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 2006 Mount Desert Island Marathon race report

South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

2006 Mount Desert Island Marathon race report Posted: Thu Nov 02, 2006 12:15 pm 

I apologize for taking so long to post this but I've been pretty busy these past several weeks. Hang in there...this is a long one.

I ran the Mount Desert Island Marathon on 10/1/06 and I have to say without a doubt this was the most enjoyable of the thirteen marathons Iíve run. Certainly not because of my performance rather because of the beauty of this venue. This is definitely one of the best destination marathons youíll find in the country. The fall foliage, ocean views, and mountain landscapes provide a spectacular backdrop to a well organized event. This was the sixth year for this marathon and for such a young event they seem to have everything worked out.

My in-laws have a summer house on Taunton Bay only 30 minutes from the start. It sits empty this time of year and that made running this marathon that much more compelling. So not only was I already aware of the marathon course, I have run on parts of it during many of our summer vacation. But I never expected the actual marathon to be as enjoyable as it was.

With participation numbering around 700 this is definitely a low key marathon. I think a smaller field of athletes fosters a stronger sense of community among the runners as feel a bit more comfortable without all the hoopla of the big marathons and are likely to be more social. There wasn't a lot of the pomp and circumstance as is typical at other large high profile marathons but then I didnít find any of the logistical nightmares I often encounter at the big marathons.

My family and I arrived on Friday, two days before the marathon, and immediately drove to the packet pickup and expo location being held at a nearby resort in Bar Harbor. The packet pickup was quick and smooth and I didnít have to wait in any lines. This being a low key marathon, the expo was rather small with only a handful of vendors. But there was a wide array of running items available and I think you could have found just about anything you needed. All without the hassle of the large expo crowds nor the temptation to max out your credit card limit.

The next day we returned to Bar Harbor early in the morning to drive the course. Though I had run on some of it there were major sections I had never even seen before. There were two sections of the marathon course that were closed off to traffic. These sections went along narrow roads that snaked through the woods and along beautiful seaside homes. It helped to see the course layout and to get an idea of how my family would navigate around these closed sections. We spent the rest of the day doing a little shopping in Bar Harbor and then taking it easy back at the house.

On race day, we arrived about an hour and a half before the start. Getting to the start was simple and I was able to park within a block of the starting line. The race is point to point beginning in Bar Harbor Maine and ending in Southwest Harbor Maine. There is shuttle service from the finish line to the start before and after the race. So if you need to leave your car parked you can choose which end of the course suits you best and rely on the shuttle to get you to the other end. My plan was for my family to follow me along the course and stop at a few key spots to cheer me on and hand me replacement fuel bottles. I had also packed some extra clothing in the car in case the weather changed. I figured if I was going to have a support crew follow me along the course I might as well pack a few extra items just in case (i.e. a sudden change in weather).

There was a separate start for walkers which began an hour earlier. This is the first, and maybe only, marathon Iím aware of that has an early start for walkers. In fact, walkers are welcomed and encouraged. The race organizers donít impose a cutoff time for finishing the marathon. The race director announced that as long as there were walkers or runners still on the course the organizers and volunteers would still be there for them. So if you know someone who would like to challenge themselves to walking the marathon distance but doesnít want the added pressure of having to finish within a specified time this is the marathon for them. It doesnít hurt that the scenery is absolutely spectacular. I think there were about 300 walkers that headed out ahead of us.

The marathon started promptly and hour later. With the sound of a canon blast we were off. I donít think it took me more than 10 seconds to cross the starting line. A nice mile by mile description of the course is available at the Crow Athletics web site; the host running club ( I was wearing my Garmin 205 watch and it measured the mileage pretty accurately; within about 10-15 feet of each mile mark. It indicated that I started a little faster than my goal pace of 9:00 min/mile. I was able to track my pace fairly accurately (to within 5 seconds) for most of the marathon. I donít think my Garmin 205 has ever been this accurate for this long of a distance before. The sky was virtually cloudless and being fall the trees didnít seem to interfere with the GPS satellites. Most of the course was pretty much wide open to the sky.

I soon got into a casual conversation with another runner who was doing his third MDI marathon. He was from nearby Portsmouth, Maine and was hoping to finish under four hours. We chatted about our various marathon experiences and the early miles passed by effortlessly. He told me he was just hoping to finish before the clock struck 3:59:59. So I figured he was probably going to run just a tad slower than my goal pace of 9:00 min/mile. We probably ran a good five miles together before I realized my pace had dropped to about 8:20 (his also). I decided I needed to pull back and before I could say anything we came upon a water stop. While I stopped to grab some water he instead grabbed a cup, continued running, and bid me farewell. I figured Iíd probably see him a little later when he would finally realize he was running too hard or eventually bonked. It was around this time I started passing some of the walkers who had started an hour earlier. I made a special effort to cheer them on and they all returned the favor. In fact, some of them appeared to be stunned that a runner was cheering them on.

I managed to get through the next 4 miles at about an 8:50 pace before I had an urge to use the bathroom. I soon spied an unofficial Port-O-John in someoneís front yard. Apparently the residents were having some construction done to their house (adding another hundred thousand dollars in value to their multimillion dollar home) and since it was Sunday it sat unattended. But before I could get to it I saw one of the walkers ahead of me step in. I stood there for what seemed like an eternity waiting. I figured I lost about 5 minutes to what otherwise would have been a quick stop. But the rest seemed to have rejuvenated my legs and I had to pay particular attention on slowing my pace.

I canít adequately describe how stunning the scenery was. The mountain sides seemed to glow with various shades of red, orange, yellow and brown. The early morning sun made the ocean glisten and the fishing boats in the harbor and the multicolored lobster buoys bobbing in the water made me feel like I was running in a magnificent seaside painting. When I think back on this marathon the first thought that comes to mind is the scenery. Iíve always enjoyed Maine in August, but itís really extra special in early October.

I continued through the next few miles with my pace bouncing back and fourth between 8:35 and 8:55. I met my family at mile 12 where I switched replaced two of my empty Fuel Belt bottles (filled with Cytomax) with two full ones I had stashed in the car. My family took a few pictures of me and I was back on my way. I donít think the stop cost me more than about a minute. As I ran through the next couple miles it dawned on me that I had been pretty much running either up hill or down hill since the one mile mark. Iíd call these hills ďrollers.Ē The type with long gradual climbs and drops that donít seem to stress your legs much at the time but after you do a lot of them they all add up.

Somewhere around the 13 mile mark I must have hit the stop button on my Garmin as I was reaching behind me to put a fuel bottle back in my belt. By the time I noticed it I think I had been running for about seven minutes. I immediately hit the start button again and started doing the calculation in my head to figure out what the actual net time was.
I decided not to worry about it and just focus on my pace for each mile rather than my total time.

I felt another strong urge for a bathroom break around mile 14 but I was now running near the town of Northeast Harbor and every time I thought I saw a decent wooded area to detour into it turned out to be part of someoneís front yard. I didnít have the nerve to squat down in someoneís front yard. But before long the urge couldnít wait and I luckily found a field in front of a house where the wild grass was about 4 feet high and the house looked empty (thank god for seasonal residents). I did my business and was back on the road after a few minutes. The short rest was refreshing.

The next few miles were along Somes Sound (the only fjord in the eastern United States) and the view was...well, spectacular. There was a mountain to my right, Somes Sound to my left, and a newly re-paved stretch of roadway ahead of me. It was a very kodak moment and would have made a great photo for Runner's World magazine for the page they title "Rave Run."

I met my family again at the 18 mile mark and I was feeling pretty strong so I didnít feel the need to stop. I just waved and shouted to them across the road and they cheered back. The plan now was for them to go directly to the finish area and wait for me to come across the line.

Getting to mile 20 was uneventful, but from mile 20 to mile 24 it was a gradual climb. This section goes along a major highway but the traffic this time of year is minimal. On the other side of the road is Echo Lake with mountains in the background. Needless to say, this made for more outstanding scenery. And if that wasnít enough, I happened to look up and saw a bald eagle soaring above me. Iíve seen many eagles, back at the house, as they fish during low tide but this was the first time Iíve seen one this close. The guy I was passing noticed it too and commented to me something about how eagles are supposed to be a sign of ďgood travels.Ē That sounded good to me. But I didnít have the hart to mention to him about all the crows weíd been seeing all morning Crows are often associated with death.

I focused on shortening my stride and increasing my leg turn-over as I powered up the series of hills towards the 24 mile mark. I remembered from driving the course the day before that it was fairly flat from mile 24 to 25 and then pretty much down hill to the finish line (with a slight incline in the last hundred yards or so to the finish).

I managed to pass a lot of people in the next several miles and I recognized many of as runners who had passed me back near the beginning of the race. Itís so nice to be feeling strong as you pass so many people who look so wasted. I shouted out words of encouragement to each and every one of them as I passed and most returned their thanks. Some just grunted and I took that as a thank you as well. According to my watch I was well below my goal time of 3:56. Instead, it looked like I was headed to about a 3:52 finishing time. This got me a little excited as I thought back on all the hills I had run and realized how much better I was running than I expected.

As I hit mile 25 my hips and feet were a little sore but I still felt pretty strong. I decided to pick up my pace as I ran down the back side of this last hill towards the finish line. I kept my pace steady and my Garmin indicated I was running about 8:20 min/mile pace. I saw the Exxon station to my right and remembered from the drive the day before that was about a quarter of a mile from the finish area. So I knew the 26 mile mark was just a short distance ahead. As I passed the 26 mile mark I also passed a group of runners. I could see about a half dozen people ahead of me and against my better judgment I decided to try to overtake them before the finish line. I was now running much faster than I had planned and I knew it wasnít going to be good for my recovery the following week but I couldnít resist the challenge. I glanced at my Garmin and saw my pace was about 7:50.

I started passing some of these people and I heard the crowd starting to get excited. I pretended it was for me whether it truly was or not. I felt like I was sprinting as I passed the last of this group of runners. I heard the announcer say something about finishing under four hours and I heard the crowd erupt in cheers as I looked up to see the clock approaching 3:59:15. I had only about 10 yards to go and as I continued to run I thought ďhuh?Ē As I crossed the finish line the race director was there to give me a high five. ďWait a second,Ē I thought. ďWhatís the deal? I thought I was on a 3:52 pace.Ē As I reviewed my splits later I finally recalled the 7 minutes I had missed on my watch when I inadvertently stopped it around mile 13. Damn! I guess I didnít run as well as I thought. But I managed to run a really strong pace in the final mile and I took that as a bit of a consolation. But I was also a little mad at myself for not being more disciplined to hold back in the final miles and prevent my legs from getting any more beat up than necessary. Maybe I would have been able to hold back if I had known what my true time was.

One of the race volunteers hung a finisherís medal around my neck and another wrapped a Mylar blanket over my shoulders. The next thing I saw were my two daughters with great big smiles on their faces. They saw me run across the finish line and were happy to see me with a smile on my face too. When I told them about how the race director gave me a high five they said ďYeah dad, we know, he did that for everyone.Ē Huh? Oh. Well, it was cool of him to hang out at the finish line and high five everyone. You donít typically find that at other marathon finish linesÖunless youíre the winner.

Though my finishing time was slower than I had hoped for it seems more in line with what the race organizers say you should expect relevant to your normal pace.. Considering the seemingly continuous rolling hills of this course and the time I lost to the two bathroom breaks Iím happy with my time for this ďlong training run.Ē I never did see the guy I had been talking to during the early part of the marathon. I assume he finished ahead of me; better than I had expected.

We all headed back to the house and I sat in a nice cold bath which really helped my legs recovery over the next couple days. We all went to a movie later that afternoon and went out to dinner that night. Somehow I got stuck with the 9 hour drive home the next day. I took two days off before resuming my training schedule in preparation for the Marine Corps marathon two weeks later.

Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: 2006 Mount Desert Island Marathon race report Posted: Sun Nov 05, 2006 8:01 pm 

Way to go mfox! That part of the country certainly is beautiful, although I've never run there. Great to have family support all along the course too.

You are certainly piling up the marathons this month-- that's crazy. :-)

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