The End – Boston Marathon 2014

The days leading up to the Marathon were filled with anticipation, excitement and race-related activities.

we all run

FRIDAY

On Friday morning, I was invited, along with other runners in Governor Deval Patrick’s Administration, to a Cabinet meeting where the Governor applauded our training and offered his best wishes for Marathon Day.

GovImmediately after meeting with the Governor I met Jay and the team at Cafeteria on Newbury Street for a team lunch. It was great to connect with runners I hadn’t met before who had flown in from other states and see friends I had trained with over the winter. The funny thing about runners training for marathons is that everyone as an ailment – especially as the race gets closer. Some of them are nagging injuries that have plagued us for weeks. Others are phantom pains that are sure to disappear with a hefty dose of adrenaline on Race Day.

Following lunch, the 30-plus lot of us walked to the Hynes to pick up our numbers. The place was packed! It was fun to walk in as a team, everyone outfitted in their Project Hope jackets. We grabbed our bibs and a snapshot and parted ways until we’d meet again Saturday for breakfast.

cyndi # pickup jay # pickup

 

team # pickup

The team! Check out #29281 in the front. Boston was his 104th marathon!

In a twist of fate, Jay bumped into his ER nurse in line to purchase a (wicked expensive) marathon jacket! Jill hadn’t told him she was running when he was in the hospital and we were surprised she remembered him! It truly felt like EVERYONE was running on Monday.

Jay and Jill: reunited under better circumstances

Jay and Jill: reunited under better circumstances

SATURDAY

On Saturday we woke up early to head to our team breakfast downtown. I woke up early enough to get a final 2-mile run in. I felt good when I finished and confident for race day.

The breakfast was fantastic! When we arrived, the Governor was there, chatting with members of our team. A fellow teammate and friend invited him the night before and he showed up to offer his well wishes to us all. When he left and our plates were loaded with food (carbs, carbs!!) the program started.

Gov at breakfast

The program was amazing. VB made a video that so perfectly captured the spirit of this year’s marathon. One of our crazy teammates dressed up as a rock star and joked about all the things that make our team what it is. And then there was Blanca. She has gone through the program at Project Hope and is a testament to the truly incredibly work the staff at Project Hope does.

Don't ask

Don’t ask

Together, our team presented Sister Margaret with a check totaling more than $315,000!

I left buoyed, excited and ready to run.

big check

MARATHON MONDAY

Wake up came early Monday as Jay and I headed to meet the team in Newton to load the bus to Hopkinton. We departed at 6:15 on the dot and arrived in Hopkinton right before 7. The day was gorgeous – sunny and warm and full of promise.

Our team, like the other charity runners, didn’t start until 11:30. So we waited at a house in Hopkinton. And waited. And waited. To pass the time, we stretched, watched the early marathon coverage on TV, ate and drank and marked each other’s arms and legs with “Boston Strong”, “Hope” and “Run for the Nun!”

prep 2

Do we look ready to run 26.2?

Do we look ready to run 26.2?

Before we knew it, it was time to gather for one last team photo and head to the corrals.

team - day of

By the time we left the house at 10:30, it was warm. I began to worry that the weather might actually be too hot and wondered whether I would have to change my expectations of how this race would go.

So excited! And hot...

So excited! And hot…

We set off at 11:25 packed in with 9,000 other runners in Wave 4. The first several miles were down hill. I ran with Jay and Keezer and we kept a steady, average pace around 9 minutes/mile.

And then I had to pee.
I veered off the course around for a quick pit stop and hopped back on a few minutes later. I was annoyed I had to stop but I felt infinitely better that I had. As we ran through Hopkinton, Ashland, and Natick I was feeling good. I saw a friend and her kids in Natick or Framingham around mile 10 and made it my goal to get to Wellesley at the same pace.

Wellesley was exactly the way I have always heard it described. Wellesley College students created a “scream tunnel” and held signs offering kisses to the runners going by.

I felt strong for a few more miles and then the heat started to get to me. I tried to drink water and Gatorade but my pace slowed. Keezer, bless his heart, brought extra salt pills and handed one to Jay and me. I dropped mine. Frustrated, I almost stopped. But Jay gave me his salt and I soldiered on.

Then I hit Heartbreak. My left thigh began to cramp so I started to walk. Jay began to hurt, too. After a minute or two of walking, I felt better and started to run again. But by this point, Jay was done running. He had made it 20 miles and couldn’t run anymore. He urged me to go ahead as he set out to walk the next 6 miles.

While I wasn’t physically in a great place at this point, the next six miles of the race were the most memorable and fun. As I ran/walked through Newton, Brookline and Boston the throngs of spectators grew thicker. Boston College students, perhaps a few beers in, created long lines of hands to slap as they propelled me forward with cheers of “Go Cyndi”, “You’re awesome” and other ego boosting chants. I stopped for a quick sip of beer offered by a co-worker around mile 23. I paused for a second as I moved through Washington Square, the spot where I first heard about the bombs at last year’s finish line. I cried a little, feeling so lucky to be a part of the day.

In Coolidge Corner, the digital thermometer at the bank read 70 degrees. Yup, feels about right, I thought. It was not the race I had hoped to run, but I enjoyed every minute.

At mile 25, Keezer reappeared on my left side. We launched ourselves through Kenmore Square and towards the Mass Ave Bridge, where so many runners were stopped last year. Teammate Ron appeared behind us and Keezer slowed to catch him. In my head I started a mantra: “Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston”. I took the right and the cheers grew louder. I took the left and looked up at the Hynes where survivors had been invited to watch the race. I would not stop until I reached the finish.

I tried to take it all in as I passed each of the alphabetical blocks. I looked at the crowds on the sidewalk where the bombs had gone off last year and smiled at the new image there – crowds of happy, cheering spectators. People came back. And they came back strong.

Suddenly I was done. 4 hours, 33 minutes. As I crossed the finish line, I felt a mix of emotions – happy to have completed this race. Exhausted from running in the sun all day, sad that it was over. I collected my medal and headed for the Westin where I was met with cheers and applause from teammates who had finished before me and the wonderful staff of Project Hope.

Very happy and very tired.

Very happy and very tired.

Jay arrived a little less than an hour later as I lay on the massage table, trying to get rid of the cramps that had taken over my legs. He kissed me and told me how proud of me he was. And I was proud of him. He pushed through, severely undertrained but determined. I was sorry we hadn’t made it to the finish together but so glad we both made it to the end.

We met friends for a beer a while later and then took the kids to dinner at La Morra, our favorite neighborhood restaurant. I didn’t want the day to end.

Happy to be sitting

Happy to be sitting

I am a week out from the marathon today and I am glad to have a break from training. I am looking forward to runs without a watch, a mileage target or a time goal. But I am also looking forward to next year. To joining the Project Hope team again and running from Hopkinton to Boston.

 

 

Follow Me on Race Day! 29,099

Thank you for following my blog over the last four months! To see how I fare on Marathon Monday, here are instructions for tracking me over the course of the race. I don’t have a time goal per se but am hoping to come in under 4h:30. Bonus if it’s under 4h:15. I start the race in Wave 4, which means I won’t actually cross the starting line until sometime after 11:30 am.

I am athlete # 29,099.

Registration through the B.A.A. website will close on Sunday, April 20, at 6:00pm. However, AT&T is pleased to announce that registration via mobile phone text messaging (for US mobile phones only) will remain open during the marathon.

  • TEXT – Simply text the athlete’s Bib Number to 345678 using your US mobile phone. You will then receive an sms text response with instructions on how to submit a runner’s bib number. You will receive up to 6 texts per bib number. Message & data rates may apply. Text STOP to cancel. Text HELP for help. Available on participating carriers only. Privacy Policy at: www.att.com/privacy.
  • EMAIL – Continue to the registration page for the AT&T Athlete Alert on the race website. Sign-up using your mobile phone number for SMS text message updates, or by entering an email address for email updates. Click here to sign up now.
  • ONSITE – If you prefer to register in person or have any questions, representatives will be available in the Bib Number Pick-Up area at the John Hancock Sports & Fitness Expo on Friday, April 18, from 12:00pm-7:00pm, Saturday, April 19 from 9:00am-7:00pm, and Sunday, April 20, from 9:00am-6:00pm.

If you register a mobile phone online, you will receive a message asking you to confirm your intention to receive updates from the 2014 Boston Marathon AT&T Athlete Alert. Once you’ve completed registration for AT&T Athlete Alert, you will receive text updates courtesy of AT&T and the Boston Marathon when your runner has crossed the following points on the course:

10K
Half-Marathon
30K
Finish

 

One Week to Go — I Reflect

ice marathon photo

It’s almost time!

I’m runner 29,099.

This time next week I will be one of 36,000 individuals running the 118th Boston Marathon.

I’ve spent the last four months getting ready for the day. My first long run of the training season was 8 miles. It was 12 degrees and windy. I remember not knowing what to wear, having been someone who historically moved my workouts indoors every winter. I remember stuffing my gloves with handwarmers and hoping to God I didn’t get frostbite. Eight miles was tough after a post-Portland Marathon running hiatus. But I knew there was plenty of time ahead.

I was worried then about the challenge of raising $4,000 by April. I hate asking people for money and I feared that, with so many people running, there wouldn’t be enough donors to go around.

I was nervous about joining a team where everyone already knew each other, had nicknames and had run Boston before.

Turns out I had nothing to worry about.

I ran my last long run of the training season last Saturday. The schedule called for 8 miles but that didn’t seem long enough so I did 10. I walked out of the house in shorts and marveled at the warmth of the day. I had the kind of long run that stays with you – gives you confidence that yes, in fact, you really can do this.

The other runners I passed along Beacon Street all seemed to be thinking the same thing – this street will be alive on Marathon Day!

When I got home I opened my email and discovered a friend of mine had contributed $100 to my efforts, bringing my Project Hope fundraising total to $4,666 – well over $1,000 more than the minimum and $666 more than my goal.

I scrolled through my list of donors and felt such gratitude for everyone who donated. And then I was grateful for everyone who’s checked in on my training this year, who’s asked how I am feeling or how many miles I had on tap for the weekend.

I am thankful for the amazing team I am now a part of. They welcomed me with open arms and never made me feel like I was the newbie. They are a collection of some of the kindest, funniest, most driven people I know. Their support for each other and for the Project Hope mission is humbling, and I am already a little sad as I think about not seeing them every week.

The City is alive right now. There’s the buzz of Race Day anticipation. Nervous energy emanates from many of the runners (myself included) and people are descending on Copley Square to see the Finish Line being laid.

And yes, for many (myself included), there is an element of sadness as we approach the anniversary of last year’s marathon. The bombings and the aftermath have been the subject of news stories for the last week. Tomorrow, Vice President Biden will come to Boston to mark the anniversary with survivors and their families.

But tomorrow feels like a period for me – the end of a sentence. It’s time to close one chapter for this City and begin a new one next week. No one will ever forget the events of last year, but it is my hope that we can start looking forward.

Project Hope teaches its clients how to tackle some of life’s most difficult challenges. The women learn to pick themselves up when they stumble, to take risks and that yes, sometimes dreams really do come true.

Perhaps it’s a bit cliché, but a marathon holds so many lessons over the course of 26.2 miles. As physical a test it is, it’s also a test of your will, your resolve. You learn to conserve your energy for when you need it most and to push on when you doubt you can. You support those around you and rely on them for the same.

As I reflect on this experience and anticipate the Day, I am grateful to be a part of something so special. Thank you to all who’ve ready my blog, to those who will cheer me on along the course and to the City I am so proud to call home.

21 Done…now we taper!

Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton — 6 towns, 21 miles. Three plus hours of running.

21 miler

Team photo!

Saturday marked our last long training run of the season. We were graced with a picture-perfect running day — temps around 50, slightly overcast and breezy. After what seems like the longest winter in history, it felt fitting that we should finally get a taste of spring.

We met at the bakery in Newton and took off just after 7 am, headed to Hopkinton. My friend Brendan joined us on the bus — his FIRST outdoor run of the season. He ran 21 a few weeks ago on a treadmill, which I am pretty sure is akin to poking at your eyeballs with dull knives.

cyndi:brendan

Hi Brendan!

Our bus deposited us as the starting line — the first time I have ever seen the start. The air was electric with anticipation, excitement and for some, I am sure, memories of last year.

startline

Ready to go! Also, those are some colorful sneakers we’re all wearing….

As I’ve done for the last several months now, I fell into running with Keezer, who brought a friend as well. We caught up with Ann-Marie and the three of us set off.

An estimated 3,000 charity runners were on the course Saturday and it felt like a mini-marathon. There were waterstops every mile or two with food and water and spectators ringing cowbells and cheering us on. The excitement made the early miles fly.

By mile 13 I started to slow my pace and by 17 I was hurting. But as they’ve done week after week my running partners picked me up. They stopped when I need to walk out a cramp and they pushed me to pick it up again when I stalled at a particularly delightful water stop hosted by Saucony around Wellsley College.

To hit 21 miles we had to run up Heartbreak and back down. As we approached the hill, I muttered in frustration to no one in particular that I couldn’t do it. Someone – I can’t recall now whether it was Keezer or Ann-Marie, said “Yes you can, just take it slow.” And then I was moving again. I heard members of my team and volunteers yelling my name and I started to cry. The support was overwhelming. As I hit the top of the hill I turned and gave Keezer and Ann-Marie a hug. We did it.

“Think you have 5 more miles in you?” Keezer asked.

“F*ck no!” I said. But I smiled. Because on Marathon Day I will.

 

 

Bonk, bonk, bonk…headed into the homestretch

I’d like to report that I had a fantastic 18.5 miler yesterday.

I’d like to but I won’t. Because, in fact, I didn’t. It was my first training run where I felt sluggish and tired and not at all into the experience.

I hit the mental wall earlier in the week when I caught myself wishing the marathon were this weekend so I could be done training. I need a break.

Thankfully, I have two really great cheerleaders who helped me make it over both the physical and mental wall in order to push on and get the miles in.

annemarie&keezer

They kindly stopped for a photo when I ditched them in Coolidge Corner

 

Annemarie and Keezer — I have run most of my long runs with one or both of them. They are two of the most positive people I have ever met and they (usually) make the miles fly by. Annemarie, an Ireland native, is training for her 6th Boston. She does all of her training outdoors, works until 1 am on Friday nights and goes to work Saturday afternoon after our long runs. In a word, she is superwoman.

annemarie&me

She’s smiling, but don’t be fooled. She’s take-no-prisoners tough. I am smiling because I am done.

 

Keezer is great for boosting my confidence and reminding me I need to fuel properly. He points out that our pace is great, that we don’t need to push it and — as we launch ourselves up and over the fourth hill — he notes: “one more Heartbreak under our feet.” He’s sensible, positive and a joy to run with.

Keezer&me

He’s built like a runner. I pretend to be a runner.

I hit 18 miles and kicked it up for the last half mile into Coolidge Corner. 18.5 miles in 2:51. Next week I will do my long run in Austin, where I will be attending a wedding. I’ll do somewhere around 12 miles, which at this point seems like a nice break. The following week is 21 miles from Hopkinton, where we will run the course. I am excited for that run — it’s the final (really)long run and it means we get to taper to prep for the big day.

I am truly grateful for the experience I’ve had over these last several months and I am ready for race day.

“They’re Not the Kind of Steroids The Red Sox Use”

It’s been a little quiet around here lately. Well, that’s because — until yesterday — there wasn’t a whole lot of running going on. 

This happens every time. Just about the point in my marathon training that I really start adding on the miles, something begins to hurt. 

This time, my right ankle. So bad this week, in fact, that I paid a visit to a sports medicine doc. 

Image

This is the sports medicine office at MGH. Well, one of them. I was tempted to play with the knee model but then thought better of it…

Dr. Richardson (who I coincidentally saw at a different practice a few years ago when marathon training led to hip pain) sat with me, reviewed my xrays and delivered the good news. “This is nothing too serious.”

Image

My, what nice bones you have!

No stress fractures or broken bones. Based on his assessment it seems likely I am experiencing Peroneal tendonitis — essentially the tendons around the ankle are inflamed from running so much. The solutions he offered were anti-inflammatories, rest, complete mobilization. Given that the marathon is 6 weeks away and I was one day away from an 18-mile training run, we worked out a plan: I would run the 18 if I could and he would give me drugs. If it gets bad enough I can beg for cortisone, but neither one of us really wants that. After all, I am not likely to win the Marathon, just need to get past the start and finish lines.

“I can give you Naproxen and steroids. But don’t worry they’re not the steroids that the Red Sox take. They won’t give you big muscles.” Well, in that case, sign me up!

Armed with two prescriptions and a sense of relief that my injury isn’t training-ending, I set out for 18 yesterday. I ran with the team (Jay’s managing his own training injuries…) and went from Kenmore to Newton where Beacon Street ends, right on Washington, right on Comm and back to Coolidge Corner, home. It was great. So great, in fact, I actually ran closer to 19 miles. 

The good news is that it didn’t hurt. I felt great, kept a steady pace, and got the confidence boost I need to get through the next few weeks. 

I will probably scale back my mid-week runs, throw in some cross training and yoga and save my efforts for the last couple long runs of training. It’s hard to believe we’re almost to Marathon Day. It’s still freezing outside and it feels like the race should be months, not weeks, away. 

Oh and in case you’re really interested in Peroneal tendonitis, here’s a picture of your foot. Don’t say you don’t learn anything here.

ImageImage

17 miles in a tutu and wings!

Running is for lovers. Or something.

The thing about running in a neon pink tutu and red, glittery butterfly wings with hearts is that you can’t really take yourself too seriously. 

vday2

Case in point. We’re kinda cute.

 

Today was the ProHope team’s Valentine’s Day-themed long run. We had 16 miles on the agenda and 20ish runners joined in, decked out in honor of Cupid. 

Vday

(L to R) Heather, Jay, Me, Marc, Ron, Keezer. We got the memo.

 

We took a new (to me) route this week. We started at the bakery in Newton and ran along the Carriage Lane until we hit Route 16. From there we followed Route 16 to Wellesley College until we hit 8 miles. Minus the ice and slush left over from the latest winter storm (seriously, I am over it), it was great. Lots of hills and lots to look at. 

We had amazing volunteers out today to support us with water stops — in addition to my beloved Swedish fish, they offered M&Ms, potato chips and Starburst jelly beans!! (Eat to run, run to eat….whatevs). The ProHope team came out to support us – including Sister Margaret, Laura, her family, Maureen and others. Thanks for braving the cold for us!

Not surprisingly, our getups earned us lot lots of smiles, waves and friendly (I think?) honks, which kept me pumped enough to fight the Newton Hills we reached at Mile 12 or so. Keezer offered as a challenge the fourth hill again and so we tacked it on to make it 17 miles on the day. 

Today was my first time running in costume and I loved it. On Marathon Monday look for me — I might be the one in the tutu.  

So this happened….

You never know who you’ll meet out on a long run…

Image

Nancy and I meet the Heartbreak Hill gorilla at mile 10 of our long run. So of course we stopped for a picture.

This week’s long run was great! Per usual it was cold — about 16 degrees at the start — but the sky was a brilliant, cloudless blue. Jay was home recovering from the flu so I stayed with the ProHope group for the duration. I met new people this week — Brett and Tom, who were great — and hung for a while with some of the others I’ve run with over the past nine weeks.

My schedule had 10 miles this week. But as we approached mile 10, Keezer and Nancy were talking about tacking on the last hill — hill number 4 — Heartbreak Hill. I felt good and was in no rush to get anywhere so I decided to join in. After a quick snapshot with the gorilla pictured here we took off. And it felt great. It’s the steepest of the hills, I think. But on the downhill, I felt like I was flying. 

We hit 13 miles as we got back to our cars, endorphin-drunk and happy. Keezer was there waiting for us and congratulated us for kicking it up. 

This week marked the halfway point of training. I am feeling good, strong and confident. And best of all, I’m having fun. 

 

Sweet 16

I hit a few milestones this week. First, I nailed our longest training run to date — 16 miles.

16 miles

Proof! 16 miles in 2 hours 29 mins.

 

It started out rough. My legs were heavy and I convinced myself that this was the long run where I would bite the dust (or jump on the T halfway through the run a la Rosie Ruiz). I didn’t feel up for it and was on my way to psyching myself out. But at our first water stop I ran into teammate Keezer, who said, “just take it easy.” Four simple words. Take it easy.

Speaking of water stops….These people — John and Margaret — are my two favorite people in the world on my long runs. They station themselves out on our training course armed with water, Gatorade, pretzels and SWEDISH FISH!! (if you know me, you know I have a not-so-secret love of those chewy red fish). They’re like an oasis in the desert.

Furey

John Furey – Emerson College cross country coach, leader of the marathon charity training runs, fish-filled fueler!

margaret

Margaret made a new sign this week so we could see her as we ran. This woman is seriously amazing.

 

The other milestone I reached this week was mileage-based. With my long run Saturday, I hit 32.5 miles for the week — the highest weekly total yet. I’ve also surpassed 200 miles run since training began December 14th.

I try to take stock of these milestones not to boast or brag but to appreciate the journey. There will be moments during the training where I feel defeated and question whether this was as a good idea as it seemed back in December.

Remembering the high points makes it easier to get over the low.