Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My Victory Lap - Suzi

"The journey is the reward, the marathon is the victory lap"- Unknown

I first saw this quote on the back of a t-shirt of a runner at the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC in 2012 at the first marathon I ran. After completing both the MCM and Boston, I can say that this quote fits marathon running to a T. The hard part, the journey, of running a marathon is the months and weeks of training leading up to the race. It's the early mornings, the cold runs, the missing of social occasions with friends. It's doing what you need to do, despite what you'd rather do. It's finding the strength and determination within yourself to continue on. These are the things that test us and show our true character. This is the journey that each person takes for themselves. What you learn about yourself and your resolve is something that will never leave you. Come race day, you are ready to shine, to enjoy the moment you've worked so long for. It really does feel like a victory lap, especially in your own back yard with family and friends throughout the course as I was lucky enough to experience in Boston.

Running the Boston Marathon last Monday, was an unforgettable, but somewhat indescribable experience. Having run previously in Washington DC, I was looking forward to running in the city I have lived and worked for the past couple of years with family and friends along the way. When I ran in DC, I only had my fiancé to look for in the crowd. This time, I knew friends would be throughout the course, and my entire immediate family, along with my fiancé’s mother and grandmother, would be there to cheer me on. I had lots of friends tracking me from afar and it felt great knowing I had so many people behind me!

The bus ride to athlete’s village seemed to take forever! The bus was packed and I sat near two girls from my department that were also running. We talked mostly about nothing, making nervous conversation to try and speed the ride along. We hit some traffic, and I got nervous we'd be late and I wouldn’t have time to find the port-a-potties. When we finally arrived, there were so many people I was in awe. Two open fields of just people everywhere! There were port-a-potties lining the fields, tents set up in the middle and people on blankets and mats throughout. We quickly made our way to the port-a-potties line, which moved fairly quickly. It was starting to get warm, and I was nervous knowing the temperature would continue to rise. I took off my sweatshirt and long sleeve T, quickly realizing that I wouldn’t be needing either for any part of the race. I haphazardly rubbed some sunscreen onto my shoulders, totally missing the back of my arms and shoulder blades; I hadn't even thought of sunscreen until then. I quickly put water in my water bottles, ate a banana and made my way into the herd of people lining up into their various corrals. Corral four was my corral, and I quickly fell in line with everyone else. The walk out to the start was much longer than I expected. I stopped once more at open port-a-potties, got back in line and continued to make my way to the start. Some people were jogging up the hill to the start, not me, I was saving my energy, there'd be plenty of hills later!

I started off the race nice and easy, telling myself to run conservatively. I knew I had a long way to go, and knew the Newton hills would be a challenge. The first few miles felt like a big party, with bands and so many people cheering. There was never a dull moment or an area of the course that wasn't lined with people cheering you on. It was a beautiful day for a run, and I tried to soak it all in. At mile two, I saw my first friend and was so excited, I yelled to her and waved as I ran by. Watching my surroundings, the people, the bands and recalling the road I was running on, I made it to mile 10 where I saw my next friend. She was on the same side of the road as me, so I stopped and quickly gave her a hug, and continued on my way! Again I was so excited to see her; it was wonderful to have her there. Next came the girls in Wellesley. I was told I would hear them screaming a mile before I saw them, and I did! Their energy was incredible and I even got caught up in the excitement and sped up. Once I passed them, I started to notice the heat, and slowed myself down to a comfortable pace.

After I crossed the half marathon point, I put my head down, music on and made my way towards NWH where I was expecting to see my family and fiancé. Coming up through Newton and down towards the Hospital, the anticipation of seeing my family quickened my steps. I finally saw them, my mom first, then my fiancés mother, my brother and his girlfriends and finally my fiancé; the rest of the family was lost in the crowd. I waved to them a couple times and continued on my way. As I passed my family and continued towards the fire station, I noticed a spectator on the sidewalk running in the same direction as we were, and quickly getting ahead of me. After a few seconds watching this person, I realized it was my fiancé running ahead of me; he must have wanted to get more pictures! This time I ran over to the side of the road, gave him a hug and quick kiss and continued on. I was on cloud nine and felt the adrenaline run through my body, just what I needed!

As I rounded the corner of Rt 16 onto Rt 30, the crowd was loud and I was ready. I had held back up until this point to make sure I made it up and over heartbreak hill. The sun was beating down, hot and unrelenting. I tried to find shade on the side of the road as much as possible. I felt ready for the hills, but not ready for the heat. I was used to running in 18 degree weather with four layers and a ski hat, not 70 degrees with bright sunshine! My pace slowed somewhat through the hills, but having run them so many times before, I knew where I was a felt confident that I could make it through. I made my way up and down all three of the big hills, and mentally high fived myself after getting up each one. The mental toughness of the last 16 weeks was tested there as I told myself I didn’t come all this way to stop now. I knew it was all downhill after this and pushed on.

Coming down the back side of heart break hill into BU, the people were drunk and some kids were crossing the street. Despite the obvious drunkenness, everyone was positive and happy, continuing to cheer us on. I was surprised at how sore my legs were coming down the hill. That wasn’t something I had expected. I continued to run, with my knees high for a little bit to try and loosed up my legs. The next few miles on Comm. Ave are somewhat of a blur, as I had to will myself to continue. This was when I really started to feel the heat and thought that I might have to stop and walk. I reminded myself of all sprint training and Crossfit workouts that made my lungs burn, just as they were at that moment. I was so close to the end, I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I drank lots of water and Gatorade, grabbed oranges whenever they appeared, threw some water on the back of my neck and kept moving.

I continued on watching the CITGO sign get bigger and bigger, getting me closer and closer to Kenmore. Out of the crowd, someone yelled "Suzi Estey!!" I turned and looked, and saw a friend from college I hadn't seen in years. I waved to him and kept going. It felt good to have someone yell out my name unexpectedly and it gave me a little boost that I was badly needing at the time. At mile 25, I heard a man behind me yelling "This is my spot! This is where they stopped me last year! This year I finish!!" The crowd erupted in cheers, I got a little choked up, patted him on the back as he continued past me, and kept running behind him. Seeing the emotions of that runner, I quickly remembered why I was doing this. For him, for all the runners that were stopped last year. For all the people that were hurt. It wasn’t about the run, it was about the resilience of the people of Boston, the spirit of the runners! I put my head down, turned the corner onto Boylston Street and made my way towards the finish line. I think I blacked out on Boylston Street because I don't remember much besides looking up at the bridge and thinking how far away it still seemed. I could hardly believe I was just steps away from finishing the Boston Marathon! I crossed the finish line 4 hours, and 16 minutes after I had taken off from Hopkinton! Not too shabby for my first Boston Marathon in 70 degree weather!!

My fiancé and I, along with my sister and her girlfriend, stayed in Boston that night, walked to dinner and to the finish line. Around 7 pm, we saw a lady with a marathon number on walking in the road on Boylston Street towards the finish line with clean up crews behind her. She was the very last finisher of the Marathon. We clapped and cheered for her, along with the other people on the street, as she finally crossed the finish line. Many times throughout the evening as we were walking around, people passed me on the street and congratulated me or gave me a high five. People saw the jacket (and probably my limp), knew I had run and wanted to congratulate me just for being a runner. The people of Boston amazed me that day. From athletes' village, throughout the entire course, and even long after the majority of the runners had finished, there was always support and encouragement. It didn’t matter if you were the first one across the finish line or the last, there were people cheering for you. Boston is not known for being a friendly city; it's usually just the opposite. People tend to keep to themselves, not wanting to be bothered. I saw for myself firsthand how the people of Boston can come together. We have endured a lot in the last year, but it has made us stronger, and this was obvious on Marathon Monday! The journey from Hopkinton to Boston was an unbelievable experience, made that way because of the people. The runners on the course, the fans throughout the race route, and volunteers at athletes village and the finish line; everyone was kind and encouraging and couldn’t be happier to be a part of this race. This race was a victory lap a long time coming for the city of Boston. We showed what we were made of, and it was our time to shine. We showed the world what people of Boston are made of and what it means to be from Boston. We came back bigger and stronger than ever. Being a part of the race was truly the opportunity of a lifetime, and an experience I will never forget. I can't thank Newton-Wellesley Hospital enough for the opportunity to be a part of this remarkable day!!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Almost to the Finish Line – Aubrey

“Strength does not come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you thought you couldn’t.” – Rikki Rogers

The Marathon is now less than a week away. I’ve been enjoying my taper period despite the change in routine and minor bouts of anxiety. I’ve really learned to enjoy my short runs –I can now appreciate the scenery and spend some time reflecting. Despite my months of training, I still feel anxious when I think about race day. Every time I lace up my Asics, I get a twinge of doubt – Is this crazy? Can I do this? Am I ready? That voice in my head, although sometimes a source of anxiety, is also a voice of reason. Immediately my doubt is squashed by even stronger feelings of accomplishment and strength. Can I do this...Yes! You ran 20 miles last weekend! 6 miles is nothing! Am I ready...Of course you are!  You followed your regimen and are more than prepared. With only four days left, there is no time left to train nor is there any time to worry. I know come race day that although I may feel nervous, I’m mostly excited. I’ve convinced myself at this point that there’s nothing to be anxious about. I’ve trained for weeks, I’m eating and hydrating properly, and most of all, I’m taking the time to soak up the experience. Half the fun of running a marathon is preparing for it. I’ve been able to learn so much about myself during this process – I’ve overcome injuries, pushed my body to the limit and powered up monster hills. I have found both a physical strength and inner strength that I never knew I had. I am so grateful to have experienced that. Finishing Boston is just the cherry on top!

I’m glad that I am taking the rest I need before Monday, and that I’ve found that right balance of preparation and relaxation. Train hard but rest hard too – that’s my new motto! That way I’m injury free and well-rested come race day. I know I won’t be fast, but I’m not trying to win. In fact, I don’t even want to hurry through it. I want to wave to friends along the course, take pictures at notable race sites and enjoy the experience. I’m completely overwhelmed by emotion when I think about what it means to run Boston. I’ve come so far, and I’m so honored to be wearing Newton-Wellesley on my jersey. I’m incredibly proud to represent this organization and everything it stands for. Thank you to all of my family, friends and colleagues who have supported me through this incredible experience. I could not have managed this without your encouragement. You’ll all be in my heart on race day. See you at the finish line!

A Special Race - Suzi

This past week has been very light on the running, but very heavy on emotions. As each day passes and the Marathon gets closer and closer, I feel more and more excited, and just a little bit anxious about the long road ahead. Despite my anxiety this week, I have received so much kindness and support it’s blown me away. My fiancé surprised me with a large sign of the 118Th Boston Marathon with “Good luck Suzi” written on the top, and “Boston Strong” on the bottom. There is the official Boston Marathon logo on the lower right hand corner and is now filled with signatures and words of encouragement from members and friends at our Crossfit gym. I haven’t gotten to read all of the signatures yet, but I am already so touched by the thoughtfulness of everyone who took the time to write something to me.  I also received a gift from a friend to spend two nights in Boston, Sunday and Monday night, so all I have to worry about is running. The NICEST and most thoughtful gift someone has ever given me.  I also received an email this week from a friend who has run the Boston Marathon in the past and wanted to share some tips for the run. She reminded me to enjoy the whole experience from the expo to the finish line. Her words reminded me how very special this year’s Marathon is to so many in our community. It’s not just another race; it’s a chance to finish what was started last year, and a chance to show that we will come back stronger than ever after last year’s horrible tragedy. I was brought to tears by her words because throughout my training, these were the things that motivated me, that got me out of bed. I constantly reminded myself how LUCKY I am to be ABLE to run, to have the opportunity to be a part of this race. It’s not about the running, but about the spirit of the runners and the community behind them. Everyone knows what happened last year. Everyone was affected or touched in their own way. Her letter brought the things I’ve been thinking about to life. It became real. It wasn’t just something in my head anymore. It is real, and to know that someone feels the same way about this race as I do was so comforting and inspiring at the same time. The spirit of runners is not easily broken, as we choose to endure these long 26.2 miles, the countless hours of training, the cold early morning runs, the snowy runs, all in the hope of making it just a little less painful to cross that finish line on Patriots’ Day. Since my training began after New Year’s, I’ve known how special this race is. This week I’ve FELT how special this race is.  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Mentally Prepared - Suzi

Even though last week I wrote about enjoying my upcoming taper, my running coach had one more long run in store. Last Saturday  I was scheduled to run 180 minutes (three hours!) and I was also on call. Luckily I decided to come into the Hospital to run because 90 minutes into my run, I got a phone call that I was needed in the ED for an echo. I quickly about faced and returned to the Hospital, slipped my scrubs on and went to work. I sort of felt like a super hero, running for two hours and then being called for an echo! It was entertaining at first, but by the time I finished the exam, my legs were tired, I was STARVING and I wanted my bed. I decided I had two choices, call it a day, go home, eat and relax, or get mentally tough, eat the remainder of my gels and hit the road for another 67 minutes. Determined to finish out my training with the same enthusiasm that got me out of bed on numerous cold winter mornings, I put my running shoes back on and took off to finish what I had started. I was proud of my decision, but my legs felt heavy from the two hour break. I had to remind myself again that my body would finish the run if I was able to mentally push past the discomfort. My legs eventually loosened up, and I enjoyed my late afternoon, quiet run in bright sunshine. I finished knowing I made the right decision and that all of the tough choices I have had to make to stay or go throughout this process would pay off on race day. I know I have the physical ability to run 26.2 miles, anyone can do that just once. What training does is prepare you mentally for the road blocks and setbacks you will undoubtedly face during those long 26.2 miles. There will be many emotions, thoughts and feelings running through me on April 21, but thinking back about all the obstacles I have overcome during my training will reassure me that one step at a time I will cross that finish line!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Embracing the Taper – Suzi

Last week, my long run was for 172 minutes (2:52) and covered just under 19 miles in that time. I was and am beyond happy with that! I was not expecting to go that far in that amount of time and feel more ready than ever to tackle the Boston Marathon! On top of that, I didn’t wake up with sore legs as I was expecting to! Compression socks are a life saver!

I must be over tired this week, from my long run last Saturday because all week I have felt slow and tired during my workouts. Last night, during a Crossfit workout that I was seriously looking forward to all day, I found myself struggling to keep going, mentally I was ready to tap out. I usually cruise through my Crossfit workouts, thankful to have a break from running and interact with other people. Last night I had very little in the tank and had to will myself to keep going. This morning’s short 60 minute run was more of the same. I was looking forward to a short early morning run in the warmer weather. Instead, I was tired and wishing I could return to bed, my legs feeling heavy and sore from last night’s workout. I reminded myself that even though my legs felt like cinder blocks, I had to keep going. I would feel this way again and would have to push through it. I knew I had to find a way to make my legs go on when they just wanted to stop. I eventually got through my 60 minute run, and not a moment longer. As I walked slowly back to my car, I decided that this is why we taper. Even though I don't feel exceptionally tired, my joints don’t ache and my muscles don't feel fatigued, my body is tired! It's been a long 13 weeks and I am finally feeling the effects. I was anxious about the process of tapering, and couldn't help but think I would lose the conditioning I've worked so hard to build if I slowed down. I now feel ready to embrace the taper! I can feel the purpose. I can feel the need to slow down, pull back and let my body recover. Throughout this process I have learned to listen to my body and to trust the process of my training. I can say that I've learned a great deal about both, most importantly about myself throughout this adventure. With just a few short weeks left, I see the light at the end of the tunnel and am trying to hold on and enjoy it as it quickly approaches.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Final Stretch – Aubrey

Last Sunday, I ran my last long run before the Marathon – 20 miles. It was both emotionally and physically exhausting, but overall, it was an enjoyable experience. The first five miles were brutal. My pace was all over the place, and my head wasn’t in it. I kept telling myself that if I could make it to 12 miles, I’d be okay. I needed to get past the halfway point. I labored through the first eight miles, but by the time I hit nine I was almost a minute ahead of pace. By mile 10 I started to really gain momentum. I turned up my music and picked up my knees. At mile 16, I was almost three minutes ahead of pace. I felt confident and strong. For the first time, I didn’t want my long run to end. I took a smoothie break at mile 16 to fuel my last four miles. I wanted to finish strong. I was in Medford, but in my mind, I was passing the Wellesley Post Office, running toward Newton-Wellesley Hospital. I again picked up the pace, and I closed my eyes. I visualized waiving to my colleagues and family who will be waiting by the East Entrance on race day. I could almost feel the slight downhill on Washington St. and the gradual incline as I round the corner to Comm Ave. Heartbreak is ahead. I could hear my internal voice: “Pick your feet up. Don’t lean forward, shoulders back. Power, power, power. You’re almost done.” I barely remember the last four miles. However, at mile 19 I made a conscious effort to pick up speed. My feet felt like cinder blocks and yet I ran harder. I could feel the weeks of preparation and training paying off. I half smiled as I pushed myself to the brink of exhaustion. To my astonishment, I ran a sub 10 minute final mile, and finished my 20 miler with a time of 3:53:14. Not too shabby for a slow gal like me. The song that was blaring on my iPod was “Weightless” by Natasha Bedingfield - so apropos for the moment. I could feel the tears welling as I slowed to a walk. I was almost overwhelmed by all of the emotions that I was feeling. I can’t even imagine how I’ll handle it on race day. Training for a marathon is brutal. It’s uncomfortable, requires sacrifice, and it’s rarely pretty. (I site my bloody toenails as evidence) But despite all of that, it’s an amazing experience. Nothing compares to the feeling of euphoria at the end of long run. It’s a high, and now that I’ve experienced it, I will always be searching for another hit.  

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Advice from the Newton-Wellesley Experts - Martha

Congratulations! Almost all of you, other than the most experienced distance runners, have completed your longest training run. Now it's time to taper. 

Work smarter, not harder.
Tapering allows your body to recover - this is critical to a healthy, successful marathon. Your muscles and immune system need to heal and strengthen during these weeks to avoid or recover from injury and illness. Despite variability in specific recommendations, researchers agree that starting your taper at this time is most effective (again, other than for elite runners, who sometimes start tapering next week.)

Stick to your program.
Some runners welcome the reduced mileage; others crave the physical and emotional response we get from high mileage. Resist the temptation to continue at last week's level. Reduce your mileage by at least 20 percent. You will not become deconditioned, and you will avoid accumulated fatigue. 

Make any necessary changes now.
If you plan to change gear, particularly sneakers or your fuel plan (hydration, gels/gus/blocks) prior to or during the run, start now. You want ample time to practice any changes to help maximize your performance and to avoid injuries and distractions during the run.

Mental imagery.
Envision yourself at various spots along the course running strong and relaxed. Create a mental image of yourself approaching and crossing the finish line, with all of the amazing sensations you will experience within yourself, as well as the sounds and sights that will surround you.

Most of us course through many emotional states during the next few weeks. You may feel excited and proud. But you may also succumb to fears and anxieties - such as "I didn't train enough", or "I'm going to get out of shape." Remember, TAPERING IS TRAINING. You are improving, not jeopardizing, your fitness.

Enjoy the next three weeks. See you on the course!