Bay of Fundy International Marathon
Our alarms went off around 4:45; I had been waiting for them. My mind was foggy but I knew I had to snap to and get going. I turned on the coffee pot and headed to the bathroom to change into my running gear.
While Sue used the bathroom I had some coffee and broke out my blueberry scones. I doubled checked my gear, made some changes and packed my bags. After a few minutes we were all packed and out the door. I think I woke up the lady in the motel office when I went to drop off our key. We stopped at the Dunkin Donuts across the street so I could get a large coffee. I barely remember this.
Off to the races
We had driven back and forth between Lubec and East Machias twice, and estimated it would take 30 minutes to get to the high school. The road was clear of traffic and we made good time. I parked in front of the high school, Sue gave me a good luck hug and I headed for the first bus. They had to check if there was a seat available. I headed for the back of the bus and we were off in a few minutes.
I chatted with the runner next to me and everyone was in high spirits. It was a short drive to West Quoddy Head State Park. We tumbled out of the bus and headed towards the assembly area. There were six porta-potties and an out-house for the park. I wandered around and headed down to West Quoddy Head Light to get some pictures. The dawn light was perfect. What a great start to a great day.
After taking a few photos and enjoying the spectacular view, it was time to get down to business. And I mean get in line for the porta-potty.
The line was short. There were only about 200 of us and six porta-potties plus the out-houses. I still used my well honed routine to get in and out as quickly as possible. I even got through the line twice. I saw Daniel and Dan and we got a few quick photos. Daniel was excited to run and I made sure he had some food with him. He had a decent breakfast which was helpful. I was still a little worried about the guy.
While we waited I spoke with a lot of the runners. There were only about 200 of us. I saw many people from dinner the night before, or from walking around Lubec. There was a level of intimacy and comradery that you just can’t get at a large race. Some people I had not spoken with previously. But we were all runners getting ready for a challenging race, we were in this together. The tribe was assembled.
At 10 of, they announced the time and again at 5 of. Someone sang the Canadian National Anthem, but the person who was supposed to sing the American National Anthem had not arrived yet. They asked if anyone knew the words and sure enough a runner stepped up and did a pretty good job of it. I even mumbled a few lines my self. As they called the 5 minute mark Dan came back to hang with us and he said it was he who sang the anthem. Another cool happening. The guy I had dinner with sang the National Anthem on a moments notice. He said he knew several other national anthems as well.
At 1 minute to start time they announced that they would not do a count down but that they would fire a cannon. I think we were all puzzled by that and not sure what to expect. Everyone was busy checking their watches and wishing their friends a good run when this huge Ka-BOOM went off. They had fired a cannon and we could see the cloud of smoke. We were a little startled, laughed and started running. As I ran by the spot where the cannon was I could see a small black cannon pointed into the woods. How cool is that? It was still smoking!
There was a bit of an incline coming out of the start area but the next five miles to Lubec were relatively flat. While on Quoddy Head Road, we passed an older guy sitting at the end of his driveway with a six-pack of Coors Light bottles. I wondered out loud who the hell starts drinking at 7AM. Someone else said, maybe he isn’t starting! Laughs all around.
We took a right onto South Lubec Road and headed East. There were people in front of their houses and standing at intersections cheering us on. It wasn’t Wellesley College, but it was great to see people come out of their homes for us. As we came into Lubec they had cones set up to separate us from traffic and direct us to the right towards the Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Bridge. The name is almost as long as the bridge.
I saw Sue and she was trying to take a picture, but it didn’t work. I also saw Dan’s wife Marty and said hello. She recognized me and wished me well. There were at least a hundred people on the street at 7:45 in the morning. An impressive turn out in this little town.
The first hill was the bridge. We ran through US Customs – how many people can say that – and within 100 feet the rise began. We were all pretty fresh still, so no big deal. As we left the bridge the road leveled off at Canadian Customs. The Agents waved to us as we ran through Canadian Customs! The Canadian’s are the friendliest people you will ever meet, but I bet on a normal day if you tried to run through customs someone would be pointing a gun at you! Another unique experience.
As soon as you come over the bridge you are in Roosevelt Campobello International Park. There are houses along the road but very few businesses. The hills also began as soon as we left the customs area.
This diagram does not do the hills justice:
You can see the sharp incline as we ran out of the rest area in the park. The first few miles were mostly down hill, though it didn’t feel like it. The dip around mile 5 is probably the east side of the bridge. The race organizers say we were never more than 200 feet above sea level, but the multitude of hills had an accumulated rise of over 2,400 feet. Their words “ it goes up and down rather a lot..” I think that’s the ever polite Canadian way of saying, “there’s a lot of fucking hills out on this course, eh?”
After mile 8 in Welshpool we took a sharp right. There was a police car and a Canadian Officer from some department or another. I think we had Park Police, Local Police, RCMP and probably some Customs Agents out on the course. He very politely pointed me in the right direction, which was a sharp right, keeping us on Rt. 774.
Just before Mile 9 we passed the road into Herring Cove Provincial Park. This is where we picked up our bibs and I met the local Legislative Representative. This was in the middle of one of the long hills. I think it went on for a mile or more. It just chewed us up. By this point in the race I had been running with Robert Callanan from Marblehead for a few miles. He ran his own business and we talked about business and what we both did. He gave me some good advice as we ran along. I ran with him all the way out to East Quoddy Head Light and we ran together until about 3:20 or so into the race. I remember looking at my watch at mile 21 and saying to him that we had a chance of coming in under 4 hours. He agreed and didn’t make any indication that he was in trouble.
By mile 22 Robert was hobbled by a hamstring cramp and had to do some walking. We parted ways as I pushed up the next hill. There wasn’t anything I could do for him. He is a strong runner and had a plan that he used to stay hydrated. It just wasn’t his day. Somewhere around mile 20 to 22 Daniel caught up with me on one of the hills. Off to my left I heard this guy call out my name and looked over to see Daniel with his floppy hair waiving to me with a big smile on his face!
I think Daniel was very happy to have caught up to me and I was impressed that he was able to be running so strong this late into the race. Many experienced runners get into trouble around mile 20. This was Daniel’s first marathon and I did not expect him to run so well.
Around this time I started walking parts of the hills. My legs were shot and no amount of gels or Gatorade was going to revive them. Before the race, I took some quinine tablets from Hyland. Quinine has been used for years to help prevent cramping. I didn’t want to risk getting a cramp this late in the race, so I took two more tablets. I still had a shot at four hours and more and more people were getting leg cramps. Daniel pushed up the next few hills and was putting some road between us. Eventually he got a cramp and I was able to catch up to him.
I was jogging up the hill as best I could when I caught up to him. He looked in pain and I asked him if he was okay. He said it was just his leg, but he felt fine. I gave him my last two quinine tablets and told him to take them. I’m not sure if they did, but Daniel ended up finishing just a few minutes after I did.
When we got back to Welshpool it was around mile 23 or so. I was so happy to see the turn in the road, as I knew this meant we were close to the end and that we had some good downhill coming. After the down hill there were a few more hills. Each of which I wanted to walk. I thought I still had a chance at 4 hours so I tried to jog as much of each hill as I could.
Running down the hill to Canadian Customs was difficult. It was great to be going down hill, but my quads were shredded. I also knew that as we came around the side of the customs house the bridge would be there. At Canadian Customs we were so close to Lubec that we could hear the crowd cheering and the announcer calling out names as people crossed the finish line. Some how this did not spur me on.
I actually considered walking over the bridge. I was spent. It was all I could do to hobble over the bridge like an old man. Cresting the top of the bridge was awesome, part of me considered walking in the rest of the way. For a split second! More down hill to finish the bridge, and then we ran through US Customs again. That is such a unique experience. I tried to get it on video but I was too tired to deal. I did get Canadian Customs running on video but it is very shakey.
Another runner and I had been trading places over the last two miles or so. She ended up having some kick and finished a little bit ahead of me, but not much. As I approached the finish line on Main Street Lubec, I tried to take it in. There were a few hundred people and lots of signs, both hand written and for businesses. I could see the ocean off to my right and smell the salty air.
My legs held me up as I approached the finish line. The announcer called my name, but all I heard was “…from Medford”. As usual, I wasn’t sure of my finish time, but I knew it was between 4:02 and 4:04. So close, and on a killer course.
As I crossed the finish line the medic asked me about five times if I was okay. I actually had to look him in the eye and convince him that I could make it off of the course on my own power. Really good support work at the finish line. They were there for us if anyone needed help. I saw Sue standing behind the hurricane fence at the end of the finish area. There was an opening on the right for runners to exit to the food area and I met Sue there.
I grabbed a water and walked around for a bit. The wind was whipping my foil blanket, so I had to hold tight. While i was walking around Daniel came in and eventually Robert did to. Everyone was there with friends and family. Some running clubs had a good presence also.
They had hot soup, bagels, cookies, fruit with un-sweetened yogurt in cups and lots of drinks. We hung out for about an hour and watched the awards ceremony on Main Street. The Canadian Consul General from Boston was there and a few other Canadian officials, including my new pal Curtis Malloch I did not hear them mention any Maine or US officials which seemed odd.
I went into the library where the first aid station was set up. I saw someone with a bag of ice and knew I wanted one. They had a bunch of cots set up in the library and it seemed odd to be getting a bag of ice in the library. On the way in I just missed a guy proposing to his girl friend. He was just getting up from one knee. And this was after running a marathon. They’ll be back next year!
I hung out on the barricades and watched and cheered other runners as they came in. I did some stretching and applied the ice. We grabbed some more food and watched the awards presentation.
I’ve run about a dozen marathons and none of them were as small as this. None of them were supported by communities as small and remote as Lubec and Campobello Island. These small communities produced an excellent race. I have no complaints at all. I thought everything was really well done: A+ in my book. I know how to bitch and complain if something is not done well or just sucks. No complaints here. Maybe they could add clam chowder next year and have a competition? The Wyman’s Blueberries were spot on, chowder would have been brilliant. I love all things local.
The ability to see each runner several times was really cool. In the days after the race when I was looking through photos for these blog posts, I felt like I knew some of these people; That I had just spoken with them. I recognized almost all of the faces. We had all come through such a challenging course and somehow we were bonded; maybe not forever but for a few hours and possibly days we were part of something special. We were part of something together. There was no masses. There was The Tribe.
We faced down the hills (well, maybe up the hills!), and we kicked their asses. All of us poured our heart and soul into this race. It was just so hard. Everyone who finished deserves a great deal of credit. There was nothing easy out there.
Late in the race I had to focus on staying vertical. My senses shut down and I did not take in my surroundings. On the way out, for the first 20 miles, I took it in. The great ocean views. The sun. The salty air, the smell of sweet grass and lilacs. My friends and I discussed the monster tide and tidal bore. We discussed food, races, accounting, weather. It was business out there like it always is. But we were part of something special.
The reception that we received from the community was humbling. They welcomed us into their community with open arms and hearts. I met some interesting people and got to know one German quite well as we ran together and traveled back to Boston together. What a wonderful opportunity.
It isn’t often that I feel that I have experienced a “moment in time.” By this I mean a unique experience that cannot be replicated. We go to work, we go to school and every day blends together. Then there are moments that upon reflection stand out as unique and special. The moment in time is like a wonderful dream that dissipates like the morning fog. You know it was special because you can feel the joy still in your heart when the moment has passed, when the dream has faded. The moment in time is a gift that cannot be sought. It is the perfect that many seek.
The Bay of Fundy International Marathon was one of those moments in time.
Here are some of the hundreds of photos I looked at. I could not find a way to give credit for each photo. Here in approximate order of number of photos used: Linda Dinsmore Chute, Mary Ropp, Bangor Daily News, Andy Nagelin. There are so many photos that I wanted to include, but I bet all of you are exhausted by now!
More photos and full results link are available at The Bay of Fundy International Marathon site.
Run well my friends!
© anagelin 2014