Saturday, May 3, 2014

Marathon Monday - We ran as one.

I've waiting to write this and probably shouldn't have because I have no idea where to start. April 15-April 21 are a bit of a blur.... I'm choosing to focus on the marathon for me because that was one of the most intense and nerve wracking days of my life. Different from running in 2011 and definitely different from last year. 

To be completely honest, I was the most excited than I've ever been for a race. The ceremonies from 4/15 and 4/18 were completed and I was trying to keep me emotions in check so I wasn't completed exhausted. 

We had a nice Easter Sunday, had brunch with some friends from Napoleon downtown, took a walk and then came home and relaxed. I soaked my feet and propped them up. I was feeling pretty healthy, little, if any aches. I was hoping that I was recovered from my last 20 miler only about 16 days earlier because my 7 miler 7 days out did not go so well. I had planned and laid out all of my gear and clothes the day before, attached my bib, packed my post race bag so I wasn't worried about anything. I went to make my pasta for dinner and as I was adding some cheese to it, in fact, after I added the cheese, I could tell that it was bad. Completely ruining my pasta dinner, I started over. I used the last of the pasta we had and made another pot. This time, when I was straining it, somehow I ended up slipping my hand and dumped all of the pasta down the drain. By this point, it was getting late, I didn't feel like walking to the grocery so I called Domino's. While I wasn't happy about it, I was tired, hungry and getting really nervous so it worked. 

Monday morning rolled around, I actually felt pretty rested when my alarm went off. We were all meeting at MIT that morning so I shared a cab with a colleague who was volunteering and lives by us. We all ate breakfast, chatted and coated up on sun screen. Around 8a we left for Hopkinton. Once we got there, I felt really relieved as my duties of managing the team transportation were over and the race was about to begin. I was able to meet up with Laura, a friend/neighbor that I had been doing a lot of my long runs with, with L Street Running Club. That was great. We and a few other MIT folks walked to the startling line together (.7 of a mile!!) and all of a sudden, our Boston Marathon was underway! We took off from Hopkinton around 11:30a. Immediately, we realized the race was going to be hot because it was already warm and we had just started. I had read before the race that the first 5 miles or so would feel a little weird and your legs need longer to warm up since you've been tapering. So, I wasn't too concerned when I felt like crap. Around mile 8, when I still felt heavy and slow, I began to worry a little. I told Laura that I felt like crap. I kept turning to her and say, "it's SO hot!". It really was and I knew that the first group of my friends weren't going to be until around mile 16. That was a long way. At around mile 10, I told Laura to go on ahead, that I was going to take my pace down a little bit. I knew then that I wasn't going to run a 4:45 and figured I might as well enjoy the run and stop and talk to friends when I saw them. It was also at about this point when I started asking spectators who won the marathon. I learned about Meb and Shalene. I was pumped for Meb and so sad for Shalene. I later would learn that she ruled the race until Newton, and that is pretty awesome. 

From that point, it was funny, because I kept passing or being passed by other MIT Teammates or L Street friends. It was great, it really helped me get through a tough part of the race. I knew once I got to Wellesley College (mile 13) that I would be much better mentally because I really knew that part of the course and actually looked forward to Newton and the hills. At mile 13, the Wellesley College scream tunnel was better than what I remembered. I was actually a little nervous because I got the chills. I couldn't tell if it was because I was getting dehydrated or just the sheer awesomeness of the moment. Turned out to be the latter thank goodness! Around mile 15, one of my teammates was stopped talking to her husband. I stopped to and he had some snacks which was great timing. I had a fig newton and was on my way. Around mile 16, I saw Cheryl and Kerri from MIT -- they were the first group of friends I was looking for, they had water and hugs. I needed both by that point. Right before I made the epic right hand turn onto Commonwealth, I saw a few of the older and wiser gentlemen from L Street. I made my way over, got some hugs and made the turn. The crowds were INSANE! The entire next 5 miles were packed going through Newton and actually stayed 3-deep or more pretty much the rest of the way to Boyleston. I did the hills like I planned, take the first part of each hill easy and try to take the last quarter a little faster so by the top I wasn't completely gassed. I was looking out for Jeremy and my friends at the bottom of heartbreak hill, but they were no where to be found! I was getting heated, I thought I missed them and then about half way up, I saw them screaming their faces off to the left of the course. I cut off about 10 other runners making my way over - I was SO happy to see them I didn't even notice (they told me later...) I think I said something like, "60 degrees my ass, it's at least 80 out here!" While I don't think it was quite that warm, it was much hotter than any of us expected. I went into a run/walk from around BC to the finish. Ironically, around mile 22, my friend Laura tapped me on the back. I was like, "WTF?" She had on a different hat and shirt so I was even more confused. We ran together for a mile or so, but I couldn't keep up. She went ahead and ended up finishing about 5 minutes ahead of me. I started to see a lot of people I knew from around 23 on so I was stopping quite a  bit. The "Go Steph" and "MIT" cheers were pretty heavy the entire course, but almost non-stop from BC on. At mile 24, our MIT Strong coach and supports were there so I stopped and told her how hot it was, she said she knew that but that I was doing great. I kept on and about mile 25, Tom Gearty, another organizer of the MIT team came up beside me. I was in shock. He was training to pace about 1 or more hours ahead of me. I knew something was wrong. He said that he'd been in a medical tent and basically hadn't been about to sweat at all. We decided then that we would finish together. It was just what I needed. We continued and saw the MIT Athletic Director at the top of the 90 overpass. We stopped there for a minute or two and then continued on through Kenmore, where the MIT students were volunteering at the water stops near their fraternity and sorority houses. We tried to keep the pace up through that area, but I needed one more stretch of walking. We made our way under Mass Ave and up the hill there. Then we decided to run the rest of the way to cross the finishline. We were going up Hereford and then took the left on Boyleston. The finishline looks SO far away! The crowds were still pretty heavy. This was the only point along the course that I really let myself think of last year. I lost it. I could barely keep breathing because of my sobs. It all hit me at once, especially running in front of the stands. The Boston Police commissioner and one of the survivors were standing right on the course before the finish line. I looked at him and mouthed "Thank You" as clearly as I could. Tom and I crossed the finishline and he made sure I was OK. I was shocked to be given my water by my past Dana Farber Coach, Jack Fultz (winner of the 1976 Boston Marathon). He gave me a big hug, congratulated me and we went on to get our fancy capes and medals. 

That evening after some chilling out, we had a dinner and drinks to celebrate with the MIT team and our supporters, volunteers and family on campus. What a day, what a year it was. I'm still processing everything and am heading out for a few miles around Castle Island right now. I can't wait to reunite with my L Street friends and the MIT Strong team. Congratulations to all of my friends who finished the race for those who could not. 

We truly did Run as One. 

bib pick up at the marathon expo on Friday  

bib pick up with Sarah Lewis, an MIT Strong teammate (she works at Lincoln Labs) 
running around mile 8 in Natick with Laura, a running partner, friend, neighbor - L Street Running Club

 Just after finishing, with Tom Gearty from MIT. SO happy!!

Me and Tim Mertz, my supervisor and teammate at MIT post race party  

 Me and the BEST cheering/support team - no one runs marathons alone! 

Friday, April 11, 2014

April 15, 2013: The day that changed Boston forever

Below are the words that I transcribed one year ago. I never officially posted them and wasn't sure I ever would. This week seems like the right time. A time to reflect on the last 12 months. I find it hard to put into words all of the emotions and thoughts that I have right now. I'm sad and anxious, and it feels funny to say that because we're constantly reminded... "Boston Strong! MIT Strong!" Some of those times, I'm just the opposite. I told myself months ago that I was either going to run the marathon this year or completely leave town that day. It's hard to watch the marathon on a normal year - I always get to that day and wish I was out there. This year, I knew if I wasn't out there I wouldn't be able to watch as a spectator.

I still have nightmares regularly, I still see the image of the bomb going off in front of me and I often envision bombs going off all over my life, at the grocery, on the T... etc... Another lasting affect is my ability to play out a violent scenario, I picture horrible things happening at the weirdest moments and then my imagination goes wild. I'm told by my therapist that these are normal thoughts to be having, that others who witnessed this event are having the same issues resurface, that I am not alone. 

I feel guilty for having emotional scars when I think about the survivors who lost limbs, their hearing, and Martin, Krystle, Lu, and Sean - the ones who innocently lost their lives. I feel guilty for not participating in more fundraisers and memorial events.

I find stength though, too. I find strength when I'm running with the L Street Running club, my neighbors, my new friends - they are uplifting and supportive. I find strength in the MIT team and the MIT community. Each day someone asks "how's training? are you ready? Good Luck!" They really care. I find strength in my partner, my family and friends. Jeremy is always there for me. When there are nights when he knows I can't function, he silently makes dinner, does the dishes, packs my lunch and takes care of me. He takes care of me. 

I'm thankful that back in the Fall, I was part of the small group of MIT staff (and student!) that got together and said, "We need to do something". We did need to do something, we all knew that when April rolled around, MIT had to have a presence at the marathon. We weren't sure what we were going to be able to get for numbers, but we weren't taking "No" for an answer. After finally received numbers, forming the team, and getting in the training - we're here, we've made it to mid-April. We are able to run for those who can't. We are able to run in honor and memory for those lives lost and those lives changed forever, mine included. 

When I think about next week, my first thought is, "the marathon, the running - that's the easy part". The anniversaries on the 15th and the 18th, those will be hard.

And When I read through the words below I wrote so long ago, I think.... the story had only begun....


April 22, 2013: I've been wanting to write down my account of the last 7 days, so here it goes:

Days before the marathon, I remember telling my coworker (who just moved here) that he was "missing the best day of the year in Boston" because he was going to be out of town. It was also Jeremy's first Marathon Monday. I was pretty excited to share this day with him as well. After spending years all over the Boston course, I decided it would be nice just to stay close to the finish line that day. In fact, on Saturday, a friend of mine offered us VIP passes to sit in the finish line grandstand, but we couldn't use the passes until after 2pm.

The morning of the marathon, I woke up early without an alarm and rushed Jeremy to get ready so we could head down to Bolyston St. to have breakfast at Whiskey's and watch all of the elite runners start in Hopkinton and the live coverage from the bar. After getting downtown, we walked right next to Marathon Sports, past the Forum restaurant, they setting up their outside tables. I even thought, "we should go there later, that would be a great place to sit and sip a cocktail and watch the runners." Little did I know just hours later, that restaurant would be the site of the 2nd explosion.

Around 11:30, we left Whiskey's to meet up with many of our friends at mile marker 25.6. For over 2 hours, we cheered for thousands of runners, sometimes standing on the railings to yell as close as we could for them to hear us. We said more than once what a fun day it was, the weather was perfect, we were together and our friends that were running (we were getting text updates) were doing so well.

We all started splitting up around 1:45p-2p. Shelby, another friend, was going to sit in the stands with Jeremy and I so us three headed over to the finish line around 2p. We were in a herd of people stretching from Hereferd all the way down Boyleston St. People were getting really pushy and it was really uncomfortable. Jeremy does not do well in crowds, so he was especially anxious. At one point, Shelby turned to me and asked me if I was doing OK as we were shoulder to shoulder. I told her that I was, just trying to stay calm and breath deep. Around 2:26p, I texted my friend and told her not to come meet us because we were in a "cluster of people near the finish". Once we got closer to the finish, the VIP passes came in handy. We were let inside a gate and it was much better, the crowds were less intense and the runners were right there. Jeremy was still pretty anxious, so he said he was going to wait for us outside to the right of the stands. He didn't want to come up back into a crowd. Shelby and I entered the stands and walked past the first set so we could get closer to the finish. We headed up and stood towards the top bench just behind the American Flag. I noticed that because I called Jeremy and told him that if he did want to come up, to use that as a reference to find us. That was around 2:35p.

I knew around 2:45p that I should be seeing some of my friends cross the finish line, so we looked and waited. We were right there and could see all of the runners right before they would finish. All of the international flags were in front of us, it was a beautiful scene in our beautiful city on a beautiful day. Then life stopped. There was a huge explosion directly across the street. Everyone stopped, no one said a word, we just stared and the smoke filled the stands. We had no idea what it was, my first thought was firecrackers or something innocent. Then, life stopped again and then second explosion occurred to the left of us down the street. At that point, I immediately knew this was no innocent incident and we were under some sort of attack. I also knew that the stands would be the next logical location. I bent down and began looking underneath the stands, I moved around Shelby and didn't see anything. I even thought, "we should jump down there". I looked across the street and saw a man laying on top of another person, it looked like he was shielding them from debris. Then I said to Shelby, "we need to move down towards the street, and fast". My thought was that there wouldn't be another bomb in the street. The volunteers by that point had pushed the barriers into the street and white smoke was everywhere. They were yelling to grab your children and leave the area, they were pointing us towards Exeter St. I took my phone out of my jacket pocket and texted Missy, Mom and Dad, "I'm OK". As we came to the end of the stands, Jeremy was standing looking for me and Shelby. I still can't believe we found each other so easily. We were just saying, "Oh my God" over and over again. We walked towards the South End and decided to just run home immediately. I told Shelby to get ahold of her parents too. We were getting texts while we were walking. People were so confused that didn't see what happened. I just started screaming at people that there were two bombs that went off on Boyleston. Sirens were everywhere for a very long time. Siren after siren. We ducked inside a doorway of a building and just hunched over in order to take a breath, I felt like I was going to get sick. We then ducked in to a restaurant who had live footage, it was just too much to see. We left and started walking home to Southie. We got home around 4p and were able to get in touch with all of our family members via facebook or cell phones.

The next few days were pretty intense, I couldn't sleep, eating was hard, I felt sick all day, everyday. The media was out of control. First there were reports that there was another bomb under the stands that did not detinate and another out at the JFK museum in Southie - both were false.

I was sitting on the couch watching TV on Thursday night, 4/18 (after the FBI released photo's of who they believed were responsible for the bombings) when I got the text about an active shooter on MIT's campus. I almost lost it. I immediately called the Z center. They weren't sure what was going on or what to do, then I called my boss, the Director of Recreation. He didn't answer. I called the Aquatics Director. He answered - we decided I would try to call our Athletic Director and he was going to try and get a hold of someone in the building again. By this time, there was a breaking news report on TV. It was reported that an officer was shot outside of the Stata Center. A building I had walked by hours earlier, on the phone with my mom, just checking in. A building that also houses one of our Rec Centers on campus. By this point, after 10p, that facility had closed and staff had gone home. The Z Center was still open and would be until 11p. Eventually the entire campus was put into lock-down mode. No one leaves or enters a building. Also by this time, the AD and my boss were in the Z Center coordinating the lock-down and gathering anyone in the building into an interior space. There were there for hours. The search was on for the gunman (no one knew that there was any connection to the bombers until the early hours of the morning) was on going and ended up taking them to Watertown, a nearby suburb of Boston. There the shootout occurred between the 2 gunmen and police, I watched it live on TV. It was crazy, the entire night was just unimaginable.

I finally went to bed around 1am, at that point the media was reporting that Sean was killed in the line of duty at MIT, I was an emotional mess and physically exhausted. I texted my boss that I wasn't in any shape to be at work the next day. Around 5am, my phone rang, it was my dad. He was telling me to turn on the news... that the gunmen the night before were the marathon bombers and that one was still on the loose in Boston. The entire city was then put on lock-down. I couldn't believe it. I was parked on my couch all day watching TV. I couldn't pull myself away from it. Finally, after hours and hours of searching, the city lifted the lock-down and that's when it happened. Minutes later a man in Watertown went outside, a natural thing to do when you're finally allowed to, and he noticed the tarp on his boat as ripped, he quietly put a ladder next to it to check it out and he saw blood and what looked to be a body. He immediately called the police and the arrest was made.

This is my personal account of the Boston Marathon and MIT tragedies of April 15 - 19, 2013.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Marathon Monday continued...

I’m currently hobbling around Boston/Cambridge, and loving every second of it! 

Race day started off as planned. I slept well after having a half of a glass of red wine to be able to calm down enough to relax (Thanks Mike!) I woke up around 4:30a and then headed to the Marriott in Copley via Jamie's jeep. I packed my green marathon bag with enough crap to last me for days, but hey, you never know when you're going to need duck tape, leg warmers, and a half eaten bagel... Angela and I were pretty much inseparable from then until around mile 13 of the marathon. We waited in line to be bused down to Hopkinton until at least 7:10a. We arrived around 8:15a to Athlete village and man did we have to go to the bathroom. There were runners asking to get off the moving buses to go into the woods to pee. It was crazy. We kept driving and seeing people randomly walking out of the woods in their running gear. I'll leave the rest to your imagination. 

We finally got around to the Dana Farber refuge and had our team photo. After we took the photo with all 550 of us, they asked all of the cancer survivors who were running to come down and take another photo. There were at least 15 people. I didn't even realize how many of my teammates were survivors. It was really amazing and emotional to see how far they've came. We were finally closing in on 10:40a and we were heading to the starting line "corrals". Literally, they corral you in these fenced off areas. I was heading through an entrance to the corral area and out of no where, Teddy Bruschi opened the gate for me. I gave him a high five and then was on my way! 

Fast forward to the start. I remember looking at Angela and saying, "holy $Hit. We're running the Boston Marathon!!" As most of you know, the first 5 miles are basically downhill. It's gradual too, so you barely even know that you're flying. I was tracking at a 10 minute mile pace for the first 13 miles which was right on track with where I wanted to be. I was running with a few of my team members but my knee was pretty tight on the right side. Around Wellesley College, things took a turn for the worse. The crazy yelling and the amount of people at Wellesley kept my attention for awhile away from the pain. Then it got REALLY bad. 

I told the girls to go ahead. I had to stop. My IT band tightened up on the right side and started pulling on my knee preventing me from being able to bend without severe pain. I stopped to stretch and then tried to continue running. All I could think at that point was how mad I was. I trained so hard for four and half months without too much pain. People kept yelling my name since it was on my shirt and also telling me how thankful they were for the money I raised for Dana Farber because of the singlet I was wearing. This is what kept me going. This and the thoughts of all of the people supporting me that day and the months before. I basically walked from mile 13-16 until I reached my Napoleon cheering squad. My parents, their friends, and some of my childhood friends came in for the weekend. They were there cheering so loudly and with such enthusiasm. I had to start running again. I thought about the pain I was in and then I thought about the cancer patients I was helping and how hours of exhaustion can't even compare to what my friend, RJ went through until he ultimately lost his fight against cancer. I cried at least five different times along the last 13 miles. I met a girl on the route who had the exact same injury, we walked those few miles together and then I knew I had it in me to run the rest. I wanted to run so badly. When I hit the Newton hills, I realized I was near the home stretch. I had run those last nine miles probably 15 times. That helped a ton because I knew what was ahead. I also ran into a fellow teammate who had the same injury, she suggested that I get sprayed with lidocaine at every medical tent to numb my leg and hip. Now that was a great idea! When I hit heartbreak hill, I just kept saying "I am resilient" over and over again. I was determined to run up that hill with vigor! I knew that some of my Ohio State friends and Mike were going to be just over heartbreak at BC, so I kept on my game face and ran through the pain. I was SO happy to see them! I gathered some energy and kept going. 

After that point, I took my last gel pack and got another burst of energy. When I turned on to Beacon St. in Coolige Corner, I was thinking about my friends at mile 23. They were all at PJ's and were probably going to be feeling pretty good by the time I got to them. I was right. Lauren ran with an American flag, PJ ran with a big sign with my name on it, and Dan ran with a beer can. They ran with me for at least one mile like that. It was EXACTLY what I needed.... then they got tired. 

By this point, I was approaching Kenmore square, near Fenway. The Dana Farber patients were cheering like crazy at mile 25 just going over the bridge over 90, I lost it again. They were so amazing, I couldn't hold it together. As we merged back on to Commonwealth, I thought of the last two years I watched the marathon from  that exact place and cheered people coming up that last hill. I flew up that hill and passed a few people on the way. Jamie could hardly keep up with her bike. I took the right on Hereford and was overcome with people cheering my name. I said outloud, "Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston." My body was shutting down, but I had to keep going. Once I took the left onto Boylston, I saw the finish down the way. All I could think was don't speed up yet, it's too far!  I remember seeing Tasha, RJ's wife, hanging over the fence SCREAMING my name yelling. Then I saw my friends and my parents next to her. I blew a kiss to my Mom, my hero, and a tear rolled down my face. I turned my head and the finish was right there. As I crossed the line that I've come to know so well in the city, I threw my hands in the air but I couldn't stop my feet from moving. It was the craziest thing. Then I abruptly stopped and almost fell over. I finished. I FINISHED!... and now all I wanted was some cold water. I finally found the place to pick up the medals and met up with some teammates and then was escorted back to the Marriott to meet up with my family and the rest of the team. 

Things I will remember about the race are my fans at miles 16, 21, 23 and the finish and of course, Jamie for biking along side of me during the last 10 miles. You were my angel on Monday. If I didn't have them there, I don't know how I would have finished. 

I will also never forget the last mile. I was in SO much pain, but the people and the energy got me to the finish. 

My Marathon Monday (photo montage)

 Mile 17 - "I'm going to finish!!"
 I finally made it to mile 21 to my Ohio State crew and Mike!
Man I was excited to see all of them!
 The final stretch on Boyleston. (please note my bike pacer, Jamie Drahos)
 Almost there!
 Man, this street is long...
 Angela (my twinsie) and I after the marathon! LOVE HER!
 Christy and I after - check out those medals!
 Super fans! They came from near and far for the marathon. I love you guys! 
Mom and Dad, my inspiration. 
Enjoying a nice beverage after the marathon, sporting my medal of course! 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dana Farber - Pasta Party!

Sunday night was the annual Pasta Party for Dana Farber. I knew that I wanted Tasha (RJ's wife) to be there with me and my parents. It was a pretty amazing night from the all you can eat pasta bar to the patient-partner presentation and In Memory slide show. We were all pretty emotional, but ended the night with smiles and excitement for the next day! 
 Tasha and I pointing at my name on the $5K board! 
 Me and Angela post gorging ourselves with pasta.
 Jack Fultz, our coach and winner of the 1976 Boston Marathon. "You don't know Jack.... Like I know Jack" 
The "In Memory" card I made for RJ

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Marathon Weekend - Saturday recap

After spending the entire week in New Orleans, I was so glad to be back to Boston late Friday night. All week I was really stressed about my IT band pain. I ended up getting two massages and purchased every form of stretching equipment out there. My suit case actually got searched at Boston-Logan because they found my massage stick and thought it was a weapon (it actually is in my case). By the end of the week I felt pretty good and was less worried about the IT band tightening up and pulling on my knee during the marathon. By the time I got home, I was much less stressed about that and the general anxiousness and nausea set in for the race. Yay.

Gretchen and Raelee (childhood friends from Napoleon, Oh) came to visit on Saturday morning. Us three have quite a past together and I was stoked that they came to watch the race! We headed straight to the Red Sox game with Shelby too - They won (finally)! Gretchie was somehow able to keep her Yankee's obsession under wraps. I warned her about Boston fans. I gingerly kept stretching my legs and tried to keep walking to a minimum. While waiting for our families to drive in from Ohio (their mom's joined my parents) we headed to the Boston Marathon Expo to pick up my bib number and score some free stuff.
 While we did pick up my bib (pictured below) I was SO overwhelmed with the people and the craziness that I decided it would be best if we just headed back to my apartment before heading to the North End for some dinner. I couldn't have been happier with my bib number though - #22234! I love it! While heading back to the bus stop I realized that if we didn't sprint to the stop we would be waiting in the cold and wind for another 30 minutes for the next bus. I told Gretch and Rae this news and turned and started running to the bus. I didn't look back to see if they were with me until I go there. They were there, but they weren't happy about it. Ha. Earlier in the day I believe Rae even said, "I don't even know if I would run if I was being chased." Well, you sure did!
Dinner on Saturday night was just what I needed. It was 15 of some of my closet friends and family. People were in from Columbus, Napoleon, Cincinnati, Chicago, and NYC! We ended up getting pretty rowdy and were sat in the basement of a small side street restaurant in the North End. That was probably a good decision on their part.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

a 5k? at 1pm on a Saturday? Now that sounds like a slice of heaven.

This is me and Angela after our 5K today! ... and after she pounded some hot dogs while I stuck with the burgers. MB joined us as well. The 5K replaced our group run today. We were pretty excited to be able to 1. sleep in on a Saturday and 2. only run a 5K. Both of our nagging injuries have subsided enough that running didn't seem painful today at all. I was able to kick it up on the hills and pass some people which felt pretty awesome. Tomorrow, I'm heading to Cohasset to run a 10K with the Eddington's. A fun filled weekend of running for sure! Less than 2 1/2 weeks to go until the big race. Now, I sleep.