2014 Baystate Marathon Recap: The Wind, The Struggles& The BQ!

Can I start all my sentences now with “I BQ’d”? Is that inappropriate? Maybe. But maybe not seeing as I worked real hard for this moment!

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17 minutes. This is what I took off of my previous marathon PR. (Hyannis Marathon, Feb 2014). 3:28:07. There are like one million emotions running through me right now as I type this post.

I have to start off by acknowledging what an amazing team of people put together Baystate. I was given the opportunity to blog about my training for Baystate this year by Glenn Stewart, race director, and his incredible team- I would never ever blog about something that I wasn’t passionate about: I am QUITE passionate about the Baystate Marathon. It is run by TRUE professionals. Everything is seamless, and I have never once had a single problem with registering, bag check, porta potties, finish area, etc….I LOVE this race. Not only because it’s in my backyard: it’s a fabulous course, a PR course-for sure. Also, being that it is set on the 3rd weekend in October means you are practically guaranteed to have nice weather. The course is ALWAYS well maintained, and the police directing traffic are really looking out for the runners. The finish line chute is a breeze and I met my family&friends very quickly…this is a race I will go back to again and again! (Sunday was my 4th Baystate…that proves how much I love this race!!

Race day weather was awesome. We were chilly at the start (ok, FREEEZING) so I kept my sweater on as LONG as possible:
Me and my SIL embarking on our journey! (thanks again Mama D for driving us!)
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We got to the start around 7:15..we live close by so it was a lot easier for us to get there that late than most people are able to, plus we got dropped off so we didn’t have to worry about getting around road closures in order to park. We immediately stood in the porta potty line right next to the bag check. I have to say-there seemed to be even more porta potties than last year, and they had them in secret spots too, all around the start line-I never noticed lines that were too long! While in the porta potty line, a runner introduced herself and said “Excuse me…are you the girl with the blog? I just had to ask!” And I AM the girl with the blog, so this was a LOT of fun to be asked! Allison was running her first marathon, and I later found out she rocked it and finished in under 5!! YOU GO GIRL!!! Bag check was also a piece of cake. Hello sirs&ma’ams, here is my bag, please keep it safe, #thankyouverymuch.

I got to see my running partner for about two secs before we each had to go line up at our respective starts (she was doing the half) but we did snap a quick cute pic!! It was awesome to see her and her wonderful mama (also doing the half!) for about a minute!! They both rocked it!

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The Race.
Miles 1-13.
My plan all along had been to run with a pace group. I decided that I wanted to be smart and head out with the 3:25 group, break away at 15, and try to catch the 3:15 group. This plan worked for the first half of the race. The weather was amazing, I was in the thick 3:25 group, and I felt like I could’ve pulled away & passed them at any moment. In fact, I kept reigning myself back in so as not to kill my speed.

My biggest issue the first 14 is that the group was so tight, that I was focused on keeping my eyes constantly on the pacers. This caused me to trip not once but twice on the lovely stupid orange cones. I seriously managed to find myself needing to hop over practically every dam cone. Mile five I was going down..think “face plant” down…but a wonderful, amazing, lovely lady in a purple tank &turquoise sports bra reached down, grabbed my arms, and hauled me up. YOU ARE MY HERO!!! I could have cried because I was so happy not to have fallen!! I don’t know that I could do that for somebody else.. I am SO ridiculously clumsy that I think I would also topple on top of you as I try to pull you up. So after my angel picked me up, it was smooooth sailing. Loop one-over the bridge-felt amazing. #BAMIGOTTHIS

I had zero problems staying with the pace group for the first 14. I ended up NOT taking my camelbak–> this is my biggest regret and one of the reasons I slowed in the 2nd half. I have said it before and I will say it again:I am terrible at water stops. The act of “stopping” slows me, and slows me real fast. I started to realize though that even though it was easy for me to catch my pace group at my first few stops, it was going to be pretty tough for me to catch them later on..truth be told, that had been my biggest concern going into marathon day. I hadn’t wanted the weight of the pack, so I opted to leave it at home. HUGE Mistake. Oh well, you live and learn!! Also, I know runners are always curious about this: I GUd three times-7,14,20– but never finished the last packet because the taste started to make me sick. I stopped for water at 5,9,15,18,20,22,23,24(after 20, I just wanted the excuse to walk)

There were a few times during the race where I found myself getting really emotional. The first few times, it was because I was literally seeing myself hit all of my goal times and I was really, ridiculously happy. I had made myself memorize a few key splits on my pacers shirt:
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I did the first half in 1:40:49 (coincidently,my 2nd fastest half time) I was on pace, and doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. I was really proud of myself for sticking to my plan. I couldn’t believe a BQ was actually going to happen for me: It was Surreal, and still is. A lot of you have said that you found it hard to believe that I haven’t BQd before, and while I thank you for thinking that, I guess the marathon always runs me down. It’s a tricky minx: you go out all cocky and excited, get beaten down, and just when you think you are going to quit, you begin to see the silver lining and realize you’re almost there… and somehow, somehow you finish with on tired legs, and with a full heart.

Mile 14
Still happy! Still strong! And then….mile 15. my headphones managed to get ripped out of one of my ears and I couldn’t get it back on the right way. So I lost my music. And then I lost my pace group. And I couldn’t go catch up no matter how hard I tried because the wind had started. I hate wind. HATE IT. I will take snow, rain, and humidity so high you can drink the air over a windy day. So by 15, I had slowed to an 8:00 pace and I had to fight to keep that. No matter what I did, I seemed to be unable to get myself back to my pre 7:20-7:30 pace. I just couldn’t get there. Each water stop, I fell more behind the pace group, and I slipped into a dark place in my mind, these evil thoughts were swirling around:
I’m not going to BQ.
All of this hard work for nothing.
I’m going to disappoint all of my readers who believe in me!
I never want to run a marathon again!
I want to go home!
I hate running!

15-18 were brutal. The wind exhausted me and sucked up my speed. Fighting to keep pace 15 miles in is no piece of cake. Once I crossed the bridge, I was telling myself that it was ok because at 21, I was going to see my friend Erin and she would help me finish! So the countdown to How many Miles Until I See my Friend began. It was a long way. It was hard. I don’t necessarily need music, but I can tell you that I had spent an awful lot of time crafting the Worlds Most Amazing Playlist and dammit I had wanted to hear it!

I was positive at this point that I would not be BQing. 100% abso-freaking-lutely positive. But them two amazing things happened…

#Amazing Thing #1
This is a little sidebar story. My SIL (as you might recall, ran her first half Sunday?!) has an amazing friend named Sandy. We are Facebook friends and talk ALL the time, but had never met in real life. (She is the MOST AMAZING and INSPIRATIONAL person who Has Ever Lived.)On Sunday, Sandy and I Were going to meet (she was volunteering at like 100 different spots during the race), but couldn’t manage to hookup. She realized that she never saw me go over the bridge, so she set off to find me. She drove the course, hoping to catch me.

So here is Nicole, at mile 20: picture her, if you will:she is sad. she feels broken, both physically&mentally. Suddenly, there is a minivan on the other side of the street with a lady about to fall out because she is YELLING MY NAME SO HARD and at that moment I realized who she was and heard her words:

THIS IS YOUR RACE, NICOLE, ITS YOUR BQ!! YOU GO GET IT!!!

I realized she is right! this IS my race! I WILL go get it! I cannot thank you enough Sandy, you truly pulled me out of my own negativity and helped me get my mind straight!!

Amazing Thing #2:
Right after seeing Sandy, my watch clicked mile 20 at 2:36… I did some quick mental math:I was still holding a low 8 minute pace: even if I slipped to 10 minute pace, I would still BQ! Maybe doing the math wasn’t the best thing ever. I knew it was “ok” to slow, but I honestly couldn’t go any faster if I tried. Even though my 2nd half was slower–I could tell that all of my fast finish long runs were helping me be able to hold onto the 8 minute pace. For past marathons, I have easily slipped down to a 9 minute pace.

Finally… it was mile 21, and there was Erin… I told her how happy I was to see her (understatement of the year, right there) We previously had had a plan to run the last 5 at <7:30 pace. Umm, yeah, that wasn’t happening. She asked if I wanted her to tell me that I had to pick up the pace if we went above 8 and I said "yes". But when she told me to pick it up…I couldn’t. I really couldn’t. I was crying while telling her I couldnt go any faster…I tried so hard, but everything everything was hurting. I had a toe on my left foot that I swear to god I could feel it’s pulse. (yeah, it’s black. Yuck.) Thank Sweet Baby Jesus that Erin was there and jumped in with me—just knowing that she was helping me finish and was trying to get me to our original pace Really helped me stay focused on her pace and not slow anymore than I already was. Or stop. Because I wanted to stop. Like a lot. Like “give me my medal at 23 please” stop. But she would not let me, so, I focused on all the things Erin was saying and tried to stay “in the mile” I was in.

I’ve run plenty of marathons where I haven’t felt good in the end. This was an all over body stiffness/soreness that I haven’t experienced before. My goodness, it really freaking hurt. Every mile felt never ending, and even when I had only 2 left to go, it felt like 20.

FINALLY… I rounded the last corner of the course, and could see/hear the finish line excitement!!! I gave it all that I could (which was still not much) and finished strong!!

I couldn’t help but cry. The lovely volunteers were all asking me if I got my BQ and I was so happy to tell them that I had, and it had taken me 14 marathons to finally do it.

I was so happy to finish with me friend! I couldn’t have finished that strong without her and probably would have let myself walk, or slip from an 8 minute pace on up. THANK YOU know million times over, Erin!!!

We walked to the family meeting area and over to bag check. It was all so easy to get to, and I didn’t have to think about where to find my family.

Erin and I at the finish:
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My adorable nephew& I… he &my niece made us signs…seriously, how cute are these?!

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Me & SIL at the finish line…she did an amazing job on her first half and I am SO PROUD of her!! And she said she would go back and do it again!!

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This picture is me and my MIL….it pretty much sums up all of my emotions post-marathon & as a first time BQ’r…

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Some other important thank you’s that need to be said: Thank you to all of you for believing in me. I’m not kidding when I say that your well wishes were playing in my head while I was running–they were on a loop! I loooooove reading all the comments from yesterday and I promise I’m going to respond (I went to work the next day, can you believe it?!)

Thank you to my family who always supports me-my parents, sister, my SIL, BIL, niece& nephew, MIL, FIL…without them I could not do all this marathoning nonsense!

Thank you to my friends who always support me in my crazy marathoning adventures. Their friendly faces are always at the finish lines. They get up super early on their days off just to come and get me in the city. They are the bees knees and I am a lucky, lucky girl❤️

Thank you to running partner for crazy 5am runs, endless run talk & for the pep talks💛💙💛💙

Thank you to my husband who figured out a long time ago that a happy wife is a happy life. He may not go to the finish lines anymore, but he lets me be who I am, and train how I want and never hardly ever complains. Love that guy!

I think I will be riding the emotional high for a while. Yes, it took me 14 marathons to do this-but I wasn’t serious like I am now over the course of those 14. To be truthful, I think it took 3 solid years of effort. I’m completely ecstatic that it happened for me at my very favorite race. I will never forget the feeling of first breaking 4 hours (at Baystate, 2012, 3:54) in the marathon. That little break under the 4 hour mark told me that I actually can do this, I just would have to work a little harder. The next year, (Baystate 2013, 3:47), I took 7 minutes off that PR. Just a little bit further… the goal was almost in my reach. This summer I worked my a** off to get here. This is a feeling that I will never, ever take for granted. Yes, I do wish I had hit my goal time…but at the end of the day, I did finally BQ. I know I am fully capable of a sub 3:20, and I’m already scheming on how to get there (does that surprise you? 😉) I know my story is a sort of the Cinderella story for runners-the fairy tale of a really slow runner who is transforming into a fast runner. But there is no fairy godmother here…just hard work, effort, and a obsession with making dreams come true…because seeing “BQ” next to my name in the results? Well that is just about the coolest thing ever…
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79 thoughts on “2014 Baystate Marathon Recap: The Wind, The Struggles& The BQ!

  1. YAYAY! I love this recap! You are one tough cookie, I am so proud of you for never giving up! It was such an amazing feeling to have a part in helping you get that finish line…so much so that I’m going to give up marathons and only pace friends for the last 5-6 miles of their race…..ok ya right, who am I kidding! Racing is addicting and I could never really stop 😉

  2. Pingback: Slow & Steady | Kristina's Blog About Running

  3. Congratulations! 😀 Haven’t seen your blog before today, but I’m so glad I found it. Read through your race times and all that, and you seriously seem like a true inspiration, just seeing how far you’ve come since your first marathon. WOW! Again, congrats! 😀
    And your niece and nephew are so adorable haha, your own little cheerleaders 🙂

  4. Why do I get so emotional reading race recaps?! hahaha! Great job, Nicole. Your “Cinderella story” encourages me more than you know.

    ps- does your race bib say “get the BQ Nicole!” ???!! Love it! Got it 🙂

  5. Congratulations!!!!!! Wow, your recap is almost identical to the one that I wrote. I was in the 3:25 pace group with you and saw you almost trip on a cone. I didn’t realize you were the one with the blog! Soon after I almost tripped on one, but somehow managed to hurdle it. I too slipped off the pace group after halfway, battled the horrible wind, but still finished with a BQ. It was an amazing day and I’m so happy things worked out for you!!!! I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely feeling the hurt now. Stairs are not my friend….

  6. This was like the best race recap ever! It really shows how you were feeling throughout the race and how you were able to overcome your negative thoughts and feelings and set out to do what you went there to do. Your story is so inspiring and I know you will hit your goal time in your next race! For now, enjoy the glory of earning that BQ!

  7. Congratulations on your BQ Nicole! I didn’t realize it at the time, that I was running next to the infamous “Girl Who Ran Everywhere”, but I was right next to you when you tripped over a couple of those cones. I hadn’t intended to run with a pace group prior to the race, but ended up tagging along with the 3:25 group and staying with them for the entire race. Our first two pacers were running a reasonable pace overall for a 3:25 finish, but the woman who took over pacing after about the 9 mile mark, was going much too fast. If she was wearing a watch, she never seemed to look at it once. My mile splits from my Garmin for miles 10 through 17 were: 7:29, 7:22, 7:29, 7:30, 7:31, 7:32, 7:41 and 7:31. That’s pretty consistent, but it’s not close to a 7:49 pace (for a 3:25 finish). That fast pacing may have turned out pretty good for me, as I felt that I could do better than 3:25, but it was clearly too much for the people that really wanted to do a 3:25.

    The young guy who was one of our original pacers, joined back in with us around mile 19, and seemed to rein in the pace a bit. I’m guessing that there were 2-3 dozen of us that were roughly following the 3:25 pacers for most of the first half of the race, but I think that there were only about six of us that stuck with the 3:25 pacers throughout the race, finishers 271-276. I’m not complaining, it worked out great for me. I wouldn’t have run as good of a race if I didn’t keep telling myself to “just stay with them (the pacers)”. I barely managed to keep my mile splits under 8:00 at the end, I was giving it everything I had. It’s amazing how quickly my muscles tightened up after I crossed the finish line and stopped running; within a minute I could barely walk.

    This was my third marathon. I thought that Baystate was really well organized; I was far less impressed with Hartford last year. My biggest complaint were the cones in the path of the runners; yeah, I was tripping over them at times too.

    This was about a 30 minute PR for me and my first BQ. Congratulations again to you!. I’ll see you in Hopkinton in 2016!

    • Wow what an amazing comment!!! Thanks for taking the time to post this Pete! Congrats to you a 30 minute PR is just terrific!!
      That’s funny that you were right next to me! You know, the comes drove me NUTS, but I’ve never noticed them in previous years. I think it was so difficult due to how many runners we had in our group and we all seemed to pack it in like sardines to not lose sight of the pacers. I didn’t even think that the second pacer was going too fast-good to know-that also could have contributed to why I fell behind as I had no trouble with the blonde/redhead pacers through 13. They were phenomenal!

  8. So proud of you, Nicole! Thank you for sharing your experience with us…I’m teary-eyed after reading this and am so happy for you! You BQ’d!!! Ahhhhhhhhh!!!! You make me feel like it’s a possibility, even for me…thank you for that!!

  9. Congrats, Nicole! My first BQ also came at Baystate (2008). I will always love that race for that reason. Way to hang tough in those last few miles. I have a Cinderella story just like you, and you’re right: it’s hard work, effort, and always believing! Great race 🙂

  10. My heart is full for you my friend. Way to stay after it! Impressive guts, grit and determination not just in this tough race, but in all it took to get you your BQ. I have no doubt whatsoever that you’re going to continue to get faster and achieve all your dream goals. WAY TO GO!! Huge hugs, and we WILL meet.

  11. YOU are awesome! CONGRATULATIONS! I loved reading your experience during the race! It just goes to show us marathoners are all experiencing the same physical & mental anguish! It’s amazing what we continue to do after we are physically & mentally BROKEN! It’s amazing hearing how that special support really carried you through – it really is all mental! So very happy for you! Your pace was AMAZING great great great job! Fingers crossed your story helps me in 2015 achieve my BQ! I’m so close!

  12. Great job Nicole! Getting that first BQ is a cosmic feeling, and everything you wrote – I’ve been there (in fact I was in that 3:25 group for three miles or so), always wondering “When? When is the fade coming? 16? 18? 21?” A friend in those later miles is priceless. Well run!

  13. NICOLE! You are so amazing!!! I am so excited for you! I have stupidly been crying reading this post because I can feel your happiness coming through the screen! Plus that picture of you and your MIL is awesome and just says so much! A picture is really worth a thousand words! Thank you for blogging your story, it is so inspirational!

  14. LOVE LOVE LOVE the recap. I can obviously no longer read your blog at work because you keep ruining my eye makeup (damn you!).
    I am now SERIOUSLY considering this race for next fall in hopes of breaking the 4 hour mark. Congratulations Nicole!

  15. Congrats again on finally getting that ever elusive BQ!!! Seeing how you fought through those middle miles where it seemed every type of obstacle was thrown at you was vwry impressive and inspiring!!! I’m still super happy for you and look forward to following the start of your training cycle that preps you for Boston 🙂

  16. I love reading your recaps because you explain all the emotions you’re going through so well…I feel like I can almost feel them WITH YOU!! I’m so so so happy for you and I love all the pictures of you with friends and family. They are such a wonderful support team ❤

  17. Wow! I love how once you believed it was your time to BQ, you went and did it. This is such a powerful thing that I’ve written about and thought a lot about because I believe it’s why I had my BQ, I just didn’t believe for a second it wouldn’t happen.

    I tracked you on Sunday and I was definitely biting my nails, but the funny thing was is that I 100% knew you would BQ. I had no doubt that whatever you faced, you would make it happen. I’m SO happy for you!! I suck at water stops too, which is another reason colder races are so much better for me since I don’t have to stop much. It’s also funny that you’d choose anything over wind because I’m the opposite. Wind isn’t ideal but I’ll take it over humidity in a heartbeat!

    I did 800s this morning and wanted to quit after every freaking one but thought about how bada$$ you are with them and it inspired me to follow through, so just thought I’d mention that. I totally had your “voice” in my head as my coach today!

    • I think that once I knew without a doubt that I would still BQ-it was like a whole new me started to emerge. A broken me, but still, a me that knew I would BQ!!!
      I love that you were trackingme and were nervous for me, that is the sweetest and nicest thing -your thoughts went a long way that day and played a part in me getting a BQ!!

      GREAT JOB with your 800s!!!! So much fun!!! I can’t wait to get back to them (once I can walk normal?!) and I can’t wait to read about them tomorrow, hurt so good, right?!

  18. totally tearing up reading your race report. that picture with your MIL – a total framer! you are such an inspiration for middle of the packers like me. congrats 100x over and over!

  19. Congratulations again!! Love reading your story, and I look forward to your journey to your next Boston and your sub 3:20! hooray!!! PS, not to take anything away from your moment, but in that last results pic – holy cow at that 66 year old dude a few down from you running a 3:28!!

  20. Congrats! I opted not to run the full this year but I got to pace my friend in for the last 6 miles. She BQ’d too! If you saw a girl running the course backwards to mile 20 that would have been me. I decided I should give up marathon running and pace for a living…you get all the fun and excitement of the marathon, but none of the pain ;P Ugh, who am I kidding, I’m already planning a full for the Spring. Congrats again..it was great following your training/accomplishment!

  21. Congratulations Nicole! I am so happy for you. I had tears in my eyes as I read your post. I am running my first marathon in November. Your recap made me both excited and emotional. Keep up the great work! You are inspirational.

  22. So very happy for you, Nicole. Congrats on your BQ! I have been following your posts for the last 3 months and they are an inspiration. I’m running my very first marathon (The Loco) this coming weekend. Feeling nervous and excited but mostly the taper is making me so antsy. I just want to run!

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