Monday, April 28, 2014

Taking back Boylston!

It was hot and super sunny, but it was still so amazing I don't really have the words to describe it.  My sunburn still hurts a week later but my smile hasn't faded yet.  It still doesn't seem real, more like a dream that happened and I woke up and went to work and life went on, but for one day, for five hours (plus six hours waiting to start), I was part of the greatest day ever.

The whole weekend was really fun.  Friday I sat at work counting the hours and minutes until I could leave and go to the Expo, finally I couldn't take it anymore and I left around 2:30.  It took me alomst 45 minutes to drive the mile and a half from Cambridge to parking in Boston for the Hynes Convention center.  I met my friend Collette at the Marriott Copley Place to check in with Dana Farber first.  Then we went to the Expo to get our bib numbers.  It was so crowded already.  We walked around and bought a few things, but then we left to go get food and drinks with a few other people at Forum across the street.  It was getting late and I was running the 5K in the morning so we wrapped it up and called it a day.

Saturday morning was a beautiful day to run.  It was cool and crisp, only about 40 degrees out, but partly sunny and no wind.  I lined up in the Boston Common with 10,000 other runners and completed the BAA 5K in a little over 30 minutes.  I just wanted to take it really easy and enjoy the run, no point pushing it since I had a more important race to think about in 2 days.  Afterwards I went to the expo again with my friend Patty this time.  I found a nice hooded sweatshirt I hadn't seen the day before and then drove Patty back to Dracut before going home to shower and get some lunch.  I met my friend Kim and her kids at my favorite local eatery, Life Alive and brought them some cheering supplies for Monday.

Sunday I relaxed all morning and then got ready for the Dana Farber Pasta Party.  Around 2:00 my friends Ann and Jack (aka my Massachusetts parents that now live in New Hampshire), picked me up and we drove to the Marriot for the pasta party.  As usual, it was an emotional and inspirational program with speakers and patient partners and in memory of partners and a few team mates and our coach Jack Fultz.  It was really nice and by 7:30 I was home and in bed with my alarm set for 2:35am.

Marathon Monday finally arrived and the morning was filled with excitement and energy.  I got dressed and drove into Boston to meet my team and take buses to Hopkinton.  Once in Hopkinton we waited and waited and waited.  We took some photos and waited some more.  Around 10:30 we made our way to the start corrals.  Slowly but surely we moved closer and closer to realizing the dream of running the 118th Boston Marathon. 

The first few miles are usually a blur, but this time was different.  There were a lot more specators than the 2 times I have run before.  If there was a space on the side of the road it was filled with people cheering.  And not just families on their front lawns like before, huge crowds of people crammed in shoulder to shoulder.  I even mentioned to a girl I was running with that I had never seen crowds like this and it was not normal that early on the course.

I kept a good even pace for the first half, right on where I wanted to be to finish in around 4:30-4:45.  Then it got hot.  And I had forgotten my salt pills at home thinking it was not going to be so warm out that I would need them.  I had them on the counter and ready to pack, then only realized I didn't have them when I was half way to Boston and it was too late to turn back.  I didn't think it was a big deal until Wellesley.  That's when I started to feel like running was harder and my legs were heavier.  I wanted to go fast but my body said NO.

I started dumping water on myself at every water stop, but it only made me soaking wet, not cooled off.  I made it to Newton and stopped at the mile 17 cheer station to hug Ann and Jack and then turned onto Comm Ave for the hills.  My race plan was to go out slow and steady then attack the hills.  I was able to power up the first hill and recover on the falt, but I could feel the effect on my heart and lungs.  It was too much, it was too hot.  My heartrate wouldn't recover and I was overheating so I decided to try and take it easy on the hills hoping to get a second wind on Beacon Street.

That didn't happen.  Beacon Street was as usual, long and grueling.  I walked a little and then shuffled and tried to run and got exhausted and walked some more.  Then I saw Collette and we were nearing the 24 miles marker.  I said come on, we can do this lets go.  I picked up the pace a little (not much, I mean from a 14 minute mile to maybe and 11 minute mile).  I decided it was only 2 miles, I could do it.  Collette hung in for a little bit and then I lost track of her.  I heard someone screaming my last name and I looked over and it was my friend Charles.  I went over to give him a hug and he said, how are you feeling you look great.  I said, "Oh my god, it's so hot, I feel like I'm dying".  He cheered me on and ran behind the spectators along the sidewalk for as long as he could yelling you got this, you can do it, go Alicia.  It was exactly what I needed.

Mile 25, I stopped again for hugs and high fives, then kept on moving.  My friend Patty was planning to be where I was last year so as I got closer to Mass Ave, I scanned the crowd and didn't see her.  It was so much more packed than last year.  I couldn't even see the sidewalk.  It was all people.  I ran under the overpass and out the other side and then I heard someone yelling my name.  It was Patty, she was on the other side.  I smiled and teared up a little knowing what came next.....right on Hereford, left on Boylston.

My mom was with a bunch of my friends on Boylston somewhere.  They told me they would try to be near Forum restaurant, but because that was the site of the second bomb blast last year I wasn't sure they would find a spot.  I knew they would at least be on that side of the street so I started looking.  Then as I approached Forum I found them.  A whole row of blue and yellow "Boston Strong" shirts.  I stopped and hugged them all.  I was so happy to see them and so overwhelmed.  I pointed to my arm, where I had Collette draw a heart and write "MOM" and said "Ok I gotta go finish this".

Boylston was alive and well.  It was electric and joyous and exactly as it should be on such a great day in the city of Boston.  I thought I would be emotional and I thought I would cry as I crossed the finish line but I didn't.  I think I was partly delirious and a little cranky from dehydration.  I just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.  I didn't care about getting the food or gatorade or even water.  I kind of wanted a wheelchair, but I knew there were and might be people later that needed them more than me.  I eventually found a DFMC volunteer to guide me back to the hotel and to the recovery zone. 

I DID IT!  I ran the Boston Marathon again.  It wasn't pretty and it wasn't as fast as I wanted to finish in, but it was amazing.  I still can't believe it.  It really does feel like a dream.  I mean I have the medal and the photos to prove that it really happened and I really did run it, but it goes by so fast and then it's over and everyone moves on.  I kind of think that is what is needed as part of the healing process.  It was a big build up and a lot of emotion and a lot of expectations and excitement and now it's done.  Life goes on.  And the city can keep moving forward and runners can keep running and the survivors can stop being hounded for interviews and appearances and everyone can hopefully go back to living life to the fullest, the way it should be.  Bad things happen, but good people triumph and come out of tragedy STRONGER.

For example, so far I have raised ~$16,000 for innovative cancer research and as of the Sunday before the marathon, the Dana Farber Team as a whole had raised over $6 million!!!!  The marathon is over but the race to find a cure is not, I can still accept donations for several months.  Please send me a congrats "gift" and donate today: 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Pep talk for me and friends running next week

Focus on positive things, avoid the media coverage. Think of Boston and Boylston before 2013 and how awesome it is and how amazing it is going to be. Triumph over the tragedy. That is going to be my mantra. Try not to let the fear and anger take over. Stay in a positive place. Get excited like you would have before any other race. Do not give even a moments thought to the events of last year, focus on THIS YEAR and focus on having a great race. Visualize it going exactly to plan. Hold back in the early miles feeling great, weather is good, wind at our backs, legs loosening up and settling in, get to Newton and attack the hills, make heartbreak your bitch, break it, then pull back a little and let the quads take a breather until Beacon st. Keep your head down, give a few high fives to drunken college kids, keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, get to Kenmore, one mile to go, you got this, listen to the crowds cheering for you, listen to the city of Boston rallying around you, turn onto Hereford, get up that last hill, turn onto Boylston and look straight ahead, there it is and you will OWN IT, nothing will stop you, just a quarter of a mile to the greatest glory and the highest high you have ever felt, cross the line and then feel free to lose your shit and crumble to your knees in a sobbing mess, but not before you get the most amazing and AWESOME finish line photo EVER!!!!!!!!!

You can do this!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

12 days to go....

To say I am getting excited would be a little bit of an understatement.  But I am also getting nervous.  Last week I came down with a nasty head cold.  Still plenty of time to get better and I'm tapering so I'm supposed to rest.  But the congestion in my head is lingering and making me worry.  Just the normal taper madness stuff I'm used to dealing with.  I was sick a lot closer to Berlin and that worked out well....hahaha not really, but for a lot of other reasons.  I am confident that I can kick this and be completely ready to run on April 21st.

I am officially over $15,000 in my fundraising and not stopping.  I'm going to try to hit $20,000.  I think it's possible if some people give me a congrats gift or a good luck gift closer to the marathon.  I mean it is getting pretty close, if you haven't donated yet.....just saying.....whatcha waiting for?  Here's the link again: and a friendly reminder that 100% of the money raised is used to fund important cancer research that saves lives. 

I kind of want to plan one last event after the marathon to celebrate, but I need to find a venue and figure out exactly what I want to do.  It's my 16th marathon and my birthday is shortly after so a friend suggested a sweet sixteen party.  That would be really fun and I'd love to do it at a public venue so that all of my donors could came if they want to.  I could do more raffle items and maybe a 50/50 drawing.  Not really sure.  My main focus right now is just on resting and getting healthy for the race and mentally preparing.

That is definitely going to be tough.  I mean I knew it would be the toughest part of THIS marathon above any other, but I still don't really know what to expect.  There are a lot of events happening to remember the anniversary of the bombings and the manhunt after.  There is a ton of media coverage.  Last night there was a special on one of the local channels and not even a minute into the program they played the clip of the bombs going off and I got chills again and started crying.  I am trying to focus on the race and running strong, but everything everywhere is a constant reminder of last year.  I want to move forward but keep getting pulled back.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tapering for Boston...AGAIN :)

19 days to go, and time is FLYING by. Normally the taper is long and boring but I have been super busy.  Last week I went to the Sam Adams brewery for the release of their 26.2 brew fundraising event for the marathon bombing victims.  It was also the day Boston had a 9 alarm fire that killed two firefighters so as soon as they heard, a portion of the proceeds was donated to the fire department.  I got a growler of beer, a beautifully designed bottle opener with little details probably only a boston runner would recognize, and a pint glass.  Then when I got home from the event my welcome packet and runner passport was in the mail.  Pretty awesome day.OHHH!!!!! and while I was standing there drinking my beer sample I got this email:
Over the weekend I had the longest training run with the team and my mom came down from Maine to help volunteer at one of the water stops.  Friday night I baked a million cookies for everyone to enjoy after the run.  Not sure exactly how many cookies there were but I made 4 batches - oatmeal awesomeness, chocolate and toffee, chocolate with peanut butter chips, and regular chocolate chip.  I'm glad I made so many too because after running 20-22 miles the team devoured them. 

The run was really great.  We started at BC and ran to Natick and back.  The course was electrified with excitement and energy from all the runners out training.  There were tents and cheering stations set up a lot like marathon Monday and the weather was near perfect. 45-50 degrees, partly cloudy, BUT there was a brutal headwinds both ways.  On the way out and on the way back.  No fair Mother Nature, but I'll take it if it means race day will be nice.  At the water stop my mom was volunteering at it was sort of a special day in memory of a very special boy that passed away from cancer.  The entire family was there and they had a poster sized photo of him.  I got a whole group of the runners that run for him together with his mom and brothers and we took a selfie.  I posted it to Ellen's facebook page and it already has nearly 100 likes.
Monday night was the last team meeting before the race and they talked about race day logistics.  It's definitely going to be a LONG day and a very different race.  Security is going to be tight and the whole course will have barricades where they have never been before.  I'm nervous about it and a little bummed that it might take away from the atmosphere of the crowds and the closeness of the communities that support the marathon.  Either way I plan to do my best and run my heart out.

So far I have raised about $15,000 for Dana Farber and I'm not stopping.  I raised my goal to $20,000.  You can help.....go to my page and make a difference.... let's reach the ultimate finish line -  a world without cancer - together!