by Julie Millard
Runners are widely known for their questionable idea of fun. For example, running 6 miles up an old logging road in the winter, looping around for an even 13.1, and possibly even doing the whole thing again might seem crazy to some. But with a creative race director, such an event lured 2,000+ runners up to Millinocket, Maine in December!
2019 marked the 5th running of the Millinocket Marathon and Half, the brainchild of Gary Allen, who also directs the Mount Desert Island Marathon and the Down East Sunrise Trail Relay. The race philosophy is simple: “Don’t run Millinocket for what you get; run Millinocket for what you give.” There is no entry fee; instead runners are expected to somehow contribute to the local economy, such as by staying at a local motel, shopping at the artisan fair, and/or eating at the spaghetti supper or pancake breakfast.
My first trip to Maine’s Biggest Small Town was back in 2017, when I was bold enough to register for the full marathon. I attribute this error in judgment to not really grasping the significance of the elevation profile up the Golden Road, which didn’t look like much on paper. Despite the balmy temperature (30 degrees) and clear roads, I quickly learned to respect the course and was relieved to finish both loops before the season’s first snowstorm arrived. Club members Pat and Tracey Cote both ran strong races that day, with Tracey even setting an age-group record that still stands.
This year marked my third trip up north, this time running the half with fellow Strider Susan Brooks. Although we drank only water and hot soup at the aid stations, we briefly ran with a woman whose goal was to complete 19 shots of Fireball (in honor of 2019) along the 26.2 miles. (According to the results, she finished the race but it’s unclear about the shots or her physical status at the end.)
Why drive 2 hours to run a potentially frigid race? One reason is that running Millinocket feels epic but is actually quite convenient to central Maine. Another is that the weather could be mild, frigid, or something in between, and gambling on the unknown contributes to the adventure. What you can count on is the warmth of the townspeople and the celebratory feel to the event. As observed by Vice President of the Striders, Jordan Castillo:
Social media director Sapan Bhatt added the following about the “local gem” called the Millinocket Marathon and Half:
Have you run a race recently? We'd love to publish your race report too! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
With the 41st January Thaw on January 19th postponed due to an impending storm, the rescheduled date of January 26th dawned with clear roads and balmy, almost spring-like temperatures. Buoyed by a strong team of volunteers including Gene Roy, Geoff Hill, John Manzer, Harold Shaw, Rob Krickus, Deb Violette, and Lynda McGuire, the race kicked off without a hitch.
The field of 33 included some “old road race veterans” and quite a few new, welcome faces. Conspicuous among the new faces was a young man, Patrick Caron, from Needham, Massachusetts who just decided to drop in. The group took off with some donning just shorts and t-shirts for this real January Thaw. The “outta stata” shot out in a near sprint leaving me to wonder about that pace for 4 1/2 miles but he proved to be the real deal finishing with a time of 23:41. As far as I can find, this is second only to Todd Coffin’s 1993 course record of 22:01.
CMS runners, Sapan Bhatt and Jordan Castillo, finished second and fourth with times of 27:21 and 30:26 respectively. They were separated by third place finisher, Blaine Moore of Brunswick in 29:24 running for Team Dirigo. The first ladies across the finish line were Anya Davidson of Readfield in 6th place overall in 32:07 and Jess Beers of Waterville in 8th place with a time of 33:40.
This was a successful transition year with a strong foundation in place to carry on this longtime tradition led by “new blood” next year.
Thanks to David Colby-Young for his coverage. As Gene Roy said, “We know we’re putting on a real race when David Colby-Young shows up to take photos.”
The Downeast Sunrise Trail (DEST) relay is one of the great races in Maine. It holds the distinction of being the only overnight relay race in the Pine Tree state and lets competitors enjoy the natural beauty of some of Maine’s quieter camp towns. I was honored to be part of the Central Maine Striders (Streakers?) team with my greatest asset being a reliable (read: available) SUV.
Not only was I new to the race, but it’d also be my first time visiting each town along the trail. Ron spent the drive passing on such geographic gems as Eastport being the easternmost city in the US (because Lubec is technically a town). I listened intently as Ron had won a marathon up there a few years back and his insider knowledge of the terrain was bound to
save us valuable minutes.
After a delicious pizza and pasta dinner, we arrived at the starting point to a mini rave. The Wackos from Waco, a fellow perennial team, were busy weaving glowsticks onto an old mountain bike. This psychedelic figure would always appear at the end of legs; a luminous siren shepherding us to cold water and starchy treats.
The team took off at 10:30pm with me taking the lead leg. The typical start-line adrenaline was magnified by the reality of running into the wilderness in the dead of night with nothing to guide me except the clearance headlamp I got at Walmart 2 years ago (I knew I should’ve sprung for that Black Diamond). After the first couple of miles, I was able to sink into the moment. The quiet and calm of the trail coupled with the darkness made it feel as if I were running through a sensory deprivation tank. I was able to zone out and let my instincts take over as I passed through marshes and woodlands with the moon to guide the way.
With the first handoff to Tiana, the relay was in full swing. Each rendezvous point was designated by GPS coordinates which greatly helped with navigation (save the occasional detour through a blueberry farm). I was eager to pass the baton to our teammates in car 2 and get a few hours of rest before sunrise. I was surprised to see how many local teams rolled up in campers and sprint vans, as if our expedition was taking us around the whole state rather than a 3 hour drive north. However, incredulity was quickly replaced with envy as I gave the captain’s chair in my Toyota Rav4 the airplane seat tilt.
The second half was soon underway, with Brian getting to enjoy the namesake of the trail instead of our captain, Julie (I’m sure she’s already consulting almanacs and time splits to recalibrate for next year =). This sunrise also brought one of the hottest days of the summer; air temps reached the mid 90s and the roads were well into the triple digits. We made our way through Machias as the sun picked up. I cost our team a couple min by being on the porcelain (plastic?) throne as Tracey waited to handoff after running a blistering pace for leg 10, but I think we can all agree the extra facilities on the trail were a huge plus. Great legs by Ron, Tiana, Jess, and Pat helped us extend our lead over the Wackos, our Maine rivals.
We waited in a beautiful park in Eastport overlooking a Canadian island as Pat took us from trail to road and the last exchange. Our closer, Brian, was psyched and ready to go. He slipped into his experimental Nikes that had such rebound, they made Vaporflys look like Bean boots. The heat was beating down on the roads and we stationed our cars along the final stretch to keep our anchorman hydrated and cool. A few minutes later, we crossed the finish as a team to receive some impressive race medals.
The race provided unique challenges and memorable experiences all within the confines of 24 hours. We arrived back in Waterville on Saturday afternoon with a great sense of accomplishment and having seen picturesque locations in some more rural parts of Maine. If you’re looking for a race that will challenge you physically, give you a chance to explore the state, and most importantly spend time with some really cool Striders, look no further than signing up for DEST next year.
Striders L to R
Jess Beers, Ron Peck, Pat Cote, Tracey Cote
Sapan Bhatt, Tiana Thomas, Julie Millard, Brian Morin Brian breaking the speed limit!
By Ryan Goebel
It is hard not to run a race that starts less than a mile from your house. That’s probably the main reason I ran the Doc & Mardie Brown 5K last year and again this year.
In the race last year, I was new to Maine and didn’t really know what to expect from the competition and from the course. I managed to place second overall and win the 40-49 male age group division with a time of 18:38, which was 29 seconds behind the overall winner. Having never actually won a race on a certified course before, I immediately put the thought into my head that I wanted to come back in 2018 and win this race.
The Doc & Mardie 5K course is by no means easy. In fact, it’s the hardest road 5K that I’ve ever run. The first mile includes an elevation gain of 128 feet, most of which is over a quarter mile while you climb up the hill to Colby College from North Street. How you run up this hill can make or break your race, and I was determined to conquer it. So, I ran up this hill frequently during my training, including seven times in the week prior to this year’s Doc & Mardie 5K. I made several attempts at capturing the Strava segment “course record” from fellow Strider Ron Peck, but continually failed. The only thing I could hope for was some race day magic to propel me up the hill at the pace I wanted to run.
Going into the race, I gave myself about a 50 percent chance that I could win it. My running has improved a lot over the last year, including cutting nearly 30 seconds off my 5K PR, but I knew there was no guarantee that I could beat the winning time from last year. I was also afraid that a random Colby College kid would show up and blow me away.
On the morning of the race, I jogged from my house to the YMCA to pick up my number and t-shirt and then jogged back home where I changed shoes and shirt and drank some water. Once again, the convenience of racing this close to home can’t be overstated. As I ran down the street heading back to the YMCA and the start of the race, I started feeling a little hungry, so I made a U-turn to go back home to eat a GU energy gel and drink more water.
As I chatted with some of the other Striders while standing at the starting line, I looked around and either didn’t see or didn’t recognize the guy who won last year’s race. I also didn’t see anyone else I recognized as being faster than me. I knew that winning was a real possibility now.
“On your mark. Go!”
I immediately shot out into the lead having no idea how close anyone was behind me. I looked at my watch about a quarter mile into the race and saw I was running 5:15 pace. I knew I had to slow down a bit so I wasn’t too winded by the time I reached the base of the hill. As I ran up the hill, I started getting paranoid that someone was right on my tail. I thought I was hearing heavy breathing and footsteps right behind me, but was afraid to look back.
I continued to push up the hill trying to pull away from the phantom runner trying to pass me. The hill felt much less bad than normal. I made it to the top of the steep part of the hill, but knew that the road kept climbing until close to the one-mile mark just past the Colby Art Museum. My Garmin GPS watched beeped and showed that I ran my first mile in 6 minutes flat. “Not bad,” I thought to myself. “I can do this.”
Running down Mayflower Hill, I knew my pace would increase, but I didn’t want to push it too much. I knew that the third mile included another climb that may not be as big as the hill in the first mile but still had the potential to zap a lot of energy out of me. I came through the second mile at 5:36 min/mile pace. I was right where I wanted to be.
As I approached the bottom of the hill at the Gilman Street bridge, I again thought I heard heavy breathing right behind me. After crossing the bridge, there was a car that seemed to want to drive through the construction barriers. I was relieved to see that race director Patrick Guerette was talking to the driver, but also a tad worried because the driver seemed to keep inching forward. I wasn’t sure whether I should go around the left or the right side of the car. I went to the right without incident and soon after saw my wife standing on the side of the course cheering for me.
“Are you winning?” she asked.
“Yes. How far back is the next guy?”
“I don’t know. I can’t tell.”
I was relieved to know that the phantom runner chasing me really was a phantom and I was well on my way to winning the race as long as I maintained my pace to the finish.
Of course, knowing that I had a comfortable lead also killed my adrenaline rush. My breathing grew heavier and I felt hot for the first time in the race. Running up the hill on West Street felt much worse than the giant hill in the first mile. At this point, I just wanted the race to be over. I topped the hill and turned onto North Street. “Only a half mile to go,” I thought to myself. I really wanted this half mile to be finished.
As I turned into the YMCA parking lot, I saw the race clock counting up from 17:37. I pushed to the finish line realizing that I was going to win the race and run a sub-18:00 time. I had just won a race for the first time ever!
I turned around to see the next runners approach the finish and was glad to see that Ron Peck came in second overall and Julie Millard won the women’s race.
After I got home and loaded my GPS data to Strava, I found that I had finally beat the segment record going up the big hill to Colby (sorry, Ron). That capped off a great week of running for me: placing fifth in my age group at Beach to Beacon, winning the Doc & Mardie 5K, topping 70 miles for the week, and getting a segment record on Strava. The only thing left to do was to head over to the New Balance Factory Store Tent Sale and spend the gift card I won from the Doc & Mardie race.
Thanks to Patrick Guerette for organizing a great race. If you live in the area and haven’t run the Doc & Mardie Brown 5K, you really should consider it. I plan on running it again next year.
by Julie Millard
In July a Central Maine Striders team tackled the Down East Sunrise Trail Relay for the second year. In the DEST Relay team members take turns over 16 legs running the 102.7 miles from Ellsworth to Eastport. Teams estimate their finish time and are given staggered start times on Friday night (July 20th) in order to finish around the same time on Saturday ( July 21st).
This year's Striders DEST team included Pat Cote, Bruce Maxwell, Ron Peck, Jess Beers, Cecilia Morin, Tracey Cote, Julie Millard, and Brian Morin. Team captain Julie Millard shared the following race report.
Chapter 1. In which the brave travelers begin their arduous adventure
Friday, July 20, 6:00 p.m.
The motley crew assembles on the Colby campus, cramming eight bodies and approximately 37 bags into two SUV’s. Destination: Pat’s Pizza, Ellsworth.
Chapter 2. In which many carbs are consumed
Friday, July 20, 7:30 p.m.
The team elders, Brian and Julie, throw in a beer for good measure. Lead-off runner Pat may have let his hunger override his good sense, but all hope that three hours is enough time for him to rest and digest in his camp chair.
Chapter 3. In which the race begins
Friday, July 20, 11:30 p.m.
An awkward seed time of 11:30 p.m. puts our excellent adventurers in the undesirable position of having only one team with a later start time and key rivals with significant leads, likely meaning that they will experience a lot of alone time on the trail. Pat does an excellent job of digesting, runs a powerful leg, and puts our heroes fifth from last.
Chapter 4. In which the night is dark and full of terrors
Saturday, July 21, midnight to 4:30 a.m.
Skunks, porcupines, ticks, mosquitoes, blown-out calf muscles, dim headlamps, and a lack of cell phone reception and bathrooms are only some of the horrors the brave Striders faced, with the biggest being the tricks of the mind. (Is that a bear? Is that a serial killer? Where’s my damn coffee?) Somehow the team makes it to Columbia Falls, where the sunrise brings them great joy.
Chapter 5. In which there is significant road kill
Saturday, July 21, 6:30 a.m. to noon
Tracey’s calf injury requires a change in plans, with secret weapon Cecilia, youngest team member by more than a decade, swapping into a difficult uphill leg. Despite her strong performance, she is unable to hold off top-seed team Boyz n the Woodz, but she puts the team in striking distance of several teams with earlier start times.
The heroes pick off the competition, one at a time, like lions on the prowl. A bathroom and breakfast sandwiches in Dennysville further lift their spirits, and they cruise into Eastport faster than their seed time, 8th out of 42 teams overall and first-place equal gender team, having averaged 7:24 over 102 miles.
Congratulations to the Striders team for their performance at DEST! In addition to a strong finish, for the second year in the row, they also finished closest to their predicted time—within two seconds!
Check out their video below. Then consider running the next Down East Sunrise Trail Relay July 19-20, 2019.
by Alicia MacLeay
Knowing something is hard and doing something that is hard are not the same thing.
On July 15-16 I ran the Vermont 100, a race I’ve wanted to do for several years. It was hard. It was far. It was painful at times. It was incredible.
Established in 1989, the Vermont 100 is among the four oldest 100-mile races in the country and is part of the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. The course covers 68 miles of rolling dirt roads, 30 miles of trails, and two miles of pavement. It’s considered a fairly runnable 100, but with more than 15,000 feet of elevation gain it’s not flat.
There’s a 30-hour cutoff, although the top runners complete the race in half that. My goal was to finish in less than 30 hours and earn my first 100-miler finisher’s buckle.
At 4 a.m. I lined up in a dark Vermont field with more than 350 other headlamp-wearing runners. In addition to managing acute pre-race anxiety, I hadn’t run a single mile in nearly three weeks due to shin pain.
What had seemed like a minor shin splint had progressed, despite rest. I was convinced I was out of the race the week before when, on a tearful hike, sharp pains shot up my left leg with every step. Thankfully, I’d been cleared to run Vermont by my sports doctor, albeit with caveats and the risk of a stress fracture. While I didn’t know if my leg would hold up or literally crack, I was going to take this chance.
The race started and after a few miles of panic-inducing twinges my shin was forgotten. In the way of ultras and life, things change and you move on.
The field spread out as we left the initial trails for dirt roads. I ran. I walked steeper hills and tried to keep things easy. The sun came up.
Vermont is the only 100 with a simultaneous horse ride. Horses with cheery riders passed me on the dirt roads. I passed some on a steeper trail. After 21 miles I came to the first of eight handler aid stations and saw my crew, husband Dave and coach/friend Brendan Gilpatrick.
Aid stations require a mental shift. You’ve been running along alone, passing or being passed by the occasional runner, and suddenly you enter a hubbub of activity—food, drink, ice, crews, runners, medical checks—and you need to focus, attend to your needs, and move along.
I was extremely grateful to have Dave and Brendan as my crew. When you’re tired and sore, it helps to have people who you trust and who understand you. They systematically made sure I stayed on top of my food and hydration plan. They outfitted me with a full pack and new socks, clothes, and gear as needed. They kept me focused on what was coming up. They did all this and said nice things while kicking me out of each aid station.
I spent much of the first 70 miles running by myself, in my own head, occasionally greeting another runner, volunteer, or spectator. I was often alone, but never lonely. I lost track of time except for the mile I was in and to know whether it was day or night.
I climbed hills up dirt roads and trails and over fields. I heard the song fragment “Hamilton faces an endless uphill climb…” in my head on every hill. There are a lot of hills in Vermont.
The descents became increasingly painfully as my quads tightened and my knees began to ache.
I occasionally noted milestone distances, like farthest run ever, but avoided calculating how far I had to go (ultra math is faulty math). The race distilled down to running and moving forward mile to mile, aid station to aid station, crew to crew, and letting those miles add up.
At one point some guy yelled, “you run like a girl” at me. I called back “thanks!”
When people ask what I like about ultras I say it’s the mental challenge on top of the physical, needing to be flexible and figure out unknown and unexpected challenges as they come. And then unknowns happen, like my quads not being able to run downhill, and, of course, the unknown isn’t what you thought it would be and doesn't come how you expect.
I’d signed up for Vermont because it was hard, because I wanted to do something beyond my comfort zone, and knowing there were no guarantees. That was the appeal. And yet there came a moment in this race, running alone on a dirt road, when I realized that I could do everything possible and still fail. I’d thought I already knew that.
One in four of us who started in that dark field would not finish, despite how much we wanted it or how hard we worked. I’d already seen a few of them, a man hunched over on the side of the road, another vomiting in a field atop a scenic hill. They were OK; I checked. But, I was determined not to become one of them.
So I ran when I could for as long as I could. I walked and power hiked hills. I forced my quads to stretch and my knees to bear each impact downhill. I would do what I could at the time and hope it all added up to 100 miles in less than 30 hours.
I reminded myself that “The best way out is always through,” according to the wise Robert Frost, once poet laureate of Vermont. And I kept going.
I thought about Dave and Brendan waiting for me at the next handler station. And I kept going.
I thought a lot about that buckle waiting at the end. And I kept going.
Eventually it was night, and I ran the first hours by myself following glow sticks in the dark. I heard gunshots. I heard an owl. I met a nice man from Baltimore and we ran together for a while before I moved ahead.
At the mile 69-aid station, I looked up and saw millions of stars in the sky and then the little light of the International Space Station tracking across its own black path.
I set off from that stop with Brendan, who would pace me for the final 30-plus miles. I could not have asked for a better pacer and companion. He patiently stuck with me, reminding me to eat or drink, being positive even as I slowed and grimaced in knee and quad pain with every downhill step. He patiently answered the thousand times I asked, “are we okay?” about cutoff time.
We saw an amazing red moonrise. We talked some. We were quiet a lot. Morning mist settled in the woods. The sun came up and the mist burned off. It was another day. And we were still going forward.
At mile 95 I saw Dave for the last time. I ate a bite of a waffle, put on my Striders shirt, and Brendan and I took off…at a shuffle. “Just” five more miles.
I thought of my 9-year-old daughter, waiting for me at the finish with handmade signs that said, “you can do it.” I didn’t want to let her down. I wanted to be able to tell my 13-year-old son back at home that I’d finished. I wanted to offer them some small glimpse of what I was experiencing.
After winding around in the woods for the longest mile ever, I finally came around a bend and saw my daughter sitting on the side of the trail. Above her was the finish banner and then I was on the other side being greeted by race director Amy Rusiecki. After thinking I wouldn’t make it to the start, it was now over. I’d come through. I nearly cried.
I spent some time lying in the field before being able to stand up without passing out. My left ankle was so swollen Dave had to cut off my calf sleeve. But an hour later, with my daughter acting as a crutch, I managed to stand up and get my buckle at the awards ceremony.
My time of 29:11:52 was slower than I expected, but I was beyond happy to have done it and have earned that buckle. I was touched and grateful for the volunteers, other runners, and especially Dave and Brendan who’d helped make it happen. Having people devote their time to help you reach your goal is an amazing gift.
Now, two months out the race is a bit blurry. I only recently looked at my Garmin data to see what actually happened out there. It says I went a mile. And then I went another mile, 100 times, which feels about right.
The Vermont 100 Endurance Race is a major fundraiser for Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports, which provides outdoor recreation opportunities for people with disabilities. This year’s race had its first ever Athletes With Disabilities (AWD) division for visually- and mobility-impaired runners, making Vermont the first trail ultra with such a division. It was impressive!
Pictures above by Brendan Gilpatrick or Dave MacLeay , unless otherwise noted.
by Julie Millard
Back in May, Crow Athletics founder Gary Allen (caw!) invited the Central Maine Striders to field a team for the Down East Sunrise (DEST) Relay via our Facebook page. Being a relay aficionado from way back, I quickly followed up in the comments to gauge interest. Within 48 hours, seven other Striders had joined me in registering for our club’s first overnight relay team. Prior experience ranged from relative novice to virtual professional, with everything in between!
Our start time on Friday, July 21, was calculated based on our self-reported half marathon pace times, so that all teams would finish at about noon on Saturday, July 22. My quick estimate was that we would average about 8 minutes per mile, allowing us to complete the 102-mile course in about 13 and a half hours. The Crow folks clearly have similar math skills, and our official start time was 10:30 p.m.
Waves of teams departed from an Ellsworth parking lot adjoining the trail at half-hour intervals, and before we knew it, our lead-off runner Ron Peck was on the line with runners from Sleepless in Eastport and Whackos in WaCo. The darkness was punctuated only by headlamps, Tiki torches, and a string of holiday lights across the start banner. Then the bullhorn sounded, and they were off.
Our team had eight runners, and all ran two legs in different orders:
Paranoid about leaving a runner behind, we had a carefully planned out spreadsheet with estimated run times and van assignments for dropping off and picking up each runner. Van #1 shepherded the first three runners to their starts, while Van #2 hopscotched ahead to the start of leg #4. While runner #3 ran only 7.6 miles, the driving distance was 21.5 miles! On twisty back roads with no street lights! And intermittent cell phone reception!
But Van #2 overcame these obstacles and found the blinking red light beacon that marked the start of leg #4. Its occupants catnapped for about 30 minutes until our alarm went off, and then we waited at the exchange point for our incoming runner. An unforeseen problem was figuring out which runner was ours.
Pro Tip #1: Make your runner easy to identify in the dark by using colored blinking lights or a waist light in addition to a headlamp. Alternatively, bring a support person on a fat bike so that they can ride down the trail, intercept the incoming runner, and then ride back to the exchange point with an update. And don’t forget the bug spray!
The best leg of them all had to be leg #8 (just a coincidence that the person who assigned the order got this one!). It's described as follows in the Race Handbook: “The trail becomes semi-remote again in the four mile stretch from Columbia Falls to Jonesboro Station.”
The “semi” is an overstatement, as my only companions, with the exception of the two runners who blew by me, were the songbirds and frogs as the mist rose over the bog. But I enjoyed running east as the horizon slowly turned orange and brightened to the point where the headlamp wasn’t necessary to see the big rocks underfoot.
Pro Tip #2: Minimalist shoes are not a good idea. The trail is more like a dirt road, with some sizable stones. A former rail trail, it is also extremely flat, leading to calf cramps in some of our runners. Compression socks helped!
Team members encountered a variety of wildlife along the trail, including porcupines, skunks, deer, and a bear (heard about, not seen, fortunately!). The larger problem was probably intestinal issues that plagued several runners, which may have been compounded by the scarcity of toilet facilities. Either we didn’t get the nutrition quite right, or the body does not take kindly to running hard when it thinks it should be sleeping.
When our anchor runner Bruce Maxwell cruised across the finish line in Eastport, we had beaten our projected time by more than four minutes! We ended up sixth out of 26th teams overall (first equal-gender team), with a 7:51 average pace.
Next year we would love to have more than one Strider team representing the oldest active running club in Maine, so put this one on your bucket list!
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.
By Ron Peck
After a brief foray into running for my high school cross-country team in my senior year, I forgot about running until I started again in my late 20s as a way to relieve stress. I soon found that I needed goals to keep me motivated and, without a plan for structured training, signed up and ran in a couple marathons in 2002. Thinking that marathons were simply not painful enough, I was bitten by the triathlon bug and completed Ironman Wisconsin in 2003 and 2005.
After that 2005 race, I thought I would take a short break from training. With the exception of a few half-hearted attempts to get fit again, that training break lasted eight years. Suddenly, I found that I had accumulated two beautiful daughters, a real job, and some flabbiness around the midsection. In August of 2013, I put on my running shoes again — I think they had been used about five times in four years of ownership at the time — and managed to run two miles around the “steep” hills near my home in Waterville.
I decided I would again need a goal so I used the time-honored tactic of signing up for a marathon, the Bay of Fundy Marathon, in 2014. After sticking with a training plan, I did well and had fun in that race [Editor's Note: Ron won that race with a time of 3:01:31!]
I found that I enjoyed running itself, but also liked the competitive and social aspect of races. Since then, I’ve run in races at distances ranging from the Quarry Road Summer Race 3K (tough but short!) to marathons.
I had run the Boston Marathon in 2015 and was amazed at the huge support shown by Boston and the communities along the route. I was especially looking forward to the race this year because my wife and daughters could accompany me so we could enjoy the city of Boston together (and then appreciate the slower pace of Waterville). Although my training had been hampered by a slow-healing sprained ankle, I was confident that I could at least get through the race. My goals were to have a few pictures of me actually smiling and perhaps to finish under three hours.
After arriving in Boston, I took the whole family to the zoo pre-race expo to pick up my race bib and assorted swag. The expo, of course, is a mass of nerves and excitement as runners and their supporters walk around bumping into everyone and everything.
We picked up my bib and then checked out the vendors’ booths with all the latest in (legal) ways for runners to get fitter and faster — shoes, training devices, clothes, treadmills, books, more shoes, and nutrition. The nutrition booths were particularly popular as they all had free samples of their amazing new products. One memorable gel had the definite look of cat excrement, and, unfortunately, the flavor wasn’t much better.
The actual purpose of the expo is, of course, looking at other runners and comparing yourself to them. The Boston Marathon is especially ideal for this activity since bib numbers reveal the "faster" runners—lower bib numbers = faster qualifying times. Although most runners might deny it, I think everyone subconsciously checks out other bibs — "OK, that guy looks fast, but he has a higher bib number than me…Wow, sub-1000 bib for that guy, really?”
In my case, I felt like an imposter since everyone with a number in my range looked way fitter than I felt. After having my fill of bad-tasting nutritional products and nerves, we returned to the hotel. Dinner was with some friends where I had the requisite plate of pasta and half of a pizza. I was loaded with carbs and ready to go!
Morning of the Race (April 18, 2016)
After pointlessly tossing and turning in the bed for a few hours, I got up at 4 a.m. and had my usual pre-race fare of fried-egg sandwiches with bagels and coffee. I dressed in my lucky race gear—2014 Quarry Road Race Series shirt, Quarry Road socks, one red shoe and one blue—and departed to walk to the Boston Common.
Given my complete lack of directional sense and the confusing streets of Boston, I was worried that I would get lost on the way. However, this concern was unfounded as the streets were full of streams of runners flowing toward the Common. I met and struck up a conversation with Jake, a triathlete from San Diego who grew up in Wisconsin. As a former Wisconsin resident, I could empathize with his desire to move to a place without winter. When we arrived at the Common, I was awed by the enormous line of school buses waiting to whisk 30,000 runners to the start line; it’s perhaps the most visible reminder of the logistics involved in organizing the marathon.
I found a lucky bus and was off to Hopkinton. The bus ride seemed really long (actually, it’s 45 minutes) which was psychologically tough because I knew that only my feet would carry me back to Boston. I passed the time by talking to my seatmate, a young biomedical engineer developing better methods to detect cancers from blood tests. I gave him a few suggestions (use better antibodies and give me a huge fee to consult), and we briefly discussed our preparation for the race. Fortunately, he had a much worse training cycle than I did, so I had some confidence that I wouldn’t finish in last place.
We finally reached the Athletes Villages, a fancy name for a school surrounded by hundreds of Porta-potties and several Jumbotron video screens. I waited in line to get my picture taken next to the "Hopkinton" sign and met a fourth grade teacher who grew up near my hometown in Idaho. We reminisced about potatoes for a while, and I would later find out she was actually the winner of the Salt Lake City Marathon. After I got my picture taken with my trademark cheesy smile, I passed the time looking for the most ridiculous throwaway clothes: jackets with neon colors, sweatpants in various seasonal themes, and even pajamas with R-rated graphics. I think my favorite was the guy wearing a one-piece giraffe costume complete with a tail.
Around 9:30 a.m., we were herded towards the actual start line. This, of course, is the most stressful part of the race because I wanted to save energy, but somehow move fast enough to make one last bathroom stop before the start. (Success!)
The start line is divided into corrals assigned by bib numbers. I made my way to my corral and squeezed in with all the other sweaty, nervous runners. I could barely hear the National Anthem and the introduction of some famous person to fire the starting gun. More waiting, waiting, waiting…. (“Could I have made one more port-a–potty visit?”)
BANG! We were off...er, not really, as it took about a minute for me to reach the actual starting line at a walking pace. Finally, we reached the timing mat and a chorus of chirps and beeps marked everyone starting their watch at EXACTLY the precise millisecond they crossed the line.
The first few miles of the marathon course are a notoriously steep downhill section. Combined with the huge adrenaline rush, it’s very easy to go out WAY too fast. I ran the first mile about 15 seconds faster than my goal pace and was still passed by thousands of runners. I settled in and remember thinking how odd it felt to be running a big city major marathon through classical New England countryside.
After maintaining my pace for the first half, I was boosted by hearing the loud cheers of the famous Wellesley scream tunnel. In addition to their loud and continuous cheering, Wellesley students are known for holding up signs with offers to kiss runners. Since I’ve heard of mononucleosis (and I’m happily married), I politely declined the offer.
I managed to hold my pace for the first 16 miles, but the notorious hills of Newton knocked the life out of my legs. As I crested Heartbreak Hill at mile 21, my wife and daughters cheered me on and made a short video. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice them as I was undertaking the all-important task of checking my watch for the millionth time. I wanted to just walk the remaining miles, but, perversely, I also knew that I wanted to qualify for next year’s Boston Marathon.
I willed my legs to keep moving and, after an eternity, made the turn onto Boylston Street. Since it isn’t often that I have a friendly audience, I used the LONG straightaway to play to the crowd and even managed to force a smile when I crossed the finish line. I wasn’t thrilled with my time of 3:04, but it was good enough to qualify for next year’s race so I have the option to suffer again next April.
One of the many amazing volunteers draped a medal around my neck. (Seriously, where do they find such selfless people willing to even get close to a bunch of smelly runners?) I then grabbed some of the free food offered and made my way to the family meeting area conveniently located in the windiest and shadiest spot downtown.
Since the race was a bit on the warm side, I was nicely drenched with sweat to freeze while waiting for my selfless wife and irritable daughters. After a few forced smiles for pictures, we went to the subway station so I could enjoy walking down three flights of stairs very, very slowly.
We all recovered for the afternoon and then went to the marathon after-party at Fenway Park. Since I’m a lifelong Red Sox fan, this was a special treat as we got to walk around the field, sit in the dugout, and even get close to the three most recent World Series trophies. It was also fun to see thousands of people shuffling around taking the opportunity to proudly show off their finisher’s medals. (It isn’t often that you can wear a medal and not look ridiculous.)
Altogether, I had a great experience and it was ideal preparation for the more important task of taking on all-comers at the Quarry Road Summer Race Series this summer.
Congratulations, Ron! Thanks for sharing your race report just in time for readers getting ready for September registration for the 2017 race! Ron finished 2022 out of 26629 finishers, so not last.
By Tom McGuire
On Saturday, June 18, 2016 former Central Maine Striders club president Dean Rasmussen and every runner's favorite mentor, Ron Paquette, each ran their 35th consecutive Mt. Washington Road Race on a picture-perfect day. The challenging race is a 7.6-mile hill climb to the summit of New Hampshire's Mt. Washington via the Mt. Washington Auto Road and climbs more than 4,500 feet.
For his 75th birthday this year, Ron asked his wife, Donnajean Pohlman, to accompany him on his race to the clouds. Having previously run the hill 15 times, she consented to just one more and both were seen with smiles on their faces before and after the event (see photo at right).
Another longtime Strider couple, Rick and Anne-Marie Davee, had strong performances with Anne-Marie medaling with a second place in her division.
Striders were well represented among the 1,153 finishers. We not only had a strong showing of our runners from both Maine and away, but many friends and family enjoyed the day socializing and volunteering.
Thanks to everyone who came out to volunteer. Beth Pilsbury Bridger, my wife, Lyn McGuire, and I served turkey dinner with all the fixin's after the race, and several runners and their families worked on the cleanup crew. (Were you one? Please let us know by sending an email to email@example.com, so we can add you to this race report.)