Maine Coast Marathon: Race Report + Strategic Training and Racing Tips

May 23, 2024

I recently participated in Maine Coast Marathon and here is a full race report with lessons learned and training tips you may find useful in your training ahead. Maine Coast Marathon is a great race, basic in what’s offered, but good service and a nice course overall. I chose this race due to its location and proximity from my last marathon, Philadelphia Marathon, late November 2023.

After Philadelphia Marathon, I was extremely eager to begin a new cycle of training following a post-race transition. I had a great race and the results showed my training and fueling strategies were on the right track. Life, however, had other plans as sometimes happens. We were in the middle of selling our house, moving everything into storage and beginning a new adventure we are embarking on now. As I’m sure you understand, moving is a colossal process. Even more so, because we have three young kids in tow and no family in range to help. Needless to say, I was running, but not “marathon training,” through the month of December.

Fast forward to January, we had moved most of our belongings into storage, sold the house and traveled from New Jersey to Michigan to spend some time with my family for three weeks while my husband timed Houston Marathon and attended a conference. We then traveled to Indiana to spend time with his family for just under a week. Again, in January, training was derailed due to all this travel plus the heavy snow and icy conditions in these wintry midwestern states.

In late January, we made the trek down to Miramar Beach, FL for a four week stay. I was finally able to begin training as hoped. However, my mind had drifted to triathlon season as it was already almost February. I spent a full month of training for triathlons, with much less of a run-specific focus. This was exceptional training, the heaviest I have been able to manage yet. While I was able to greatly build on my existing foundation, triathlon training is not run training. My current goal is to qualify for Boston. Therefore, my runs need to take the main stage. Thankfully, my husband helped me see the route I was taking and I began to change my focus completely back to run training.

It is very important to understand you must be specific in your training towards your goals. In this example, I am trying to achieve a higher level of running. I need to hit less than 8:00 minute miles to qualify and run in Boston. Training for triathlons takes away from the run focus. Spending all that time on the bike and swim takes away from the energy needed to hit the mileage and intensity needed to achieve higher levels of running. What I was doing was breaking one of the most basic training rules, that of specificity. To improve in a goal, you must train in that activity. Biking and swimming help to build an endurance foundation and improve breath control, but they do not achieve a faster running time. While I keep some biking and swimming in my training, I keep them mostly at base pace (or power) and the volume is reduced to what it would normally otherwise be for triathlon training.

I stress this point, because I see over and over how people get derailed from their original goals. Focus on one goal at a time and then move to the next. Right now, I have my eyes set on a BQ. In truth, I am aiming beyond a BQ, my goal is to see my marathon pace in the mid- to low- 7:00 minutes per mile. Once I have achieved this goal, my sights are set on PR’ing in 70.3’s and aiming for 70.3 World Championships. My training therefore will change. My run will be at peak shape and I can focus on building the bike and swim to where it needs to be. This will take years of training to accomplish.

It is essential to think about both short- and long-term goals, developing an understanding of what you would like to achieve long-term. Your training can and should be designed and optimized to accomplish these goals in the most efficient way.

Back to Maine Marathon, I was able to put in a great cycle of training from February through April. There were weeks I was not able to run, or had to keep them short, because my husband was traveling for work for a week or so at a time and I had no one to help watch the kids. In these instances, I took the kids on their bikes and in the stroller for shorter runs, 4-5 miles, and then I hit the bike to keep the foundation. My training and fitness was at it’s best yet and I was in a great position to achieve, or be very close to, a BQ.

As April rounded out and we were 10 days out from race day, we came down with what I think was food poisoning. My husband and I were terribly sick for four to five days, then it took each of the kids out one by one. Up until the day prior to race day, our house was a contaminated danger zone. I’m not even sure how many times I cleaned the bathroom or sanitized the entire house. Thankfully, we got through it and I decided I could still race the marathon.

At this point, I was not sure how my body would respond to the marathon distance due to the week and a half of little to no appetite and certain dehydration. The day before the marathon I had my full appetite back and used this opportunity to get as many calories and carbs as I could and hydrate as much as possible. Needless to say, my goals for this race changed slightly. I decided to aim for an 8:20 min/mile pace and then bring it up from there based on how I was feeling mid-race.

Race morning, I felt better than ever, mentally and physically. I had gone through the cycles of defeat when we were sick of lost hope on a great race day, but with this new strategy in place, I felt very strong and determined to still make it a great race. The first 13-14 miles of the race I felt exceptional. For a marathon, you must focus on RPE and aim for a 3-4 on scale of 1-10. Go above that 4 and you will suffer late in the race because you are pushing out of range at a pace you cannot sustain for that distance.

I averaged about 8:11’s for the first half and I honestly felt this pace seemed to feel like an RPE of 2. I thought I could hold this pace all day and this was my day to BQ. However, as can happen in distance, my body had other plans. As mile 15-16 approached, I could feel the weight of a bonk coming if I did not slow down. I backed off the pace, which was absolutely the right move, and was able to finish the race and still hit a PR. Miles 19-25 were still a suffer fest and demonstrated I had pushed slightly too hard at the beginning. However, with pure determination I was able to bring the final 1.5 miles back down to an 8:00 minute mile and finish very strong.

For nutrition, I alternated between 40g CHO Maurtens and 25g CHO caffeinated Maurtens. I took seven in total, I should have brought eight. I brought a 20 oz handheld water bottle with pure water and ended up refilling this with half Gatorade/half water at an aid station at about mile 23. I drank a full cup of water at each aid station, which were every 2 miles. Halfway through the race, I drank a full cup Gatorade at each aid station as well, taking Gatorade, then water.

Overall, I was very pleased with the race outcome and I continue to find myself in awe of what our bodies can do. Just three to four days out from the event I wasn’t even sure I could race, let alone hit a new PR. I am hungrier than ever as I look ahead to that BQ. I look forward to the next 24-week cycle of marathon training!

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