The Riverlands 100 & Relay, Maine’s first 100-mile trail race, was organized by Trail Monster Running and held at the Riverlands State Park in Turner May 13 and 14, 2017. The racecourse consisted of a 20-mile loop located mostly on ATV trails with one section of single track within the state park, as well as on surrounding private land. Racing options included running the 100 miles solo, or as a two-person to five-person relay team.
We formed a mixed five-person relay team, Kennebec Trail Runners, which included several Central Maine Striders. Therefore we would all be running one 20-mile loop. While many teams were competitively driven, our goal was to finish under the 32-hour cutoff time in order to receive the coveted finishers' hoodies.
The 2017 Team Kennebec Trail Runners members were:
* Karen, Shara, and Scott are all Central Maine Striders, and everyone on the team lives in Kennebec County.
We all highly recommend the Riverlands 100 race and hope to see more teams with Striders running at next year’s race. Read on for race reports from each leg of our run.
Lap 1: Karen Gross
Lap 1 of the relay started at 6 a.m. along with the 100-mile solo runners. That meant leaving Augusta by 4:30 a.m. to get ready to run and attend a 5:45 a.m. pre-race meeting. I set my alarm for 3:15 a.m., but I really didn’t need it because I was wide awake and ready to go at 2 a.m. That was a solid five hours of sleep, so I was not too worried when I couldn’t go back to sleep.
I had a quick shower, hot tea with honey, and my normal pre-race breakfast of a bagel with peanut butter and jelly. The drive to Turner seemed endless and I was in the “OK, let’s get this over with" mode. I don’t usually get the jitters anymore, but the pre-race demons were running through my mind. "What if I don’t finish? What if I have a flat tire or hit a deer?" But I calmed myself remembering I had trained well for this race. My longest run was 18 miles, but I also had four 16-mile and two 14-mile training runs under my belt.
Arriving at the start, I almost immediately saw my teammate Rich and his wife, Casey. They were volunteering for the first shift at the aid stations out on the course. Rich was running Lap 3, so he graciously volunteered for an early morning shift before he ran. Just before the start, Scott, Shara, and Mark showed up to cheer me on. It was so awesome to see the team there and have their support at the start of the race and out on the course.
Six a.m. came fast and the 100-milers and the first relay team runners were off! Most of the first mile was uphill on a wide ATV trail, not my favorite way to start. Almost everyone started off walking the hill and those who didn’t probably wished they had. However, I kept telling myself that starting a race with a long uphill means finishing the race on a long downhill.
At approximately 0.9 miles, we took a hard left onto a single track trail. It was the first turn off of the ATV trail, and several runners in front of me missed it due to a person taking pictures standing in front of the turn arrow. We yelled to them that they missed the turn, so they all turned and got back on course. That meant I had ten guys behind me on a single track.
This trail was soft underfoot, leaf blown, and easy to run. It was about two miles long and meandered along the Androscoggin River for most of it. It was so peaceful with the sparkling water, soft forest floor, and the hopeful spirit of eleven runners. I kept asking if they wanted to pass, but they were all 100-mile runners and liked my pace, so they stayed behind me.
The course left the single track and came back onto the ATV trail and it was about two miles to the first aid station. My pace was really good at this point and I was running a 12-minute-mile pace...faster than typical on trails for me and still running with most of the 100-milers that were behind me on the single track. The ATV trail was in excellent running condition, so I managed to hold this pace to the first aid station.
Casey was at the station and I knew I would see her twice. My water and Tailwind were still good, so I didn’t grab anything there and continued on. I learned later that aid station was named Middle Earth. The name made me chuckle because I often repeat to myself “the old that is strong does not wither” from a poem in The Lord of the Rings.
The course stayed on the ATV trail to about mile 7. We then took a left off the ATV trail onto a privately owned ATV trail. Trail conditions were like night and day. The course went from nice easy running packed dirt to rocky, rooty, and very leaf covered. And the rocks rolled when you stepped on them.
The next aid station and the turnaround were at mile 10. So that meant these rough course conditions might be for six more miles. And they were. My pace slowed to 13:30 minutes per mile, but I was happy with that considering the course conditions. Rich was at the turnaround aid station at mile 10, so he filled my water bottle for me. I grabbed a piece of banana, patted Rich’s chocolate lab, Miss Piggy, and was off back towards the finish. It’s always such a relief to reach that turnaround point in an out-and-back race.
I kept a good pace on the rough terrain and all the way back to the Middle Earth aid station. Casey was still there and smiling, even with the thick halo of black flies around her head. The volunteers filled my water bottle and I grabbed another piece of banana and was off. Yes! Only five miles to the finish! I was still running a pace of about 12:30 to 13:00 minutes per mile and feeling good. I had been running alone since the turnaround and it looked like I was going to be running alone until I finished, unless I slowed down or passed someone.
For as long as I have been running long distances, I almost always have my first big bonk at mile 18. At mile 16.5, I could begin to feel it coming on. I had Tailwind, one GU, half of a banana, and water up until this point. It was time to put the GU and gummies to work before I actually bonked. There was an easy long downhill ahead and I could see a wide wooden bridge in the distance, so it was a great place to eat and drink without stopping. I managed to get everything out of my vest, eat it, wash it down, and continue on without missing a beat.
GU is like a shot of rocket fuel for me, so I picked up the pace a little and running was easy. When I finally came back down from the instant sugar high and started paying attention to where I was, I noticed I wasn’t seeing any orange course marking flags. They were spaced about 500 feet apart along the entire course, so I kept going and looking for them. NOTHING! I looked for running shoe prints…NOTHING!
Oh no! I missed the turn back onto the single track when I was refueling! And if you know that poem I mentioned before…some of us who wander are lost!
One golden rule of trail racing is if you don’t see the course markings, turn around and retrace your steps until you find where you went wrong. DO NOT KEEP GOING! So I turned around and headed back from the direction I came.
I wasn’t sure how far I had gone off course, so I ran back as fast as I could. I knew I was making good time to the last aid station, so Shara would see the time I arrived there posted and would expect me to finish at a certain time. I was afraid she would be worried when I didn’t show when expected, so I thought I should send the team a message telling them I missed a turn. I pulled out my phone and sent a message: "Missed a turn." Well I actually typed “0 missed aurn”. So I learned I am not skilled at messaging while running, so I stopped to send a non-gibberish message to the team.
Shara immediately responded, “I forgot my bib at the campground...we’re almost there”. So my missing the turn turned out to be not too bad of a thing because I would have been panicked if I finished and Shara wasn’t there. We think the trail gods were watching out for us.
I finally found the turn arrow and figured I had gone about 0.6 miles before noticing I was off course. Phew! However, as gleeful as I was, I still had about three miles to go with most of it on the single track and I just toasted my quads sprinting in a panic.
That beautiful, peaceful, happy little single track now became a place of torture. It felt like my quads were being hit with a sledge hammer every time I stepped up on or down off of rocks. Every little rise felt like a steep incline. I could see the puzzled looks on some of the runners' faces on their second lap that I ran to the turnaround with that knew that I was ahead of them. Yes, I explained, I missed a turn (or 0 missed aurn).
When Garmin's mile-20 alarm went off, it said I was running a 16-minute-mile, proof that I hurt and my painful quads were slowing me down. I was joyous when I finally got off the single track and back onto the ATV trail. Yes! I had an easy, long downhill ahead of me!
My final distance by my Garmin was 21.32 miles in a time of 4:42 for an overall pace of 13:13 minutes per mile, and a pace of 14:06 minutes per mile considering the 20-mile distance. Now it was Shara’s turn to run and time to get me a big, juicy cheeseburger!
Lap 2: Shara Marquis
A couple of months ago Karen made a Facebook post looking for team members for the Riverlands 100. At the time, I thought I would have enough time to train properly and get ready to run 20 miles of trails, so I signed on to the Kennebec Trail Runners team.
Well, as is usually the case, life got in the way a bit and I did not have the chance to train as much as I would have liked (or should have). Thankfully, the rest of the team was okay with this newbie joining them in our attempt at getting the finishers' hoodies!
Excitement and nervousness filled the days leading up to the race. I knew that 20 miles was going to take a toll on my body. So I went to Big G’s for lunch with some friends where I successfully carbo-loaded on some delicious spaghetti as well as a quarter of one of their huge sandwiches. I knew I wanted to see Karen off in the morning and since I was the second leg, I took Mark up on his offer to stay in his camper for the weekend.
I headed down to Turner after work and met up with Karen, Scott, and Mark for the pre-race meeting, where Karen handed out our bibs and other race goodies. We made a plan to meet up in the morning to see Karen off and then I followed Mark back to the campground to drop some supplies off.
After chatting with Mark and his family for a bit, I headed out to complete my second carbo-loading event of the day—splitting a delicious chicken and spinach pizza from Antigoni’s with my dad. I was so full, I did not know how I was going to walk, let alone run, the next day. So I decided to head back to the campground to settle in for the night.
In the early morning, Mark and I headed over to the race site to watch Karen start. It was a bit chilly, but it did not seem to bother anyone too much. We met up with Scott and Karen and chatted for a bit before everyone queued up. Then, they were off! We estimated that I had about four hours before I should head back to the race to wait for Karen, so Mark and I headed back to the campground where I fueled up with some more food, all the while getting tips and pointers from Mark and his family. The waiting was hard on my nerves and I just could not wait to get started.
Finally, it was time to change and head back to the race. I knew I would be running during the heat of the day, so I wore shorts and a tank top and packed a long sleeve just in case. I checked everything—clothes, visor, water, snacks, etc. and we headed to the race, where my dad was waiting to see me take off. I was about to fill my bottle with some Tailwind when I realized I forgot my bib at the campground! Panic ensued!
Mark raced me back to the campground to pick it up and we received a message from Karen while on our way back that she had missed a turn and had to backtrack a bit. The trail gods must have been smiling on this newbie because that meant I would be back in time for Karen. Phew!
We did not have to wait too long before we saw Karen heading down the final hill and rounding the bend. It all happened quickly—Karen arrived; we said “hi” quickly; she handed off the bracelet; and I took off!
Slow and steady, I headed out of the corral area and rounded the bend up the first hill. I had energy. I felt great! The first mile was mostly uphill on the ATV trail and while it was not necessarily great, I reminded myself that I would be ending on this glorious downhill and it was sure to feel amazing. Even though it was uphill, that first mile flew by and before I knew it, it was time to turn on to the single track.
Compared to the ATV trail, the single track was amazing—it was soft and cushiony on my feet and had many twists and turns and gradual hills that made the two miles feel like nothing. There was one point where the single track went right near the river and it was so beautiful and peaceful, I could have stopped and just relaxed the day away, but I pressed on, as there were many more miles to cover.
The next couple of miles were a bit of a blur and before I knew it, I had arrived at the first aid station. Everyone was super nice and offered to fill my water up, but it was still pretty full so I passed on that and grabbed a PB&J sandwich and some Swedish fish to “keep swimming” my way to the next aid station.
The next couple of miles were also a blur until I hit approximately 6.5 miles where the trail got a little more…intense. I went from running a decent pace, averaging 12:30 miles, to 14- and 15-minute miles. I just could not wait to get to that next aid station and I had to tell myself constantly to keep moving, even if it was fast walking. I kept going, but checked my watch often hoping I was going to see the aid station around the next bend.
Finally, I could see the tent! It took me about 2:10 to get there. I spent a little more time at this aid station than the last. I took a cup of Tailwind from the table and chatted with everyone for a minute or two, before I grabbed another PB&J sandwich and a handful of Swedish fish. I was halfway done.
I knew that I was going to be slower on the second half, but it was looking like I was going to be able to hit my goal time of five hours or less. I knew that the next couple of miles were going to be tough and my times proved that to be the case. I sipped from my Tailwind bottle frequently in the five miles following the middle aid station. I also had some gummies that I chewed on to keep my mind off how tired I was. On the uphill sections, where I was walking, I messaged friends to help get some motivation and to assist keeping the team updated of my whereabouts (just in case the aid stations were unable to connect).
Finally, I hit the last aid station and was able to recover a bit. I grabbed my usual—Tailwind, PB&J, and Swedish fish—before taking off rather quickly; the black flies were at that aid station in force! I had finished 15 miles and there were only five left to go. Prior to this race, my longest run was 15 miles on the road; any mileage past this point would be a personal record.
At this point, the “hoodie, hoodie, hoodie” chant was carrying me through. I could not wait for that single-track section. I wanted to get to the river again and feel the soft, cushiony trail floor. I remembered to pick my feet up and dodge the roots and rocks. Even though it was slow going, I got my second wind and kept pushing to the finish. Not only was the team waiting back at the finish line, but also some of my friends had arrived to cheer us on. I finished the single-track section and was now back on the ATV trail—less than a mile to go.
I received notification that there was bacon awaiting me at the finish line and that helped push my pace back to 12:30 for that final mile (it also was mostly downhill, so that helped too). Finally, I saw the signs and heard people, so I booked it down the hill and around the bend to pass the bracelet on to Rich.
I think I lost a GPS signal at some point during the race. Garmin reported my 19.7 miles in 4:48:42 for an average pace of 14:38. I was happy I finished in under five hours and even happier that I had not only an entire package of delicious bacon to eat, but also some protein-packed, oatmeal-chocolate-chip-peanut-butter balls!
The energy and excitement that exuded from everyone involved in this event was amazing and I am glad I was able to be a part of it. Everyone was encouraging of one another on the trail and many uttered simple words like “great job” or “looking good” that helped me complete the miles. I cannot wait for next year!
Lap 3: Rich Beaudoin
I had heard about this race many months ago from Scott. At the time I said I was willing to do it, but when I got around to signing up the team was full. Last month at the Bridge the Gap race I saw both Scott and Karen to let them know I was still willing to run for them if any issues came up. Sure enough, a week later one of the team had to bail out, and I was in.
I have done other Trail Monster-sponsored races and found them to be very fun. This was no exception. Everything was well set up and worked out great. My family started the morning of the race volunteering at aid stations for the first shift from 5 a.m. till 10 a.m. I was at the turnaround 10-mile station. It was amazing to see how fast some of those first runners in the morning were.
My leg was #3, starting after Shara. She finished strong. The terrain was a little bit of everything—ATV trail, dirt road, single track. I've done many other trail races and would prefer single track if given the choice. The most trying moments in this race were around miles seven to nine where the trail was ATV/dirt road. It had several ups and downs and the footing was unstable with rocks of all sizes that would roll out from under you.
The aid stations were all great. Anything you could want was offered. I must say though that at the middle aid station in the middle of nowhere you had to donate a pint of blood when you stood there. The mosquitoes were horrendous. The five or six volunteers all had mosquito netting on and were still swatting. Mid race they moved the station down the trail a little bit hoping for a better crosswind, but nothing helped. My wife was at this station in the early morning and said they were bad right from the start. Good thing we were moving. Just had to outrun the bugs. Not much of a break taken there.
The last mile or so I had a nice burst of energy to get me through the end where Karen and Mark were diligently waiting for my arrival. Overall the race was a good time, Challenging and diverse. The arrangement with the campground six miles away was a little strange, but manageable. I live in Fayette and the race was only a 25-minute drive from home. We took advantage of this for the night and returned for the awards ceremony the next day.
It was great to meet all of these enthusiastic runners. I look forward to doing all over again next year.
Lap 4: Mark Bonderud
My run started about 19:30. And it was uphill, which means the finish was down, so it worked. Anyway, it was .9 miles up the four-wheeler trail and a hard left into single track. During the daylight this was pretty nice. I was trying to run steady but quickly to get as many miles in with light as I could before it got dark. About two miles in and there was a big boulder field we had to navigate. Somebody dislocated a shoulder in there. Wasn't me.
Around the 3.5- to 4-mile mark I left the single track for the ATV trail again. If you know anything about those types of trails they aren't much better than single track, just wider. This trail had a lot of puddles, gullies, sharp edged golf-ball and tennis-ball sized rocks, and twigs that in the dark you couldn't see and would roll underfoot. And let us not forget the water crossing. Fun in the dark. That was around mile 8.5.
Overall the trail was pretty good until around the seven-mile mark and it just got nastier, uphill with added fun stuff. Just about everyone agreed that was the worst section of the trail.
It got dark before I hit five miles, which was the first aid station. I paused to try their mix of Tailwind. It tasted almost like water, but it was wet. I mixed mine as a concentrate and used water from aid stations or my backpack to get the mix right. I made sure they had checked my number and off I went again.
Dark trail running is weird. You lose 3D and everything becomes 2D. Owls were in vocal abundance for most of the run. I gave a porcupine a wide berth. And I got through mile seven. Mile seven wasn't too terrible on the return, that or I was too numb by this time to care. I almost was run over by an ultra runner running my way and not realizing there was another runner coming at him, even with lights. "Hey, beep beep" got his attention.
It was interesting hearing planes flying around in the dark. The water crossing was almost a miss. The water was cold, but felt good on the feet. I didn't try to really avoid it except to make sure I didn't trip. Wool socks dry pretty quickly.
The turnaround was at ten miles and then I was retracing my steps. The midpoint aid station was the better of the stations. Back down the trail and some time along here the ankles started not liking the constant rolling. By the time I finished they were pretty tender. I was running much quicker than others running at this time and the aid stations commented on the fact. Ultra runners were getting really scarce.
Most of this run was spent alone. It was interesting seeing other runners' lights ahead. Either you were climbing to meet them or going downhill. The aid station lights were a beacon of "yay, another five done." Maybe I should have slowed, but I made up several places for the team. It was the same basic stuff on the return except for the single track. I forgot about a muddy section before a bridge and had a nasty moment where you don't know if you’re staying up or going down, or if you have to find that shoe again.
I came out of the single track and met a four-wheeler transporting volunteers and was almost blinded. They stopped, but still after so much dark it was blinding. Then it was back to the dark. I finished around 23:30.
The Riverlands 100 race was very well organized, even though logistics were a bit of a challenge. The course during daylight was very runnable. Night not so much, and of course much slower with unseen obstacles. As I write this I wouldn't be able to tell you where the course went. I would recommend this race to a person looking to do a 100-mile ultra. Drop bags were available if wanted. Of course you had your gear available every 20 miles anyway.
This is also a great team event. Shara, one of the ladies on our team, had never run trails or 20 miles at once before. She did well. She just ate almost a pound of bacon when she finished. It was pretty comical. Speaking of bacon, the midpoint aid station in the morning had pancakes rolled around a strip of bacon to carry and eat as a snack.
It was great to meet some new runners and spend time with groups of like-minded folks. Karen met every finisher of our team, even staying up for the sunrise to welcome Scott into the finish.
Lap 5: Scott Frasca
I was lucky enough to be asked by Karen to join the Kennebec Trail Runners relay team she was assembling for the inaugural Riverlands 100. We were a team of five runners, each completing a 20-mile out-and-back leg. The timing of the race fit in very well as the start of my taper for a goal race I have been training for. Having run other trail races at night, I was happy to volunteer to take a night leg, which ended up being the last of the five legs for our team.
I got an early start on race day, as I wanted to see Karen off on the first leg. I met up with Karen, Shara, and Mark just before the 6 a.m. start, and also was able to see another friend running the 100 solo as he set of on his journey. Karen looked confident and ready to go. She was off with a smile and our team’s day had begun!
Mark was kind enough to offer his camper as a base for the team, but I opted to head back home and get a few things done around the house before trying to get some sleep for my evening on the trail. I ended up getting about 2.5 hours sleep, did a little final carb loading with some pasta for dinner, packed a bagel and peanut butter for pre-race fuel top off, and headed back down south for the start of my leg.
Karen was at the start/finish and filled me on how she, Shara, and Rich had made out. It sounded like everyone enjoyed their runs and came out of the woods in one piece!
The weather was not looking promising as it was getting cooler (OK with that) and a Nor’easter was blowing in (not so OK with that). After making a last minute call on what to wear, I went with shorts, a long sleeve tech shirt, and a short sleeve one over it with a light running jacket stashed in my run vest. This was my first long run with a new headlight (Petzl Reactik+), so fiddled with the settings a few times to make sure it was set as I wanted it and set up at the start/finish to wait for Mark to come in.
Shara joined us and we didn’t have to wait long to see Mark’s Knuckle Lights bounding down the trail. He gave me a few tips on how the course was running in the dark and at 11:30 p.m. I was off.
I didn’t have to go too far before I heard the first of what would be several owls hooting away, such a cool sound and glad to have them as company along the run. After the uphill start on the ATV road, I took a left into the single track for a couple of miles. Mark’s heads-up about this section was appreciated as the boulder and rock field nearing the end of this segment was tricky and not worth trying to run through at night.
Back onto the ATV road it was a nice run to the first aid station. I had brought enough fuel and water to run without stopping at the aid stations, so checked in, said my thanks to the volunteers, and headed on my way. I enjoyed seeing other runners along the way and it's always neat seeing lights moving through the woods, knowing that others are out doing their best and hopefully having fun.
The ATV road changed to a bit more rugged trail at about mile seven and I knew I had about three miles out to the turnaround. That was going to be interesting. I saw several 100-miler runners along the way and there were folks in all different conditions, from smiling and happy to a couple of zombies who were working through what I hoped were short rough spots. The owls continued to hoot and before I knew it the lights of the next aid station were in sight. Another check in and round of “thank-yous” and off I went on the back half of the run. So far, so good, fueling was going well and no rain yet!
It was not much different on the back half. It was nice to get off the rough ATV trail and back on the more groomed version in the state park. More runners were working their way out and I passed a few heading in. At the last aid station I checked in and was on my way for the last push, knowing what to expect on the single track this time. I hit the single track and slowed down once again to a walk through the rocks.
I was happy to be able to pick up the pace once again and got a bit of a surprise when I heard a big splash in the river just off to my right. I didn’t realize how close we were running to the Androscoggin having not seen this segment before in daylight. The single track was getting a little greasy in places, as it had seen a good bit of traffic already, so I took my time and then popped back out on the ATV road for the last segment home.
It seemed to take longer to get back to the short downhill to the finish than I thought it would, but once there it was fun to cruise in and see Karen waiting for me to finish up, 4:11 after I left, coming in at 3:41 a.m. on Sunday. I greatly appreciated Karen greeting all of our teams runners and was very thankful that the rain held off for my whole run.
Riverlands 100 was a very fun race, well organized and supported, and one I look forward to hopefully doing again.