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.