I love Cabot. It's my 10th year straight going and I always say I'd go back even if i couldn't run. 10 hours to get to a race. Yes, but it's not like any race.
The Cabot Trail Relay race was hosting it's 25th event and the 17 leg staged relay race had some interesting quirks this year. The 185 mile race was closer to 188 miles this year because leg 13 had a 1.5 mile detour and leg 17 didn't even start at the end of leg 16 but instead started about 6 miles up the road and then was run almost on an entirely different course other than the final half mile section finishing into Baddeck.
Thursday evening Autumn, Bunker, Brian and I made our way to Sussex, NB and stayed at a hotel we seem to stay at every other year. This was Brian's 9th year and I think Bunkers 3rd. Brian used to run as a Mainiac until he stepped down or rather stepped up and became our team manager. The year he was going to run for another Maine team while managing us. We had just found out that Rick who'd been to more Cabot's than any of us and was slated to run leg 8, the only leg he hadn't run was not going to be able to make it at the last minute.
Most of the talk Thursday evening into Friday morning was who was going to double now that we had 16 runners for 17 legs. I was slated to run leg 9, which I'd run the first three years I'd gone to Cabot. I was excited to go after the record, but at the same time I also thought it would be better for the team if I doubled. Adam, Gomez and Bunker all offered to double and it wasn't a matter of nobody wanting to step up. The problem was all four of us were slated to run pretty hard legs and if any of us were going to double and for it to be good for the team we'd have to have someone else take over our hard leg. One o our rookies, Hugo who'd run 2:38 this year at this years very hot Boston marathon said he'd run leg 9. Anyone wanting to run leg 9 has to be in shape so we were like if he wants it, he's got it. We switched Nick from leg 1 to leg 2 and I was going to get the chance I wanted to try and get my record back on leg 1 while getting to run leg 8 which I'd never done.
We headed out of Sussex towards Sackville to gas up and hit up the really good coffee shop we always go to. On the way Adam, Caleb, Nick and Erik went by us and we started to draft until we got to Sackville. Normally it's grab some coffee and hit the road but we ended up spending close to an hour in Sackville and really just got to catch up and enjoy things.
Headed out and our next stop for the 8 of us was the A&W for lunch in antigonish. Nothing like a little fast food the day before a race, but it's been tradition every year and why break it.
The southern Maine crew had rented a 10 person RV and with 7 of them they had plenty of room and would meet us in Baddeck Friday evening. Other teammates were Tim and Lisee who were coming together and Zolla who was driving up with Olympic marathon trials ladies, Erica, Sheri and Kristin.
Once we arrived in Baddeck we went for a group run before heading over to Toms pizza and carbing up for the race. One of the teams that's usually 2nd or 3rd behind us most years had been talking up a new team they'd put together to give us a run and would be doubling there best guys. That meant there best guys would probably be running legs 1 and 2 and then something else later. I was fired up.
Leg 1- some history. In 2005 Maine-iac, Evan Graves had broken the 58:18 leg record when he ran 57:36. In 2008 I had gone after it. We are best friends so it was a friendly thing to do. The problem was I got to the start in 2008 and the first 3-k of pavement had been ripped up on the 17-k course and it was very soft. Another Maine-iac bet me I couldn't break it and the deal was if I did he had to have a couple beer at the finish with me. So at 7 am I started and by halfway through the leg I was not on pace to break Evan's record and Matt was giving me shit that he wasn't going to have to drink. That got me fired up and I took off. As I came into the finishing bend I knew I was going to crush the record and pointed and Matt and told him to go get the beers ready. Came in at 55:58, taking over 90 seconds off the record. In 2009 the Greyhairs showed up and there guy ran dangerously close to the record running 56:03. In leg 2 I was running against the Greyhairs best guy, Drew. He was a hell of a runner, but used sport psychology during races to great success, something I do a lot. We would both go on to break the leg 2 record by over a minute with Drew beating me. I'd allowed him to use him psych on me and a race I should have won went to him. Anyways, back to leg 1. The following year Drew ran leg 1 and took down my record running 55:40. So getting the chance to run leg 1 again was a bonus. I'd told anyone who'd listen I was going to erase Drew out of the record books. We are friends too, but he's on a different team and I would rather see a Maine runner have the record.
Warmed up 10 minutes, did some 1 minute real hard pickups and lots of strides as I was going to go out fast. Not only to go for the record but if this new Black Lungs team thought they had any shot I wanted to put the hammer down on that. The Black Lungs runner looked legit and they actually tried psyching me out by having me taking a picture with him and while we were doing that another teammate of his said "you guys push each other today" To me that means if we are together. Shit wasn't going to happen. Very few people In New England would do what I was about to in a 10.6 mile race. Race started and I went out. First mile in under 4:40 and now I had some pretty good hills to contend with while I recovered from that opening mile. Nobody was near me and now it was me versus Drew. I thought about leg 2 when He'd beaten me and just used every bit of focus I had to get up the hills in the middle of this race. The only marker out there if you don't have a GPS is a 1-k to go sign and even that has been known to be anywhere from a mile, so when I came up on that with over 4 minutes to spare I figured I probably had the record but still pressed to make sure. Coming into the finish I hammered on my chest with one fist and then raised it in the air and while I crossed the finishline in 55:13 to break the record also said bye bye to Drew's record. One down, now for leg 2. Only cooldown was 150 meters up to the car to grab a beer before either the second place runner came in or 8am came around.
By the end of leg 4 I'd told myself I had to stop drinking and after 6 brews started to get ready for leg 8 which would start around 6:30pm.