17 October 2009

MDI Race Eve and Still Flummoxed!

Today was a picture perfect day on Mount Desert Island, Maine. Trouble is, the race wasn’t today, it’s tomorrow. And picture perfect tomorrow will most certainly not be. Whatever will I wear to the ball?

To say that Maine weather is unpredictable is downright trite, but of course, it is, and trite or not, it must be dealt with. New England weather in general is unpredictable, and Maine is the king of New England on that scale. Plus, we’re on the coast here, on an island, and our next weather visitor is a Nor’easter, the kind of storm that roars up the coast (not surprisingly, heading northeast), putting all weather forecasts made in Bangor or parts further distant high on the distinctly useless scale. The present best guess is that the rain will hold off until afternoon, all the more incentive to run faster to finish in the morning, and that we’ll have strong and gusty winds which, as luck will have it, shouldn’t be in our faces. But you know how wind is; even when it’s not in your face, somehow, it’s in your face.

Bottom line: I’m certain I won’t know what to wear until I’m well beyond the starting line. And since my usual Ace Support Team didn’t make the trip (I do miss them…), outside of disposable items I’ve got no place to ditch excess clothing until mile twenty. I’d better guess right.

Had the race been run today, well, it was a grand day. One of the clearest, crispest days I’ve seen up here, calm, and perfectly pegged in the low 50s. My family has vacationed here annually for 14 years, and I’ve heard the legend that you can see Mt. Kahtadin from the summits of Acadia. Today I finally experienced it. Yes, the day before a marathon I hiked a mountain. No, it wasn’t a big mountain, and it wasn’t really my intent, and maybe it was not so smart, but I did. My intent was to hike a trail along a cove that’s always closed when we come here in the spring due to peregrine falcon fledging season. I set off with my host for the weekend to hike the cove, and at the far end we made the snap decision to return over the summit for a loop. Up top we got our reward: Kahtadin, clearly visible. What a day!

If hiking a mountain wasn’t enough the day before, a little later in the day I linked up with my friend Steve (remember Steve, from the White Mountains hike?), and we added a few more miles on foot. Being a seasoned local guide, how could I not give him the tour of Bar Harbor, including walking the famed bar to Bar Island since the tide was out? Steve’s here to power walk the MDI Marathon, so a few miles of walking today were nothing to him. I, meanwhile, was mentally adding the total miles for the day and wondering if this qualified as a bit much before tomorrow’s big effort. Time will tell. And my time will indeed tell.

Also on tap was a quick stop at the expo, small, but who can complain when there’s a bottle of Bar Harbor Brewing Company Ale tossed in your goodie bag? The race staff was overly helpful and accommodating – at least I thought so, and later I learned that others agree. That evening at the pasta dinner, the race director, like me a Gary (and like me, decidedly not short-winded, I think that name does it to you) talked up the crowd to announce the Runner’s World will announce in their January 2010 issue that MDI was voted not just the most scenic marathon in the USA, but also the one with the most enthusiastic volunteers. Touché! And burp. Good stuff.

And despite the fact that I’ve driven these roads hundreds of times in the last 15 years, I still toured the course. I’ve seen these roads over and over, but I haven’t looked at them from the eyes of a runner, and you have to do that. The stretch from Seal Harbor to Northeast Harbor, for instance, rises and falls and rises and falls and… Driving, who cares? Running, I wanted to know how many times. Mentally, that’s key. Know your enemy, make it your friend. Three rises and falls, by the way. Other roads I know like the back of my hand change their character considerably when viewed through the marathon lens. Mile 19 is going to be a bear.

And my readiness? Heck, I just don’t know. After not running since Sunday’s jog, I put in three or four on Thursday and Friday, and again this morning along a beautiful wooded road sticking out into Long Pond. These felt pretty good, but the calf still feels a bit weak. Will that muscle, no longer tender to the touch, hold up to the rigors of 26 miles of hills? How hard should I hit it? What can it withstand? Will tights keep it warmer and happier or just make me too warm and unhappy? The temperature is forecast right on that tights vs. no tights edge, starting in the 30s, rising to the 40s. I’d opt for no tights, but this is the Maine coast with a storm coming in, there’s that wind… It’s 8 PM the night before, and I don’t know what I’m wearing to the ball.

So, my prediction for tomorrow? It’s simple. I have no idea. Let’s go for a run and see what happens.

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