#RaceRecap: Shipyard Maine Coast Marathon

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Hope you enjoyed my recap of the Shipyard Maine Coast Half Marathon. If you missed it, check out my recap.

Just to refresh, I ran both the Shipyard Maine Coast Marathon and Half Marathon as part of their 39.3 challenge. I originally would’ve just run the marathon, but when I learned about the added challenge I set a goal and am thrilled to say I completed both races.

Now, on to my recap of the marathon!

The marathon is a point-to-point course starting in Kennebunk, Maine, traveling through Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Biddeford and ends at the same finish line as the half marathon on the campus of UNE Biddeford. The bulk of the marathon course was completely new to participants as only the latter few miles of it overlapped with the half marathon course. This meant plenty of new scenery to enjoy!

Like the half marathon, the marathon was mostly flat with some minor hills. The only one that proved to be really tough was at mile 24ish. It just felt really, really long.

Prior to the race I checked out the course preview video, course map and the elevation chart.

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As you can see, the marathon course offered a lot of chances for beautiful ocean views. Thankfully the weather had changed just a bit since the day before. It was in the 50s for most of the race and the sun was mostly behind the clouds making for pretty perfect running conditions, at least in my opinion.

I had originally thought I would ride the shuttle bus from the finish to the start, but my friend offered to drop me off, drive back to the finish and ride his bike along the course. It worked out really nicely and meant I could leave the apartment a little later.

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The start line was in front of Kennebunk High School. We were able to hang out outside the school to stretch and warmup before the closed the street. The race offered lockers for people who wanted to check their bags, which was a nice plus if you needed it. Those lockers then met you at the finish.

After moving into the starting corrals, I positioned myself back near the 4:45 pacers with the hope of eventually catching up to the 4:15 pacer. My goal was to finish between 4 and 4:30. I’d be happy with any time in that range. I realize that’s a large gap, but my PR is a 4:10 and that was without running a half the day before.

I met a few other women in the start area who were running their first marathons. They were nervous, but excited and their main goal was to finish. I told them to just soak in the experience as there’s nothing quite like your first marathon.

The roads were closed for the first bit of the course before they reopened to car traffic. I thought there was plenty of room for runners between the side of the road and the sidewalk especially in the first few miles. We did snarl traffic, but I noticed the race had signs up that were clearly up for a few days warning locals of the impact the race would have on traffic patterns.

One of the things I enjoyed along both courses and just being up in Maine was the architecture. The cedar shingles on many homes, both new and weathered, really are beautiful. The style of the homes and many buildings is just quintessentially New England. One really neat example of exquisite architecture was the Wedding Cake House. We passed it maybe around mile 3. It caused quite a bit of rubbernecking by runners.

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We passed through the cute town center of Kennebunkport twice. There were tons of spectators too and they were so loud and supportive. After our first pass through we got out first ocean views along mile 7 before heading back into town. We crossed a waterway in town and it, too, offered a beautiful and serene scene to take in as we ran.

13232994_10110790979357754_6211840498494562754_nMiles 10 and 11 saw us  back along the shoreline before turning to head inland.

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I finally crossed paths with my friend Scott at the halfway mark. He had ridden his bike back, which seemed to be a popular thing to do for many spectators. Having those people on bikes and moving along in cars, while I’m sure did add a bit more traffic to the roads, it ensured that there were spectators just about everywhere. I appreciated it!

Scott brought his fancy camera along and ended up taking a lot of fun photos along the latter half of the course and at the finish. It was also nice to have a friendly face along the way.

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We didn’t start overlapping with the half marathon course until somewhere around the 22 mile mark. With different weather than the day before, it changed the views a bit and it honestly felt like you were seeing the area for the first time.

I finally decided to take a break to walk around 24.5 where we hit the long hill. I felt pretty good, but my feet and knees were getting to be a bit sore. I walked for a bit and then at the water station at the top of the hill I picked it up and ran the final 1.2.

One of the cutest of the themed water stations was in the final mile. It was a very patriotic group and the little girls were so sweet and excited to see us runners. One even appeared to be dressed as Hilary Clinton.

As with the half there is one final climb to get to the last .2 and then it’s easy. I was even thrilled to find I still was able to speed up to the finish. The final stretch was packed with spectators cheering for everyone.

At the finish after getting both of my medals, I then picked up my finisher’s jacket. It’s quite nice and actually worked a lot better at keeping me warm than one of the foil blankets would have. The weather was starting to change over my last few miles. It never rained, but it certainly started to get windy.

The food tent once again did not disappoint. I grabbed a piece of pizza, cookies, watermelon, a banana, and some pretzels to go with water. Scott and I sat on the grass for a bit watching people finish before finally heading home.

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Since the weather was kinda crappy, I opted to return to the course Wednesday morning to get some photos on my own. It was a beautiful sunny morning so that’s why the sun is out in all my pictures. It was not on race day.

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I ended up stopping in Kennebunkport while driving around and doing a little shopping. I love shopping small and supporting local businesses. It was nice to get a few things to take home, a delicious iced chai from a local coffee shop and some taffy for my coworkers.

I think it’s obvious that I loved this race, both days! It was so well done and so organized. It was a smaller race, but offered amenities that even some of the biggest races can’t even offer. I felt they really put the runners first. I hope to come back and run one or both of the races again sooner rather than later. The race really was quite the advertisement for the Maine Coast and let’s just say I’m sold!

Have you ever run a race in Maine? If not, where was one of your favorite races that you hope to return to again? 

#RaceRecap – Shipyard Maine Coast Half Marathon

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Wow, I’m still on a high after my races and extended stay in Portland, Maine. This is why it’s been over a week and I’m just now doing my recaps. Since I did two races as part of the 39.3 challenge, I’ll have a second recap for the marathon soon. For now, here’s all about the Shipyard Maine Coast Half Marathon!

Prior to this trip I had never been to Maine. I have an ongoing quest to visit all 50 states and I had yet to complete New England. I was able to knock out my final two New England states with this trip to Maine with not only a drive through part of Maine on the way to and from, but also a hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Two longtime friends of mine are currently calling Portland, Maine home. I’d been wanting to get up to visit them before they moved again so when I started researching I thought it might be fun to have the trip coincide with a race. In my search I found the Shipyard Maine Coast Marathon, Half Marathon, 39.3 Challenge and Busom Buddy Relay. I decided to go all-in and sign up for the 39.3 challenge, running the half on Saturday, May 14 and the full on Sunday, May 15.

This race has a pretty interesting history. It was ran from 1980-1987, but took a hiatus until 2012. It’s grown steadily each year since. Both courses are USATF certified and the full can be used as a Boston qualifier.

Several aspects drew me to this event. First, it’s on the smaller side of races. The half had 1,500 runners, while the full was just under 900 runners. Both races did sell out several weeks ahead of time. I also appreciated the fact that through the years they’ve surveyed their participants and made adjustments based on what runners want/like most. For example, a shirt is not included in registration, but race photos, a mobile tracking app, personalized video from the half, two complimentary beers (after each race), medals for both races, and more are included. 39.3 finishers even get  three medals and a jacket once they complete the challenge. I opted later to buy a shirt because I loved the race logo, it was a nice tech-t, a unique color, and only $12. Other merchandise was also available including finisher’s jackets for both the half and full, beer mugs, and more.

The race offered a small expo starting Friday and going all through to Sunday. I grabbed a new pair of socks and arm warmers at a nice discounted price while picking up my bibs and shirt. They also had an awesome woodcarving at the race location where multitudes of runners stopped to grab their picture.

Leading up to the event and during, race officials were very knowledgable and communicative about the events and all details relating to it. Parking for the half marathon was at the start/finish and was very easy to find. The race officials were also very upfront about the weather. You just don’t know what’s going to happen on race day until you’re there, especially during springtime in Maine.

On Saturday morning, the race started at 8 am on the campus of UNE Biddeford. The sun was shining and you could tell it would be a warm day. Since Portland is about 30 minutes north, I arrived at 7 am to allow time to park, stretch, and warm-up. I had no trouble parking and relaxed while setting up their free runner tracking app. More on the RaceJoy app later.

Runners were seeded into waves based on expected finish times. Since I was running another 26.2 miles the next day I didn’t want to push it too hard in the half. I was seeded in Wave 1, but opted for Wave 2 so I’d be less likely to go out too fast. The “gun” was actually a conch shell, so that added something unique to the start of the race.

Wave 2 started 3 minutes after the first wave. The course headed out onto Rt. 9 before we eventually turned to head toward the coast.

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The course was mostly flat, with just a few minor hills here to there. The course was not closed to traffic, but for the most part it was relatively quiet on that morning. The scenery was simply stunning. I stopped early to take a photo, but soon realized I’d just have to drive back afterwards to take photos because there was just so much to see. Maine’s coast is truly a sight to behold. My pictures just don’t do it justice.

The volunteers and aid station workers were all great, as well as the local police who helped with traffic. The relay exchange seemed to be pretty smooth when I passed through that area, which was also the start of a looped section and had an aid station. It was a lot going on in a small area, but no one seemed confused.

Mile 11 has a long, gradual hill but nothing overly taxing. There’s another hill near the end of mile 12 when you’re back on campus. The last .1 has you running through a tunnel under Rt. 9 onto a blue painted track to the finish. I was really impressed with the number of spectators throughout the course, but especially at the finish line. Everyone cheered for you even if they didn’t know you. Thanks to names on the bibs, they could even cheer for you by name. It was a nice plus!

I finished in 1:54, which I was certainly pleased with on such a warm day. At the finish the volunteers hand you your medal and offer you a reusable branded water bottle already filled for you. I thought that was a uniquely sustainable idea. From there it’s a short walk to the food tent where there was VitaCoco, pizza, KIND bars, fruit, bagels, pretzels, cookies, and more. I personally loved the fresh cut watermelon!

I hung out to stretch in the sun on the grass watching people finish for a bit. I didn’t want to drive out on the course when it would still be crowded with runners.

Eventually I made my way to my car (a short walk) and headed out on the course to grab some photos.

This was on a looped section around mile 9. The rocky coast and blue, blue water was beautiful.

This was on a looped section around mile 9. The rocky coast and blue, blue water was beautiful.

There were plenty of places to take pics with my medal too. At high tide these rocks are covered in water.

There were plenty of places to take pics with my medal too. At high tide these rocks are covered in water.

As mentioned earlier, the race provides free race photos. It’s always an added bonus when you actually like some of them.

You can sorta glimpse the beautiful coastal setting we were running past.

You can sorta glimpse the beautiful coastal setting we were running past.

After day 1 I was thrilled with how things had gone. They really just did an outstanding job with the organization and flow. I would definitely recommend this event to someone looking for a vacation race. I was a bit more sore than I was expecting, but it was nothing a foam roller and some more stretching didn’t help with. Despite a relatively active afternoon after the race, I was able to rehydrate and refuel well.

One big positive about being in the Maine Coast area in mid-May is that most tourists don’t start arriving until Memorial Day so it’s like the calm before the storm! After the race, I joined my friends for lunch at the Portland Lobster Company in Old Port and grabbed ice cream at Beal’s, a local favorite.

One other thing I wanted to touch on that I mentioned earlier was the RaceJoy app. The app allowed your supporters, whether on site or not, to track your progress on the course thanks to their timing mats. However, if you chose to carry your phone and activate the gps tracking, they would get progress updates almost every mile. I decided to test out that feature on Saturday in the half and it worked well so I used it again during the full. Your family and friends can also send you “cheers.” While I had my volume off, I was able to listen to the cheers after the fact. It was pretty fun. My friends all really enjoyed the updates too!

I’ll be back soon with my recap of the marathon. Stay tuned!