The Mad Half Marathon was the second installment of my July double half marathon weekend. The first race, Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon, took place on Saturday and was followed up by a nearly 4.5 hours drive from Maine to Vermont. I don’t necessarily recommending a double with that much drive time between, but it also just didn’t make sense to only do one race. At least the drive was absolutely beautiful and it wasn’t too terrible. I think going the back way actually helped versus boring interstate.
As I mentioned in my Shipyard we stayed at the cutest little B&B, as Waitsfield, VT is not necessarily a bustling town with hotels. I actually think think this helped with the ambiance of this town. From what we picked up while visiting shops, the Mad Valley is known to some amazing artists and by looking through of their work, I could definitely see that. The winter life there must give a totally different view to that area though. This is definitely an area I’d love to go back to and spend more time in.
Race start again was at 7am. Definitely early mornings, but even up there if it’s a brutally hot and humid day, I’d rather have the race start early. Luckily for us it was a much cooler weekend and we battled again small rains most of the weekend as well. I wasn’t complaining about the weather at all. We didn’t necessarily know what the parking situation was, but it ended up that you could basically just park anywhere. The whole town supports this race, so giving up the main market’s and strip of stores parking lot for a few hours for the race is no big deal.
This race is described as the world’s most beautiful race. Well, it was quite gorgeous. They also describe it as challenging hills. Well, I think they got that part wrong. They really meant you should plan to run up small mountains. The course for the half is an out loop, halfway back and then you veer off for a final loop back in town. You don’t start and finish at the exact same line, but it’s within spitting distance of each other.
I figured this race would be slower with the hills they mentioned, but I still wanted to shoot for at least sub 2:30. Well, as we finished the first mile of this race and turned left to see the first hill of the race, I think that thought went right out the window. I also thought I’d do better on these hills and I tried, but they just dominated me and I have no shame in admitting I walked up 90% of them. Perhaps if I was on completely fresh legs, it might have gone a little better. It also on this first hill that Kathleen just basically took off and I spent most of the race by myself. I enjoyed chatting with lots of people along the course though. In fact, I spent some miles with this guy from Chicago, Tom, only later to find out we already followed each other on Twitter!
As soon as we crested the first hill, we then started descending the first hill. I was loving this part. I absolutely am a downhill runner and take every advantage that I can. I let the wheels go. I figured if I was going to be walking up the hills, then I should take advantage of speed when I could. Well, after this descent we had about a 10 minute straight away where we went through our second covered bridge of the race and had our turn around. What goes down, must go up, right? Well, usually not, but we did.
Back up that blasted first hill. This was a tough climb and I was amazed though at every runner blasting past me running up the mountain like it was no big deal. Mad props to all of those runners. It was also about this time that I was just done with this race. We were maybe around mile 6 and I wanted to just be done. I was hurting and I was done. However, since we were out in the middle of no where Vermont, I legit think the only way back was just to continue running. The whole race was not necessarily on normal roads. There were some back, country and slightly gravel roads we went through along the way.
Since I knew I was just done with this race, I decided to enjoy the scenery and the other runners. Every so often, I’d hook up with a runner for a short bit of run and exchange some small talk. Otherwise, I was busy taking in the mountain scenery, old barns and all of the farm animals. Mile 8 brought the other climb. As you crested a smaller hill, you could see it looming towards you. I hate hills like this. I think I’d rather just turn a corner and be like, Oh hey.. you’re here.
Once you were atop that hill though it wasn’t as bad. Some rollers, but for the most part, it was okay. The race had water stops set up along the course and working them were some of the nicest volunteers. Every one of them thanked me for being there to run when I was trying to thank them for supporting us. Being such a small race in a small town, everyone truly shows up to support it.
Finally just before mile 10, I was starting to have a little fun again. I think between the wonderful volunteers and other runners, I was relaxing and just smiling again. It’s almost nice knowing you only have a 5k left. The other bright part of this race was that I could see some nice downhill coming again. I just didn’t know how nice they were.
My miles 10-12 were some of my fastest miles of the race. Considering the mile splits I had going up the hills, these miles felt like I was flying.
Around mile 11 I saw this sign that pointed to the left for water and for the right for beer. Now, where do you think I went? Left of course! The fine folks at The Inn at the Round Barn Farm were giving out some amazing cold beer. I took a cup, chugged it down and kept going.
Those downhill miles were amazing! At one point I noticed Kathleen up ahead about a half mile away. I didn’t know if I could catch her, but I did know I was still flying down those hills. Once you got to mile 12, the last 1.1 miles was the exact same at the first 1.1 miles. You went back over the 1833 Covered Bridge on Bridge St and then left back on the main road. It was as we turned left that I caught up with her. We had one last hill to power up and it was flat the last half mile.
The final little sprint to the final line was on abut 25 yards of grass. It had been raining, so it was pretty slick. I just kept telling myself not to fall flat on my face. The finish line is actually a covered bridge structure, so all in all you go through 3, two of which you go through twice. As you finish, the race director, Dori, comes up to every runner and congratulates them. I though this was a special moment in a race like this.
We milled around to grab some pictures and feast on some post race snack and enjoy some amazing apple cider before heading back to clean up. No more than 7-10 minutes after we finished did the rain really start coming down as well. We timed our finish perfectly. We decided we would just head back and shower up and hit the road. Well, as we were headed to the B&B we saw this local distillery offering samples to racers. Well, if you know me folks, of course we went back. Everything I sampled at the Mad River Distillery was fantastic! Very happy to have stopped there.
Sadly, the weekend had come to a close. After our fun in Waitsfield, we hit the road for Albany. Yup. Our return flights were out of Albany, NY. Like I said in my other race recap, this weekend was all about the logistics. It was a fun weekend overall and two great races to knock off two states, but it was also an exhausting weekend. I was pretty happy to be headed home.
Official Finish Time:
15/25, F 30-34