Tuesday, October 16, 2007

MDI remembered

The race itself is still playing itself out in my mind as one of the best marathon experiences of my career to date. It wasn't especially fast and there were no age group prizes or awards to be had but the memory of it seems to be seared into my brain for some reason that's hard to explain. The chance to run with good friends was the key factor and even though we didn't get to finish together as I had 1st dreamed, the journey to the finish line was varied and interesting for each of us. I would venture to say that each of the Three Blind Moose and the Mountain Goat were totally recharged by the experience and ready to move on to future goals with even more energy and enthusiasm.

Pre-race and the start:
I arrived at the village green near the start about 50 minutes before the start with plenty of time to find Jamie and then we both were directed to Andrew's nice warm room by his kind daughter. We relaxed there, a mere 50 ft from the start line, until Lauren said that it was 10 minutes to 8 and shouldn't we get going? Grudgingly we agreed and shuffled along to search for the still missing Marc. Moments before the gun we met up, shook hands and then were off like a herd of turtles. Given the little lecture the night before by 'Joannie', we had reconsidered the idea of running the entire race together and our plan for the day was somewhat 'open' at this point. My personal plan had ranged from either running with Jamie as long as I could to hanging with Marc and Andrew and conserve energy for the 2nd half. The 2nd option seemed much more palatable especially given my short recovery since Saint John.

Mile 1-12:
This 1st part of the marathon was much like our long runs together but for some reason we lost Andrew almost immediately off the back despite our pedestrian pace. You can read Andrew's report for his reasoning but we normally do lose him in the woods for awhile on any 'normal' long run (so par for the course). Marc and I cruised along nicely and before we knew it 5 miles had passed and the pace had dropped without any noticeable effort. It's always a good sign when you barely notice the mile marks and they still seem to be coming quickly. About this point we were joined by our lost friend and the next few miles were a confusion of jokes, laughs and continuous conversation as we passed runner after runner in full flight. At one point our man Andrew decided he needed to stretch his legs and started to pull away from us. Again, this little episode is nicely described by in A's blog as I sprinted ahead to reel him back in. He literally tells it like it happened as I told him to 'stop and wait for Marc!' Amazingly, he did and the next thing we were cruising along in formation for some of the best pictures ever taken of the 3 Blind Moose. A now worn out phrase, but simply 'priceless' is a close description.

Mile 12 to 17:
After our encounter with our friendly race photographer, 'all bets were off' and we slowly drifted apart as we began to focus on our own pace and individual running. No words were exchanged and soon we were all out of sight of each other. I found myself comfortably at 7:45-7:55 pace over the next 8 miles as I passed the 1/2 in 1:50:43 and continuously overtook runner after runner. At one point counting 'roadkill' was a distraction but I kept loosing count and gave it up for awhile. The scenery along the course was amazing with the fall colors, the dark blue-black ocean water, and skies. Before I knew it we were at the end of the closed to traffic section of the course along the fjord and it was another nice encounter with my personal coach and photographer.
Miles 17-21:
More 7:50's as I continued to feel good and pass runner after runner. Only rarely do I remember a marathon feeling this smooth for so long into the race. The course was getting hillier now and there was a steep little rise right at mile 20 that took some extra work but the reward was a good crowd, another photo and a nice downhill next mile in 7:47.
Miles 21-25:
This was where the course turns into a real brute with a long string of hills that just keep coming at you. The runner traffic had now thinned a bit but my passing ways continued and I had not been passed since leaving Marc back at mile 12 or so. Despite increased effort the pace now slipped to 8:05 to 8:20 as I tackled each mile, each hill and each runner one at a time.
One nice interlude was an accordion player near the top of a stretch of hills near mile 23 that helped to keep my spirits up. My legs were now starting to tighten and almost cramp but some quick 'on-the-fly' rubs seemed to help loosen things enough to provide relief. My goal to get to mile 24 and enjoy the downhill finish was dashed when reaching this point I saw only another stretch of seemingly unending hills! I had misread the course profile and had another mile to go up before relief was to be had. Head down again and I soldiered on looking for more roadkill.

Mile 25 to finish:
Was that footsteps I heard? I finally reached the landmark 'Top of the Hill Restaurant' where the course finally started to go DOWN nicely for a solid mile. Still knocking off runners but either that's an echo of my footsteps or I'm getting tracked down myself... I don't look back and start to increase my pace as much as the downhill grade will permit. A quick glance confirms that the pursuer is for real and a female looking strong and fresh. Damn, I don't want to be racing the last mile like this! Mile 25 in 7:13. The course now leveled out slightly with a slight rise (aka hill) with the finish still out of sight. We were also zig-zagging past more runners, traffic cones, traffic cops etc as I continued to do my best to keep her at bay. She remained one step behind as finally the finish stretch came into sight. We both now picked up the pace even more and the sprint to the finish began. It I was going to be passed now it was going to have to be earned and in the final few meters I managed to pull away slightly at the end. It felt more like the end of a 200m sprint than a marathon as my legs went wobbly for the final few steps.

After we both got over our gasping for air we shook hands and high fived each other on a good finish. My competitor placed 2nd in her age group for the 19-29 women. What a crazy way to finish a marathon (last 0.15 mile at 6:15 pace)!

It's now 2 days later and my recovery is going really well. I'm already thinking of when and how to get that 1st little run in and whether I'll be able to fit in another 10k or something before the end of the year. But first more recovery for a few weeks and then slowly get back into some easy running for a few months before gearing up for Boston.

Photos from the pre-race tour of the course, the guest speakers at the pasta dinner and the race itself are here for your viewing enjoyment. The race results are here.

Have a good week! It's been quite a ride so far.


Mike said...

Ahhh, your race reports are always such a delightful multi-media experience!

You know how to do the training and you know how to enjoy the race. These two don't often go together. Well done Mike

Andrew said...

It was a great time. I like that photo of us all together.

Your comment about the upcoming Boston made me laugh - why I forgot that's your "Spring Marathon" I don't know. Haven't you had enough of that one yet?

Mark Bell said...

Go Canada! The downhill trio shot is good. Congrats on your marathon.

Jamie Anderson said...

That photo of you blind moose is classic. You all look so happy and relaxed which is in direct contrast of the expressions and body language of the runners behind you. Enjoyed the recap. Glad you didn't get "chicked" at the end!

Thomas said...

Yeah, I'd hate to get chicked, too!

And I can see you deemed the MDI marathon important enough to give The Shorts an airing.

UMaine Cooperative Extension said...

Mike - A wonderful write-up! MDI is certainly a wonderful experience, I am glad to have been able to share a part of it with you.

Looking forward to PEI next fall...or is MDI going to become an annual event?

Take care.

Michael Jay Dotson said...

Ditto the above comments. The most lucid and memorable experiences we will carry with us to the nursing home will come not from our PR races, but from of those cherished moments of camaraderie and shared joy such as you enjoyed this weekend.


Grellan said...

Donh't we all wish for marathons like that. It's the ones you enjoy most as opposed to the PB's that endure in you memory.

Dubs said...

Great race report and awesome finish. You make it sound tempting to try 26.2. :)