Tuesday, April 21, 2009

562 Runners Can't Be Wrong--2009 Boston Recap (Part II)

Another day, another 13.1 mile report...Tuesday's admittedly long blog covered the first half of the 2009 Boston Marathon, and today's will cover the rest.

Mile 14: Before I knew it, I was crossing over the half-marathon mark, the chip pad beeping as I crossed it in 2:02.08, a 9:19/mile pace. I gave myself a quick break to stretch and drink, keeping to my standard every 3-mile plan, and knowing that at my next stretch break, I'd be coming up on the first of the Dana-Farber cheering sections, and my beloved. I tossed back the water thoughtfully provided by the BAA folks, washing down a decaf strawberry-banana Gu to replace some of my lost calories.

Mile 15: With more than 14 miles in the hatch, I couldn't help but realize someone was looking out for me. The sniffles of Thursday morning had held off from becoming a full-blown cold, thanks to a steady diet of FortiFense TheraFlu. The 2-inch gash across the bottom of my right foot, compliments of Copley attacking the vicious "Sweatpant Leg Monster" on Saturday night (right before she ate part of a Magic Eraser and I had to call poison control) was covered with a blister coating band-aid, and had I not know it was there...well, I wouldn't have known it was there. I was feeling healthy and strong.

Mile 16: By 16 I was starting to run out of steam. To keep myself going, I alternated between reminding myself that Derry had been fine, and that was 16 miles, and that as of a couple hours before the race, the Dana-Farber team had raised more than $3 million for cancer research.

Mile 17: At last, at long last, I was at the first of the Dana-Farber cheering sections, and my beloved was jumping in to run me the rest of the way home. I was ecstatic for a break, and ecstatic to see my favorite running partner whose enthusiasm was infectious, and just the spark I needed.

Mile 18: My bladder full, and more importantly (at least to me at the time) needing a quick rest, I was glad to realize the Newton firehouse was coming up. While the few people inside seemed surprised to see a bibbed runner, they graciously let me budge in the line for the bathroom.

Mile 19: Easing into Mile 19 brought me through thicker and thicker crowds, and past a set of speakers blaring "Eye of the Tiger." Jared started smiling and shadow-boxing, and I couldn't help but do the same, remembering my montage-like cross-training workouts.

Mile 20: Fatigued, I pulled Jared to the side of the course so I could stretch my aching legs. Knowing the big hill was yet to come, this seemed an ideal spot to grab a few minutes and ease the kinks out. Another runner coasted by us, and felt the need to ask me did I know that the medical tent was just up ahead? (WTF?! I was tired, not dying.) Jared gave him the stinkeye, and muttered, "thanks, but there's only one way to the finish line."

Mile 21: Heartbreak Hill was just ahead, my Everest, my wild ocean, my last big hurdle. The truth is that the Boston Marathon is exactly the way everyone describes it. After cresting the last of the big hills, Heartbreak, the hard part would be over for me, and at past 20 miles, I would only have to make it through a few flat miles to be done. I knew this, and with Jared encouraging me to keep going, to begin running after every tired walk, I made it up and over.

Mile 22: Spirits flagging a bit, and the strength of my legs, flagging in tandem, I started to slow again. A runner passing me tapped me on the back and yelled, "For Nathaniel!", who is my 4-year-old patient partner. Nathaniel is four years old, and after having had a neuroblastoma tumor removed at 3, is cancer-free. I looked at my beloved, and nearly started to cry. He and I like to joke that by his volunteering at Children's Hospital, and my fundraising for Dana Farber, we are building up good karma, and that we won't have to worry about our babies getting sick. Jared says I turned into a "werewolf" with that tap and statement. I'm not sure about that, but I did buckle down, and we got back to some running. Still, I wonder how I'd look as a medaled female teen wolf?

Mile 23: My beloved, recognizing my flagging energy, wasn't certain what to do, or what to think of the strangers high-fiving me. Soon, though, he got into the spirit, and began yelling and fist-pumping, pointing at me, and getting the crowd to yell and cheer even more as we passed. He nudged me over to high-five, and snatched orange slices for me to enjoy along the route. His enthusiasm was contagious, and I found myself digging deep to hash out the last few miles.

Mile 24: At last, the Citgo sign above Fenway came into sight. I knew with this that all I had to do was reach it, and there'd only be a mile to go. A mile to Fenway, and a mile to something even better...

Mile 25: At last! There it was! The sight I'd been looking for. As I bumped my aching legs up over the bridge before Fenway, my beloved at my side, I saw them--the Dana-Farber cheering section, complete with Jack, Jan, and the crew from the patient partner program. I found myself buoyed by their shouts of encouragement, and the smile that sprung from deep within me felt as though it could crack my face with its happiness. This group was the single most beautiful sight of the whole course--and I knew when I saw them that I could, and would, go on and finish strong. With a wave, we trotted on past, easing out of 25, and into what would be the last long mile of the day.

Mile 26: My beloved had pushed me through the last 8 miles, and all too soon it was time to part ways. We mapped out a plan of where to meet afterwards, and then he was squeezing my hand, and telling me not to quit, not to walk--that I was almost there. And I was, as soon enough the Hynes Convention Center was visible, the marker for the last turn onto Boylston.

.2: There it was, the finish line, with its curves of blue and gold arching above Boylston Street. I kicked in, wheezing out the last few block, from Hereford to Gloucester, through Franklin and Dartmouth, and at last, across the chirping chip pads, the sound of the announcer rattling off my name ringing in my ears.

The rest is pretty standard... I more or less staggered down the street with the other runners, where a quiet youth threw a silver "space blanket" over my shoulders. I kept walking along the runner's chute, stopping next to put my foot on a wooden block so a very nice, older man removed the chip from my shoe, before dropping a gloriously heavy medal over my neck. After picking up my bag from the bus, and a bagel and banana from the BAA volunteers, I was ready to head over to the Copley Marriot to meet my better half. After the squeezing and murmuring of lovers, I snagged two cookies and we hit the road for home.

Two free T rides later, we were drinking coffee, ordering Chinese food, and lounging on the couch. Ah...a day well spent.

Last year, I enjoyed running the marathon for Dana Farber, but this year...ah, this year, I fell in love a little.

562 Runners Can't Be Wrong--2009 Boston Recap (Part I)

About 27 hours ago, I finished my second Boston Marathon...and after 4 hours, 36 minutes, and 53 seconds of running (and some walking), I was...pooped. But happily pooped. There are so many things that made this year so very incredible, so many that I'm opting this year to cut the blogging recap into two posts...so here is the first half, with more to come!

Mile 1: Having discarded my secondhand, gray, old-man style sweatpants (which after their two-day $5 "rental fee" were a steal), and clad in the perfect combination of long-sleeved Under Armour, shorts, and bedazzled singlet, I was ready to run. B, John (right), and I settled into a steady pace, Jim having bolted ahead at the start, shooting for a 3:50 total time. We agreed that the best tact was to settle into a slow, steady pace of 9:15/mile, saving ourselves for speed in the later miles. As we passed the Mile 1 sign, B noted our pace, just over 9 minute/mile. Hmm. We agreed it would be best to slow down a bit for the next mile, as the excitement bolstering us here was sure to fade.

Mile 2: The three of us happily cruised up and down the rolling hills, our feet flying, and our chatter markedly in tandem (a lot of "Can you believe we're doing it? The marathon snuck up this year!" and so on, and so forth). We waved at fans alongside the road, and inhaled the heady scents of barbecue and beer. It was a glorious day for running: upper 40s, overcast, and the rain had held off. Strange, though, despite our efforts to keep to the plan, we'd slid in around 8:53 for pace. Curses.

Mile 3: Despite John's warnings, and my trepidatious feelings about what the speed combined with the downhills (those sneaky downhills got me last year), we continued on at a pretty good clip, though at least above the 9:00/mile mark. The scent of charcoal grills and hamburgers was a feast for the senses, though, sadly, not for the stomach.

Mile 4: At long last, the stiffness eased out of my joints, and I found myself just...running. I high-fived some younger spectators (and tomorrow's runners!), and with renewed spirit, not to mention a big grin, sailed into Mile 5.

Mile 5: The fifth mile passed as much the same as the first four...but come on, is there anything better than running the Boston Marathon? I couldn't help my glee. We were at last again chasing the unicorn.

Mile 6: The three of us trotted together over the 10K mark, Brenda and I yelling excitedly about what was the first text message update to our families. What were they thinking? Were they tracking our progress? I know, now, that my dad's poor cell reception meant that he wasn't--but that my mom was getting my updates, and calling my dad on the landline every time she got one, so that he would know where I was and how it was going.

Mile 7: Somewhere near here, B and I lost John. He'd been grumbling lightly about the quicker-than-anticipated starting pace, and the secret part of my mind was agreeing--had we gone out too fast? I suspected so, and the lack of a quick break to stretch was beginning to wear on my knees, chronically stiff from the six months of training. John had not, however, fallen behind, but had bolted ahead. As we passed knots of people, they cheered our names, and for Dana Farber, some thanking us for what we were doing on behalf of cancer research.

Mile 8: At last, I called a break for a much-needed stretch. Since Brenda doesn't like to stop while she's running we agreed that I'd stop to stretch, and she'd carry on, albeit slower, until I had time to stretch and run to catch up with her. The plan carried off to perfection, my legs thanking me for the stretch.

Mile 9: As we ran, the spectators grew more and more interesting, with a man dressed up as Elvis hip-shaking as he serenaded the runners passing him by. Needless to say we hooted, hollered, and clapped, but did not throw our undergarments at him. (I can't imagine the chafe that would have ensued.)

Mile 10: B and I continued knocking back the miles steadily, slowing down slightly as passed a Mexican restaurant, where the air was thick with the smell of fresh enchiladas, and filled with the sound of loud Latin music. Spectators milled in the parking lot outside, eating and drinking as they watched us go by.

Mile 11: In which I had a running epiphany. Knowing that I needed another stretch of the quads to release the building pressure in my much-beleaguered knees, I told Brenda to carry on, and that I didn't really have another sprint in me to catch her--so she should carry on. This was the truth, but there is also another truth I'd come to realize in Mile 11--we are very different runners, Brenda and I...though I adore to run with her, she prefers to keep herself moving at all times. I, on the other hand, run stronger, faster, and happier, if I can get a stretch and a quick rest in every 3 or 4 miles. Potato, potato, but we both had to run our own race, and thus far, I had been blithely running Brenda's--and I knew I'd come out too fast.

Mile 12: I trundled through Mile 12 merrily, smiling and waving at fans on the sides of the road. Strange, it felt normal to be running "alone" again, though not as much as I'd have thought--but then I'd run large portions of many of the training runs solo. I remembered, too, we are, all of us, never running alone... My mother was at home, walking her long miles in preparation for her first half marathon, my cousin Evan was surely running with me, and there were 561 others running 26.2 miles for cancer research, at the exact moment that I was. We were buoyed by our common goal, our faith, and the wings and fleet feet of those that had come before us, those that had begun the goal that we'd carried on, and that had raised more than $20 million for cancer research.

Mile 13: Halfway into the thirteenth mile, I heard it--the Wellesley Scream Tunnel. I passed a walking runner, tapped him on the shoulder, and yelled, "Come on, the girls are waiting for ya!" He smirked and responded, "I know...I'm just resting up for them!" I grinned ear-to-ear as I ran past the hundreds of screaming co-eds, who screamed all the louder as they saw those of us so obviously renewed by their enthusiasm.

More to come tomorrow:) I know that my three loyal readers will be lying in wait with bated breath...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pre-Marathon fashion

1. My newly bedazzled singlet:
2. True love = running with your beloved a few days before the marathon in trouser socks when you forget your running ones. Woops.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

One Hell of an Exciting Week

This week's was one thrilling drift of taper and taking care of my much-beleagured body, with an hour of cross-training (run replacement, nearly as satisfying as low-fat chocolate--Ha!) on Monday, and an admittedly short (2.8 miles) run on Thursday. Today, I should have run another lazy, slow 2-3 miles, but I skipped it, after spending two hours walking around the marathon expo, picking up my number and my bag of Dana Farber goodies (the two cookies shaped like feet didn't even make it down the escalator, by the way).

Many may argue that I should have done the short miles today, and many might be right. But I am enjoying this last little break before the big dance on Monday, and I think my knees, which I'll ice again tonight and tomorrow to get them into prime punching form, will thank me for it.

The expo was full of many delights:

1. I met Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon with an official number. She had entered the race under her initials, K. V. Switzer. She was nearly attached by race director Jack Semple, who was convinced she was making a mockery of his race. Later the two became fast friends, however, and she pioneered the women's running movement, and was integral in getting the marathon added to the Olympics as a womens' event. When faced with such a creature, I held out a book for her to sign, and nervous and emotional...turned into an asshole, blurting "Make it happen!" WTF?! Of course, I followed up by blathering away in a complimentary manner, informing Ms. Switzer that I did already have a copy of her book, but wanted another for her to sign...and likely making no sense at all. That's right, I'm an idiot asshole savant.

2. I realized the marathon motivational poster of an elderly fellow had a time posted that was (sigh) faster than mine. Luckily when I stood next to him, I realized he was much bigger than me, likely explaining how he could finish 3 minutes faster than me last year. (It's all in the legs.)

3. The finish line is fully painted and glorious, near the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, a place of so many delights: a) the library being where my beloved and I realized our feelings for each other; b) the finish line, where at long last, my tired body will get to stop its fiendish torment, and c) proximity to a Starbucks. Last year I was afraid to stand on the finish line before the marathon, worried that it would "nix" me. This year I made that thing my b*tch, and not only stood on it, I hung out for a while and loved up on it. (I'll be seeing you Monday, you sexy finish line, you...)

4. The Old South Church. On Sunday morning, at 11:00 a.m., there will be a special service, the "blessing of the athletes." I didn't make it last year, but will go this year. On the front of the church, every year a biblical quote is hung, one of my favorite running-related quotes:

May you run and not grow weary
Walk and not faint.

Now there's nothing to do but drink water, carb-load, and bedazzle my Dana Farber singlet!

Wish me luck on Monday, an as always...if you haven't donated, there is still time! Just click on the Dana Farber link in the right sidebar of my blog.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

10(ish) Breezy Miles with my Beloved and B

With 9 days to Marathon Monday, I was due for my last "long" run...a taper run of 10-12 miles. Due to an assortment of busy things to do on Saturday, one of them being my better half's need to be at work by 8:30 a.m., we'd agreed to run an early, early run. When B (Brenda) got in touch Friday to suggest just what I had been thinking--one last meander along the marathon course, and a desire to get the miles out of the way early, I was ecstatic.

At 5:30 a.m., however, when we pulled in front of her house to pick her up, Jared and I were both feeling a bit differently about whether the early morning miles were, in fact a brilliant idea...Still, we parked the car at Mile 17, the Woodland T-stop, and off we went, clad in rain gear and fuel belts, prepared for the elements, dehydration, and (yes, I admit it) the potential need to hail a cab.*

The first couple miles were as they always are--a bit stiff. But by the time we'd hit five, we were turning to run through Cleveland Circle, having killed the Newton Hills, and running easy--chatting all the way.

When we hit the bridge to cross into Harvard Square, B and Jared broke into a sprint as they raced to the curve turning to cross the Charles River. I muttered a somewhat beligerant "You're going too fast..." but tried to kick it in to keep up with them. Despite all three of us slowing down to cross the bridge, by the time we found ourselves in Harvard Square itself, Jared had cajoled us both into finishing the last mile at a faster clip.

A much faster clip. As we arrived at Starbucks, having all but sprinted the last half mile, I found myself happily panting, happily fatigued, and happy, with the knowledge that despite what had been a truly hard run, I had some "left in the tank."

I have high hopes for the marathon. That's not to say that I plan to achieve any great time goals, or even be walking that well on Tuesday. But I feel stronger this year--in body, mind, and soul, and I can't help but feel at least a general sense of hope regarding the outcome a week from tomorrow--and that's really what its all about, when running for a charity--keeping hope alive.

*One should always be prepared, with money or card, should the need arise for either a cab, or an immediate post-run 6-pack and/or pizza. The latter has been known to occur with alarming frequency.

Easter Island 5

Thursday night brought the promise of more actual miles (Tuesday's were logged half on an elliptical, half on a stationary bike, for the sake of my mortal knees). JRod's ex-roommates were having a barbecue, and while we had to do some miles (or at least I had to, with JRod a willing accomplice), there was no reason we couldn't circle over in that general direction...

So, before heading out, we modified our potential route to loop by the Central,* so that we might be able to swing in and enjoy some grilling and the company of friends. The miles were easy and loose after the first initial stiff ones, and we were there before we knew it, enjoying some meat and vegetables on a stick. After 1/2 hour or so of hanging out, we headed the mile and a half home, walking a bit, running a bit, and mostly enjoying the company of each other.

I'm looking forward to more runs like these in the summer--runs where I can go wherever I want to go, where there is no minimum or maximum mileage, and my runs with Jared can be driven purely by whatever new shape we can get our routes to take...this one was the "Easter Island 5," with a sideways version of our route appearing an awful lot like these stone monoliths.

*The Central is the name of Jared's old apartment building. Not only is it located on Central Street, the words "The Central" have been stenciled above the front door.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

On Life, Love, and Running: A 47-Mile Melting Pot

It's been a full two weeks, and 47 miles, since I've blogged, and here are the titles I'd have chosen for a blog on each respective run:

Grumpy, Grumbling 8 from Mrs. Belligerent Face
22 Miles and One Hell of a Fundraiser
A Sweet and Sultry 5 with JRizzle (and a Followup Six-Pack and Pizza)

and lastly, yesterday:
Whew! At Long Last, Some (12) Good Miles!

The quick summary of these, though probably apparent from their titles, is this:

Grumpy, Grumbling 8 from Mrs. Belligerent Face (March 26): I admit the last few weeks have been troubling in terms of my running--I grumpily did this solo 8-mile run last Thursday purely because my training schedule called for it. As is my wont, however, I did arrive back home slightly less surly than when I had left. (Good, running, good.) Some days, and more so now that my training is nearing its close, it's hard to motivate to get out the door--mostly because I've logged a LOT of miles just since Christmas, but also, I'm sure, partly due to the ever-dwindling days to the marathon--just 13 days now! AH! And it doesn't help that my beloved, and my pooch, would be a nice way to spent the evening...this picture is of us at our PR at the Hyannis Half in February.

22 Miles and One Hell of a Fundraiser (March 28): Saturday came along with a busy day planned--22 miles with Dana-Farber, an out and back course from BC, culminating in one last ugly stretch up Heartbreak, in the morning, and my fundraiser at Tommy Doyle's Irish pub in the evening.

The run was a rocky one for me--plagued with an upset stomach, and an achy left knee. I grumpily (I know! Two grumpy runs in a row?!) conceded the day and logged the miles, though. I've decided to view this one as a victory--if I can 22 miles not feeling just the thing, and grumpy to boot--well, the 26.2 on Marathon Monday should be a cakewalk. Which is good, since I don't mind walking, and I do like cake. The best part of this run was the first 10 miles--complete with the good company of fellow DFMC runners Jim, John, and Brenda. The last 12, the solo miles--well, I survived them just fine in the end! It doesn't hurt when your better half is available at two water stops for a quick pep talk and shoulder squeeze...

Later, my mood much restored after half a pepperoni pizza, Jared and I took care of the last details before the fundraiser that night. The folks at Tommy Doyle's in Harvard Square were extremely accommodating, and the best of hosts--both helpful and generous in their time and efforts to pull of the evening.

The great news is that a lot of people showed up--friends, fellow runners, and large numbers from the gym (likely less due to the fundraiser, and more so to the fact that it was "League Night Out" as well, but c'est la vie...), and I raised over $800 for Dana Farber! This brings me perilously close to the fundraising minimum of $3,000, but not quite as close as I'd like to be to my goal of $5,000--if you haven't feel free to donate--the quick and easy link is on the right of my blog...hint, hint:)

A Sweet and Sultry 5 with JRizzle (and a Followup Six-Pack and Pizza) (April 2): Thursday night rolled around, and it was time again, to stop putting off running--which I've managed to do for the last several Tuesdays...very bad, Abigail, very bad. With my better half's sore hip on the mend, I was itching to get out and enjoy some easy, loafing miles with him. We planned our course to take us by Tommy Doyle's to pick up the fundraising money, with the total mileage from home and back somewhere in the neighborhood of 5.25. Taking into account our discussion of pizza and beer and ultimately, our stop to pick up the latter before walking home the last few blocks (perhaps consuming one of the aforementioned beers en route), I'm thinking it ended up more along the lines of 5 miles...I'm not sure what it is about the post-run pizza, but twice this week, it seemed just the thing, as upon arriving home, we called in an order for delivery.

Whew! At Long Last, Some (12) Good Miles! (April 4): Ah, at long last, I am up to yesterday--and at long last, back to an enjoyable, strong run. There is something in training for a marathon that begins to consume much of your life--fitting the time in to run, and to fundraiser, and to also keep the time you need for yourself. This last is where I struggle the most, as its easy for me to push aside my personal to-do list in favor of all the other bits and pieces of life--the work deadlines, the miles that need to be run, the time I want to spend with my beloved. This weekend I had decided to just relax...to take the time I needed for myself, to do some of the things on my list, to try to get back to where I need to be in my running and in my life--more at peace with all of the wonderful things about it, rather than being caught up in the granular task-by-task deadlines and things to do. I am a very lucky woman, in life, in love, and in fact, in nearly all ways--and at long last, the run on Saturday, one filled with sunshine and strong miles, served only to reinforce that feeling.

The rest of the weekend has been the same--viewing the tasks I want to do for myself as less than insurmountable. While I have chipped away at them, in the absence of my beloved (off on the last winter trip with the Adventure Club), there is, of course, something missing--my better half to share it with. Copley and I (and as you can see, Chester the Cheetah) have spent our time this weekend wisely, with equal parts getting things done and sheer relaxation, but we're both ready for JRizzle to be back home now...

And now, to close what is surely the longest blog post I've written yet--a reminder to myself, and to my handful of readers that still check after this lengthy, lengthy absence...only 14 days, 23 hours, and 3 minutes until the big day...