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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Last long run, last long run, last long run.

Saturday morning, I woke up around 6am to start my long run morning routine. The great thing was, my foot felt about 75%. That was wayyy more than the 30% it was feeling a few days earlier. I filled up on pasta from the North End on Friday night and was feeling pretty healthy. The weather was back down in the 20's though, so I had to pull out my gloves and hat. Yuck. I had my standard bagel, peanut butter and banana with a side of coffee.

By about 7:30a, Angela and I arrived at BC to start the 20 miler with the Dana Farber team. We found a group of women that we typically run with and headed out. Within the first mile out on the course, there is a ridicilously steep hill. At the top, there was a TV camera, of course I start waving. Who wouldn't? (I later find out that EVERYONE else looks away from the camera and kept running... thank you Channel 7 news).

After some small talk, Angela points out that we're running way too fast. For some reason it felt slow to me, she pointed out that it could have been the "lines" I did before the run. JK. We were feeling good, heading down heartbreak hill is actually pretty fun. Thank goodness that we have team water stops every 2-2.5 miles. After running through multiple cities (Chesnut Hill, Newton, Wellesley) we eventually come to the 10 mile turn around. By this point, my foot had loosened up and I couldn't really feel it. I will attribute that to the numbing cold weather too.

Times like that, you start to dig deep. We started sharing the stories of our friends and family who battled or are battling cancer. I told my story to Pam, a woman that I've run with before. I got pretty emotional but was certain that talking about RJ would help not only my motivation, but the others around me listening to the fight that RJ put up. 

10 more miles later, we were back at BC. We conquered that 20 miler - all the time thinking "last long run, last long run." Well, until the marathon.

What happens after 18 miles and 9 hours of pub crawling = ?

Of couse I thought it would be a good idea to host the 4th annual PJ and Steph's pub crawl directly following an 18 mile run. Why not? I figured it would be better to run on Saturday morning BEFORE a day of drinking than trying to get up and run without my team the Sunday AFTER. Weighing both choices, I went with the run before. I sure was glad to be able to wake up on Sunday and not have to run. Instead, I was hungover all day and watched roughly 10 episodes of Sex in the City with six of my girlfriends in our living room. That evening, I met up with Malia and Angela to watch Ohio State bball. The best part was this was Angela's first experience hanging out watching Ohio State play. She was a little caught off guard when we started our first "O-H" cheer and then some OSU guy bought a round of shots for all of the OSU fans. I mean, it was 6pm on a Sunday... Afterwards, I regretted the beer and shot, but felt better when we were outside getting some fresh air. I did feel a little pain in my left foot, so I stopped to stretch.

Fast forward 10 hours and I couldn't walk. Shit. I was freaking out. I was looking up orthopedic doctors all morning, I went to the Athletic trainer at MIT and got taped up. He said I should ice 20 minutes at a time - throughout the day. I was also instructed to up my advil intake by "a lot". The entire week was 10 times more stressful because I couldn't walk. I was biking everywhere and had felt that I may not be able to run the marathon. Sleep wasn't happening either because of pain and stress. I eventually bought out CVS of all of their ankle wraps and advil and pretty much have exhausted both of my roommates and anyone I work closely with. I feel bad about that and will be forever thanking them for putting up with my whining and turbulant behavior over the last 5 months.

By Friday I was feeling more confident, but still not certain that I would be able to run the 20 miles on Saturday coming up. ARGGGG.

Monday, March 14, 2011

What NOT to eat before a long run.

Restaurant Week in Boston is a great time to check out restaurants that you've always wanted to try. The roomies (and Jamie) went to The Blue Room. I ordered chicken and CREAM SAUCE.

.... Fast forward to mile 9 of the 15 miles that Angela and I were doing with the Dana Farber team on the Minute Man bike trail. Thank goodness we came across a Dunkin (of course).

We made it through the 15 miles just fine and then proceeded to head to Harvard to eat and then went to Marathon Sports to get new running shoes since both of ours have lost their vigor. At least that's what we are attributed my foot tendinitis and her knee pain to! After collectively trying on 6 pairs of shoes, we both walked out of their with some new kicks. Well technically we had to go over to the Boyleston store for mine because they didn't have the right color (which apparently is a total running "no-no" to request a different color) but I did it anyways.

Typically, Saturday night is my night to go out. This past Saturday was a bit different. I came home, showered, put ice packs on both knees and both feet and made some dinner. Then, instead of heading out for a few hours, I went to work. What? Yep, you read that correctly, I went to work around 8pm. I biked in and was about to go in and realized I forgot my work keys, I hopped back on my bike and retrieved them. I was excited to be there though. It was the first annual Colleges Against Cancer - Relay for Life of MIT and I had volunteered to stay over night with the students to ensure everything was going well and be there if something did happen. The excitement wore off around 12n when I scavenged for some coffee. Instant energy! Around 3:30a, I was walking the track looking for trash and realized that my 4am kickboxing class was coming up. I hobbled over to the stage and started getting the students ready to kickbox! It went well and we all needed some form of activity to get us going again. That energy took me all the way to 7am when I was finally in bed. I was supposed to get up at 9am to join my friends and roommates for the annual Ras 5k in Davis Square. This race is special as it was the first 5k in Boston that I ran and I've ran it the last 4 years. I barely could speak when they came in to wake me up.

All in all, it was a pretty tiring week of running and cross training, but the outdoor track workout on Tuesday with Jamie and the outside river run with Tim on Thursday were just what I needed!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The day I lost my Crazy Dough pizza virginity.

Today was the longest run yet. The schedule I'm following said I should be running 18-20 miles today. Typically, my long runs are on Saturday's with the Dana Farber team. Due to my late night fundraiser on Friday night (that's a WHOLE other story). I got Angela to commit to running with me today so we could enjoy our night out on Friday and actually sleep in!!! I was waiting for her to call today to leave out on the run by occupying my time with watching the rain storm roll into Boston, getting more and more unmotivated by the minute. I decide to start reading my marathon book to help with motivation. Ironically (or not) the chapter that I'm on is all about staying motivated and mentally strong during a run. Just what I needed as I was laying under my fleece blanket drinking coffee on a Sunday...

Thank goodness when I got up to brush my teeth, Angela called and said she was ready to go. I answered the phone with, "I don't wanna". She wasn't having that and said to get my butt over to her place.

After loading up my pockets with my T pass (hey, you never know), a credit card, my ID, cell phone, head phones, 2 GU's, a pack of shot bloks, and my fuel belt.... I ran the 2 miles over to her place next to Fenway. We set out on the next 17 miles with the mindset that we WERE going to finish the milage, no matter how long it took us. We made it to BC and stopped at our favorite Dunkin to refuel our water and set off on the next 9 miles of hill repeats in Newton. At this point, we were both having one of the worst runs ever, but we kept the spirit up by telling college stories, talking about our grandparents, admiring all of the cute dogs, but most frequently we talked about food. We made a decision around mile 10 about what we were going to eat when we finished. Tuscan Pizza from Crazy Dough. Before today, I was a Crazy Dough virgin. I'm sad to say that I've been seriously missing out. We HOUSED almost the entire large pie.

If you take anything away from this pointless blog, take this:

The relationship between beer and running.

One of the first things I came across when moving to Boston was the amount of social events based on running... and beer. Many bars offer group runs throughout the week open for anyone who wants to meet at the bar and head out on the run. Then, you can come back and socialize over a pitcher of your choice. Typically, there's also food involved. This is one thing I love about Boston. Little did I know, the Dana Farber team also supports one of the local bars by attending one of these "bar runs" on Thursday nights.

Angela and I decided to hit up the bar run this past week. It was 20 degrees, windy, and dark when we left. The only great story that I have to share from this run (outside of Angela and I unintentionally going to second base on the T) was when I insisted we stop out the Dunkin Donuts near Boston College so I could use the restroom. I'll keep this rated "PG" by only saying that since we were so cold and numb from running, I didn't realize that my undergarments were NOT pulled all the way after we started running again. It was only until a certain "feeling" happened that I did realize this unfortunate situation. I basically stopped on the corner of Commonwealth and Chestnut hill and redefined "picking a wedgie". Again, this took my relationship with Angela to a whole new level.

After running hundreds of miles, you eventually come to a point where you don't really care that there are cars and cars of people around you. For instance, you being to perform the following without thinking about manners:
1. snot rockets
2. wedgie picking
3. wiping you face with your shirt, thus exposing your upper body.
4. (and my personal favorite) hawking a loogie.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The day a "short run" was 14 miles.

I never thought that I would ever be saying, "oh yeah, tomorrow is a short run. We only have to run 14." What da? This reminds me of a time when Kelly Exner could barely get me to run 1 mile on a treadmill at Victory Fitness in Columbus. Oh, the times have changed!

Yesterday's long run didn't start out too well. Actually, the day as a whole didn't start out too well.

I had to rent a zip car to get to the run since I would be driving to Sharon, Mass directly following the run to celebrate Anne and Kai's new baby, Natalie. I went to pick up the car in the garage around 7:30a. I quickly realized the car I rented wasn't there. After 5 minutes of trying to figure out why not (my coffee hadn't kicked in yet), I called Zip car. They abruptly informed me that I was in the wrong garage. Strike 1 for the day.

After I finally find the correct garage and Prius plug in car, I head to Lexington. I'm over by Harvard driving on Mem. drive and I look in my review mirror, the guy in the car behind looked like he also had a full body reflective running outfit on. I thought, "hmm, maybe he's going to the Dana Farber run too?" Then he turned his flashing lights on and pulled me over. Apparently, I didn't signal when I was changing lanes. Well, if you've ever driven in Boston, you'd know that there are rarely even lane lines. In fact, even less likely is someone using a blinker. Strike 2. (By this point I realize that I'm going to miss the group run send off and quickly call my girl crush to wait for me. Of course she says, "like I would leave without you?" I heart her.

14 miles, 1 pack of Cliff shot bloks, 1 lime flavored Gu, and a quick pit stop at Starbucks later... we're feeling good. I head out to the car and proceed to find my phone so I can get the address for the baby shower. Strike 3. My phone was not on and would not turn on. I had no idea where the shower was (other than in Sharon) and no way of getting a hold of anyone. I did eventually get some juice from the Droid (which ended up turning right back off). I somehow ended up in Foxburo at Gillette Stadium (about 45 miles from Lexington) hobbling around looking for a Verizon to buy a phone charger. NO luck. I do however know MB's cell phone number! YES! Thank goodness she answered a random number (since I had to call from the Verizon FIOS, not wireless store) and she had the address of the shower.

All in all, the day ended up being great. A fun run with my teammates during which our conversations ranged from the best ant-chafing underwear to our favorite post run drinks/food. After a relaxing afternoon on the couch, a bunch of us headed to the North End for dinner and then out by the Garden for some dancing.

The quote of the night for me was from Brett. "Steph, at what mileage do you stop dancing non-stop in the evening after a long run in the morning?"


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Girl crush. (Sorry I cheated on you, Jean).

In order to keep my momentum going, I decided to head to the Thursday night Crossroads pub run this evening. Now, I've done this run before, back when we weren't getting a new snow storm every Wednesday. The first attempt went so/so. I met two other girls that ran fast. I don't run fast. That night I had to run fast because I had no clue where the route went and I was not going to get lost running hill repeats in Newton at 9pm on a Thursday night. No thank you. I emailed everyone on the Dana Farber team that I know (four people to be exact) to see if they were going to the Crossroads run tonight. No one was. The initial thoughts I had were, "I could just run tomorrow morning" or "I'm going to sack up and run this thing and find a new friend". I went with the latter and headed to Crossroads straight after work. I mean, I did just buy new running gloves and a new hat....

Of course I get there and the only people I recognized with "those girls". The girls who clearly don't do anything without each other. They even had their fundraiser together last night. "Those girls" did not want anything to do with me. Luckily, they did introduce me to "that girl" that was in the corner not talking to "those girls". Her name was Angela. To make a long story short (9 miles and a 45 minute T ride really gives you some time to get to know each other), we're basically twins. At one point she looked at me and said, "we've been talking about food for 5 miles, I knew I was going to like you!" Other than the fact that she is 4 years younger than me, we're the same person. Italian. Short. Loud. Funny (or at least try to be). Sarcastic. Love music. Know PJ Aspesi. The list goes on... I can't wait to see where this girl crush goes.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Thank goodness for Teammates.

Step 1: apply and get accepted to the Dana Farber Marathon challenge. CHECK.
Step 2: celebrate getting accepted. CHECK CHECK.
Step 3: recover from celebration and begin hydrating/training
Step 4: Train, Eat, Sleep, Eat, ask people for money. 
Step 5: Repeat Step 4 until April 18th. 

In addition to my "to do" list above, I've really enjoyed forming friendships with the DFMC team. Now more than ever, I clearly understand how important a running buddy is. Already, I've been given various forms of NSAID's, rides to and from group runs, advice on everything going on in my life, stretching techniques, beer, food, offers to get set up on blind dates - you name it, we've talked about it on a run.

Last weekend, a teammate and I decided to go off track a bit with our group run. We eventually made it back to the running center that we all met at, but it was quite an adventure (not that 15 miles of running really needs to be more of an adventure...) 

Liquid courage.

For a few months, I've had random people say, "your life is insane. you should blog" (or something similar to that). After that advice and the fact that I will most likely NEVER run a marathon again, I thought I would blog about it.

So, here we go!

Let's just say I've had better ideas than running the Boston marathon. One of the women I run with (let's call her, Jean) was seriously questioning my sanity when I decided to train for this. It was a somewhat easy decision to at least apply to train and run with the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge. I had no idea at the time how competitive the DF team is. Against my better judgement (and a few glasses of wine later) I decided to go ahead and apply. What could it hurt to apply? I knew this year I was going to raise money in memory of RJ, so why not do it for the DFMC? I'd have to time to decide if I could or wanted to accept the challenge (if they accepted me first). I knew I could raise the money (thanks to you!!) What I didn't know is if I could commit to training. In Boston. In the winter. While I was in grad school and working full time. Thank you, liquid courage!

After weeks and weeks of not hearing from Dana Farber, I decided to stalk them through email. This turned in to about one email a week until I finally got denied. Well, I actually was "waitlisted" but to me, that just meant I was denied. By this point, I was already amped up and running more than usual. So, I decided to stay true to my Italian roots and not take "no" for an answer. I emailed them again and asked what were the chances I would be accepted this year? What number was I on the waitlist? Is there anything I can do to increase my chances? All I can say is within the next 4 hours, I had basically re-written my budget and fundraising goals and eventually was accepted!

My liquid courage has changed from a glass of red wine to gallons of pink gatorade.