How I deal with post-race blues

Sixteen days ago, I ran my fifth marathon, and, just as I suspected would happen, the post-race blues are setting in. Hard.

It’s a cycle I know is coming, and yet, it’s still hard. It goes like this:

A couple weeks after the race, I end up feeling like, “Now what?” It’s hard to put into words. I am almost deflated without a large and life-consuming goal looming.

Whether the race goes in my favor, I ride the post-race high. This high was substantial since I PR’d significantly on a hard course in tough weather conditions.

I wondered if that would make the blues worse. It has, because what I’m experiencing is dramatic.

Luckily, I’ve dealt with this before, so I brace myself and prepare for its arrival. This is how I deal with the post-race blues.

Accept it.
I know it’s coming, so I accept the fact I’m going to feel a bit down after a marathon. It’s natural to feel a little down after you’ve achieved something big.

Set new goals.
I have one more big running goal in 2017: the Chicago Marathon. Since Boston went well, I have a lofty time goal in mind. Of course, I’ll take it as it comes, but initially, I want to go big on this marathon.

I also set a lot of non-running goals during this time. This is an important key to my recovery from feeling down. My non-running life is left out during training, and now is the perfect opportunity to give it some TLC.

Spend time on everything neglected during training.
As anyone who’s trained for a big sporting event knows, training is hard and time-consuming. Towards the final weeks, it seems all you can do is work, train and recover, leaving a lot neglected.

For me, I am focusuing on spending more time with my boyfriend and dogs. I’m relaxing more (heyyyyy Netflix) and doing non-running things I love, like cooking.

I’ve also picked up on my neglected morning routine of reading, writing and meditation. My whole day is set when I start off on the right foot and I really missed it during training.

Analyze my training and the race.
Before too much time passes, I like to think about what went well and also areas where I can improve. Every time I run a marathon, I learn so much, both about myself, the sport, and life.

Focus on fun runs and running friends.
A joy for me after the rigors of training is catching up with all my running partners I didn’t have a chance to train with because of mileage/pace restrictions. It’s so much fun to reconnect.

For now, I’m trying to enjoy not being so busy. If I wake up and don’t want to run, I don’t. My body is still recovering, and at the very least, I’m enjoying more sleep.

If you have any ground-breaking ideas on how to deal with the post-race blues, I’d love to know what they are!

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Blood, sweat and tears: Boston Marathon 2017 recap

Six days later and my brain is still swimming with thought and emotion.

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Blood, sweat and tears. Literally.

I spent 18 weeks running 908 miles in preparation, hell-bent on a PR, which, admittedly, isn’t the easiest feat. Boston is not a PR course, but I planned to try anyway. My training paces were aimed at a 3:25.

My Boston goals:
•A goal: A PR of 3:25:XX – 7:45 minute miles
•B goal: A BQ with enough cushion to run in 2018, about a 3:30 – 8:00 miles
•C goal: Finish happy, healthy, and uninjured

During the weeks before the marathon, I was voraciously hungry and fatigued. I did what I could to eat nutrient-dense foods and get extra rest, minimizing stress and focusing on pre-race recovery.

We flew into Boston at 10 p.m. Saturday, so it was straight to the hotel and to sleep. This left only one day in Boston pre-race to pick up my bib and explore the expo. I get nerves before races so I wanted to minimize my time in Boston before.

The expo was huge, but for as packed as it was, everything flowed smoothly. You could tell this wasn’t their first rodeo. We didn’t stay long, just long enough for me to snag a few items.

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Fast forward to Monday morning. My alarm went off at 5:30. I woke up and had a protein bar and coffee, then got dressed. Weather was warmer than predicted. I walked outside to wait for our Uber and wasn’t chilled at all, wearing only a tank and shorts. This was a terrible sign.

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About to make our way into the city. Hiding my nerves behind a smile and giant, disposable aviators.

We took the T into the city and arrived at Boston Common. Derek came with me and navigated the route so I didn’t have to think, just move. I didn’t check a bag because my support crew would meet me at the finish. A quick porta potty stop and I boarded the buses to Hopkinton.

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A selfie with my #1 supporter before boarding the bus.

Luckily, I met a nice, chatty lady in line and sat with her. (Hi, Krista from Wyoming!) She ran Boston a number of times and talked about the race. The bus ride was long, about an hour. I kept thinking, “We have to run back?”….

On the ride, I ate a Clif bar and Starburst jelly beans. It was tough fueling for a race late in the morning, trying to strike a balance between enough but not too much fuel.

Once in Hopkinton, we were dropped at the athlete’s village, a holding area with food, water and a ton of porta potties. I got in line right away, which was smart, because it took a long time. After that pit stop, it was time for Wave 3 to make our way to the start, another .9 mile walk. I had about 5,000 steps in before toeing the line.

The people of Hopkinton were out to cheer us on on the walk to the start and even had their own aid stations. I was sweating just walking and kept thinking about my goals and whether I should scale back. This heat would be hard to run in and downright dangerous. After debating, I decided to go for my A goal but was terrified it might be too much and the wheels would come off. If that happened, I would deal with it in the moment.

I decided this is the freaking Boston Marathon and I was going to act like I deserved to be there.

The gun sounded at 10:50 a.m. Off we went. As I was warned, everyone went out like a bat out of hell on the downhill course.

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I stuck to the plan and nailed my 7:45s as close as possible. The first water stop was at mile 2. I drank a cup, then grabbed two more and started drenching myself. Keeping cool would be the key to finishing without a trip to the medical tent.

The only downside to drenching myself was having to carry my phone. It was in my Flipbelt but I was sopping, so in my hand it went. Carrying something for 26.2 miles is a bit of a pain, but when I’m running, I enter robot mode and do what needs to be done.

I wrote a short recap on Instagram, and it sums up the race pretty well:

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I was concerned with the amount of effort I had to exert early in the race. Amazingly, my body was able to maintain it.

I called Derek at mile 6 to ask where they were and on which side of the road. They were near mile 25 on the left side, so beginning at mile 23, I hugged the left side. I still didnt’ manage to see them, but the thought of seeing them kept me going through those final miles. Sidenote: this was also another first, chatting on the phone while running. Ha!

So many people were walking starting at Heartbreak Hill. I gritted my teeth, put my head down, and kept running. It was weird flying by all these talented athletes. To even make it to the starting line of Boston is a great accomplishment…

The crowds along the entire course were absolutely amazing. The shouts of “Boston strong!” gave me chills. The best sign I saw was “4 years later Boston is stronger than ever” on the side of a building. The way the locals came out to cheer on the runners and support their city was inspiring. You can feel their fierce loyalty and determination to let love win.

I now know the meaning and feeling behind Boston Strong. I get tears in my eyes typing this.

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Less than a half mile to go. If I wouldn’t have been running, I’d have cried.

If I could use one word to describe the race and experience, it is humbled.

  • The race humbled me. I’ve never worked so hard in my life and felt like junk doing it.
  • I was humbled to run the same course as the world’s most talented athletes.
  • I was humbled to run among police officers, firefighters, military, disabled, and those who lost limbs serving our great country.
  • I was humbled by strangers who gave me water and orange slices. I was humbled by crowds filled with cheers and support.
  • I was humbled by cards, texts, calls, and messages from friends and family. Some of these people could not care less about running, but still offered love and support.
  • I am humbled by how I feel even today – my quads are so, so sore, and my body is tired.
  • I am humbled to be blessed with a strong body and spirit to allow me to accomplish my dreams.
  • I am humbled to say I accomplished my A goal and then some, finishing in 3:22:05, 7:42 per mile.

This was the race of a lifetime, and I am grateful to have experienced it. Early on, I said never again, but now I cannot wait to come back to the streets of Boston and do it all over.

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The best support crew in the world. Again, humbled.

The hype surrounding Boston? It’s all real, and it’s all worth it. I hope every runner gets to experience it at least once in their lifetime.

April 3 – 12 Training

This includes weeks 2 and 3, the final week, of taper. The last week is a partial week because my final run (before a shakeout on Sunday) was April 12. I will run the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 17.

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FINAL RUN. I cannot tell you how joy-filled this was.

All in, I ran 906 miles over the past 17.5 weeks. I’m pleased with how the entire cycle went. As with any training, it had ups and downs. One of the biggest challenges was training through a brutal North Dakota winter. We were pummeled with multiple feet of snow through several winter storms and dangerously cold temperatures. My personal limit for outdoor running is an air temp (without wind chill) of -5. 

Most of my quality runs (track work, tempo, race pace) were done on my treadmill, alone, in my dark basement. Beyond the physical challenges, the mental challenge of regular longish runs (up to 12 miles) took its toll.

I did manage to hit every single mile prescribed in the plan. I’m pretty proud of that. 

Through the weeks, I developed one pretty bad cold and dealt with one serious niggle. Luckily, I was able to train through both with slight pace adjustments. Note: this is only recommended if your body can handle it. If you are seriously sick or injured, please don’t run through it. Stop and seek appropriate medical treatment.

The thing that took me by surprise this taper was my hunger. It was/is out of control. I eat just over 2,000 calories a day, which is normally more than satisfying. Through the taper, I usually ate almost all of those calories by 11 a.m. I did go over a few days when I thought it was necessary. I don’t remember experiencing hunger like this before through any other tapering period. Luckily, my weight is stable and I’m at my perfect, comfortable race weight.

Taper Week 2
Monday, 4/3
•8 easy, 8:53 pace

Tuesday, 4/4
•6 easy in the morning, 8:47 pace
•5 easy after work, 8:32 pace
•11 miles total

Wednesday, 4/5
•Rest day

Thursday, 4/6
•9.5 easy in the morning, 8:37 pace
•3.5 easy after work, 8:41 pace
•13 miles total

Friday, 4/7
•7 with race pace strides, 8:05 pace

Saturday, 4/8
•8 easy, 8:28 pace

Sunday, 4/9
•8 easy, 8:30 pace with some race pace blocks

Total miles: 55

Taper Week 3
Monday, 4/10
•6 easy, 8:27 pace

Tuesday, 4/11
•6 easy, 8:31 pace

Wednesday, 4/12
•6 easy, 8:13

Thursday – Saturday
•Rest, rest, rest

Sunday, 4/16
•2 mile shakeout run, very slow

Total miles: 20

I’ve found I like a non-traditional taper, usually running high volume until the final week. This calms my nerves. One change I did make was running the prescribed miles during week 2 of taper (55), but taking out all advised speedwork. In lieu of that, I threw in some race pace strides. This kept me mentally happy.

Another survival technique was running almost all of these final miles with friends. It’s a great chance to catch up and get outside of your head.

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The last week is where I really taper hard – minimal, easy miles. In the few days leading up to a marathon, I become really aware of how much I’m moving and try to limit that as well. I’m normally a pretty active person (20,000+ steps a day) so it can be hard for me to sit more and move less, especially when dealing with pre-race nerves.

I fly out to Boston tomorrow. I know most people are already there or arriving long before late Saturday, but I want to minimize my time in Boston before the race. Pre-race nerves will likely hit me hard once I’m there, so I’d rather have only one day to explore the expo, then run.

I’m so anxious to take in this monumental marathon. It really will be a dream come true.

March 20 – April 2 Training

These were two big weeks: peak week and taper week 1 of 3.

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When you don’t feel like running, throw on the magic colors.

Peak week was amazing: 63 miles of nailing miles and paces. My long run was a huge confidence builder before the taper. Everything went smoothly, except I only lifted once, which is actually pretty normal for me during peak week. From here on out, my lifting will be extremely limited, if at all.

The three weeks leading up to the marathon I like to tune into my body very closely. If I’m feeling sore and/or overly tired, I don’t lift. Not much is lost during these weeks strength-wise, but I could potentially damage my performance by overdoing it. If you’re like me, you don’t want to compromise 18 weeks of hard work!

Peak Week!
Monday, 3/20
•8 easy miles, 8:45 pace

Tuesday, 3/21
•7 easy, 8:49 pace
•Full-body lift

Wednesday, 3/22
•Rest day

Thursday, 3/23
•6 working, 7:30 pace
•all other miles 8:49 pace
•11 total

Friday, 3/24
•8 easy, 8:52 pace

Saturday, 3/25
•Long run day! Ran with a local, super fast group
•16 miles, 7:47 pace
•736 foot gain
•133 avg. HR (great indication that my fitness is where it should be!)

Sunday, 3/26
•13 easy, 8:12 pace

Totals
•63 miles
•1 strength session

My first taper week was typical taper. I’m hungry and physically and mentally wiped. I don’t feel like taking naps, but I have no motivation to do anything except go through the motions of my days, so I do just that.

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Taper feels. I’m hungry. I’m tired. I’m dying….

 

I’m working hard to release myself from the “shoulds” until after race day. You know….I “should” bake some healthy breakfast muffins. I “should” deep clean my shower. I “should” spring clean. NOPE – saving that until after.

Recovery is just as much mental as it is physical.

Since I was exhausted this week, I made the call to not lift. My legs and entire body are sore, which is such a strange feeling after not lifting. Hello, taper, my old friend.

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The fast group I ran with during the long runs made these little leggies RUN.

Taper Week 1
Monday, 3/27
•6 easy, 8:47 pace

Tuesday, 3/28
•10 easy, 8:21 pace

Wednesday, 3/29
•Rest day

Thursday, 3/30
•6 working, 7:08 pace
•5 “cool down,” 7:52 pace
•11 total

Friday, 3/31
•6 easy, 8:51 pace

Saturday, 4/1
•Long run day! Ran with the same local, super fast group
•15 miles, 7:48 pace
•224 foot gain, basically one steep hill and the rest flat

Sunday, 4/2
•8 easy, 8:52 pace

Totals
•56 miles

March miles
•253

With only 14 days to go, I made the call to scrap speed and run the rest of my miles easy until race day. On the days speed is prescribed, I will throw in race pace strides at the end of each mile.

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My favorite torture devices.

Dear cell phone, we’re breaking up…

At work today, while scrolling through Facebook (my job requires it), I saw this blog: The Only Remedy for FOMO (fear of missing out) 

With coffee in one hand, phone in the other, all while replying to an email, I scrolled through it.

  • Saying yes when your heart says no? Check.
  • Scrolling endlessly through social media? *looks down at cell* Check.
  • Constantly checking phone? *see above* BIG check.
  • Sleeping less? Yes.
  • Compromising self-care? Unfortunately.
  • Rushing? Yep.
  • Choosing convenience over quality? *rips protein bar open* Nodding.
  • Feeling like you’re missing out on things? Yes.

It struck me – I am on my phone way too much, scrolling social media, not even looking for anything. I don’t even like Facebook. From the second I roll out of bed until my head hits my pillow at night, I am attached to my phone like it’s my life source. Texts, apps, browsing….

I need a break. It’s peak week for Boston prep: 63 miles. On face value, that’s not bad, but considering total time commitment, it’s a lot. Fueling, sleeping, mobility, strength, driving, showering…..All in, it’s quite a chunk of time, not to mention the accompanying mental and physical exhaustion.

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This is more time-consuming than it looks.

I need to be focused and refreshed to successfully navigate my week. If I added up all the “5 minutes here, 5 minutes there” cell  time, it would be an embarrassingly large number.

What could I do with all the time I mindlessly squander?

What instantly comes to mind:

  • Spend five minutes applying makeup in the morning
  • Do more yoga
  • Spend more time being present with my boyfriend at home
  • Pet and love on my dogs
  • Read a book
  • Journal
  • Cook/meal prep
  • Meditate
  • Clean
  • Blog
  • Take an epsom salt bath
  • I could just sit and do nothing, aka relax

The sheer amount of time I spend being “connected” changes my mindset. I’m hardly ever relaxed (unless I’m running, about mile 12 or so). Everything feels like an emergency, always go, go, go. I instantly respond to texts and notifications, being available 24/7.

I can’t remember the last time I had a meal with no interruptions – just me sitting at a table, enjoying food. This realization saddens me; It’s a big wake-up call.

Marathon training, especially peak week, is a naturally busy, exhausting time. Why am I making it harder on myself? My self-care is slipping. I’m not spending as much time on critical things as I should. This isn’t surprising, but I need to help myself more and cut out the crap, especially the special kind of crap that adds no value to my life. *looks over at cell phone*

I need an intervention.

I’m not exactly sure how it’s going to work, but I am committed to spending less time being “connected,” instead being present and living life, the one not obtained through a screen.

I want to come home from work and set my phone down, not picking it up again until I leave my house the following morning. I want to eat dinner with Derek and have an actual dinner – food, conversation, relaxation. No phones allowed.

I want to be able to just sit and BE without feeling like I need to be doing anything at all. My mind is constantly going the way it is. I don’t need to add fuel to that already-burning fire.

Parameters, which are bound to change to make this sustainable:

  • One hour of phone access per evening
  • When not in use, place phone in bedroom
  • Use an alarm clock (not my phone)
  • Turn “do not disturb” on my Garmin (it buzzes with every notification, instantly alerting me)
  • Possibly others I’m not thinking of now – I use my phone a lot…

I’ll notify my close family and friends that I’ll be doing this, so they don’t text or call and wonder if I’m dead. (Hi, mom!)

Tackling this makes me excited, even a bit nervous. I want to see what positivity I can add to my life. I know I can be a better girlfriend, dog mom, friend, daughter, employee, runner, human.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing inherently wrong with technology and social media. Quite the opposite, in fact. I’ve gained a lot through both – ideas, people, connections. But I need to have a healthy balance between screen time and real life.

March 13-19 Training

Week 14 was an interesting one! I felt the beginning of a cold on Friday, March 10, which worsened over the weekend and was full-blown by the start of this week. It was so sick on Tuesday that I barely got out of bed. Luckily, I rested that day and was able to complete all of my mileage for the week.

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Spring in North Dakota – only one layer of thermals!

The good: I hit all my mileage (plus an extra 1.5 miles!).

The bad: My cold made it hard to breathe. My lungs felt like they were being compressed with a 500 pound brick. I also went out way too fast for both my strength and race pace runs. When I get nervous, I tend to run too fast.

Monday, 3/13
•5 easy miles, no idea on pace, slow

Tuesday, 3/14
•Impromptu rest day – sick with cold so stayed in bed most of the day

Wednesday, 3/15
•11 easy miles, 8:40 pace
•Full-body lift
•5 minutes of planks

Thursday, 3/16
•6 miles tempo, 7:06 pace
•8 miles total

Friday, 3/17
•9 easy miles, 8:30 pace

Saturday, 3/18
•9 “race pace” miles, went way too fast, 7:15 pace
•1 cool down mile, 10 miles total

Sunday, 3/19
•12 easy miles on schedule
•ran 13.5 miles, 8:15 pace, 664 ft. gain
•Full-body lift
•5 minutes of planks

Totals
•56.5 miles
•2 strength sessions

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Any day the sun comes out is a good day.

Overall, I’m pleased with the week. I wasn’t sure what my body would allow me to do since I was sick.

My focus going into this next week is to actually hit race pace (7:45). I need to calm my nerves and dial it in. Next week is peak week and I have 63 miles on the schedule.

I’m feeling excited, ready, and hungry for a PR. I cannot believe Boston is only 28 days away!

March 6 – 12 Training

Week 13 is done! I’m pleased to say it was a great week overall.

The good: I managed to hit all my miles and paces. Not too fast, which is my biggest struggle. I lifted twice, which I’m happy with. The further you get into training, the harder it is to fit this in. Also, it feels SO much heavier on fatigued legs, but it’s important to do it anyway.

The bad: The weather took a turn for the worse (winter storm, sub-zero temps), so my quality runs were on the treadmill. I also started getting sick at the end of the workday on Friday. This was made much worse by a long outdoor run on Saturday, and another outdoor run Sunday.

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Most of this week’s runs were this – COLD, windy, snowy, gloomy. Mother Nature doesn’t care how close Boston is. How selfish!

Monday, 3/6
8 easy miles, 8:47 pace
Real feel of -15 – yikes!
5 minutes of planks

Tuesday, 3/7
6 miles at strength pace, 7:36
11 miles total

Wednesday, 3/8
Rest

Thursday, 3/9
9 miles at GMP, 7:42 pace
12 miles total
This run felt amazing, even on the treadmill!
Full-body lift
5 minutes of planks

Friday, 3/10
7 easy miles, 8:38 pace
Another real feel of -15

Saturday, 3/11
16 miles, 8:11 pace

Sunday, 3/12
5.5 miles, 9:06, outside during a winter storm!
2.5 miles on the TM, no idea on pace, but slow
8 miles total
Full-body lift
5 minutes of planks

Totals
62 miles
2 strength sessions

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-15 degrees. Why are we smiling?

I am looking forward to warmer temperatures so I can get outside for my quality runs, namely my marathon goal pace runs. I am getting down to the final weeks, so I’d like my body to become really familiar with a 7:45 pace out on the roads.

This coming week, I’d like to work more short strength sessions in instead of two larger, more intense ones. From here on out, it’s all about maintaining strength up until the big day.