Getting there is half the fun
One thing I quickly picked up on after signing up for this race is that no one knows where Mount Desert Island (MDI) is. So to set the stage here is a map of the route from Astoria to Bar Harbor:
According to Google Maps it is a trip of eight hours and 54 minutes. This trip involves five different states. Effectively, we would cross all of New England…and then take a rural highway for two hours to reach this island off the coast of Maine. By all measures, MDI is at the end of the world.
The long trip was made longer by the non-stop New England rain/drizzle/mist that plagued us all the way to MDI. And to make it particularly New Englandy we got hit with fog on the coastal highway from I-95 to MDI. This was no ordinary fog—this was stuff straight out of a Stephen King novel. I could only see about ten feet in front of me and could have easily hit a car or tree. Yikes. Like I need to do that again.
We eventually rolled into the hotel at about 11p (we had left New York at 10a). And I was extremely happy to be finally off the road.
The next morning we had breakfast and visited the expo. For those of you who plan to run this race you should know that this is a race that is decidedly small and not flashy. Compared to the uber-galactic expos for races like the NYCM or the Flying Pig, this was intentionally meant to feel like a mom-and-pop affair. Kinda as if it were a race organized by a bunch of old school, I-don’t-care-what-the-weather-is, let’s-prepare-14-pages-of-final-race-instructions, hardy New England runners—which in fact it was. And I was just about to find out hardy these runners were.
The other thing I quickly learned about MDI is that it is rather inhospitable place for a Marathon. Coastal Maine in October can be rainy, windy, sunny, overcast, even snowy—or a combination there of. And since it’s open to the Atlantic the weather is hard to predict. In addition the terrain is mountainous—not hilly: there are a handful of actual mountains on the island.
Post expo we drove the course, because despite the multiple warnings I refused to believe how hilly the course was until I saw it myself. To be the honest the first couple of miles weren’t as bad as the elevation map would lead you to believe. I was thinking to myself “this isn’t THAT bad:” some rather extreme rollers, but nothing I couldn’t easily tackle. But around the fifteen mile mark I realized it wasn’t that there were particularly hard climbs or steep declines, but that the terrain never flattened. Ever. The course was basically going up or down the whole time.
After driving the course I gave up on making anything like a PR. For this training cycle I did the FIRST program. Overall it was a good experience because I did feel ready to run a Marathon and all the forced cross training let me change things up to stay interested. However, there was basically no hill training in the program and consequently I wasn’t prepared at all for the onslaught about to happen.
We had an Italian feast that evening and I was tucked away in bed by 10p. In a fit of runner’s OCD I had scheduled out the 12 hours before race time: I went as far as to detail minute by minute what I had to do the night before and morning of the race. This helped tremendously because for the first time ever I knew exactly what I had to do and didn’t go to sleep worried that I had forgotten something.