Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Boston Marathon 2015 Recap Part 2 of 2: The Race

Part 1 of my recap left off the night before the Boston Marathon. Here's Part 2 where I'll try to give a glimpse of my experience. It's long...but it does truly feel like I'm scratching the surface.

I like to leave a few weeks between me and my races before I write the recap. It first and foremost allows me to collect all the pictures I want to share (because #PhotoOp). But it also allows me to really distill in my mind what is important from the experience. What stuck? What stands out? What do I think about in hindsight? 

I'll try to share some of those thoughts with you now.

If you're going to run a marathon in the cold and in the rain....start your day off with Dana-Farber.

Last year I briefly wrote about these amazingess of the pre-race set-up Dana-Farber volunteers run for us at a church near the starting line in Hopkington. Instead of sitting on the ground in the Athlete's Village, members of the DFMC team are hosted with VIP treatment.  

View of the empty church before we arrived (photo courtesy DFMC)
Heat. Chairs. Indoor bathrooms as well as our own porto-potties outside (no lines!). Food. Drink. First-Aid prep table. Arts & Crafts table. Smiling volunteers. Company of friends.

Hey runners: Is this not the most glorious sight in the world???
500 runners....just getting geared up!
And it was great we had those facilities, because the weather had already started getting nasty. And we had a lot of time. The wheelchair and Wave 1 athletes started before 9 am. Wave 4 -- where most DFMC and charity runners begin -- had an 11:15 kick-off. Ugh.

Around 9 am we were all hearded outside in a break from the rain to take a group photo and listen to announcements. 

Getting Organized 

Getting us pumped up: See you in Boston!!!
The 2015 Dana-Farber Marathon Team: $4.8MM raised....AND COUNTING!!

I also had some time to meet celebrities.  #Famous

Teammate Uzo Aduba stars in Netflix show "Orange is the New Black" which I LOVE! Clearly she and I are best friends now, if you couldn't tell.

And did I mention the porto-potties? That I used 75 times? Oh the pre-race tummy....

And then it was time to walk to our starting corrals. Dana-Farber -- ever so prepared -- had ponchos for us so that we'd at least stay dry during this 10-15 minute parade to our start line.

I was a little excited.

It rained. A lot. But that was no reason to have a puss-face on. Turn that frown...upside down!

I had made a decision over the weekend. Rain or shine, I was going to have some fun! I had raised over twelve-thousand dollars and I deserved to have a party in my hometown city.

Coming off of last year, I knew that there would be less spectators on the course and I was expecting things to be pretty sparse when you layered the weather on top of it. And, sure, there was less...but still so many! Amazing people came in their ponchos and their umbrellas and their mittens and they cheered like it was 70 and sunny. They were inspirational and their energy was truly infection. And I can't say enough positive things about the thousands of volunteers out there keeping us safe, hydrated and motivated.

Friends and family got me through!

I had a mental list of people I was going to see along the way and I saw almost every body I intended to! What was so fantastic was seeing some bonus friends that I hadn't even necessarily been planning on. Good eye, everybody! Good eye!

My sister was in Natick at mile 10 holding a bit balloon caterpillar balloon. SMART STRATEGY.

Me and the aptly named balloon caterpillar: Natick
Yes, I finished 2 seconds off my PR....but this selfie is WORTH IT. Wouldn't trade it for the world!

I was so happy to see her, and so appreciative that she drove by herself to stand in the rain and watch me. What a good sister!! About a half mile later, I saw my friend Andrea and her mom and I gave them big sweaty hugs. [Bonus to bad weather: Are you sweaty? Or just wet? Who cares!] 

I had a little friend hiatus from 11 through 16, but that's okay because it was filled with great spectators including the famous Wellesley Scream Tunnel. Thanks, ladies!

Childhood friend Lauren and her step-mom Lizzie at mile 16 was another highlight. Lauren provided a very sturdy post for me to stretch my quads before hitting the Newton Hills! [Are we hugging? Or are you just holding me up? Either way, this is nice.]

Just at mile 17 you make a right hand turn by the Newton Firehouse. This is where I turned on the pizzazz because, camera.

A marathon is no excuse to not be taking your glam shots.

This is one of my proudest accomplishments from the day: A good in-action running shot that actually looks like I'm running! #KillinIt

The energy at 17 as you enter the hills is powerful and for a little bit I was A-OK.

My legs, which had felt great through the first half, started acting a little wonky at this point. It felt kind of like...I had been running for nearly three hours. Yes. It felt exactly like that. Oh, and the tough part was just starting. Because then, I was running uphill. In the rain. Against 20 mile per hour winds. That were in my face.


I'll admit that miles 17-21 I had a bit of a frowny face on the hills, culminating with Heartbreak. Up until this point I had been slapping high fives to children and giving the happy thumbs up to spectators calling my name. But Newton? You kicked my ass and I was unable to turn my grimace into anything remotely close to a smile for a little bit.

Ouch. Grimace.

One great surprise was seeing an unexpected friend -- Rach -- during those hills. In moments like these, seeing familiar faces is pretty much the best feeling ever. You're like, OMG! IT'S YOU! IT'S YOUUUUU!! 

I crested Heartbreak Hill and was greeted by quick a sight for sore eyes: my parents!

Dad, as always, brought his A-game when it came to signage:

Winter Is Coming!

The quads....oh the quads! Ahhhh! Help!
After a little stretch and big hugs, I was on my way downhill into Boston.

In Brookline at Mile 23 I saw Amy (my hostess with the mostest from the night before!)

"Hi Amy!"
Mile 24 at Coolidge Corner, I saw Meghan and blew kisses.

I unexpectedly saw friends Mike, Sam and Jane -- or rather, they saw me -- during Mile 25 which was pretty damn amazing considering A) I wasn't looking specifically for them and B) I was basically delirious and in pre-hypothermia at this point. Seeing them was like an oasis in the dessert. 

At a certain point I was just plodding one foot in front of the other. Literally I was thinking in my mind "Left. Right. Left. Right." I ran through every water stop because I knew that if I stopped to was very possible I'd never start again.

Knowing the Dana-Farber Cheering Area was at Mile 25 was a godsend. 

I just keep running towards them. The last significant uphill on the course is small, but certainly there during Mile 25 as you approach Kenmore Square. To a fatigued marathoner, who has just completed all of the Newton Hills, you're like, what the....!?! when you see it coming up ahead. But I put my head down and started smiling. Because I knew my cheering squad was waiting.

Waving to the DFMC supporters
A shot of my best side: With the Pacesetter patch (signifying my fundraising accomplishment!) and names of some of the people I was running in honor or in memory of.

Running in Kenmore Square I inexplicably saw Britany and Leticia amongst the crowd.

Bye guys! Just 'bout to finish my 4th marathon!

From Kenmore you just go. You don't think. You just do.

You run. You've just been powered by the crowds outside Fenway hollering your name. You run over a painted line in the street that says "1 mile to go." You run under some overpasses and you go underneath where Mass Ave crosses over. You go uphill for a minute and your legs are screaming but you don't care. Everyone is screaming so why should your legs miss out of the fun?

You turn right on Hereford.

Your turn left on Boylston.

You start to cry.

You start to cry just writing this.

You feel the emotion of what you have just accomplished. Raising over $12,500 for a charity you love thanks to over 120 separate and individual donations from people in your life. Celebrating that accomplishment by accomplishing something you've never done: Completing a marathon in the rain. 

You're wet. You're tired. The crowds are deafening. You think about looking at your watch and then you realize that you don't care about your time. You know you've done everything you possibly could and that you did something remarkable today.

You push as fast as your beaten up body will allow it, with the Finish Line ahead. You stop to look to your left to the sites of the 2013 bombings and give a little nod.

You can actually feel the crowd looking at you. Cheering for you. You are a hero.

And you smile through your tears that may be of pain or maybe of joy, because you're really not sure anymore. And your raise your arms and cross the Finish Line of the 119th Boston Marathon.

I couldn't stop crying when I finished.

My body released this physical and emotional energy as I walked to collect my medal that was truly unlike anything I had experienced, even after Miami, NYC or Boston last year. I was so full of joy and pride that I thought my heart would burst.

A stranger gave me a hug.

A Dana-Farber photographer took a picture of me with some other teammates who finished at times near me, but who I don't know. It doesn't matter. They felt like my best friends that moment.

People ask about my time. But it isn't about that. It never was.

I knew I likely hadn't PRed, but wasn't sure how close I was because I hadn't stopped my watch right when I finished. It would later turn out I was two seconds off last year, which is also my marathon PR. Official finish time: 4:16:55. 

Who cares. I had fun. I did it. And I was proud of my time. Last year can remain my PR and I am happy with that. I trained as hard as I could and I ran that race -- in the rain and wind and cold -- as hard as I could. And I still took a selfie with a caterpillar and gave kids high fives and hugged my mom and smiled for the cameras. So, I win.

And then what?

A volunteer collected me and brought me back to the DFMC meeting area at the Marriott Copley. There I recovered, changed into the jacket I had earned with every one of those wet, hard, cold miles. And I found my fan club. 

I have to say some thanks at this point. If you'll indulge me.

Thank you for allowing me to share this journey with you. I know Marathon blogs can be a dime a dozen, but writing about my experiences is so therapeutic and wonderful for me. I want to capture these memories forever for myself...but I like sharing them with others as well. It brings meaning to my miles and to why I do what I do. So, thank you.

Thank you to my parents. For everything you do and everything you say and for all the k'velling both to me and to...basically everyone you encounter. You make me feel so special and loved and supported. Experiencing this training season and that weekend wit you means the world to me and I will cherish these memories always. You are truly the best fan club and "ground crew" anyone could ask for.

Thank you to my sister and friends who spectated in-person and to all of you who I know were "spectating" from afar. It may sound cheesy, but I felt your energy and your encouragement. Especially when I crossed a mile marker I knew was being tracked in the app, in my head I knew I was being thought of and cheered on, and I appreciate that so much.

Thank you to Dana-Farber. To my teammates, the volunteers, the coordinators and -- of course -- the Doctors and staff at the hospital itself: You are wonderful.

And last but not least, thank you to everyone who donated to my Marathon Challenge. We raised $12,548 (with some more trickling in!). Every time I felt like I was going to have to stop or that I was in pain, I truly did think of you and your support. You got me through it and I was proud to run in honor of the funds you donated to the cause.

With gratitude, love, and some lingering soreness,

Until next time...

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Boston Marathon 2015 Recap Part 1 of 2: Race Weekend

Get ready for a long, photo-heavy Recap!

The Friday before the 119th running of the Boston Marathon, I arrived by Train from NYC to Boston. Rolling my little suitcase along, I could tell fellow Marathon journey-ers. They were the ones wearing sneakers instead of stylish shoes. And rocking their garish orange 2014 jackets. I felt like I wanted to go up to them and give them a hug or ask them how they were feeling. But I decided instead on being appropriate. For once.

My parents picked me up from the train -- just the start of a full weekend of them being the most supportive, amazing, wonderful fan club in the world. You've seen the pictures on Facebook already, so you know I'm not exaggerating! I got to see some of my good friends from high school that night before getting a good night sleep in my childhood home.

That morning I had my only real freak out of the weekend when I saw the long term forecast was for temps in the 40s with headwinds and rain. When my Dad asked if that was a problem while being amazing and cooking me eggs I was like, "OF COURSE THAT'S A PROBLEM AND I DON'T LIKE WEARING PANTS AND WILL I BE ABLE TO WEAR A SHIRT UNDER MY CHARITY RACE TANK AND WHAT IF I CHAFE AND GAHHHH." And my Dad was like, "Would you like Kielbasa with your eggs?" And I was like, "yes please" and that about covered the freak out.

My Mom and I got up bright and early on Saturday to drive to Boston to register and spend money time at the Expo at the Hynes Convention Center.

I got my race bib without incident (they run a good ship at the Boston check-in!) and alongside other eager runners took my turn to grin for the camera. Myra is well-practiced at the step-and-repeat wall photo now!
Entering the Expo! Always gives me chills....

I bought. All the things. All. The things. And my mom insisted on holding all the things so I would "rest up" and have my hands free. I did not argue. She also bought me these amazingly ugly comfortable "recovery footwear" sandles by Oofos at the expo. I scoffed at them at first because they are--frankly -- less than stylish. But they're AMAZING on the feet. I'm in love. Runners, take notice.

Note: She also insisted on purchasing them for me, but only if I would consider the hot pink option instead of black. Because they are "snazzier." For once, I can not argue. They are indeed snazzier.

Me and my sherpa
How many headbands purchased....are too many headbands? Would you say? These headbands all speak deep truths so I think it's okay.

I always love a good expo, and I find Boston second-to-none. There are so many great booths in addition to the typical fare from pre-race events (Sam Adams? Yes PLEASE!) And the custom Boston shirts were so cute. I had to hold myself back from buying them all. My Mom kept asking me, "But do you need it?" To which I kept replying, "I literally need nothing. I will -- however -- buy everything."

After spending some quality time, we headed from the Hynes Convention Center to the Marriot Copley where Dana-Farber had their own check-in. There, I received detailed instructions from amazing volunteers about our own pre-race activities.

I also was able to check out the board which listed the fundraisers who had reached different fundraising goals. Here is Mom pointing with pride to my name(ish) as an $8K Pacesetter!

It was so fun to do these activities a second year in a row. Going into it, I thought maybe I'd be a little "let down" being a veteran. Would it be as special a second time as the first? Would it feel weird? Redundant?

It actually was fabulous.

Ran into another fan club of mine outside of the Expo! Val and Rob have known me since I was a baby and -- how wonderful are they? They made signs for me at the expo! And are dressed for the part!

Last year I was a bit consumed by the logistics and newness of it all. And frankly, I was also very consumed with it being the one year anniversary of the bombings (understandably). I found it wonderful to enjoy a "normal" expo that still had the vibes of Boston Strong pride, but without the mayhem of the crowds from the year before that flocked to the Expo and Finish Line. I also enjoyed knowing where to go, and what to see. I learned from the year before and optimized my experience this time.

It was, in fact, freaking awesome.

I finished the day a bit tired having walked more than I probably should have (but I had the OOFOS!) but feeling energized. Weather schmether. The expo had hooked me in to the energy, power, history and wonder of the race and the unique, unparalleled Boston Marathon vibe. 

Sunday I got up and packed my bags. One to check with Dana-Farber for after the run, and one to keep with me when I stayed with college friends of mine who were amazing enough to host me at their place in Brookline for the pre-race night. I can't stress enough how much better having solid pre-race logistics makes your mental state. A comfortable place to stay with friends who will drive you to the Boston Common at 6:30 am to catch the shuttles to Hopkington is more than clutch. Thank you, Steven and Amy!

My parents and I drove into Boston and spent some quality time on Boylston Street taking in the gorgeous day. My brain kept alternating between: "Why can't this weather just be tomorrow?!?!"  and "Shut your face everything is wonderful." 

 A magical place for a stroll!
It's I! On an I!

There's Only One #DFMC. But there's also only one Boston Marathon. And only one bestest fan club in the whole wide world!
Let's take a selfie!

Let's take an excited selfie!!!
My Dad would tell you this is part of an inside joke. I would tell you that these are two of the most badass gangsters you've ever seen. You decide.  
The man who inspired me running with Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge! 
My Dad is wearing a button in this picture that says he is "Living Proof." This is Dana-Farber's way of recognizing friends, family and -- in many cases -- the Runner themself. Living Proof are current or former cancer patients, and they are strong. They are resilient. And they -- and their families -- are why I run.

See you tomorrow....

Although the ambiance was positive, upbeat and full of excitement, there was of course reminders of 2013. We never forget.

And we also never forget that nobody. And I mean Nobody. Runs like Boston.
Nice Marketing New Balance! xoxo

We went to the much anticipated Adidas "RunBase." It's basically a Boston Marathon store run by Adidas that sells merchandise, provides course information and displays memorabilia. But it will also serve as a place for Boston runners to store clothes, change, shower, etc. while they run. In essence it's the most brilliant marketing ever. And it was cool!

3D topography map of the course
Interactive digital view of the course

After spending some time there and strolling Newbury Street, we meandered back to the Marriot Copley -- DFMC's home base -- for the other main event of my Marathon experience: The Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge Pasta Party.

If you followed me last year, you know how incredibly moved I was by this experience. And this year provided those same strong emotions.

The event is top notch.

This picture doesn't capture how MASSIVE the ballroom is. I think there was something like 140 tables and 6 pasta bars!

Our table. Cookies and brownies already out and ready for the taking. On point.

I could write a novel just trying to capture the experience of being at this dinner. They had speakers from DFMC explaining how much we raised and where the funds would go. We had the Boston Marathon Race Director talk to us as well as Uta Pippig who won the women's race in the early 90s and is a big DFMC supporter. And we were reminded why we run.

A gentleman spoke who had lost his wife to cancer and who himself had battled the disease. He thanked us for the 1004 "bonus days" he spent with his talented, artistic wife due to experimental treatments that came directly from Basic Research which we were funding. He and his son would be running with us on Monday. And we were reminded why we run.

We watched an In Memorium video of children who lost their battle to cancer. And we were reminded why we run.

And we watched children currently being treated for cancer get awarded their own special medals by their runner partners. And we were reminded why we run.

We were told that of our team goal of $5.2 million dollars towards Innovative Basic Cancer research, we were already at $4.6 million. And more continues to pour in. This money will fund programs that will help extend lives and improve lives. We are making a difference, and we were reminded why we run.

Tears poured out of my eyes so often. But beyond feeling those pangs of sadness, I felt so proud of our accomplishment. Of my accomplishment. As of today -- April 28 -- I have raised $12,548. This is over $1,000 more than last year and brings a two-year grand total to nearly $24,000. By the people I know and have connected for this cause that I hold so critical near and dear.

So when I was asked, are you nervous about tomorrow? No. Not at all. I have the support of countless friends and family. I have done an outstanding job raising money. I have trained. I have prepared. I am ready.

Let the rain come and get me. I didn't care. I was reminded why I run and I was ready to take on Boston.

In addition to his Living Proof button, my Dad is wearing his PMC hat. He has been a volunteer of the Pan Mass Challenge -- which also supports Dana-Farber -- for over a decade. My Mom dons her DFMC cheering shirt. #FashionFirst.

And with that...I was off to Steve and Amy's to rest and prep for the big day.... be continued....