Shipyard Maine Coast Half Marathon could have easily been a PR, given the right conditions — it’s the flattest race I’ve run in the northeast. By far! Although my friend Trudy and I were arguing about that on Saturday — she thought it was hilly; Mr. Judy heard other runners saying it was hilly. What can I say? I’ve done some seriously hilly halfs and this was not one of them!
Shipyard Maine Coast Half Marathon could have been a fun race, with the right support.Nothing is more frustrating than going into what could have been a fun race, and due to circumstances beyond your control (mostly), it was not fun. At all. Well, only half fun.
I am not talking about my finish time, either, because when I toed the line for Shipyard Maine Coast Half Marathon, I already knew it wasn’t going to be a PR (although you’re still always hopeful at the start), and I was prepared to go with the flow, one of my goals for 2016.
So here’s the short version: weather forecasters’ epic fail, too hot, not enough water, not enough shade all came together in the perfect storm to create a half marathon that was only half fun.
Read on for the long version, aka everything you wanted to know about Shipyard Maine Coast Half Marathon but no one ever tells you.
Packet Pickup was in a tent at New England University, which also happened to be both the start and finish line — and I’m sad to say, it was a bit disorganized. Not terrible, but could have been better — which was probably rather telling about this race.
There’s a very narrow lane into the parking lot, and people were parking on both sides of this very narrow lane, while other cars (including us) were trying to go in and trying to leave. I understand that it would probably be difficult to have volunteers directing traffic for packet pickup, but it would have been helpful. Very helpful.
Inside there was an area with computers to look up your bib number if you didn’t remember it (I didn’t), and then there were clearly marked lines for bibs 1-600, 600-1000, and so on.
There wasn’t enough room for the people who had just picked up their bibs to easily get back out of the line. The bibs in the boxes didn’t have any kind of dividers, and it took longer than it felt it should have for the volunteer to find your bib.
This particular race doesn’t include any swag (that I knew of) with your entry, which I actually like. Most swag is pretty useless. It didn’t even include a tee — which I also like. It did include an option to buy a tee, or hat, jacket, etc. I bought a glass beer stein (despite the fact I don’t drink beer; I figure it will be good for smoothies).
If you purchased some sort of race memorabilia, you went and got into another line, but that one seemed to move a lot faster.
There were girls putting on the bracelets for you beer — you know, the 2 beers you get after the race the next day? So either you had to wear the bracelet (like a hospital bracelet) all night, or you had to have your ID with you. I brought my ID with me, but I don’t drink so I never needed it.
There was also a very small expo, which included most of the usual suspects in case you forgot something. I perused it, but bought nothing.
My Race Plan
I had targeted about 2:40ish for this race if everything was in my favor, which worked out to approximately a 12 mm pace. My plan was to start at about 12:20 and hopefully have negative splits.
Until the forecast changed from 59 and rainy to 63 (at the start) and sunny. I mentally adjusted my plan to account for the heat. I added about 10 seconds per mile, hoping to start at 12:30 and maybe aim for negative splits. My last half was an average pace of 12:20ish — on a much cooler day, but also
insanely extremely windy and hilly.
- Mile 1: 12:29. Right where I wanted to be.
- Mile 2: 11:54. Pretty flat, probably a bit too fast. First water stop. I think it was around here that someone actually recognized me from your blog — I’m sorry, I’m not sure who you are! Had I known you’d be there, I would have tried to meet up with you before the race.
- Mile 3: 12:23. Still probably a bit fast, but I was actually holding back.
- Mile 4: 12:22. Still making sure that I kept an easy pace. Second water stop.
- Mile 5: 12:33. A water stop about halfway between miles 5 and 6 and I took a couple of Hammer Electrolyte pills.
- Mile 6: 12:27. Chugging along.
- Mile 7: 12:09. The only thing I can figure out here is this must have been downhill.
- Mile 8: 13:20. The water stop had no cups, and this is where the wheels came off.
- Mile 9: 13:29. I stopped looking at my Garmin. I wasn’t feeling quite right, although I couldn’t explain to you what exactly was wrong. Obviously dehydration.
- Mile 10: 13:42. I decided I would just concentrate on running in my run intervals, and walking in my walk intervals. I was beginning to wonder if I would have to run the last 5 miles with no water at all. A couple of more electrolyte pills, and I started to have some of the PB filled pretzel nuggets I’d brought throughout the last few miles, even though I wasn’t hungry.
- Mile 11: 13:27. Probably more downhills.
- Mile 12: 14:45. And probably more uphills — and most likely a water stop, but the damage was already done. And girl down — was I rubbernecking? She already had people around her helping.
- Last .1: 13:29. I summoned the energy to sprint to the finish line and sprinted right past the girl next to me.
2:51:16 — Official Time
13:04 Average Pace
Not close to my time goal, but met the other two important criteria: I finished, pain free — definitely a BOTP race for me.
I never ran longer than a 10 mile training run for this race, but I did about three of them and about three 9 mile runs. I think I did a very good job on my prepartion.
I think I ran a very smart race. Did I still start too fast? I actually don’t think I did. You can see that for the first 7 miles I was keeping a good pace. Right up until that missed water stop. I’m sure that effected me mentally, but I think it effected me even more physically.
I think what is so disappointing about this race, aside from that water stop, is that it is almost exactly the same time as my Heartbreak Hill half — a far warmer and hillier race.
Doing run/walk intervals really helped, though. Unlike ZOOMA Annapolis (also hotter, hillier, and more humid), I never quite gave up. Sure, I slowed down so a fast walker could easily pass me, but I kept running in my run intervals until the bitter end.
The weather & dressing
We left on Wednesday; the race was on Saturday. On Tuesday the forecast was for cloudy, a high of 59 for the day, and a small chance for rain.
The outfit was comfortable and there was no chafing, but I was definitely overdressed for the weather. Nothing I could do about that — thank you, useless weather forecasters (yes, I am bitter about that).
Was the race well run?
Everything I’d read about this race said it was well organized. I wish I could tell you that it was, but it just wasn’t, at least not from my BOTP (back of the pack) perspective. From start to finish, there is major room for improvement.
- The race started late, although it was only a few minutes late. But on a hot day, every minute counts. I was in the fifth (last) wave, but in the front, and I actually started with the back of the fourth wave. My wave was supposed to start at 8:12; my actual start time according to my Garmin was 8:15, but remember I started with the back of the wave ahead of mine.
- Although I knew the race was open to traffic, what I didn’t know was a large portion of the race is run on narrow roads with no shoulder. Just think about that for a moment.
- Often we were directed to run on the right side of the road, so we were running with traffic on narrow roads with no shoulder. Why? There were runners on both sides of the road anyway.
- We weren’t always instructed by the volunteers to run on the right side of the road.
- Running out of cups on a hot day? It’s just inexcusable, and it’s not the first time it’s happened to me, either. It did not happen to my speedy friend running the race, either.
- And speaking of water, water stops every 2 miles wasn’t enough. At least not on a hot day. It basically ruined my race. I don’t mind not meeting my time goal, but I was definitely dehydrated and it just didn’t have to be that way. Running dehydrated is not fun, no matter how “cool” the scenery is.
- I got a text immediately after the race with a link to my results, and that should be a good thing, right? Well, it would have been if the link were actually clickable. For some reason not all of the link was made clickable, which meant you had to manually type in the URL. It wasn’t just me, either — again, my friend had the same problem, although she thought it was just her phone (not).
- Race photos are free, and were supposed to be up with 5 business days. Which they were, sort of, not that they actually told you. I actually checked the Website on Friday and Saturday mornings, but the only photos were from 2015. Okay, they’re free, after all, and I do like that. When I saw my friend Trudy Saturday she said the were up. There was a link on the FB page, but only because someone asked. As I’m finishing this up, there is still no link on the Website to the photos, more than a week after the race, and I didn’t receive an email telling me they’re ready. But again, free.
I can’t speak to the after race food — I was too tired to check it out. I just wanted to eat some salty snacks I’d brought with me, and got out of the sun.
I probably would have overlooked all of the above if the weather had been better and I’d enjoyed the race more. In fact, Vegas 2011 had a lot of problems — but it was my first, most didn’t really effect me, and I definitely still look at it with affection.
I don’t regret running Shipyard Maine Coast Half, and even a small part of me wishes I had the time to run it again — and hope for nice weather. I seriously think this race could have been a PR for me under different circumstances.
I am finished with state #10, finished with New England, 1/5 of the way through all the states. I finished running and with no injuries — and those are always my top two goals.
What I learned
In It’s Not a Half Without Some Drama I wondered what Shipyard Maine Coast had to teach me, so here’s my takeaway: if the temperature will get over mid 60s, I need to carry at least a small hand held water bottle. And that was my bad — because I had my small hand held with me. In fact, I even have a hydropouch which I could have brought, too, but didn’t even think about.
I’ve done hillier and hotter races, with the same scenario of being cool right up until race day, but because this wasn’t going to be as hot as ZOOMA Annapolis or Heartbreak Hill, I thought I could rely on the water stations.I was wrong. It’s not something you average runners deal with, but this isn’t the first time this has happened to me. Or the second. Or, I suspect, the last.
It’s never all bad
There’s always a balance, always a yin to the yang, if you will:
- Plenty of portapotties & I didn’t have to wait in line.
- The scenery by the ocean was nice, and I love running along the ocean. And even though I dearly wished for some clouds, it did make for some pretty pictures.
- Spectator support was rather sparse, but the ones who lined up on that hot day even for us BOTPers, God bless them, were very enthusiastic.
- The announcer announces your name and where you’re from as you cross the finish line. He had started to announce that girl who finished behind me — until I blew right past her and he had to change names almost mid sentence.
- They handed you a bottle of cold water with the race logo on it and your medal at the finish line — I wasn’t expecting that water bottle and it was a nice touch.
- Chatting up with a new runner with similar goals while waiting for the race to start.
- Lots of photographers and the photos are free!
- Having someone recognize me from my blog!
I have never regretted running any of my 12 halfs so far, and I’ve learned something from each and every one. Shipyard Maine Coast Half Marathon was rather bipolar — long stretches of pretty scenery and long stretches of boring roads. Sparse spectator support, but the ones that turned out stayed for the whole thing and were very encouraging. Long stretches of flat with just a few rather minimal (to my mind, anyway) hills here and there.
I love the fact that there are free photos and that it doesn’t automatically come with a race tee, keeping the cost down, but has the option for you to purchase race swag. If you decide you want to attempt Shipyard Maine Coast Half Marathon — or the Marathon — or the challenge (half first, full the next day) — sign up early; this race sells out year after year.
Not BOTP friendly. Well, again, it’s bipolar: the support was good to the end; there’s a decent time limit; and it might be just fine on a cooler day. I know race directors have a hard job, but c’mon guys, cups are cheap — running out of them, especially that late in a hot race — it’s just inexcusable and definitely colored my view of this race.
I wasn’t at all sore or tired the next day, and I know that’s because I didn’t run nearly as hard as I’m capable of. In some ways it was a conscious decision on my part as it got hotter. Better to finish then cramp up or worse.