CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — Ethan Shaw has used his previous three appearances in the TD Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race more as training runs than as a focus of that training.
“I hadn’t really raced it hard before,” said the 22-year-old Shaw. “I used it more to get ready for the fall season.”
But with his running career at Dartmouth College now history after his graduation earlier this year, high-profile events such as the state’s largest road race are taking on greater significance.
And it showed Saturday, as Shaw surged past fellow Falmouth resident Jonny Wilson to emerge as the top Maine men’s finisher at the 15th annual TD Beach to Beacon.
“It means a lot,” Shaw said. “There’s no other race like it. The whole state really comes together for this race, and it’s cool just to be on the center stage once a year. It doesn’t happen very often.”
Shaw spotted the 24-year-old Wilson an early lead, but caught his hometown rival at Mile 5 and steadily increased the lead to a final margin of 13.5 seconds with a winning time of 30 minutes, 37.9 seconds.
“It was really close all the way through but I felt a little better on the hills and it just worked out for me today,” said Shaw. “I’ve been working for the past month to get out here and feel strong and feel good, and things just happened to click at the right time.”
Wilson, second among Mainers to Ellsworth’s Louie Luchini in last year’s race, was this year’s pre-race favorite after Luchini and two-time TD Beach to Beacon Maine winner Ben True of North Yarmouth opted to travel to London to watch friends compete in the Summer Olympics.
Wilson also had been the leading road racer in southern Maine this summer, with victories at events such as the Yarmouth Clam Festival 5-miler, the Sea Dog Father’s Day 5K and the L.L. Bean 4th of July 10K.
“I went out hard the first mile and was pretty much in the lead chase pack behind the elite group,” Wilson said. “But I could tell the whole race my legs didn’t feel as well as I had hoped, and at Mile 5 Ethan caught up to me and gradually passed me. I tried to hang with him but I just didn’t have it. In the last mile he was a little stronger than me, I think he ran a smarter race and probably ran a more even pace.
“But I’m happy to be second, and at least somebody from Falmouth brought home the win so that’s pretty cool.”
Wilson said an adjustment in his training regimen left him at less than his best amid the warm, humid conditions that marked race day at the TD Beach to Beacon.
“I think I cut my mileage down a little too much,” said Wilson, a 2011 University of Richmond graduate who was timed in 30:51.4. “I should have kept the mileage a little higher because two weeks ago at the clam festival I was really on and had a great day and I was still up to 90 miles a week.
“I probably cut down to the 60s this week. The same thing happened last year and I thought I had it figured out this year but I guess I’ve got to keep working on that going forward.”
Piers not content, but successful
Another Falmouth resident, Sheri Piers, had an easier time while successfully defending her 2011 Maine women’s division title.
The 41-year-old Piers, who had the top time for an American woman earlier this year at the Boston Marathon, wasn’t altogether happy with her time of 34:21.9, which also earned her the overall women’s masters title.
“It’s sad, but it’s the truth and it’s my personality,” said Piers, who joined Emily LeVan and Julia Kirtland as the only three-time Maine women’s champions at the TD Beach to Beacon “I think that’s what keeps me coming back for more.”
Piers said she felt the effect of the morning’s heat and humidity early in the race.
“At Mile 2 I thought, ‘Ooh, this is going to be a long day,’” she said. “The last few races I’ve run, they’ve seemed to go by fast. Today I was looking at my watch the entire time thinking ‘only 30 seconds has past, only a minute.’ It felt so long out there.”
Piers set the Maine women’s record for the TD Beach to Beacon of 34:17:0 in 2009.
“I had a reach goal, which was to break 34 [minutes],” she said, “but I knew with the conditions that wasn’t going to happen so I just wanted to get a PR and break the record. But I don’t think I ran very smart. I went out too fast.
“I really thought I was in shape for a good day today, but I have to be happy with where I am.”
Sebec runner finds victory in competing
Stephanie Cole, a 39-year-old occupational therapist from Sebec who ran Saturday’s race just 141 days after open-heart surgery, finished in 4,474th place overall with a time of 1 hour, 4 minutes and 48 seconds.
“That was OK,” she said. “It was so hot and humid, and my heart rate was a little higher than I wanted it to be so I pulled back a bit.”
Cole has been running since age 10, but was told by doctors to stop in late 2010 due to emerging complications from a congenital heart condition that ultimately required her to have surgery at the Cleveland Clinic last March 16 to replace a pulmonic valve.
She received medical clearance to resume running last month, and while Cole had hoped to run the race at a 10-minute-per-mile pace she was pleased with the overall experience of her first Beach to Beacon.
“It was everything I wanted it to be, a highlight of my summer,” said Cole.
She said she is looking forward to running with her family this fall in The Dempsey Challenge in Lewiston-Auburn.
“It’s exciting to be back to where I was two years ago,” she said.
An Erb-al anthem
TD Beach to Beacon officials turned to one of their entrants to sing the national anthem just before the start of Saturday’s race.
Esther Erb, who finished 27th at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston with a time of 2 hours, 37 minutes and 21 seconds, performed the anthem before going out and finishing 101st overall and 16th among women’s competitors in 36:14.
The 26-year-old Erb, a former NCAA Division III track and field champion as well as a Fulbright Scholar from Case Western Reserve, currently lives in Blowing Rock, N.C., where she trains at ZAP Fitness — which was founded a decade ago by the late Andy Palmer of Madawaska and his wife, Zika.
Other champions crowned
Ten wheelchair athletes also took part in this year’s TD Beach to Beacon, starting approximately 15 minutes before the main field.
Craig Blanchette, 44, of Battle Ground, Wash., won the men’s wheelchair division for the second time in 23:28. Cheri Blauwet, 32, of Boston was the women’s champion in 34:43.
Dennis Simonaitis, 50, of Rochester, N.Y., joined Piers as a masters running champion, winning the men’s division with his time of 32:32. He also won the men’s senior (50 and older) title, with Erin Chalat, 51, of Cape Elizabeth (43:26) the women’s senior champion.