For Larry Deans, the Tour du Lac 10-mile race has special meaning.
For one, it’s the first race the 54-year-old Orland man competed back in 1979, a year after graduating from the University of Maine, and that’s where his running career took off.
Deans will officially join the race’s 200-mile club on Saturday when he runs in his 20th career Tour du Lac race in Bucksport.
The race will start at 7:30 a.m. at the town’s swimming pool on Broadway while registration tables open at 6:45.
Deans loves doing the local race.
“For me, it’s a hometown race, I went to high school at Bucksport High, and I wasn’t a runner in high school,” Deans said. “It’s a hometown race, something I always try to key on.”
Deans owns a personal-best of 53 minutes, 55 seconds on the tough 10-mile course, and now that he’s older, his goals are a little more simple.
“My goal now is to not let anybody older than 54 beat me,” he said.
Deans also looks forward to seeing old friends from the community, such as race directors Chris and Margaret (Clapper) Jones.
“That’s the thing about road racing I like, the friendly rivalries all the way around,” Deans said. “It’s just that kind of sport and I know there’s a couple guys I want to try to run with on Saturday but it’s all in good fun.”
Just being back on the roads is fun enough for Deans, as he was hampered by a back injury last year and couldn’t do much running.
But he says he’s in tip-top shape now.
“I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to run competitively again [after the injury],” Deans said. “For right now I’m able to train pretty regularly.”
Deans, a special education teacher at Surry Elementary School, has run five marathons, including the 1983 Boston Marathon, and tries to get in as many races a year as he can.
“I might race a half-dozen times a year,” he said. “For me I just love running, and running for the pure enjoyment of it.”
Deans gave the Jones family a lot of credit for keeping this race going after longtime race director Fred Merriam’s death in 2004.
“[They] certainly has done [their] best to keep the tradition alive,” he said. “The race has been in some pretty good hands.”
Deans finished the 2009 Tour du Lac in 1 hour, 18 minutes, 19 seconds, and he’s hoping to improve upon that time this summer, while also prognosticating the winning time will most likely fall in the 53-minute range.
Deans ran fairly well in the Orrington 10K earlier this spring, finishing in 43:59 — just over 7-minute per mile pace —and he’s hoping to clock the same pace Saturday.
“I’ve been pretty severely hurt and [was] able to run a 7-minute mile pace so I was pretty happy with that, so hoping to get under 7 for this 10-mile race Saturday,” he explained.
But that will be a challenge – one Deans is up for – on a hilly course that is not known for setting personal records.
“This a very, very challenging course,” he said. “After the first half-mile you got another mile that’s gradually uphill and there’s not a lot of fast surface on this course. It’s a very, very challenging 10-mile race.”
Two other men, Jeff Preble of Gardner and David Benn of Waterville would join Deans in the 200-mile club if they show up to run, Jones said, while if Brian Hubbell of Bar Harbor and John Tjepkema of Orono compete, they’ll be in the 100-mile (10 races) club.