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Trail races

Safety protocols in place, Megunticook 50, 'Wicked Tough Ten' on

Rugged trek: Test mettle in 6.2- or 31-mile journeys around Camden Hills State Park
By Holly Vanorse Spicer | Aug 21, 2020
Source: Emily McDevitt Scene from the trails at Camden Hills State Park.

Camden — Due to COVID-19, runners have become familiar with the word "canceled." In these strange times, something those athletes are not used to hearing is — the race or event is on.

The Megunticook 50, and "Wicked Tough Ten," trail races are a go, said race creator David Hirschfeld.

Race organizers met with the Maine Bureau of Parks and Land officials and have developed protocols to safely stage the Megunticook 50 and" Wicked Tough Ten" on Saturday, Sept. 12.

"Great credit goes to these people who are concerned not only with safety but also with assuring that we can all enjoy a healthy and exciting activity," Hirschfeld said.

He said officials are instituting modifications to address concerns in relation to the virus, and that they ask runners, spectators, vendors, supporters and volunteers read and respect them.

The events begin at the main entrance to the Camden Hills State Park on Belfast Road in Camden.

The Megunticook 50K, which is 31.0686 miles, will begin at 7 a.m. with a rolling start. The runners with an average pace of 10-12-minute miles will move through the chute, single-file first. Runners are asked to keep around 10 feet between each other.

Race times will not begin until the runner has crossed the timing mat. Runners with pace times of 18-20 minutes will start after.

The cutoff finish time of the 50K has been extended to 11 hours.

The "Wicked Tough Ten," a 10K or 6.2-mile course, begins at 8 a.m., and will follow the same format as the 50K.

Runners of the 10K should plan to arrive no earlier than 7:30 a.m. to relieve congestion in the start area.

Bring your mask

Masks will be available in the start area, however, it is encouraged for runners, and spectators, to bring their own.

While waiting for the races to begin, everyone is asked to socially distance, keep at least six feet apart from others.

Aid stations will be minimally staffed, and the staff will wear masks. The stations will be self-serve, with Poland Spring water delivered via pump. Runners will need to refill their own bottles, or pack bladders, and after the staff will sanitize the pumps.

Snacks at the stations will be individually wrapped.

In attempt to minimize human interactions, there will be no crewing, pacing, or drop bags on the course. Runners will need to carry all supplies they begin the race with. This includes poles, clothing, and other items.

Supporters are encouraged to not congregate at aid stations, and other places along the course. Spectators should spread out, and hike around to see their favorite runners.

There will not be an awards ceremony. Awards will be presented on a rolling basis.

For this year's event, after runners have completed the race, organizers have asked runners collect their finisher medal, grab a snack, recover for a minute, and then clear out.

Organizers said that in future years, they will encourage sticking around postrace to support other runners.

What a sight

Maine is known for its breathtaking scenery and views. The rocky beaches, as well as hidden gems in the forests, mountains and streams.

For four years, the only local trail racing event in the Knox, Lincoln and Waldo county area has been the Camden Snow Bowl Trail Fest.

Given the Midcoast has trails galore for hiking, biking and running, it has been a surprise only one event gathers trail runners to test their mettle against the terrain and other athletes.

In September, there will be not one, but two new kids on the trail racing block.

The Camden Hills State Park will be the grounds where the area gets its feet a little dirty with its first ultra run, the Megunticook 50K —a grueling distance.

For those not up for trekking quite that far, an option of a 6.2-mile distance course with the "Wicked Tough" 10K is available.

Traversing more than 90 percent of the trails in the park offers runners incredible views and challenge.

Packet pickup for races, and a prerace meeting, will be on Sept. 11 at the Point Lookout Fitness Center in Northport.

The cost of the Megunticook 50K is $95 and the "Wicked Tough" 10K $65.

The event was created by David and Tammy Hirschfeld. The couple owns Point Lookout in Northport.

History with tough races

David certainly is no stranger to running ultras. In 2019, he completed the 6633 Arctic Ultra in Eagle Plains, Yukon (Canada). Consisting of 120- and 380-mile options for runners, the Arctic Ultra is considered to be the toughest, coldest, windiest footrace in the world.

Only 25 runner spots are opened each year to those up for the challenge.

It took David 207 hours to complete the 380-mile course, which brought him over the Arctic Circle, and to the Arctic Ocean at Tuktoyaktuk.

While planning and organizing events can be tricky, planning dates, times, logistics and getting permission to hold the event at the Camden Hills park is just as much of a feat.

Emily McDevitt, a local trail runner and founder of Trail Runners of Midcoast Maine, said she was amazed when she first heard about the ultra trail run being held at the state park.

She credits the Hirschfelds success in getting access to the trails for the event to David’s working relationship with the park, and its officials, that has been in place nearly 14 years.

She said David had worked on the trails and proven to park officials he is someone who cares, and built a level of respect.

Tough stuff

The Megunticook 50K is not for the faint of heart, or a good trail for the first-time ultra runner.

The peaks of Battie, Bald Rock, Derry, Frohock, Cameron and Megunticook will be topped in this race, giving runners a total elevation over the 31 miles of more than 7,600 feet.

There are only three places that will bring runners out-and-back, but overall, it is not a circuit race, run multiple times.

There will be five aid stations, which includes two areas runners will pass twice, which will give them a total of seven opportunities to stop.

Overall, the 31 miles breaks down to two miles of pavement, eight miles of closed gravel road and 21 miles of single-track trails.

The "Wicked Tough" 10K comes with its own warning. Worried it may be considered significantly easier than its longer counterpart, runners are warned that the course is no piece of cake.

Just more than six miles long, the trail promises an elevation gain of more than 1,600 feet. Covering two miles of pavement, and four miles of single track trails, the "Wicked Tough" will test any runner who traverses the course.

However, they will be rewarded with views of the Atlantic Ocean from open ledge areas on the course.

There is no a race time cutoff for the "Wicked Tough," but after three hours, if a runner has not crossed the finish line yet, race officials will look for them.

It is advised runners carry plenty of water and use sunscreen, as well as bug spray to ward off mosquitoes, black flies, ticks and other troublesome insects.

It also is encouraged to train for the event, and study the course map. By studying the map, not only does it familiarize runners with the course, but it also gives participants help in knowing when the course climbs, or turns to a downhill.

For more information, or to register for the Megunticook 50K ultra or the "Wicked Tough" 10K, visit megunticook50.com.

Registration for the races closes on Sunday, Aug. 30.

View of Camden Harbor from Mount Battie in Camden Hills State Park. (Source: File photo)
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