Friday, February 28, 2014

Advice from the Newton-Wellesley Experts - Martha

As Yogi Bara said, “Ninety percent of this game is mental; the other half is physical.” As we get closer to the marathon, the mileage picks up, including in the long runs. Maintaining mental stamina is often the biggest challenge. There are many strategies for bolstering your stamina. Running with others can be very helpful. Some like to listen to music or have a partial distance destination. Here are some other ideas:
  •          Create a personal mantra. It can be very simple: “I run, I finish”, or “I am strong”; or more elaborate: “I am a marathoner. Snow, ice, and rain, I run. My legs are strong, my heart is strong. I am a marathoner!”
  •       Try mental imagery. Imagine yourself moving lightly and powerfully. Imagine yourself climbing easily and fluidly up heartbreak hill, or envision the finish line and you gracefully, calmly running toward it.  
  •             Break up your long runs into smaller runs. If you’re running 20 miles, structure this mentally as four 5 mile runs, and congratulate yourself on completing each segment. 
If one strategy doesn’t work for you, don’t give up. Change the mantra, imagery, or structure, or move on to another strategy.

What a Pain In The Knee! – Aubrey

Every day since I found out that I got a bib for Boston all I have thought about was training. Everything I have done has been focused on sticking to my schedule. I have eaten, slept, dreamt and not shut up about it for the last seven weeks. I have missed dinners with friends, avoided travel, fallen asleep during movies and avoided all human contact on weekends all for the sake of fitting in my runs. Luckily, my boyfriend has not left me for a non-runner. I guess that’s because he’s a runner too and understands. However, after many weeks of rigidity and dedication, my training has been thrown off kilter. Last weekend while I was running the Hyannis Half Marathon, I somehow injured my knee. To my horror, it’s totally sidelined me. Luckily, I visited NWH’s new Ambulatory Care Center at Wells Ave, and received some top notch training advice and PT. It’s helping, but I’m still struggling with pain, and am unable to run comfortably. All I can think about is when I’ll be able to lace up my Asics again. I’m frustrated and scared – and even worse, my routine change has really messed with my training anxiety, which I had previously kept at bay. I know injuries are par for the course, but I’ve been incredibly lucky so far and (although delusional) thought that I had been spared. Alas, here I am rolling out my IT Band and popping Tylenol like candy. I’m taking it one day at a time, but I am anxious to get back on the road. In the spirit of staying positive, I was able to find a silver lining – I finally started catching up on True Detective this week. I’ve been cheating on my treadmill with my television, and it’s really fun. I guess if I have to take some time off, at least I’m indulging in good TV!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

First Two-Hour Run – Suzi

"Always concentrate on how far you've come, rather than how far you have to go.'' This week I finally completed a two-hour run; something that has been somewhat haunting me up until this point. My confidence was shaken over the weekend when I cut my long run Saturday basically in half. What was supposed to be 105 minutes, was a measly 55 minutes. My legs were heavy and my mind was elsewhere. This made for a short run, and a nervous Suzi. I was nervous not so much for the two-hour run, I knew with proper food and hydration I'd be ok. I was nervous for the 4:30 am wake up and the eight hours of work following the run. In the past, whenever I have run for that amount of time or longer, I have been able to go home and do little to nothing for the day, or at least for a few hours until I felt motivated. This time around I've chosen to do my runs in the morning before work. This has made for great runs and a great mood early in the day. It also has left me anxious about waking up on time, and wondering how I'll ever handle a full day of patient care afterward. This is what I've been anxiously awaiting since I began training.

Now that my first two-hour run is in the books, a busy day of echoes followed, and I survived. I also managed to go food shopping, cook dinner and lunch for tomorrow. This reinstalled my confidence in myself and my training plan. I'm proud that not only did I complete my two-hour run feeling good, but I also had a normal and productive work day after. I have to stop and look back at the days when after completing a half marathon I'd barely be able to walk the rest of the day, if I got off the couch at all. There were also days that I never believed in a million years I could run a marathon. I have come a long way since those days. I am proud of the how far I've come in these last nine weeks. I run the hills each time I go for a run, and each time while still hard, they seem a little more manageable. I'm happy about where my training has gotten me this far, and I'm excited about how far it will take me in the next few weeks. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Advice from the Newton-Wellesley Experts - Tess

New England weather is at times unpredictable. Other times, it is just predictably cold. Running has been more challenging with an average of one substantial snowfall per week. The Physical Therapy team at Newton-Wellesley wanted to put together a few tips and reminders for marathoners that may help you through your training runs in this challenging New England weather.

STAY MOTIVATED: Although the sun is slowly rising earlier, dark mornings and evenings can challenge our motivation and dedication. Consider asking a friend to be your training buddy or running partner. Take a day to cross-train in the middle of the week. (In my experience, every single runner would benefit from cross training, more stretching and additional core work.) If you're just feeling burnt out, try something new – run a new route, do a trail run, check out that Pilates class or swim.  

BE VISIBLE:  If you are running at night or dawn/dusk, wear reflective training gear, headlamps, flashing lights and use well lit streets/sidewalks. For safety, tell a family member or friend your planned route and stick to it.  

GET TRACTION: Feeling that you're slipping backwards while running? Consider throwing on a pair of Yaktrax or turning an old pair of trainers into Screw Shoes to help you build sure-footed speed.   

REFRAME YOUR FOCUS: You have probably found that your times aren't as fast in the snow as on dry pavement. Instead of focusing on speed, improve your running efficiency by working on stride length, cadence and form.

Accepting Help - Aubrey

I have discovered that two things are necessary for training – advice and supportive people. Three weeks ago, my OMS colleague, Amy, opened my eyes to the wonders of compression socks. How have I trained without these all of my life!? They have surpassed GU to become my most helpful training tool. (Sorry, GU. It’s not you, it’s me.) For those of you who do not know what they are or how they work, they’re like really tight socks that somehow shorten recovery time and lessen the effects of muscle fatigue. I wear them on runs, I wear them to work and I wear them to bed. And despite the strange looks I get from trying to pair calf sleeves with Kate Spade flats, I have yet to take them off. There’s not really much concrete evidence of their healing powers, but many runners and trainers swear by them – and frankly, that’s good enough for me. As a first time marathoner, I’m accepting any and all advice from more seasoned runners. The other night, my aunt called to tell me that after destroying your legs on long runs, one should always walk up stairs backwards. Convinced at first that she was just trying to make me look foolish, I laughed it off. However, after my 15, hilly miles on Sunday, I could feel my muscles burn each time that I picked up my feet to climb the stairs of our third floor walkup. Heeding her advice and keeping a good grasp of the railing, I threw it in reverse and trotted backwards up the stairs with ease. Genius! Thanks, Aunt Kathleen!

Besides the oodles of advice and tools that I’ve picked up along the way, I’ve also greatly benefited from the kindness of my friends and family. My cousin, Jillian, and her husband, Nate, were staying with us this week while they visited Boston for a music conference. Seeing me groaning and hobbling around the house after my weekend run, Jillian took it upon herself to lay me down on the couch and massage my calves and feet for almost two hours. I’m not one to usually ask for help so I resisted at first. But, she persisted, and eventually I gave in. By the end of the night, I was walking with no discomfort.  

I also have to give a big shout out to my boyfriend, Chris. I don’t know how I’d be able to do this without him. He’s been my biggest cheerleader and motivator. He’s driven me to races, has showered me with running gear, gets me to the gym and has spent almost every evening of the last year rubbing my back and retrieving things for me so I wouldn’t have to move from the couch when I’m sore (which is always). Last weekend I had mistakenly not eaten enough before my long run, and I could feel my glycogen stores were depleted. My legs felt like lead, my head was fuzzy and I had to concentrate to even run in a straight line. Luckily, I nibbled on a couple packets of GU, and was able to finish. However it was all I could do to keep him from dropping what he was doing to drive over and stand next to me until I completed my run.  His love and support have been a constant source of strength for me, and I am so incredibly grateful to have such a caring partner.

We all want to believe we’re strong enough to do things on our own, but sometimes it’s okay (and even necessary) to ask for help. Part of the reason why I love running is that it’s a solitary effort – me and the pavement. However, I now realize that undertaking a challenge like this often requires a lot more than I can do on my own. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about myself while training, but I’ve also discovered the depth of support and love from my friends and family.   

Just Keep Swimming - Suzi

My motto this week has been "just keep swimming" from the ever-lovable movie Finding Nemo. This week is the halfway point of my training and I think I'm starting to feel the combined effects of all the long runs. I've been noticeably more tired and probably crankier this week (sorry to those that are around me daily). I have also been dealing with a little bit of a neck injury so the combination of being overtired, neck pain and snow storms, I'm trying to “just keep swimming”. I'm taking one day and one run at a time, and trying to remind myself that a slow run is better than no run. I have my sights set on my de-load week, which is only one more full week of training away. It is a week where my run time is cut almost in half to help focus on an active recovery. Hopefully I'll be able to catch up on some much needed Z's this weekend, hit next weeks’ long runs (120 min Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and then cruise into my de-load week to mentally and physically relax and recover.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Experience of Running Boston – Suzi

So far I’m on my seventh week of training. My training consists of runs based on time three days a week, a Crossfit workout twice a week and sprint training once a week, with one rest day. Phew, it’s already been a lot. Despite the high volume of training, I have really enjoyed it thus far. Getting out of bed at 5:00 am to drive to the Hospital and run in Newton has made my commute from Brockton faster and much more tolerable. I also find it to be a nice way to start my day, running before most people are out of bed.

I am stubborn and refuse to run any significant length of time (over 40 minutes) on a treadmill. I just don’t love running enough to stare at a wall or half pay attention to a TV screen for an extended length of time. Thus I have taken to the streets of Newton for the last seven weeks. Mother nature has not been on my side (with more snow falling as I’m writing this, I wonder how tomorrow’s 90 minute run at 6:00 am will go?) At the beginning I found it comical. Running with two pairs of pants, multiple tops, ski hat, socks, mittens and sometimes even a facemask. I still find it funny that I, who hates being cold, am happily running outside with snow on the ground and my water bottles freezing mid run. The further into my training I get, (read longer runs) the more of a pain I find the snow to be. The novelty is starting to wear off, and I would just like the snow to stop.

That being said, THIS is what makes Boston such a special race. The New England winter weather is unpredictable and it takes true dedication, determination and commitment to truly train for this marathon. It is a challenge I always shied away from. Thinking “I could never train for Boston, winter’s are impossible to run.” Well I have done what I previously thought was impossible, and as much as I want the snow to go away, I know at the end of the day it’s all part of the experience of running Boston!

Keeping Things in Perspective – Aubrey

I opened my fundraising page with an interesting marathon fun fact: When you walk you always have one foot on the ground. That’s not the case when you run. A 6 foot tall man, with 12 inch feet, running an 8 minute mile, takes about 1,250 steps per mile. Thus, over the course of one mile (5,280 feet), his feet only touch the ground for 1,250 feet and he is airborne for the other 4,030. The runner is actually in the air 76 percent of the time. So don’t think of a marathon as a 26.2 mile run. Think of it as 20 miles of flying.

I consciously avoid joking about how impossible the Marathon seems for fear that I may actually start believing it. Instead, I think it’s a good idea to keep the 26.2 miles in perspective so I’ve tried to quantify the distance in ways that make it feel more manageable...or at least more fun. For instance, it will take me less time to run from Hopkinton to Boston than my commute via the T on the morning of our last snowstorm. A more delicious perspective – a marathon burns roughly 2900 calories, equal to 674 M&M’s. That’s TOTALLY feasible. I could easily eat 674 M&M’s! However, we shouldn’t trivialize such a huge undertaking or the weeks of training involved in preparation for the big day. So, we forge on – and this week, that means crossing the halfway point.

This Saturday I’ll log 16 miles, preparing me for the stretch from Hopkinton to Newton-Wellesley Hospital. Seeing as this is my first full marathon, I feel a sense of relief every time I complete my long training runs, especially those beyond my comfort zone. I’ve put particular emphasis on the NWH mile marker, not only because so many of my friends will be waiting there to cheer me on, but because it’s the last stop before the dreaded “Heartbreak Hill.” I’m relying on the cheers of encouragement from the Newton-Wellesley crowds to carry me up and over miles 18 through 21. It’s amazing how powerful words of encouragement can be – sometimes they prove as powerful as the miles I’ve logged on my training runs.    

You can’t discount the benefits of actually practicing though so I’ve made it a point this week to do a lot of hill work. I’ve taken it to the streets, particularly the icy slopes of my Eagle Hill neighborhood. On Tuesday, I dodged falling ice and piles of snow to sprint the steep hills around my condo. The good news is that I’ve managed to complete that leg of my training without seriously injuring myself. The bad news is that I’ve yet to thaw out. In an effort to stay warm but not compromise my training schedule, on Wednesday I decided to trial the “Hill Training” selection on the treadmill. You know the one – it looks sort of like an Aztec pyramid. I hung in for about 7 miles when my legs finally yelled ‘uncle!’ I’m walking more like a duck and less like a human tonight, but I feel tough having completed it.

Training for Boston these last 7 weeks has been really difficult. However, when I get discouraged or feel cold and tired, I remind myself that rest and relaxation come in 67 days...with a bag full of 674 M&M’s. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Feeling Stronger Every Week – Suzi

My names Suzi Estey and I'm a cardiac sonographer in Cardiology at Newton-Wellesley and I'm sooo excited to be running the Boston Marathon for team NWH!! I've always run, but it was always a means to an end as a soccer player throughout high school and college. It wasn't until after college that I really began running to run and participated in road races. I've been running for close to six years now, mostly small 5Ks for charity or the occasional half marathon to challenge myself.

In May of 2012, I met one of the most inspirational and positive people I've had the pleasure of meeting, Steven Xiahros. He's the current Chief of Police in Yarmouth, MA the town next door to where I grew up and home of my high school. He is also the father of Nick, a classmate a few years younger than I, who joined the Marines after high school. He was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2009 at 21 years old. Steve told me about the Marine Corps Marathon he ran the year after Nick was killed. He spoke so highly of the experience that I couldn't help but take him up on his offer to run as a part of his charity team, team Big Nick. That October, I flew into DC while hurricane Sandy was on her way north, and in spite of the impending hurricane, ran my first marathon in Nick’s honor. Steve was right. The feeling of pride and accomplishment running in the Nation’s capital surrounded by Marines, historical places and monuments with other runners was unlike anything else I've ever experienced. I was truly humbled to run for Nick, Steve and all the other fallen soldiers and their families. 

On April 15 when the Boston Marathon bombing happened I was home visiting my parents on the Cape and heard the horrific news from friends in the area. I was working at Brigham and Women's at the time and in the days following went to work with armed guards at the front entrance. I couldn't stop feeling completely baffled and saddened at why someone would do such a thing to people who are so innocent!? It hit closer to home because not only did I live and work in Boston like many others, but the emotions of just finishing my first marathon were still so raw. I knew the discipline, time and sometimes pain that goes into training for a marathon and just couldn't fathom why anyone would go after people who willingly chose to endure such a feat of athletic endurance? I felt so much pain and sympathy for the families that lost loved ones, for all the people injured that were innocently cheering on a loved one, for the runners who didn't get to finish after so much training, and for the fact that the Boston Marathon will be forever changed. I decided that week that I would find a way to run the Boston Marathon in one of the upcoming years. I wasn't going to let the evil people in the world scare me away from something I love. 

This fall I was hired at Newton-Wellesley full time and remembered there was a Marathon raffle. One of the girls in my department ran for NWH last year, did not get to finish and is running it again this year. She and I were on the lookout for the Marathon raffle email and I entered as soon as it opened. Waiting to hear if I was accepted felt like waiting for college acceptance letters all over again; totally out of my hands but a lot riding on it. I was and still am beyond excited to have been chosen. 

I'm currently on my sixth week of training and am feeling stronger each week. My training plan is based on timed running rather than miles three days a week, sprint training once a week and Crossfit workouts twice a week to hopefully avoid overuse injuries (and add some mental variety). So far I've done all my running outside even with the snow and frigid temperatures because I have no desire to run on a treadmill for hours on end. I am making a point to run lots of hills and in a few weeks will move my sprint workouts to hill sprints. My only concern running Boston for the first time is the hills! You always hear about Heartbreak hill, the Newton hills and how hilly the race is in general. DC was relatively flat in comparison so I'm sure my legs will fatigue more quickly if I don't get enough hill work in. 

Marathon training hasn't seemed to affect my personal life much at this point in time besides the need to plan ahead. I need to know if it's a running or Crossfit day and pack accordingly. On the weekends if I'm planning a long run I try to be in bed early the night before and keep any recreational activities to a minimum ;).  I'm so excited for this opportunity that I enjoy my training. I also try to keep some prospective in that I won't be winning the race so my training doesn't have to be perfect all the times. As much as training is a top priority, I still go on with my daily life and do the other things I enjoy because at the end of the day we all need balance. 

"Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway" - Aubrey

                                                     Days until the Boston Marathon: 75
Days since surgery: 702
Weight loss to date: 190 lbs
Read about my weight loss journey here:

My journey to Boston began in a dark gym on a cold, March morning. Just under a year ago and exactly one year out from life-changing gastric bypass, I undertook the biggest physical challenge of my life post weight loss surgery – to run a full mile without stopping. Embarrassed and unsure of whether I’d be successful, I set out to test the waters in the privacy of my own home. No music, no light, no spectators. Just me and the treadmill. Twelve minutes later, feeling very accomplished, I celebrated by crying tears of joy on the floor of my apartment. The next day, I ran two miles, and a week later, I signed up for the Harwich Half Marathon. I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge, but even I was surprised at my willingness to run a half marathon shortly after finding out that I was capable of running a single mile. I had caught the running bug, and there was no hope for a cure.

The next few months would test me in every way imaginable. I was injured, and awoke most mornings chronically sore from training. But, despite that, the endeavor still thrilled me, and I fell in love with challenging my body. Sadly, the excitement of overcoming the physical struggle was soon offset by the emotional storm brewing in my mind. Suddenly, I felt an immense sense of fear.  Without warning, hesitation and anxiety found their way in - am I strong enough to run 13.1 miles when a year ago I was incapable of climbing a flight of stairs? What will people say if I am unable to finish? Would I let myself give up? In my mind, I was still weighed down, not by pounds, but by my doubt.

On a cold, rainy morning, very reminiscent of the one a few months earlier, I sprinted across the Harwich Half finish line into the arms of my boyfriend who had also completed the race. “Runner’s high” doesn’t really do it justice. Fear did not win – I finished, and I was elated. Before my tears of joy had even dried or the muscle cramps subsided, I was already combing the internet for marathon training schedules. I knew it was just a matter of time before I’d want to undertake another challenge (a much more daunting challenge), but I had no idea how quickly I’d get the chance.

A couple of months after Harwich, I half-heartedly submitted my name to the NWH Boston Marathon lottery. I had my mind set on the Dublin Marathon in October, but why pass up a chance to run the world’s most prestigious road race?  Not really thinking I’d be selected, I enjoyed the holidays and took some time off from the gym. Little did I know, the opportunity of a lifetime was waiting for me in my Outlook inbox. The rest, as they say, is history. Here I am, icing my feet after my Sunday evening 12 miler, typing out this post, and perusing for new GPS watches. Pinch me – am I dreaming? Needless to say, I am overjoyed and still in shock that I have the opportunity to run Boston as a first time marathoner. I really do feel like I “won the lottery!”

Though I half-heartedly submitted my name to the drawing, I whole-heartedly have committed to training and fundraising for Team Newton-Wellesley. As soon as I got the news, I was back on the treadmill, logging the first distance run of my Hal Higdon training schedule. Making the time to train has been challenging but rewarding. Speed work, hill circuits, distance days…these phrases somehow find their way into my daily lexicon more often than they should. I’m sure all of my friends and family are looking forward to April 22nd when they will no longer have to hear about how sore my hamstrings are or what the latest training craze is according to Runner’s World.  My rigid and time consuming training schedule has made me feel guilty and antisocial. I have more dates with my Asics than I do my boyfriend, but thankfully, he understands – everyone does. The outpouring of support and generosity has been truly humbling. Over these last few weeks, I’ve received a multitude of calls, Facebook messages, and emails, and I’ve exceeded my fundraising goal twice. I feel incredibly lucky to have such wonderful people in my life. I could not do this without them. Not only am I sure their encouragement will carry me across the finish line, it’s all but drowned out the voice in my head that tries to fill me with doubt. Come race day, I know I’ll be ready, and I look forward to soaking up every minute of the Boston Marathon experience. See you at the finish line!