||Maine Half Marathon
Race recap: As we entered the corral to begin our 50th state we were super excited to be surrounded by friends and well-wishers. If we planned to meet our YTri family pre-race it would have been a disaster, but low and behold we managed to see almost everyone pre-race and shared a lot of high-fives and a ton of smiles . As we started we switched to race mode and jockeyed for position to find a comfortable pace in a fairly thick field of runners. The scenery in the first few miles was great – just along the shores of a marshy lake with the trees turning a brilliant orange. As we plodded along we could tell there were some hills on the course, but it was just one of those moments we didn’t care, we were smiling ear to ear and loving every second of it. As we passed the 4th mile marker I turned to Kristin and said “this is the first time I can remember wishing the mile markers counted down instead of up” – I didn’t want this race to end. The foliage was pretty spectacular at this point and we were soaking in every step. Then I said something to the effect of “isn’t this a great way to celebrate your Pop-Pop’s birthday?” He would have been 107 and no-doubt was there with us in spirit. I don’t know if it was seeing an elderly gentlemen by the side of the road gleefully cheering runners on or just the reality of what we were doing sinking in, but Kristin looked at me and started to cry. Not a tired cry, not a sad cry, not a hurt cry – just a cry. 50 states and this was uncharted territory, so I grabbed her hand and with a squeeze said everything will be ok, we’re in this crazy game called life together. Soon enough Kristin’s tears turned back into a huge smile. After rounding a few turns and crossing a flat bridge we headed into a small town to awesome crowd support. We saw all the fasties circling back and even managed a few high-fives with friends mid-stride. So cool to have an awesome support system half-way across the country. After passing the turnaround we sucked down a gel and were headed home. Even though it was an out and back course, around mile 9, I began to feel hills I hadn’t seen on the way out and Kristin’s comment that her legs felt like concrete was spot on. The scenery was a great distraction though and before we knew it we could see the finish line in the distance. At mile 12, I remarked that we had now run 654 miles across 50 states, one more mile to complete our goal. As we passed the 13 mile marker we instinctively grabbed hands and celebrated our 50th finish line stride for stride, together.
As soon as we crossed the finish line we were greeted by Marty who presented us with two one of a kind wood “50in100” medals. There was no need to fake a smile for the cameras, we were ecstatic. A little under four years after setting our goal we had done it – 50 half marathons, in 50 states all under 2 hour pace, together! The celebration at the finish line with our Ytri family was fantastic. It felt more like a wedding than a race. We are so blessed to have had everyone make the trip out to Maine and love you guys!
Highlight: That’s a tough one. So many great memories. But the one which I won’t forget is crossing the finish line hand in hand with Kristin as we officially finished the 50in100 challenge!
Day 1 (Saturday):
In order to make it to our first stop the timing of our flight and car rental pick-up had to go perfectly according to plan, and it did! A little less than a mile from the Portland airport Minda, Marty, Kristin and I found ourselves at the annual EcoMaine recycling center open house. This was an incredibly informative tour guided through the single sort recycling facility serving the greater Portland area. Our guide was very knowledgeable and not only explained how the largely automated processes worked but also provided unique tid-bits like how the facility dealt with a four foot piece of railroad track and a seven foot python, which both made their way into the facility in the past year. The entire recycling staff was very nice and this was an informative and interesting way to start our trip in Maine.
Tip: We learned the three questions to determine if a piece of plastic is recyclable – (1) does it have a triangle on the bottom (it varies by plant, but most are only able to recycle #1 through #7), (2) is it rigid (i.e. holds its form like a bottle, rather than something like a Ziploc bag which is a film) and (3) is it Styrofoam (according tour guide Styrofoam is never recyclable).
After a short drive we met up with Minda’s brother Wes for lunch at the Lobster Shack at Two Lights. The whole crew from North Carolina was reassembled, this time to try some lobster rolls. The restaurant is right on the water’s edge, although it was a bit chilly so we opted for the indoor seating. The lobster rolls were super fresh and tasty, but as both locals and tourists see this as the “can’t miss stop for a lobbie roll” the line and prices reflect its popularity. Despite that, we all enjoyed the lobster, but give the crab cakes (more of a hamburger patty shape) a definitely meh.
Tip: The outdoor picnic tables and ocean views would make this an unbeatable restaurant on a warm summer day.
A quick stop at Whole Foods to finalize the arrangements for our post-race catering on Sunday. We just missed out on the pumpkin beer tasting, but no matter we still managed to find a pumpkin filled truck for a quick photo op!
Luckily the lobbie rolls didn’t fill us up too much and we were all in the mood to try the unique flavors at Holy Donut. We arrived a few minutes before the shop closed for the day, but luckily we were still able to score a decent sampling of five different donuts, ranging from the unique chocolate sea salt and fresh and tasty pomegranate to the hot pocket-esque warm bacon and cheese stuffed. All of the donuts use some sort of potato base, which gives the donuts more of the consistency of an airy bagel. Definitely worth a stop and try to get there early in the day for the best selection.
After a quick stop at the expo – where we got our awesome two-tone long sleeve tech shirts complete with a lobster imprint, we set our sights on Freeport to check out LL Bean’s flagship store. While we all enjoyed posing with the giant hiking boot out-front and poking our heads into the trout pond bubble (it’s really more of an aquarium in size) we all agreed that tourists really over-hype this place. At the end of the day it’s really just a giant retail store, which isn’t a bad thing, just set your expectations accordingly.
Factoid: The store is open 24/7 364 days a year (closed Christmas), which is absurdly excessive but an interesting fact if you need new hiking boots at 3am and you happy to be in the Freeport area.
All aboard the beer trolley! Ok, actually more like all inside the tasting room at Maine Beer Company, but the space was fresh and overlooked an impressively clean production floor. We all split a round-robin sampler of every beer on tap and each picked our favorite. This was a really nice place to relax and enjoy a hoppy beer with friends.
Tip: taste profile for this brewery is essentially IPA all day every day. Interesting twists and good aromas and flavors, just don’t come expecting too much outside of a hoppy brew.
A number of our awesome YTri friends made the trip out to Maine to run and/or celebrate with us for our 50th state and beyond making the trek they invited us out to their massive 20 person rental house on the water for a pre-race dinner. This was fantastic. A good hearty pasta and grilled chicken dinner, but relaxing and talking to all of our friends was just great. In many ways it kind of felt like a rehearsal dinner before a wedding – smiles all around, reminiscing and of course a lot of discussion about the big day. The group also surprised us with 50in100 shirts to celebrate our achievement – how awesome is that? We decided we didn’t want to jinx anything during the race so we eagerly packed them in our gear check bag to wear post-race. Seriously YTri we love you guys and gals!
Day 2 (Sunday - Race Day):
After cleaning up, we headed over to Allagash Brewing Company and we were shocked to see all of our friends arrive in matching 50in100 shirts! Allagash was AWESOME. Yes, all caps is absolutely warranted here – the space, hospitality and experience was top-notch and we could not have asked for a better way to celebrate our 50in100 challenge. Allagash’s beers on tap were extremely good – the Allagash White was recently voted best post-race beer by Runner’s World for good reason, and the house beer (only available at Allagash) was very well balanced and impeccably crafted. The soirée went off without a hitch. It was a great time catching up with friends and enjoying all that Allagash had to offer. The staff went above and beyond and even arranged a last minute brewery tour for our group, where YTri surprised us with a wooden plaque to commemorate our 50 state achievement – freaking sweet! An epic finale to our 50 state challenge.
Tip: This brewery tasting room is fabulous. We’ve been to breweries all across the country, so we’ve done the leg work for you. Go here. You will not be disappointed. Make sure to ask what house beers they have on tap as you won’t find those in your liquor store, even though they are quite delicious.
After dropping off some cars in downtown Portland, a good portion of the YTri group met up at Sebago Brewing Company for a quick drink and to see the end of the Cowboys Broncos game. The server was not exactly a “sweet heart” but eventually did take our drink order. The IPA was decent, but we were fairly distracted from the funny conversations with friends. I don’t remember all of them, but I’m glad no one had a video camera!
All that running around (literally and figuratively) made us hungry – so we headed to Flatbread Pizza for some late night grub. An entertaining backstory on how we found this place: it was recommended by our overly hairy yet extremely nice river raft guide in Talkeetna, Alaska a few months before. Good thing for us, he knew his pizza – Flatbread was great. Nice thin crust pizza with a whole slew ofnon-traditional topping options. After we landed “the pit” of couches in the corner of the restaurant with a shared table, the group ordered about 5 different pies ranging from a traditional meat lovers to an interesting take on grilled chicken and vegetables. And when I say split, it was more like, devour. No doggie bags here folks, we licked those plates clean.
After unsuccessfully hunting down a gelato recommendation from the head of the Master’s program at Indiana University, a few of the beer connoisseurs were excited to head to Novare Res Bier Café for a night cap. Although it was quite tricky to find (down a side alley and the GPS on our phone kept dropping) the selection of domestic and imported craft beers was overwhelming. I’ve never seen that many high quality beers on tap, anywhere. The cave-like setting for the bar was also pretty awesome. It’s what I imagine either Batman or an old world European beer bar would look like. While sipping our beer, Wes spotted a guy he had met on the plane ride out, now sporting a marathon medal, who bought the whole table a round. Wow – nice networking skills Wes! It was a great day, but time for some shut-eye.
Day 3 (Monday):
Today we had planned a 3.5 to 5 mile rave run from Crescent Beach to Two Lights – there is a trail that winds right along the water and looks phenomenal. However; life is not always a straight line and the weather was not exactly cooperating, so we slept a bit later and packed the car for breakfast at Hot Suppa!
In 2009, Bon Appetite raved about Hot Suppa’s and ranked the corned beef hash “best breakfast dish of the year.” That’s a pretty big honor, so we had to test the dish for ourselves. The corned beef was so tender it fell apart with a fork and the meal was pretty darn good. The coffee was hot and plentiful and it was nice to relax with Minda, Marty and Wes. Prior to arriving in Maine, we had been contacted by the Maine Herald newspaper and gave a short interview. The newspaper said an article covering the race would run Monday morning, so we grabbed a copy at breakfast and were excited to see two lines about Kristin and I completing the 50in100 challenge!
What we didn’t find out until much later in the day when the hotel valet came running out with a newspaper in his hand yelling “This is you! This is you guys!” was that there was a half-page spread complete with a finish line photo further back in the newspaper. That was shocking and quite an honor.
Wet and windy weather may be ideal for some things, but taking the Diamond Pass ship to see the islands around Portland is not one of them. Just looking at the heavy chop we knew this would be a bad idea, so we opted to change our plans on the fly. After a quick stop at the Victoria Mansion for some photos (we couldn’t secure a tour as a cruise ship had just docked and locked all the spots for the next two tours), we headed down to see the Portland Head Light.
Upon arriving in more or less a torrential downpour, we threw on our rain coats and walked up to check out the deserted goddard mansion. Once a private residence on the water and later a military installation, the property was basically left to decay and the weather and proximity to the salt water ocean was making short work of the building.
A short drive down the road we came upon the famous Portland Head Light. While it must be a different experience to see the lighthouse on a clear, dry summer day, the stormy weather created some impressive waves crashing onto the shore which gave us an auditory advantage. The quick tour of the lighthouse museum was basic, yet informative and more importantly provided us a few minutes to warm up out of the rain. The Portland Head Light area is definitely the quintessential lighthouse, complete with inn-keepers quarters that you read about in New England – so for that alone it’s worth a stop, rain or shine.
We were all basically soaked to the bone and decided some warm apple cider would really hit the spot. After calling a local farm to confirm they had cider on hand we made a detour for some of the good stuff. Unfortunately, I should have confirmed Alewive's Brook Farm had warm apple cider as the only cider was in an old refrigerator in the barn. No big loss, plus the farm had a dateline-murder-scene creepy vibe, so all of us were happy to be on our way.
Back in downtown Portland we went to Shipyard Brewing Company to try their famous pumpkin ale. Oddly, and unfortunately, we were informed that the tasting room was only open after a virtual tour (i.e video). And stranger still was the fact that the brewery only offered tours on the hour. It seems odd to turn away customers, but oh well.
Mead. I can honestly say I had never tried it and didn’t even know exactly what mead was before we stopped at Mead Works. Mead is an alcoholic drink made by fermenting honey and water. It’s not quite a wine and definitely not a beer and not really a spirit. It’s an anomaly. We tried a number of the flavors and while the bubbly tea mead struck a chord with me, all in all there were a lot of sour-puss faces from the group – especially when Kristin tasted the lavender mead and wiped her tongue off on her hand to get rid of the taste. It’s not bad and definitely unique, but it won’t be something we’ll be searching our liquor store for in the near future.
Our last stop in Maine was at the Porthole to sample some good old lobster and oysters. Somehow this was our first foray into cracking a lobster and de-shelling it and we had a blast. The lobsters were incredibly fresh and a bargain at 2 for $20! We found the Shipyard Pumpkin Ale on tap, so we really covered all of our bases here. Very good lobster and a great finale to our time in Maine.
Maine Half Marathon Medals:
October 6, 2013: Maine Half Marathon
Our friends that ran the relay named their team "We're Here for the Kisses", how awesome is that?!?!
What an epic finale to our 50 state challenge! We're blessed to have such great friends and family. Thank you all for your support and encouragement. Happy Running.