Inaugural MDI Marathon

Bar Harbor to Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island, Maine

Sunday, Oct. 20, 2002

So, there I am, hanging out in my room at the inn, reading the material in my race packet. I keep seeing the word "challenging." Not the place for a PR, they say. Then I see the suggestion to treat this race as a "mini-ultra marathon."

I smile. This will be fun. :-)

Adrienne the Water Goddess and I flew out to Bangor on the 17th, via a series of puddle-jumpers. A loves it, though she says the flights were too smooth. What can I say.

Eagle LakeWe arrive late afternoon, grab the rental car, and drive to Bar Harbor. We check in to our residence for the next 4+ days... not quite a hotel and not quite a b&b, but a helluva deal. And I plan to stay there next year, so I won't name the business. :-)

Friday: sleep in, then into running clothes. We hit the packet pickup, and head for the carriage roads trying to beat the afternoon rain. We decide on the 6-mile Eagle Lake loop. Minutes into the run, we hear a loon. It is hauntingly beautiful. We run under a canopy of brilliant gold, earthy pine, and flashes of crimson and tangerine. The fall color is at its peak in this northern reach of New England, and we are in awe. Of course, halfway around the lake, the skies open up. We take meager refuge under some fir trees, but then decide it's better to run and generate some heat. By the time we return to the cars, the rain has stopped. A swears it's longer than six miles.

Carriage RoadLater, in town, we mention to a shopkeeper that we'd run the loop. He mentions it's always seemed like it's longer than 6 miles... and we laugh while I pay for my red-and-black moose socks.

Saturday: more shopping. We drive the Acadia loop road, and stop at Jordan Pond House. It's their last business day of the season, and we wait 30 minutes for a table. I assure A it's worth it... and when the popovers and lobster bisque arrive, she understands why I had to stop there. Bisque at the Pond House is an Acadia tradition for me.

Sunday: I wrestle with the clothing decision. It's not supposed to rain, but the temps will be 40-50F with a possible wind of anywhere from 10-25mph. I finally decide on tights, mid-weight capilene, wind vest, headband, gloves. On the way to the start, I happen to notice I'm still wearing my Merrills, not my Adidas... oops. Sprint to the room, lash on shoes, run to the start as I hear the national anthem. I'm glad our inn is 2 minutes from the start. :-)

Meadow and StreamWe start in Bar Harbor at 8am. No one seems in any great hurry... we run comfortably out of town to the cheers of residents and other well-wishers. The weather had been fairly calm with high clouds but as we run south toward the coast, the sky behind us got rather dark. By mile 3, a light rain was falling. Recalling the downpour on Friday, I had a cheap plastic rain poncho in my pack, had it come to that. But, the rain stayed light and misty. I heard someone near me gasp, and say "look!" I turned around, and there was a brilliant rainbow all the way across the sky. All around me, runners were peddling backward up the hill to get a glimpse. A half-mile later, a similar exclamation, and I turned to find a double rainbow - with the ends of the main arc firmly planted in the marsh between us runners and the surrounding hills. We were running through the Maine equivalent of the proverbial pot of gold... and what a treasure it was. It was stunning.

Carriage RoadAs we neared the coastline, the clouds receded and the sun warmed and dried the course. As we turned into Seal Harbor, tens of runners stopped, focused cameras, and snapped shots of the quintessential MDI harbor with lobster boats gently bobbing on silver water, magnificent homes reaching up the hillside. Everyone was smiling, remarking on the beauty of the place. It was all understatement.

On through Seal Harbor, and into Northeast Harbor. We made the turn up along Somes Sound - the only fjord in the eastern US. (I hadn't known that Cadillac Mountain, at 1530', was the highest point on the Atlantic seaboard north of Brazil, either... the things we learned on this trip!) The low, heavy clouds rolled in again, and a gusty headwind got our attention. Somes Sound was a bottomless deep blue, dancing with whitecaps, occasional lobster buoys straining against their tethers. A long uphill... one of many... and a quick request that the rain hold off. It did, but the skies remained ominous for my trip along the sound.

But once again - we rounded the sound, the skies began to clear, and our headwind became a tailwind, gently nudging us home. Along this last stretch, from miles 19 to 25, the course was mostly a gentle uphill grade. Sheltered from the winds of the coast, the weather warmed up nicely. The view along Echo Lake was lovely. The fall colors are brilliant. And then, mile 25, and our promised drop to the finish. Well, sort of ... there were a few small "ups" before we crossed the line.

Waves at Sand BeachMy time was unremarkable - not my worst, not my best - but overall, it was the most beautiful stretch of road I've ever run. And, the most difficult. It was wonderful.

The neat thing was that the marathon committee commissioned local artists and groups to paint/create 26 banners to commemorate each of the miles on the course, then held a silent auction for each one. Proceeds would help the high school buy a concert piano. I was fortunate to finish in time to sneak in one last bid, and came away with mile 16, as I recall. Good heavens - muppet hands!It's a riot of color, done in hand-cut woodblock stamps, and is a wonderful souvenir of an inaugural marathon. I checked on the banners A had bid on, but all were way above her last tip of the hat... and not wanting to commit her to funds not available, I didn't ante up for any banner on her behalf. Probably a good thing.

The only negative part of the race was the crowded last mile - they need to close a lane of that road, and divert traffic (wheeled and footed) around, leaving a lane reserved for tired runners. There were no porta-potties on the course, though I saw several signs directing runners to private restrooms, and several park lots at trailheads had potties of some sort. I never had to stop, but for others, I'm sure it may have been an issue. I caught a bus back to Bar Harbor within about 30 minutes of finishing, but I hear some had to wait longer. There were plenty of diversions at the finish, so I didn't notice the time passing.

Sand BeachIt was a wonderful event, at one of my favorite places on the earth. I really hope to be back for the 2003 edition, and highly recommend the race to anyone not concerned with their finishing time. :-)