Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sugarloaf 15K {Race Recap}

Sunday was the Sugarloaf Marathon and 15K held up in Maine's Carrabassett Valley. If you've been following this blog, you'll know that I had originally planned on running Sugarloaf as my second marathon, but other things in my life took precedent over running and I decided it would be best to do the 15K instead.

After attending a birthday party of one of Zeke's schoolmates, I dropped the boys of at my mother-in-law's and made the 2+ hour drive to meet the girls (all running the marathon) at a "camp" on the water where we would be spending the night. It isn't really a camp, but a beautiful house with a ton of space for all of us (14? in all, including runners, spouses, children, and babysitter). We headed to bed fairly early in anticipation of a 4 AM wake-up.

C9 tank and skirt, Mizuno Evo Cursoris

Photo courtesy - Jen @ Running With The Girls

We woke up to an overcast day with temps in the mid-30s. We quickly got ready and headed to the finish to catch the shuttle to the starting lines. The girls' shuttle was 30 minutes before mine, so I saw them off with wishes of good luck and kept warm in the car before boarding the bus. 

I find a seat and look across the aisle to see Weez from RunnersRamblings.com and we were able to chat quite a bit before the race (the shuttle was at 6:00, while the 15K didn't start until 7:30). It was nice to see the course beforehand on the drive to the start and noted that though the description of it was all downhill, there were a few rollers, but nothing too major.

We all got off the bus and shivered. It was so cold! Thankfully I brought along a blanket and huddled in it while talking with Louise waiting for the start. Another bus finally came which was going to bring all our bags back to the finish and a lot of people got on to keep warm. With about 30 minutes to go, I got on to warm up my now frozen feet and sat with a woman who was running the 15K for the first time too. When we took off our long sleeve shirts to head to the start line I noticed her bib said Carrie too! Such a coincidence!

Finally it was time to line up and I prayed my Garmin would find a satellite before they said 'go' (it did with about 15 seconds to spare). I didn't really have any plan for this race. I was stress-free going into it and was running for fun. I hoped to at least be able to average an 8:30 pace. I wanted to run a steady race and be conservative in the beginning, not knowing how I would handle going 9.3 miles.

I quickly found a good rhythm and tried to keep the pace at something that felt easy. I was surprised when I hit mile 1 and my split was 7:58. I wasn't laboring with my breathing at all and I decided to just keep at this pace as long as I could knowing I wouldn't have to to deal with any monster hills. Then mile 2 came up before I knew it - 8:05.

At this point I noticed a few of us were sticking together. Not bunched up, but we were all running about the same pace. There was one girl in particular in aqua colored shorts that I fell into step with for a good portion of the race. The cadence of her steps matched mine and I was comfortable with the pace we were at. I wondered if I was pissing her off because I was pretty much drafting her as she moved onto the flattest sections of the road as we moved along. A random observance was that she must have come down from Canada as her GPS announced her pace every kilometer. 

The miles ticked away and I only glanced at my watch just out of curiosity more than anything else, but saw my pace was sticking around the 8:10-8:15 pace every time I looked. 

I hadn't noticed the cold once we started and actually it was absolutely ideal running weather for me. Not too hot, not too cold, no wind, no rain, no sun - perfect.

I'd come up even to aqua shorts girl on any inclines, but let her go back in front on the declines. I have never been great at using downhills to my advantage. There were water/Gatorade stops every two miles, but I didn't feel the need to stop at any.

I couldn't believe how fast the miles seemed to go by. I had settled easily into a cruising speed with 3-2 breathing (inhale 3 steps, exhale 2 steps) and was working comfortably hard, but at the halfway point still wasn't ready to kick it up a notch. By about mile 6, my legs were starting to feel fatigued. It wasn't anything major and I forced any thoughts of taking a walk break on any hills out of my head. With only 5K to go, I just kept plugging along. The route was just beautiful following the river on one side with the rocky mountainside on the other and trees with their new leaves the whole way.

Aqua shorts girl moved ahead a little, and I ran with a couple other women for a while, but we never spoke. One pulled some fuel out of her pocket around mile 7 and knowing that a water stop would be coming up soon, I decided to eat a Shot Blok to carry me through the final two miles. I took a cup of water at the water table and actually took a couple sips while running. There was no way I was going to slow down now. I came close to choking on the first sip, took one more and threw the rest away. Let's get this thing done!

A quick check at the Garmin showed a 10-minute pace. WHAT?!? There is no way, I thought to myself. I figured it must have lost the satellite for a bit and it quickly dropped back down to the low-8s.

With one mile to go I thought of speeding up but my legs were getting a bit tired. There was no real sprint at the end (I did have some left in the tank) but I was just so happy to be running that day I didn't feel the need to run any faster.

I saw 1:16:xx on the clock and was so happy. Even though I didn't have any real time goals, I was hoping to at least be around 1:20 given that I ran a 1:24 10-miler in February on a hillier course. I'm sure if I really pushed it and "raced" it I could have easily been in the 1:15s, but I was just amazed at how comfortable I felt the whole way and didn't want to mess with a good thing. Not once did I think, oh my god, I want to die, I can't breathe, where is the finish, can I be done now. It was awesome start to finish and was close to a perfectly executed race...probably the best I've done which is just crazy, all things considered. 

My Garmin had me at 1:16:21, an average pace of 8:08 over 9.38 miles. Official time was 1:16:29.5, but there was no starting mat so I am going to go with my watch time on this one as I didn't start it until I crossed the starting line. Check out these splits, they are so even I still can't believe it!

Mile 1 - 7:58
Mile 2 - 8:05
Mile 3 - 8:15
Mile 4 - 8:13
Mile 5 - 8:13
Mile 6 - 8:13
Mile 7 - 8:12
Mile 8 and 9 (where the Garmin went wonky) - 8:41 & 7:43
Those times average out to 8:12.
Last .38 - 2:51

To have the pace of 7 consecutive miles within 1-2 seconds just makes me so happy! I'll analyze what I think made this such a great race in a future post, but I want to finish this recap before it gets much longer.

Here's my official placement:
148 out of 455 overall, 74 out of 316 women, 12 out of 55 in my AG (35-39)

I went back to my car after picking up my bag and getting food to warm up and wait for the marathoners to start coming through as I was parked facing the road right about a mile and a half from the finish.

I went to cheer on runners at mile 26 while waiting for my girls to come through. At about 10:50 I was hoping I was going see Jen soon as she was trying for a sub-4 and a few minutes later I spot her rocking neon-green skirt in the distance and starting cheering like a crazy person. I am so proud of her and her solid 4-minute PR. 

Stacy's husband and kids appeared in their car, so Stacy (running her first marathon) and Jill (her second) wouldn't be far behind. And at mile 26, they were still smiling!

I, on the other hand, really need to work on showing a happy face. Here is my one running photo from the race. 

Always so serious. I promise I was having a great time!

Here's what I loved about this race:

The route. Just beautiful. Rolling hills that add interest to the course and a challenge for your legs. It is also a straight shot from start to finish with just one turn before hitting the finishing chute.

The finisher's medal and shirt.

The marathoners received long sleeves and the 15K runner short sleeves. I do wish they were in women's sizes too, but I love the design on the sleeve!

The food tent had hot chicken soup, perfect for warming up on such a cold day. And they had homemade granola with Stonyfield yogurt. Oh my, it was so delicious!

Field size and route support. With 395 in the marathon and 455 in the 15K there was never any congestion, even at the start, but I was never running alone. Water stops were every two miles and while I didn't need to utilize them for the 15K, I can imagine it being convenient for the full.

I am definitely considering running Sugarloaf again and would definitely recommend it. Maybe I'll be able to train better through the winter as I'd love to run the marathon next year.


  1. YES! Fabulous recap. You were amazing and I loved seeing you waiting there, jumping around!!!! & yes, marathon!

  2. Great job! I have been wanting to do this race for a few years and this might inspire me to try it next year! I have been experimenting with the 3-2 breathing recently too lately and really like it.

  3. Great Job!! I might add this race to my bucket list for next year! I wish I knew what 3-2 breathing is, I could use a little help with my breathing lately.

    1. Thanks Kristal! 3-2 breathing is inhale for three steps, exhale for two steps. The though is that when breathing evenly, say 2-2, you are always landing on the same foot when you start to exhale and this is when the most force is exerted and can lead to injury. By doing an odd count, you are alternating legs with each breath. I find I can only breathe like that when running harder or I feel like I'm hyperventilating. Sometimes I'll start out with 3-3 and just hold it one extra step every so often until I can do the 3-2 comfortably. And if you are running all out or up a long hill you might switch to 2-1.


Thanks for your comments!