05 19 2015.

race report: sugarloaf marathon 2015

This race report covers my entire experience, which includes the expo the day prior. If you’d like to skip to race day, click here.

The Expo: May 16, 2015

sugarloaf marathon 2015

Darren and I started our journey up to Kingfield around 1:30 to make it to the packet pickup. I had never been to Sugarloaf before – I know, I know, and I’m a Mainer! I was so excited to see the shirts and to see what bib number I had been assigned. I’m a tad bit superstitious – so a nice bib number is like a good omen to me.

sugarloaf marathon 2015

I was kind of expecting a big expo – with vendors and the like. It was nothing like that at all! We entered the base lodge to find two tables – marathon bib pickup and 15k bib pickup. Thinking back, I’m not surprised – it can’t be easy for vendors to travel up to Kingfield! The Portland-area races were always packed with vendors, but a 2.5 hour drive to Sugarloaf is a haul.

sugarloaf marathon 2015

sugarloaf marathon 2015

We stuck around only as long as it took to get our packets and went to our home for the night. A fellow SheJAM-mer – Deirdre – allowed us to stay in her house up there and it was beautiful. We entered, dropped our bags, and went “woah.” That’s an “I’ve-never-stayed-in-a-place-this-nice” kind of woah.

The shirt! Sugarloaf is a client of ours at work – and since I was going to run the marathon this year, I had the great honor of designing the t-shirts! It was so surreal showing up and seeing other runners wearing something that I designed!

My “flat Kelsey!” Featuring an RBK zip-up, MPG shorts, Avia shirt, Champion sports bra, FlipBelt, ProCompression marathon socks, Mizuno Wave Rider 18s, Shot Bloks, Honey Stinger waffles, Nuun, and a bib belt. (Not pictured: my Nathan Quick Draw water bottle.)

So Darren and I played cards, ate our dinner (a sweet potato + farro casserole), watched 30 Rock, and went to bed by 8:30. It took me a while to fall asleep. I was really tired, but also really fired up about the marathon and couldn’t get it out of my head. I finally did fall asleep though, because when I woke up the next time, it was raining. I was so sure that my alarm was going to go off any second. I checked my phone and…nope. It was midnight! Yet there I was, wide awake in bed again.

I finally got back to sleep a second time and woke up to my alarm.

Race Day: May 17, 2015

4:00 hit and I practically jumped out of bed. I was feeling ready. There were 3 hours, a breakfast and hydration between me and the starting line. I ended up needing all of that time – despite it feeling long.

I ate about 3/4 of my oatmeal and just couldn’t force the rest down. I think the nerves were hitting me. I ended up drinking a ton of water though and had to use the bathroom about 7 times before leaving. At least, if nothing else, I was well hydrated.

Darren drove me to the start and dropped me off since he had to get about 25 minutes down the road to the 15k start.

I got in line to use the porta-potties and it took forever. There were only 5-6 people in line behind each porta-potty but I used about 20 minutes of my 30 before the gun waiting in line!

(photo by Karen Raymond)

I found my family about 8 minutes before the gun and loved that I had their support. I hadn’t been totally sure about who was going to show up until that morning and was extremely – and pleasantly – surprised that they all did!

(photo by Carly Raymond)

Lining up behind the start mat, I felt a definite calm come over me. I needed that, too. I welcomed the total absence of thoughts and felt that it was kind of meditative – at least until the gun went off. It was totally unexpected and loud. A few people around me met my glance and admit that it scared them too!

(photo by Karen Raymond)

(photo by Carly Raymond)

So we were off! I kept pace really well the first few miles. My legs felt fresh and I was so happy to be outside running the event that I’d been waiting for! The scenery was beautiful. Around mile 3, the trees opened up and we were surrounded by water on both sides. It was absolutely stunning. The sun was out and the air was warm. Right off the bat it was 65-70 degrees, which quickly went from feeling comfortable to warm to hot.

These miles passed really quickly, actually. I think around mile 4, my family passed in the van and cheered for me. That gave me a boost! (I could hear them yelling and screaming way before they passed into my view! Turns out, my choice of outfit colors was perfect. I definitely stood out!)

I passed by two men who seemed to recognize each other. One, wearing green, was discussing doing an 8:00 pace until the end, since he was using this as a training run for his 50-miler at Pineland next weekend. I figured – great, as long as I’m in front of green shirt guy, I’m golden! I was doing 7:55 or so at the time so I ended up ahead of him.

We passed through this little area of shops a mile or two later and I happened to look over to my left and saw green shirt guy! He said hello and we made small talk for a bit. He gave me some pointers on the hills to come and we discussed our goal times. I looked down at my watch at one point, saw that I was doing 8:30 and decided that I needed to speed up. I wished him luck and we parted ways.

(photo by Paul Raymond)

The hills started right up at about mile 6 – and they were rollers. I remember two of them being really tough, where my breathing was affected and I just felt exhausted at the top. Both of those hills were short and steep. I half expected to see my family at the top of both of them, yet I didn’t and I was really relieved. I remember just feeling grumpy and hoping they didn’t have to “see me like this.”

Here’s the thing. I had practiced fueling with Honey Stinger Waffles and I was supposed to eat my first at 1:00. Well that hour hit right as the hills did. I took one bite of a waffle and it was so dry. The sun and heat had dried it right up in my water bottle pocket! I struggled to chew that and it took me way too long to swallow it. I just couldn’t breathe while chewing, especially on the hills. So I opted for the Shot Bloks instead, which weren’t much better.

(photo by Carly Raymond)

The infamous mile 10 hill was so much easier than the other two. Yes it was long and winding, but I would have taken 5 more of those over the shorter and steeper ones. My pace, however, was starting to suffer. Mile 9 was my first mile over goal pace – and it was almost a minute over! Yet I knew that I could still make up for it. I flew down the next hill – well, more like fell upright and was dragged down by the force of gravity. That was a crazy steep downhill!

(photo by Paul Raymond)

10-15 flew by. My pace was significantly slower and I started to realize, after a few miles over goal pace, that making up that time was going to be harder and harder. In fact, after mile 12, I didn’t see a single mile at or under my goal pace. Mentally, I knew that I was slipping away from a BQ. I just knew that I couldn’t make up that much time. I ended up having a really crippling stomach cramp at mile 13 and had to walk it out and massage it. It did go away after about a mile and a half, but that really killed my confidence. I decided right then and there that I needed to drink more. Cramps = dehydration and it being 75 at that point, I was not going to fool around with my safety. I also took the walking opportunity to eat some more of my waffles. Again – it was hard to get them down, but I knew that I had to keep eating if I wanted to finish.

At every water station from that point forward, I took two cups. One to fill my water bottle and one to sip and pour over my head. I was so glad that I carried a water bottle for the race, since it meant that I could be hydrating consistently throughout the race, rather than waiting every 2 miles to get a mouthful.

At 16, green shirt guy caught up with me. I remember him saying, “I was hoping I wouldn’t see you again!” In other words, the fact that he caught up meant that my time goal was shot. I then admit, for the first time out loud: “I’m just here to finish.” And I was finally okay with it.

The heat had been tough to deal with – and I didn’t know the proper way to hydrate, so I drank. A lot. I ended up having to use the porta-potties at the 15k start (almost 18 miles in), then continued on my way. So at least I was well hydrated!

Green shirt guy kept me distracted from the heat and my tired legs by talking – at that point, I just didn’t seem to be able to say much back but I told him that I appreciated his company.

(photo by Paul Raymond)

(photo by Paul Raymond)

At mile 20, I saw my family again. I tell you – they were the best cheerleaders there! A few other runners turned to me and said, “that’s awesome!” I loved having a motivational team there for me – and I’m so grateful for that. My mom yelled, “Kelsey you’re doing so well! You’re ahead of schedule!” Which, I wasn’t. But hearing that she thought I was really helped me out.

Then, almost immediately, the calf cramps began. It was like a sudden and jarring Charley horse in my right calf that just locked it right up and prevented me from extending my leg fully. Green shirt guy had dealt with them before and showed me stretches that I could do to relieve it. It helped a lot. I could get about a half mile out before my calf seized up again. It was frustrating – but in my head I felt calm about it. I knew that I would finish, even if I had to crawl. I also knew that I would be leaving the Sugarloaf Marathon having done as well as my body physically allowed me to do.

I kept drinking too. I didn’t want dehydration to make my calves worse.

At this point, after walking every now and then, it became clear that green shirt guy was going to stay with me until the end. He told me that a marathon is a tough thing to do alone – and that he was grateful for a guy who ran with him for part of his first! I finally asked him what his name was and he replied, “Darren!” NO WAY! My Sugarloaf Marathon angel has the same name as my boyfriend! (I’ll call green shirt guy D2 to avoid confusion.)

When I saw the marker for mile 25, I smiled like I had never smiled before. A spectator who was nearby yelled, “A mile left!” And then added to me, “And with a smile still on, good for you!”

And that mile 25 ended up being the happiest mile. Cars started to line the streets and spectators with them. I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face. I could see the mile marker for 26 not too far ahead and I knew without a doubt that I would finish. I knew that I was less than a mile out from being a marathoner! I kept saying things like, “Unbelievable” and “No way!” and D2 would agree and add, “You’re going to do this!”

(photo by Capstone Photography)

At 26, D2 picked up the pace and turned back to me, “Come on Kelsey! Finish strong! You’ve got this!” I didn’t think I had anything left to give, but apparently I did! I limped through a 6:40 pace (Charley horses and all!) for the final .2 miles. I spotted my family right before I went over the timing mat and just gleamed.

(photo by Paul Raymond)

I crossed that finish line just a lick under 4:00 – a far cry from my original goal, but a finish nonetheless.

Honestly, I expected that moment that I crossed the finish line to be the best moment of my life. I thought that finishing a marathon would be my greatest achievement and that I’d be all smiles for at least a week. It was a magical moment, and my body was so happy to be done – but I was already feeling nostalgic; already missing the run itself. I’m going to be really cheesy for a moment while I try to explain what I was (and still am!) feeling. You know that quote that goes something like, “it’s not about the destination, but about the journey.” That’s exactly how I was feeling. Crossing the finish line symbolized the end of my training, but emotionally, it didn’t carry with it the same power that the past 5 months have cumulatively. I’m unbelievably proud to have run 26.2 consecutive miles, but I would be seriously mistaken if I wasn’t equally as proud to have run over 500 miles – through rain, snow and ice – to train for the darn thing!

It took almost all day for it to finally sink in that I had hit a milestone that I dreamed about for over a year and trained really hard for for over 5 months. I ran a marathon – I became a marathoner on May 17, 2015! I am proud of myself. What I did today is actually amazing – even if it was unbelievably painful!

I feel like this race tested every part of me, physically/mentally/emotionally. You name it. I had to outrun any doubts in my head, because they sure did come up. I had to outrun leg cramps that hindered even my ability to walk and I had to keep running when two of my time goals had already gone by. And yet, when I think back to that marathon, I think about the miles and waving to my family as they drove by. I think about the first half of the race where I was so sure that I was leaving with a BQ. I don’t think about the finish line because I don’t want to be done.

I’ll try anything once – but not necessarily never again! And now after I’ve had over 24 hours to reflect, I’ve decided that I’m definitely going to run another marathon. I’ve finally found something that is truly difficult for me to do, and it makes it all that more enticing. Sugarloaf was an incredible, beautiful and challenging first marathon. But I know that I have a better marathon in me.


  1. I certainly teared up many times throughout this whole post. I am so proud of you! And I can tell how proud you are of yourself. Keep running!

  2. Karen

    So proud of you Kelsey! Your recap was so inspirational!

  3. Amazing job and post, Kelsey! I am in awe of you! Hope your body is recovering and we’ll see you on Friday!

  4. What an accomplishment. Thanks for a great read and congratulations!

  5. What a story Kelsey. Although I have never trained ot participated in a marathon, I have planned many and event that took months of careful thought and planning and then….in a few hours, it is over and you reflect. I am so proud of your accomplishment – and glad that you have found something that challenges you. As long as it is challenging fun, and your body holds up – YOU GO GIRL!!! Keep running.
    Love You!!!!

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