Hello hello and greetings from could 9, where I’m riding the incredible high of yesterday’s race! There’s a monster post ahead but TL;DR–I ran by far my strongest and smartest marathon and finished in 3:28:30, smashing my A goal, PR-ing by 7.5 minutes, and qualifying me for the 2018 Boston Marathon with a 6.5 minute cushion.
Let’s take it back to the beginning… when we hit the road Saturday morning for the drive up to Maine. Armed with lots of bottles of water, we scooted up to Portland and got yummy sandwiches at Sister’s Gourmet Deli (amazing homemade bread, both gluten free and gluten-full!) J and I drove my running buddy Denise and her friend Alisa, and my parents and brother caravaned along with us. We then drove another hour to pay a quick visit to our cabin, where J and I are getting married in September! It’s getting a long-overdue renovation and it was so fun to see it coming together. The last leg of the trip took us on backroads up to Sugarloaf, where we picked up our bibs at the “expo”–marathon for the girls, 15k for J. The bib pickup was smooth and easy, which makes sense given that the race is TEENY–just 1600 runners total. The rest of the night we took super easy. We had a little condo for me, J, my big bro Ari, and my parents–complete with a decent kitchenette that we used to cook up some chicken, roasted sweet potatoes, and a simple salad. Extra salt on everything for me, and some pasta for the gluten eaters. I kept this pre-race meal carb-y and simple, which I think was a big part of why my stomach behaved so well during the race.
After a just ok night of sleep, we were up and at ’em at 5 am for a quick gf bagel (with pb, banana, and salt) and coffee before grabbing the shuttle bus to the race start. We were running a couple of minutes late but we made it onto the last shuttle, which was great until the shuttle BROKE DOWN and had to turn back to the hotel. We still had an hour to spare before the race, but there wasn’t another shuttle in sight (cue freak out)–and then in a glorious moment I ran into a friend from track who offered us a ride to the start! Everyone else did make it on another shuttle, but big ups to Steve for the extra few minutes of cushion. The second amazing coincidence was that I walked directly into Denise and her friends Amy and Sarah who were already halfway up the porto potty line!! We did our business and then shed our layers (it was in the high 30s–BRRRR) before dropping our check bags and lining up at the start. One jarring shotgun shot later, and we were off!
The first few miles were gorgeous and slightly downhill, but we stuck diligently to the plan and kept them at an easy 8:00-8:10 pace. It was absolutely beautiful along this stretch–still lakes, mountains, and sweeping forests. Once the feeling crept back into our fingers and toes, we hit the first series of rollers, keeping the pace around 7:55-8:00 through mile 8. We knew the hills would be over by the end of mile 10, so we ran based on effort and actively kept the pace under control, even on the rolling downhills. Mile 9 was a doozy with 178 feet of elevation gain, but all of that training on the Newton hills paid off and we hit the top feeling steady and strong at an 8:26 pace for that mile (by far our slowest of the day, as it should have been!)
Alisa had been driving along the course and we had seen her a few times, but I knew my folks were going to be at mile 11 and it was so amazing to see them after the first steep stretch of downhill. We held it back but let the pace dip to a 7:42 during mile 12 (158 feet of elevation loss), and then settled in around 7:50 until mile 20. Thanks to Coach Laura, I had split the race (in my head) into a 20 mile long run and then a 10k progression run, so we kept joking about the fact that we were just warming up and that the race start was still ahead 🙂 The focus during this section was definitely on fueling every 45 minutes and drinking at every water stop (I ran with my handheld until mile 20, where I ditched it, but I drank whenever we passed a stop and refilled 3 times).
At mile 20 the pain had started to creep in, but my legs had some juice left in them so we amped the pace up to the 7:40s and started to pick people off. It had gotten hot at this point, and I was pouring water over my head at every water stop. I kept repeating my mantras in my head (STRONG. FAST. CONFIDENT.) and Denise and I checked in with each other every few minutes. My knees felt a little bit creaky and I was nauseous, but I managed to hold it together and maintain a sub 7:50 pace through a gradual but deadly uphill climb from miles 23-24. At this point I knew we were safely in BQ territory, but I didn’t let myself get too excited about a sub 3:30 until we rounded the corner into chute. A big perk of such a tiny race was that we finished by ourselves–talk about feeling like a rock star! We decided to grab hands and hold our arms up, and it felt like we flew across the finish at a 7:25 pace.
It was over, finally, and I gave everyone the sweatiest hugs and shed a few incredulous tears when I saw that we had not only BQ-ed (sub 3:35), but that we had broken 3:30 (my A goal) and that I had PR-ed by 7.5 minutes off of my Chicago Marathon time. And oh yeah, we ran a super solid negative split, crossing the first half at 1:45 on the nose and nailing the second half in 1:43:30. Ari finally hit his goal of breaking 3 hours (yup, he’s a beast) and J ran his longest race ever and finished the 15k at a killer 8 minute pace! After the race we showered, snacked, and hit the road towards some decadent burgers and well-deserved beers/ciders in Portland.
I have so much more to say about this race experience, but I have to give the biggest thanks to Jeremy for being incredibly supportive and tolerant, to Coach Laura for her belief in me and her deep well of wisdom and support, and to Denise for being a wonderful friend and for carrying me through the last few miles with grace and strength. I am finally a BOSTON QUALIFIER!!!!!
Linking up with The Weekly Wrap (hosted by Hoho Runs and Miss Sippipiddlin), with Eat Pray Run DC for her training linkup, and with the Jess’s (Jess Runs ATL and The Right Fits).
27 thoughts on “Sugarloaf Marathon Race Recap (BQ!!!)”
Congrats on your BQ – that’s amazing!
Woohoo!! Awesome job girl, see you in Boston!!
WOO HOO! See you there 🙂
Congrats! I had a couple of friends who raced – one who ran a 3:00:16 (she’s freaking amazing) and another who had a bit of trouble with the heat later in the day. This seems like a wonderful race and I’m so happy for you!!!!!
Thanks so much! I’m familiar with those Oiselle friends of whom you speak 🙂
Congratulations on your PR And BQ! I saw your post in the Running 4 Real group yesterday and was thrilled for you. Ironically, I had a lot of online friends run this race and all of them seemed to really enjoy it and log some fast times, so I’m proud of everyone. I can’t believe you negative split a marathon, too. I hope you have a good post-race recovery and that you’re not too sore or tired today!
Thank you so much, Amy! It was such a lovely race–I can see why so many people make the trek up to run it, given the net downhill course and the relatively cool weather. I have to say I owe that negative split to my amazing coach 🙂 Definitely sore today but man, is it worth it!!!
Congrats on you BQ – what a great time! I love that you split the race into 20 miles, then a 10K progression. Mentally, I think that’s a fantastic idea. Congrats again!
Thank you! Yeah that strategy made things so, SO much easier!!
CONGRATULATIONS!! It sounds like a great race and I love your race plan.
You are a rockstar. An incredible inspiratio with your diligence and crazy cool attitude!!
Thanks so much, girlfriend!!!
HUGE congrats Leah! Such an amazing race…loved reading your recap. So happy for you!
That is so awesome!! Congrats on such a great race! Love that you thought of it as a 20 mile long run and then a 10K progression. 🙂
Thank you! It’s such a perfect race strategy–all the props to my amazing coach 🙂
Congratulations on your race!! Negative splits for a marathon is awesome, and you are comfortably under your BQ time. Well done!
Thank you so much!
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Awesome, awesome race – not that I expected anything less, I knew you had it in you! Thank you for your kind words – but really, you are the one who put in the work. Coaching only goes so far but it’s YOUR hard work, dedication, and grit that earned that BQ. Also, Sugarloaf looks insanely beautiful. Boston 2018 here you come!!!
BIG BIG congrats on your incredible race, huge PR, and of course your BQ!! I got a little teary reading this because I could feel your high coming through the page. So glad to see all your hard work pay off! Enjoy the post-race high 🙂
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