Sunday, March 23, 2014

Part of Something Big

Yesterday was supposed to be an easy "step-down" week to relax, recover and rejuvenate after last weekend's 18 miler and before next weekend's 21 miler. However, there was nothing relaxing or easy about yesterday's run.

I hit the streets with some Race for Rehab teammates for 14 miles of pure hills. We started at Newton Wellesley Hospital and ran the notorious inclines twice, once out and once back. This reminded me of something my mom used to say to me when I complained about walking to the bus stop: "I walked to school in the snow, up hill, both ways!" Well, she did grow up in Newton, so maybe she wasn't exaggerating, after all. The course was absolutely packed, probably the busiest day that I have ever seen, which made the climb a little more manageable. Along the route I bumped into easily 10 people that I knew. That got me thinking about my journey to 26.2....

I started seriously training last fall, not knowing a single thing about running. My shoes were old and too small, I owned cheap gym clothes, I didn't have a clue about nutrition and I thought stretching meant bending over to touch your toes. Not only have I increased my fitness level over the last several months, but also my knowledge of the running community...and it IS a community. As I scaled one of the first hills in Newton I heard someone yell my name. My initial reaction was 'who the heck knows me here,' but as the figure came into focus, I realized that it was a friend that I made as a result of my training. This scenario played out several more times during my run. Yesterday was the first time that I realized that I am part of something big. Bigger than transforming from a non-runner to runner (yes, I said it!) bigger than Spaulding's Race for Rehab Team, even bigger than the 118th Boston Marathon. Being a runner is like being a part of a religion, an alma mater, an exclusive club and some may even argue a cult! Runners wave to each other, whether they know each other or not; they smile, they cheer each other on, they even think of themselves as one, evidenced by John Hancock's #weruntogether hashtag. It doesn't matter that one person can run 7-minute miles and another needs 12 minutes, they are both runners.

Yesterday's run got me excited, reenergized and proud of what I am now a part of. I'm ready, or at least I think I am, for April 21st. I have one more long run left next weekend and then its time to taper and mentally prepare for 26.2. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Push it to the Limit

There is no better feeling than pushing your body to limits that you never thought were possible. Today I successfully ran 18 miles from Hopkinton to Newton.

I had been warned by many about the notorious downhill miles that live in the beginning of the Boston Marathon course and after today I find myself questioning what is WORSE: running uphill or down!? I now realize why the Boston Marathon is so hard. No, not just because you have to run 26.2 miles, its the fact that this is a race of two tales. The first half is downhill and just as you settle out with a few miles of pretty flat ground, BOOM, at mile 18 you are faced with three terrifying and long hills. I would like to meet the person that chose this route, they truly have a sick and twisted mind. All along the course there are small (and large) F you moments that challenge you physically and mentally. A sick reminder that you're doing something that less than 1% of the population will do.

I have been trying to look at each run as an opportunity to learn something about myself and my body. After the completion of both my short and long runs, I look back and think about what went right, what went wrong and what needs to be adjusted. Today's takeaway is: listen to music! This lesson goes hand in hand with run your own race. Runners consistently have the debate of music or no music, talking or no talking. I run with a group of women that love to chat and I have certainly tried to participate, but I think I'm done. I have found that my best runs are when I turn up the tunes and zone out. Sure, I like to chime in now and then, but I mostly despise it. It's not that I can't, I just don't like to. Running is probably the only time that I find myself not wanting to speak (my mother will get a kick out of that statement!) So, from now on its music, bass, good tunes and losing myself in the rhythm of my feet and the sound in my ears.

Next week is a shorter long run of only 13 miles. Can you believe I said ONLY 13 miles? Neither can I. :)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Best Run Yet

This weekend I had one of my best training runs yet. I tried to make a conscious effort to fuel my body with all the right foods during the week, ran both short runs (can you believe 8 miles is a short run now?) and even strength trained at Fitness Principles in Allston (side note, Keith and Dina are amazing!) I am certainly feeling the pressure as we are in the final stretch of training and know that I need to remain healthy and motivated if I'm going to make it to 26.2!

This week's motivation came from a visit to Spaulding's Traumatic Brain Injury Unit. I took some time out of my day on Friday to refocus my energy and determination to run this year's marathon. While I walked the floor, I witnessed a young man talking into a water bottle, which he believed to be a walky-talky. He was asking anyone who would listen where his wife Christine was. He *knew* she was just with him, but she "disappeared" and he feared that she was lost. I sat down in a chair and watched him. He walked up and down the halls with an aid closely following behind talking into his water bottle: "Christine, where are you? Come back. Please!" He was confused, sad and beginning to grow frustrated. He couldn't understand where his wife went. Fortunately, Christine showed up within 15 minutes and had just stepped out to get a coffee. As I left the unit, I dedicated my weekend's long run to this patient. He can't run a marathon, so I will.

I was excited to join my fellow Race for Rehab teammates: Suzanne, Amy, Katie, Mike and Cara on Saturday for our 15-16 mile training run. Although the group didn't stay together the entire time, it is always nice to see familiar faces. Suzanne and I broke off from the group and continued on from our starting point in Wellesley all the way to Charlestown. We crushed the notorious hills and I even made it down Beacon Street without puking or stopping, a personal best for this rookie! Negative "I can't" thoughts entered my head around mile 9, my mental block spot, and I thought about stopping, but I continued on and thought of the patient I saw on the TBI unit. I was able to finish 15 miles, my farthest run yet, with a smile on my face and pride in my heart. I cannot even begin to express how proud I am of myself. I RAN 15 MILES! Just one year ago I couldn't even imagine running 5 miles.

I am less than 50 days away from the 118th Boston Marathon and $749 shy of my $5,000 fundraising goal. I hope that you will consider making a gift or an additional gift to help me raise critical funds for Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. Donations can be made here.

Goal Achieved

When I began this journey several months ago, I set my eyes on the Hyannis Half Marathon. On Sunday, I achieved that goal. Although I crossed the finish line, I didn't have the best run. I started out too fast, letting the adrenalin get the best of me, and found myself fatigued and in need of a bathroom early on. I was envious of the men who were jumping off the course and into the woods to relieve themselves. I was able to make it 6.5 miles with a full bladder until I really had to stop. I had to wait in line for 5 minutes to use a dirty porta-potty. YUCK! Stopping for that amount of time really messed with my focus and my body. When I started to run again my legs felt heavy, tired and stiff. I had lost my rhythm and I had to walk.

Although I didn't run my best time, I learned a lot! The most important takeaway: I need to run my own race. The second take away was: try to pee, no matter how long the pre-race line is.

I am thrilled that I achieved my original goal to run a half marathon, but looking ahead to the next several weeks has me feeling anxious. This weekend I am scheduled to run 15 miles, then 16, 18, 12 and finally 21 before tapering my miles and heading into the home stretch of the Boston Marathon and April 21st. The next several weeks are going to be taxing, my physical fitness is there, but now I'm in need of exercising and challenging my mind. The human brain is a powerful thing, and my mental toughness needs to be stronger!