Believe in your training. When you work hard, good things happen. Local runner Caitlin Wood is a glowing example of just how this works. Three and a half years ago, she ran a 3:47 marathon. That's already a solid time, but she didn't settle there. She put in the miles, stuck to a plan, and she just ran a sub-3 marathon this fall. That's a jaw-dropping transformation in just a few years.
We caught up with Caitlin to learn the process she followed and the advice that she could share with the rest of us.
(Note: We talked with Caitlin after her amazing run at the Columbus Marathon - but before her great race at the NYC Marathon. Yep, she ran two marathons within a couple of weeks, going sub-3 at the first and running 3:01 at the next!)
CRC: Your first marathon was a 3:47. Your sixth was a freaking 2:59. What was the process like to drop all the way down to a sub-3?
Caitlin Wood: It's been a gradual process over 3.5 years! I slowly crept up from 15-20 mile weeks up to about 50-60 mile weeks and started adding yoga in on any day I don't run. Coming to speed workouts at CRC with a friend has really helped my time come down too. My nutrition has totally transformed; I quit eating crap, and started focusing on fueling with yummy, real food. Turns out if you put good stuff in, you get good stuff out of your body. I've had a few setbacks dealing with anemia two years ago and physical therapy after Boston last year, but thankfully, I've been blessed with very little injuries.
My goals are always evolving: I went from just wanting to finish a marathon, to chasing that BQ, to wanting to break my dad's PR, to setting my sights on sub-3:00. I've truly come to love running and I'm kind of addicted to how it makes me feel.
CRC: Stepping back, how long have you been a runner? What drew you into the sport?
CW: I started running XC and track in 7th grade. I come from a family of runners and I'd always played sports, but wanted to try something new and ended up running through my senior year. I didn't take it seriously enough to pursue it after high school, and then ran very little for about 5 years. I ran a couple half marathons, but swore I'd never try a full, and didn't take very good care of myself. One of my friends got me to sign up for Columbus 3.5 years ago, and once I finished my first, I was hooked. It has given me confidence and strength and a way to de-stress and process life out there through the miles. I also get to do a lot of my long runs with my dad cycling by my side, and I wouldn't trade that time together for anything.
CRC: You've been running with the Pickerington CRC. What is it about group training that draws you in?
CW: It's a community of great people who are just as crazy about running as I am! We talk training plans and taper strategies and shoe preferences and suffer through workouts together and when they ask about your last race they genuinely want to know your mile-by-mile replay just as much as you want to relive it. There is a friendly rivalry and they push me harder than I'd ever be able to push myself solo. Adding speed work has absolutely transformed my training, and I've never regretted a run with CRC. Grateful for people to share the miles with.
CRC: What's next? What's your next race and your next big time goal on the horizon?
CW: I've actually got the NYC Marathon coming up November 3rd (just going to enjoy the sights of the city for this one), the Atlanta half marathon March 1st, then it's time for revenge at Boston in April. That's been haunting me since last April and I've got to take another shot at it. As far as time, the OTQ "B" Standard 2:45 seems insane, but at one point so did sub-3:00. I know there are still things I need to add into my training so I've definitely got room to improve. At this point, I've just decided I want to see what I can be before it's too late.
CRC: Finally, what advice would you give for anyone looking to make a massive leap forward in their own training and racing?
CW: If you aren't doing speed work, start. Add in a cross-training activity you enjoy. Take care of your body- don't rush jumping up in mileage and always refuel with real food. Find a running community (like immediately). Take your speed work and slow recovery days seriously. Don't miss an opportunity to build mental toughness on those days when you don't want to leave your couch. Be selfish with your training, especially in the weeks leading up to a big race. And finally, your biggest limitations are the ones you put on yourself- don't be afraid to set crazy goals. You just might surprise yourself.