Post-Marathon Blues

After the long lead up to a marathon, there is a bit of a letdown once it’s all over. I never experienced the same feelings training for shorter races. The nature of the marathon requires a LOT of training. Since June I’ve spent countless hours training and most of my Sundays are devoted to running and recovering from my long run. Once the big day is finally over, you feel a bit lost. I keep finding myself saying, “Okay, now what?”

I’m the type of runner that likes to have a goal to train for. Don’t get me wrong; I like running for the sake of running. However, I LOVE to have a big race to prep for or some new goal to motivate me. I enjoy pushing my body to the extreme and finding new limits. When I don’t have something to train for I feel a bit lost.

Luckily, my sister and brother-in-law gave me race registration to the Wolf Hollow Half Marathon on November 23rd (thank you!). I ran it last year and although the weather was freezing, it’s one of my favorite races. The course is gorgeous – mostly on bike paths or nicely groomed trails. It’ll be fun to see if I can get a new PR. After running a 1:40 half marathon in a marathon like it was no big deal, I think I’m in store for a half marathon PR. I’ll also be running the Yulefest 5k in Cambridge in December. It’ll be a fun race. Although I’m definitely not in 5k-race shape and haven’t run one for well over a year, it’ll be good to give it a shot.

After that, though, I really am not sure what I want to run in the spring. Good thing I have a lot of time to think about it!

In the meantime, here are a few moments from last Sunday I forgot to share. I thought you might get a kick out of them. Enjoy!

Me before the start of the race. I'm sure I was thinking, "Why did I want to run a marathon again? Who thought that would be fun?"

Me before the start of the race. I’m sure I was thinking, “Why did I want to run a marathon again? Who thought that would be fun?”

Ian's salty face afterwards, haha! He wasn't happy that my dad wanted a picture.

Ian’s salty face afterwards, haha! He wasn’t happy that my dad wanted a picture.

Me after crossing the finish line thinking, "Did that just happen?"

Me after crossing the finish line thinking, “Did that just happen?”

Michael after the race taking a well deserved snooze!

Michael after the race taking a well deserved snooze!

Do you ever get the same feeling after a marathon? What upcoming races are you training for?

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Baystate Marathon Recap

Crossing the finish line. My new favorite race photo.

Crossing the finish line. My new favorite race photo. This is basically the definition of Joyrunner. 

Yesterday was an incredible and surreal day. To think that I didn’t finish my first marathon, and now five months later I’m qualified for Boston is incredible. I’ll do my best to put it into words.

Race Day

We arrived at the start of the race at 7:00 after getting slightly lost. Our GPS took us a way that was blocked off because of the race. A few tense moments later and we were there. I stopped at the bathroom and we met up with the rest of the crew. My brother (Ian) ran the marathon and my brother-in-law (Santi) and friend (Michael) ran the half.

The temperature for the day looked to be fantastic. It started off in the low-40’s and maybe got up to 50 by the end. The wind was not ideal, but I learned that later on. Soon enough I was in the starting corral and found the 3:25 pace group. Turns out they were actually planning to run 3:23 something-something. It would be 7:45 pace. I thought, “close enough” and huddled behind them along with some other runners.

The squad on race day.

The squad on race day.

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Runners pre-race. I’m impressed that I was able to pull off a decent looking smile. I was so nervous.

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Start of the race. If you zoom in you can make me out. I’m on the far side in black with the pink gloves.

Before I knew it we were off and running. My legs were feeling great. The taper did its trick! The 3:25 group was moving as a big herd. It was comforting to have so many people to run with and I just felt like I was being pulled along. The first half of the race was pretty uneventful besides me almost tripping on a cone. Our group was so big that I couldn’t see directly in front of me. All of a sudden there was a cone right there. Luckily, I had time to hurdle it before moving farther in.

I had chucked my gloves before the hill at mile 4, but kept my arm sleeves on until the bridge. I knew that Aubrey was planning on being there and I didn’t really want to lose my arm sleeves. Luckily, I heard her cheering on the other side of the road from me, wadded up my sleeves, chucked them, and she somehow perfectly caught them! I’m impressed that my aim was that good halfway through a marathon! That put a smile on my face for a bit.

When we reached halfway I was really surprised with our time. I hadn’t been keeping perfect splits and missed some of the mile markers because we were in a big group. I was more focused on not tripping on the person in front of me than taking correct splits. We came through at 1:40-something AKA way too fast! I considered dropping back, but at that point we were running directly into the wind. I figured it would take the same amount of effort to run alone than to keep running at a faster pace.

Things started to get a little harder after halfway. I didn’t feel horrible, but my legs started to feel a bit heavy. At mile 17 when I was going up a slight rolling hill it felt like someone just pulled the plug from me. I just couldn’t keep going at that pace and fell back a bit. That’s when I felt the full effect of the wind. It was going pretty strong. I noticed it a bit when I was in the pack, but it was way worse running alone. Nonetheless, my pace was still okay and we turned across the bridge around mile 18 to head back into town.

Those last 6 miles were pure willpower. For whatever stupid reason my left calf started cramping at mile 20. In a way, I think running VCM was helpful. Although it wasn’t great for my confidence, it definitely increased my pain threshold. For those of you that don’t know, I ran VCM and crumbled under the heat of the day. After an abnormally cold winter and spring I wasn’t ready for 80 degrees come race day. The pain from that day made Baystate feel like a piece of cake! I had calf cramps during VCM and kept stopping to try and stretch them out. Honestly, I don’t think stretching did much for them, so when the same thing happened yesterday I was determined to keep running. My calf would seize up for about a quarter mile then ease up slightly, and then cramp up again about another mile out. It felt like a Charlie horse and continued like that until I crossed the finish line. It was just sheer willpower pushing me through at the end.

I made a promise with myself that I could have a celebratory dance at the finish line… or fall on the ground depending on how I felt AS LONG as I was under 3:30. In order to qualify for Boston in my age-category I had to run a 3:35. However, things have gotten really competitive in the last few years and you aren’t guaranteed a spot if you do run faster. I wanted to be under 3:30 to secure a position for Boston.

When I came around the bend and saw the clock I was ecstatic. Those last few miles were painful, but so worth it. I accomplished my longest-standing running goal: qualify for Boston. The first time I ever saw the race was when I was in 6th grade and I immediately fell in love. I couldn’t help but burst into a huge smile when I crossed the finish line. I was so excited!

My final time was 3:29:08. Like almost all runners, I’m not totally satisfied with my time. There are definitely some things I would’ve changed about my race, but I am pretty pleased with it. After all, I’d be ridiculous to be unhappy after not even finishing my first marathon. It was really nice to see my hard work pay off and run a time that I could be proud of.

In the end, good races were had all around. My brother also finished his first marathon in 3:38. Yay Ian! I’m so impressed with him! My brother-in-law also cut a huge chunk of time off his half marathon PR running a 2:12. Nice job, Santi! Ian’s friend Michael ran his first half marathon in 1:42. I didn’t see him during the race, but people said he made it look pretty easy. I’m so impressed with all of them!

Ian finishing his first marathon!

Ian finishing his first marathon!

Santiago finishing his half marathon strong!

Santiago finishing his half marathon strong!

Michael finishing his first half marathon!

Michael finishing his first half marathon!

Runners post-race

Runners post-race

Thoughts on the Race

Overall, I really enjoyed this race. Baystate is best known for its flat and fast course, which it definitely lived up to. Each year, roughly 25% of the finishers qualify for Boston. There’s a slight hill at mile 4 and 14, but they really didn’t phase me. In fact, the first time running up it I didn’t even notice the first half of the hill! Then there’s a couple of rollers around mile 6 and 16 and a dip at 24.5. Other than that, though, it really is flat. The course goes through the towns of Lowell and Tyngsboro and over a few bridges, which were very pretty.

There were aid stations about every 2 miles with water/Gatorade and gels at 7 and 17, which was great. The volunteers were fantastic – very positive. The race itself isn’t too expensive either. My family gave registration to me as a birthday gift, but if you register before September 1st it’s only $75, which is not too bad compared to most marathons nowadays. I even got this awesome finisher’s medal.

Bling Bling!

Bling Bling!

A Big Thanks!

First off, I owe my coach a huge thank you for helping me through this training cycle. After my disaster of a race in Maine there’s just no way I would’ve had the confidence to try another marathon on my own. Having someone that knows me well as an athlete and a person helped so much. Thank you, Sarah! I’m also so thankful for my race day supporters; mom, dad, Justine, Aubrey, and Caitlin. Thank you for holding my sweats and helping to calm down my nerves. I seriously couldn’t have done it without you guys! Also, thank you to all my running friends for helping to support me through these past few months; Rachel, Katie, everyone else from UVM Running Club, Dana, Ellie, Hanna, Cindy, Emily, Madeline, Julie, Elodie, and lots more! Thank you Baystate for putting on a great event! Lastly, thank you to all my readers! You guys were so supportive after my Maine race and have continued to be awesome. I love coming on here and reading all of your nice comments. I have the best supporters and I love every one of you!

Drawing Upon Inspiration

Four more days until my marathon. Say what?!?! It seems ridiculous to actually write that sentence, but it’s the truth. So far my taper is only driving me slightly mad. Symptoms include constantly checking the forecast for race day, having issues focusing on schoolwork, and worrying that I magically lost all of my fitness.

Luckily, this weekend provided a nice distraction for me. There were huge running successes that happened across a bunch of different levels. I love to watch others succeed. It helps give me inspiration to try harder and reach higher.

My sister ran her first officially timed 5k this weekend. Yay Justine! She ran the Color Run with me a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t timed. On Saturday she ran a 28:51! Freaking awesome! It’s hard to believe that she started seriously running a few short months ago. I’m so proud of you!

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Justine after just crossing the finish line.

My brother-in-law, Santi, also ran in the 5k and smashed his previous PR by over a minute getting a 25:31. Nice job! He’s also running in the Baystate Half Marathon this weekend and is going to kill it. It’s very impressive that he was able to crush his 5k PR while in half-marathon training. So cool!

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Santi and I after the Leesburg 5k a few years back.

Sarah, who I’ve mentioned a few times on my blog, also had a stellar performance this weekend. She ran in the Mohawk Hudson Marathon and bettered her PR by nearly four minutes running 2:54! It blows my mind how she can run that fast for so long. Craziness! She had surgery last winter and has worked her butt off since. So well deserved! You can read her recap here.

Olde Bones Track Club. Sarah is second from the right.

Olde Bones Track Club before VCM. Sarah is second from the right.

This weekend was also the Ironman World Championships. For people that don’t know, an Ironman is a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and a marathon. One of my all-time favorite athletes is Mirinda Carfrae from Australia. She’s a triathlete, not a runner, but I think she should be considered an honorary runner after her past performances. She had won two Ironman World Championships before, with her third win coming on Saturday. When she got off the bike, she was over 14 minutes behind the leader. Luckily, she is an exceptional runner and was somehow able to pull of the win running a 2:50 marathon and beating her previous course record. I love her running stride because it looks so powerful. She just seems to turn into attack mode when she’s running the marathon. My friend Dana and I were quickly sending excited texts back and forth as she went into first place.

Crossing the finish line

Crossing the finish line

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I’m a firm believer that everyone’s successes in sports are equally important. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an elite marathoner or beginner 5k-runner. When you reach your goal and cross that finish line, your achievement is important. You had to work for that success and it is significant. Job well done this weekend!

Do you draw inspiration from other people’s successes? Do you go slightly crazy when you’re tapering? Any other successes happen in your life lately?

Crew Adventures

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No, not me. My friend does crew, though! Last weekend she had her first race and absolutely kicked butt. Weather conditions couldn’t have been more hardcore. What started off as a cloudy day ended up downright miserable. It was spitting rain and wind by the time her race started. Also, was perfect weather for my Raynaud’s to act up. Luckily, my friend Rachel and I headed off afterwards to a diner to get a warm pancake breakfast. Perfection.

Rachel and I taking selfies!

Rachel and I taking selfies! (before it started raining)

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It’s that time of year. The leaves are all changing color.

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I’ve always admired sports that require more skill and technique. Sure, running requires a little – I try to improve upon my form. For the most part, though, running just comes naturally to people. You stand, then walk, and then run. It’s what people do. Smart racing is a skill that has to be honed, but there isn’t a whole lot of hand-eye coordination involved in running. Passing a baton is harder than it looks and requires skill, but distance running? Not that much. Just one foot in front of the other.

I’ve never been great at skillful sports. I played basketball and soccer when I was younger. I wasn’t bad, but wasn’t a standout. If anything, my natural endurance stood out. I could just keep going longer than the other kids. “Suicides” or sprint drills were my favorite because I could outlast most others.

Anyways, it was really cool to see an actual crew race. Sometimes I’d see crew teams out on the Charles this summer, but never an actual race. Good timing, proper technique, and coordination not just on your own, but with others is absolutely critical. When my friend tells me about crew most of the terminology goes right over my head, but I love learning about other sports.

Nice job, Caitlin, on your first race! It was so cool to watch. You did awesome!

Are you good at skillful sports? Ever done crew before or watched a crew race?

Is Exercise a Hobby?

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In my class the other day, my professor was talking about how many people still view exercise as a hobby – as if it’s something only for talented athletic people. The word hobby implies that it’s something someone does for fun once in a while. The problem is that hobbies come and go. Interest fades and motivation disappears.

In order to tackle the obesity epidemic, exercise needs to become a habit. Trying to lose weight with nutrition alone is very difficult. The combo of increased exercise with good nutrition can have some incredible results, though. Exercise can’t be a hobby that someone does when they’re feeling in the mood. It needs to be a lifestyle.

Over the years, running has developed into part of my identity. I’m Laurel, 20 years old, a college student, a lover of Ben and Jerry’s, and a runner. It’s part of who I am. Running is as normal as eating and sleeping to me. I don’t feel like me unless I get my run in. Don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy my off days. I think one day off a week keeps me normal. It gives me more time on my busiest school day to get more homework in and maybe a little more time for sleeping.

If someone asked me if running was my hobby then I would probably give them a dirty look. The same look I would give someone if they asked if I was a jogger – that’s for another post, though. I’m a runner and it’s part of who I am. My identity isn’t solely based on my performances (a mistake I made when I was younger), but running is a part of me.

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Lil’ Laurel in middle school

I had it the easy way, though. I fell in love with running at a very young age and was never really inactive. Unfortunately, for plenty of people this isn’t the case. They’ve been inactive for years and THAT has become their habit. Changing that lifestyle can seem daunting. Exercise might hurt at first. They’re not used to the “good pain”. Once that initial hurdle is jumped over, though, things get easier. It becomes fun and isn’t as hard.

Exercise shouldn’t be a hobby people pick up once in a while. Exercise needs to be a habit – something that’s ingrained into people’s daily lives – something that’s as normal as eating and sleeping.