Monthly Archives: April 2015
Everyone told me to ride that marathon high and I certainly did. I scooted backwards down the stairs with pride, I didn’t take my jacket off for 7 days straight (Don’t worry on the 7th day I washed it -and then immediately put it back on), beaming every time someone asked me if I had run. I loved that the employee at Ben and Jerry’s gave me half off my order after seeing the medal around my neck. “So this is what finishing the Boston Marathon is like” I thought as I sipped my milkshake.
And then my beautiful bouquets of flowers started to wilt. The temporary “Boston” tattoo on my arm began to wash off. I could walk down the stairs normally. And I was left with this incredible feeling of “What do I do now?”.
I knew that coming down from the Boston Marathon high was going to be hard. I had spent the last 6 months consumed with training for it. Imagining crossing that finish line every single day. My poor friends and family (and whoever is reading this) were breathing a sign of relief that it was finally over. But all I wanted was to go back in time and start again.
It’s funny how the things we dread the most end up being the ones we appreciate in the end, right? Every Saturday night I had this put in my stomach about the next mornings long run and yet all I wanted to do was pack up my bag and leave it by the front door. I longed for jelly beans, the ache after a long run, the excitement of a goal ahead. There should really be a pop-up on road race websites that says “please enter the date of your last race” (kind of like how you have to put in your birthdate to enter a website about alcohol?) because I was tempted to sign up for anything and everything I could get my hands on. Luckily before I could make any rash decisions I just shut my laptop and headed to the pool.
I kept getting the question “Do you think you’ll ever run another marathon?” and I didn’t even have to think for a second about the answer. I don’t want to be a “one and done”. And I definitely feel like I deserve another shot at Boston when it isn’t a freezing cold driving rain. Just not right now. I think my husband would divorce me. 😉
So what do I do now? I’m still not sure. I mean- where DO you go after Boston?! A part of me regrets climbing the race ladder too quickly. I wonder if I should have stuck to 5Ks and 10Ks longer, if I should have done a couple more half marathons before I decided to move onto 26.2. It’s a little disappointing to know there’s no more big distances to climb (Because don’t worry – I have NO drive to ever do anything higher than 26.2. That’s just sick).
One thing I do know is that as exhausting as it was, finishing Boston didn’t leave me hating running. In fact I think it only made me love it more. This week of rest has been pure agony for me because all I wanted was to get back out there. I’ve just got to figure out what I’m heading out there to do.
“There will be days when I don’t know if I can run a marathon. There will be a lifetime knowing that I have.”
It still doesn’t feel real. After all of those months of running, training, and visualizing crossing that finish line I still can’t believe it actually happened. And while things didn’t end up exactly how I pictured them, I would still go back and do it again in a heartbeat.
Initial weather reports showed a relatively cool and cloudy day. Perfect running weather. Then precipitation started creeping into the forecast. Then it came pouring in. Along with potentially strong headwinds. By Marathon weekend there was no question about it – it was gonna rain. And it was gonna be windy.
I of course was completely distraught. My first marathon, the BOSTON Marathon, the BOSTON MARATHON after training in the WORST winter ever… and this was how it was going to end? I had a few meltdowns but by Sunday I had come to peace with the fact that it was out of my hands. After a couple last minute outfit changes I went to bed praying that somehow things would change by the next morning. It had happened the day of our wedding so why couldn’t it happen again?
After a few hours of restless sleep I woke up to a gray and chilly morning. My husband drove my buddy and I to the bus and I sat in the passenger seat trying to shove an english muffin down my throat with shaky hands. After saying our goodbyes we climbed on the bus and rolled towards the Pike. I kept my eyes closed for the most of the riding, hoping that if I didn’t watch the road it wouldn’t seem as far away. I think that made it even worse. Finally we pulled into the Athlete’s Village and I felt my stomach lurch as the bus settled in the parking lot. I was officially stuck in Hopkinton.
The next few hours went between feeling like I was watching paint dry and time flying before my eyes. On one hand I just wanted to get this thing over with but I feared the hour or so that I would be left “alone” on the bus – my speedster bestie had a qualified number, meaning she had about a 45 minute head start. I had been trying to act brave and that I didn’t realize this was going to happen but in fact I was terrified. After our hug goodbye outside of the bus I quickly turned away and hurried back before she could see me crying. I had never felt so alone and unprepared. As I slid back into my seat I unfolded a stack of paper she had handed me as she left. Slowly I unfolded page after page of letters from my friends. My hands shook as I read note after note, telling me how proud they were of me, how inspired they were by me, or just funny memories that they knew would make me laugh. My nervous tears turned into big, fat, happy ones. Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone. They were all right there, all these people who love me and were cheering for me were right there beside me. As it got time to head to the start corrals I tried to memorize their sweet words for the long journey ahead of me. I stepped off the bus and took a deep breath. It was time to go get my Boston.
As we exited the Athlete’s Village the wind began to pick up, and the rain drops fell more steadily. All around me runners lunged for abandoned ponchos and pieces of clothing on the ground. I looked up at the sky and laughed manically. 108 inches of snow, and now wind and rain – challenge accepted.
I kept my eyes wide open as I moved to the start line, as I took those first few steps of my journey. I looked all around me, just taking it all in. “I’m running the Boston Marathon! I’m running the Boston Marathon!” I kept repeating in my head. My watch beeped with the first mile and I grinned. Piece of cake. I gawked at the guys who leapt to the side of the road to pee, I threw up some fist pumps to the drunk spectators outside of the biker bar, I high-fived every adorable kid. I wanted to take every single ounce of this in.
Despite the first few miles feeling relatively easy things started feeling hard early. Earlier than they should have. My grumbling stomach as I crossed the start line should have been a clue that I hadn’t had enough for breakfast. I was barely ten miles in but felt as though I had run sixteen. Not good.
The wind and rain picked up, my head felt heavy, my feet even heavier. I started to get terrible cramps in my legs that I had never experienced before, and I hadn’t even hit the worst part of the course yet. Those horrible voices started to creep in. “Maybe this isn’t going to happen today. Maybe you’re just not cut out to run a marathon.” There’s a lot I remember about this point in the race: I remember panicking as I frantically looked at the people around me, who were all far too involved in their own personal races to see that I needed a verbal boost. I remember the stretch of road where I just wanted those familiar feet running next to me, even if it meant she was yelling at me telling me that I was stronger than this. I wanted to be a volunteer, a spectator, home in my warm bed with my kitties… ANYWHERE but running the Boston Marathon. Despite the fact that I wanted to pull over to the side of the road and call my husband to come pick me up do you know what popped into my head? “I just bought all this Marathon apparel that’s non-returnable. What will I do with it?” So I kept running. Whatever works right?
Just as things seemed pretty dark and dismal I felt a hand on my shoulder. Two of the ladies from L Street had caught up to me and asked how I was doing. As I fought back tears they reminded me that I was stronger than this, that everyone was having a tough day and that we were going to get through it. Physically they only handed me a packet of salt and a few pretzels, but in reality – they were what kept me going. I pulled out my iPod (my goal was to run without it but brought it in case I got desperate) and listened to the familiar songs that had kept me going all throughout training. I pretended it was just another training run. That eventually I would catch up to the next water stop where everyone would be chatting and eating Sweedish Fish. And in my tired little brain – that worked. I kept on running.
I have to say here that my friends, cousin, husband, parents – they were my LIFESAVERS. I kept trying to remember who I was going to see next, and wanting to see them got me through whatever mile I was in. My parents were standing in the pouring rain just past the firehouse and I started crying that I couldn’t do it and I remember my mom saying “You ARE doing it”. I might be 30 years old, but a hug and a kiss from my mom still makes everything better.
My husband was waiting at the top of Heartbreak Hill smiling at me and with another stop for a hug and a kiss he reminded me how close I was. For the first time finishing this thing actually seemed possible. I walked when I had to, ran when I could, told myself I didn’t care what my time was but that I was going to make it across that finish line. I stopped to hug my friends who were soaked to the bone but still cheering as they frantically waved signs and screamed my name. I was pleasantly surprised to see my brother and his girlfriend waiting at Mile 22. Mile by mile, step by step, I made my way towards Boston in my squeaky wet shoes.
I’ll never forget the moment the CITGO sign finally appeared through the now driving rain. I sloshed through Kenmore Square with huge tears rolling down my face. The few spectators left who were apparently water resistant kept telling me how great I looked, but I know they were lying. I quickly learned that “Just one mile to go” means that will be the longest mile you have ever run in your life.
As I crawled my way under the last overpass I found myself in step with a woman named Jessica. This was her second marathon, and she was struggling just as much as I was. I remember her saying “Ok girlfriend here’s what we’re gonna do: we’re going to take this turn onto Hereford (OH HECK YES WE WERE) and then we’re gonna turn onto Boylston. And we’re not gonna stop until we hit that finish line”. With my new best friend beside me I picked up my feet and my pace.
Despite the rain pouring down my face I forced myself to keep my eyes wide open – I didn’t want to blink in fear that I would miss one second of this incredible view. A view that I had been waiting months, years to experience. A view I never in a million years thought I would get to experience first hand. Taking the left onto Boylston Street nearly took my breath away. The rain made it hard to see 10 feet in front of you, but I don’t think a blizzard could have blocked the view of that finish line. I’ll never forget how in that moment the pain I felt wasn’t in my legs anymore – it had moved to the smile on my face.
I propelled myself forward, wimpering as I inched closer and closer. In my mind I was flying but I’m sure in reality I made a snail look like a Kenyan. I heard an airhorn and turned my head to see my friend’s parents waving and screaming. I laughed hysterically. After five hours, thirty two minutes and forty seven seconds I became a Boston Marathoner.
Before I could even process what had just happened I saw in front of me the face I had been waiting 26.2 miles to see. Despite finishing roughly an hour and a half earlier my buddy had been there waiting patiently for me. And although my legs and my brain were disoriented the huge smile on her face told me the only thing I needed to know. I had done it. I had finished the marathon.
Although I was shivering and soaked through my clothes all I wanted was that glorious medal. I clutched her hand as I hobbled along and she asked if she could be the one to put it on me. The volunteer was not only kind enough to hand my medal over to her, but offered to take pictures of it all. I am so happy that I have these since things started to get a little blurry at this point, and in my heart this is how I had wanted it to end. It meant the world to me to have the person who has guided me along this journey be the one to place that medal around my neck.
Unfortunately these are the only finish line pictures I have since after this I spent some quality time in the medical tent due to the fact that you know, I had just run 26.2 miles in the freezing cold rain. But once I finally got home that night I sat on the couch and just stared at the blue and yellow in my hand. I had dreamt of this for so long. And it had finally happened. I know it sounds absolutely cheesy but in that moment the words “You can do anything you set your mind to” had never rang truer. I had lost over 60 pounds. I became a runner. I trained through the worst winter Boston has ever seen. And I had just finished the Boston Marathon in the worst conditions. There’s no doubt in my mind that I can do absolutely anything now.
People keep asking me “so what’s next?” and honestly right now I don’t know. All I know is that I want to stay in this moment a little longer, soak in this incredible accomplishment, and wear this jacket until the night flash threads wear thin. My legs are finally starting to feel better but my smile? Yeah that still hurts.
I told myself I would be ready to write this blog post and then… I ran a marathon. My body and mind are still racing from the events of the last 48 hours and I just don’t know how to find the words to describe it. So I’m gonna take one more day for my shoes to dry out, my legs to not have to take the stairs one at a time, and my brain to process this experience into a coherent post. I’ll be back tomorrow but for now – I’ll leave you with just this because my smile should say it all.
Three more runs.
I’ve only got three more runs.
A grand total of seven miles.
I only have five days and seven miles until I run 26.2.
This just doesn’t seem real.
Seven more miles feels like nothing compared to what I’ve been doing. My legs are quieter with less miles to run but the thoughts in my brain are so much louder. Questioning everything, going over my training, worrying about aches and pains. All I have left to do is run 7 more miles, pick up my bib and the usual pre-race rituals: a trip to the nail salon, a vanilla ice cream with rainbow sprinkles, have my hair french braided. And then it’s go time. One of my favorite tidbits of advice I’ve received (and one that is the most comforting) is that Marathon Monday is just a big celebration – all the hard work was done during the last four cold, snowy months. I keep trying to remind myself that.
I’ve said it several times before, but it takes a village to raise a marathoner – and I could not have made it to these last 5 days without it. But my village is actually more of a bustling metropolis so feel free to grab a fresh cup of coffee and sit back because this might take a while. And there’s a good chance your name is probably somewhere in this blog post.
First of all, I have to thank the countless friends, family, and complete strangers who have helped me raise over $5,000 for Back on My Feet Boston. You ate pizza, you purchased new running shoes and sports bras, you bought raffle tickets from an adorable 7 year old practicing his math skills. Every email that notified me of a new donation came with a message “We believe in you. You’ve got this. I’m so proud of you”. They reminded me that you trust that I can do this, you believe in me. And that means the world to me. (PS it’s not too late to help! To make a donation click here.)
The coolest Chiropractor around, Dr. B. His first words to me during my consultation were “So Beantown’s the goal huh? Let’s make that happen.” and he made it happen. From waiting to close the office during a snowstorm to fit me in, to fist pumping me after every new distance ran, he has been one of my biggest cheerleaders (Even if he does it with his weapon of choice in the other hand).
My other set of parents, “my Goldens” – who are as proud of me as if I were one of theirs, who were waiting anxiously for the text that I finished my first 20 miler, who have been cheering in my corner since the very beginning of my journey. As much as I have loved being the ultimate spectators with you – you have no idea how excited I am to be on the other side of Mr. Smiley Face Balloon guy.
My friends and family who ask how my training is going (even though they could probably care less), who understood why I vanished the entire winter, and who are just so excited to cheer me on on the road from Hopkinton to Boylston – thank you for supporting me through this crazy process.
My crazy co-workers – because if you are going to train for a marathon, this is the place to work while doing it. From understanding why I was overwhelmed by 8 feet of snow, to building me the most beautiful neon countdown paper chain, to keeping me “grounded” – you get it.
My cousin Julie, who right now is doing something even MORE amazing by growing a human life inside of her, and yet still thinks to ask how my long runs go, to cheer me on, to tell me I can do it. Before the Marathon jackets even had time to cool she (and her mother-in-law) had one delivered to my office to make sure that I “looked the part”.
The L Street Running Club – who I could not have made it through all those miserable winter long runs without. From the speedsters who high fived me on their way back, to the incredible water stop volunteers who were always so kind and enthusiastic – your “no pace too slow” motto has made a difference in this slow poke first timer’s life. And especially my “running big brother” whose words of wisdom always come at just the right time.
My mom and dad- I’m pretty sure I saw their jaws hit the floor when I first mentioned that I wanted to run the Boston Marathon. And once they picked them back up, man they are the greatest cheer squad ever. I mean, whose mother orders 2 giant balloons online… just in case one blows away on race day? And whose dad cuts marathon articles out of the paper and mails them to you? As my training runs increased my iPod playlist got longer as well, and I threw on a lot of old songs that remind me of my parents- dancing around the kitchen or singing in the car. When the miles got tough those songs would magically pop on, and I felt their presence with me. For as anyone who was a guest at our wedding can attest, there’s nothing like a little “You Can Call Me Al” to get you moving. 🙂
My incredible husband – who has always been my rock and has proved to be nothing less than amazing during all of this. They say it’s a family commitment when someone decides to train for a marathon and I see why now. He has patiently spent Saturday nights on the couch and Sunday mornings alone waiting for me to come hobbling in the house. He has made sure that my Lush bath bomb stock never dwindles and baked me a cake to celebrate my last 20 miler. He comforts me when runs are tough and every night before we go to bed he tells me how proud he is of me. He is my everything.
And finally Alicia, because when my rockstar husband doesn’t know what to do with me anymore he passes me off to her – and somehow she can fix it. If anyone deserves an extra medal it’s her for all the tears, whining, complaining and second guessing that she has put up with – and is still right by my side. You have taught me that Boston is the epitome of races, and you are the epitome of Boston to me. Never in my life did I dream that I, the chubby rollerblader, would be running the Boston Marathon, but you were the person who saw something inside of me. Although this will technically be our third reunion “on” Boylston Street… something tells me I will never, ever, forget this one.
I just can’t even begin to believe that marathon training is officially coming to an end. I’ve got one more “long” run (not that 10 miles even feels long anymore) and then THAT’S IT. 12 more days. It’s go time. It’s unreal.
So while I sit here obsessively stalking the weather (it’s already changed drastically 3 times in the last 24 hours) and wondering if every cramp in my little toe is a real pain, I decided to come up with a list of things I’ve learned during this process. Advice to those pondering the idea of training for 26.2. Some of it I never saw coming, some of it I heard over and over again, but sometimes you just have to see it for yourself before something clicks.
It’s time consuming. I assumed that marathon training would be just like when I trained for my first triathlon, or a half marathon. I know now that it is so much more. My weekends have consisted of lots of water, single digit Saturday nights, and Sunday afternoons spent recovering on the couch. Pretty wild right? (Shout out to my buddies who have been so patient with me these last few months, I’ll be back soon!)
Find your village. With that being said, you can’t make it through this process alone. Find your support crew, the people who understand why you don’t want to go out at 9pm on a Saturday night or who will sit and listen to the play-by-play of your 20 miler (even if they just smile and nod their way through your babbling).
Fuel is everything. I used to be pretty stubborn about fueling. In my mind holding out until the last possible minute made me tougher, but I would just crash. HARD. It took training for a marathon for me to figure out exactly when I need a boost, and to stay on top of it. Who knew you could actually feel GOOD running 10+ miles?
There is no worse feeling than a hill with no end in sight, and lungs that can’t catch an ounce of air. But you have to remember that there is also no better feeling than the downhill that follows, and catching your breath again. THE. BEST.
Your race, your pace. This has been the hardest lesson for me to learn, and one that I still struggle with every now and then. But, it’s been an incredibly helpful mantra to keep in the back of my head. I, like many other runners, have the tendency to compare myself to everyone around me. But at end of the day it’s my marathon and all that matters is how I get across the finish line.
What you do AFTER you run is just as important. The days I don’t stretch, foam roll, ice are the nights I usually hurt the most. It’s time consuming and not as tempting as immediately curling up on the couch, but my body thanks me later.
Ice baths suck. Nothing else needs to be said here.
You cannot eat everything in sight. I understand now why marathoners tend to gain weight- It’s easy to justify shoveling anything and everything into your mouth because you just ran 15 miles. I’m proud of the fact that I actually lost a few of the pounds I had re-gained earlier in the fall because I’ve been pretty consistent about tracking my food and sticking to what I know works for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t treat myself (Hi I’ll take an order of pancakes AND french fries please!) – but I always get back to business with the next meal. I know that in these last few weeks my weight will probably go up a bit, but I’ve accepted it because I know that I’m preparing my body to do this incredible thing.
You will love your body. I think this is the most important lesson I’ve learned. Despite all of the weight I’ve lost in the last few years it’s still instinct to nit pick and nag myself in the mirror. Until now. There’s something about putting your legs through almost 4 hours of running that makes you see them in a whole new light. Suddenly those thighs aren’t thick, they’re strong. Those calves aren’t bulky, they’re powerful. I’m proud of this body.
Dear Half Ass,
The last of the gray snow piles are melting. The days are getting longer, the birds are once again becoming a familiar background noise. Around you everyone’s minds are turning to baseball season, flip flop weather, garden planning. And while these things are on your mind too there’s something else that these chilly spring evenings remind you of. Something even better.
It’s now been three years. Three years since that night you sucked in your breath (and your gut), wiped your sweaty palms, and walked through that door. Three years since you finally admitted that you wanted help, to change, a different lifestyle. In some way the memories of those days seem blurry- it’s hard to imagine life without sweat, burpees, long runs and sore muscles. But sometimes you remember every single detail of how truly hard those days were.
It’s been an incredible journey to watch – highs and lows, weight losses and gains. Training cycles, My Fitness Pal, bedtime stories, egg muffins. I sat back and winced as you struggled through your first mile, watched your face beam as you ran a 5K without stopping, saw you cross the finish line of your first half marathon. I saw you learn how to swim, become a triathlete. Watched your strength and confidence change as your body did. I saw the satisfaction in your face when your jeans slid down your waist, caught you discovering muscles in places you never knew existed. I cheered at the finish line as you cruised into PRs, and comforted you as you learned that not every race goes as planned. I watched you form the most incredible bonds with people you never expected to have anything in common with. At first you were nervous to trust them but you quickly learned how much they cared about you, how much they just want to see you succeed.
It’s hard to believe that three years ago you stood in Kenmore Square, in your tight fitting size 14 shorts, wondering why anyone in their right mind would ever run 26.2 miles … FOR FUN. It’s even harder to believe that in just 16 days you will join thousands of other athletes (which by the way, you are now too!) at the start line in Hopkinton. You will stand there knowing that you have trained just as long and just as hard as everyone else to run the greatest race in the world. You have changed your body, your lifestyle, your mind, all for this. You will make that epic trek from Hopkinton to Boylston Street. And when you cross that finish line you will have proved that you truly can do anything if you set your mind to it.
People like to joke about how you continue to celebrate this day, but you and I both know how important it is to you. Important that you celebrate, that you remember the journey it took to get to this place, and that it doesn’t stop here. I know I’m quick to judge you – to nag you that you run too slow or that your thighs are too big – but the truth is that I couldn’t be more proud of you. I don’t tell you that nearly enough.
The sky is the limit girlfriend. Happy Anniversary.