Baa HaBa, MAINE--Leave it to the great folks at Crow Athletics to host one of the most unique events in one of the most beautiful places in New England, the MDI Relay on Mt. Desert Island, MAINE. This 'come as you are' no frills (and no pretension) old school road race is the way racing use to be before prize money and shoe contracts mucked things up. Draw a starting line in the dirt and say go. First one back to the beer is the winner. In a nutshell that's what Austin, Kurt, April, Steve, Karen, Maddie, Katy, and I did to celebrate the 4th of July. The MDI Relay is a 61+ mile loop around Mt. Desert Island travelling through such quaint seaside towns as Bar Harbor, Seal Harbor, Northeast Harbor, Southeast Harbor (anyone sensing a pattern here?), and Tremont. My day of racing would mercifully start and end early. I took the opening 13.67 mile leg and 07:00 start. Eight teams stepped to the line and the young gun from Colby College was out in a shot. He gapped the field within the first 250 meters followed by Maine running legend and MDI Relay (and MDI Marathon) RD Gary Allen of the host Crow Athletics. I tucked in behind a gentleman named Jon from the Somerville Road Runners (MA) and tried to settle in for a "easy morning run" on this beautiful island. At the mile marker my cohort Jon (running with a GPS) noted our first mile split was 6:12. Granted it was downhill, but that seemed a little fast for the start. Completely unaware of the terrain I decided to try to moderate my pace just in case it got hilly at some point. By the 3 mile mark I had pulled away from Jon and set my sights on Gary who had remained within eye shot from the start. Knowing a 200 meter lead was just a blink of an eye in a 1/2 marathon (+) I remained relaxed and began to feel myself pulling him in. By the time we reached the town of Bar Harbor I was on his shoulder. As we pulled through town I felt pretty comfortable that I could match his effort...at least for a while. Gary is one of the most accomplished distance runners in Maine and frankly anywhere in New England. This past April he celebrated his 30-Year Anniversary running the Boston Marathon by racing his 54th sub-3 hour marathon. Although I didn't quite realize it at the time, I was racing with a real running icon. On a couple of the climbs he'd pull away by 10 meters or so, but I'd reign him back in on the descents and flats and tuck in right behind his shoulder. With roughly 3 miles to go he said that he had no illusions of racing me to the 2nd place finish (we were waaaaaay behind the kid from Colby) and I agreed telling him I appreciated his pull and also had no plans of trying to outkick him to the transition. We finished shoulder to shoulder at 1:29:and change (6:30's) as I handed the baton (errr Barbie) off to Austin. As soon as we finished Gary was the first one to offer his hand in congratulations thanking me for pulling him to a sub 1:30 finish. Truth was, without Gary I would have been very happy to cruise along right around 7:00's. It was incredibly rewarding to learn that Gary's tenacity as a competitor was surpassed only by his graciousness as a host. He awarded me the 2nd place award for our leg (the pink granite beach stone pictured next to Barbie). The rest of the day flew by as we raced ahead of each of our runners, stopping periodically to cheer them on and provide aid. We raced in podium position for most of the day and ended up finishing in 6th place overall. To end a near perfect day of racing our hosts supplied a keg of Atlantic Brewing Company's Bar Harbor Real Ale. I think we've just discovered a new great way to celebrate the 4th of July. Thank you Crow Athletics.
Next up: Pat's Peak 6-HR Mountain Bike Race
[Photo cred: Barbie, MDI Relay course, Chris & Gary Allen, Bar Harbor]
2016: Year in Review
4 months ago