Triathlon Across the USA: State #5 – Maine

Brunswick, Maine, May 5, 2012–Polar Bear Triathlon/Duathlon, Bowdoin College

Planning the Maine Triathlon

The goal for 2012, the second year in the ‘Triathlon Across the USA‘ journey, was to complete triathlons in the remaining states of New England. Only one, the Massachusetts triathlonhad been completed in 2011.

Thanks to a lesson learned early on about registering early for popular races and to the support for the journey by more than one race director, I met this goal. Besides this race, I completed triathlons in Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire during 2012.

The Polar Bear Triathlon is one of many wildly popular races across the country. The slots for these races are snatched up soon after the opening of registration. The e-mail exchange between Race Director Will Thomas and me pictured below not only shows how quickly this race fills (‘in about an hour’), but also his eagerness to support my triathlon goal.

Email exchange with the Polar Bear Triathlon race director

Email exchange between the Polar Bear Triathlon race director and me before registration. Note his commitment to helping to achieve the 50 state goal.

Travel to the Maine Triathlon

Joy and I traveled from our home in Chicopee, Massachusetts to the Maine Running Company in Brunswick for packet pickup on Friday afternoon. After this quick stop, we drove over to Bowdoin College to look over the parking options for the next morning and to drive the bike course, a regular pre-race ritual.

With these boxes checked, we headed north, settled into our hotel room at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites north of Brunswick, and made our way to Bath.

We ate dinner at J. R. Maxwell & Co. on the world-famous Front Street in historic downtown Bath. After some encouragement, Joy selected the full lobster, complete with bib. Thanks to the waitress, Joy and I enjoyed the entire lobster. 

10th Polar Bear Triathlon/Duathlon

Bowdoin College is a liberal arts college with a beautiful campus, including a huge pool and field house (inside track). Both the pool and field house were available for use during the triathlon. The Bowdoin mascot is the polar bear, hence the name for the race, the Polar Bear Triathlon/Duathlon.

This event, managed by Tri Maine, included both a sprint triathlon (240 participants) and a duathlon (run-bike-run) for the non-swimmers (or stronger runners). My age group of masters triathletes (55-59) included ten participants.

On Friday evening, amidst drizzling rain and a 50°F air temperature, the forecast for the beginning of the race was rain. Fortunately, the forecast was wrong. We woke to clear skies. By race time, the clouds had passed, the sun had appeared, and the roads were dry. It was a beautiful day for racing although still chilly.

Logo for the 10th Polar Bear Triathlon.

Logo for the 10th Polar Bear Triathlon (courtesy of Tri Maine).

Distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon were:

  • Swim: 525 yards (0.3 miles or 0.5 km)
  • Bike: 11.5 miles (18.5 km)
  • Run: 3 miles (4.8 km)


The swim took place in the sixteen (16) lane, 25-yard long LeRoy Greason Pool at Bowdoin College. Each lane included two triathletes who swam 21 lengths of the pool after which they exited at the opposite end of the pool and ran/walked to the transition area.

Swimmers started in waves according to their estimate of the time that it would take them to complete the 525 yards. This type of start assumes that all swimmers (32 in the 16 lanes) will complete the swim in more or less the same time.

The swim involved an ‘in-water start’. We held onto the wall until the start signal was sounded. After that, we stayed on our side of the lane for the entire swim leg.

Each lane had a volunteer counter at the start end to track the swimmer’s progress. Just before the last length (near the end of the twentieth length), the volunteer put a red panel into the water letting us know that we should exit the pool at the other end.

LeRoy Greason pool at Bowdoin College, location for the Polar Bear Triathlon swim.

LeRoy Greason pool at Bowdoin College, location for the Polar Bear Triathlon swim.


While the rain had stopped, it was still cold, especially given that I was wet from the swim. This triathlon was one of the few during which I have worn a biking jacket. It was too cold to ride without it. This experience is the main reason I include the jacket in the suitcase of triathlon gear I take to every race, ‘just in case it’s needed’.

By that end of the bike leg, the air temperature and I had both warmed up. Consequently, I removed the jacket after dropping my bike in transition and before beginning the run.

The mostly-flat course left the campus for the country roads and a few rolling hills south of Brunswick. While most of the roads were in good condition, one roughly half-mile section desperately needed repair.

Fortunately, the race organizers had prepared us for this portion of the course during their pre-race communications. An e-mail sent a few days before the race reported that “part of the course will be designated a ‘Non-Aero Zone’ which means that you cannot be in aero position on your bike. We make this designation for your safety.”

Having driven the course during the previous afternoon, I was ready to ride safely through this area.


The 3 mile (4.8 km) run course included both on- and off-road sections. The initial portion followed sidewalks along city streets leading away from the campus. After a few blocks, the course turned onto a dirt, a slightly muddy, trail complete with potholes and tree roots. The final stretch was across a grassy field leading to the finish line outside the south end of the field house.


Another New Experience—Volunteering At The Finish Line

Joy also volunteered at this triathlon. Her job was to remove the timing chip connected to a strap around one ankle, typically the left, of each triathlete.

Unfortunately, one racer came to the finish line with ‘stuff’ running down his leg. Clearly, he had suffered from gastrointestinal problems during the race. While this situation would be difficult for most volunteers, Joy has too sensitive a nose for this to be anything but a disaster.

I will bet real money that this will be her last time volunteering at the finish line.

It’s A Small World

We took the opportunity of passing through Portland, Maine on Saturday afternoon where we ate a seafood lunch and toured downtown Portland and the Allagash Brewing Company.

The experience at Allagash came in handy some years later while waiting for our friends, Jim and Kris, to join us for dinner at Manhattens Restaurant in the Chicago area. Recognizing the Allagash name on one of the taps at the bar, I told the server about our visit to the brewery in Portland. Interestingly, we learned that this restaurant owner’s wife had grown up in Maine.

It really is ‘a small world after all’.


Race Firsts

  • First triathlon held at a college.
  • Our first time in Brunswick and Bath, Maine.
  • First triathlon with most of the run on a trail through woods.
  • Joy’s first experience eating a whole lobster.

Questions? Comments?

Leave your questions and comments in the Comments section.

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