May 19/ 2019
The alarm sounded at 5:00 am but I was already awake. Bedtime was 8:00pm the previous evening and I slept soundly until 2:30 when I woke up briefly to relieve the pressure in my bladder before falling back into a peaceful slumber. My next cognitive awareness was around 4:45 and I laid in bed thinking about the day ahead.
As the alarm sounded I heard the rustling of activity in other parts of the house. With 4 other runners ( and one non-running spouse) the house came alive quickly as everyone went through their race day rituals. For me breakfast was a bowl of oatmeal ( prepared the night before and microwaved) topped with fresh blueberries and maple syrup. Usually I eat steel-cut oatmeal but it wasn’t available at the local grocery store so I opted for regular oatmeal. A couple of mandarin oranges for dessert and I was good to go.
Clothes were laid out the previous evening so that saved a lot of time. At the last minute I opted to change from a short sleeved tee to a tank. Three bathrooms for 5 runners made the pre-race poo easy to achieve with little fanfare.
By 5:45 we were ready to go. We loaded into the car of the non-running spouse who was dropping us off at the Start Line. There is no parking area at the Start Line so we had the option of catching the shuttle from the Base Lodge less than a mile away, or to just be dropped off at the designated drop zone.
The Start Line is at Cathedral Pines Campground in Eustis, Maine. The route winds through the Bigelow Mountains and along the Carrabassett River before ending in Kingfield. We were renting a condo at Sugarloaf ski resort which is approximately halfway along the route. When we arrived at the Start area I was blown away by the view. It was stunning! What a magical place to start a race!
Light rain was falling prior to race time, but the predicted forecast promised little precipitation for morning but heavier rain later in the day. No worries.. we would be done by then. Trusting the meteorologists, I sent my jacket and gloves on the drop bag shuttle to the Finish Line.
At 6:55 we were summoned to the Start Line where we waited.. and waited. Finally at 7:09 the Starter’s gun went off and we were on our way.
My coach had advised me to start at 6:15/km pace and then try to find that “sweet spot” that would allow me to finish strong with the best possible time, and then try to increase my speed to 5:50/km for the final 8km. He predicted a 4:20 Finish Time, which really terrified me.
Kilometers 1 – 11 were uneventful. I settled in at 6:00/km to 6:05/km pace and it felt good. It was faster than Coach advised but it was a gradual downhill and I felt like I was floating. For fuel I was using ClifBlok chews every 20 minutes chased by water/Gatorade. Aid stations were positioned approx. 2 miles apart so I chose not to carry my own hydration. Half strength orange Gatorade was the offering , and I had trained with that product so I felt prepared. At every aid station I accepted a glass of water and a glass of Gatorade. Rain was still light but steady.
Kilometers 12 -17km. : This is where the course meandered through the Bigelow mountains and this was reflected in the elevation. Because I had trained on the hills I found these ones quite manageable. It is a boost of confidence to pass so many people on the hills. It wasn’t easy , but it wasn’t hard either. Pace slowed down to 6:20-6:30/km during this section of the run. Still managing to fuel / hydrate with ease.
Kilometer 18: Finally, a downhill.. and this one was sweet! Always in control, I flew down this one and passed so many people on the way down. No brakes for me on this one! What a relief to reach this point as I knew that it was mostly downhill from here. .
Kilometers 19- 21 : By now it is beginning to rain harder. My ClifBlok chews are wet and gummy which made them surprisingly hard to chew. This is when I started to run into trouble at the Aid Stations. The Chews did not dissolve in my mouth and I couldn’t swallow them quickly. When I tried to drink water and/or Gatorade it felt like I was waterboarding myself. After this I tried to pop one in my mouth as soon as I saw a water station, but I was still forced to stop to walk 15-30 seconds at every station. My tummy is beginning to feel “sloshy” and starting to balk at the Gatorade. After this i decided to accept Gatorade at every second station.
At the halfway mark my time was 2:09:01, slightly ahead of where I want to be.
Kilometers 22-27 – By now it was raining harder and I was beginning to get cold. I could feel my wet pants slapping against my thighs and my hands were numb. I tried to execute a snot rocket and couldn’t even feel my finger on the side of my nose. I was regretting my decision to leave my gloves in the drop bag. Curses to the meteorologists who got it so wrong!
This race is held on a narrow road which was open to traffic. Most drivers were courteous and respectful but a few were in a hurry so we really had to be aware of that. Some of the faster runners had already finished and a few Shuttle buses went by on their way back to the Base Lodge. One shuttle bus splashed me as it passed and I was drenched with a huge wall of slushy cold water.
By now my walk breaks at the aid stations were taking 30-40 seconds. Somewhere around the 27k mark I accepted a glass of Gatorade that was warm… not just tepid but warm. It didn’t even make any sense that the liquid could be so warm on such a cold day. It really unsettled my stomach and I decided to rely solely on water after that.
Kilometers 29-32 – I remember very little of this part of the race. I was physically and mentally numb. By this time I had been running just a little over 3 hours and I knew that I was about an hour from the Finish Line. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. My right hip was beginning to ache.
Kilometers: 32-39 – By now I was counting down the kilometers. Only 8 more, 7 more, 6 more, 5 more. I am numb, except for my hip. It hurts.
Kilometers 40-42 : Before the race I had decided that I was going to treat this like a 4 hour run and hope that I was within a couple of miles of the Finish Line by then. At 4:00:01 my watch beeped for the 39th time. 3.2 km to go… exactly where I was hoping to be at this point. It seems surreal. I am numb.
For some inexplicable reason I stopped to walk at about 41km By now I had ceased to care about my Finish Time and would have been content to just walk the rest of the way. Total walk break was around 45 to 60 seconds and somehow I found the will to start running again. I just want to be done.
When I neared the end of the race I began looking for the Finish Line. I could see runners ahead of me turn into a parking lot and I was hoping the finish line was just around the corner. As soon as I turned, I could see a chute and then an S-turn leading into another chute with the gantry at end. At this point I became very disoriented because a truck was blocking the entrance to the second chute. Volunteers were actually trying to stop runners so the driver could manoeuvre safely out of the chute entrance. Huh? With less than 20 meters to go I was expected to stop so the truck could pass..? This was not cool! This fiasco cost me a few seconds as I dodged around the truck and weaved through the volunteers which wasn’t a huge deal but it was still annoying. The runner immediately behind me actually ran the wrong direction on the outside of the chute for a few seconds before a spectator redirected him. Check out my finish line photo. I am still wearing my WTF look as I cross the timing mats. Instead of feeling elated, I was just dazed.
Finish Time 4:20:45. … a PB of just over 51 minutes. My coach was right.. I can do this, and I did do this.!
The second half of the race took almost 2 minutes longer than the first half. Meh.. I am beyond caring about my splits at this point.
The Finish Line Crew was great… lots of pastries, fruit, bagels, soup.. etc. My stomach revolted at the thought of food so I just kept walking around. I couldn’t summon the will to stretch so I just kept moving. I vaguely remember having a massage while still wearing wet clothes. Big shout out to those RMT’s who had to massage all the cold wet bodies. Eventually I wandered over to the drop bag tent so I could change into dry clothes. I didn’t see any place to change and briefly considered changing right there in the field but decided to do it in the portapotty instead. That was a workout… changing out of wet clothes (including compression socks) in such a small space. It felt wonderful to be dry and warm.
I would definitely recommend this race to anyone. It is a fast course for anyone looking to PB or BQ. It is also a great race for runners who prefer to run at a recreational pace and just want to enjoy the journey. Volunteers are fabulous. It gave me a mental boost every time someone offered encouragement and called me by name. ( name was printed on my bib, duh!) Scenery was amazing. The finisher medal was sweet! I believe it was designed and handcrafted by local engineering students…? or something like that…
If you plan to do this race be sure to train on downhills in addition to upslopes. Those down slopes can really shred your legs. The route is a paved road with a narrow shoulder so you have to be aware of traffic. After reading race reviews I trained on cambered roads but unfortunately I trained on the left side of the road, and the race was on the right side of the road. I should have done more research. My right hip flexor was destroyed by the end of the race.
If you register for this race I recommend renting a condo at the Sugarloaf Ski Resort. Ours was roomy with all the comforts of home. By sharing with others, this is a very affordable option. After the marathon we were regretting our second floor unit though! oh.. the stairs!
After my 2nd marathon I vowed to never run this distance again but this 3rd one was an amazing experience. Now I just need to rest and recover before training for the next big thing.
And hey.. this very wet and cold Diane finally managed a post-run smile.