Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mount Desert Island Marathon Recap

Race day morning dawned bright and early. Except dawned might be a bit of misnomer since we immediately pressed our faces to the window to find it was raining. We checked the weather, and it was also colder than expected.
I'm going to invent a napping marathon for these situations. I will win my age group every time.
We did an outfit change and went down to breakfast, opened early for runners, which was a nice touch. Michael also wanted to buy a postcard before we left. The front desk clerk was really nice, but he needed a calculator to figure out how much change he should give Michael - who paid for a 30 cent postcard with a dollar. We were a little nonplussed.
How do I maths?
We weren't sure how bad parking would be, since there didn't seem to be tons of spots downtown, and the added half (whose participant had to be on their buses before the full started) made us a little nervous. There ended up being tons of spaces, even right before the race start. Right after we parked, we went to bag drop and then went to wait in the car. During this time it really started pouring. I did not want a repeat of Sleeping Bear, where I was drenched the whole time.

We got really lucky, and the rain almost completely stopped when we left for the start. In the bathroom line we got some tips about the course from someone who drove it the day before. He let us know that the hills in the first half were all rolling, and that after that, there were several much flatter miles. This ended up being a huge mental help, since I knew when we went up, we really would go down. I had studied the course profile, but all the hills looked awful on it to me.

We picked a random spot in front of the line and asked someone to take a picture of us. We had to take a second one after we were told to look happier. Sorry it's hard to look excited when I'm shivering.
I love my fleece hat, if only it didn't make my eyebrows look demonic.
We had heard a bagpiper warming up in the fire station, so we knew there would be one. (Apparently, there are also tons of bagpipers in the MDI area. They desperately needed to find one on Facebook the week before the race and got about five distinct suggestions!) After some pre-race announcements, the RD said there would be a tribute to Boston. The bagpiper came out of the fire station behind us, and we parted to let him walk to the start line. I couldn't see at the time, but there was no direction from any race personnel to clear space from him, it just happened. The whole thing was very moving without feeling over the top. After a moment of silence, we were off.

MDI had certainly been scenic the day before, but it was even prettier (somehow) in the morning light on foot.
The hills were there, but honestly I didn't really notice them because I was so busy looking around. Michael and I chose to run together at a comfortable pace. We ran by effort - taking it easier on the uphills and using our momentum on the downhills. Despite the fact that we had run a marathon two weeks prior, it honestly felt fine. I'm sure dropping the pace helped, but mentally knowing I could cover the distance was a nice boost too.
I found it hilarious for some reason the class trip is to Quebec. But it's the land of my people, so I can't hate.
There were a couple spots with spectators in the first half, and their cheering was a nice boost without being bothersome. My favorite sign (which I did not think to take a picture of) said "Remember that you love running." It sounds corny, but being reminded of that when you're hurting is actually helpful. The only problem was it suddenly got warm and sunny, and we were not dressed for it! We shed our hats and gloves, and I jerry-rigged them into my fuel belt. We started calling it my tumor.

Unrelated, but Maine, how are you so pretty?
We made it to the halfway point feeling great. The rolling hills had been different, but most of the grades were gradual, and it was almost fun running on different terrain.
I think this is Somes Sound, but I don't actually know.
The weather really warmed up at this point, and it was nice to have the sun, even if it was a little too hot for my liking. We also started joking that Al Borges, who we call Whale Borges, would come swimming by in the ocean. Michael then pointed out Maine locals might not know who that is and think we were terrible people for making fun of him. We're probably terrible people anyway, so I suppose it's fair.
He could be the next Loch Ness Monster if he does get fired and needs a new career.
Fatigue didn't really set in until 21 or 22 miles, but even then it was nothing like the wall during Sleeping Bear. Not running anymore sounded super fun, but continuing to run wasn't totally awful. We did stop for a bathroom break here. Thankfully I held out for bathrooms, I felt bad for the people who bailed to the woods only to immediately round the corner to see real bathrooms. The women did not look happy.

At this point, we started walking up the larger hills and got caught in a group on one where we had to squeeze between construction barrels and traffic. A racer next to us struck up a conversation about the hills and how he was struggling. I agreed we were as well, being from flatland Michigan and innocently inquired as to where he was from. His answer: San Francisco.
How can you expect anyone to find hills to train on there?
I'm not usually successful in maintaining a poker face in daily life, and at mile 23 in a marathon, I think I conveyed "wtf" almost immediately. He then explained he trained using Crossfit and hadn't run more than four miles at once in over a year. He admitted he knew it would be hard but didn't think he would struggle this much. I'm not being facetious when I say I nearly beat him with a nearby construction barrel. 
This meme has never been more appropriately used.
There's not enough room in this post for my Crossfit rant, but this is why I absolutely loathe Crossfit. I've recently started strength training and love it, but there's a difference between that and a cult that says you can effectively compete in long-distance running events without any specific training, let alone anything close to the recommend training. As soon as we had enough room to take off, we did like bats out of hell with probably the most impolite good-bye ever. And the poor guy still had no idea what he did wrong. If you ever take anything away from my blog, let it be that running helps you run.

When we got to mile 25, a man lounging in a lawn chair informed us we were at the top of the final hill. I'm still not sure if he was officially part of the race or a spectator wanting to giggle at our pain. He was camped in the parking lot of the Top of the Hill Restaurant, so it wasn't like you wouldn't know you had made it to the top without him. But honestly, with 1.2 miles left to go, it could've been a Bigfoot telling me where I was and I would've just rolled with it.
If you look closely, you can see we still had hills to run up. What liars.
We went down and into Southwest Harbor to the finish line. It felt amazing to cross and know we had qualified as Marathon Maniacs. In my finisher's photo I look like I'm dying (and Michael can't stop laughing whenever he sees it). He's even laughing in the photo like he knows what gold is being created.

Time: 5:21:31
I'm going to request to use this picture for my work ID.
We got our mylar blankets, which we honestly didn't really need, and collected our drop bag. The school entrance wasn't signed, and we had to ask where most of the bags were. We swung through the equally hard to find food tent and got a finishing picture from some runners we had been leapfrogging through the second half.
Afterwards, we saw our first choice shuttle bus coming in and scuttled across the course to the line. We didn't make it because there were too many people, at which point we started to get nervous. We 100% needed to be on the next shuttle to make our flight. We frantically started estimating how many people the shuttle could hold and I got stared at as I took a shuffling head count. We had been debating asking to cut in line, but it seemed like we should be the last people on the bus.

The next shuttle came, and we were going to be the first two people off.

I begged the two people (who were together) in front of us to give up their spots. I could see why they might think we were lying, but they had to have heard us discussing the situation and definitely stared while I counted. It's not like we pulled this out of our butts at the last second. It was warm outside, and we were essentially asking them to wait an extra 30 minutes for a guaranteed sit-down spot on the next shuttle. They literally got in line one second before us, so they hadn't waited any longer than us. They nearly said no, at which point I probably would've cried, but they did finally acquiesce.

We still couldn't understand how we almost got bumped - the bus held 45, and we were 44th and 45th in line. Once we got on, Michael was still over the line, so he started pushing. I saw the terror in the other runners' eyes as they were getting inexplicably shoved back. We managed to squeeze on, and I discovered the problem. Several people ahead of us (standing) had absolutely giant Ironman backpacks on. I don't want to take away from their accomplishment, but if your gear is forcing people off the bus, it's not okay.
One person per bus at Kona.
I thought the worst was over at this point, but then we experienced the bus ride from hell. The bus driver could not brake smoothly to save his life and that, plus the hills, nearly made me motion sick, and I don't normally have problems with that. My hands went numb from clutching on so hard, and I need to extend an apology to the woman who had to have my butt in her face the whole way.

I nearly fell off the bus when we got back, and when I dropped something in the intersection, I almost just left it there. We stumbled back to the car and got through our post-race routine as fast as possible. I changed my shirt on the street, and I'm pretty sure all the non-runners were scandalized.

The stress continued as we had to get off the island without making any wrong turns. We went as fast as we were comfortable with on the way back. We wobbled to security and heard our names called for final boarding as we were putting our shoes back on. We ran to the gate, only to have the agents laugh at us - apparently "final call" means we still have ten minutes. Long story short, we made it on the flight. The post-marathon was like it's own marathon, and it was 100% more stressful and nowhere near as fun.

I then spent the following two hours after the flight on the Michigan Flyer listening to someone enumerate all the people she wanted to punch in the face. I just wanted to rest, but I also didn't want to die after everything I had been through.

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