Last week was the third annual Millinocket Marathon and Half and it was festive as ever. The race has gone from 50 runners, to 550, to more than 1,000 this year. The event was created to benefit a community hit hard by a mill closing. It is a free race. The timers donate their time. The community comes out in droves to support the race. The library and the economic development group have taken in thousands of dollars in donations over the last three years. Hotels are full. A would-be quiet December day in Northern Maine is filled with activity and runners contributing to the local businesses. The race is about an hour north of where I live in Maine. My wife and son were nice enough to make the day out of it with me. A runner friend joined us for the road trip. We were up at 6 for the trip, after my wife and I had attended a fundraising event, where she is a board member. Probably not the best rest plan to be standing around... and a little bit of dancing, the night before the run. The goal was to be there at 8. The volunteers are great but with the increase in runners, I expected bib pickup to be a little time consuming. Our timing was good and we had bibs in minutes! The volunteers were friendly and efficient. Registration was at the craft fair. We bought a t-shirt and a calendar raffle and some other things, contributing to the cause. So we had plenty of time before the race, and while it was "cold" at 29 degrees, with no wind, it was balmy compared to last year's wind chill. We still didn't want to spend too much time outside, so we drove the course. We took a few pre-race photos, including Mt. Katahdin. We returned to the start and layered up for the race. There were a number of festive costumes among the runners, including an very awkward moose costume with an extra pair of legs and large antlers. I decided that I needed to make sure I was started ahead of him. The marathon started at 10 and half at 10:10. We were in the half. I lined up in the middle of the pack. The starting line featured two loaded logging trucks. The starting cannon went off and I quickly regretted starting so far back. I hit the first mile marker at 7:35. Impossibly fast for the number of people I was weaving by. There were lots of people on the side of the road cheering us on as we ran into the Maine woods. A little while after passing the marker, my watch beeped, at 8:43 for the first mile. I guess the marker wasn't in the right place. It was relief because I hadn't wanted to start that fast, but it provided more evidence of starting too far back. Someday I'll figure that out. Although, it never ceases to amaze me the number of folks going a different pace at the starting line. The poor volunteer by herself after the first mile marker couldn't pour water fast enough. I ran by without stopping, then got drinks at later stops. One station was providing fireballs. I passed. I picked up a cup at one stop that was empty. Went back for a second one. One station had mini bottled water. That was a nice touch. The course started in town, then became a dirt road, the "Golden Road" that drives toward Mt. Katahdin. We took a right onto another dirt road around mile 6, then headed back into town on a rolling paved road. On that paved road, I continued to pass some runners, although I couldn't tell if they were marathoners or half runners. And some passed me. I came along a younger runner who was cold but I had already given up my gloves and couldn't help him. I had stopped to try and help but was useless. My wife and son had taken my gear and I couldn't find them at the moment. In the final couple miles, a couple of runners, appearing to be in my age group passed me. In one case it was because I was eating a cookie. Last year in the final mile, I had come along a nice lady handing out cookies to the runners. I didn't take one. You can't eat cookies in a race! But I regretted it ever since. This time I took a sugar cookie with red icing and sprinkles. My wife took a picture of me showing her the cookie. If I had to do that over again, I would have gone for the chocolate chip or molasses, and put in my pocket for later. After a couple bites of the frosted cookie I was breathing too heavy and covered in frosting. I had to dump the cookie for the final stretch. Disappointing but more fulfilling than last year. I ran pretty good up Main Street. I knew I was 1:42 something last year, and could see I was around the same time. As I crossed the finish it appeared that I was better, 1:41. When I think about all the weaving and stopping for the cookie, and trying to help someone, I feel like I was better than a year ago. Then again, part of last year's race was spent breathing through a frozen face mask and running into a head wind! My running friend, in my age group, had beaten me by 10 minutes in his first half. He had done very well. We gathered after the race and had a meal at a local restaurant, tipping generously of course!. We hit a downtown shop and picked up a few more items. My wife and son, between the library and a bookstore had gathered 8-10 books. My son picked up some driving time on the way home as the 3-5 inches of snow predicted for the evening has started. Overall it was a great day. You can't help but feel warm on a cold winter day when you are doing something you love (run), with people you love (family), and helping out a community working hard to make you feel welcome. Here is a link to the Facebook page with lots of stories about the race and next year's date. But be careful, because it might just draw you to Northern Maine next December. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1313318738729689/
The last 24 hours have given me a few of minutes to revisit The Loop. It has been fun to read the stories to see what people have been up to. The lurking made me a bit guilty for not submitting anything so here are some thoughts on things since I last posted. Baconator- Being in Maine, I'm glad we'll still be able to share our weather-related challenges, a measurement of the most dedicated or foolish among us. Running in Maine, it is close to my heart. The weather has been kind thus far, but I've begun my daily peek at the forecast for the Dec. 9 Millinocket Marathon and Half. I'm signed up for the Half. For those that don't know, the race was created to try to boost the economy in a Northern Maine community hit hard by a mill closing. It was frigid cold at last year's race, where there were 700 runners or so. This year more than 2,000 are registered. On a cold December day when there might not typically be a visitor, us runners will be in town to feed the economy. We all warm up from it. Current forecast calls for a high of 31 degrees and 1-3 inches of awesome snow! Which is better than last year's single digit wind chill! The downside will be the view of Mt. Katahdin might be blocked by clouds. The race is FREE, but runners are invited to give to local charities, and spend money in town. RR- Turkey Trot. It has been an interesting year of running. Tremendously excited to have run Boston for the first time and perhaps the last. Not proud of my time but everything else was incredible and the rest of that story is a different blog. Speaking of blogs, I need to circle back to a blog from last December or January. I don't remember which. In it I made the strategic decision to avoid a race in order to move up an age group (50-59) for my racing club. The obvious thinking was that I would be faster than those "old guys." Guess what? I wasn't before and I wasn't this year either. Took me all year to realize it. Moving forward, I'll be working on seeing if there's a way to be faster at 51 or dealing with how to come to grips with being slower. Which brings us back to the Trot. The local high school runs the Turkey Trot. It's sponsored by the sophomore class, of which my son is a member. He worked really hard on the race, which from the days working up to race day, looked a bit scattered, but was fine on race day. All the volunteers did great. The race is a little out and back 3 miler. The forecast was for 40s to low 50s, chance of rain in the morning. No problem race is at 1. I got there early only to be directed by my son to the pre-registration line. I picked up my timing chip and my wife's registration and shirt. She was skipping the race due to her illness, an asthma challenge she has been fighting for months. I had our stuff and returned to the car. It had started raining, but it was still about an hour before the race. From looking at the radar on my phone, the Fun Run kids would be drenched at 12:30 but we would be dry at 1. I would later see photos of the Fun Run. The series of pictures starts with a young girl taking a face plant at the start on the wet road. It looked nasty. There were a series of pictures of her falling to the ground, seemingly in slow motion. I felt for her. The next photo showed the same girl crossing the finish line, then all the other kids finishing. She had won the race. Tough cookie. As I returned from a quick warm-up, I met one of my age-group nemeses. He is new to the running circles, actually returning to the circuit. He has beaten me in all the short races this year but I still like him. We talked about the weather and I assured him I had seen radar and we would be fine. Well, I saw him again at the start line, and as the rain fell from the skies and he wiped his smartphone, he said, "what radar were you looking at?" Apparently, the wrong one. Luckily for us, by Maine standards it was a warm rain. He mentioned that he was running Millinocket too, and was trying to stretch his mileage. We agreed to meet after the race to add on some miles. Stupidly, I think I might have said I'll wait for you. I didn't even mean it. I went out a little fast, 6:15. The middle mile has a little hill which slowed me to 6:44. At the turn I could see how far away I was from the age group leaders, which is to say, mostly out of reach. The good news was I was breathing hard enough that I wasn't worried about any pain in my legs. Last mile was 6:33. I reeled one person in with a half-mile to go but the next runner was just too far ahead to motivate me. He ended up being in my AG but 10 seconds was too far in the final stretch into the wind. Anyway, the gentleman I spoke to at the start won the age group. I was fifth in the age group, 29th overall 19:47. My AG friend waited for me so that was cool, and we did 3 more to cool down. The added bonus was we both qualified for turkeys as parents of students, and because he won the age group I took the turkey in the parent group! Yay food! Then I kind of ruined it by looking at my previous Trot results, only to prove that I was getting slower with age. Father time remains undefeated. I think my next running goal is to figure out dealing with being slower or get faster. Not sure what will happen, but I have a hunch I won't be faster. But if I can stay healthy, I'll enjoy the journey.