Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mount Desert Island Race Rating

Race: Mount Desert Island Marathon
Date: October 20, 2013
Location: Bar Harbor, ME
Year Running: 12th
Registration: $75 (for a four day window only, so register early!)

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Race Information
Size: 722 full, 317 half, 61 full relay teams
Course Limit: 7 hours (or 8 hours with an early start)
Min. - Max. Elevation: 10 - 261 ft
Min. - Max. Temperature: 42 - 59
Charity Supported: 501(c)(3)

Travel
Airports: Portland (PWM), Bangor (BGR), and Boston (BOS). We flew into Portland because it was about $100 cheaper than Bangor and had late direct flights back to DTW. Boston was similarly priced, but added another two hours to the Portland drive time.
Rental car: 99% necessary. There is a shuttle to/from the Bangor airport, though the times are extremely limited. There is also Greyhound service from Portland, but I saw that station in person and would have thought it abandoned if I hadn't read another racer talking about using it.
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It looked even shadier in person, trust me. Portland was no Detroit, but I wouldn't have necessarily felt comfortable wandering around on my own in a lot of spots. Like here.
It would also be really hard to do anything in Bar Harbor without a car. The town is within walking distance of the hotels (about a mile), but the Acadia shuttle service ends on Columbus Day. It's pretty pricey to get to Bar Harbor, paying a little extra to have a car to explore Acadia National Park is totally worth it.
Host hotel: Two - the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel & Event Center and the Acadia Inn. Acadia Inn was $50 less a night (or $70 less if you assume we would've gotten an ocean-view room) and was perfectly fine. They opened breakfast super early race morning and were incredibly helpful when I needed help with our bag check tags. The race activities are all at the Atlantic Oceanside, but it is less than two minutes walk away, with a sidewalk.

Pre-Race
Communications: Great to the point of almost being too much. They didn't print the Athlete Guide, but I'm not kidding that I was about ready to scream in frustration if the RD sent one more email reminding us to read it.
Expo: At the Atlantic Oceanside in the Event Center. There were no lines for packet pick-up and plenty of volunteers. Shirts and bags were at a different table, but right across from the bibs. It would be easy to get in and out without seeing the vendors, if you wanted. There was a women's apparel vendor, as well as the sponsoring running club's booth, which had both Brooks and generic race-branded gear. (Saving money, wuddup, my fleece was $2 less than a Brooks t-shirt.) A few of the race sponsors also had booths set up. It was small, but it had enough to look at for a race of this size.
Other Activities: There was a 2 mile-ish fun run followed by a breakfast ($10), a pasta dinner ($18), and a post-race party (not sure on cost). The breakfast was secretly the hotel continental breakfast (unless we totally missed it), and I'm not sure it'd be worth $10, especially since the run is free. The pasta dinner was amazing, and Zoe Romano was a great guest speaker. It is a little pricey, but it raises money for the MDI High School Music Boosters.

Race Day
Parking: Throughout downtown Bar Harbor, all parking restrictions are lifted on race day. We got there super early, but could have gotten there with even ten minutes to spare no problem. If only someone would learn how to parallel park. Ahem.
Shuttles: Back to Bar Harbor from the race finish. I will avoid the rant that is coming in my race recap, but, do not rely on the shuttle for the time you need! We scurried in for our first choice, but the lines were so long that we still had to beg our way onto our last chance shuttle. Nowhere was it indicated there would be a significant wait for the shuttle. The ride was about 30 minutes and included standing room, which was zero fun. (There was also a morning shuttle to the half start from the marathon start.)
Bathrooms: Several. We only waited a couple minutes before we were due to line up.
On Time: Three minutes early, according to my Garmin.
Corrals: None, but not needed. There was plenty of room to pass on the roads in the first miles.

Course
Type: Point-to-point
Terrain: 100% concrete
Bathrooms: Few and far between, they officially recommend the woods as a back-up (which is definitely workable).
Crowding: None
Highlights: Acadia National Park, Maine coast, ocean views, the only sound on the East Coast, fall colors
It is seriously 26.2 miles of this. Totally incredible.
Support
Course Support: Aid stations approximately every two miles. And because there is a god, their sports drink of choice is Gatorade. (I used to hate on the lemon-lime flavor, but anything beats clear Heed.) Each also had water, and several had multiple flavors (!) of Gu. The volunteers were very good about announcing what they had.
Spectators: Perfect amount. The race provides very detailed spectating directions, so there would be groups at key intersections. Lots of people played music and had signs, but there were still plenty of peaceful stretches to just enjoy the scenery.
Local knowledge of race: Seemed fairly good. They started cordoning off parts of Bar Harbor the night before, and locals in the other towns we ran through didn't seem bothered by us.

Post-Race
Food: I was honestly so stressed about the shuttle I don't remember. They did have someone slicing bagels with cream cheese who would take custom combination requests. There was also fruit and water. I think there was more, but it's all a bit of a blur. The tent was really hard to find, especially if you were coming from bag drop.
Atmosphere: Fun. There was a big party going on that we didn't have time to stop at. Everyone got a free beer, which I'm sure contributed.
Party: There was one that night, which I think is too bad for a Sunday race. It's great for people staying, but there's no airport with flights out late enough to let you hit the party up and still leave the night of. Unless you're a local or taking an extended trip, it would be hard to justify the extra hotel expense.

Swag
Shirt: Haha, time for another shot of the jacket of hideousness. The orange is even orangier in real life.
Paint a trash bag orange and wear it around. It will be more stylish.
Medal: Nice quality and very cool design in the shape of Mount Desert Island. Race specific medal, not sure if the ribbons are as well.
Soft-sided Backpack: It's a decent size, though it's a bit of a bummer to have the race sponsors on it. (But they're not on the jacket, so I guess it's fair. Smart call on their part.) I wish it had the race name or distance displayed a little more prominently.

Final Thoughts
  • The Race Director is from MDI and really wants to make the race successful. He really seems to put his heart and soul into making it a great experience.
  • The half was a late addition this year (not sure what prompted it), but it didn't cause any problems for the full, and I didn't see any complaints from the halfers.
  • If it were at all possible, I wonder if they could get a discount and offer better times on the Bangor shuttle to Bar Harbor, as well as put the Acadia NP buses in service for the weekend. Both of these buses are still used at that time of year, so they're physically available.
  • Communication is key, but they could reduce the number of emails a bit. We already registered - there's no need to keep marketing to us in the weeks leading up to the race.
  • Put some signs up at the finish line. In our post-race daze, it was hard to navigate around, especially when it required crossing over the course again.
  • For the love of all that is good, fix the post-race shuttle situation! Even something as simple as a sign indicating the bus capacity would have helped us do our begging before the final seconds and reduced tons of stress. If there's going to be an extended wait, make that clear. Even better, get more shuttles or bring in the local taxis to the finish. I'm not kidding that I would've sold my first-born to make it back to our car in time.
  • Fix the jacket situation as well. I love my fleece, and while it didn't exactly break the bank, I had already funneled quite a bit of extra money into the race. I'm trying to believe the RD is acting in good faith, but it almost seemed like they wanted to super encourage us to buy extra gear. Then again, tons of people ran the race in that jacket (ugh), so what do I know.
  • The views make this race amazing! The whole way is absolutely stunning views and really made the time fly by. If you want to run a scenic race, make it this one.
Recommendation
  • 50 Staters: 100%. I'm not super knowledgeable about the couple other marathons in Maine, but I can't imagine how any could be more scenic or fun than this one. It's a bit tricky to get too, but we still saw almost everything we wanted in a weekend.
  • Non 50 Staters: If you can justify the travel expenses, definitely. Maine was beautiful in ways I wasn't even expecting. I'm in love with the West, but the coastlines there were amazing, and the fall colors were in peak season. It's well-organized and fun.

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