(NECN: Jack Thurston, Burlington, Vt.) - It's a ritual Patrick Standen of Burlington, Vermont has been doing for weeks: he puts on a safety helmet, clicks together its clasp, and places his feet into holsters on his hand-cranked cycle. Standen is getting ready for one of his favorite days in Burlington: The KeyBank Vermont City Marathon. "The city comes alive," Standen beamed.
The Memorial Day weekend event puts 8,000 runners through their paces and draws thousands more spectators to the streets of Burlington. Standen is one of around 20 hand cyclists competing. He's used a wheelchair for 30 years, since a bad car wreck at age 16. The athlete has always stayed active, but this year has been tough. "I've never seen flooding this bad," Standen said.
Lake Champlain's destructive flooding has left small parts of the marathon course looking like Swiss cheese: Standen has to zig zag to dodge potholes during his training rides. Debris, mostly driftwood, also lines parts of the lakefront. The race organizers and the city of Burlington are working overtime to smooth out the problems. The pressure's on.
"We will have athletes looking to qualify for the Boston Marathon next year as well as looking to qualify for the U.S. Olympic trials," explained Peter Delaney, the executive director of Run Vermont. One lakeside section in particular will have to be re-routed because of severe water damage to a recreation path. Race officials say it'll affect less than a quarter mile of the course and won't cost the marathon its official certification. Officials are watching other parts of the course, but believe few, if any, additional adjustments will be necessary.
As for the garbage along the race route, volunteers are going to help clean flood debris off parts of the course on the Burlington waterfront this Saturday morning from 10:00 - 2:00.
The policy is BYOG: bring your own gloves. "If we can make it through some of the harsh winters and other seasons we have here, we can make it through anything," said Maggie Leugers of the Burlington Parks & Recreation Department.
Back on the race course, Patrick Standen looked at the flooded bike path, and said, "I'm really praying for sunny, dry weather." He hopes drier weather will help the city make repairs so racers can be at the top of their game and put the soggy spring behind them.