Friday, October 23, 2015

Baystate Marathon Recap

Now that the soreness has worn off and I can safely walk up and down stairs, I've had time to reflect on my first marathon experience.

The packet pick-up on Saturday was seamless, quick and easy, besides Cameron's unwillingness to remain within an arms reach at any period of time. I was able to get a super snazzy Baystate Marathon jacket, to which I vowed not to wear until after I crossed the finishline the next day.

We stayed in a hotel about 4 miles away from the race start, so once we left the expo, we headed to the hotel to check in and drop our stuff off, to then venture out to find something for dinner. After dinner (thank you Cracker Barrell for the $7 simple marinaded chicken, baked sweet potato and cottage cheese!) we headed back to the hotel so I could organize myself and get Cameron to bed. I've got to admit, this was the most stressful part of the trip. I'm so used to having everything I need in the same places, so having to unpack it all, then get it organized created chaos (in my head). Getting my Nuun ready and into my flasks, then to the fridge, breaking up my Honey Stinger waffles and putting them into a sandwich bag, making sure everything I need fits into my fuel belt, double and triple checking my clothes - bib, pants, shirt, sports bra, underwear, socks (most of which are the same ones I used for every long run), getting my shoes and insoles out and within reach, peanut buttering an english muffin for my breakfast, hydrating and trying to stay calm... I was so glad to get to sleep that night.

When the morning arrived, I had indeed set out everything I needed in perfect harmony. I was ready to go earlier than I had to, and was able to catch the hotel shuttle to the start with relative ease. Upon arrival at the start line, I realized how cold it truly was. I had inteded on leaving my fleece-lined pants and fleece sweatshirt in my bag that I was checking, but I knew after standing outside for a short time, that the wind was going to be too much for a short-sleeved shirt. I sent Shawn a text to fill him in and told him that I would plan to hand my sweatshirt off when I saw him at the 13 mile marker, after I, and the air, had warmed up.

My Motivate Wrap by Momentum Jewelry - a constant reminder.

The start of the race was beautiful, emotional, exhilerating and calm. I had found the 4 hour pace group and shot back far enough to where I expected the group of 5 hour runners would be. Turns out, I guessed pretty accurately, as the girl who was standing in front of me at the start line finished right behind me. I got texts of good luck and snap chat photos of where my cousins and aunt were waiting just after the start. The National Anthem was sang, the sun peaked through, and the gun went off - I said outloud, "This is it. It's here!" I had no idea I was in for a huge surprise, just around the corner. I heard my cousin Meaghan scream my name, so I turned to the left to wave and saw the wonderful, dedicated, freezing group standing there with their signs, then I saw my mom and instantly burst into tears. I was in total shock, because I had no idea that my mom, who lives in Portland, OR, would be there. She even tricked me by "waking up early" to text me at 7:15am (4:15am "her time") to wish me luck. I ran over to give her a big hug (and got yelled at by a guy who didn't feel it was appropriate to break his stride after .12 miles into the course). Then went on my way, trying to take a deep breath and comforted by the fact that I had a big cheering squad, including my mom, who had flown 3,000 miles just for this. The first few miles ticked right by. By mile 4, I had already gone through 2 water stations and was snacking on my first waffle. I had planned to wait until about mile 10 before I turned on my podcasts because I wanted to soak in the race as much as I could before I needed the distraction from any sort of pain, boredom or fatigue.

As I got to mile 10, I thought to myself, I dont want to put the music/podcasts on now, because then I can't hear everyone and when I see my family at mile 13 on the bridge, I want to hear the excitement. So I decided to keep trucking along, easily focused on the goings-on around me and the incredibly inspiring people that I encountered. I quickly typed "10" to Shawn from my phone (which was strapped to my arm) when I hit that mile marker and got a message back that everyone was on the bridge, which I knew was just before mile 13. At this point, the lead male literally (from what I remember) FLEW by me and gave me a thumbs up and a "good job"! The wind was pretty strong, and hitting me head-on for a good majority of the day. I came to the realization that I would not be handing off my fleece because I was already focusing so much on relaxing my shoulders that were tightening up due to the cold wind blowing down my neck, that I couldn't bear to be without it. As I ran over the biggest hill and biggest bridge of the course (that felt like it was never going to end), I arrived at top to see a big group, including Shawn and Cameron, cheering me on. At this point, I was feeling really good. No tightness, no discomfort, just excitement as I ran through the biggest section of spectators on the entire course. It is at this point that the marathoners begin the second loop, and start back at mile 3.5. On the first loop, for every mile marker in the single digits, there was another mile marker just before it with 10 miles added, so I knew going into the second half of the race where I'd be at each mile.

The next time I sent Shawn a text was at mile 16.5. This was the first time I stopped running, because my hamstrings and glutes were starting to tighten up. I stretched for about 30 seconds and continued on my way, still not having turned on my podcasts. The thought kept coming into my head, like an angel/devil dialogue. I'd think, "Now is the time. This is hard." and then think "You're so focused, you're not missing anything, just keep going and be in the moment." As I approached mile 20, the dreaded mile 20, I realized how close I was to finishing this race. I was feeling okay still, and focusing on remembering to hydrate and eat my waffles every 4-5 miles. I kept trying to remember how far I had come, and how little I had left of this experience.
Yep, broke down that wall.
I stopped again to stretch after I passed mile 20. This time it was a little harder to get going again. I was due for another half waffle at mile 21, so I pressed on and got there, ate the waffle, and pushed through to mile 22. I don't think I ever actually hit "the wall", but it was mile 22 that really got me. The base of my hamstrings, just behind my knees, were aching and no stretch was helping. My back had been so tight throughout the race due to the cold, that it was really sore and beginning to be hard to take a deep breath. My pace slowed quite a bit and this was the first time I openly expressed difficulty. I texted Shawn and said "Mile 22 and slowing down". 4.2 miles to go and I would see my family cheering me on. I just kept thinking about how long the journey was to get to these last few miles and that I had worked so hard to get to that moment. I still had it in me, but my legs were starting to revolt. My mind was in it and still, I hadn't thought it would be in my best interest to turn music or anything on. I had to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. There were so many people around me starting to walk. I would walk a little, run some more, walk a little, run more. I knew I could do it, so around mile 24.5 I decided I wanted my medal and the finish line more than I wanted the comfort of walking, so I ran as hard as I could. Unfortunately, my watch died at mile 25.16, so I dont know what my splits were for the last mile, but I know it was faster than mile 23 & 24.

There were random people walking down the sidewalks encouraging me and pushing me on. One man said "Just get around the corner, you'll start to feel the excitement of the finish line and it'll carry you the rest of the way." As I rounded the corner into downtown Lowell, I knew I was getting close, but I didnt know how close, since my watch had died. I passed by a man with a microphone who was cheering people on by name and assumed that meant the finish line was just around the corner (again), but it wasn't (and he mispronounced my name...Casey...oye! ;) ). I kept on and eventually could hear the sounds of the finish line. Names being announced. Music being played. Cowbells rung. A symphony of runner glory.

I don't know what happened when I saw the finish line, but I didn't break my view from it. I knew everyone was there, but I never saw them or heard them (though, I've seen a video now and know they were all screaming their heads off!). I was holding back tears as I approached the big arch, not because I was ready to quit, but because it was the culmination of so many hours, miles, emotions, fundraisers, blog posts, early mornings, early nights, and everything in between for the last 20-something weeks. As I got wrapped in my heat sheet and leaned over to get my medal, I couldn't believe it was over. Initially I was a little bummed that it took me over 5 hours. I was on track to finish at just about 5 hours for most of the race and my secret goal (that only Shawn knew about) was to finish by 1pm. That didn't happen, and I knew the reality was that my goal was to finish all 26.2 miles. And I did.

I had heard from different people that you feel like you're on top of the world when you finish a marathon, that you could do anything (except maybe walk down a flight of stairs). I definitely felt the biggest, baddest runners high and was so excited (and freezing) knowing that I had just finished my first marathon. I think I'll be riding this high for awhile, until next April when I register again! ;)

A great suprise to come home to! Thanks Sam & Bec!
So much went into my running this marathon, so many things that I didn't even do myself! The support that I received from family and friends was incredible. I couldn't believe how many cheers and good lucks and well wishes I got, along with the awesome crew that came out to carry me along the race course (Thank you Meaghan, Auntie Lu, Katy, Pat, Bee, JC, Kylie & Micah, Dad, Shawn, Cameron and Mom!). Throughout training, there were easy runs, hard runs, hot runs, dark runs and super sunny runs. I couldn't have gotten through many of those long runs without my trusty BFF Becca, meeting me at my house in the wee hours of the morning to run the last half of a lot of my long runs with me. I could not have done any of this without Shawn's support and encouragement. Having added a puppy to the mix in the middle of training, the morning runs became more and more taxing on Shawn as well, having to corral both puppy and child for a few hours on Saturday mornings alone.

Also, thank you ALL who donated to CHaD, as I was fundraising throughout my training cycle.
I didn't reach my $1,000 goal, but the $928 that did come through will help so many CHaD kids and families to be comforted while they're being cared for at CHaD. Thank you all again!!!


  1. Congratulations on your first marathon! Super cute gesture you got on your doorstep :D Super cool

  2. So amazing! I ran Baystate also, and it was also my first marathon. What an amazing experience! I also appreciated the double loop so I knew what to expect the second time around. Mile 24 was my mild hiccup (my already pulled hamstring started twitching), but it went away fast and I was happily distracted by spectators again around mile 25. Did you find that straightaway heading back from the Tyngsboro bridge at the second lap tough because there weren't any spectators? I did. And wasn't it glorious to pass that bridge for the second time knowing it was the last and you were heading for the finish line? Thrilling. I loved every second of it.