CAPE ELIZABETH – It was, said Sheri Piers, like trying to breath air through a straw that had been pinched.

“We were all huffing and puffing out there,” said Piers. “Everyone, people I usually run with, even men. It was terrible.”

And Piers, the 40-year-old from Falmouth, actually was one of the winners of the 14th TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K on Saturday. She was the top Maine female, crossing the finish line in 35 minutes, 11.2 seconds to win Maine’s unofficial championship.

But for Piers, her second B2B championship — she won in 2009, setting the Maine women’s record of 34:17.0 — was, in her words, “tainted” by the fact that the humid conditions made it difficult for everyone on the course, including her training partners, Erica Jesseman and Kristin Barry, both of Scarborough.

Jesseman finished second among Maine women, 26.4 seconds behind Piers, and needed medical attention after she collapsed and passed out soon after she crossed the finish line. She was fine later, actually apologizing to Piers for not being able to run with her. Barry, who won the Maine title last year, finished fifth in 38:31.9, having to stop three times during the race.

“I’m very angry with myself,” said Barry, who had surgery on her right knee last April. “It was the heat. My body just shut down. My legs were rubbery.”

So Piers, while glad to win another title, really wasn’t in a mood to celebrate.

“You try to be happy,” she said. “But it’s hard because you want to celebrate with everybody.

“When you’re working with three people and you’re part of a team, you want everyone to do well. When one person, or two people don’t have a great day, it kind of puts a cloud over it.”

The three — who were expected to finish 1-2-3 among Maine women — knew it was going to be nasty when they lined up at the start. Piers looked to Barry for advice. “She said, ‘Do what we normally do. We’ve trained in this heat,”‘ said Piers.

“You try to make adjustments. But it was still hard, especially when you’re going all out.”

Jesseman, 22, took the early lead, with Piers and Barry right behind. Barry slowly dropped back, and Piers caught Jesseman at Mile 4 of the 6.2-mile race.

“She looked like she was in a little bit of trouble,” said Piers. “I kept looking back doing the little wave, ‘C’mon.’ I could have used her at the finish. It would have been nice to finish with one of those girls.”

Jesseman said there was no way she could have stayed with Piers. The longer she ran, the worse she felt. At one point, she said, she started zig-zagging on the course, rather than running straight.

“It was hot, way too hot,” said Jesseman. “I did not expect this.

“The 5K mark, I started to feel bad. I just felt terrible. When (Piers) passed me, I felt I was going to pass out. I didn’t know if I was going to finish.”

She actually considered dropping out near the 5-mile mark, but pushed herself to the end. When she crossed the finish line, she collapsed, and Piers drained a bottle of water on her. She then went to the medical tent.

“I’m fine now,” she said. “It took a couple of minutes, they cooled me down.”

Kristine Guaraldo of South Portland finished third (38:03.9) and Mary Pardi of Falmouth was fourth (38:30.7).

Barry, who has won the Maine women’s title twice, finished in 38:31.9, after about a three-minute stop at Mile 5.

“It was just too hot out there,” said Piers. “After I caught Erica at Mile 4, you’re in survival mode. I don’t even care what happened. I just wanted to finish.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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