Bay of Fundy – Lubec Maine
Let’s get the easy part over with first. Only two marathons are offered in Maine. So sit down, get out your credit card out and register. Absolutely no way the other one is better than Bay of Fundy Marathon. Is the course
difficult HARD? HELL YES! But do you sign up for races because they are easy or flat? No sane person would be doing the 50 states or a marathon, so welcome to the crazy club. I will sit here and wait while you go register, just let me know when you are done and I will continue with the course report.
Oh hey, you’re back! Fun, right? You are registered and you don’t even know what the course looks like? That is usually the way we feel after registering for a race. So welcome to the FRE family of running crazy people. Now that you are signed up, here is the elevation chart. Enjoy! Those two spikes take a little bit out of your soul during the race. 🙂
Here is a little history on the Bay of Fundy race before we jump right into the race logistics. The race was formed in 2013 making this the fourth running of the full marathon distance. The half marathon was only approved in 2014, making it the second running. Lubec and more specifically the West Quoddy Lighthouse (the starting line of the marathon) is a peninsula and is the eastern most point in the United States. The Lubec population is a whopping 1359 people! This means race day significantly increases the number of people in the small town. Lubec is 37 square miles, only 32 miles of state maintained road and roughly 97miles of coastline. Uniquely enough, residents of Lubec refer to themselves as Downeast. I’m guessing this is because they are down and east in the state of Maine, but maybe a Manienaic (I saw that on a t-shirt) that is reading the blog could fill us in.
Enough of the history lesson. The race report starts here!
Pre-Race dinner. You had two choices, lobster or spaghetti. I would say what you choose would be dependent on your race goal. I am glad this was a fun run for us. Twenty-two bucks got you an entire lobster that was said to be plucked from the sea only 3 hours earlier! Some manual labor and instruction was needed to make the most out of this lobster. This is not your lovely fine dining experience where the tail comes out butterflied and deveined. You have to get in there and get it done. I will suggest hurrying through that process because the longer it takes the less enticing the tail becomes to eat, and I will leave that description right there. Best part of the meal, we met Rob and Ashleigh, two very positive and happy individuals. They were up from New Hampshire because 5 of Rob’s friends had qualified for Boston at previous races this year. I am sure Rob’s friends hazed him into submission to get the job done and meet them in Boston. Peer pressure will make you do some healthy things. I never asked his actual age, but going by the time of 3:05 that he would need to qualify, I can assume he is younger than me. Rob’s build was of an obvious fast runner. I learned later that he was a collegiate runner at a D3 school. I knew he had what it took. Rob apparently likes challenges, so instead of staying in a hotel, he decided to stay in the Sunrise campground in a tent, blow up mattress style. I like suspense so the last line of the report will be for Rob. If you scroll down to see right now, then you must not like surprises and you must share this blog with 25 of your closest friends 🙂
Packet pickup was an experience like no other, unless of course you do an international marathon. Once given your swag, including a long sleeve tech shirt (won’t need that for a couple months), you could place it all in your gear bag which was an unused bait bag for lobstering. Coolest race bag ever! For your race bib, you would have to travel across the bridge into Canada so that border protection could clear you and check you off a master list. After that, you go into the Canadian visitor center where they check you off another list and hand you your race bib. Then, you head back across to the US so they could check you off their master list. All of this means you now don’t have to carry your passport on race day to clear the border! Side note: If you happen to do this race, look for Roxanne Redding, a customs officer at the US border. Tell her the “Achy Breaky Heart” crew from 2016 says hello! She was super cool. By the end of the weekend and 10+ trips through customs, she smiled ear to ear when we would pull up. I wish we would have went back for a post race photo with her. Nevertheless, you are now ready to run! Let us all head to the starting line.
The starting line is at Quoddy State Park just beyond the lighthouse parking lot. The backdrop is the West Quoddy lighthouse and is boasted as the eastern most continental town in the US. The race is small and obviously well supported by the locals both in the US and Canada. They sang both national anthems prior to the start, both of which were stuck in my head for the entire race. After just typing that sentence, I am singing the Canadian anthem. Why is it so catchy?! They started the race on time with the firing of a cannon that seemed to be loaded with C4 explosives. I think I peed a little when it went off. CRAP that was loud! Maybe it was to warn the Canadians we were on the way?
Heading out of the parking lot, we traveled almost 5 miles on South Lubec Road. This road is rolling hills and newly paved. Two aid station dotted the road, both of which were festive and themed which is very cool but unusual for a smaller race. That is a great thing! The race is not totally an out and back because these first 5 miles of the course are never repeated. Back out to Main St., we took a right heading for downtown Lubec and the bridge that connects Lubec and Canada. The road was lined with people cheering you on and it made me smile to ask a few if I was headed towards Canada, just humorous to be able to ask that in a race. US border patrol were all supporting the race and standing out cheering you on which was great! The bridge itself would be a great deterrent for anyone wanting to make a break for either side. It is shaped in a cresent which felt nice a smooth at the 6ish mile mark on the way over. At the 25.5 mile marker, however, it felt like more like the shape of the St. Louis arch.
Just over the border make sure to look left and take in the Mulholland Lighthouse (where you can catch beautiful sunsets) and wave at the caretaker, Dennis, who greeted us with pleasantries and offered a brief history on the lighthouse’s significance just one day prior. You will be heading up hill now and it is a long gradual climb. To the left, the first body of water you see is Snug Cove. During the times we were running,it was low tide. The area sees huge tidal swings of ~25FEET! As you pass the Roosevelt Campground on the left, check out the sign across the road, funny to see “USA –>”. As you continue to run up hill contemplating why you picked this race, you will pass Josie’s Porch Cafe on the right, where we sat and had a coffee under more relaxing conditions, and Frair’s Bay on the left. In the bay you will see large circular structures. Those are commercial salmon hatcheries, hope I said that the right way.
At the top of the hill you make the right onto Hwy 774 and the lonely section starts to sink in. The race is small and the field spreads out quickly, so unless you have a predetermined running buddy, you are going to be alone for a while. The hills just keep coming and you keep thinking this will be good on the return trip. However, these are not the long gradual hills that pay dividends. These are small, steep on both sides hills, so it does not get better. Around mile 13, you run past Pollock Cove on the left. The day before the race, friends of James and LaRee had so graciously taken us on a tour of Campobello Island. One of our favorite stops was seaglass hunting at this very Pollock Cove. If you get the chance the day before, spend a couple hours at low tide searching the beach. We were told white glass is the most common, brown #2, green #3, Blue #4 and Red #5 being the most rare. Those same friends are residents of Campobello and actually live on the course. It was great to see friendly, smiling faces so far from home and feel like you were running through a community of support. I could be a little biased by the warmth Tim and Janet showed us, but you get the real sense of a close community in this area. Most of the homes on the street had owners out in full force supporting the race.
You continue your oscillating run as it joins lighthouse road. A local was sitting at the entrance announcing 3/4 mile or ___ km (I can’t remember the number he said) to the turn around. On the way out, he would announce 9miles or 15km to the bridge! Lighthouse road takes you all the way to the end of the island. Literally, concrete barricades prevent you from running into the ocean. At high and low tide you would be running into your certain death from the 30ft fall onto the rocks. At the turn around, I ran into Ken and Tina, also from North Carolina, who Nicole and I met on the airplane from PHL-BGR. Lovely, amazing couple that were also completing the 50 States and much further along. I think if I remember correctly it was the 32nd state for them. They were such warm people and you could tell they just loved doing this together. At the turn, one of the volunteers snapped a picture of us 3 together. Nicole hated she missed the photo op but she was trying to keep me from catching her since she was running the half. I will tell you, I am an introvert by nature and one goal I am using the 50 state marathons to help me with is talking to people. I love meeting people who are motivated, positive and smiling because it helps me interact more easily. Those of us that can relate to the struggles of starting conversation with a complete stranger know that smiling people are easier to talk to and Ken and Tina were that couple. Thank you both! If you found us and read the blog, please share your photos with us.
Back to running. As mentioned earlier, this is not a complete out and back so the turn around is not at mile 13, but more like 15.5-16. Although from here it is all familiar territory since you are just back tracking your steps. I do have 2 spots left to mention for the run back to the bridge. First, the left turn (the only turn) seems like it takes forever to come. Your mind is playing course length games with you because your watch is saying 22-23 miles and you feel like you are countries away from the finish line. Once I made the left, it was a dark spot for me. My legs were cramping from all the hills and I was still unsure of the location of the finish line. Being a Boston Qualifier though, I knew it had to be on the mark with the distance.
Spot number 2 is the last hill before the international bridge. That last hill blocks your entire view of how the race will finish and how close you actually are to being done. Just know that when you come up to that hill, the visitor center sits to the left and the Mulholland lighthouse is now on your right. When you crest that hill, you are home. Down the hill I said “Bye” to the Canadian border patrol. The bridge now felt like I was climbing the arch in St. Louis but I kept running. US border patrol was waiting and flagged you through. With an immediate right turn, you are in the downtown of Lubec and the finish line is in sight. For a small race, they had all the amenities for including timing chips and timing mats so they could announce your name and accurate time. One of the things that I find very special at these smaller races and one reason we seek out these races are the finisher medals. Bay of Fundy did not disappoint! A local artist handcrafted each of the finisher medals making it extra special. If I would have gone a little faster, I could have gotten one of the hand made pottery awards that were absolutely beautiful and reflective of the area.
After the race, locals had a street market just beyond the finish line so you could sample the hand prepared community fare. Also, the race supplied fruit, bagels, donuts, meatless soup (delicious) and yogurt with blueberries. It was one of the more challenging courses hands down for a road marathon that I have completed. The heat was also unseasonably warm for the area, but I can not seem to escape the heat at any race. Last year the race was 40-50’s with fog and spotty rain from what was reported by other participants. This year was high 70’s into 80’s. The sun is different in Maine compared to North Carolina and seems to be more intense. Could be the lack of haze or me being a wimp? This course is also mostly unprotected from the sun offering none to limited seconds of sparse shade from a tree that may just be over the road surface.
Bay of Fundy International Marathon was an amazing race. A couple of the race directors through coincidence introduced themselves and you got the sense they had a personal mission to make sure this race was great for both the racers and the community it supported. If you are questioning this race then DO IT! It is a hard race but so what? It will be special. I am sure of it. Thank you Lubec and Campobello for your spectacular people and race! It was a blast…. Now go RUN!!!!
Oh, are you still wondering about Rob? What was your guess? That’s right! He qualified with a 2:57! Congrats from us, Rob! You and Ashleigh were a pleasure to meet and I hope we get to meet up in Boston.