Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I love running in Boston!

Memorial day weekend 2013 was one I will definitely remember.  The weather wasn't great, but it didn't ruin my plans.  Earlier in the week, on Tuesday, I volunteered helping stuff packets for the Run to Remember half marathon.  I went for a short run along the Charles first.  Did a nice easy 6 miles and then headed over to the Seaport World Trade Center to volunteer.  There were a lot more people there this year than last year.  We made really quick work of the packets.  11,000 bib numbers put into zip lock baggies with safety pins and information.  Last year I think I did a few stacks of 100 bibs, this year I did one stack and we were done.  I helped out with a few other little tasks here and there, then I went home. 

Wednesday I did another 6 miles along the Charles.  Thursday I brought my stuff to run, but decided to rest instead.  I was feeling kind of crappy and tired for no particular reason.  Friday finally arrived and the work day went by relatively fast.  It was quiet and not many people were there.  Some people took an extra long weekend.  Friday after work, I went back to the Seaport WTC to volunteer again.  This time I wasn't really sure what they would have us doing.  I showed up and they did a brief intro and divided the volunteers up.  I ended up stuffing more packets, this time for the kids races.  It was fine because I'm kind of good at it.  And fun because I ended up chatting with the other two women the whole time.  One was an Emergency room doctor in Boston, Denise, and the other was an ultramarathoner, who also worked at the hospital, Jenine.  Both were fascinating and together we completed all of the kids race packets and stuffed them with t-shirts too before the dinner even arrived.  It was a really fun night.

Saturday morning I got up and made some tea.  Ate a little breakfast and then my friend Steve came over so we could head into Boston to run the last mile of the marathon course together.  He was somewhere around mile 24 when the race stopped.  There was an organized event at 10:00am starting in Kenmore Square allowing runners and the community to come out and experience that last mile.  It was drizzling and cold, but that didn't stop over 2000 people from showing up to support the city and the race that means so much to so many.  I bought one of the commemorative shirts to benefit the #onefund.  Emotional tributes and speeches started us off and then we all ran the final section of the marathon course and crossed the finish line on Boylston.  It was a pretty amazing thing to see and be a part of.  I'm really glad I went.
After the run, we gathered and cheered the rest of the runners on as they finished their journeys and then worked our way through the crowd to talk to a few friends.  We found Jan and Jack from Dana Farber and chatted with them for a bit, then a reporter from the Associated Press interviewed us.  I went to Marathon Sports and bought a Boston Strong t-shirt.  Then we walked down Boylston and onto Newbury Street to get some brunch at Cafeteria.  It was perfect, hot coffee and breakfast food and just enough time for our clothes to dry a little before walking back to my car.

Saturday afternoon, I had good intentions of going out and doing something, but I ended up napping on my couch instead.  Woke up around 5:30pm and wondered where the day went.  I was supposed to at least finish my laundry and fold it and put it away, but that didn't happen.  I don't even remember what I ended up doing for the rest of the evening before I went to bed.  I tried to get to sleep early so I could get up in time for the race in the morning.

Sunday I got up and got dressed.  Got my stuff together and drove into Boston.  I was thinking the race started at 7:30, but I found out when I got there that it started at 7:00 and I got there at about five of!  I had to pee, but there was no time.  I got in the start corrals and they did a moment of silence and the national anthem and we were off and running.  I figured there would be port-o-potties on the course.  Well apparently so did a lot of people.  The first few had wicked long lines.  I followed two girls into a Dunks and we got kicked out.  Then we ran past a Fire Station.  Thank GOD!  Well, I think they must have removed all the TP as a cruel joke knowing that there would be desperate runners coming in.  Whatever, pit stop done, I continued the race. 

About 3 miles in I saw a familiar person up ahead of me.  The very person that made me sign up for my first half marathon and helped me form this new healthy addiction to running, Jenine.  I stopped to say hi and chat with her for a little and she wanted to catch up since I hadn't seen her in forever, but she was pacing one of her clients, so I threw my race plan out the window and hung back with her and her client for the entire race.  Told her we had 10 more miles to talk and I was all ears.  It may not have been my fastest half marathon, but I sure did have a lot of fun.  I started singing and dancing and cheering for random runners.  I high fived all of the police officers along Memorial Drive near MIT.  I can't wait to see the pro photos because they will either be wicked awesome or wicked funny.  After the race I went home and again fell victim to the comfort of my couch for a little snooze.  It was rainy and cold so it's not like I could do much else anyway.

Sunday I got up and went for a run.  I did 7 miles and felt great.  I should have brought water with me because I could have kept running.  I didn't really "run" the half marathon so it felt good to get out and just go.  Plus, the sun was finally out.  It was a beautiful day and I soaked it all in.  Afterwards I went grocery shopping and then cleaned my house a little and did some cooking.  It was a really relaxing day.  I just sort of wish I had one more.  I have been procrastinating folding my clean laundry forever and I finally did that and put everything away.  I even purged some of my drawers and put things in bins to donate.  Cleaned out my basement a little and then found my couch again in the late afternoon and fell asleep watching the history channel. 

Overall it was a great weekend full of running and productive stuff at home and in the city.  It was nice to catch up with Jenine and reconnect with her for 10 miles.  It was nice to see my friend Steve finally cross the finish line on Boylston.  It was nice to volunteer to support a race I have run many times and be a part of it in a year that runners and the city of Boston really needed a well organized event to remember those we have lost.  And I am really glad I finally folded my laundry.  :)  And here is a random funny to finish with:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My kind of Birthday

Most people celebrate getting older with a party or dinner and drinks with friends or a quiet night at home in denial.  I take a different approach.  It seems since I turned 30 I have done something crazier and crazier each year to celebrate.  I may be getting older, but I'm also getting more and more AWESOME.  For my 30th I did the traditional party, although I tried to make it an 80s theme throwback.  Then the next year I did a long course Duathlon in the mountains of New Hampshire in the rain with friends Jackie and Chris.  Last year I did the Bennington Vermont Stair climb followed by the Shires of Vermont Marathon.  And this year Reach the Beach on an ultra team.  Not sure how I can top that next year.

This year was so much fun it may be impossible to do something crazier and have as much fun.  It all started Friday morning.  I got up early and made some chocolate chip banana nut muffins for my team before I headed out to meet the captain, Jay, at a park and ride on the way to the mountain where the race started.  We drove from there to the mountain to meet the rest of the team and decorate our van.  We checked in and did the safety orientation.  Oh, but before that the fun sort of began.  While we were waiting for the safety orientation to begin we stepped out onto a beautiful deck to stand in the sun and listen to the other waves starting the race.  When it was time to go back in and do the safety orientation we realized we were locked out and stuck on the deck.
Hilarious!  We got someone to let us in and sat through a 15 minute presentation going over all the rules and safety info for the race.  Then we went back to the van and continued decorating.  Before we knew it, it was time to head to the start line and begin the journey to the beach.  Jay bought a skeleton costume to run the first leg in based on our original team name (Ultra Dead Runners - we changed it in light of the Boston tragedy).  He was by far the most popular person at the start line.  Everyone wanted a photo with him.  His first run was relatively short, but he had to run straight up the mountain.  While we drove to the next transition I made a bib to wear on my back that said "Running 35 miles for my 35th birthday".  I had one of my teammates pin it to my back and then waited for Jay to hand off to me for my first run. 
My first run was my longest, 14.4 miles.  I tried to keep track of how many people said happy birthday to me, but after I passed an entire van full of people I lost count.  It was really pretty with a few decent hills.  It was really warm out.  Since we started the race at noon I was running around 1:00 in the afternoon.  It wasn't quite in the 80s, but high 70s for sure.  Thank God I had my fuel belt.  I drank all of the bottles and took some salt tabs too.  I finished the run and handed off to Nathanael.  I was covered in salt and dehydrated.  I chugged two bottles of water immediately and we were off to chase Nathanael and grab some food on the way.  The guys had eaten while I was running.  We found a small pizza joint for me to get lunch/dinner.  I washed the salt off and got a small cheese pizza and some lemonade.  It totally hit the spot.

We continued the journey through the evening.  I tried to take a little nap in the back of the van, but couldn't sleep.  I was having too much fun.  The sun went down and the headlamps and blinkie lights came out.  I love night running.  I think I did manage to get an hour or so of sleep because my second run was around 11pm.  I had a little over 9 miles to do.  My pace was a little slower and running in complete darkness half asleep was very disorienting.  There are fewer teams in the Massachusetts Reach the Beach so the roads have fewer runners and therefore fewer blinking lights along the way.  I tripped over a stick in the road at one point.  It was REALLY dark.  As I ran through one of the transitions I asked them if it was midnight yet because after midnight it was my birthday.  I still had a minutes before I could do a happy birthday dance.

Almost at the end of my 9 miles my team was on the side of the road waiting to whisper "Happy Birthday" to me (it was a quiet zone and we'd get DQ'd if we were too loud).  Best birthday ever!  Doing something I love and meeting so many awesome people along the way.  When I finished my 9 miler, I hopped in the driver seat and drove the van for a few shifts while the other guys rested.  Pretty sure at least one of them got some good sleep because someone started snoring.  hahaha It was AWESOME.  I have to admit I was a little jealous.  Next few miles went by fast.  As the sun started to come up I swapped with someone else and tried to get a little sleep before my last run.
Around 8 in the morning I started my last run - 10.8 miles.  The sun was up and it was already getting really warm.  At this point in the race people start to really fade.  I passed a bunch and as we drove in the early hours we passed people walking.  One girl was really struggling.  I tried to keep her motivated.  Determined to finish strong and help her get there too.  Everytime she stopped to walk I told her just keep moving.  You can do it.  Only a little more and you are done.  She said I was her hero.  I'm no hero.  I'm just a crazy person that likes to run a lot.  If I can help someone else along the way that's a bonus for me.  She made it to the end of the run shortly after me and came over to where I was standing and gave me a GIANT hug.  She did it! 

We had to get going to support our runner and get to the next transition.  I'm not sure it even hit me yet that I had completed ~34.4 miles in about 6 hours total (averaged about a 10:30 pace).  At the next transistion they had hot showers for a donation of $5.  Best $5 ever.  Although I had some pretty nasty cuts on my feet that did not feel good in the shower.  It was still worth it.  Oh and the walk to the showers was at least a quarter of a mile so I'm adding that to my total mileage and rounding up to 35 miles.  Still hard to believe I did it.  The rest of the day went by pretty fast, leap frogging our runners and giving them support along the way to the beach.
This is me after I showered handing off water to Sagi, our last runner.  From here we made our way to the finish line.  We ended up finishing the entire race in 28 hours and 27 minutes.  When we finished the clouds had rolled in and it was actually really cold out.  We got our free meals and skipped the beer tent.  All in all it was a really great experience.  One birthday girl and five random dudes made it to the beach and had a lot of fun along the way.  I fell asleep in the van on the way back to get our cars.  Made it home by about 8:30pm and tried to stay up a little to bask in my birthday glory, but ended up passing out from complete exhaustion.

Sunday I decided to be completely lazy.  I earned it.  I slept in as late as I possibly could which was still only about 7:30am.  Then lounged around in my PJs for several hours before getting dressed and going to the grocery store.  At the store I got myself the cupcake at the top of this post and a few different birthday beers to sample.  I've got some really gross cuts on my feet from shoes rubbing me the wrong way and I'm still not totally caught up on my sleep, but my legs feel fine and I haven't stopped smiling for the past few days because it has just been so awesome.  I could not be happier (well only if I had actually remembered to buy a Powerball ticket on my way home from the race Saturday AND won the jackpot).  Thanks everyone that helped me celebrate another year! 
 Nathanael, Chris, Me, Jay, Danny, Sagi
The Medal

Thursday, May 16, 2013

"Far from finished"

That is my team's name for this weekend's relay.  I'm pretty excited and really looking forward to it.  But before I get into what I'll be running this weekend, let me re-cap what I have been up to in the last week first.

So, last Friday I had another class at trapeze school and it did not go as well as the first class.  I'm not exactly sure how or why but for some reason when I got to trapeze school and got buckled in and made my way up to the platform to fly, I had a massive anxiety attack and couldn't do it.  I wasn't afraid or nervous about jumping it was completely unrelated overwhelming emotions that bubbled up to the surface at the top of the 23 foot platform after 3 weeks of one horrible thing after another.  I couldn't breathe, my heart was racing, and my hands were sweating like crazy.  It was unreal.  I finally got up the courage to try and just do it thinking that once I got a successful swing in I'd feel better, but it didn't really help.  Each time was just as overwhelming as the first one and I completely freaked out.  I ended up doing 3-4 swings out and then I hurt something weird in my hand so I gave up.  But I did get this really funny photo out of it:
Anyway, after trapeze I drove home and changed quickly into jeans and a t-shirt and my friend Patty came over.  We went to a fundraiser nearby for one of the bombing victims, Jeff Bauman.  He went to high school in the town next to where I live and Patty graduated a few years before him, but went to the same school.  It was a very nice event.  They had raffles, a DJ, cash bar, silent auction, t-shirts for sale, and donation buckets too.  Some of his friends were there and his family too.  It was nice to celebrate a big milestone with them, he had been released from the hospital earlier in the day.  We had a chance to chat with his parents before we left and it is obvious where he gets his amazing attitude and spirit from.  They were incredible people.  I am so happy I had a chance to meet them and help their family a little with a few donations.

Saturday I wanted to do a long-ish run to prepare for Reach the beach, but wasn't feeling it.  I went out and did 7 miles very slow and sluggish.  I felt ok but my pace was near walking.  I'm hoping maybe my garmin was wrong.  I just felt so defeated and demotivated afterwards.  I spent the rest of the day doing absolutely nothing.

Sunday I had really good intentions of getting up early and going for my long run.  I got up and had some tea and changed into my running clothes.  Filled up my fuel belt and got ready to walk out the door and then the skies opened up and it started POURING rain.  Not a light sprinkle, flood the streets and impossible to even see through sheets of rain coming down.  I took that as a sign from God to take a rest day.  With the crappy run the day before and a high resting heart rate I figured rest was in order.  I'm glad I did, I fell asleep on my couch and woke up in the late afternoon.  Clearly my body needed a break.

Monday afterwork I ran along the Charles and did a little over 10 miles.  I could have kept going if I took another gel, but I cut it short because I wasn't exactly sure how many miles it was to the next bridge.  I felt really great and my pace was right back on track.  Rest does a body good.  Only weird thing was my heart rate monitor still acting funny.  Instead of really high readings now I am getting really low readings so I chose to ignore it completely.  I went to Target the next day to get a new battery.  Will test it out tomorrow when I run the first leg of the relay.

I was going to run last night, but when I left work it was starting to rain again and it was getting late.  I wimped out and decided to drive home instead.  Oh and a lovely side note of the week, When I got home Tuesday night from Target there was a notice in my door that a level 3 sex offender moved in right next door.  AWESOME!  One more reason to hate where I live and to add more stress and anxiety to my already overwhelmed nervous system.  All of the elderly people in the condo association started calling me and asking me to call them back.  I ignored them all and went to bed.  I sent out a letter the next day instructing everyone to direct any questions they have to the police department because there is nothing we can do.  I feel like I run an assisted living community sometimes.  They all live alone, but freak out and complain to me about EVERYTHING even though I have no power to improve anything.

So, I guess after the last month of one thing after another I am REALLY REALLY looking forward to taking a day off from work and doing the thing I love most - RUNNING.  Our team starts at noon tomorrow and I am the second runner.  I will run legs 3+4, 15+16, and 27+28.  The distances will be 14.4, 9.15, and 10.81 for a total of 34.36.  I will have to add on a little 0.64 mile jog at some point to make it an even 35 miles finishing on my 35th birthday.  Here is what the course profile looks like:

In other exciting news, yesterday I booked my flights for the Berlin Marathon in the fall.  So exciting!  And I have a hotel for the Mount Washington race too.  This year is shaping up pretty nicely.  I'm checking off all kinds of bucket list things.  Still need to pick a date to go skydiving.  Yikes/yay!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Two steps forward, one step back

Making progress, but slow.  After Big Sur I felt pretty good and my mood was really positive.  I had a great race and the joy of running had returned following the horrific events that had occurred in Boston.  I was able to laugh about the crazy antics that surrounded my race and Thursday after work I even went for a short run along the Charles to shake out the legs and get right back at it.  I just did 5 miles and wouldn't you know it Mother Nature was out in full force with some headwinds for me.  I didn't care.  The sun was out and it felt great to just run again. 

Later that night when I got home, after dinner, relaxing on my couch watching some mindless TV, my mom called.  I didn't feel like talking to her so I let it go to voicemail.  She left a message but didn't say much, just asked me to call her back.  Still exhausted from the weekend I really didn't feel like hearing her tell me what a great time she had, completely oblivious to the fact that I didn't share the same experience.  Moments later she updated her facebook status (this is a new thing for her, she's still sort of figuring it out), my grandmother had passed away.  I called her back immediately.

Alice Marie Burdwood - or Gram/Grammy to me was 90 years old and the last time I saw her she did not know who I was or where she was and she seemed frightened and confused.  That is not how I want to remember her.  I will remember sleeping over when I was younger and going to yard sales with her and then eating lunch with my Grampa after.  I will remember that she made the best chocolate chip cookies in the world and gave me a tin full of them every year for Christmas.  I will remember awkward moments when she would blurt out inappropriate things in conversations.  I will remember that spending time with her always made me feel loved when I often felt no one cared about me growing up.  I'd like to think that she is in a happy place now and no longer frightened and confused.  She is with my grandfather and my uncle, the son she lost way before his time should have been up.  They can all make up for lost time here on Earth in some other place beyond the grave.

The weekend went by in a blur.  I was so busy, which is probably a good thing because it didn't allow me to stop and think too much and get upset or overwhelmed.  Friday I went home and baked a cheesecake for the wine tasting that I was having Saturday.  I didn't sleep much Friday night because I kept having nightmares that police SWAT teams and bomb Squads were in my house.  Saturday morning I got up early and drove my friend Steve to the airport, he was invited by Dick's Sporting Goods to participate in the Pittsburgh Marathon because he was one of the many that did not get to finish the Boston Marathon.  Such an incredible opportunity and an amazing show of support from the running community.  He got full VIP treatment along with about 35 other runners.

When I left the airport I texted Kim to see if she was interested in running.  She was running in Dunstable with Nutter and Erin so I met them there.  They were planning to run 9 miles, but I couldn't go that far because I had just done a marathon the week before.  I figured I could just go out and back and run with them for a little bit.  It was the first time I had run with them in several weeks and I was kind of looking forward to catching up.  We started running and they took off leaving me in their dust.  I knew I would be slower and the route was really hilly so that didn't help, but I didn't think I was so slow that they wouldn't run with me for a few miles.  They stopped at intersections to wait for me and then took off again chatting and enjoying the run.  I wanted to run with friends and talk and get back to normal.  Instead I just felt defeated and alone.  After 2 miles I gave up and turned around and went home. 

The rest of the day I had to clean my house and prepare for the wine tasting.  I took a short nap in the afternoon and then waited for friends to arrive.  One by one I got text messages and emails of last minute cancellations.  Instead of a full house and not enough seats and wine glasses to go around it was a small gathering of 4 friends.  It was really fun and the cheesecake was a hit - Cappuccino Fudge with Kahlua ganache, pretty ridiculous actually.  We had a white merlot I brought back from California, a malbec, two ports and a sherry, then a little 'liquid gold' that my friend Nestor brought.  It was a delicious port that was very inky and almost chewy.  After everyone left I tried to stay awake to watch the news and SNL, but I didn't make it.  Even the chocolate covered coffee beans couldn't keep me awake.  I fell asleep.
Sunday, I sort of wanted to go for a run, it was beautiful out, but instead I relaxed on the couch the entire day.  The wine may have had something to do with my lack of motivation.  I did eventually get up and go grocery shopping, but then went right back to my horizontal position on the couch.  In the evening I had to pick Steve up from the airport.  His whirlwind tour of Pittsburgh was done.  It was so fun to hear all about it and I brought him a slice of the cheesecake to celebrate.  Crazy that in about 36 hours he flew, ran, and flew back.  And he got a ton of free stuff too.  It's so nice that the race did that and I've heard that several other races are doing similar things for other runners.  I hope everyone gets a chance to finish their race in VIP style like Steve.

Monday, work went by fast.  I got an email from my mom informing me that my grandmother would be buried the next day.  I went for a run after along the Charles and bumped into my Reach the Beach team captain.  Before that I passed a whole bunch of news vans on Memorial drive.  I stopped to ask them what was up and they said the building they were all staked out in front of was the apartment of one of the bombing suspects.  I kind of wish I didn't ask.  I was feeling really good and starting to return to sort of normal routine and now another reminder of horrible events I was a distant witness to.  Add in the loss of my grandmother and the associated family drama and my mood went into a nasty downward spiral.

Tuesday I took a bereavement day from work to drive to Portland for the burial.  Before I left I went for a run.  I was going to just do 3-4 miles and I ended up doing 7 and I wanted to just keep running, but I had to shower and get dressed and drive the 90 minutes to my mom's house.  I got to Portland and stopped for coffee and bought some flowers.  The burial service was really short and very awkward.  I haven't seen or spoken to my aunts in over a decade.  I didn't want to talk to them because it was their choice to not have a proper service and visiting hours at the funeral home.  I walked around and chatted with some of my mom's friends that had come to show support for her.  Afterwards my mom had everyone over her house.

The whole day everyone asked me about the marathon and the bombings and where I was and what it was like and I had to re-hash the story over and over again all while trying to grieve for my grandmother, but not really because mentally she died a long time ago and only really recently left us physically.  Emotional would be a drastic understatement to describe the day, but somehow it seemed disconnected too as if it wasn't happening to me or I wasn't allowing myself to really experience the emotions.  I resisted it all.  Maybe in an attempt to protect myself and prevent further trauma, but I failed.  I feel like I am right back where I was 3 weeks ago and completely numb and stuck in limbo again.  Not sleeping and overwhelmed with feelings of depression, loneliness, fear, anxiety, stress, tension, etc.
I am trying really hard to focus forward and think about all the really fun stuff I have planned in the next few weeks, but struggling to focus on anything at all.  Trapeze School tomorrow, Reach the Beach Relay next weekend, Run to Remember half marathon Memorial day weekend, Mount Washington Road race in June.  Never mind work and friends and just day to day stuff like cooking myself dinner or even wanting to eat anything at all.  I have to stay positive and keep moving forward to avoid getting stuck here.  I brought my things to go for a run after work today.  It's supposed to rain, but I don't care maybe that will wash away my stress and help me feel refreshed and renewed.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Comedy of errors and an amazing race

Hmmmm, where to begin.  I'll try to shorten the story a little because there is a lot I could say about my trip to California to run Big Sur.  I could probably write a book, but I'll just share the highlights.

Before I left last Wednesday after work I met my Reach the Beach - Massachusetts Ultra team at a bar near work for some drinks, introductions, and a little logistical talk.  I'm going to be spending 24+ hours in a van sweaty and stinky with 5 dudes I don't really know so it was nice to meet them informally first.  We had a few beers and before I knew it I had to leave to drive home and pack for my flight out the next morning to California.  My mom was meeting me at my house and I was running late so I rushed home as fast as I could, but she still got there 30 minutes before me.  I still had not even packed anything for the trip.

I frantically threw things in a bag and checked and double checked that I at least had the critical things I needed for running the marathon.  I got a back bib from my friend Patty that said "I run for Boston", I had my running hat that I embroidered with "Boston Strong", and a whole bunch of blue and yellow ribbons.  All my gels, clif shots powder, fuel belt, garmin and charger, iPod and charger, road ID, running clothes, and of course my shoes.  Checked the weather one more time and threw some shirts and jeans in my bag.  Got my mom all squared away on my couch and went to bed.

We got up in the morning and drove into Cambridge to park and took a cab to the airport and we were off.  Boston to San Francisco, then San Francisco to Monterey.  We had about 3 hours to kill in the SFO airport, good thing because our connecting flight was in a different terminal and there was some weird construction going on so we couldn't walk from one to the next, we had to take a special shuttle that was impossible to find.  There was a tiny little sign for it that we walked past 4 or 5 times before we found it.  We got to the correct terminal and there were not that many options for lunch.  I picked a small sandwich place and was going to get a grilled veggie sandwich until I realized it hads eggplant which I am allergic to and get violently ill if I eat it.  Switched my order to a plain grilled cheese.  They made it on two slices of bread on the griddle separately each with 4 slices of cheese so by the time they assembled the sandwich it had 8 slices of cheese oozing out of it.  It was disgusting and it cost me $12!

Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked, we made it to Monterey and picked up the rental car - A 2013 Chevy Camaro.  Pretty sweet ride except for the super tiny windows and giant blindspots.  Drove 5 minutes from the little local airport to the hotel and checked in.  The room was small - one bed for me and my mom to share.  Overall, pretty decent and the woman at the front desk was very helpful in recommending places to see and where to eat.  After we put our things in the room we decided to explore a little and then get dinner. 
We found downtown Monterey and the fishermans wharf.  It's a tourist attraction so we checked it out.  Not a whole lot going on there, a few souvenir shops and 4 or 5 seafood restaurants.  All of them were giving out free samples of their chowder to try and persuade people to eat there.  The deserted strip and desparate ploys to get customers were a red flag to me that this was not a good place to get dinner.  My mom on the other hand was thoroughly enjoying all the free samples slurping each one down and practically licking the sample cups before discarding them and telling me what she thought of each one.

We walked away from the wharf and towards the 'historic downtown' area and found a lovely Italian place for dinner.  As we looked over the menu my mom discussed the options and with limited vegetarian items my meal was pretty much pre-determined by what was available.  My mom ordered some sort of seafood special and mentioned she wanted to try my meal although trying her meal was not an option for me because I do not eat fish/meat.  So, I explained to her that I ordered what I wanted to eat and planned to eat it ALL.  This would be the case all weekend.  Especially preparing for the race, with a three hour time change messing with my internal clock and adding to the usual crankiness I get when I do not eat at regular intervals.  I told her to stay away from my food unless she wanted me to stab her or bite her hand.  We finished dinner and returned to the hotel to wind down.

Back at the hotel, my mom turned on the TV and tried to find CNN.  I explained I couldn't watch the news.  I had been at the epicenter of the most horrible experience in Boston and at the marathon for the entire history of the city and the event.  I needed to focus on preparing for the race I was about to run without the added stress and trauma of watching the same video coverage of the bombings over and over again.  She protested and totally did not understand.  We finally agreed on watching something else.  Eventually, tried to go to sleep.  She dozed off instantly and I struggled.......then she started SNORING.  So loud I wouldn't be surprised it the people in the next room heard her.  I didn't sleep at all and in the brief moments when I did nod off I had a nightmare about a bomb at the race - thanks Mom.

Friday we got up and got breakfast, did some shopping (I got some ear plugs), then went to downtown Monterey to get on the Trolley wine tasting tour that I had arranged.  It was a 4-5hour tour of Carmel Valley and a bunch of different tasting rooms.  A small cheese plate was included and we got souvenir glasses and a corkscrew and a 'free' bottle of wine.  The group was an interesting bunch.  Three girls there for a birthday, one couple also in town for the marathon, a random guy from South Africa just visiting and another small group of three that kept to themselves.  The tasting tour was fun and made the day go by fast.  Before we knew it we were back in Monterey and the trolley happened to drop us off right in front of the expo so we went in to get my bib# and shirt and look at the expo.
I had told my mom before the trip that the expo was one of my favorite parts of running marathons.  It's like runner heaven.  All the vendors, free stuff, gadgets, and gear and things you didn't even know existed but you could be convinced that you needed.  I LOVE IT.  Well, we got my bib number and ticket for the bus and my mom asked if we could go eat.  The expo was only open until 6pm so I said no, I wanted to look around.  She was like a little kid wandering off and asking over and over if we could leave.  Annoyed, I agreed thinking maybe we could come back the next day.  We went to dinner at a small french american bistro that the wine trolley tour guide recommended and gave us a coupon for a free appetizer.

There was only one veggie option for the appetizer and my mom grumbled about it because she wanted calamari.  We got the artichoke and she complained about it the whole time.  I ordered a grilled portabello mushroom and she commented on not liking mushrooms, as if I was going to order something to share again.  I enjoyed my meal without the threat of a roaming fork invading my plate.  We both got some wine during the tour and she began suggesting the I put her wine in my bag.  I had 4 bottles to try and fit in my bag already.  If she didn't want to check her bag she shouldn't have bought the wine.  Anyway, back to the room and she wanted to watch the news AGAIN!

Little to no sleep again, Saturday we got up and drove the marathon course so that my mom could see all the amazing views that I would get to see while running.  She wasn't really paying much attention so I just took it upon myself to stop along the road and take as many pictures as possible to capture the incredible views.  Most of the time she didn't even get out of the car.  We got back to the finish area around lunch time and went to a little cafe in the shopping plaza next to the finish tents.  I ordered a small salad, a grilled cheese sandwich and some fries.  She ordered a salad and said she wanted to have some of my fries.  I explained AGAIN that I planned to eat ALL of the food I ordered and if she wanted fries she should just order them.  Food came and I finished it all, upset that I didn't leave any fries for her she ordered her own after we had finished eating.  We waited and she got her fries and ate them all.
From the finish we went to Cannery Row in Monterey, another tourist attraction, but a lot more to see than the wharf.  Parked the car and walked around a bit.  In and out of a few shops, got a souvenir coffee mug and some Ghirardelli Chocolate squares.  She found a candy shop and wanted some fudge.  They had a display of half pound chunks of fudge, she picked up each one and 'weighed' it in her hands, balancing each one to try and find the biggest chunk - they were all half a pound!  We picked up take out pizza on the way back to the hotel, I set out all my stuff to be ready to run in the morning and she wanted to watch the news AGAIN!  I said no.  Anything but the news.

OK, RACE DAY FINALLY!!!!  Buses to the start left at 3:30am so I had to get up and scramble super early after another night of no sleep.  The hotel offered free breakfast for runners starting at 3:00am, one of the reasons I chose it, so we went to the cafeteria area and there were 3 or 4 runners milling about and no breakfast set up yet.  The guy never showed up, so the front desk clerk started to put things out, but didn't unlock the door.  He left us all standing in the cold starring at him slowly one thing at a time placing all the items out.  Finally he let us in and I grabbed a plain bagel and a few peanut butters and a plastic knife.  Drove to the bus drop off and made my way to the start.  It was a little more than an hour on a school bus in the dark on a scary narrow road on the edge of the west coast.

Got to the start line and found a warm spot to stand with a few other runners for 2 hours waiting for the race to start.  Met a girl from Sweden, and a woman that grew up in Boston but now lived in Southern California, then another woman, I forget where she was from.  Anyway, it was nice to chat with the runners and trade stories of training and races and other marathon experiences.  They called all the runners to the start by self seeded corrals, once everyone was in the road they introduced someone from the Boston Althletic Association and he did a very nice speech and moment of silence for the victims, plus a very loud cheer for the first responders.  And we were off!
I ran with my camera on the advice of other runners and race officials and I am glad I did.  I got some great pictures along the way.  For the first 8-10 miles I stayed right with the 4:30 pacer and then we got to the Hurricane Point hill.  Two miles and 500 feet in elevation change.  It was brutal, but absolutely beautiful.
After the hill the course weaved a winding curvy path along the coast and into a ridiculous headwind that wouldn't let up.  The roads were rolling hills and all of them were banked so it was very difficult to run on.  I kept on moving though and I felt really good.  Each mile marker had volunteers yelling out your pace and projected finish time and I was still well within my goal of being under 5 hours.  The miles went by pretty fast despite the difficulty of the course and the conditions.  Each view we came across even more spectacular than the previous one.  Here are just a few:

The strawberries were a little after mile 23 and they were the best strawberries I have ever eaten.  For that last few miles I thought about all my friends in Boston that didn't get to finish and I thought about all the runners that were stopped just short of reaching their goals and I pushed just a little harder to try and finish strong for all of them.  I picked up my pace a little, then there was one last cruel hill from mile 25 to mile 26.  Just evil, but I gutted it out and got to the last point two.  Just then my iPod shuffled to the next song, "beam me up" by Pink.  She performed a special version for the victims of the Newtown School shooting and it is just an incredible song.  At the same time I looked up and saw not just the finish line but also a line of flags very similar to the ones along Boylston Street in Boston and I was overcome with emotion.  I started sobbing, tried to breathe and finish strong with tears streaming down my face.  I DID IT!  Crossed the line in 4:58, just under 5 hours as planned and felt great the whole time. 
That's pretty much where the awesomeness of the day ended.  I made my way through the finish area, got a mylar blanket and some water, looked around for my mom and she was nowhere to be found.  I asked a volunteer where to get my bag and got my things so I could get my phone and call my mom and text friends to let them know how it went.  I found a spot in the shade and sat down.  Got my mom on the phone and she was near the finish I told her where I was and gave her instructions how to find me.  She finally got to me and without a congrats, great job, so proud of you, amazing accomplishment, or anything she launched right into "guess what I've been doing all day?"  SERIOUSLY?!?!?!  My moment in the sun, my finish line glory, my runners high from completing an incredible journey of 26.2 miles, the pain and joy of doing something that few people can say they have done - GONE in an instant.

Then, I was over it and just wanted to get out of there and go take a shower because she had ruined it and I didn't want to be there anymore.  She couldn't remember where she parked the damn car!  I found a spot on the ground again and told her to figure it out, I wasn't going to wander around looking for it with her after running a friggin marathon!  Got the car and made it back to the hotel and she went to the pool while I showered.  When I got out of the shower and got dressed I just wanted to take the car and go celebrate by myself and get a cupcake, but she took the car keys with her!  Eventually she came back and we went to the cupcake place together and then to dinner.  I could barely stay awake at the restaurant, completely exhausted physically and emotionally, I was ready to just crash and get ready to leave the next day.

We went back to the hotel and put my PJs on and got into bed.  Just as my head hit the pillow the phone rang.  It was the airline, our flight the next morning was CANCELED.  UGH!!!!  Had to call them and try to rearrange our trip home.  Best they could do was a jumbled bunch of connections hopping across the country over the next TWO DAYS!  I just wanted to cry at this point.  I hung up on the service rep because she was completely useless and rude.  Had an automated voicemail message from the airline giving me new flights completely different from the ones the service rep told me.  Frustrated and exhausted, I told my mom to pack up her things, we were only 5 minutes from the airport, we could go directly there and talk to a person face to face.  Worst case scenario we can't get home until Tuesday, but we still have the hotel for the night and we come back and go to sleep.  Best case scenario we get on the next flight out and get home early, but have to take the redeye immediately after I ran a marathon (not exactly ideal).

We got to the airport and we were not the only ones trying to rebook our flights.  We managed after some finagling to get new flights from Monterey to LA to Chicago to Boston.  Our flight was boarding in 30 minutes.  I checked my bag and watched it go away on the conveyor hoping that I would see it again in Boston.  We got through security and onto the plane, then I noticed my first boarding pass had someone elses name on it AND our connecting flights were totally different.  The airline agent came on the plane to fix the mistake, took ALL of my boarding passes and left.  While waiting for him to return with new boarding passes the Flight Attendant closed the door of the plane and we took off!

So, I'm in limbo now, I do not exist.  I don't know what my next flight is and I don't even know at this point if I will get home or how the heck I can even explain all of this to the gate agent at the next airport.  We arrive late to LA and figure that we missed the connection because we were more than 10 minutes after it was supposed to take off.  The board said "CLOSED" next to the flight.  We started to walk to the customer service desk and I heard them page one more passenger to the flight we were supposed to be on and the gate was two down from where we were standing.  I turned around and started to shuffle/run my mom stopped in her tracks and just looked at me, I yelled at her to run we could still make it.

Got to the gate, showed them my mom's boarding pass and quickly explained the issues.  They didn't have either of us on the manifest.  And there was another guy trying to fly stand by because his wife was having a baby.  We all stared panicked at the agents and begged them to figure it out, meanwhile the pilot comes off the plane and asks what was the hold up.  The gate guy comes out and says there are 6 empty seats, GREAT - 6 seats and 3 people, seems like a simple solution to me.  Put us on the damn plane!  But no.....our names weren't in the computer so they couldn't do it.  After several minutes of arguing they finally let us board and we were on our way to Chicago.

We land in Chicago and our connecting flight is boarding and my mom decides she needs to use the restroom.  I'm thinking NO, go on the plane, we cannot miss this flight.  I just want to get home!!!!!  We made it just barely and got on the flight.  Landed in Boston and by some small miracle my bag made it there too by a completely different route, but I didn't care.  I had my things and I was HOME.  We took a cab to my car and drove to my house.  My mom said by and left.  I went inside, didn't even change out of my PJs, made some breakfast/early lunch and then crashed on the couch and took a nap for the rest of the day.

So, in summary, 5 hours of the trip while I was running the pacific coast highway along the most beautiful marathon course in the world were AWESOME, the rest not so much, but it was all worth it because I can check this one off my bucket list and feel great about it because it means so much to ME and will in the long run help me heal and move on from the events of the past few weeks.  And I learned once again that sometimes blood relatives are not really the best 'family' - my family runs with me for 26.2 miles, during local 5Ks, on early Saturday morning training runs, and after work therapy sessions we call '5 at 5:00'.  I got more text messages, emails, and facebook comments of congrats, love, great job, and hugs from friends than any blood relatives.  Even ended the day after returning to work yesterday with a great acupuncture recovery session and then got home to find a box of chocolate covered fruit and an awesome note from my friend Jen and a 'B Strong' shirt I had ordered before the trip in my mail.  Adding another medal to my wall and lots of memories and lessons learned from the journey to collect it.