Running at the end of the world, part IV

My northernmost race, continued

Somewhere just after the halfway point of the race my iPod died.  I quickly realized that despite plugging Rene Argent (the latest to join my iPod collection) into the laptop I forgot to leave the laptop open so that it would actually charge.  It wasn’t the worst thing that could happen on the course, but it certainly didn’t help.

About this same time I met Amy.  Amy is the woman I’m covering in this picture (which is from a little later in the race), I'm the one in the gray top (ahem, IN THE FRONT of the pack):


Amy was being extremely friendly with everyone on the course.  Just after Mile 13 we started tracking each other and chatted a little bit.  She was full of energy, and I, well, I never know what to talk about during a race (see The Flying Pig Marathon).  So the conversation trailed off, but not before we passed by Amy’s cheering squad, which consisted of her husband and one year old son holding a big signing cheering her on.  (This figures into the story later.)

By Mile 15 I was out in front of Amy and the pack of three guys in orange shirts.  At this point the course turns out of the woods and the road is suddenly on the edge of a cliff looking straight north into Somes Sound.  Surrounded by hills, this fjord (the only one in the US) was my second favorite view on the course, and it’s the view where the race gets its lone tree logo from:

The next five miles were pretty uneventful accept for two things.  First, Amy’s cheer squad kept on appearing along the course and cheering loudly when they saw her (and apparently she was always right on my heels).  Second, in the awkward turn off the high way during mile 18, I was running behind a woman who was in awesome shape—we’ll call her “hot woman.”  Apparently I wasn’t the only one who noticed.  While I was about to pass hot woman another woman, a spectator who was cheering people on from the sides, calls out hot woman and says “Damn!  Look at that!  Those abs are tight!  That’s what hard works gets you!  You rock that hot body girl!”  That blew away any “looking good” or “nice work” I was going to throw her way so I just said as I passed her “that’s definitely not what you were excepting to get today, especially from what appears to be a straight woman.”  Perhaps it was funnier at the time.

Mile 20 marked the last turn and last leg of the race: it was a 6.2 mile shot south to Southwest Harbor.  And here is where things started to get sticky—I guess that’s not a surprise.

I looked at my watch on left wrist.  I could roughly calculate my finishing time and knew I’d be in the 3:50 range if I didn’t fall apart.  However, in my right hand was my water bottle and it was almost empty.  Somehow, despite drinking at every single water stop I went through my entire water bottle.  And I was still thirsty.  I’d never run out of water before, but I did run Portland without a water bottle—and I ended up walking twice during the last mile of that race.  So I started to formulate a plan.

The problem with this last segment of the race was that it was so long.  So I kept telling myself “only six little miles to go.”  “Only five teeny, tiny miles left.”  “Only 4.5 itty-bitty microscopic miles to go.”  The closer I got to the finish the smaller the miles go.  By the last mile I had convinced myself it was length of an electron. 

Of course, nothing was farther from the truth.  Not only where they regular size miles, they were also the longest and highest incline of the whole race.  Whatever I had left was being spent left and right.  I swear I was running, but it felt like I was crawling.  During this sluggish run I saw team Amy for the fifth or sixth time and by this point I was calling out “team Amy” every time I passed them, but this time Amy’s husband shouted back “now we’re also team Steven” (he had read my name from my bib).  That felt awesome—as did the two or three following times I saw him on the course.

As forecasted, by mile 24 I was completely out of water.  So I walked through the water station and asked the volunteers to fill me up.  Thirty seconds later I was off “running” again—and according to data from Garmin I actually did pick up the pace a bit.

The first sign of the end of the race was the “Top of the Hill” restaurant; pretty obviously named for being at the top of a hill and doubling as the marker for Mile 25 and the start mile long descent to the finish line.

I tried to pick up speed but my legs we extremely fried from all the hills.  Moreover, there was a lot of traffic on the street (not closed) going in and out of Southwest Harbor, so we were running on the shoulder or the sidewalk (when there was one) for the entire final mile.  That meant passing was super difficult and you were constantly afraid of bumping into someone or falling into traffic.  This was my only complaint about the race, because if any part of the course needs space, it’s the last mile. 

Of course, this is all in retrospect.  During the race my chief thought was “where the hell is the finish line?”  Then, very suddenly, the traffic was diverted away and we moved onto the street just in time for the finish to come into my crosshairs.  Without even thinking I raised my arms and pretended to fly, zigzagging across the street for a few weightless seconds.  All the weight and hurt and worry of the previous miles feel off my shoulders and I started to sprint.  My pace dropped like a rock from 9:43 to 9:28 to 7:18 to 6:54 to 6:39 to lift off:

Note: all of these wonderful pictures were taken by (and are linked back to) Kevin Morris who does some really excellent running photography.

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