Monday, July 23, 2012

Ultra Marathon #6 - Great Cranberry Island 50K

2010 Runner's World Magazine "Best Race Ever"

Who knew that a small island possesses one of the better ultra races in the US. Featured in the "Best Race Ever" documentary for Runner's World Magazine, this race is by far one of my most enjoyable races so far.
If only the drive was slightly shorter, I would be coming back every year to this fun but challenging course.

So how do you run 31 miles on a small island with a yearly population of 40? Well, there is one road that is stretched out the entire island and that road is 2+ miles long. So if you do the calculation, you run this road back and forth 15 times. Talk about mentally challenging, not only is the course short, it's quite challenging with rolling hills, something I didn't expect...

On the other hand, the island, views, and people were just simply amazing. The 9+ hours of driving to get to the harbor and then the ferry over to the island is worth the travel to get to this tiny island. Once we arrived, we were greeted by the community and organizers. They drove the runners to the start line, but I decided to walk over to get a view of the island. First thing I noticed...the hills! Boy what an uphill climb it was to the start line. In the island, there really is no hotel, inn, or B+B. Either you contact the owners of the homes to rent out, or set up a tent. A bunch of my friends had booked a house, but Leslie (gf) and I decided to camp out for the first time. As we got to the start line, people were already setting up there tents. There were big ones, to just a hammock. We found our spot, which happened to be next to other maniac members, and rested up before the start. As the time got closer to the start time, people came flushing in and set up their tents.

Race time! There were about 20 or so Maniacs at this race and we all took group photo's (it seems to be a tradition, although Benny, Thunder, and I missed out). One good thing about a short course is you constantly get to see the fast racers and friends. I started off with the fast crew (Benny and Thunder) because that is my tradition. Benny is a fast runner and my goal is to run along his side one day. Every marathon that we run, I try to keep up with Benny eventually tapering off to my slow pace. So this time around, I kept up with Benny until mile 12-13, which is somewhat a PR, lol. I was also getting over a knee injury that caused me to stop running 5 weeks prior to GCI50K.  5 weeks ago, I couldn't even run 1 mile, and to day, thanks to my therapist, I managed to run 13 miles without any serious pain. Of course, the injury came back and I decided once Benny took off, I would slow down and walk since the race practically just started. From mile 13-31, I won't go into any details since it was basically a run/walk then mostly walking finish. One thing I didn't want to do is stress the knee injury and just finish, which I did. Along the way, the views of the Atlantic and mountains were simply amazing. Also, the community were great people and helped out with making their own aid stations. One thing that took me by surprise was the blueberries that were growing on the side of the road. You were allowed to take them and eat it at your own will.

The course...hard...tough...not easy. I originally thought (from the youtube video) that this was a flat course. I was totally wrong. There were some serious hills in the short 2 miles. It was definitely a challenging course and if I go back, I will be well prepared. There were 4 sections within the 2 miles with steep hills and a few little ones. The worst feeling was making the turn and heading back up a steep hill. Note to anyone who will be running this in the's not easy.  So I finished at about 7 hours and a little bit (7:10:07). Not the greatest time for me but a joyful race it was. Leslie volunteered for the event and supported me the entire time. We walked the last 2 miles and finished.

After race... This is where the party begins. Maine, island, alcohol.... do the math and you get lobsters, partying, and a whole lot of booze. The best feature of this race is that it includes a feast of good 'ol fresh Maine lobsters for dinner. Definitely something I was waiting for. These lobsters were a good size, and I think I ate 2 or 3 of these. One thing I missed out on was the karaoke, fireworks, and the rowdy crowd of drunk ultrarunners. I would've joined in but with the long drive, 3 hours of sleep, and then the ultra itself, I was pretty much exhausted and passed out immediately after the lobsters. From what I heard the next morning, it was an epic night of drunkness and skinny dipping in the Atlantic (?).

The morning of the race was quiet. The volunteers were cooking up some delicious breakfast and I enjoyed every bit of it. After getting the tent down and packing up to go, we headed out to the harbor for the ferry and bid our farewells. As I've mentioned earlier, this race is definitely a great one and lots of fun. Hopefully I'll be back next year or the following. The drive back was really nice too. Leslie and I stopped at a couple towns, picked up some cheap lobsters, and bought some local wine. It was my first time in Maine and I have to say, although a short trip, I was able to see some amazing things.

Definitely a recommended race and a beautiful state.