Saturday, December 21, 2013

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

WOW! My winter hibernation vacation is flying by.  I am still keeping up my holiday run streak.  So far in 24 days I have run roughly 150 miles.  There's still 10 days left in the year.  I hope I can hit 200.  I'm going to fall short of my original goal to hit 1500 for the year because of a stupid snow storm last weekend preventing me from doing my 20 miler.  I still got out and ran, but only did 3 miles.  Getting hit by a plow is just not worth trying to get in extra miles.  I might be able to make up for it by adding on a few miles to my shorter runs this week but it is still unlikely that I will get enough miles to hit 1500.  Yeah, just double checked my training log and I'd need 102 miles in the next 10 days to hit 1500.  It's possible, but not likely to happen.

I started off my vacation with a half marathon. The Jingle Bell Half in Atkinson, NH last Saturday.  It was 8 degrees at the start.  The course was pretty challenging and by challenging I mean hilly.  Add in the below freezing temps and it was rough.  I made the most of it though and just had fun.  I wasn't really racing it and my plan was to use it as a training run so I just went out really easy.  I did the first 5 miles at about a 10:30 pace, the next 5 miles at a 10:00 pace, and the last 5K at a 9:40 pace so, despite the weather and the hills I still negative split it and had a really great time.  I hung out for a little while after the race with some friends and other runners enjoying a post race beer and some soup.
Sunday we got about a foot of snow and I spent half the day shoveling so I didn't get to do the 20 miler I had planned but the 4 hours of shoveling was enough of a workout.  I did manage to squeeze in 3 miles before the sun went down just to keep my run streak going even though I really really didn't feel like running.  Stupid winter. 

Monday I was supposed to go to Pole fitness class but my back hurt so much that I canceled.  I went out and did a few more hours of shoveling trying to clear some of the parking spaces in the street instead followed by a 5 mile run with my friend Kim in Salem, NH at lunch time.  When I got home, I got the most amazing letter in the mail along with a generous donation to my Dana Farber Fundraising from the Tewksbury Police Department.  I had sent them a letter thanking them for keeping the roads safe for me as I train for the marathon.  Mile 23 will be dedicated to the mother of one of their officers.  Mile 23 is just after Coolidge Corner and I will need the motivation to push through the pain and finish strong.  Running that mile for Ruth Perry and Tewksbury PD I know I will do my best.

Tuesday, we were supposed to get another snow storm, so I got up and baked some cookies to bring to TPD to thank them and then went out for a short 3 mile run.  I delivered the cookies just as the snow started coming down.  Spent the rest of the day chillin on my couch watching a Law and Order marathon on A&E or TNT.

Wednesday I finally made it to pole class, after 2 hours of shoveling out my car and all my neighbor's cars.  Holy cow, it was really hard, I don't know if it was just because I was still sore and exhausted from shoveling or if it was because we did a bunch of advanced stuff that I wasn't ready for.  Either way it kicked my butt, but in a good way.  I went home, shoveled for another 2 hours and then went for a 2 mile run to keep the streak alive.  After all that I rewarded myself with a nice glass of wine.

Thursday, I checked off another item on my "to-do" list.  I went to see the Nutcracker in Boston.  I've never been and I thought I probably should it's like a world famous production and was completely redesigned this year.  So, me and my mom went into Boston to see it. (First I ran 4 miles, still streaking).  It didn't take long to get into the city, but because of all the snow parking was an issue.  I had to go by 4 garages before we finally found one with open spots then we were late for the show.  We had to wait to be seated and we missed part of the first act, but it was showing on a monitor in the lobby so we could still watch.  It was magical! The costumes and the sets were so beautiful.  I had a great time and my mom did too.

Yesterday was pretty boring, just did 7 miles and went grocery shopping.  Today I got up to do 10 miles before venturing to the mall (I still haven't done any shopping).  We are experiencing a bit of a heat wave in the northeast at the moment.  It was 45 degrees and partly sunny out this morning.  I almost wore a tank top but was afraid I wouldn't be warm enough.  I started out nice and easy.  Warming up over the first few miles.  Going up the big hill on 133 I saw a TPD car and waved, it gave me a little boost of energy and I actually made it up the hill in under 11 minutes for the first time in a LONG time, that hill is tough and wears me out, but today I conquered it with a little extra motivation from TPD - Thanks!

The rest of the run was great, nice back roads in Andover and mostly flat.  I felt really good.  I took a gel at mile 5 and picked up my pace a little bit.  On the way back to my house I really felt great so I pushed the pace a little more and ran the last 3 miles in under 10 minutes per mile.  I ended up negative splitting the run!  And finished feeling like I could have kept going and going like the energizer bunny, but I do need to get to the mall at some point, plus I have a party to go to tonight and I baked a spiked eggnog cheesecake that smells amazing to bring with me.
Still time for anyone reading this to get me a Christmas gift ......just saying...... all I want is donations to Dana Farber.  It IS after all the season of giving.  Please consider making a donation today, together we can make a difference and Dana Farber is finding cures for cancer, help them with a gift today!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Still a little time left in the year.....

I am trying to cram just a few more things in to make 2013 the most awesome year ever.  Last week I went to the Taza Chocolate Factory in Somerville, MA for a tour.  I love their chocolate and I knew they were nearby, then discovered a few months ago that they do tours and talked about it with some friends and wanted to go but couldn't settle on a date.  Then there was a Groupon for it and my friend bought it.  So, last Friday we went.  FREE Chocolate samples and a cool tour - yup it was awesome.

I'm still going strong with the Holiday Run Streak too.  Goal to run at least one mile per day between Thanksgiving and New Years.  Today is Day 14.  Friday after the chocolate tour was rough, I didn't want to run and I had plans to meet some people for drinks.  I squeaked in 1.85 miles from my house and quickly changed and walked to downtown Lowell for a beer. 

Saturday I ran my 10 mile loop with a friend(which is really 10.5-10.75 depending on if I go all the way around the block at the end).  It was cold but not too bad, the sun was out and felt great.  We averaged a decent comfortable pace talking the whole time.  After the run I had a whole bunch of things I wanted to do and errands I needed to run, but I ended up taking a shower and then falling asleep on my couch for the rest of the day watching movies.

Sunday I had signed up for a race in Gloucester, MA.  The Holiday Half Merry-thon.  It was actually two races.  A 2.62 mile run followed by a half marathon.  I had low expectations for the race and was really just using it as a training run for Disney.  I had 20 miles on my schedule for the day, but opted for the race instead.  When I picked up my bib I noticed it was #179 - Sean Collier's MIT Badge number.  It was a special bib number.  Nothing different about it, but the number itself holds special meaning now and I wanted to wear it proud and run strong in memory of the brave man that once wore the number on his badge.
I had a sharpie in my car and I wrote on the bib "Collier Strong" and drew a little ribbon shape next to it.  The 2.62 mile race was a nice warm up because it was in the 20s and I was freezing.  And just as I was approaching the finish I bumped into a girl I had met a few years back in Disneyland.  She was running 13 halfs for 2013 with her mom and this race was #12.  We finished and chatted for a bit before the half marathon started.

I really didn't expect much and started out really easy.  I felt great and settled into a solid pace.  After the first few miles I was feeling really good and thought about Sean Collier and tried to picture the image of him in uniform that was shown in April and that hung on a cross in Copley Square with notes and flowers.  I repeated to myself "run strong" over and over again.  The course was really hilly and challenging but I felt light on my feet and the fastest I have been all year.  I saw my splits on my watch going down and down mile after mile.  After the first half I thought it might be possible to negative split the race and maybe even finish in 2:10 or 2:12.

I kept pushing myself a little more and a little more.  I saw people walking up the hills and thought I'm not stopping.  I can gut it out and get through this.  I pictured Sean's image in my mind and pushed on.  With just 2 miles left I looked at my watch and started doing math. 2:10 was definitely within reach and I could even be under that.  I picked up the pace and turned my feet over faster and faster.  Run strong. Keep moving forward.  Keep running.  Don't stop.  I crossed the finish and grabbed my medal and stopped my watch - 2:08:50!!!!!!  I said a little thank you in my head and teared up.  It was my best half marathon all year and I felt amazing.
Here are my splits:
1- 10:27
2- 10:25
3- 10:11
4- 10:10
5- 10:27 (took my first gel at 4.5)
6- 9:53
7- 9:54
8- 9:30
9- 9:53 (took my second gel at 8.5)
10- 9:31
11- 9:50 (last big hill)
12- 9:06
13- 9:06

Almost perfect negative splits.  I couldn't have possible paced it better unless I was a robot or being paced by a pro.  Once I got back to my car and changed into a dry shirt and warmer layers, I texted my friend Denise and started crying I was so happy.  After a really hard year of disappointing races and difficult days far outnumbering the good days, I finally had the most amazing race ever. 

In other news, last week I got my invitational entry to the Boston Marathon.  I mailed out my holiday cards of my photo with Santa and mailed out more letters to previous donors and a few small businesses that I support throughout the year.  I got a few donations over the weekend and continue to make great progress towards my goal to raise $10,000 for Dana Farber.  And I got the flyer for the painting party fudnraising event I am having in early February.  I am really hoping that more donations roll in before the end of the year since it is the ONLY thing I want for Christmas.  I would LOVE it if I hit $7500 before the end of the year.

You can help me get there!  Donate today at Make my Christmas wish come true!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Only 5 weeks until Dopey

I think I'm ready.  Over the long holiday weekend I did the best training runs so far for this challenge.  On Thanksgiving I ran a 5K, Friday I ran 7 miles, Saturday I ran 10.75, and then Sunday I ran 18.  That's pretty close to Dopey distances.  All of the runs felt pretty good too. 

The 5K on turkey day was cold and windy, but I finished in about 30 minutes and averaged 9:55s.  I procrastinated on Friday and it took me a long time to get out the door to run but once I did I felt great.  I did my 7 mile non-hilly hill loop and averaged 10:25s.  Saturday I had a lot to do so I got up relatively early and did 10.75 miles averaging 10:30s.  Sunday, it was freezing rain and icy out.  There was reports of massive car accidents all over so I waited until about 10:30 to go out for my run.  I nearly wiped out on my front steps, but once I made it to the street things were less slippery.  The run was pretty miserable as far as weather conditions go.  It was cold and wet and windy, but I felt really good and maintained a pretty consistant pace. I slowed down on the hills naturally, but overall I felt good about it and averaged 10:55s (probably a little faster if I took the last 3 miles out because I was frozen and tired).

I'm really happy with how the whole weekend of running went.  I'm exhausted even thinking about it, but happy it went well and I felt good the whole time.  I am very confident now about the Dopey Challenge and could probably take it easy and taper for the next 5 weeks, but I've got other plans.  I'm going to do 2-3 more weekends like that and THEN taper.  I also have two half marathons in the next few weeks so I have to squeeze those into the plan too. 

I have started going to Pole classes every week and added Aerial Silks too.  I can tell I am getting stronger, but it isn't getting any easier.  Especially silks.  It is all upper body and lifting and pulling your own body weight up.  I see progress from week to week, but in inches not miles.  I also have a nice collection of bruises all over my feet, ankles, shins, knees, and backs of my thighs.  It's really fun and challenging and I am learning some cool tricks, but damn it hurts. Even the most basic thing, climbing the silks, is really effin hard to do.  I can get the first step but then I get stuck because I can't pull myself up.

Oh and I am trying something else this year, a Holiday streak.  The goal is to run at least one mile between Thanksgiving and New Years.  Today is day 7.  I am doing good so far, but I'm really really tired and I want to just take a break.  I don't think streaking is working out for me, but I'm not ready to give up just yet.  Even if I only go out and do one sloppy mile the streak is alive and unbroken.  I can do this. 

I think if I succeed in keeping the streak going until New Years someone out there should pledge a donation of $1 for every mile I run between Thanksgiving and New Years.  I'd match it.  It could be ~$200, but if I break the streak, that's where the buck stops.  Any takers?????? 

Speaking of fundraising, I am officially past the halfway point on my way to my goal to raise $10,000.  Thanks to all my generous donors I am at $5460 (plus there is a couple hundred dollars in company matches pending).  I'd LOVE it if I could hit $7500 before Christmas. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

20 weeks until the Boston marathon!

Wow, that makes it sound so close.  Only 20 weeks.  Only 6 weeks until Dopey!  That's even closer.  AND I only have two more weeks of work until I'm on vacation for the rest of the year!!!! I really, really need a break. At this point I am excited to get Dopey over with so that I can focus on Boston.  My training is going well.  I've been doing short fast runs along the Charles during the week, then my back to back long runs on the weekends.  Plus Pole and Aerial Silks.  This past weekend I did 10 miles on Saturday and then on Sunday I was supposed to run 16 miles. 

I had signed up for a half marathon in Nashua for Sunday and figured I could get to the start early and do a little 'warm up' out and back to add some miles for the day.  Well, Mother Nature had other plans.  She made it pretty miserable.  It was 22 degrees with a wind chill making it feel like 3 degrees.  I figured running a half marathon in those conditions was torture enough and I didn't really need the extra miles.  I felt really great for the first few miles and then I slowed a little and definitely felt it.  My legs just felt heavy and the wind cut through me.  My water bottles were frozen.  Pretty sure my muscles were frozen too.

I just looked at my splits according to my Garmin and I was ridiculously even paced for the most part.
Mile 1 - 9:50
Mile 2 - 9:38
Mile 3 - 9:55
Mile 4 - 9:48
Mile 5 - 10:07
Mile 6 - 10:44
Mile 7 - 10:29
Mile 8 - 10:34
Mile 9 - 10:30
Mile 10 - 10:40
Mile 11 - 10:35
Mile 12 - 10:32
Mile 13 - 10:38

So despite being frozen and tired I still ran really strong.  My average pace was 10:16 for the whole race. Although it was mostly really close to 10:30s, those first few fast miles bring the average down.  I'll take it.

Last week I did another awesome activity to add to my jar and check off my 'to-do' list.  I went to the Paint N Sip wine tasting/painting class up the street from me.  I've walked past the place a million times and looked at the calendar and thought about signing up and wanted to do it for a long time.  I finally signed up.  I was supposed to go with a friend who ended up bailing at the last minute for personal reasons.  Still had an amazing time and met some new friends there. Here is a look at the progress through the course of the class starting with a picture of what we were trying to paint.

The blank canvas 
 The paints we used
Step 1: Paint the sky 
Step 2: Paint the grass  
Step 3: Add the shadowy area in the foreground 
Step 4: Add trees along the horizon and a little fence, and a house 
 Step 5: Fence in the front and then sign it!
Here I am with the two lovely ladies that were sitting with me.  Allison and Janis.  We had a wonderful time and I am sure I will see them again sometime.

I spoke with the owner afterwards and asked about hosting a fundraising event and she agreed.  We will be painting the Boston Skyline on February 4th with $15 of every registration going towards my fundraising for Dana Farber.  I will also do some door prizes and raffles at the event.  It should be a really fun event.  I'm really excited.  At the rate I am going I should definitely hit my goal to raise $10,000.  I may even hit $8K before the end of the year.  I will be mailing out my holiday cards soon and doing another opportunity drawing for a cheesecake.  I'm almost at $6K now if I count pending company matches.  THANK YOU SO MUCH everyone that has donated already!!! If you haven't, what are you waiting for????  It IS Thanks-GIVING afterall.......just saying.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Keeping busy, really really busy

Last week I went to see the big guy, Santa, yeah he's already at the mall taking requests for his list.  It's a little difficult to read in the photo (it came out better when printed), but the sign we are holding says:
"ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS A CURE FOR CANCER.  YOU CAN HELP.  DONATE TODAY! 100% of the money raise supports innovative cancer research. Running Boston Strong in 2014" I'm planning to use it for my holiday card to send out to people.  I hope that I get my Christmas wish and all the other little kids in line get theirs too. 

So far I am doing really great as far as fundraising goes.  HUGE THANK YOU to everyone that has donated already.  I am already halfway to my goal to raise $10,000!  That puts me in Wellesley, just past the 'scream tunnel' of girls at the college and leaving the downtown area heading down Rt. 16 towards Newton about to cross over I-95.  This part of the course usually goes by fast for me because I know my friends and family are waiting just past mile 17 at the Fire Station and the base of the Newton Hills.  I hope that it goes by fast on my fundraising map too and everyone reading this helps me get to Newton and over the hills.  Every little bit helps, just like the marathon, one step at a time or one dollar at a time, together we are all a little closer to the ultimate finish line - a world without cancer.
Training for Dopey continues too.  Last week was a recovery week.  I dropped my mileage after a few weeks of building back up to longer distances.  I'm actually really glad it was a recovery week too because I went back to pole fitness after almost 2 months away from it AND added aerial silks into the mix for fun.  Holy crap it was like the first time all over again and I was ridiculously sore after.  And aerial silks is friggin hard!!!!!  Those Cirque du Soliel people are badass!  I thought pole was really difficult until I tried silks.  It's like pole only the pole moves and it's stretchy.

I skipped my mid-week runs to rest because everything hurt after back to back classes Monday and Tuesday.  When the weekend arrived I was still sore, but ready to run.  Saturday I did 8 miles in Ayer with my friend Kim.  I really miss our 5@5 runs in Lowell sometimes.  I think it's been a really long time since the whole gang of Lowell Ladies ran together.  Maybe as long as 2yrs.  I like getting a chance to catch up and chat over a few miles with friends, just wish we could do it more frequently like we used to, but everyone is busy and some moved out of Lowell.  It's definitely getting colder out too.  I had to go buy more long tights last week and layered up for Saturday morning's run.  By the time we finished it was warming up but when we started it was in the low 40s and felt like 30s.

After the run I went to Trader Joes and bought a ton of food I didn't really need.  Shopping 'RUNgry' is bad.  I had plans later in the day to go to late lunch with Milady and then we went to see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.  It was so funny.  I hadn't seen Milady since Berlin so it was really great to catch up with her too.  And I was able to return her medal to her.  When they ran out of medals and she saw how upset I was she gave it to me.  I got my medal in the mail a few weeks later from one of the volunteers at the finish.  I sent a Boston Strong t-shirt back to her with a thnak you card. 

Sunday I had to do 14 miles.  I really procrastinated.  I slept in until 7:00 which is really late for me.  Then I sat around sipping tea for most of the morning.  There was a Law and Order marathon on TNT, it sucked me in.  I finally got dressed and motivated around 10am and when I went to put my Garmin on it was dead.  I put it back on the charger for half an hour til it got about 70% charged then headed out.  It was warmer and pretty decent out.  Kind of perfect actually.  I felt really good.  Averaged 10:30s and negative split it.  My last two miles were the fastest.  I spent the rest of the weekend doing laundry and makign some veggie soup and continued the Law and Order marathon.

Back to pole and aerial silks again this week. Monday night I did Pole and it was easier than last week but still intense.  I climbed to the top of the 14 foot pole 3 times!  I was so excited.  I made the instructor take a picture.  I was dripping sweat by the end of class.  My friend Lisa had come with me this time and she was spent too.  It's really hard, I told her.  We grabbed a glass of wine and some small apps after.  Silks last night was ridiculous!  Holy crap.  We did more of the basic stuff we did the week before and then some really crazy stuff.  It was so fun!!!  I did a side climb, then with the silks behind me, arms over my head and legs straddled below, I let go and did a front flip out of the silks.  It's called a drop and it was terrifying but so awesome!  I can't wait to go back. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Seriously Dopey...

So, this weekend things got real.  I did my first back to back to back training runs in preparation for the Dopey Challenge.  It was also my first really long run since Berlin.  I've done a half marathon and a few 10s and 14s, but this weekend was my first 16 miler since August.  I sort of feel like the 16-20 milers are the real meat of marathon training and anything under that is just a base or foundation.  Crazy, even a little Dopey, when I think about that.  I still can't beleive I run that much for FUN.  Anyway, this weekend I did 5 miles Friday, 10 miles Saturday, and 16 Sunday.  I should also mention I did a 2 hour hike Saturday immediately after the 10 mile run, thinking it would be a nice active recovery, but in hindsight it probably made my 16 miler a little more painful than it needed to be.

Overall, for 3 days and 31 miles, it felt really good and I ran strong.  Friday was really really windy along the Charles River.  I think Accuweather said something like 35mph gusts.  I ran just over 5 miles averaging 10:00minute miles.  Saturday morning I did 10.5 miles averaging 10:40s.  Sunday I did 16 miles averaging 11:00s.  Both the 10 and 16 mile loop are pretty hilly.  The 10 less so than the 16.  The climbs really killed me.  I need to start training for the stair climb and doing more hills or something because I feel amazing and super fast on flats and downhills but still get totally spent on inclines.  That will really suck in February when I want to go up 41 floors as fast as I can - TWICE (or more).

With training ramping up and going great I am happy to report that my fundraising is right in step with me.
Thank you so much to everyone that has already donated.  It means SO much to me.  As of right now, I have raised $2650 ($2045 online + $605 offline).  That puts me just passing the 10K mark on the course and entering Framingham.  It's kind of a long flat and boring section of the course so I'd like to get to Natick and then on to the scream tunnel of Wellesley as soon as possible so if you haven't donated yet, help me get there and go to my fundraising page today to donate.
You can also mail checks made out to "DFMC" to me directly at 406 East Merrimack St. Lowell, MA 01852    

Lots of fun things planned and going on over the next few weeks including taking an aerial silks class tonight and doing a paint n' sip wine tasting/painting class next week.  I think I can stir up some more trouble and cross off a few other items on my list before the year is over....maybe even sliding down a pole in a fire station....Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Seeing things differently

This past weekend I was supposed to do the Freedom Trail Run with my friend Denise Saturday morning in Boston.  We were both really looking forward to it and excited to see some of the historic sites in the city that are all too easy to take for granted since we live here.  Then the Red Sox had to go and win the World Series in typical Red Sox fashion, going from worst to first and winning at home bringing the most amazing positive energy and joy to the Fenway Faithful and the entire city of Boston in a year when we needed it most.  And of course they had to have Duck boat parade and it had to be on the day when we had planned to go into Boston for a little sight seeing.  At first we didn't let this ruin our plans because the parade wasn't going to start until 10am and our run would be done by then.  Then we saw the road closures and parking bans and started to worry. 

Saturday morning I got up and got dressed and watched the news.  The forecast was perfect for running and for a parade.  No one cared about our silly run though.  It was Duck boat parade day in Boston.  The reporters in Copley Square were already surrounded by Red Sox fans at 5am!  They showed the commuter trains packed full and I started to wonder how crazy the crowds would be.  I got an email and then a text from Denise.  We were both feeling really anxious about attempting to fight the crowds to do a run that we could do any other weekend.  Was it really worth it?  Plus, the thought did cross both of our minds, when they predicted millions of people flooding the streets of the city and special significance and respect to be paid at the finish line of the marathon - that's a lot of people and another potential target for an attack.  While it is an incredible thing and the energy and emotion of the entire city coming together to celebrate is awesome, it is also anxiety inducing and even a little unsettling to think about approaching that street in a large crowd.

I know we will both need to do it in April 2014, but we were not ready yet and decided to save the run for another day.  I did my shorter long training run (8 miles) for the weekend and finished before the parade even left Fenway.  I watched some of the coverage on TV as I ate breakfast and got dressed.  It was a great day for Boston.  The interviews and the boats stopping on Boylston to pay tribute to the victims of the bombings and then the crowd spontaneously singing "God Bless America" together was overwhelming to see on TV I can only imagine how it must have been in person.  Just seeing the images of the Marathon Sports staff getting choked up as the players put the trophy and a special '617 BOSTON STRONG' jersey on the finish line gave me chills.

Anyway, I finished out the weekend of training with a 14 mile run on Sunday.  The weather was not nearly as nice as Saturday.  It was sort of snow/sleeting for most of the run.  Now quite cold enough for the white fluffy stuff, but not quite warm enough for rain.  Just right to be annoying and uncomfortable.  I ran a really solid and consistant pace for the whole run.  I even negative split it.  Which is pretty impressive considering the second half of the run is mostly uphill.  Here's the elevation profile:
Those hills between mile 7 and 11 are Tewksbury's version of the Newton Hills and they will get me ready for Boston over the next 6 months.  I repeat these hills in the last miles of all my long runs.  It pretty perfectly mimics the last few miles of the Boston Marathon.  I actually think the last mile of the climb in Tewksbury is a lot worse than Heartbreak hill.  It's longer and steeper and it just never ends.  I get a nice downhill for a mile before I have to climb again for the last 2 miles.  It's gradual and levels out at some points but it is still climbing all the way back to my house.

So, that's one aspect of my training.  Another part that I think will become increasingly important with THIS race in particular and this year more than ever is the mental training.  I usually practice visualizing the course and especially a strong finish and the feeling of glory as I make those last two turns onto Hereford and then Boylston.  The crowds and the other runners fade away and it's just me and the finish line and the amazing high that comes with crossing the most prestigious finish line in the World.  That vision has changed forever now and it is blurred by horror and unknown and smoke and fear.  I wasn't there, but I heard it and I saw the look on people's faces as they came from there.  I know next year it will be the safest street in the entire world, but I still struggle to see myself running down it.
I have been re-reading the book "26 Miles to Boston" to prepare.  It is a great book written from multiple perspectives and it paints the perfect picture of the marathon mile by mile.  From history, runners, spectators, and the race organizers in each of the 8 towns the course passes through.  Last week, when I ran the Ashland Half marathon I was just getting to the chapters in Ashland.  Last night before I fell asleep I progressed to Natick and closed the book at Wellesley.  There was a section of the book that really struck me and has a completely different meaning to me now.  The author quotes a poem talking about how spiritual running can be.  The poem, 'Forgive me when I whine' is nice and I probably skimmed over it in previous readings of the book, but this time it brought me to tears:

Today upon a bus I saw a lovely maiden with golden hair;
I envied her, she seemed so happy and , Oh, I wished I was so fair
When, suddenly, she rose to leave, I saw her hobble down the aisle;
She had one foot and wore a crutch, but as she passed a smile.

Oh, Go forgive me when I whine;
I have two feet, the world is mine...

With feet to take me where I'd go,
With eyes to see the sunset's glow,
With ears to hear what I should know,
I'm blessed indeed, the world is mine
Oh, God forgive me when I whine!

The next few months will be challenging.  Training for the marathon through the harsh New England winter, fundraising during a really tough economy in a newish job for a smaller company that does not have a matching gift program, and mentally preparing to run across the finish line a year after bombs exploded and stopped time in the city of Boston.  I accept the challenge and look forward to conquering it, but it will be tough.  Tonight is my first DFMC team meeting.  I can't wait to meet some of the other team members and reconnect with former teammates.  My fundraising is off to a great start - $1625 only about two weeks into it.  Help me keep going and visit my personal fundraising page to make a donation:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Progress Update: Ashland

So, along the marathon course of fundraising I have reached Ashland.  With about $1500 raised I am 15% of the way to my goal to raise $10,000 or almost 4 miles into the marathon.  Go to my personal fundraising page to help me keeping moving:  Perfect timing because I ran a half marathon in Ashland this weekend that start on the original starting line of the marathon and covers some of the actual marathon course.  I saw the BAA unicorns painted on the street and thought to myself, "I'll see you in April".  The marathon course is super fast downhill like the first drop of a roller coaster in those first few miles, the HALF marathon in Ashland was not even close to that.  It was more like the middle of the roller coaster ride with lots of ups and downs and twists and turns.
I ran the same half marathon last year and vaguely remembered it being a little hilly.  It is amazing how quickly you forget the really challenging courses.  This one definitely meets that criteria.  It is not as bad as Applefest in Hollis, NH, but it was a lot of hills one right after another.  I went to the race with my friend Steve, he had never run the race before, but was trying to run a half marathon almost every weekend in October and this was his 3rd in a row.  I told him I thought it was 'a little hilly'. 

I felt really good for the first few miles, then the hills started.  Still I was averaging a decent pace and making up time on the downhills.  I hydrated and fueled properly and nothing was hurting and aside from slowing a little on the climbs I was running strong.  I kind of wanted to try for under 2:10 which would mean running just under 10:00 minute miles.  I was doing 9:30s on the flats and downhills so it was within reach.  Then I got to mile 10 and remembered the last few miles of the course were a beast.  There is one really steep hill on Green St. that they actually call the Green Street Monster.  It's not very long, but it takes a lot out of you.  I maintained a solid pace and picked it up a little in the last mile when it was finally downhill, but missed my goal by a little and finished in 2:12:38 (averaged pace 10:08).  Still my fastest half marathon all year so I'll take it.

After the race, they had some free beer and food and a Boston Marathon legend - Bill Rodgers - was signing books.  I ate my lunch and drank my celebratory beer and got in the line to have my bib# signed.  The line had thinned out by the time I stepped up so I could chat a little with him.  He had a new book that I bought because it sounded great and I love reading marathon books.  He asked about my running and I mentioned that I only really started running a few years ago and 6 years ago that weekend I had reached the milestone of losing 100lbs.  He stopped me mid-sentence to shake my hand and congratulate ME!  A guy who won the Boston Marathon several times back when there was no zero drop shoes or tech wicking fabric and who knows if they even had water stops, thought MY accomplishment was impressive.

By next April I hope that I can be back at my ideal race weight and ready to run my favorite marathon course and get a hat trick PR (the previous two times I have run Boston I have run my personal record -PR- times).  I need to bring strength training back into my routine and more closely monitor my caloric intake and lose about 15lbs.  It won't be easy, but then nothing worth getting ever is.  It is still crazy to think that this all started with a halloween party in 2006 and a photo that showed me an unhealthy version of myself that I needed to change.  My life has changed so much since then that I don't even remember that version of myself anymore.    

Friday, October 25, 2013

Hitting the ground running

It's official!  I am running the Boston Marathon in 2014 with the Dana Farber team again.  I am so excited and a little nervous.  I got the confirmation email a few weeks ago and called in yesterday at my designated time to confirm my spot and set up my fundraising page.  I made a kick off donation in memory of my grandparents - Howard and Alice Burdwood.  I know they will be watching over me and are very proud.  I wish they could be here so I could hug them one last time as I cross that finish line.  It is going to be an emotional race for so many reasons.  Boylston is sacred ground to me and many runners that have the privilege to make it there and even more so now after the events of this past April.   

I have a million ideas bouncing around in my head for creative fundraising potential.  I already ordered my custom business cards and a few other items to help spread the word.  I will once again be doing opportunity drawings for my famous cheesecakes - Pumpkin for Thanksgiving, Double Chocolate for the Holidays, and Winner's Choice in the spring.  And I have a whole month by month plan for events and other incentives.

I will be posting my progress here along with updates on my training.  So far, it has been less than 24hrs and I am already at $1305!  On the course map, that puts me almost in Ashland and couldn't be better timing because this weekend I will be running a half marathon in Ashland that starts at the original start line of the Boston Marathon.
So, stay tuned for more information and updates and in the meantime, go to my personal fundraising page and make a donation if you haven't already!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Another jam packed weekend full of fun

I really packed every minute of this weekend full of amazing and awesome stuff.  I started the weekend off right with an acupuncture/facial rejuvenation session with my friend Peri ( It was amazing.  She is a miracle worker.  My skin has never felt so smooth and she worked on a few areas on my feet/ankles where I had a little swelling and pain.  On my way home, I tried to contact my friend Lisa to see if Pepperell Skydive was doing night jumps during the full moon.  Turns out I had the wrong number for her, but I was able to reach our mutual friend Antonio and meet them for drinks in Downtown Lowell instead.  We viewed the moon from the middle of the street and enjoyed dinner and drinks at Fuse Bistro.

Saturday morning I got up early and put on my reflective gear and blinking lights for a little run.  I did my 6 mile out and back along 133 up the big hill in Tewksbury.  Lucky for my, the road runs east-west so I was able to run towards the sunrise and then see the moon setting on my way back.  Nothing crazy pace wise, just nice and easy, although I DID find a dime on the ground.  I need to turn in all my loose change at the bank, I think I have probably saved up at least $20 from the coins I find running. 

After the run, I showered and headed out the door to drive to Princeton, MA and go horseback riding with my friend Kristen (aka- pocketsize).  It was a perfect fall day, sunny and crisp.  The leaves were at peak and all the colors of fall - red, orange, yellow, and some browns.  I have never riden a horse, but I have always wanted to.  I can remember almost getting the chance when I was a little girl.  One of the Portland Police mounted officers asked me if I wanted to ride his horse and I was too scared and intimidated by the enormous animal that I chickened out.  Not this time, I had a groupon in hand for a 2 hour trail ride and I wasn't going to back out.  Can't be any harder than jumping out of a plane right? 
This is me on my horse, Hercules.  He was the perfect match for me- big, strong, work horse and described as a chow hound. Kristen got the other 'chow hound' on the ranch, Dusty.  We were warned to make sure they didn't try to wander to the sides of the trails because they would start snacking.  The guide, Sue, was really funny and knowledgable.  She did a great job of leading the horses along the trail from her horse, Goldie.  The ride went by really fast.  Afterwards Kristen and I went out for lunch to chat and catch up since we probably haven't hung out in months, maybe even as long as a year.  I had soaps for her that I bought at Downtown Disney in January.  Oh and I brought her a bottle of sparkling wine because she just got engaged!!!! Congrats Kristen and Evan!

From lunch I drove straight to Boston to watch some of the Head of the Charles and meet Denise and her boyfriend Ian for drinks.  They were going to an Alumni event for Northeastern Rowers, I crashed the party and went as their 'guest'.  I expected to just get a few drinks, maybe some food, then head home.  Instead we hung out for a while, then after much discussion eventually decided on a dinner place nearby.  There was 12 of us all together with all Ian's former crewmates.  I'm not exactly short, but in this crowd I felt tiny.  It was so much fun.  I was seated towards the end of the table a few seats down from Denise so we didn't really get to chat much, but Ian's friends kept me pretty well entertained.  I didn't get home until about 11:30pm!  That's a super late night for me AND I had a race the next morning.

Sunday was one of my favorite races all year long - The Boston Fire Fighters Local 718 10K.  It is a great event that raises money for various charities and supplies unlimited free beer, live music, and raffles after the beautiful course along the south shore of Boston.  Plus, did I mention there are fire fighters?  I was sort of slow on my 6 mile run the day before so I had low expectations for my pace going into the race plus I got home really late Saturday and didn't sleep much, but I felt pretty good in the first mile.  I maintained a solid ~9:30 pace for the whole race and finished in 58:34.  After the race, I enjoyed some free beer and made sure I stood right up front for the raffles and it paid off, I won a $100 gift card to the Back Bay Social Club,  which I promptly tried to donate back to the Boston Fire Dept, but they wouldn't let me.  We took some fun photos with the antique fire engine and called it a day. 
I'd say it was a very good weekend.  Just wish I had one more day to recover from it.  I didn't get grocery shopping, dishes, or laundry done yesterday so I will have to take advantage of my 'rest day' today to be productive and catch up on chores that didn't get done over the weekend.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"I'm ok".......6 months later

Still hard to believe, still hard to talk about, still try to avoid thinking about it, still breaks my heart, still struggling to understand it, still moving forward, still staying positive, still cherish every moment with friends and family, still BOSTON STRONG and getting STRONGER! 

It is difficult to put into words the thoughts and feelings that on any given day can overwhelm my brain and my body when I remember the events that occurred in Boston on April 15th.  It can be on my commute into work, seeing a Boston Strong ribbon on a State Trooper's cruiser.  Or in a race as I approach the finish line.  Or watching the news (which I have avoided for months) listening to a beautiful story of overcoming obstacles and recovering from tragedy, they replay the footage of the first blast and I am instantly transported back to that day. 

I am on Commonwealth Ave. checking my phone for text alerts of friends running the marathon.  Doing the math in my head based on their pace and the last checkpoint they passed, trying to figure out when I might see them run past.  I am excited and inspired by all of the energy in the crowd.  I am ringing my cowbell and holding a sign I made for Joey McIntyre from the New Kids on the Block.  I watch the crowd and cheer for runners as they pass by with only a little left to travel until they reach the sacred ground on Boylston and cross the finish line of all finish lines.  There is a family nearby lifting a small boy over the barricade so that he can run to the finish with his father.  There is an older woman to my left asking me what pace the runners passing by might be running.  There is a young man behind me filming a piece for a local public access channel.  He asks me if I could help him and push a few buttons for him to set up the shot.  Initially I accept the task, but after he explains in lengthy detail the order of buttons to push and how long it might take, I look at my phone again and kindly decline saying my friend will be running by any minute and I don't want to miss her.  I roll up my sign and put it in my bag and scan the runners as they go by looking for my friend Denise and prepare to run her into the finish to celebrate an incredible accomplishment with her and be there with a congrats hug when the dream is realized.

Then in all the noise of the crowd and the runners, I heard the noise I will never forget and I cannot remove from my memory no matter how hard I try.  It sounded like a cannon went off.  It was loud and low.  It stopped time and slowed everything for a moment.  I looked around and confirmed that other people had heard it too.  We all wondered what it was and sort of shrugged it off at first thinking they must be doing something special at Bunker Hill for Patriot's Day.  Then it happened again, louder and closer.  In that instant it was clear that it was not something special and it was not supposed to happen and something very very bad was happening.  I looked at the woman to my left and we both agreed something bad was happening, but no one knew what to do.  Just then a cop appeared out of nowhere and calmly walked into the street just before the dip in the course that goes under Massachusetts Ave. and asked all of the runners to hold up for a second. 

I don't think the runners had heard what we heard.  At first they tried to get around the cop and started jumping the barricade.  You cannot stop a marathoner 4 tenths of a mile from glory and tell them to wait.  Some had time goals, some were running Boston for the first time, some saw the seconds tick by on their watches and kissed new personal records goodbye, but none of them knew what horror and devastation was just around the corner.  Most just obeyed the cop and stopped assuming that the course would reopen shortly and they could continue on to the finish.  A large crowd of runners began to gather at the bottle neck that was created by the one brave cop that stood between them and the unknown.  Runners started asking me and the other spectators if we knew why they had been stopped.  The only answer we could provide was that we had heard two very loud explosions.

Soon the area was flooded with more police on foot and in cruisers, then ambulances and fire trucks and unmarked police cars.  Sirens and lights flashing.  We were in the shade and it was a cool day, perfect for running, but not perfect for standing still after running 25+ miles.  Runners were shivering and dehydrated and we were all confused and concerned.  After waves and waves of emergency vehicles went by it was clear that whatever had happened was far worse than anyone could imagine.  I tried texting my friend Jenine.  She was parking her car and on her way to the finish area with her two daughters just before I heard the explosions.  I tried texting my friend Steve that was running, but still hadn't passed the 30K mark.  Nothing would go through.  I tried calling....nothing.  No one could get their phones to work.  I was surrounded by people but I have never felt so isolated and alone in my entire life.  And more than anything else I felt completely helpless.  There was nothing I could do and I didn't know what to do.

I offered my phone without hesitation to anyone that wanted to try and reach someone.  Maybe they would have better luck.  With the help of other spectators nearby we opened the barricade and guided runners to the sidewalk.  I gave my jacket to a young girl in running shorts and a singlet because she was freezing.  We tried and failed to contact her family.  I hugged her and reassured her.  All phones were down and just because we did not get a text message back from her husband didn't mean that he wasn't ok.  Next to us there was a girl on the ground crying, she had trained for months and was not going to get to finish the best marathon in the World.  I felt crushed for her.  I felt the frustration and fear and worry of everyone there.  I was ok, but I didn't know about anyone else and I couldn't tell anyone.  Someone in the crowd mentioned that emails and wifi was working.  I sent a message to my coworkers and asked for information and posted to Facebook to let my friends know I was ok.

People started coming through the crowd from the finish area, terrified and shocked.  It was true, it really had happened, there were explosions near the finish line.  It was unclear exactly what happened and who did it and how large the bombs were and how many people were hurt.  The information we got from passers by varied from blood every where and hundreds killed to mostly wounded no dead.  My coworkers were able to send me the article posted to CNN's website immediately following the explosions and even that was full of uncertainty and fragmented information.  Fenway was evacuated and people started coming towards the finish area, we tried to tell them to turn around and go the other way, but beer clouded their judgement and they ignored our advice stumbling toward unknown danger and destruction.

Eventually, the crowds were dispersed and people cleared the area heading out and away from what was now a crime scene.  Kenmore Square was a ghost town except for a few stranded runners and a lot of cops clearing the course and tapping it off section by section.  I was lost and alone, not literally, but emotionally.  I still couldn't contact any of my friends that were running and I couldn't reach Jenine to find out if she was ok.  I decided to walk back to work and at least get somewhere safe where there were other people and maybe even go home.  I made it back to work and then home to Lowell.  I was ok, but not really.  I was shaken and sickened with fear and anger and disbelief and anxiety and sadness.  It hurt so much that someone would do something so horrible and senseless to MY city and MY marathon and MY favorite stretch of road.

6 months later it is still sickening and it still hurts, but I was not injured.  I did not lose limbs or loved ones.  I do not have scars and I did not spend months in surgery and rehab.  I read an article on yesterday about some of the emergency responders and they struggle to admit that they too are victims of the attack.  I can empathize.  Everyone can claim to be a victim to one degree or another, but it is hard to come to grips with the damage that was done and the lasting effect the events of April 15th have had when they seem so insignificant in comparison to those that were closer to the explosions and severely injured or killed. 

Fireworks scare the crap out of me now and sometimes I can't sleep.  Sometimes I wonder about the little boy that was lifted over the barricade to run to the finish with his dad and pray that he and his dad are ok.  I wonder about the girl that wore my jacket and used my phone and I hope she was reunited with her family.  I wonder about the cop that stopped all the runners and hope that someone thanked him.  I wonder about all of the emergency responders that day and hope they have the support they need to deal with the traumas they witnessed.

In the last 6 months I have done a lot of wondering.  I try not to get stuck on that sidewalk in Kenmore Square lost and alone.  I focus on the future and the possibilities and forget the what ifs and whys.  I am looking forward.  I am alive and I am doing my best to make the most of every moment I have.  I am jumping out of planes and spinning around poles and drinking beers in Germany.  I will be learning to ride a horse and maybe even going on a duck boat tour in Boston and running the freedom trail.  I can't wait to run 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston in 2014.  I hope that I can raise a lot of money for innovative cancer research in the process and help make a difference.  I hope that I make some new friends and share some amazing experiences along the way.  I am looking forward to where ever my journey takes me because I know it is far from over.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Recovery and a little reflection

OK so I've had a little over a week to bounce back from Berlin.  Although it took that long to get back to a normal sleep schedule and figure out what day it is.  I think I am slowly coming back to normal, or at least normal for me.  I slept until almost 3:30am today, considering my alarm goes off at 4am I'll take it.  I haven't done a lot of running, but that's probably a good thing.  I usually do a short easy shake out run 2-3 days after a marathon, but with the traveling and lack of sleep I waited until the weekend to lace up again.

I was signed up for the Electric Run Friday night, another themed sort of obstacle/color run at night with lots of glow sticks and dance music.  Well, when Friday afternoon rolled around I checked the weather and it was rainy and cold.  I was tired and really didn't feel like driving an hour out of my way to run a 5K then drive about 90 minutes to get home.  I bailed and went home instead and ended up falling asleep at 5:30pm.
Saturday there was a 5 mile race just minutes from my house organized by a good friend for a great cause so, I decided to get dressed and test out my legs a little closer to home.  When I got there I got a text from my friend Steve, trying to get motivated to go for a run so I invited him to join me at the race.  I really wasn't sure how my legs and the rest of my body was going to feel running only 6 days after the most painful marathon ever.  I started out slow and just took it easy.  I actually felt really good.  Maybe my legs just don't like international travel.  I finished the race in 48:44 averaging around a 9:40 pace.  I haven't run that fast in a while and it felt amazing.  I was kind of shocked and extremely pleased by my performance.  So, I decided to do another 5 miler Sunday.
My friend Sarah was organizing a race in her community for the second year in a row so I went to show my support and to see if I could repeat my amazing performance from the day before.  It was raining and cool, but not cold.  Lucky for Sarah and the West Newbury school programs that the race supported because if it was sunny out I was planning on going skydiving again.  It ended up being perfect running weather.  It wasn't really pouring rain, more like a light mist and felt really refreshing.  The course was a lot hillier than I remembered, but I have learned over the years that my brain conveniently erases hills from my memory and I sign up for the same tough courses over and over again.  Despite the hills, I still finished strong and a couple of seconds FASTER than the race the day before in 48:42!  AMAZING!

My plan for this week was to continue resting and recovering but slowly add a few miles in.  I rested Monday, after back to back races I figured that was smart.  Tuesday I did a short loop around the Charles River after work.  I ran a little over 5 miles and resisted the urge to turn it into a fartlek on the Storrow Drive side.  Just slow and steady to get the legs moving again.  I finished and hopped in my car to head home.  There was a little traffic so I sat in my car on 93N lost in thought about a lot of things.  I thought about the run and my Dopey training plan.  I made a mental 'to-do' list for the Disney trip, I still need to book a hotel, flight, and rental car.  Then I started thinking about my plans for after Disney.
I had applied again for the Dana-Farber Marathon team to run Boston in 2014.  I followed up with them after I got back from Germany and emailed back and forth a few additional details.  The wheels in my head were turning and trying to think of creative ways to fundraise.  I was just $300 shy of $10K the last time I ran for them and that really bugged me.  I still hadn't heard back from them if I made the team or not, but I was trying to think positive and visualize being part of the team again.  I thought about who to tell first when I finally got the news.  I had promised my friend Steve he would be the first to know since I met him the first time I ran with DFMC.  Then I thought about my mom and my brother.  Just as I was thinking my brother will need to get a damn dog sitter for Patriots Day and plan to be in Boston for the day, my phone beeped.  I had a new email.........You’ve been accepted to the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge (DFMC) team in the 2014 Boston Marathon!

Thank GOD I was stopped in traffic because I screamed out loud and bounced up and down in my seat and did a little happy dance.  I am so excited and thrilled I can't even express it in words appropriately.  My fundraising page isn't set up yet, but I am already drafting the letter to send out to friends and family.  I am just itching to tell people but holding back because I want to be able to send out my link.  Well, the cat is out of the bag now, but keep your checkbooks handy as soon as the link is available I will be posting it, emailing it, mailing letters, and asking for support.   
Hard to believe it was 4 years ago that I started this blog as a way to keep people updated on my training and fundraising for my first Boston Marathon with Dana-Farber and like my mom the politician, I am running again 4yrs later.  Maybe I will make this a tradition and run every 4 years.  Fundraising is a lot like grassroots campaigning and I've got a lot of experience with that.  From stuffing envelopes to passing out balloons and stickers at parades and even putting up lawn signs (hey, I wonder how I can make that into a way to fundraise....), I never thought those skills would come in so handy, thanks Mom!    Anyway, stay tuned for more info on my journey.  A link to my fundraising page will be posted as soon as I have it and I will be using the elevation profile of the Boston course again to track my fundraising progress.  My goal is to hit that $10,000 mark this time.  It won't be easy, but I know that if all of the people that read this give a little and ask their friends to give a little it will bring us all one step closer to a World without cancer.  Thank you in advance for your help.