Monday, April 28, 2008

Race Day Details – Verna

Race day was amazing, magical and over too quickly. This is being stated by someone who ran 26.2 miles in 6:08:15. It was definitely due to the near optimal weather for the day, the encouraging spectators and the evidence of teamwork as so many people worked together to setup, run and clean up each and every mile in a celebration of physical endurance and determination. I ran within myself and was hyper focused on my running to be sure to at least make it to Newton-Wellesley without looking totally spent and like I should call it a day. I listened to an iPod with music that my teenage girls composed for my husband to work out to. I was afraid to run without the music as I find it really keeps me moving.

I surprised myself in having plenty of energy and endurance right to the very end. I started eating GU fifteen minutes before the start and about every half hour there after. At NWH, my husband gave me a half of a tuna rollup and it was just in time as my stomach was beginning to feel queasy from emptiness. This was at 2:20 pm. I had been running for approximately four hours. Shortly after the Hospital Gel packets were handed out compliments of the Marathon. I found they go down much easier than the GU. I also accepted only a few orange slices on the route, as I hadn’t tested them out on any of my training runs. I carried twenty ounces of water in my belt to monitor the amount I drank. I was concerned about the possibility of developing hyponatremia (low sodium which can be life threatening) from over hydrating, as slow runners who don't sweat a lot are prime candidates. I took a cup of water from the last person at every water stop on the left side of the road. I would walk, drink two to three mouthfuls, lift my running cap and pour the rest on my head.

On race day morning, I awoke at 5:00 am and ate a bowl of oatmeal and raisins, a glass of orange juice, a banana and two glasses of water. I arrived at the Athlete's Village in Hopkinton with the Newton-Wellesley Medical crew, physical therapists and Gayle Olson at about 6:30 am. There were three enormous tents for the runners to hang out in while we waited for the 10:00 am start. The NWH team would start at 10:30 am as we were in the Wave 2 start with red numbered bibs. While passing the time I ate two bagels, two more bananas, two bottles of water and a cup of coffee. I had read that the two biggest mistakes runners make in a marathon is not eating enough and not drinking enough. I sure wasn't going to have that problem! By the way, I gained 14 lbs. training for this marathon! We will say that it is all muscle. I've heard it is not uncommon, especially for a slow runner. I am very fit even though I am heavier. Dwight and I blew up our air mattresses and got off our feet. We looked like pros!

It was so inspiring to be around so many people – many who have made a life out of traveling from one marathon to another. I even met a woman from Virginia named Verna. She came up to me as I had “VERNA” on my back in bold white tape. She said, “Hi, I have something to show you” and rolled up the pant leg of her sweats to reveal “VERNA” spelled vertically on her thigh. Turns out there were four “Vernas” running that day! The Marathon website is amazing! You can search for runners by name or by town or bib number or who knows what else. Suffice to say it is very versatile. My coworkers tracked me on the route and were right there with me for every mile.

When it was time for our numbers to line up at our corral we met up with Marshall Falk, the only other runner from NWH team that I saw that day. The three of us started together and were planning on 12-minute miles until we knew how we were feeling. Both Dwight and Marshall were running injured. I just wanted to make it to the end. No need for speed. The corrals seem to be close to a mile from the start. Boston is the oldest continuously running marathon in the world and the BAA and the towns have the running of it down to a science. I couldn't help but wonder how do the bandits get into the race. I have since read the book 26 Miles to Boston by Michael Connelly. It has all the answers. Heidi Angle recommended the book to all of us at our Pasta Dinner. It is a great read for anyone enamored with the Boston Marathon.

When the gun fired for the 10:30 am start I hit my watch and then realized it would be about 15 minutes before I crossed the actual starting line so I reset and began again when I hit the mat. The course starts on a hill and as far as you can see is a wall of humanity before you. It was so cool to be at this vantage point, the inside looking out. The route is lined with trees and my first shock was the number of men in the woods relieving themselves! We just left about a million porta-pottys in the Athlete's Village! Marshall soon got ahead of me and looked back. I waved him on, I didn't want to slow him down and pushing myself could mean I wouldn't finish so it was best that we each follow our own plan. I lost Dwight about the same time. He spent the next mile looking for me but I was also at a slower pace than Dwight. It turns out that I ran 11-minute miles for the first six miles. That was very fast for me since during the six 10K races that I have run, my pace has been 10-minute miles. I consider 10-minute miles the very fastest I can run. Longer distances are usually run at a slower pace. I thought I was probably running faster than I should have but I felt good and many many people were running faster than I. Truth be told when I put my name in the lottery to win this number, my running had been slacking off. I was finding it harder and harder to get to the gym in the morning and I was logging under six miles a week. I really didn't expect to win a coveted number as I know how difficult it is to get one and thought surely my chance at winning would be slim. FYI – at my age I would have to run another marathon in under four hours and five minutes to earn the right to run Boston with an official number. The only other way to get a number is to become part of a charity like Children's Hospital or in our case NWH provided the number, as they are the official medical provider of the race. So this Marathon has done so much for me...not the least of which is to revitalize my running passion. I'll have to finish this entry another night, as I must get to sleep. Till then …

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Gift of a Day – Heidi

Now that Patriots’ Day has come and gone, it seems a bit like a dream. The fact that it turned out to be such a perfect day for me adds to the dream-like quality! The entire Marathon weekend was great. The workweek was so busy that I didn't have much time to give the Marathon a thought. However, I was energized by all of the “good luck” wishes I received from patients, friends and co-workers. My son had a jazz band concert on Thursday night before the race and I was inspired by how good the kids had become with all of their hard work practicing. My husband and son went to the Expo with me on Friday night after work. We got there around 7:00 pm so had an hour to look around before it closed. My friend Jeannie was there as well so she gave us pointers to the highlights. The three of us then went out to dinner (steak frites for me: protein and carbs!), which was a fun way to end the night. On Saturday night, our family had dinner with good friends who provided me with a hearty pasta dinner. I had a quiet Sunday pre-race dinner at home with more pasta and lots of bread.

Jeannie had kindly invited me to go out to Hopkinton with her and the rest of the group running for the Matty Eappen Foundation. My husband got up early with me to drive me to our meeting point. It was great to have company while waiting for the Marathon to start. Jeannie brought along equipment to put names on our shirts, which I would never have done on my own. This turned out to be a key activity because I felt that I had all of Boston cheering for me along the course! Jeannie had the best bib number of the group as she had qualified for Boston, but we all lined up together at the back of the pack to start the race together. It took at least 15 minutes to get to the starting line and a solid sea of people filled my view of the course. Unlike last year, however, there were no puddles or piles of clothing to dodge at the beginning.

I ran with Jeannie for the first half of the Marathon and made that distance in just over two hours. While my primary goal was to finish and be healthy, my dream goal was to finish in four hours. I was feeling strong at the half and had the bulk of my “fan club” in Wellesley and Newton, which gave me that extra boost to pick up the pace a bit. My friend Michelle gave me my lucky liverwurst sandwich at Cliff Road in Wellesley (tradition from last year – high in calories and salt and easy to chew) for true fuel as a diet of nothing but GU gets to be a bit sickening. The highlight of the Marathon was getting to Warren Park in Wellesley where I initially saw neighbors and then saw my son. His presence and that of my husband, parents and in-laws really added to my sense of energy and strength. I then saw my neighbor Susan and her family; she’s been my running partner for I think eight years. While still on this “high” I got to Newton-Wellesley and saw co-workers from the labor floor in their telltale blue scrubs! Around this point a fellow marathoner actually made the comment that I had a lot of fans in the area.

Next came the Newton hills where having my name on my shirt afforded me lots of cheers from kind strangers. The funny occurrence in Newton was hearing a soft, questioning “Heidi?” and looking up to see my friend Kathleen who had delivered my son. I don't think she knew I was running and as she doesn't live in Newton, I wouldn't have thought to find her "spectating" there. For the rest of the run, I knew the four-hour finish was in my grasp if I could just hang in there. While the sun was bright, there was a nice breeze that prevented me from over-heating. The spectators near BC in Brookline tended to be younger and gave me new appreciation for my name. It turns out to be an easy one to turn into a chant so there were times when I would hear, “Heidi, Heidi, Heidi.” Thank goodness for the beautiful weather that brought out all of these spectators that kept us going.

Last year I don't remember seeing the Citgo sign or the Hancock building. This year, I knew when I reached the Citgo sign I had about a mile to go. I was also looking up to the Hancock tower where I knew my husband would be meeting me. I was confident at this point that I would get my “dream goal” of four hours. I could have slowed down at this point and still made it but I felt great and actually picked up my pace some more to cross the finish line. I did forget to look up at the cameras and pose for the finishing picture but that’s ok because I didn't have Martha to do it with!

In summary, it was an incredible day and a memorable event. I think it would be difficult to have another marathon be this enjoyable or to be lucky enough to feel as good as I did for another event. I probably should stop while I'm ahead and my body is intact. My finishing time actually qualifies me for Boston next year when I move into another age category. I'm going to enjoy the rest of this beautiful April vacation week with my family but will give that some thought in the months ahead!

A huge thank you to all of you who lined the course and made myself and the other runners felt like we could do it! Another huge thank you to Newton-Wellesley for providing me this opportunity.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I Made It! – Dwight

After 30+ years of “next year I'll run” and then letting life get in the way, the last five months have been terrific – especially April 21. The whole day was exciting from start to finish. Actually, it started the day before in Boston at the Fitness Expo at Hynes, picking up my bib number and race packet...thousands of runners and athletes taste testing the latest high-tech racing foods and participating in hydration/nutrition speaking events. Adidas had a booth that, after scanning the bib number, projected my name on a screen with a personalized note headlining a photo opportunity at the “finish line”.

The morning of the race began at 4:00 am with a bigger than usual bowl of yogurt, sunflower seeds, flax and bananas. I took Aleve for my sore knee, the one problem that had tempered my training for months. Pick up was at NWH Shipley Center with Gayle Olson and PT staff at 5:50 am for a ride to Hopkinton. As we traveled the Mass Pike, the distance we covered was noticeable - three exits to Route 495 felt even longer when it sank in that I would be running this distance…and this was just from NWH - still nine miles away from Copley.

We had four hours to sit at Athlete's Village at Hopkinton High School's football field with 25,000+ marathoners until the 10:30 am start. The time went fast as we chatted among ourselves and ate and drank all the water, Gatorade, bagels, etc. that were available. There were runners from across the country and around the world. A husband-wife-daughter team was in from Spokane for their third marathon this year and fifth time at Boston. This was just a step in their training for an Ironman Triathlon in June...they hardly believed this was my first marathon, especially since I had an air mattress with me like I was a veteran. Another man was running his 52nd marathon and his eight Boston and said Boston is by far the most difficult course and thus his favorite (surprise, surprise).

The starter gun went off at 10:30 am and it probably took 20 minutes to get to the starting line, walking slowly and gradually jogging...we were on our way! The weather was ideal - light sun, cool, in the 50s. After Hopkinton came Ashland with TG's cafe on the left already in full operation with well wishers and music pouring into the street - it was here that someone offered runners the first beer of the takers that I saw. Space began to open up between runners so everyone could pretty much settle into their pace and concentrate on the course, which is straight downhill the first four miles and into Framingham. Hydration (besides Budweiser from neighbors) was available every two miles (water, Gatorade) all along the course, which doubled as a perfect walk break for me as my rudimentary strategy was to run 15 minutes and walk one minute to push my “wall” (complete glycogen depletion) as far into the afternoon as possible.

Mile and kilometer markers kept us on track in our minds (where are we? how far have I run?) and Wellesley seemed to be a signpost as we broke through the halfway point. Wellesley College was a roar of noise with students screaming and waving signs (I'm from California, Kiss me!!) following an all-Korean runner /drum corps. I was really glad to get to Newton-Wellesley Hospital (17 miles), which was my personal longest run to date and where my wife Liz and daughter Lindsey were waiting. It was absolutely great! We took a minute for a photo and it was VERY tempting to not start running again and enjoy what was already an accomplishment. I don't recall who said that we only pass this way once in life, but it hadn't resonated as much as it did that minute. I NEEDED to keep moving into the Newton Hills, the most famous five miles of road in the world for runners. Away I went.

My pace slowed down considerably (a lot, actually) as I plodded up Commonwealth Avenue. My right knee, sore since February, was definitely swollen and I shortened my gait and dug in. Next, I passed my parents and son Eric at mile 19 and up to Boston College where the course and crowd entered a different plane - loud students, more beer offers, even birthday cake. The end was within striking distance and even “Six miles to go” sounded good. The CITGO sign appeared in the distance and somehow took forever to get closer but Kenmore Square finally arrived and there was about a mile remaining. Rounding the corner onto Boylston was the moment of realization that all the training, sore knees and frigid early morning winter runs was worth it. I raised my arms crossing the finish line like thousands before me - I completed the Boston Marathon! Thanks to my wife Liz, my family and all the kind and expert help from Newton-Wellesley Hospital staff for making this possible! See you on the road!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Day After – John

As I sit here with my finisher’s medal still on, I reflect on yesterday. I had quite a rough day. It was warmer than expected and I certainly felt the effects of the early aborted training. For me, it was the most challenging marathon experience of my nine marathons. I can still say I have finished every race I started.

I did get to see many folks on the course who either I knew or knew of me. I saw two of my fellow Newton-Wellesley runners early on who provided me with encouragement. My fellow blogger, Dr. Angle, passed by me at about the five-mile split with some words of encouragement. I ran a mile or so with Rick (congrats to Rick on Boston #20), who eloquently told me last month that the “roads would always be there for me”. On the way, I saw a few folks from my running club, the Greater Lowell Road Runners. I also saw Jayne in Framingham. Jayne is the sister of a co-worker who followed this blog (congrats Jayne on your first marathon). I got a word of encouragement from a co-worker, Steve who runs for Dana Farber at about the two-mile mark. Jimmy and I got to say hello in Needham Center to Dave, who is the MC for the Good Times running series. I did have fortune to run about eight miles of the race with my friend and running partner Jimmy (congrats to Jimmy on Boston #24). I also got a cheer from both semi-amateur photographers Jim Rhodes (who takes pictures at many road races – here is one from yesterday with Jimmy at the 30K point) and Ritchie. Ritchie put his camera down and encouraged me on. At Newton-Wellesley Hospital, I was cheered on and escorted by my wife and children for about a half mile.

I started the race off fast and strong. My friend Mike told me after the race, he passed me at about 4.5 and was surprised on how far ahead I was and felt I went out too fast (he was correct as I went out at my fully trained marathon pace). Right after the 5K mark, I started to examine my strategy. Due to the lack of training, I started to think I would never finish at this rate. I settled into a 20/10 run/walk and kept this up for about the next 14 miles. However, I felt my legs starting to weaken at about the halfway mark.

I had to say goodbye to Jimmy about 19.5 miles into the race. For Jimmy, this is the first time he was able to pass me in a race longer than 10 miles, and I was happy for him. My quadriceps started to go into spasm and stayed in spasm for the rest of the distance. This turned the last 10K into a freakish pain fest for me, unlike anything I had done before. I continued on run/walking as well as I could. I was determined to give my best effort to finish what I started. At Heartbreak Hill I met a very nice runner named Lee from a church group. She was not a marathoner, but her group was jogging up the hill with folks who looked like they needed help. She was very encouraging and I was sad to see her go. It was a great way to get up the hill. I continued on in the last 10K with the pain and spasms growing. I started to doubt my ability to finish. I am now “paying” for that willpower right now, as I can barely climb a step.

I was able to make all the timing mats prior to their dismantlement, but unfortunately due to the injury it looks like I did not get an official time. The BAA stops the clock at about 6:00, which until now was longer than my longest time. Jimmy, who was about nine minutes ahead of me, did get an official time. However, I still wear my finisher’s medal today with pride in my achievement. Lack of an official time means no finisher’s certificate or listing in the record book or newspaper. My running club’s open male team did not have enough finishers with official time to rank. However, I believe my comment on not being able to finish was ‘So What’. Since I did finish, I’ll take that statement and apply it to the official time. In pretty much any other marathon in the world, I would have been able to get an official time, however Boston is one of the only marathons in the world with such time constraints and qualifying times (The U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials are the only other marathons requiring a qualifying time). I consider myself fortunate for just finishing.

I would like to thank a great many people. I’d like to thank all the folks at Newton-Wellesley for again making this possible for me. I’d like to thank the fans and the folks I saw along the way for their cheers. My thanks also to the folks from Greater Lowell Road Runners for again providing the pre- and post-race amenities that the club offers. Most of all, I would like to thank my family and friends for their support over the last six weeks. Right now, I’m saying, “Never another Marathon. Nine is enough”. However, I’ll probably be saying, “see you next year” in a few weeks.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Pre-Marathon Info – Heidi

Friends, family and co-workers have given me lots of energy with their good wishes for the Marathon on Monday. Newton-Wellesley hosted a pasta dinner for the Newton-Wellesley runners last night. It has been great to have a few “team” gatherings this year. Everyone has been asking me what I'll be wearing and where they can see me, which are both hard to gauge until I see a weather report Sunday night and see how my body holds up over the long course.

BUT, here are my guesses! First of all, my number is 24,157 and the start time for us non-elite runners is 10:30 am. Based on my experience from last year, I think it will take a good ten minutes to even reach the starting line and, given the crowds, the first mile or two is slow. The weather report now is for 50s and drizzle. If it's over 50 I'm hoping to wear the Newton-Wellesley “outfit” I was provided with last year, which turned out to be a bad match for the horrific weather! I have a white Adidas singlet that is plain on the front, has black stripes on the side and a Newton-Wellesley logo on the back in blue. I have black shorts with blue stripes on the sides. Last year the weather was so bad, I wore my black Nike dri-fit hat. I only have one other hat, which I'll wear this year. It is white and my choice in hopes the weather won't be so bleak! I'm going to see if anyone has a Newton-Wellesley patch or something I can affix to the front.

Last year my pace was roughly ten-minute miles, which included walking at Gatorade stops every 30 minutes and a bathroom break at the Burger King along the route. Since I'm crazy enough to do this again, my goal for myself is to improve my time. I would love to be closer to nine-minute miles (but don't want to set myself up for a fall as the ultimate goal is to finish and be healthy). I am hoping to not stop at all so don't be upset if I don't stop to chat. I'll be looking for all of you and I can't tell you how great it is to see familiar faces out there. The runners completely draw on the energy of the crowds! My biggest question for myself is whether I can complete the distance without one porta-pottie stop. I'll let you know next week! You'll have to do the math in terms of when I should be where but I'm hoping to be in Wellesley and then into Newton in the very wide range of 12:40 to 1:40 (give or take half an hour on either side).

Thanks again to all of you for your good wishes and moral support!

Eager and Ready – Verna

Race day is three days away and yet I want to finish my training story, so here goes. When I completed the 20 miler I felt like I could run further but I was happy to stop, as I was very, very hungry. I felt very strong and confident and was excited to tackle more rigorous training and pick it up a notch. There weren’t many free days left on my calendar for long runs and I still was experimenting with food and drinks. I wanted to learn how to avoid the two most frequent mistakes runners make while running a marathon, consuming too few calories and not hydrating adequately. Three days after the 20 miler, I ran 12 miles on the grass on Commonwealth Ave. from my home in Needham over the Hills in Newton to Boston College and back. By the end I had some very mild foot cramping in my right foot. I considered the run a success. I did two more four-mile runs in that week and on Saturday I attended a Bat Mitzvah and spent all day and night in four-inch high heels dancing the night away. High heels and peak Marathon training do not mix! Sunday I swam 30 minutes and did a nine-mile run. I found that I had developed shin splints in both legs and that I cannot drink Gatorade! I was defeated. I rested on Monday.

I had run 53 miles in 10 days, which was a lot for me. I had made a training mistake. The whole strategy of my training was to get the most out of the least. Run just enough miles to accomplish the goal of simply crossing the finish line. I ignored my shin splints and logged 26 miles of hills focusing on this incredibly long downhill on Paul Revere Road in Needham. Downhills are a great challenge for runners because they can cause a debilitating muscle weakness due to too many eccentric contractions. Grete Waitz had won three NYC marathons yet had to drop out of the 1982 Boston Marathon because she wasn’t conditioned to run the downhills after her torrid pace during the first 21 miles. Boston is all downhill after BC.

It was April 1 and I had shin splints. I ran 16 miles that week. I was now concerned that if I ran 26 miles with shin splints that I might more seriously injure myself or even worse not cross the finish line. I was feeling extremely tired and weak. I wish that I could feel strong like I did back on March 20. I did not feel ready, I felt weak. Carl Faust advised me to ice my shins and get on the bike or elliptical to keep up my aerobic capacity but not to run anymore because I got my 20 miler in and he felt I was ready. I started doing daily yoga and limited my running to an easy nine miles that week because when I didn’t run I doubted that I could run. I have done yoga throughout my training. I find it to be a much more interesting way of stretching before and after runs. I try to do three sun salutations before a run and longer yoga routines after. On Tuesday, Gayle Olson saw me on the elliptical and told me to take it easy, that I should be resting. I told her about my shin splints and she asked why I hadn’t come to see her. So Gayle did some orthopedic magic and guess what my shin splints are gone! That brings us up to today and I finally feel rested. I am ready. I am eager and ready. Anxious to live the dream! My bib number is 24158 and I can be tracked on the on Marathon day April 21, 2008. On Marathon day.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Road to Copley – Dwight

It has been six weeks of ups and downs since my last entry about the road to Copley Square; soreness in my right knee sidelined me for a solid week while I “regrouped” – could I continue without risking injury?

Sixteen miles seemed to be the can't-go-farther mark while I talked to as many people as possible (PT, other runners, ortho doctor). My stride was affected and my run became more of a quickened walk while I compensated for the tender kneecap. Advil and ice helped and so did exercises for my hamstrings (designed to strengthen the main propulsion muscle, relieving the knee) from Newton-Wellesley Hospital’s Physical Therapy group. Rest and less roadwork were supplemented with hours on a stationary bike to keep up my cardio/aerobic levels and I feel strong and, best of all, ready for Patriot's Day! My long run remains the 16 miles that I ran six weeks ago. I was hoping to get a 20 miler in two weeks ago and ran 10 (from Natick to Boston College) instead.

Good luck to all the runners! See you in Hopkinton!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Reflections After the Last Weekend “Long Run” – Heidi

I just ran eight miles this morning, which completes the last significant run of my training. Despite the dismal weather forecast for Saturday morning, it turned out to be a beautiful spring day! However, when I awoke to the sounds of torrential downpour outside my window at 6:00 am, it brought me back to the fear in my heart with the sounds of the storm before the Marathon a year ago. I haven’t even looked at the weather forecast for the 21st and won’t until the end of the week because weather is so changeable in New England and obviously I have no control over whatever it decides to do!

Many people have asked me this week “if I am ready?” I don’t know but I have done a reasonable job with following my training schedule and am as ready as I’m going to be. My husband brought me home a cough a week ago so that’s been aggravated by running and is a bit annoying, but I feel fine. I have finally decided my knee pain must be due to iliotibial band syndrome so over this taper period I have replaced one run with a stationary bike session, stretched more and run a few more dirt surfaces than pavement. Gayle Olson at the Shipley Fitness Center at Newton-Wellesley Hospital has “tweaked” my whole body several times over the last two weeks and I am convinced that her hands are magic. Gayle, thank you again for your time and expertise! In terms of the ITB issue, in retrospect, I should have cross trained more and stretched more but it is too late now and my knee pain hasn’t prevented me from doing any of my runs.

Now that today’s run is behind me, I have minimal mileage to do until the Marathon. This should continue to help the healing of my cough and knee. I have a busy week ahead of me so it is fortuitous that I don’t have to give much time to running. The most important event coming up is my son’s thirteenth birthday. I think I might be enjoying an extra piece of the peppermint ice cream pie he’s requested I make! We’ll have a family dinner at home and another with all of the grandparents. I’ll likely miss a night’s sleep on the 15th as I’ll be on call. This was also my situation before the Marathon last year and I do not think it set me back at all. I haven’t been to the Suburban Striders Practices this winter at the indoor track but hope to attend this Wednesday on my day off and meet our new coach. There is also a plan for a group of us running Boston to meet for coffee after practice and psych ourselves up for the Marathon. I’m curious to find out what others are doing in terms of driving out to Hopkinton, etc. Thursday, the Hospital is having a pasta dinner for the runners, which I’ll attend before sneaking out a bit early to attend my son’s band concert. Friday I have a full day of work. I hope to get to the Marathon Expo that evening and pick up my number. I’m hoping my husband and son will be able to go into town with me and spend a few minutes looking at the vendors and exhibitors.

There are a few things I won’t do this week. I won’t do any speed work or hill work as I’ve learned that just makes my Achilles tendon tight. I won’t get take out for lunch at work as over a year ago, most of our office got horrific food poisoning that put us out of commission for a number of days and caused me to miss a road race I had registered for. I won’t drink much wine when we go over to good friends for dinner on the 19th as I’ll want to be as hydrated as possible for Monday. I won’t plan what I’m going to wear to run on the 21st as who knows what the weather will be like this year!

I’m Back – John

For those of you who noticed I have not made an entry in a month, there is a reason. I had to take four weeks of personal leave from work to deal with some issues on the home front. All is relatively well now. During this period, I was able to watch my diet and run on a regular basis. However, due to this I could not continue my training. My training plan was essentially halted.

I received an e-mail from a running acquaintance asking me if I was running the ES 20 this year, and I told him of my issues. He was kind and told me, “the roads will always be there for you.”

I have been issued bib number 24156 (all the way in the back). I have decided to pick my number up this coming weekend and line up in Hopkinton. As a veteran of eight full marathons in the last six years, I will be relying more heavily on a few things. I’ll be leaning on my residual fitness, force of will and the grace of God much more than I was planning on. One of my other friends reminded me I had nothing to prove, even to myself. So if I am unable to finish, as Madonna said in the 80’s, “So What”.

Yesterday, I got out for a “double digit” run. It was the longest in four weeks. It felt good and the weather was excellent. I will probably run only two more times or so prior to Patriot’s Day. They will be shorter runs to keep me loose, and I will probably bring my faithful companion, as she hasn’t gotten much running with me of late.

Monday, April 7, 2008

My 20 Miler – Verna

I chose Thursday, March 20 for my 20 miler as I had the day off from working the weekend. It was a very exciting run because I chose to run from NWH to the finish line and back! It was overcast, the temperature perfect and I was very comfortably dressed in the blue and white NWH training suit each of the Hospital team members were given. I love running on the grass on Com. Ave. and have the Hills in Newton memorized by now. They seem like a friend to me, but when they appear on race day as mile 17 through 21 I'm sure it will be a very different story.

My plan was to eat one packet of GU every hour and supplement it with sports beans and water to see how my energy held up. My marathon strategy is to walk early and often but on this day I was feeling so good I didn't want to walk. So the only walk breaks I took were when I ate GU, which was about every hour. This 20 miler did take me four and a half hours but it was a blissful day! After the Newton Hills, I was faced with cement sidewalks. Thus far in my training I have sought out grass and gravel whenever possible, asphalt as a second choice, avoiding cement at all costs. I contemplated turning back, but I wanted to see the finish line. Brookline was bustling with people, cars and the Trolley. It was fun to run by the window displays of so many shops and I saw a few Zagat-rated restaurants to make note of. By the time I got to what used to be the Eliot Hotel, I stopped to ask which street the Marathon route turned on to get to Boylston. I had remembered that years ago that used to be a Marathon Sports Bar with all kinds of memorabilia decorating its walls. Alas, the lounge is upscale now, but the hostess was able to direct me one street down to Hereford and I was on my way. I felt like a very small character in a fairy tale as the closer I came to the finish the larger the buildings loomed around me.

I was very happy to take a little break at the Boston Public Library. There are clean bathrooms and I filled my empty water bottles. There is a nice coffee/lunch shop in the map room and I took in an exhibit about “Upstanders” – New Englanders who have done extraordinary things for others choosing to “stand up rather than stand by”. I chose to save the lunchroom for another day as I was trying to monitor my fuel for race day.

I was in awe that I had actually just run to Boston and I was still filled with excitement to run back to the Hospital. The excitement started to fade as I began a very grueling uphill run. From Kenmore Square back to Newton was a relentless uphill trek, one and a half hours worth! My mantra became “sure could use a downhill!”. I was facing an awful afternoon head wind to boot. I had some brief relief at BC with a downhill that took all of thirty seconds before I started the backside of Heartbreak. The downhill at Heartbreak was sweet relief!

Through these up hills I had run out of food and I was hungry...stomach growling hungry! GU for the uninitiated is a frosting-like substance for energy. I definitely notice an energy surge when I have one but I simply ran out. One of the tips for runners is learn to eat on the run to be sure to consume enough calories for the run. On average a mile burns 100 calories. Do the math... 2600 calories! I need to find more food to carry. Another tip...don’t eat or drink anything you have not tried out on a run. Thankfully, I had food in my car at the Hospital.

After the run I felt like my knees were three times there size and I had some difficulty bending them. I ate within a half hour of running with the right ratio of carbohydrate to protein. I stretched and gave myself a cool bath after my run to facilitate a quick recovery. My next opportunity for a long run would be three days away. I was a little concerned that it would be too soon but with my work and family obligations it would have to be then or too close to the taper portion of training.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

AAAaaahhh, the Taper! – Heidi

I was really worried about the last long run this past weekend, but it was successful and I now have no runs longer than eight miles on my training schedule. That is not to say that others aren’t doing longer runs. One of my weekend running companions is part of the L Street Running Club, and she is doing a 14-mile run this weekend and then 12 the following weekend. I’m planning on sticking with what I already have on my calendar!

In terms of the weekend run, I guess if I can’t run with Martha this year, then having her neighbor Jeannie (who is also an anesthesiologist) for a running partner is phenomenally lucky! Jeannie organized a group of four women for our Sunday 20 miler. She used the L Street starting point of the Natick Armory. The other members of our group were Cathy, who I met this fall at the BAA Half Marathon and Anita, whose husband Peter was kind enough to wake up early on Sunday morning and drive us all out to Natick. I had to laugh to myself as Peter asked why we had to start so early in the morning. This is my husband’s number one complaint with marathon training!!!! However, like Peter, he has been incredibly supportive.

We had a gorgeous spring day for our run and fortunately Sunday was far warmer and less windy than Saturday when so many others in training were on the Marathon route. I didn’t sleep well the night before the run as I was worrying about my knees and my overall stamina. However, it made all the difference in the world to have company to talk to over the three plus hours we were running. We all made it to our end point in Boston alive and well, having maintained a solid and steady pace. There were also lots of support tables on the course so we helped ourselves to Gu from the Marathon Sports/Adidas table at the start of the Newton hills (the “Espresso Love” flavor is not too shabby) and Advil and Gatorade at a Children’s Hospital table at about mile 16. Completing the last long run was a huge relief. I’m grateful to the wonderful women I ran with for making it enjoyable.

Just when you think you can sit back and relax with your recent effort, someone comes along to put what you’ve done into perspective and give you a glimpse at other challenges. I certainly see my patients do this on a daily basis with medical issues. On the athletic front, I was in awe of one of my long-term patients who mentioned she had not only done an Iron Man this fall but also had then run another marathon this winter. Congratulations again, Paula.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Weekend Run in DC/Sore Left Knee – Heidi

I had one of those beautiful runs of a lifetime this weekend in Washington, DC. Another one that comes to mind is running along Lake Michigan in Chicago last fall. At any rate, my family flew into DC on Friday morning for the weekend. My left knee has been intermittently sore since my previous 20-mile run so I didn't run on Friday but enjoyed lots of walking from our hotel to many of the sites along the mall.

I had a 13-mile run on my “schedule” for Saturday. My husband was on west coast time due to a business trip and my almost 13-year-old son has started to enjoy sleeping in, so they were still sound asleep when I snuck out of our hotel room at about 7:30 on Saturday morning. Rain had been forecast but the day was bright and clear although windy. I headed down toward the Washington Monument and then ran toward the Lincoln Memorial. I knew from a Runner's World article this month that there was a way to head over a bridge and get to a running trail in a park but I hadn't taken time to study a map. There were lots of other runners out so I followed two men ahead of me that seemed to know where they were going.

I headed over a bridge and kept following their lead and then got tears in my eyes when I realized they had led me to the edge of Arlington Cemetery. I followed them along a path outside the cemetery wall and then saw a road sign pointing to the Iwo Jima Memorial so took a breather and walked up the hill to view this stunning monument. It was such a beautiful spring day with trees and flowers in early bloom that it was a bit emotional to feel so alive and contemplating those that are no longer with us. Once I had left the Iwo Jima Memorial, I started running back along the path toward the bridge I had crossed and headed back into the mall area. I ran again until I reached the Korean War Memorial, which is another moving work and again walked to view it. Next I headed back up the mall toward the Smithsonian buildings, running toward the Capitol. The path in the center of the mall is firm packed dirt with loose rock and after a few blocks of this I decided it wasn't the best surface for my knee so switched to the firm sidewalks. Capitol Hill is most definitely a hill and that climb slowed me down a bit but I ran behind the Capitol to the front of the Supreme Court and then back down the hill to return to the Smithsonian admiring the new spring flowers and the beautiful design of the Native American Museum.

At that point I'd had a phenomenal tour of the area and was hungry, thirsty, wondering if my family was awake and starting to have more and more left knee discomfort. By the time I had made it back to my hotel, I had "only" run 10.6 miles but didn't have it in me to do my full 13. I rationalized that I'd get a lot more miles in while walking the rest of the day (which I did). It was certainly a run I'll never forget and hope to have the opportunity to repeat in the future.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Checking Off My Long Runs! – Verna

Well, I am way behind on my blog entries… since the first one I submitted was only an introduction. The last 12 weeks, since I began my marathon training in earnest, have been extremely challenging. An April race… I somehow had visions of training in beautiful spring weather. What was I thinking? A slip on the ice in my driveway injured my back and I wasn’t able to run for about three weeks during December. So my training began slowly indoors on the treadmill. Did you know that the treadmill was originally invented as a torture for prison inmates? Heck, by now I almost enjoy the treadmills at Shipley where I can watch VH1 and listen to the top 20 music videos! On January 28 when the NWH Marathon Team gathered at Allen-Riddle, Carl Faust of Physical Therapy found out that I had been holding on during my runs on the treadmill. It gave Carl and a few others quite a laugh. Carl advised me to use my arms like I would during the race. He also told me that I should run with at least a 2.0 percent incline otherwise I would damage my hamstrings when I got out on the road. I am proud to report that I have completed a 10-mile on the treadmill with a variable incline and without holding on!

My first outside long run did not happen until February 2. I ran from my house in Needham to the top of Heartbreak Hill and home again for 10 miles. It felt so great to complete that distance outside! I cannot describe the excitement I felt on that day. During this run I drank twenty ounces of water! This is disconcerting to me because it was February, cold and only 10 miles. What will I have to drink to 26 miles comfortably in much warmer temperatures?

You may realize that there are a series of four hills in Newton, beginning at the bridge over 128. These hills are not so steep as they are long and their location in the race beginning at about mile 16 is daunting to say the least. At the base of Heartbreak Hill is the “Young at Heart” statue featuring Johnny A. Kelley as a young man joining raised hands with an older version of himself. He started 61 Boston Marathons dating back to 1928 and lived to be the ripe age of 97! The statue was dedicated to Johnny in 1993 because the infamous hill was named Heartbreak after Johnny claimed it was at this point that he lost the race in 1936. Johnny served as Grand Marshall from 1995 until his death in 2004.

For my next long run I repeated Heartbreak Hill beginning at the Hospital with Marshall Falk who is also on the NWH team. Marshall is a seasoned athlete having played soccer in high school and college and still currently plays. Running is a new sport for Marshall, but compared to me he is not a beginner. I know I slowed him down but he helped me pick up my pace and gave me some great tips. On the down hills, Marshall taught me to throw my heels up and back and let the hill take me. I found this to be a great relief on my calf muscles after high mileage. He also reminded me to lift my knees high on the up hill to keep my stride long. Marshall has signed up for several shorter races as part of his training for Boston and he told me about the gifts like running gloves he has collected along the way. Marshall has even entered a 20-mile race on March 30! He said I could join him if I liked…I think not.

I am following a beginner’s running program and although I hope to be running a 20 miler on that weekend, my program advises to only “race” that distance once at the peak of your training. My goal for this race is simply to finish uninjured and preferably not embarrassingly slow. The race director Dave McGillivray starts the marathon after most of the runners have finished to make sure he is the last to cross the finish line. Let’s hope I don’t see him!

Fifteen and a half miles from home to Cleveland Circle and back is my longest run to date. I have Bob Page to thank for getting me out there that Saturday morning. I was very discouraged on Friday at work because I had planned to do my long run on Saturday and rain was in the weather forecast. The day before and after a long run is a day of rest. So I was wasting a glorious Friday and probably wouldn’t be able to run on Saturday! Bob used to be a runner himself and reminded me how pleasant running in a light rain could be. So I went along with my planned run and set out early Saturday. I was home before the torrential rains began! This run is the run that gave me the confidence that I might actually be able to complete this marathon as I felt I could run farther but after three hours and forty-five minutes I had run out of time. I need to get a whole lot faster if I don’t want to be running all day!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Weeks Away from the Marathon – Heidi

I realized while on call tonight that I am late in writing a blog this week. Having just delivered a healthy boy, I thought I'd take a break from my office paperwork to compose an entry. I had to turn around and look at the calendar behind my desk to see that the Marathon is five weeks away. That knowledge is both scary and exciting. I'm ready to not give the bulk of a weekend day up to a long run but I don't feel like it's time to be lining up with thousands of others in Hopkinton on Patriot's Day.

I successfully ran another 20 miles this weekend and am scheduled to do (only!) one more 20-mile run in two weeks. I didn't want to miss my son’s basketball game this weekend and the weather reports weren't great so I wasn't sure when I was going to run. All of my potential running partners were busy or doing the New Bedford half marathon so I also didn't have a partner lined up. While driving to the basketball game Saturday, a lot of the other marathoners-in-training were braving the wet snow along Route 16 in Wellesley. Fortunately for me, the precipitation stopped after the game so I decided to get my 20 miler over with when I got home. The thought of 20 miles with nothing but my iPod for company was daunting, so my husband agreed to run four with me – every little bit counts! He's also thinking he might run the last few miles at the end of the Marathon to help me keep going so he's feeling he needs to get into shape for that. We did a 4.4-mile loop in our neighborhood and then I stopped by our house to get my fuel belt and iPod for the next 15.6. I've never run more than 13 miles on my own, but it wasn't so bad. Fortunately, my husband had downloaded some new music onto my iPod and the weather was relatively mild. I actually felt strong and fast for the next 10 miles or so. My sad moment during the run was realizing I had left my “snacks” back at home on the kitchen counter so I had only Gatorade to enjoy and to break up the miles. My knees started feeling the distance for the last stretch, especially the left one, but I don't think that's too unusual given the distance. Once I was home, it was a huge relief NOT to have that 20 miler hanging over me for the rest of the weekend.

My knees were still a bit sore when I ran again Sunday morning with my neighbor and again Monday evening while my son was at tennis. Although I'm away from home and on-call tonight, today is a day of rest in terms of running! I'm supposed to do a 13-mile run this coming weekend and then one last 20-mile run the following weekend. I'm definitely looking forward to the taper process at the end of the training program!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Tough Week – John

I am sick again and now on antibiotics. I just spoke to my friends Paul and Jimmy to let them know that I would not be running the New Bedford Half Marathon. I also just informed the president of my running club to take me off the list since the club pays for entry to this race. Now in addition, my son just fell down and hurt his legs so my wife took him to the ER.

I sit here with the company of my faithful companion. I reflect on the fact that “Marathoning” is a very selfish activity. I reflect on how I appreciate my family’s tolerance of both my morbid obesity and my self-indulgence for almost seven years. Maybe I can make Boston this year. I look at the poster in my home office, “Impossible is Nothing”. I need that level of positive thinking right now.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New Long-Run Companion - Heidi

I’m more than halfway through this year’s marathon training, and the question I still get with the greatest frequency is whether or not Martha is running this year. For those of you who are new to this blog, Martha is my co-worker and now dear friend and we trained for Boston last year and finished hand in hand. She also kept me going with hilarious stories on all of our long runs. This year, I’m doing a lot of my training on my own but am trying to find company for the long runs to maintain my sanity. Because my schedule and family demands are a bit crazy, I usually work something out last minute or hope that the music on my iPod shuffle will keep me going if I am solo.

This Sunday I had a new running companion for 15 miles up and down the Newton hills. Goldie, who works in the Psychiatry Department at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, also received a Boston number through the Hospital lottery this year. She had posted a blog response wondering if we could run together. We planned via email to meet at the Hospital and it sounded as though we’d be well matched in terms of mileage goals and pace.

I think the first words out of my mouth when we met in front of the Surgical Center were, “you’re young!” I don’t consider myself old at age 44, but finding that your running companion is twenty years younger than you does make you feel a bit antique. Although now I’m feeling pleased that I could keep up with someone twenty years younger!

I think the beauty of the sport of running is that it brings people together and the atmosphere at a road race is always fun and social but healthy. Despite our age difference, Goldie and I had plenty to talk about in our two and a half hours or so of battling the hills and the frigid wind on Sunday morning. It was great to meet someone new and share running and life experiences. It was inspiring to hear that Goldie is fitting her marathon training into an already packed schedule of a full-time job, an organic chemistry course and a serious relationship. I really enjoyed the run and getting to know another member of the Newton-Wellesley Hospital team.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Becoming a Marathoner – Dwight

My name is Dwight Heiman, age 46, and I have been your typical weekend warrior type of runner. Two, three or four times a week at best with runs of three, four or five miles with a “long run” of six miles once or twice a year when I was feeling ambitious (usually after watching the Boston Marathon at mile 19 - our family’s regular spot). Actually running the 26 miles has always seemed out of reach - I get tired driving a car 26 miles.

Now, with six weeks to go, I am up to 16 miles and think about Patriot’s Day at least once every waking hour - this is going to happen and I am beyond excited! I went for a physical and my doctor told me that my knees were too healthy, but luckily he had a cure. “Pick a Monday in April,” he said, “and gather 30,000 close friends who have good knees too, and then run five times farther than you ever have, and voila! You're a marathoner!”

I picked a running program with Carl Faust's assistance designed to keep me on my feet for 26 miles and it has been working great. My route takes me on RT 16 and Commonwealth Ave. on a Sunday morning and it is starting to be crowded with runners. The elite athletes are something to behold! I feel like a Volkswagon Beetle at Daytona watching them. They are greyhounds and move up Cardiac like I run downhill with a tailwind, only faster. They don't even stop at intersections for traffic - the lead runner waves the cars to a stop and they gladly let the group through - only in Boston. I enjoy reading the other entries in this blog, especially nutrition tips and how to carry enough water for long runs without hiding bottles in bushes ahead of time.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Away in North Carolina – John

I did not submit a blog entry earlier because I got sent on a last-minute business trip to North Carolina. Last week started off okay, but ended rough. The week went downhill on Thursday. I was out running with Molly and experienced some gastrointestinal distress and barely made it back home. After this unpleasant experience, I did not feel well for the rest of the week. I took a long run on Sunday of about 12 miles, but I still did not feel well and had to do some walking breaks. My wife told me I should not have taken the long run and she was right. I am feeling better now.

Tonight, I am meeting up with a fellow who I met a few years back as we were both presenters at the same conference as well as collaborated on a few issues at work. His home office is here in North Carolina. Wes is a triathlete and we are going to take a run together. When I saw him yesterday, he looked like he trimmed down a bit and he told me he is training for a half-ironman distance. I’ve done a couple of triathlons in the past. The multi-sport aspect was kind of fun, but I really prefer running.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Survived 20 miles! – Heidi

I take making it through 20 miles up and back the heartbreak hills (and then up and back one more time to make 20 miles) was a major blow for freedom in terms of my mental state about April 21. Everything has been more of a challenge this year and that has definitely made me have a nagging feeling of worry about being prepared for the actual event. I was so surprised and excited to get another number from the Hospital this year. My first training runs were fueled by feeling so lucky to participate in this event again. Then the reality of juggling training with work and family set in and I had lost some of my positive outlook.

I got a good pep talk from one of my patients this week when she was in the office to see me. I'm obviously supposed to be the one helping my patients but I constantly learn from and am inspired by the people I meet at work. This particular woman has trained for 11 marathons and completed nine and is training for Boston as well. Her words of wisdom definitely gave me a boost.

I had been worried about fitting a 20-mile run into my week, which was already unusually busy with call on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. However, having missed more than a week of training, I felt like I had to somehow get a long run accomplished. When I left the Hospital Saturday morning it was snowing heavily and the roads weren't very clear. I had emailed my friend Carol about possibly running together and we had tentatively planned that she'd try to run 10 with me. We spoke and decided to re-evaluate the weather and the roads later in the morning. Around 11:00 am we met and drove to Comm. Ave. as we figured the carriage path would be the safest surface given the snow. It was raining lightly when we started up the hills (we began a little bit up the street from the fire station). Another solo runner on the course commented on the fact that we were certainly having lousy weather for training this year. But once we started the rain stopped and it was great to catch up with Carol. We ran 5.25 miles up and then returned to our cars for a total of a little over 10. I was feeling a little weary after the 10 but when Carol asked me what I was going to do I knew I had to try to get the rest of the mileage in. By dumb luck I had an extra pair of shoes, socks and gloves in my car as I was really wet and cold from the slushy conditions. We'd also had about 10 cars spray us at Centre Street when they drove by.

I said goodbye to Carol, got into my warm/dry stuff and headed back up the hills to repeat what we had just done. About 14 miles into the run, I had a burst of euphoria due to the fact that I felt that I'd be able to finish the 20 miles. Knowing I felt like I could do 20 gave me the confidence that I'd be able to be ready for the Marathon. By mile 15 I had lost the euphoria and energy and had emptied my pockets of stale clif shot blocks and energy beans to keep me going. Fortunately, the end of my run had more downhills than uphills. I was absolutely thrilled to see my car and be able to stop. I got home and took a nap after a long hot shower and high-protein lunch, which felt divine. Mentally it was a huge step to get that run accomplished!

Friday, February 29, 2008

It Started as Stress Relief – Verna

I am a medical technologist and have been working in the Chemistry Lab at Newton-Wellesley Hospital since 1984. Why I started running is a bit of an unusual story. In 1994 and 1995, I was unsuccessfully treated for numbness in my right hand through physical therapy. My fingers, my hand and right forearm would be numb and full of pins and needles when I awoke after a night’s sleep. It would also happen during work and when I was eating or any activity that required bending my elbow. I was discouraged and began to think that I would never get better.

My primary care physician referred me to Dr. Joanne Borg-Stein, MD, sports physician at Newton-Wellesley. I remember clearly what she said to me that day in May 1996 after she examined me, “For God’s sake will you get yourself to a gym!" Now one might be puzzled at this but she was right on. My pinched Ulna -radius nerve was caused by a posture position I would assume when I was too busy or in other terms stressed out. I needed exercise to relieve the stress of everyday living to prevent the posture I assumed when life was hectic (which was pretty much all the time).

I wanted to be a compliant patient but loathed exercising indoors and didn't want to fit the time constraints of gym hours or pay the gym fees. I had two small children, my job at Newton-Wellesley, a home and a husband to care for. Running became the answer because it could be done in my neighborhood, in short time periods and when I could fit it in (5:30 am). I started alternating running and walking between telephone poles. I began to look forward to the meditative state running afforded. My distances lengthened and after a couple of months the numbness in my fingers and forearm went away! (I also had weekly physical therapy sessions and Terri was tremendous in helping me realize it was indeed poor posture that caused the pinch nerve). I was hooked on running both for my mental and physical well-being.

My first race was the 1998 Newton Heartbreak Hill International Youth race. It was one mile long up and down Heartbreak Hill. It was a hot April day and I thought I would faint, but my pride and sense of accomplishment was so satisfying. I am so excited to have this opportunity to train for the 112th Boston Marathon, which will take place five days before my 51st birthday and eight years after I began running for stress relief.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Coming Back – Heidi

It is the end of school vacation week and my family is back in Massachusetts after a few warm and humid days in Southern Florida. We are all feeling better from the winter cold bug(s) that were aggravating us before we left and I’m starting to log some miles after a week without running.

It is tempting to try to catch up in my training as quickly as possible, but that is probably not the wisest choice. After running no more than four plus miles for a week, I was tempted to do an 18-mile long run that I had missed last weekend. It is in situations like these that I am thankful for the advice and sanity that my husband provides. He was quick to point out that 18 miles was almost a marathon and I’d just be apt to hurt myself. I did survive a 13-mile long run this weekend while my son was enjoying an outing with his grandfather. It was encouraging to be able to complete that distance but I was certainly pleased that I didn’t have to go any further!

We celebrated my father’s 74th birthday with a dinner out last night and my mom wanted to know how my training was going. I told her about taking time off and not really knowing how the disruption of the schedule would affect me in the end. Always the optimist, she reminded me that I had run consistently for years now and that had to be in my favor. I hope that she is right!

It has been interesting that my experience this year has seemed quite a bit different from last year. I think as a “first timer” I had a little more energy for the training and was more willing to arrange the few flexible parts of my day around my training needs. The novelty has worn off a bit for my family and me so this year the training seems to be taking a back seat to the rest of life. If only there were more hours in the day! At the same time, it feels great to have my energy back and I continue to enjoy having those times on the road to clear my head and unwind as I pound out a few miles on the pavement

A 30+ Mile Week is Good, Right? – John

So I end this week up over 30 miles. I was a little annoyed and feeling sorry for myself for a few reasons. First, for this week’s long run, Jimmy decided to run with our friends Mike and Paul. Both of them are too fast for me, and beyond five miles or so, for Jimmy also. I’m not sure what he was thinking. Secondly, I was disappointed with my level of fitness and my speed.

Despite that, I had a great run today. The weather was nice and I was by myself. With three kids and a job in a sales organization, three hours of “alone time” can be golden. I enjoyed the run and the ability to be alone with my thoughts. It reminded me that not too long ago, at the end of last year, I almost thought I would be hanging up my marathon shoes for good. The serenity of running by myself came to me. I was pretty tired for the rest of the day since I have not run this long since last year’s Boston Marathon. I did not clock the mileage, but went by time and estimate about 15 miles.

After running, I did have enough “gas in the tank” to watch my three kids while the older two had friends over. My wife went out for the afternoon (mommies who don’t run need alone time too). My daughter and I baked a cake together, and she and my younger son’s friend (they also play together) decorated it after I iced it. I realized that before my gastric bypass, I would have been this (or more tired) just from hanging around. I would not have even been able to bend over to put the cake in the oven.

So writing this blog helped me come to a few conclusions tonight. Maybe I won’t run my PR this year at Boston. Maybe I won’t even finish. Just being able to line up in that corral this April is more than I would have imagined seven or so years ago. However, being able to live, laugh and bake a cake with your five-year-old daughter is a better thing than a 30+ mile week. I think I’ll take both and smile.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

No Beginner’s Luck this Year – Heidi

This past week was certainly not the week I had hoped for and the running schedule on my calendar is not at all what occurred. Last year I commented numerous times on how lucky Martha and I were in many aspects of our first marathon experience. For example: neither of us got injured; last year’s winter was relatively mild for our training; no one was put out of commission by a flu bug right before the marathon. I think this week is trying to tell me that my luck may have run out a bit!

After writing last week’s blog, I went to bed early Sunday night in hopes of being back to normal for work on Monday morning. My husband and I had theatre tickets that evening but fortunately my in-laws were able to use them. I may have already been asleep by the time the show actually began. I got up Monday morning and made it in to work but quickly realized I was not going to make it through a typical busy day in the office. My great staff moved my patients to other days and I went back home to bed. I survived the rest of the work week including staying at the Hospital for call on Tuesday night, but any down time was spent with family activities and resting – not running. Instead of logging more miles than ever, I spent more time in my bed than I have in many years. Instead of interesting flavors of Gatorade bottles in my recycling bin this week, the plastic bottle that had held an unnatural colored liquid was for Nyquil.

I felt a lot better on Friday and the afternoon was sunny with a feel of spring in the air. I had half an hour to kill while my son was at his weekly evening piano lesson so I figured I would see how it felt to run. I felt like a little old lady for the first few minutes but then got a second wind and actually felt really strong running up some hills. I was slowing down again towards the end of the three plus mile route near the All Newton Music School. I think the running brought on a new round of coughing that night and I awoke on Saturday feeling not so great again. We had a busy day of activities with my son so it was easy to pass on any running for me despite the planned 18-mile training run on the calendar.

My husband has had a grueling spell at work recently but found out he wouldn’t have to travel for work over school vacation. With this news, he was able to find some affordable flights to and from Miami during part of February school vacation week. I was still coughing up a storm on our way to the airport Sunday morning but was so excited to be departing for somewhere warm and sunny and had a relaxing quick trip to D.C. where I enjoyed resting with a good book. Unfortunately, when we went to take our connecting flight to Miami we found that the plane hadn’t even left the airport. After an over three and a half hour delay, we finally got on our flight and arrived in Florida to be greeted with a torrential downpour of rain. At least the humid air felt soothing to my sore throat and dry cough.

The Best Laid Plans of Rodents or Runners - John

This week, the classic poem from ninth grade “To a Mouse” comes to mind: “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft agley”.

I was intending to run three to four days this week plus a long run over the weekend with my friend Jimmy. However, I woke up Monday morning quite sore and tired from the half marathon of the weekend. I was quite discouraged until I recalled that I sometimes needed two days off after long runs when the distance spanned into the teens.

So, Monday and Tuesday were a wash. I woke up Wednesday ready to go. However, the weather was quite difficult. I have found after my gastric bypass the worst weather for me is cold rain (around 30ish degrees). My discouragement mounted, as I recalled how the cold rain really wrecked me last year at the Boston Marathon, and it really took close to 12 weeks to recover fully from that ordeal. As the weather worsened all day, my mood soured and was topped off with needing to attend the wake of my friend and occasional running partner, Jimmy’s father-in-law. I just crossed Wednesday off.

I woke up Thursday quite fresh and with a better attitude. The weather was excellent, and I decided to give myself a Valentine present. I laced up my shoes, gathered my iPod, and headed out for a relaxed 10-mile run. Friday ended up nice as well, so I took Molly out on our regular route.

Jimmy called me and was ready to take a longer run. I was hoping I could talk him into 14 on Sunday, but we settled for 10 on Saturday. On Sunday, he was using his car to pace our friend Mike for his 13-mile run. Mike is also running Boston; however, our training plans and speed are too diverse to train together.

Although I did not stick to the plan, I was able to get a decent amount of mileage “in the bank.” This week’s experience is making me consider the possibility of adding a mid -week 10 miler every other week for the rest of this month.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Medical Advice - Sheila Partridge, MD, Medical Director, Center for Weight Loss Surgery

I think John Tiso's advice is excellent. One should experiment with products and find out what works well during the training process. "Carbo loading" will only lead to dumping for a gastric bypass patient or fatigue shortly thereafter. The real focus should be on remaining hydrated with electrolyte replacement and paying attention to the post-race recovery meal to replete energy stores. At the Newton-Wellesley Hospital Center for Weight Loss Surgery, we have a registered dietitian, Sue Miller, who is both a runner herself and a dietitian for gastric bypass surgery patients. She can provide helpful advice for gastric bypass patients training for marathons.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Half at the Hamptons - John

Yesterday, I ran the inaugural running of the “Half at the Hamptons” half marathon in Hampton Beach, NH. I was using it as a training run. This was the longest distance I have run since last year’s Boston Marathon. I ran it slightly slower than MP (marathon pace), but I ran it at a regular and even pace. I ran a few of the miles with a lady who lives around the block from me who I met through the Tuesday Night Good Times series ( She asked me how Molly was, since she sees me running with her all the time. It was her brother’s first half.

Other than that, I was able to get four days of running in last week. In my last post, I mentioned that my wife had school so I took my long run on Saturday instead of Sunday. On Sunday, I woke up feeling fresh, so I did a little speed work in my driveway while the kids played outside. We then went over to volunteer at a race ( and we did finish line water.

I’m looking forward to a good week this week and getting out running at least three days, aside from a long one. I am a little sore from yesterday, but I feel like I am heading in the right direction.

My Body Doth Protest! – Heidi

This Sunday marks the end of a grueling week and it has taken its toll on me. I rarely get sick so I never really know what to do with myself when I am under the weather. This past workweek was challenging with non-stop days and too many late nights. We also had lots of family appointments (dentist, doctor, tennis, basketball, school dance) and social obligations (neighborhood progressive dinner). All of my runs needed to be squeezed in whenever there was a quick break. For example, Monday night found me running on a treadmill in the Shipley Center at the Hospital while waiting for an operating room to open up. Tuesday became my rest day, as there were no free hours in the day. I thought it was more important to vote than to run! Wednesday’s run was one of the best of the week despite running in the wet snow as I really felt the need to clear my head and organize my thoughts. I usually run with my neighbor on Wednesday but she was sick. I love company but needed that alone time this week to just unwind and turn my brain off for 45 minutes.

Yesterday’s run was the long one and the only one that was pre-planned and “protected” in the schedule. I left my husband and son sound asleep and drove into downtown Wellesley to meet three other women from the Suburban Striders. They had all had wild weeks as well. Teresa was sipping a coke as she had just returned from a business trip to Spain and hadn’t adjusted to East Coast time. Carol had been up until midnight packing for her family’s flight to Morocco (where her husband is from) and was taking off at 2:00 pm. Stephanie was trying to find/organize her family’s ski equipment for an upcoming trip. We were all happy to see one another, catch up and be on the road where the craziness of the week would take a back seat for the next two hours.

While Teresa and Stephanie have both run Boston, neither are running this April but were still game to meet early Saturday morning for a run instead of staying under the covers at home. We started in downtown Wellesley and our path took us through Needham, Dover and Natick before getting back to our start. The total for the morning was 13.8 miles. I felt ok during the run but certainly didn’t have the energy that I had experienced last week. I kept swigging my lemonade Gatorade to quiet a dry, nagging cough. I felt really happy to see the traffic light in Wellesley that signaled the end of our workout. When I got home, there wasn’t much time to rest as we were hosting eight neighbors for soup and salad and I was completely unprepared. My husband and I finished everything up right before our guests arrived and had a great evening enjoying this neighborhood tradition. We did decide to skip the dessert course because we were having a tough time staying awake!

This morning, I got up to clean up the mess we’d left from the night before but realized I was feeling flu-ish. I made it through breakfast, but then called my neighbor to cancel our planned morning run, as it was all I could do at that point to keep my head off the placemat. As much as all of the marathon training programs tell you to listen to your body and take time off when you are sick, it definitely is frustrating to be slowed down! Today has certainly not been a very productive day but I’m hoping that this day of rest will get me back into the swing of things.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Response to Blog Comment from Bobbi – John

Congratulations on both your weight loss surgery and taking on the 26.2. Obviously, I can’t give you any medical advice…However, I can share my experience. “Carbing up” for runners is considered a little bit of a myth by now. The principal of carbo-loading is no longer widely accepted. Most nutritionists recommend a normal balanced diet for everyone – including marathoners AND those post-weight loss surgery.

However, I assume you mean fueling during your run. Being close to seven years post surgery, I no longer have capacity issues that prevent me from consuming enough liquids. What I can share is some insight on how I fuel during runs.

I have tried a variety of products. I have “experimented” with a large number of bars, gels and drinks. My favorite is POW (plain old water). Aside from that, I found as long as I use it during a long run, Gatorade seems to work fine for me. I also drink some before and after vigorous workouts. I have also tried quite a few products for fueling. The two I seem to like are GU (the original energy gel) and “Sports Beans”. Sports beans are electrolyte-enhanced Jelly Beans. These seem to work since I can grab one at a time slowly. I also use a capsule-based product called “endurolytes”, which is an electrolyte replacement capsule. You also want to be careful with some of the commercial products as some of them contain caffeine, which may have undesirable effects.

I would suggest you experiment with some various products and find what works for you and carry it with you in your race. You might want to also see what sports drink is on the course for your marathon. For instance, when I ran the Disney Marathon, they had Power Aide, which I find I cannot tolerate at all.

Finally, I would suggest that you don’t significantly vary your diet before race time since this may result in undesirable digestive side effects.

So I would say, as post-weight loss surgery patients, we are more sensitive to digestive issues related to refueling products as well as caffeine. So, bottom line, I would suggest trying a few different things and testing them all before your race. A good place to obtain different products and samples is at another marathon in your area, the number pickup usually has an expo where vendors of this stuff offer samples as well as opportunities to purchase products at a reduced cost. These expos are usually open to the general public even if you are not participating in that race.

Good luck with your training and your race. If you have any more specific questions, you can e-mail me at

Monday, February 4, 2008

Experiencing “It” – John

This was a hectic but good week. I was able to run four out of the five days this week, and then topped it off with an 11.5 mile run on Saturday. I haven’t done a 25+ mile week since last fall. I was also able to get the kids away from the video games two times for one mile walks with Molly.

My friend Steve dropped his daughter off and his dog, a Golden Retriever. She has been playing with Molly since they were puppies, so when I left to run I did not get that, “you are not bringing me” look from her, as she was engrossed with her furry playmate in our yard.

I had an excellent run. After about six miles into the run I turned off the iPod and “It” happened. “It”, as I refer to it, is a pleasant mental state I experience occasionally on a long run. “It” is a spiritual experience that for me lies somewhere between the “Runner’s High” and a meditative state. My running goes on “autopilot” and I start to see images of experiences of the past, some positive and some negative. The positive serve an obvious purpose. The negative ones help me to remember the past, what I have overcome and what I have gotten through in my life along with the roads traveled (literally and figuratively).

Initially, I started to remember a few pleasant images from my childhood. The scene then changed. I was running the New York City Marathon and at mile 21, I all of a sudden felt like I was struck by lighting. Each muscle in my body was in revolt. Each step was a bundle of tightness and pain. I believe I was experiencing dehydration due to the fact I was unable to consume enough liquids due to the gastric bypass surgery. This extreme pain caused me to recall what I consider my “first marathon”. I remembered my first walk after gastric bypass surgery. Although I was on enough pain medication to sedate a rhino, it hurt just to breathe. My 458-pound body hurt worse than I had ever experienced in my life. My 16-inch incision and my insides were sewn and stapled like a child’s art project. However, I was determined to get out of my chair and walk. Each footfall to the street sign was agonizing. I was out of breath within 10 feet. I then continued the 20 or so yards to the sign, feeling like I was descending into the circles of the underworld. I made it to the sign and touched it then headed back. There was no crowd, no water stops and no finish line medals. However, to me it was a truly challenging and memorable experience. This memory helped me summon the strength to the New York finish line in Central Park.

As this memory faded, another very powerful image came to me. It was my first Boston, the 108th. The temperature was recorded near record of 88 degrees. However, I had trained very hard and was a confident (although slow) and experienced marathoner at this point. I remember people half my size dropping from the heat. I never felt so strong running this distance. I remember the strength and power I felt as a cruised along. I remember passing Newton-Wellesley Hospital, and drawing strength from that first “marathon” experience. I continued on my way to Boylston Street for my marathon personal best. I remember shaking my fist in victory as I crossed the finish line and I was overcome with emotion.

After that point a variety of different images and reflections came and went along with the miles. Some were positive and some were not. Then, my mind just cleared. All thoughts melted away with the rhythm of the pavement. This went on for some time until, splash! My foot hit one of the many puddles from the melting snow and my concentration was broken.
I have not run this distance alone in months. It gave me the chance to reflect on both the experience of the day and my life. The notion that you must travel the roads you have been on to get to where you are came to mind. That thought then brought me to Confucius’ proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. After that, I said a silent prayer of thanks for where I have been, how fortunate I am and for the serenity this run has given me. I also asked for guidance in the roads ahead, both of life and asphalt that I will travel. I know I will need it. I clicked my iPod back on as I realized home was near.

They’re Getting Longer – Heidi

I had a great long run this morning. Having company for all but 2.8 miles of the 15 miles was the highlight! The gorgeous, 40-degree day was another big plus. The run was quite a contrast to last weekend’s long run of 13 miles in the cold and snow. My neighbor, Susan, was kind enough to do close to seven miles of that run with me and fortunately I had some new music on my iPod shuffle to get me through the second half.

Preparing my “gear” last night for the first time since last year was a sign of getting into the bigger mileage. I filled my fuel belt bottles with Gatorade, which has become my long run beverage of choice. I filled half with the lemonade flavor, which Martha introduced me to last year. My other flavor was “Fierce Grape”, chosen because it was on sale at the supermarket! The taste was ok but it’s a little scary to drink something that blue as an adult.

I ran with three other women this morning who are fellow members of the Suburban Striders Running Club ( This threesome is inspirational given that I am training for a second marathon and hoping to improve my time from last year. Hilda has run four marathons and improved her time with each event. Sharon has completed nine marathons and is also training for Boston. Carol is the fleet-footed one of our group but doesn’t mind slowing down for a long training run. She is also training for Boston having qualified for her number last year and finishing the 111th in 3:30! We talk the entire way sharing training regimens and comparing mileage but also converse about kids, travel and of course, the Patriots!

While my quads and calves are a bit tight having done my longest run to date, I’m encouraged to have enjoyed and survived fifteen miles today. Last year at this time my long run was 12 miles, so I have stepped up the distance a bit. I’m just doing one long run a week, however, most of my running companions today were doing a mid-week long run too. There are always new challenges one can set with the sport of running.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I'm Back - Heidi

I’m back and probably completely crazy to be looking forward to another Boston Marathon. I did question my sanity when feeling pleased at the news that my name was one of the ones drawn out of the hat for a Boston number at Newton-Wellesley. Those that have heard that I’m running again, quickly ask whether Martha is running too. Unfortunately, I’ll have to log many of my upcoming miles solo this year. Even more sadly for you readers, you will not have Martha’s hilarious vignettes to scroll through on your computer screen. You can imagine how great it was last year to have my own personal entertainer and I am having a hard time imagining those 10 to 20 mile runs without my buddy.

Do not fear dear reader, Martha is alive and well and continuing to pass gas (anesthesia joke) in the Newton-Wellesley Operating Room. I actually did a 10-mile run with Martha and her husband a few weekends ago. Martha was an ideal running partner last year and the highlight of my marathon experience was building our friendship.

So what am I hoping for this year? My primary goal is the same as it was for the 111th Boston Marathon, which is to complete the course and remain healthy and injury-free. A secondary goal is to see if I can improve my time. Two years ago I didn’t know what a “PR” was. Now I know it stands for personal record and like most runners who repeat race events, I’d like to see if I can run it a little faster. However, I’m a superstitious person and I hate to set myself up for a fall so I am leery of putting a definitive time goal out there in cyberspace. Suffice it to say that one of the books that I just returned to the public library was 4 Months to a 4 Hour Marathon by David Kuehls. One fact that surfaced in his book is that Oprah Winfrey ran the Chicago Marathon in four hours. I don’t think that occurred last year when people were dropping like flies in the heat! At any rate, I will let that inspire me.

Some Weeks are Like That - John

Had a rough week. My kids were sick, and they tend to act as Petri dishes and spread their sickness to us. So I did not run much this week. I decided not to run the Derry 16-mile race. Instead, my friend Jimmy came over and we ran a 10-mile loop course I have measured through Chelmsford and Westford back to my house. Jimmy runs faster for the first 10K and starts to fade after that. So I gave him my energy gel pack, which was probably a good thing, since my stomach was bothering me from being sick all week. He finished up at about 9.5, and wanted a “cool down” walk, so I ran ahead the half mile and ran back to meet him. The weather conditions were tough, as it was snowing heavily. We finished up and we both pre-registered for the Eastern States 20. This is a 20-mile Boston Prep Race three weeks and a day before Boston that starts in Maine, runs through NH and ends in Salisbury.

This looks like a busy week at home, as my wife has to go to her graduate school classes on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So, I took a “recovery run” today with Molly. It was tough as we had to pick our feet up a lot higher due to the slush (or paws in her case!) We did 3.5 miles. I then hired my friend Steve's daughter to come over Saturday so I can run. Jimmy is running a 5K race on Superbowl Sunday, but I want to stick with a long 10-plus mile run. I spoke to my older son, and we may go over on Sunday and volunteer to help with the race.

The Day After – John

I normally don't run the day after a long run, but I wanted to get out with Molly. She looked liked she needed to get out. We had a nice run of 3.5 miles. I am thinking about running the Derry Prep 16 Miler this weekend. It's a very challenging course and designed as a Boston Prep race. I have run it before. My friend Mike and Paul are running it. I'm thinking I might run it, even if I need to stop after 12 miles or so.

My First Official Training Run – John

I took a run with my friend from the club Jimmy Shelton on January 20. Jimmy is training for his 24th Boston and is a Hall of Fame Member of Greater Lowell Road Runners. We were a little overdressed, but had fun. We did about an 8.5-mile run through town. I felt OK. Jimmy is faster than me on shorter distances, while I am faster on longer distances. I had to slow him down a few times.

Why I Run - John

I started running about six months after my gastric bypass surgery at NWH. Since then, I've run the last four Boston Marathons, three New York City Marathons and the 2006 Disney Marathon. I am also a member of the Greater Lowell Road Runners.

I started running because my gastric bypass surgeon suggested I walk two miles a day. Being a typical “Type A”, I felt like I needed to find a way to finish faster. I then started running. I mixed running and walking together, then I started getting ready and ran the Chelmsford Fourth of July Road Race as my first race. I continue to run four to five times a week. Marathon training gets “fit into” my lifestyle, by getting up early and “doing it”. A few years ago, Saucony got wind of my story and sponsored me for the Boston Marathon as part of the “Saucony 26” dedicating a mile of the race for 26 folks with a special story. They dedicated mile 16 for me, since this passes by Newton-Wellesley Hospital. I donated the sponsorship money to the American Society of Bariatric Surgeons.

I currently live in Chelmsford with my wife, three children and my running partner Molly – my four-year-old Australian Labradoodle.

My plans for training are to run my normal patterns three to four days a week and do a progressive build up once a week which will be supplemented with long-distance training races. My concerns are always for my health and injury. Since my gastric bypass surgery, I have suffered through a variety of minor physical and personal issues. I am not in my top end shape and need to pick it up!