward and downward... you get the point. Reached Northeast Harbor a few miles later where I saw Kate and her Dad again and yelled "I like turtles!". If you've seen that video on YouTube, you get it. I don't think anyone else in earshot did, but at least Kate laughed.
Reached the half-marathon mark at 1:39:40 and evaluated again how I was feeling. I really didn't have a heck of a lot in the bank for a 3:21 time, considering the even gnarlier second half. I started to feel some tiredness here, but not much. I still felt pretty strong and hoped it continue. Unless the wheels really fell off, I'd most likely still have a PR even if I didn't reach that 3:21 time. I was fine with that. I was having fun out there and that was all that mattered, and I was also running the way I wanted to run.
I reached mile 15, and from here for the next three miles is to me the most scenic. You run alongside the only fjord on the east coast of the U.S., and contrasted with the colorful changing leaves on the mountains on the other side, it is breathtaking. I enjoyed the views and reached the Gu station near mile 16. It reminded me that I hadn't taken any of the three Gu packets I had carried with me yet. I just didn't feel like I needed them, and perhaps alternating between water and Gatorade at the aid stations (spaced every two miles) had been enough for now.
Made the turn at the top of the fjord where I saw Kate and her Dad again. Could only muster a thumbs up to them at this point. Some big hills were ahead now, and they'd only get bigger. My pace was starting to slow into the 7:4os for the next handful of miles, and one split even reached 7:51. I also downed my first Gu here near mile 18, which seemed to help my energy. The race was also becoming a mind game now, the point where you dig deeper and direct all of your concentration and focus into keeping the speed up and blocking out the fatigue and pain in your muscles.
When I get to that state, I try to think of only positive thoughts. Upon reaching mile 20 and approaching the toughest uphill stretch, I told myself it was just about six miles and I envisioned a course I run from my house that's about the same length. Just have to run that much longer and do it strong and I'm done. That definitely helped. It was here that a gentleman informed me that I was in 5oth place. Crap! I wanted to place higher than that. Gotta move.
The Hills of Insanity
Mile 21, and the fun begins. Up, up and away for the next four miles, with only a few short downhill reprieves. My pace slowed considerably, but fortunately, so did everyone else's. Two people passed me over this stretch, but I passed a few more than that number. Man, my legs were burning. It took every ounce of mental energy I had to try and block it out. Saw a couple of runners here cramp up and were forced to slow down or stop. Felt bad for them, especially being pretty close to being done.
Around mile 25 was a sight for sore eyes. The "Top of the Hill Restaurant". A big huge downhill here would lead to a slight uphill just before the finish line. I opened up my stride a bit and looked over my shoulder. Closest runner was about a hundred yards behind me, so no pressure there. About 50 yards ahead was a big pack of runners, but they were going the same pace I was on the downhill and I didn't think I'd be able to catch them.
As I approached the mile 26 marker, I noticed one guy from that pack beginning to fall behind. I slowly began to reel him in, and do so quietly. Shortly after mile 26, I made my move, and blew past the guy as fast I could to hopefully demoralize him a little in case he still had a kick. Fortunately, I only heard his footsteps growing fainter behind me, and I was glad I passed him as I later found out he was in my age group.
Finish line in sight and I crossed the line, tired and with a big smile on face. I finished in 3:21:37, and couldn't have been happier. I broke my old marathon PR by more than six minutes! Cool.
Waited for the others to finish and exchanged congrats. Katy got a BQ. Mike ran a great race considering he had run a marathon just three weeks ago. Andrew also did great, considering his recent bout with injuries. Those two weren't in their usual top forms as a result, but they still appeared to have fun nonetheless. Great job everyone! Thanks for being part of a fantastic and memorable weekend.
Overall placing: 43 out of 669
Age group placing (35-39): 6 out of 31
Ran 26.2 miles @ 7:41/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 159/175
Lower 40s to lower 50s, partly sunny.
Behind the back water cup tosses in the trash: 1 for 11 (way worse than last year's 4 for 12)
Link to race results
13.1 time = 1:39:40
15 & 16: 15:26 (forgot to hit lap button, average pace of 7:43/mile)
last .2: 6:38/mile pace
+2:17 second half positive split
Pics taken by Kate and her father:
I like turtles.