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: www.runDFMC.org/2014/alicial  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 (http://periozkeracupuncture.com/) 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 Boston.com 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. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Tale of Two Cities

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....."  Sums up the trip pretty nicely only for me it was the worst of times THEN it was the best of times.  The two cities in Germany were complete polar opposites in every way.  We saw many examples of this along the way.  The people, the buildings, the vibe, the atmosphere, etc.  Berlin - Booooo, Munich - YAY!

So, let me start at the beginning, that's always a good place to start, unless you are watching that weird Seinfeld episode that started at the end and backtracked to the beginning.  We arrived in Berlin Friday morning, super excited and still not totally aware of the fact that we were in a foreign country about to run a marathon in a few days.  It was kind of surreal.  I had only looked up points of interest and information about each city we were planning to visit, mostly the beer tents at Oktoberfest.  Patty had researched a few restaurants and booked both hotels.  Thankfully, Milady balanced the group out and researched the critical missing piece, how to get from the airport to our hotel and how to get around the city.

We got on a bus to go to the hotel and try to check in before getting lunch and heading to the expo.  The bus was very crowded and made a lot of sudden stops.  We were standing with our luggage, as were most people on the bus, and it was a pretty intense core work out maintaining some sort of stability and not falling like dominos.  This is where we observed the first sign of the behavior of the local people.  There was a small group near us on the bus, a man and two women, one older elderly woman and one younger most likely their daughter.  The bus made a sudden stop and the elderly woman fell to the ground stumbling over some of the luggage that was on the bus.  The man made no effort at all to assist her, in fact he barely batted an eye and almost gave her a look of disgust.

We made it to the hotel and were able to check in early and leave our things in the room as we ventured out to find lunch and go to the expo.  Milady had found this amazing lunch spot near the hotel and on the way to the U-bahn (subway) stop we needed to take to get to the expo.  It was called "Super Good" and was supposed to have delicious healthy options.  We found the street and the intersection where it should have been and could not find it so we went into a nearby hotel to ask directions.  The guy at the desk was very helpful, but he had never even heard of "Super Good".  He looked it up on his computer and indeed it was supposed to be at that very location according to the website, but we were standing in a hotel not a lunch spot.  SUPER FAIL!  We laughed it off and went on our way to find something else to eat.

After making our way through the Expo, which was the biggest most chaotic and crowded cluster of an expo that I have ever been to, we decided to try and see the Berlin wall on our way to a grocery store before returning to the hotel.  More walking around and riding on crazy crowded trains.  We found it and were not really sure what ot make of it.  It was a reconstructed section of the wall with a few informative plaques about people that were killed attempting to cross the border.  We took a few pictures, but again, we weren't really sure how to react.  Should we smile in the photos or just stand there without expression at all.  Very strange feeling, but in hindsight it was very appropriate for the city. 
 On the way back to the hotel we tried to find a grocery store to get some water and snacks.  Milady had researched a store called "BioCompany", Germany's version of Whole Foods.  We had an approximate location marked on the map and walked around and around the same few streets for what seemed like hours and couldn't find it.  We asked for directions and the guy told us to just keep going left.  We walked in a circle and still couldn't find it.  The street names on the map were all abreviated because the German street names are all like 30 letters long.  That made it really difficult to decipher where we were and where we needed to be.  We decided to give up and get water at the next corner store and just go back to the hotel.  We stocked up and headed back and wouldn't you know it right on the way back to the hotel we passed BioCompany!

It was getting late and we were all exhausted and hungry so we dropped our things at the hotel room and went out for dinner.  The only place we found with non-German (sausage and sauerkraut) food was a little italian place with a lot of people waiting.  We got in the line and figured since we were a small group we might get seated before the larger groups.  We DID get seated pretty quickly, BUT they put us at a 'special' table in the back.  I assume it's the table for dumb Americans and a total joke to them.  It was basically in the storage closet next to the kitchen.  We joked that it was the chef's table.  The food was decent and it was close to the hotel so we didn't really care.

The next day we picked a few things we wanted to see and went exploring.  First on the list was the Pergamon Museum, definitely the highlight of the weekend.  Absolutely amazing.  We spent a few hours there walking around and listening to the audio tour.  By then it was lunch time and we were all hungry.  On our way to the next attraction we stopped at a street art fair and bought some small handmade souvenirs.  I got a really nice painting of the Brandenburger Gate.  Next to the street art fair was a small cafe, perfect! We got lunch and then walked to the middle of the city, saw the Brandenburger Gate and happened to get there just in time to watch the finish of the inline skating race along the marathon course.

On our way we stopped at a Dunkin Donuts for Patty.  She really really wanted to get an iced coffee and whenever she asked for one in any other coffee shop they looked at her like she had 3 heads.  Strange thing we noticed immediately upon entering the establishment that apparently didn't phase the locals at all......BEES.  There were hundreds of bees all over the place and mostly all over the donuts, to the point that there were indents in the frosting on some of the donuts frmo the bees feasting on the sugary color coatings.  It was so disgusting, but no one seemed to care.

From there we went to the Holocaust Memorial.  Another example of strange behavior observed there.  In a place meant to evoke very strong emotions of saddness and pain felt by millions of people that perished in the mass genocide of WWII, there were people jumping on the stones, laughing, smoking, drinking, snapping fun photos with the enormous monument behind them, and just being incredibly disrespectful.  We walked through the stones quietly taking in the overwhelming scale of the tragedy that occurred.  the design of the stones and the descent into the middle of the field is meant to make you feel the sense of walking into a trap and going down towards your death like the victims walking into the gas chambers. 

By the time we started back towards the hotel it was nearly 7:00pm and we joked "remember when we said we wanted to have dinner at 5:00 and be back at the room resting by now??"  Well, we hadn't even had dinner yet.  We looked for a place along the way and then I suggested we just eat in the hotel.  It was close and convenient and we could stumble up to the room right afterwards and prepare for the race.  They actually had a really great pasta buffet set up.  It was perfect.  By now you know (if you read my previous post), the race did not go well and I blame a huge part of that on all the walking around we did. Anyway, that ends the Berlin portion of the tale.  The next morning, after a short flight, we arrived in Munich.

Right away the energy of the area was noticably different and much more positive and happy, less cold and abbrassive.  We had to take a train from the airport to the hotel.  It was a pretty long ride, but we got seats, people on the train were laughing and smiling and obviously a lot happier in general.  There was a younger man that got up and offered his seat to an older woman.  We got off the train and it was only a short walk to the hotel and the crowds of people exiting the train were all heading to Oktoberfest, which happened to be right next to our hotel.  The woman at the front desk said we could literally roll out of bed and go to 'the Weiss'.  

We decided to "take it easy" that first day in Munich and save Oktoberfest for the second day.  We had all just run a marathon afterall and should probably rest a little.  We went to our room and settled in, recharged, and refreshed before heading out to see the city.  Things in Munich were all a lot closer together than in Berlin.  Our first stop was a small dress shop.  We wanted to see if we could find traditional Dirndl dresses to wear to Oktoberfest for a reasonable price.  the woman in the store was very helpful, super funny, and friendly.  She helped us find the right sizes and showed us how to get the dresses on. Believe it or not it was sort of tricky.  The dress is meant to go under your boobs and you really had to hoist 'em up to get it zippered.  Unfortunately the dresses were very well made and hand crafted so, very expensive, between 90-300 Euro. 
 We left the dress shop and ventured into the city center.  The things on our "must see" list for the day were Marianplatz (the city center), the town hall and clock tower (bells toll at 11 and 5 everyday and the clock has moving parts that dance around), St. Peter's Church (the oldest church in the city), Hard Rock Cafe, and Hofbrauhaus (the largest oldest beer haus in Munich).  It was a lot to see, but it was all really close together.   

We got dinner at the Hofbrauhaus and our first few liters of beer.  The intent was to just have dinner and call it a night, rest up and save our energy and money for Oktoberfest, BUT that is not what happened.  Patty the instigator, kept reminding us how early it was and that we would probably only be in Munich together once, we should live it up and stay out later and get just one more beer.  Tap, tap, tap, on her watch....you guys it's only blah blah blah o'clock.  So, we ordered another liter and split it 3 ways.  Then another one.  Then the fatal mistake.......I ordered another round of 3 liters one for each of us.  We were having a great time and laughing it up and then we were DRUNK.  We got up to go, and somehow the beer mugs landed in my bag, Patty pounded the last beer and stashed it in my bag.  On the way out, they search your bags and appartently it's a big no-no to take the mugs.  As in being detained and calling the Politzei type no-no.  Thankfully, I was able to plead my way out of the situation, but I learned a very valuable lesson - Don't hassle the Hof....bahahahah.

We found a cab and made it back to the hotel.  We all passed out and woke up late the next morning still tasting regret from the last round of beers.  Today was the day we wanted to go to Oktoberfest, but none of us wanted to drink another beer.  We powered through, got cleaned up, got dressed and rolled out of the hotel ready to experience Oktoberfest. 

It wasn't exactly what I expected it to be.  It was GIANT!  The beer 'tents' were really more like beer halls.  Huge semi-permanent structures that hold thousands of tables and serve gallons and gallons of beer.  There was also a large carnival like atmosphere about it.  Think the biggest state fair you've ever been to times 5.  There were rides, food stands, even a redbull and 'wodka' stand.  Souvenirs all over the place and lots and lots of Lederhosen. 

We survived!  We all nursed a beer and ordered some traditional bavarian food at one of the largest beer tents - Lowenbrau.  We walked around and bought some souvenirs and were back in the hotel resting by early afternoon.  We took a much needed nap for about 2 hours before going out for dinner.  We had a lovely dinner, laughed about some of the events the night before and decided it was probably best we drank so much before going to Oktoberfest because we could actually remember that part of the trip and really enjoy it.  One of our favorite quotes from the whole adventure was from Patty at a small pastry shop, she asked if they had German Chocolate cake and the woman had no idea what she was talking about, Patty quickly and without even skipping a beat responded, "oh it's just something I've heard of". (we later learned via wikipedia that German Chocolate cake has nothing to do with Germany it was invented in the US by a man with the last name "German")

On the last day in Munich we went separate ways, Patty wanted to see the Olympic stadium and Milady and I opted for additional sleep and a relaxed day getting breakfast and last minute gifts before going to the airport.  We were ready to get home after a long time abroad.  A little sad to leave Munich, not so sad about Berlin.  I may someday go back to Munich and spend more time exploring the surrounding countryside and castles, but I am pretty sure I NEVER want to go back to Berlin.

Now only 96 days left until Disney and the Dopey Challenge and I collect all these awesome medals:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Berlin Marathon recap

So, I hit the wall at mile 2, yes 2 the one that comes right after the first mile, not 20 like most people.  Before I go into the details of the many ways this was the most painful marathon of my life, let me first discuss the events leading up to it.  I believe there were several factors that contributed to the sufferfest that will forever be burned in my memory as the Berlin Marathon.

1. Days before I was supposed to leave for Berlin I caught a head cold.  I started pounding Emergen-C and green tea and even tried elderberry syrup and Zicam.  Prayed to every God and spiritual entity I could think of - please let me be healthy for the marathon.

2. Traveling and being sick and consuming dietary supplements I do not normally take created a bad side effect, the opposite of most runners biggest fear, instead of going to the port-o-potties a lot, I wasn't going at all.  Maybe TMI, but it wasn't just my legs that struggled to move in Berlin.

3. We wanted to see the city before the race and failed to utilize the public transportation as much as we should have.  I'd guess we walked about 10 miles in the 2 days before the marathon and that is a conservative estimate.  Friday and Saturday my legs and feet hurt A LOT and I hadn't run yet.

4. The participant information suggested getting to the start area 1.5 - 2 hours early to allow time for getting through security and walking to the start corrals.  This was completely unnecessary.  We got there and had to stand around in the cold shivering for 2 hours.  Burned a lot of energy just trying to stay warm and couldn't feel my feet when we finally started.

5. I skipped breakfast because all I had in the hotel room was a banana and I didn't want issue #2 (quite appropriately listed) to get worse.  So when I started I felt good to move and warm up but quickly ran out of energy.

6. Splits for the first 3 miles went something like 10:00ish, 10:40ish, 11:00ish.  I knew after that the race would be rough.  Weather was ideal, the course was nice, it was really crowded in the first 8-10 miles, but my legs and feet already hurt.

7. At the first water stop I could get to without ridiculous congestion and chaos, I noticed that they were filling the cups from buckets behind the table, scooping their gloved hands into the bucket with a cup and then putting it on the table.  Gross, but at least they had gloves on and it wasn't bare hands, until I tasted the water and could taste the latex gloves.  I'm slightly allergic to latex and over the course of 26.2 miles I wasn't willing to risk my throat swelling up and going into anaphylactic shock.

8. Being in Europe, there were no mile markers on the course only kilometer markers so towards the end, in the most incredible pain of my life and severely dehydrated, trying to do math and convert the kilometers to miles and determine how much longer the suffering had to go on really really sucked a lot.  Plus, the last few kilometers were turn after turn that felt like a neverending labyrinth.

9. FINALLY.....I made it to the end, through the Brandenburger Gate and over the finish line 42.195 kilometers later, or nearly 28 miles by my Garmin.  Exhausted and ready to collapse, no medical support seemed to care because I was still standing.  Then to add insult to injury, literally, there were NO MEDALS!!!!!  They ran out.

So, I tried to talk to some volunteers and people at the 'info' tent and got no where because most of them didn't speak english.  I made my way to the area we had agreed to meet up at after the race and found my friends.  I was in so much pain physically and emotionally, I sat down and just started crying.  My friends agreed it was a painful race, but they both got medals.  I tried again without success to get resolution or answers from the info tent.  I just wanted to leave.  I didn't even want to take photos or anything.  Thankfully one of my friends, Milady, is AWESOME and knowing that the medal means a lot to me and is not as important to her, she gave me her medal.  Still, I was in so much pain I just wanted to get out of there.

We had to walk almost 2 miles to get back to our hotel and every single step felt like torture.  My stomach was cramping and it felt like someone was stabbing me.  Everytime my stomach cramped I doubled over in pain and then my back started spasming.  My legs and feet hurt more than they have ever hurt in my entire life.  I had to stop several times because the pain was so intense I started dry heaving.  We made it to the hotel and I collapsed on the bed and just breathed through pursed lips trying to ignore the pain and breath through it.  I took a handful of Advil and a few pepto pills to try and ease my stomach pain and help the Advil stay down.  After both Milady and Patty took showers I took a hot bath because I couldn't stand in the shower.

Eventually, the Advil kicked in and I could function, but we were all in a lot of pain.  I finished in 5:40 or somewhere very near that, not my slowest marathon, but about an hour slower than I had expected going into the race and by far the hardest and most painful marathon I have ever run.  For a flat course that now has a new World Record time, it was a challenge in endurance and perseverance and a demonstration of will to keep moving forward and determination to never give up that I will never forget. 
More details and funny stories of the adventures in Munich and at Oktoberfest to follow.  Stay tuned.