Beach to Beacon notebook: Athletes contend with heat, humidity

·6 min read

Aug. 6—CAPE ELIZABETH — With heat and humidity in the forecast, medical professionals and volunteers were expecting the medical center at the TD Beach to Beacon 10K to be busy Saturday morning.

The numbers, however, were more manageable than expected. Dr. Mylan Cohen, the race's medical director, confirmed two and a half hours after the start of the race that 41 runners were treated, with 20 needing care for mild heat sickness and nine needing to be immersed in ice to deal with heatstroke.

One runner was taken to the hospital, though race medical coordinator Chris Troyanos said the athlete was later released.

"Surprisingly, (it's been) better than I thought," Troyanos said. "Obviously, it's very hot and very humid, but we knew it was coming. ... We were prepared for a tough day. It didn't materialize."

With temperatures in the mid-70s and humidity in the high 70s shortly after the race began, fears were that runners were going to have difficulty keeping themselves from overheating. Troyanos said the medical center was anticipating having to treat and ice down twice as many runners, and there were 20 ice tubs ready for athletes.

"It was a lot better than we expected," Cohen said. "You prepare for a disaster, and if you're bored, that's a good day."

Even though the weather was challenging, Cohen said runners were smart about pacing themselves for the 6.2 miles.

"I think what happened was perhaps the runners actually listened this year, and we think that people throttled back a little bit," he said. "They realized it wasn't going to be the year for them to pursue a record."

Sometimes, those cautions aren't heeded.

"Our highest year, we were in the 120, 125 range (for treatments)," Troyanos said. "And lowest was about 30, 32."

The humidity was still impactful, even for experienced runners.

Fifth-place overall women's finisher Rachel (Schneider) Smith, a Sanford native and 2020 U.S. Olympian, said "it was tough. The humidity zapped me."

It was Smith's first Beach to Beacon.

"Somehow it's always eluded me. I hope to do it many more times," she said.

Former Maine women's winner Sheri Piers, 51, and her daughter Karley Piers, 19, the 2019 Beach to Beacon High School Mile champion, ran the race together, finishing in 39:15 and 39:16, respectively. Karley Piers was coming off her freshman year competing for Florida Gulf Coast University's cross country and track teams.

"If you'd asked me in May, I probably would have said, 'This is nothing.' But I've been doing all my training in Maine all summer," Karley Piers said.

Jesse Orach compared Saturday's heat and humidity to the 2017 race, when he won the Maine men's division despite collapsing twice from heat exhaustion and was famously assisted across the line by fellow runner Rob Gomez.

"It was one of the worst ones I've ran," he said. "(In 2017) it was more humid than this, but this time the sun was out. It made it a lot harder."

Recreational runners found the heat an obstacle, but one they could overcome.

"I was feeling tired earlier, and tried not to push too hard at the beginning," said Mandy Geyer, 36, of Kingston, New York, who finished in 1:02.46. "And just make sure you keep going. ... I told myself 'Just run smart' to make sure I didn't overheat, but keep pushing as long as I could."

Brian O'Callaghan, 46, from Richfield, Connecticut, said the trail near the end of the race helped the runners in their quest to stay cool.

"It was obviously hotter than I expected, but there are a lot of trees, so there was more shade along the way than I thought there would be," said the Bowdoin College alum, who finished in 53:48. "You had to pace yourself, knowing it was so much hotter, so you were going to get tired quicker. I just went a little slower than I normally would, just to make sure I was within myself the whole way."

HEATHER GALLANT, 41, of Wayne and Erik McCarthy, 41, of Orono doubled up in the master's divisions, winning both the Maine masters and overall masters categories. Gallant finished in 37 minutes, 9 seconds, good for 119th overall, while McCarthy was 27th overall with a time of 32:37.

Cape Elizabeth native and U.S. Olympic biathlete Clare Egan, 34, finished 200th with a time of 38:58.

SIDNEY KNOX'S racing career is only getting started, but the Benton resident checked off a big box on the list when she completed the Beach to Beacon wheelchair race. The 22-year-old finished with a time of 1:06.23 and took third in the women's division.

"It was definitely warm today, but I did pretty well after the start," Knox said. "I've only done a few 10Ks, so it was fun to come out today. ... I was happy to be out there with the other wheelchair racers, they're all great to compete with."

Knox has only been racing for eight months, and her morning wasn't without its challenges. Knox was 5 1/2 miles in when she crashed on a corner near the Portland Head Light and broke her chair, but she was able to make it the remaining distance to the finish.

"Taking that corner is always hard for a lot of the wheelchair racers," she said. "That's happened before to quite a few of them, but I was able to get back in and keep going. I was happy about that."

BEACH TO BEACON started a new event this year with the first Walk, Run, Roll event, which was held Friday evening. The quarter-mile event was developed with help from the Cromwell Center for Disabilities Awareness, and Cromwell Center board member Ken Shapiro said it was another example of the Beach to Beacon's theme of inclusion.

"We don't know everyone's story," said Shapiro, 52, of Cumberland Center. "There have definitely been people with disabilities running this for 24 years, we just can't see everyone's disability, we don't know exactly what those challenges are. I'd like to hear more of those stories."

Shapiro, who suffered a stroke in 2010 that weakened his left side, competed Saturday in a recumbent tricycle. He finished with a time of 41:15.

"It was wonderful," he said. "I knew how important this event is to the Cape Elizabeth community, but to be out there and see it and feel the good will from people was amazing."

The race generated funds for disabilities awareness. TD Bank, the race's sponsor, donated $30,000 to the Community Center for Disabilities Awareness. Through entry fees, competitors raised another $40,000 for the center.

WOMEN'S RUNNER-UP Emily Durgin, a Standish native, missed four consecutive attempts at grabbing a cup at the first water station. She did better as the race progressed, but still spilled more than she drank.

"Those cups were slippery," she exclaimed. "I've never had issues with that. I don't know. Maybe I had lotion on my hands."

Durgin is training for a fall marathon and has practiced taking fluids as she runs.

"I'm trying to practice fluids, and I failed," she said. "Good thing my coach wasn't on that lead vehicle. Let's not show him any video."

Staff Writers Steve Craig, Travis Lazarczyk and Glenn Jordan contributed to this report.