Monday, May 30, 2016

A Perfect Day for a PR: My Sugarloaf Marathon Race Recap

One of the (very few) downsides of running five marathons in May is that I have managed to get a full 52.4 miles behind on race recaps... yikes!  All running, no writing this month it seems.  As a preview for coming attractions, YES I finished the Vermont City Marathon yesterday, making five marathons for May and six for 2016.  More to follow on that one!  But first, back to the beginning of the month... the Sugarloaf Marathon.

My good friend Hannah lives in Lewiston, Maine, a few hours southeast of Sugarloaf, and agreed to come with me for an adventure and some spectating.  I was psyched to spend some quality time with her and to have some company for the drive up through the winding mountain roads.  Our first stop after arriving in Kingfield was the Sugarloaf Mountain Resort for the expo.  And of course, a spontaneous photo shoot!   

Traditional race number photo - so excited!
If I actually saw a moose on the course, I think I'd pee myself!

I then had the super brilliant idea to go for a short pre-marathon hike... because, why not?!  I had heard there was a waterfall a short way down a trail near the Sugarloaf Golf Resort, and I was determined to find it.  Poor Hannah reflected on how she always seems to get sucked into crazy adventures every time we hang out together, as she made her way down the side of a mountain in her sandals.  Meanwhile I was too enthusiastic for life, enjoying every bit of the beautiful scenery. 

The "I'm going to kill you when I catch up to you" smile!
Although when we got to the bottom of the mountain, it was well worthwhile - there was a small bridge over the waterfall, and a pretty stunning view of the mountains in the distance.  

Loving every wonderful moment of this
Because who doesn't hike in their Oofos before a marathon?!
We were really in the groove with our adventuring, so decided to take a drive to Rangeley, about 45 minutes away, to see Quill Hill - a beautiful mountain vista that we had seen in our guidebook.  We should have known we were in trouble when our phones lost reception about halfway there, ending our only means of navigating and causing us to rely on our memory of the directions and our stellar senses of direction.  Yeah, not so much... We did a LOT of u-turns on bumpy dead-end dirt roads before finally finding the right one.  But we were determined, and our perseverance paid off, because this was the view from the top:

I could have sat at that table gazing at this view forever.

We had a restful night's sleep after an active day of adventuring, and awoke to flashes of lightning closely followed by window-shaking claps of thunder and pounding rain on the street below.  Race day.  Awesome.  I took my sweet time getting ready, trying to put off getting soaked as long as possible, but the waiting was futile.  Time to suck it up!  The incredibly kind owners of our small historic hotel in Kingfield, the Herbert Grand Hotel, had prepared a 4 AM breakfast spread for the runners, complete with hot coffee, hard-boiled eggs and baked goods, which greeted us as we came down the stairs.  Gotta love small-town Maine!  It made the misery of the cold rain just a little bit easier to face.

Layers on my layers pre-race!
The Sugarloaf Marathon is a point-to-point race, starting near a campground in Eustis, traveling through the Carrabassett Valley to the Sugarloaf Mountain Resort, and then following Route 27, known as the Maine Scenic Highway, to downtown Kingfield.  Buses to the start left about a half mile from my hotel and took us to Eustis, where we reluctantly disembarked into the downpour.  I have never been so excited to step into a pre-race porta potty than I was that morning, just to find some momentary shelter from the rain.  Luckily, the race director announced that they were keeping several buses at the starting area for runners to reboard and stay dry before the start.  Didn't have to ask me twice - I got a front-row seat!    

So much rain (and my rubber ducky mascot) from the car
I had examined the course's elevation map before the race, knowing that the hills would pose my greatest challenge, so I knew that the first ten miles had some killer "rolling" hills with a net elevation gain, but then after that it was mostly downhill.  My plan was to start conservatively up until mile 10, and then to give it everything I had after that.  Luckily, the rain slowed after the first mile, turning into a light drizzle for the next few miles, and then just a cool, cloudy 55-degree day.  Running perfection.  I took it easy up the "hills" (read, mountains), trying to pace myself and to enjoy the scenery.  And it was seriously beautiful.

Loving myself some mountain pictures!
By mile 10 and the last "hill", I was still feeling strong.  The weather was cool, my legs felt strong, my fueling was right on plan, and I was having a blast.  I decided to pick up my pace on the downhill sections of the course, trying to stay conservative and knowing that I still had 16 miles left to go.  Several members of our running club had family members spectating along the course, and seeing the familiar faces brought a smile to my face and made the miles pass by quickly.  I was surprised when, at mile 20, I still felt relatively fresh.  I have never felt so good in a marathon before.  I decided to push my pace another 30 seconds per mile faster, and started passing runners who had slowed down after the quad-crushing hills.  I kept looking at my watch trying to figure out my estimated finish time, but I was struggling with the calculations (math has never been my strong point!).  I was fairly certain that I was on a PR pace, and decided to just enjoy it as long as  I could.

Downtown Kingfield - the Herbert Hotel and Longfellow Restaurant
Before I knew it, I was passing familiar sights as we entered downtown Kingfield, and I could see the final turn into the finish line.  I saw my friend Hannah in the crowd and smiled for her camera before crossing the finish line.  I was completely in shock after looking at the clock and realizing that I had PR'd by 16 minutes!  And even better, I had SO much fun and I felt terrific!

Totally psyched PR smile!
 I can't say enough about how much I loved every moment of the Sugarloaf Marathon.  Staying in downtown Kingfield was the perfection introduction to small-town Maine, with the friendly owners of the Herbert Hotel who were so accommodating to us crazy runners, and hanging with the locals at the Longfellow Restaurant across the street.  The scenery along the course was absolutely stunning - it made the miles pass quickly, because I was so swept up in the beauty of the mountains and rivers surrounding us.  And the course itself was race perfection - some tougher rolling miles early on while my legs were still fresh, and then a fast 16 miles to end the race, which allowed me to pick up the pace and finish strong.  For me, the Sugarloaf Marathon was a dream race, and I can't wait to return! 

Mission complete!
Linking up with Holly from HoHo Runs and Tricia from MissSippiPiddlin for the Weekly Wrap!


  1. You are amazing for finishing 5 marathons in May!!! Way to get in some fun adventures before your race too! :) Sugarloaf sounds like a beautiful and challenging course! Awesome job and congrats on the PR!

  2. Congrats on such an amazing race, especially when doing a handful of other marathons in the same month! I'm curious about your paces and why you don't post your PR time/previous PR. I'd love to see how you train :) Congrats on the PR!!

  3. Awesome! 5 Marathons in a month and a PR to boot!! Congratulations!!

  4. Thank goodness rubber duckie was warm and dry! What beautiful scenery! Congratulations on your PR! It sounds like a great course and city to host this race. I love a good downhill section. It's very impressive you ran 5 marathons in May! I hope you are a little rest & relaxation in June. Thanks for linking with us Michelle.

  5. Congratulations on a marathon PR despite tough weather conditions and hills. I'm impressed that you were able to PR after running so many marathons back to back. Way to go!

  6. I am running Sugarloaf this May. I am wondering how much faster on average you ran this race than your training runs? Can you estimate that?

  7. And by how much faster, I mean how much faster was your per mile pace?

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