Latest reviews by Brendan
I started running a year ago at the Newburyport Half Marathon. Near the anniversary of that run, I found my way to the starting line in Kennebunk, ME @ the Shipyard Maine Coastal Marathon. This was my first marathon and I was joined by roughly 800 of my best friends (or just fellow runners)! It was cold (around 45 degrees) & the sun was popping in and out. As we lined up to run the temps started to rise and the sun peeked out not to disappear again!
So let's focus on the positives of this race
1. Scenery: It was simply amazing running along the coast and through the towns. Kennebunk was a treat especially. Overall, there was plenty of "distraction" along the route to help in getting me to the finish line.
2. Challenging: For a first time marathoner such as this writer, the up and down of the route took its toll on my legs. My biggest fault I had training wise was the relatively flat terrain I ran day in and day out leading up to this race. Next time I need to add more hills to the said training. According to my SmashRun data, there was 732ft of climbing on the route and 756ft on the downside.
3. Organization: This race was organized extremely well and had many wonderful volunteers along those route! From the bus ride from the finish line to the starting line to the bib pickup, it was organized very well.The police in each town kept the traffic at bay and much of the route was run along roads that were not that busy to start with.
4. Great Fans! This route did not have bands playing and on many turns did not have a single supporter but it was great where the people were. They were all very nice and had supportive words for the runners. Typical good spirited Maine people!
5. Support and aid stations: Every two miles there was water and Gatorade which was extremely helpful to this first time runner. I did not partake in the food though I think in hindsight, I might have taken in the jelly beans versus the gu shots I used - compared to previous races, the gu just did not have the same effect...
As for the negatives of the Maine Coastal Marathon
1. The Goods: There was not much for this race in terms of "goods." Yes, one gets a great medal for finishing but at all the other races, there were other "swag" and this race basically had none. Perhaps I missed something...I am unsure. Also went looking for garb like a jacket or something and what they had was not that great. The post race food spread was good but honestly, I could not eat after that run!
2. Race Tracking: The race organizers used the Racejoy folks to track the runners. The new feature for me was the live tracking but one needed to have their phone on them to be tracked (which I don't run with). I have a Garmin watch but that too needed to be tethered to my phone to be tracked as well so what was left for my family was to follow me through the racejoy app on a delayed basis and was it delayed! My wife could not find me using the app as It was reporting my distance almost 7 miles behind! It was pretty much a disaster in that regard. Thankfully we met up at the preset location that we spoke of beforehand which prevented any more aggravation!
Now let's talk about the Race itself!
Beginning just ho hum but the rest is great! (except for Route 9)
The race for the most part was rolling hills and intense scenery. Upon reviewing the preface video of the course (click here for that video) the first four miles were a blur to me. Perhaps the excitement of running my first marathon kept me from actually focusing on my surroundings! Honestly though for the first few miles, there is not much to look at compared to what follows along the coast. At the same time, there were plenty of great people cheering us along the beginning! My focus primarily was on my pace as I figured if I maintained a 9 minute pace, then I would be fine later (wishful thinking). So by mile four, as we entered Kennebunk, nothing really stood out other than the slight up and down of the road (which added to my overall incline and decline stats at the end of the day).
Around mile 6 is when the scenery and views arrive with a bang! It is tremendous as you come around a bend and all of a sudden, there is the ocean! There is actually a turn at Kennebunk beach that looks awfully similar to another point later in the race up near Biddeford Poole - in fact, I thought I was losing my mind when I came to the latter thinking I was bonking or something.."haven't I seen this before?" Thankfully that was not the case! In any event, once you get through much of mile 7, you start heading back inland towards Kennebunk's center.
This was a particular spot that I like running through. Lots of people and excitement it seemed. I also saw my own family driving by here as they were heading for the aforementioned spot listed above. The one drawback here is that you are basically running on the sidewalk because of the traffic. Nobody gets in the way but it is a tight squeeze so obviously not a good place to pass anyone! It is a great town though and you can see all the little shops bustling with people and spectators.
Once you leave the center, you then run along the "bay" of sorts. At mile 10 is when you come back to the massive scenery of this race. This is where the "rolling" hills return to the forefront as there is more climbing than falling at this point. With the views around you though, it is not very apparent. You will pass by the Bush compound around mile 11 and then head back inland. Again, small ups and downs and not much to see around this point except trees and houses.
Once passing mile 14, you get on route 9 which was my nemesis on this race! There are stretches where there is nothing to see here. The first part of 9 was not bad though around mile 15, that is when the legs started to feel the pain of having run, well 15 miles! The next 3 miles remain on route 9 and it gets a bit old at this point. I was also starting to feel the burn if you will (and not the Bernie Sanders type). At mile 18, you get off of 9 thankfully and head back toward the ocean. The race spends the next few miles heading towards and then away from the ocean, back unfortunately towards route 9. That is where my legs started to really hurt, around mile 20.
Miles 20 through 22 are brutal because there is nothing to look at except for an old road and sand along the side. The cars are flying by and attempting to pass on the outside is not recommended. Passing on the inside leads to one having to trudge through the sand of the side of the road. It was just a killer to me at this point and this is when my music was not even helping. It was tough! However, at mile 22, you head off rt 9 and head towards the last four miles which is very scenic - that did not matter much to me though as I was really hurting.
My de ja vu moment occurred right at mile 23 when all of a sudden I thought I was back in Kennebunk! The views to the beach here though were just astounding and fantastic! (on a side note, I was told by my wife that this is part of Old Orchard Beach btw). The rest of the way once leaving the beach is rolling hills on the way to University of New England. The run through the campus is pretty nice under a bridge and one finishes up running along the track.
So overall from a rating perspective, I would rate this highly! At the same time, I have never run a marathon before so I don't have anything to compare it to. I will say that the 10k I ran last year in Rye was pretty good on the scenery side but this was better. The winds were tough at times but can you expect otherwise when running along the coast?
So that's about all I have for this race.
Thank you for reading and hopefully this is helpful
Earlier this week, I shared with you some insights on the Seacoast Half Marathon. Today, let’s dig deeper into this scenic (and cold) race. First, let’s review the bullet points from the post on Monday.
Cold, Cold and Windy: It was cold at the beginning, especially in the shade, warmed up as the race got going and then got cold and very windy on the backstretch. It is November after all!
My Watch versus the official Time: I run with a Garmin 220 and for the race, I was instantly “off” in regards to distance and the time. I actually started the time early and still ended up with time that was lower than the official one. Strange.
Volunteers: Once again, great volunteers for this race. Every one that I came across was helpful and supportive.
The Course: Not particularly difficult but the last 2 miles were all wind and then there was a 100 yard steep climb which is a killer when you have run 12+ miles. Also I made the mistake of not preparing for it ahead of time (going to fast in front of it) so getting up was a challenge.
Pacers: I came to appreciate their job today. They need to stay at the same pace for 13.1 miles. I know that I could not do it!
Organization: The Runners Alley running shop up in Portsmouth was a sponsor and handled the handouts of the bibs the day before. Quick and easy is the best way to describe it. Also “running only”shops are truly great to visit (the Greater Boston Running store is my local one). They offer advice and insights that you do not get at the larger box stores. Invaluable advice!
Ok, so before jumping further into this, let’s put a few other facts out there first. This was my fifth race since May. I have now done 3 halfs, a 10k and the Reach the Beach relay. These are my “samples” for comparison sake. In addition to this, my previous races were all done with ASIC GT 2000 3s. This one was done in Hoka’s. Lastly, I had a plan in place for this race which I did not have experience to do so for the first 2 halfs I had run. That plan helped me attain an PR. With that out of the way, let’s begin!
Compared to the sample of races I have run, this race was generally the same as the others in that it was open with only one spot where everyone had to run in single file. The course had a hill near the beginning with some “ok” ups and downs in between. At the end there was a steep climb that was just a killer for me because I did not research the copies ahead of time (at least the end of the course, I drove the former). It was about a half mile before the finish which just killed my chance for a sub 1:40 time.
The views of the course were outstanding. Running along the Wallis beach for a segment and then along the bay over bridges on the back end supported the “Seacoast” in the name of the race. In between the neighborhoods were peaceful and the traffic was nonexistent. The race organizers said that traffic could be a problem (as they argued not to war earbuds) but it turned out to be an non issue. All along the route, there were people cheering, bands playing music (one was playing the “Rocky” theme song which gave us a push) and plenty of people handing out gu shots and water. Overall, there was plenty to see and listen to.
The starting line and finish lines were located in different spots but not too far apart (about 300 yards). The starting line was kind of crowded and I am unsure why. The street was wide enough but I still found myself on the sidewalk. Perhaps everyone was jamming to the front? In any event, not a big deal. Another point that was confusing were the placement of the mile markers – in some cases they were off by almost a .25/mile. Kind of problematic and some were complaining. They also did not exist in the last three miles. Again, not a problem for me as I had a watch but others were not happy.
The one constant of every race that I have run is this: the volunteers always give there best and are tremendously supportive. This race was no different! There were great people at the start and finish and all along the route. This race truly had community support! Those working the post race food area were very nice as well. If I had questions, they all had answers. As for bib pickup, sponsor Runners Alley made it easy and quick.
Within the race, the pacers were out there working hard. They have a tough job, in my opinion, running the same pace the whole time. They don’t slowdown and they generally have a tribe of runners with them (myself was one of them). I latched onto the 8min/mile pacer and it helped me right till the end. Some who finished before me said that the pacers were off on their time though I did not pay attention to such.
So I spoke about the course, how about the starting line and finish line – all at the Portsmouth HS. The use of the school was great because the temps were low. Having a place to change and get ready in warm temps helped greatly. Stiff muscles were stretched out easily and one did not have to stand outside in the cold for that long. Again having access to real bathrooms was HUGE as well! That is something the previous races I had run this year did not have (the RTB had a few locations with real bathrooms but that race is 200 miles).
The post race setup was also at the High School. It was simply great going into a warm building, grabbing some grub (great selection of bagels, pizza, bananas, yogurt and Mexican food). The race did not have the selection of junk food that the other halfs and I am unsure if it had beer (I left after eating). But it satisfied my post race needs! I don’t normally stick around at the end of these races if I do not not anyone so I could have missed somethings.
Last topic: bling. The post race had very good food offerings, each runner was met with a water and medal and each got a long sleeve running shirt as well (at pickup the day before at Runners Alley). There was a pedometer/radio in the back which seems outdated to me but my daughter was happy to take it! Otherwise, there was not much bling. The race entry fee was not that high so this is probably what is expected (in a recent #Bibchat on Twitter, some races give out to runners some pretty awesome things from the spnsors).
All told, this was a great race to partake in. The positives were many and the negatives were few. If I did not have a rule against running the same race twice, I would be signing up again for next years now! But that should not stop you from signing up!
Thanks for reading
I have many goals for this blog and one of them is to educate others on my mishaps, experiences and anything else that happens as I venture around from place to place. In addition, I would like this journal to make me a better runner because what is better than posting one’s mishaps to the world, right? Anyhow, this post is not about mistakes but about the Saunders Rye Harbor 10k which took place last night in Rye, NH.
Now to set the background of this race, as the pictures here show, the area is amazingly scenic with plenty of shoreline to see. There is one point on route 1a when coming around the bend entering North Hampton that it looks like one is driving into the ocean! Just great views all around. As a result of this beauty, I signed up for the Rye Harbor 10k – nothing like running with plenty to look at! (Now for clarification, you run along shoreline bit near the harbor and not the mansions or this bend – just trying to give you an idea of the beauty of Rye)
So as I ventured up 95 last night on my way to the race, awaiting a paradise of great views, a thick fog cloud moved down towards me, south on the highway. In fact, this fog embraced the whole coast and what I hoped to see while running 6.25 miles, was well…hidden by the fog. That was a bummer because as I drove the route the night before to get a flavor for it, I was expecting a great run and plenty to see. Instead my focus had to be on…well running!
So with the scenery hidden by the fog, let’s discuss the race. First, the course is flat except for one smallish hill near the 3.5 mile mark. It’s steapness did not bother me too much but with the group of people I was pacing with, it took out a portion of them thinning the number of people running with around me. The rest of the course from there had a slightly downhill tilt to it and that sort of unwound the pain that was incurred running up this smallish hill. The last 1.75 miles is along the coastline and ideal if you are kicking it into overdrive as it is very straight. There is two curves at the end with a tight narrow lane to run down but once you make it through there, time to kick it into overdrive and finish up the last 1/3rd mile.
Here are a few other tid bits to consider as well
– The start is packed and I was able to go up the outside to get in front of the pack. I did not start slow as it was only a 10k (vs the half marathons which have a different strategy) and pushed my target pace from the start. That worked out well.
– I had mixed emotions about taking water because I was trying to run hard and did not want to sacrifice my shot at breaking 8 min per mile. Each time I did get water, i barely could drink it was I was running at a high pace (for me). This in hindsight, I should have just skipped these as they just slowed me down. Plus again it was only a 10k.
– The last mile was confusing to me. At 5.25 miles on my watch and on my phone, the race organizers had the 5 mile mark posted. I am unsure if they mad a mistake or they were going for “1 mile left” type thinking. Or perhaps both of my devices were wrong?
In terms of the organization of the race, it was well managed and the people who were doing the managing, were great. Now, keep in mind that this is my third race of the year so perhaps I don’t share the perspectives of a seasoned vet but all the volunteers I encountered were great to me at every turn and answered all of my questions. The announcer was especially entertaining as he made a comment on each runner as they approached or crossed the finish line.
In regards to how I did, I would say this first: I hate running at night! Over the past 9 months, one thing has been constant with my running performance – in the mornings, after running 7 miles, I feel great. At night, after 6.25 miles, I felt like crap! Ok, I realize that the sleep variable is coming into play here but still. And with Reach the Beach coming next month and one of my legs will be done at night, I guess I should start focusing on improving this end of my running. Though as I complain here, I still ran my best 10k time ever and from an overall performance standpoint, I killed it! But it still hurt!
So what’s left? Well here are some random thoughts to close out this review.
– Trolly setup could have been better: basically the Trolley driver had to manuever through many people getting into the main area and out. I realize that perhaps this was not an necessarily ideal location for a Trolley, but perhaps some thinking should be done to make it easier so he does not end up hitting anyone by accident.
– Water and Gatorade setup: The people managing this put out a wagon that was full of ice, water and Gatorade. It was located to the right as you entered the post race area and was easy as heck to get a drink.
– Goodies: They had the normal post race goodies but there is one thing I would have added…a cliff bar or something alike. The half marathons that I ran earlier this year both featured a power bar type company sponsor. Might be a nice addition for next year if they could get such!
– How about a half marathon? There is enough beach line to setup a half marathon in this area. Running by the mansions would be great and that turn that looks like you are going into the water would be just outstanding.
So that is my review of the race. Feel free to comment on the story and share your feedback!
Thanks for reading
On Saturday I completed my second half marathon up in Portland, Maine. The “Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon” was tougher than my first in Newburyport, Massachusetts and given that it took place this past Saturday, featured much higher temps and humidity than the previous race. Even though it was tougher, it was also a great run featuring hills and great views from the Western Prom to the Eastern Prom and everything in between.
So with that said, I figured this “newbie” would share a few thoughts on the race just in case you are considering it next year. Before getting into great detail on how I ran the race, here are some thoughts off the top
Crowded at the Start: When I ran the half marathon in Newburyport in May, there was only 900 runners and the starting line was the full width of the street. For the Old Port, the running lane was half that distance off the start and three were almost 3000 runners. The crowd did not break up for the most part till we crossed pass a mile under the bridge.
Scenic: This race had great views of Casco and Back Bays. Running through the Old port by itself was nice too. Some commented on the smell of fish but that didn’t seem to bother me much. Part of the race!
Awesome Volunteers: Everyone I spoke to at this race was very helpful (though that is the nature of most people from Maine). Plenty of water stations were helpful though the one at the 1/2 mile mark left in the racewas curious to me (after they had one at the 1 mile mark too).
After Race Party had many options: Afterward there was pizza, beer, goodies and watermelon. Plenty of water and everything you need to recover and get a sugar high.
Tons of “potty” options: if you needed to go to the bathroom before during or after the race, there were plenty options out there for you. The one’s on the course did not smell that good when running by them but what are you going to do….
Parking was Good: I got there at 610 and parked in my customary lot a block up from the ferry terminal. There seemed to be plenty of parking but best to get here early. And while I did not stay at a hotel, there are plenty of those in the Old Port as well if you do not want to drive day of the race.
Now, with the general comments out there for you to read, let’s review the actual race!
At the Beginning: As mentioned at the opening of this note, the starting line was crowded! My plan coming in was to start slow (run about 1 minute lighter than pace), get thrPictureough the first set of hills and ramp up afterward. Well, due to the amount of people packed into a small travel lane on commercial street in the old port, the first mile was very slow! Things finally opened up once we crossed under the bridge but that was .75 miles into the race.
Climbing the Western Prom. Using my Garmin app, the climb looked imposing with a total climb of 150ft over less than a 1 mile area. After running it, I can tell you it was not that bad. I have walked hills in the past but this time around, I just ran slower when it got steeper. Right or wrong it worked for me!
Steep Decline: The road following this climbup the Western Prom declines gradually and then suddenly drops hard back onto Commercial Street. This was not so bad but running down hills has always bothered me as I have popped calves doing so. So while the race organizers said this area is a way to make up for the climb up the Western Prom, I would not say it makes up a major amount of time you lost by climbing earlier!
Flat for a while…then climb!: The next stretch puts you back into the old port and onto the second half of the race along the water and towards the Eastern Prom. This area does have a hill as well and it is more steep…just not as long as the climb done earlier. This stretch of the race was hard though because there are few trees and lots of sun! In fact it took me a minute to get back up to my pace.
Downhill and then Get together!: As one goes forward, the road will then bend down but the next mile is about 8 feet wide along the highway and then a trail. It is hard to pass anyone and there will be people coming the other way so look out! That was particularly frustrating as some runners, as was there right, walked along this stretch and what you were left with was a traffic jam! When I looked at my pace figures for that stretch, they were about a minute higher which is frustrating when one is trying to break 2 hours!
Around Back Bay: The next 3 miles were around Back Bay and aside from the tight squeeze that we all had to endure at the beginning, there was plenty of open space this stretch to pass people when needed. I will say that it was hot running around this area given the lack of tree coverage.
The Stretch Run: Now when we left back bay and crossed back onto the path we would take for the final 2 miles, I was thinking “ok time to kick it into gear.” Well, I kicked it into gear and in hindsight, it was a bad idea! With about a mile to go, there was a short loop and then two short hills to climb – they were very short but they felt very long! I guess when you have run 12 miles, that is the feeling you get. Add in NO TREES and all open sun, you get a bunch of people passing out and a tough finish!
Overall, while I have my qualms about the race in parts, it was well worth the journey and while I may not do it again next year (thinking I will try a different one for diversification sake), I recommend this to anyone looking for a scenic race, great people and a challenge.