If you’re not worried about running too slowly, you’re probably running too fast.

sugarloaf4Last week, I took time to focus on recovery after Boston. Following the race, I took two complete rest days, and then went out for an easy five miler by Thursday. My legs felt good, but my body still felt fatigued so I took an additional rest day on Friday. By Saturday, Mark and I did a decently paced nine mile run through hilly Saucon Valley and I felt a lot better. Sunday was another moderately paced 6.5ish miles before biking to the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon course to cheer on my friends. I was feeling good after Boston but figured my body could use some recovery time. The Boston Marathon was my halfway mark in my spring schedule. I still have three significant upcoming events: the Sugarloaf Marathon, Eagleman 70.3, and the Charlevoix Marathon.

The next race on my schedule is the Sugarloaf Marathon on May 18th. The course looks pretty fast, and I’m excited just to visit Sugarloaf Mountain. As a skier, I always wanted to go to Sugarloaf and ski it – I love Maine. While it’s highly unlikely that I’ll get to take a few runs, I’m still excited to be on the mountain. I’ve been trying to find whatever information I can to prepare for the race. I’ve been searching for race reviews/recaps written by other runners to get a feel for what to expect. I even found a video that someone took as they drove the course. Oh yeah, and then there is the elevation profile:


So THAT looks exciting. So far, I’ve read a lot of useful tips, but everyone says much of the same things. The hills are in the first 10 miles, and the final 16 are a net descent. It’s a fast course, but it’s important to take it easy when you start descending so you don’t trash your quads. The temperatures can be anywhere from freezing to scorching. It’s a small race, so I don’t expect much from the “expo” (just packet pickup). I was reading blog after blog and then someone wrote something that stuck with me:

“If you’re not worried about running too slow, then you are probably running too fast.”

I was reading someone’s blog post that ran Sugarloaf in the past and had a goal time of 3:20. He ended up beating his goal with a 3:17. From what he wrote, it sounds like he often runs his races the same way as I do: planning a negative split but getting a little too excited early on. As he reviewed the first 10 miles of the race, he mentioned that one of his friends gave him the above advice. I mean, it’s not exactly news to me. “Don’t go out too fast” are the usual words of wisdom runner’s like to give when discussing race strategy. I get it. It makes complete sense. Banking time in the early miles of a race is not running smart. And yet, I’ve only managed to run negative splits in a race a handful of times. I’d like to try to negative split the Sugarloaf course, and I’m thinking his advice might be what I keep telling myself that day.

I have a training plan that I’m following, and I’m not going to make any changes to it at this point. The only revision I’ll make is the location of some my runs over the next week or two. I wasn’t able to run the mountain by my house over the winter (it would be a death wish with snow and cars unable to control their speed), but it would be good practice for the uphill in miles 5-10 and the descent that follows. Several people complained in their race reviews that they burned out their quads at Sugarloaf running the steep downhill after mile 10.5. A few runs on the mountain to practice running a steady pace descending should help prepare me for that. I did a run on the mountain yesterday and had a chance to review my Garmin data. I’ve posted it before, but the elevation is intense:


I wore a jacket since it was raining and hid my Garmin under the sleeve. I know where to turn around so I didn’t look at my watch until I uploaded my data last night. I was excited by the results. I wasn’t trying to run fast, I was trying to run hills. 1,343 feet of climbing and 1,343 feet of descending meant I wouldn’t be running any sub seven or eight minute miles. Without looking at my watch, I ended up negative splitting the run (with the exception of mile 6):


The entire first mile is straight up a hill, so you warm up by climbing about 500 feet over one mile – and then you get to descend down the steep back side of it. I don’t know if I’ll see any physical benefits from one or two of these runs, but it should help mentally prepare me for miles 5-11 in Sugarloaf. 2013 Boston was the first time I successfully negative split a marathon, and it went exactly how I’d planned. Since then, I’ve run a lot of races and had the intention of doing the negative split thing again, but I’ve ditched my plan within the first few miles. I thought I had it in Boston this year, but ended up getting too aggressive. I held back in the first five miles but got impatient, let it fly, and paid the price for it in the later miles of the race. Of course, it’s a bad habit that I need to break so there is a good possibility that will happen again in Sugarloaf.

It’s no secret that the next goal I’m chasing is a 3:15 marathon, so that’s what I’m going to shoot for in Sugarloaf.  I really feel like I’ve put in the work and can achieve that, but I need to be patient on race day. However, my newest long-term goal isn’t necessarily a number: it’s to be in Wave 1 at Boston next year. In previous years, the cutoff was somewhere around a 3:18 (coincidentally, the time I’m using for 2015 Boston registration and my current PR). Last year, the cutoff was a 3:12. I don’t think it will be faster than 3:12 this year, but I certainly don’t think a 3:18 will get me into it. So for now, I’m chipping away at my goal slowly and hope to see a 3:15 this season. And if not, that’s okay too. I’m just excited to have a few more good races on the schedule.


10 Replies to “If you’re not worried about running too slowly, you’re probably running too fast.”

  1. I’m not a distance runner, just a for fun and fitness, as you know. But I LOVE reading your blog. You are so smart and consistant and thorough. Maybe one day I’ll use your knowledge well. 🙂 thanks. Glad to know ya!

  2. I’m registered for Sugarloaf too and just found your post. I’ve been stalking race recaps relentlessly. Unfortunately, I’ve been sidelined with major calf, shin and achilles pain these past few weeks. I may or may not be at the starting line 😦 but I will be there regardless. My boyfriend is running and he’s shooting for sub 3:10 (tall, tattooed guy). I run a weekly 15k with someone who ran Sugarloaf two years ago and a few weeks back he gave me a play-by-play of the race while we ran (i.e., so this hill is like the hill at 8-10.5…and this is like the downhill at 10.5). He started out the marathon at a 7:30 pace and when he hit miles 8.5-10ish his pace slowed to about 8:15. He was a bit overzealous on the downhill (he knew better) and the last five miles got the best of him (he described the last 5 as rolling and flat…not downhill). He said the camber of the road is pretty severe so ended up running in the middle of the road (when traffic allowed) for a good portion of the race. Good luck and have fun!

    1. Thank you so much! So sorry to hear you’ve been sidelined 😦 I hope you are able to run it. I’ll be keeping an eye out for you guys. I’m excited for the race! If the rain holds out, the weather may be ideal. I’m planning to wear purple shorts and a gray tank…keep an eye out for me too! Where are you guys from?

      1. We are from Salem, MA. Staying at the Nestlewood Inn near the finish. I should be wearing black shorts, a pink-purple top and pink mizuno hitogamis. The weather doesn’t look too bad – it may be a little humid, but I can manage that. I will be doing some last minute icing tonight and see how things feel tomorrow. I could always start the race and hitch a ride back on a moose if I have to pull out 🙂

      2. Take an ice bath! They work wonders. My friend and I are driving up tomorrow and going to the pasta party around 5ish! I think the weather should be great. Looks like most of the rain will be tomorrow!

  3. Hey! So I woke up the morning of the race still not knowing whether or not I’d run. I may or may not have been crying like a baby in bed. When my boyfriend wouldn’t make a decision for me :P, I decided that I would suck it up and at least give it a go. My training had been on par to go sub 3:40, but I made the decision to just try to make it to the finish line. My Achilles was screaming during my warm-up, but I think the adrenaline and overall atmosphere of the start helped me forget about the immediate pain. I felt pretty good until 20 and then my shin and calf (and quads) started barking and had to take a few walk breaks. I managed to squeak in slightly under 4 – 3:59, ha. Considering what I was working with, I was happy with that….and I had such a good time on the course. It was gorgeous and my fitness (cardio) level felt great so I was able to chat it up with everyone around me. 2nd marathon in the books – I hear that the third time’s the charm 🙂 Great job – you totally crushed your goal 🙂 glad you enjoyed the course!

    1. I’m so glad you ran! I was hoping you got to do it, because that course was gorgeous and the weather was awesome. So glad to hear your injur held out. Totally random but I recently tried acupuncture for plantar fasciitis and it was pretty effective, I wonder if it might help your Achilles heal? You did great, and I agree that the third time is the charm, and you will totally go sub 3:40! Did your boyfriend meet his goal?

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