training for nothing

These past few weeks have been interesting.  I’ve been working through a pretty big adjustment.  I’ve been transitioning from training to run 26.2 miles…to not really training for anything.  I think it’s taken my mind longer to adjust than my body.  My body is no-doubt soaking in the rest, and most-likely questioning what exactly the point was of running that far on May 18th.

My husband and I ran the LLBean 10k in Freeport, ME, on July 4th. Although we really didn’t need to train, thanks to all the miles still in our systems from Sugarloaf, I tried to train anyway.  I was excited to compete again!

When hurricane Arthur threatened to end the 10k before it began, anxiety set in.  I needed to compete.  I wanted my race-fix.  When we found out the run was still on, I was pretty thrilled.  I posted a time I was happy with, got 6th in my age group, and enjoyed a beautiful run.  It was a great holiday.  I want to do this race again next year!

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The next day, I was jogging through Freeport before our trip home the next when I had an “ah-ha” moment.

My epiphany started about 2 miles into my run; I ran by this crazy-looking boat in someone’s yard. The front of the boat said “Free.” I had to laugh.  My family owned a boat for many years.  With all of the upkeep, repairs, and the complete dependence on perfect weather…I think most boat owners have had days that they’d just assumed put up a “Free” sign and walk away.

 

Because I didn’t know the area, I decided to do an “out and back” (run a certain distance, turn around, and run the same way back).  On the run back, I looked for the boat again. The other side of the boat said “Free Smiles.” And that made me smile.  And then that made me realize that it had been a long time since I had smiled while running.  I think the last time was during the marathon.

It dawned on me: running wasn’t fun any more.  It was beginning to feel like a chore, like work.  I was obsessed with improving my pace, obsessed with beating myself. I  am not a professional runner, but I was acting like running was my job.  The marathon was 2 months ago, and I wasn’t letting myself enjoy this time of not training for anything.

I was still in-training, but for nothing.

I challenged myself to run the rest of the way back to the hotel smiling. I was going to have fun, darn it!  At first I felt silly, but after about 2 minutes, the endorphins kicked in.  A funny thing happens when you smile.  You could smile for no reason, but once your brain realizes you’re smiling, you really do feel happy.  At least, that’s what happens for me.

I ended that run happy, and at about the same pace as I would have if I’d been obsessively checking my watch and getting mad at myself.

The past few weeks, I’ve been working hard to focus on more than just clocking my best pace. I’ve been working on starting out my run with more control, on remaining more consistent in my pace, on getting negative splits…and I’ve been smiling a lot.

Sometimes I think I look pretty crazy, but I don’t care.  I like to think that when people see the crazy, smiling girl out running at 6am…they might realize that running can actually be fun.

I know for certain that I made someone smile about a week ago.  I was running along, about 2 miles into my workout, with my head up and my music loud.  I was enjoying the morning air and perfect weather when I caught my foot on a rugged patch of sidewalk.  I feel myself falling forward, and I knew what was coming next.

 

I tensed up, shut my eyes, (stupidly) put my arms out, and braced myself for the terrible feeling of road rash; it didn’t come.  Instead, I felt water.

I opened my eyes.  Somehow I had missed the sidewalk, flew sideways onto a patch of wet grass, and slid on my stomach like I was headed for home plate.

As I lay there, thankful to be on grass instead of pavement, a car drove by.  Perfect.  I am 100% sure that this lucky commuter had a front-row seat for my entire episode.  Even better, the car stopped about 100 yards ahead at a red light.

I had two choices: I could lay there until the light turned green and risk getting too comfortable, or I could keep running.

I pushed myself up, picked the grass out of my shirt, and ran away…smiling.  I guess I figured that if I laughed at myself, I might look less stupid.  I can only hope that, if this lucky commuter shared this story at work, he/she told the story accurately.

I really do recommend smiling while you run.  It makes the whole experience better.  However, no matter how much fun you end up having…be sure you watch where you’re going.

the sugarloaf marathon

The Sugarloaf marathon was over a week ago (May 18th, 2014), but it’s taken me a while to recover: physically and mentally.  We’ve also been SUPER BUSY with work and recovery and the holiday weekend.

It took a few days for the whole race experience to sink in.  Before the race, I was worried that the end of the race would depress me.  After the hardest year of my life, I used training for this marathon as therapy for my body and sole.  I was worried that I would feel empty after it was over.  However, as I reflect back, I actually feel quite the opposite.

The end of my first marathon wasn’t an end to anything; it was a beginning.

We arrived in at the resort in Maine on Saturday, the day before the race.  The last time I was at Sugarloaf was in February; I remembered it bustling with skiers and snowboarders, crowds everywhere.  However, as we pulled up to the resort, it wasn’t the same packed place I remembered.  The grounds were quite, and the only crowds were the runners and spectators in the lobby.  The uncharacteristc  stillness of the resort fueled my nerves and made everything seem more serious.  I felt happy but focused.  I was here to accomplish something.

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The race bib pick-up was the quickest I remember.  My mom, my dad, Jon, and I soon found ourselves at the pasta dinner.  We filled our plates with pasta, seeking to strike a balance between fueling our bodies and eating smart.  The atmosphere in the room was bright and friendly.  Quite conversations about pace and pre-race rituals were muted by an unusual live musical duo of a tuba and base guitar.  Everyone seemed relaxed.  The months of preparation were over and the long trip to the mountain had been successful.  All that was left to do was eat and sleep and run.

Post carbo-load, we retired to our room to coordinate our race gear and watch some baseball.  We called it an early night; 5am would no doubt come quickly.  Despite waking up once an hour, I arose feeling rested.  It was go time.

We dressed quickly and made it to the lobby just as the first round of shuttle buses was pulling away.  My dad, my hubby, and I waited in the parking lot with a group of friendly runners for about 30 minutes.  We hopped around, stretched, and strained our eyes as we searched for the bus.  After months of training, the thought of the bus not coming and missing the race was too much for me to bear.  After what felt like ages, a shuttle bus came back to scoop us up.  We made it to the starting line with about 15 minutes to spare.

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As we lined up, I felt a wave of nerves and confidence simultaneously wash over me.  I knew I was ready to run a marathon, but I didn’t know what running a marathon was like.

Before I had too much time to think, the starting horn sounded.  I felt myself choke up as I crossed the starting line.  I was really going to do this!

Pre-race selfie.  Duh.
Pre-race selfie. Duh.

 

Although this was my first marathon, I have run my fair share of races and training runs.  I know a “pretty run” when I see one.  I had some exposure to the course from the car and the shuttle, but it was even better in person.  The course wound through the gorgeous Carrabassett Valley.  The tranquil surroundings and quite pounding of all the runners shoes on the pavement calmed my nerves.  I ran without music, enjoying the quite.

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The race started out hilly.  After speaking to some other runners prior to the race, I knew what to expect: rolling hills through miles 1-8, a steep incline from miles 8-10, and then a gentle decline for miles 10-26.2.

Around mile 6, the crowd had thinned out.  I felt strong, but I was concerned that I might have been going a bit too fast.  Still, I plugged along and chatted with other runners.

I struck up a conversation with a girl next to me; she was on her second marathon.  After hearing this was my first marathon, she gave me some really helpful pointers on pacing.  I told her that I hoped to qualify for Boston, even thought I wasn’t sure I’d run it.  She assured me that I was on a great pace for that.  When we reached mile 8, the steep climb began.

Although she was running just as hard as me, she began to coach me.  She gave me pointers on my running form on the hill, and encouraged me breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth.  I concentrated on her advise, and for the first time ever, I hardly lost any time on a hill.  Eventually, she broke away from me…but I kept her in my sight until about mile 20.  I am so grateful to have had her help.  Just further proof to my theory the runners are the best kinds of people.

Mile 10 finally ended, and I felt my muscles relax.  I felt the pull of the downhill.  The crowd had thinned out even more.  The road remained open, which was awesome because it allowed carloads of spectators to drive by and cheer.

We passed the resort, and I waved to my mom.  I was close to 12 miles at this point.  I felt strong, but knew I had a long way to go.

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Around mile marker 14, a woman screamed: “You are halfway there, Kristine!”  I was halfway there!!  I was thankful that our bibs had our names on them; it was cool to have someone I didn’t know cheering me on.

The very same women was at the mile marker every 2-3 miles after that.  She would cheer some runners on by name, hop on her bike and ride ahead, and stop at another marker to cheer more.  Eventually, she learned my name and would cheer for me as she rode by.

Races bring out the best in people, runners and spectators alike.  It’s a shared sacrifice.  We are all invested in the race, all in it together.

Before I knew it, I hit 20 miles.  I was starting to feel worse.  I had heard about “the wall” at mile 22, but I’d never experienced it.  I knew it was coming.

As if on cue, at mile 22, my brain started screaming at my body to stop running.  “Stop, stop, stop,” I thought, “even for just a minute?”  I started arguing with myself, “You can’t stop now!  You’re almost there!  But you might have to stop!”

This went on for a a few miles.  I started to feel insane.

At this point, I knew my pace.  I knew I was going to qualify for Boston.  I decided to let myself stop for 10 seconds every mile, just to catch my breathe.  I was experiencing exhaustion in my body like I had never felt, and I didn’t want my muscles to freak out.

For the last 4 miles, my mind and body engaged in an epic battle of will.  I couldn’t believe I had been stupid enough to think this was a good idea.  Human beings shouldn’t run this far, not unless it was absolutely necessary!

I don’t remember much about the scenery past 23 miles, but I think I passed more spectators.  I had been taking half a Gu every half hour, and I started to feel my last Gu in my stomach like a rock.  I thought I might get sick.

Suddenly, I passed the sign I had been waiting for.  The finish line was ahead!

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I heard a man say “The finish line is just past those flags up there,” and finishing finally felt real.  My running app said “26 miles,” and I pushed on to those flags with all I had.  I reached the flags, but I saw no finish line.

“Now, around the corner,” someone else yelled.

Sure, whatever.

I sprinted around the corner, and I finally saw the finish line!  I pushed my body forward, slammed my foot down on the mat, grabbed my medal, and doubled over in pain.

Photo with my clock time.
Photo with my clock time.

I felt crazy, but awesome.  I had done it.  I was a marathoner.  And with my time of 3:31:35, I had qualified for Boston.

I spent the next hour nursing myself back to life with chocolate milk, water, and orange juice.  I finally got to wear one of those cool silver blankets!  There were also free post-race sport massages, so you can bet that I took advantage of that.

I said that this race is the beginning because I feel like it’s the start of life as a marathoner.  I now know I can do it, I know I can run marathons.  And after a few weeks behind me, the soreness is mostly gone and I can confidentially say that I like to run marathons.  I have never felt as accomplished as I did slamming my foot down on that mat.  I took away a newfound respect for running, my body, and myself.

I can’t wait to do it again.

With my training buddy.
With my training buddy.

 

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Jon, me, and my dad after finishing the race...and recovering for a bit.
Jon, me, and my dad after finishing the race…and recovering for a bit.

One final note: I couldn’t have felt more fortunate to run this race with both my husband and my dad.  It was also so special to have my mom cheering us on.  My parents live in Michigan, and living apart from our family can sometimes be really difficult.  However, it’s memories like this race that I am so thankful to share.

 

Final Numbers

  • Miles ran: 26.2
  • Time: 3:31:35
  • Number of months trained: 5
  • Number of Gu gels consumed: 3
  • Number of times stopped: 4
  • Number of times I questioned my judgement: 3
  • Number of regrets: 0

providence half marathon

As a part of our double-race weekend, Jon and I had an amazing time running the Cox Providence half marathon in Rhode Island yesterday.  I have to admit that I was a little envious as the marathoners lined up at 7:30am.  For us, this half was intended as a training run; our marathon is in 2 weeks.  Yet as I stood there, I couldn’t help but wish I was doing the full.

I love runners.  Runners tend to be some of the most laid-back, positive, genuine people you’ll ever meet.  Nowhere is that more evident than at the starting line of a race.  Sure, we were all competing against each other…but from the way everyone was laughing, joking, and complimenting one another’s gear, you’d never know it.  The starting line of a race breeds camaradarie; everyone is in it together, running the same race.

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The half marathon was set to begin at 8:00am.  As the horn sounded, we slowly made our way to the starting line.

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Runners took off in waves, and soon we were at the front.  I started out as fast as I could, trying to find my place in the crowd.  Finding the physical space to run at your pace is a big challenge to a start of any large race.  This race had over 2,000 runners.

After about 2 miles, the crowd thinned; soon I was coasting.  For a while, I kept checking my watch, trying to get comfortable with what my pace felt like in a race setting.  However, I was having a hard time running at the pace I thought I should be keeping: 8:00 min/mile.  I found myself feeling like I could go faster.  After about 4 miles, I decided to stop staring at my watch.  Instead, I started pacing myself based on how I felt.  I ran at a pace that felt right to me: 7:30 min/mile; it was still challenging, but allowed me to keep some juice in the tank for later.

Before the race, I had decided to try something new with my nutrition.  While I know it is risky to change something up on race day, I felt it could really pay off in preparing for the marathon.  Sometimes when I take an entire Gu at once, even if I take it with water, the Gu can sit in my stomach like a rock.  During this race, I took my Gu in thirds: part at mile 7, part at mile 9, and part at mile 11.  I found this really worked well!  I had some calories to push me through the 7-mile slump, but I had some calories left for my kick at the end.

As the race pressed on, I recalled how awesome race spectators are.  I’m so glad I decided to bypass my music and listen to my surroundings.  People that I had never seen before were cheering me on!

To the little kids that high-fived me at 7.5 miles, to all the Boston marathoners in your jackets with your tambourines and cowbells, to the lady handing out Twizzlers at mile 10, and to the couple that the set-up the extra water station outside your house: thank you!  

If you’ve ever taken hours out of your day to hang out along the side of a race course and cheer for people you don’t even know: you are the best.  It does matter, in a big way.

This course had some challenging uphills, as does any course in New England.  However, the downhills always make the uphills worth it.  We passed through the downtown, through some beautiful residential neighborhoods, and we ended the race along the water.

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The last 2 miles were the most challenging. There was a sizable uphill (that would eventually descend into the finish line), and it was windy..so windy!

As I trucked up the last hill, the police officer maintaining the barricade along the route said, “Just get to the top of the hill, and then you’re done!”  I heard the cheering crowd, heard the race MC announcing people’s names as they crossed the finish line, and I knew it was time.

I took all the energy I had left stored up, and I sprinted.

I ran as fast and hard as my legs would allow, gasping for breath and being careful not to trip.  It wasn’t pretty, but I knew if I kept pushing, my time would be better than I expected.  I saw the clock around 1:42:20 when I came in.  I was excited, as I had been shooting for 1:43:00, and I knew my official time would be better.

I slammed my foot down on the pad at the finish line, grabbed my medal, stopped my Runkeeper, and then doubled over to catch my breath. When I finally checked my time, I couldn’t believe it: 1:40:08. I had beat my PR by 7 minutes!

I met up with Jon, and we snapped some post-race pictures. While there were lots of great food and drink options for runners after, we couldn’t stick around. We grabbed some waters, bananas, and lots of protein bars and headed to the car.

We left Providence in high spirits: we had both done better than we’d hoped, and we felt ready for the upcoming marathon.  It had been an awesome weekend of races, and my love for running was raging strong.

I ended up placing 16th out of 414 females in the 20-29 age group with a time of 1:40:08.  However, numbers aside, I was so happy with how I felt during my run.  Feeling confident about your race makes every early morning workout worth it.

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Seconds after finishing, right after I caught my breath.

 

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6th in the 20-29 males group and 19th overall with a time of 1:27:21! I couldn’t be prouder!

 

 

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Our official results.
Our official results.

running & walking well 5k

Hurray! It’s a double-race weekend.

Jon and I are currently in Providence, RI, preparing for the Cox Providence half marathon. We had an amazing day of running at the first annual Running & Walking Well 5k in Beverly, MA.  A 5k was perfect for our marathon training: it wasn’t too long of a distance, but worked our legs in a hilly speed workout and it got us practice in a race atmosphere.

The race was organized by the parent church (Calvary Christian church) of our church in Salem, MA (Remix church).

According to the race Facebook page, “The Running Well Ministry at Calvary Christian Church wants to build at least one well in East Africa in conjunction with Africa Oasis Project.  The cost to build a well is over $5,000. One well can make the quality of life so much better for hundreds of children and adults.”

The turnout was about 200 runners/walkers, which is great for the first year! The course was beautiful: it wound through some beautiful littleNew England neighborhoods, it past the ocean, and it was a little hilly. The weather was absolutely perfect.

Jon finished first overall with 18:14. I ended up winning my age group (19-29), and I placed second overall for women with 21:00. I was so excited because I set my new 5k PR!

We had so much fun running with our friends, many of whom were first time 5k-ers! The event almost raised enough for 2 new wells, which is awesome! I have no doubt this event will continue for years to come, and I can’t wait to see it grow.

Now, onto the Cox Providence half tomorrow morning!

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