Makeshift Marathon

I began 2020 as I do every year, reflecting on the previous 365 days- reviewing my goals, memories, lessons, and moments of joy, peace, and frustration.  I am always sure to dedicate time to look back on the year before gearing up for the year to come- setting new goals, or revising old ones, and coming up with a plan of attack.

One of my five goals for the year was to run a new Marathon Personal Best.  The first step along that road was to sign up for a race.  This step was quite easy.

The next step, a bit more gruelling, was to train.  I am quite happy with last year’s running (A new half marathon PB, a Boston PB, and my first ever Ultra Marathon), and knew those miles would make for a strong foundation this season.

An exercise in being Weatherproof, the weather most Saturday mornings this season was grim.  An unpleasant sight when the alarm sounded, the weather made the act of rolling out of bed a bit horrible.  Nevertheless, I traded my cozy duvet for hours of cold, damp, and windy running- an exercise in character-building, discomfort tolerating, and mental stamina.  It is with extreme gratitude that I did not brave the elements and distance alone, as my friend and I committed to the same race and “Legs Feed the Wolf” PB mindset.  We faced the elements together and distracted ourselves with the usual good chat and discussion of what foodstuffs would be eaten upon arrival back inside.

Training long runs at a pace that would blow my previous PB way (way, way, waaaaaay) out of the water, I was really excited for the upcoming race and long weekend excursion that would come with it.  Knowing this race was to have pacers and good crowds, I was feeling confident in my ability to not only achieve one of my goals for 2020, but quite possibly exceed my expectations.

But then life happened.  Amongst its other damages (of which I am sure you are well aware), COVID saw the postponement and cancellation of the world’s spring marathon calendar.  A tiny speck in the grand scheme of things, sure, but a significant detail in the lives of those who thrive on the physical and mental benefits of running, as well as its life-affirming community aspects.

The postponement of the race came during peak training- longer than long runs at the weekend, intense mid-week sessions, and the structure and purpose that accompany that regimen.  Knowing that I get sick in the couple weeks following a marathon, as a result of relaxing the mileage and intensity, and being on the other side of the the event that I was so looking forward to, I decided it would be in my best health interest (physical and mental) to continue training, so long as it complied with government lockdown regulations.

While I was sad that that meant solo long runs and interval sessions, I was still grateful that I could get outside and continue training.  At this time, it was the only thing in my life that I could control, and I was determined to complete the plan and run the marathon distance on what would have been race day.

Makeshift Marathon approached quickly and with the same excitement as an official marathon.  I came up with a plan of attack for the 26.2 mile quest.  A very different approach than the marathons I’ve run previously, the Makeshift Marathon course consisted of nothing more than one-mile laps around my neighborhood and a bag of water and snacks left of the front steps.

I played around with ideas for the route, but I had no desire to carry 26.2 miles worth of fuel.  Further, you don’t always need a toilet when you’re running a marathon, but you do need the knowledge that there’s an accessible toilet nearby.  Knowing that there wouldn’t be any options to stop and refill or release, the scale tipped heavily towards the logistical ease of laps.  Running laps for hours is definitely a mental game, but the comfort of knowing I wasn’t going to run out of water and had a toilet readily available if need be, is a mental stronghold from the start.

I typically approach long races by breaking them up into manageable segments.  Laps lend themselves easily to this approach.  It went a little something like this: I’d run three one-mile laps and then 0.2 miles back to my front steps for water, 0.2 miles back to start of the one mile loop, and then repeated until it was over.  I did nothing more than count to three, and the Garmin did the rest, and honestly, it wasn’t as terrible as it sounds.

“Wow, when did I run nineteen miles?” I thought to myself when my Garmin chimed in mile number nineteen.  It wasn’t until the last 10km that I started to get a bit tired, but that’s pretty much on par with any marathon, so we can’t blame the monotony of laps here!

The run was strong and controlled, yet the pace was challenging and the good kind of uncomfortable.  And just like a real race, I finished in the best way possible- feeling like I could not have run any faster.  I ran the absolute best time that my body would allow in that moment and under those conditions.  In my opinion, that is exactly what it means to win your marathon.  Distance running is such a dynamic sport- there are so many variables on race day and so many different factors that affect your training season.  Making it to every start line is a different journey, and each race is such a different experience, they can’t be compared mile-for-mile.

I shaved ten minutes off my previous PB, putting a bold check mark next to this goal.  This has certainly kept me going, as the other four goals for 2020 have been seriously hindered by this whole COVID thing.  Thankfully, marathon running has taught me the skills to adapt, persevere, and endure, which are top skills during a time like this, so thanks, as always, to this great sport that is simple, but hardly ever easy.

Thank You Notes

  • Thank you to two wonderful friends from Run Club who stopped by as I was heading into the final set of three laps.  Absolutely perfect timing and a much needed, socially distant, morale boost.
  • Thank you to Post-Long Run Chocolate Milk for being a delightful recovery tool.  Go ahead, Frequent Flyers, roll your eyes at yet another ode to chocolate milk, but I cannot and will not forgo a Choccy Milk TY Note.
  • Thank you to everyone who has been following the rules and the science these past few months.  Let’s continue to do that and look out for each other as best we can.
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Makeshift Marathon 2020

Now’s a Good Time for an Ultra Marathon

I have a 15,000-word dissertation due in a week, so I thought, yeah, now is a good time to run my first ultra marathon.  I’ll admit that I put a little too much Personal Best Pressure on myself heading into Boston, and after the race I found myself searching for a new endurance challenge and something that would bring me back down to running for the sake of running.  So I signed up for the Run the Blades 50km, which takes place at Whitelee Windfarm, just twenty minutes outside of Glasgow.  My mindset going into this race was just to finish- nothing fancy, no competitive time goals, no pressure, and absolutely nothing to compare it to.

With work and uni, even I thought I was a bit crazy for adding the uncharted waters of ultra marathon training to the list of things to do.  However, the Saturday Long Run became the most relaxing part of the week.  For this race, I trained my long runs for time, rather than mileage or pace, adding 30 minutes each week until I hit 4.5 hours, then tapering down to Race Day.  Many of the long runs felt effortless and provided a moment of pure bliss amongst the frustration of unmet word counts, unanswered text messages, and ignored emails.  The pacing was incredibly consistent as well, with mile after mile falling within tiny seconds of each other.  It felt like I was running for the sake of running again.  It felt composed.  It felt strong.

The race took place entirely within the Largest Onshore Windfarm in the UK, with 215 wind turbines towering 140 meters directly above the trails.  It was unlike anything I had ever experienced- dozens of wind turbines, as far as the eye can see, and in every direction.  Running to the tune of their whooshing, I ran 31 consecutive and absolutely undulating miles without ever slowing to a walk (okay that’s a generalization, I walked at each of the four checkpoints as I refilled my water bottle and had a little snacky snack- but in between each checkpoint, somehow, I did not walk).

Attempting a race this long is a bit daunting.  But like any race, I broke it down into sections. As there were four checkpoints, I thought the easiest way was to break it down into five parts.  Basically, I went on five different runs, and tried not to think about anything other than the section I was in:

  1. Start to Checkpoint 1 (6.5 miles)- This section basically ran itself, the miles were undulating and the heavy rains of the previous few days created a water feature, an expansive puddle, calf-deep with beautifully cold water.  I thought it was a little too early in the race to have wet shoes and socks, but wow, it was refreshing.  The pack of 179 starters spread out pretty quickly within these miles.  Throughout the entire race, there was usually another runner within eyesight, but the actual running was done very much independently.
  2. Checkpoint 1 to Checkpoint 2 (7.4 miles, 13.9 miles overall)- I started fueling regularly during this section and was feeling pretty strong.  There was a massive hill that I managed to crush just before the checkpoint.  Other than that, I don’t remember much about it.
  3. Checkpoint 2 to Checkpoint 3 (7.9 miles, 21.8 miles overall)- This was the longest section, and the one where I mentally wavered for a hot minute.  I kind of expected that going into it.  The sun snuck its way out through the clouds for most of this one, making it feel a bit warm.  Runners were few and far between here, which didn’t help either.  What got me through this one was the wind turbines.  I was absolutely mesmerized by them.  Borderline embarrassing.
  4. Checkpoint 3 to Checkpoint 4 (6.2 miles, 28.0 miles overall)- With the longest section out of the way, I knew I had just two sections to go, totaling less than a John Furey 10-miler.  My Garmin rang in the 26th mile as I was in the process of beasting up a steady hill and passing another runner as he walked up the incline.  I said “Ooh! 26 miles!” as I ran past him.  He turned and informed me that I was “making this look too easy.”  Honestly, I was in complete disbelief myself!  Don’t get me wrong, every bit of my body hurt at that point, but somehow I continued to find myself putting one foot in front of the other, arms propelling each step, and all with a smile on my face.  There were also some steep down hills here.  My knees did not care for that one bit, and the rocks were a bit loose and slippy.  Onwards anyways.
  5. Checkpoint 4 to Finish (3 miles, 31.0 miles overall)- My Garmin died shortly after leaving the fourth checkpoint.  I literally outran technology.  Luckily I knew there were less than three miles to the Finish Line and I was running under 10:30s, so the math was pretty easy.  Just a Park Run to go.  I just had to hold on through “That Hill,” which was no joke!  I was absolutely alone at that point and it was grueling.  I managed the hill without slowing to a walk and fought my way up a couple more minor hills to the finish where I was greeted with a post-race burrito and a huge surprise.  As it turns out I was the eighth lady to cross the finish line that day and the first in my category.  Unbelievable news to top off an unbelievable day!

The biggest kudos of the day goes to my friend Mhairi for her incredible performance as a one-woman Support Crew.  She cycled the course and met me at each of the four checkpoints, eager to keep me well-fueled, offer analysis on the course, weather, pace, etc., and take fantastic photos and videos of the day.  I could not have attempted this race without her, and recommend that everyone have a hype person with them for this type of challenge.

And now, if you’ll indulge me in a sappy moment, I’d like to share a reflection on the past few years of running.  Five years ago I ran my first marathon in 5:08:02- which sizes up to an average pace of 11:45 per mile over 26.2 miles.  Since then, I’ve cut an hour off that time, but this past weekend, I completed my first 50km race in 5:28:41- which evens out to an average pace of 10:35 per mile over 31 miles.  I am utterly astounded by this progress and am actually shedding tears as I write this.  I never could have imagined tacking on an extra five miles beyond the marathon distance with just a twenty minute difference.  And this is concrete proof that hard work and perseverance really do matter- the sub-freezing long runs, the squats, the ever-painful yoga sessions, the scrubbing portion of Tired Tootsie Tubby Time, it all matters.  For someone who, in recent history, couldn’t run a mile without feeling like the world was caving in on her, this race helped me to put it all in perspective.  I have learned and progressed through every single mile.  I could tell you it’s a metaphor for life, but if you’re a frequent flyer on this little blog, I’m sure you already know that.

Thank You Notes:

  • Thank you to Mhairi– See above, plus also thank you for completely immersing yourself in the activities and rituals of Race Weekend- everything from pre-race fueling to… post-race fueling, and… mid-race fueling.  Such a hardship, I know.  And thank you for carpool karaoke, Mamma Mia 2 screenings, casually cycling 50km through an undulating windfarm, taking glamour shots and horizontal videos, and carrying all the stuff.  Every bit of it is appreciated.
  • Thank you to all of the volunteers at Run the Blades– The checkpoints were beautifully orchestrated and full of cheer and positivity.  Each checkpoint was a welcomed sight on the long trail through the windfarm.
  • Thank you to my 7-year old laptop for an ultimate showing of endurance– Currently in the minor edits and formatting phase our third dissertation and fourth major academic project.  A true champ.

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Running

The first Wednesday of June is Global Running Day- a day to celebrate running and the physical and mental wellbeing it brings.  Whilst life got in the way of me being able to celebrate by actually going for a run, I was able to sneak in a moment to reflect on the meaning of running and the roads I have been fortunate enough to travel since picking up this little hobby that managed to reinvent my life.

Running is an escape, but equally so, an avoidance tactic.  It is both a healthy and unhealthy coping mechanism for life’s stressors.  I’ve flirted with this fine line more than occasionally, but thankfully I usually end up on the escape side of that line after a few miles of pounding the pavement.  Running has the power to stop time, suspend responsibilities, and clear the mind of frustration, anxieties, and endless overthinking. Should I send that text?  Why haven’t they answered my email?  They said they would call. This weekend’s Long Run was blissfully longer than the entire week that led up to it.  The to do list was long and never seemed to dwindle.  I let my mind wander and fixate on things, people, and situations over which I have no control.  Through it all, I looked forward to the weekend’s Long Run- three hours of me and the pavement.  The stressors and “what ifs” of the week cease to exist in the dream world that is a Long Run.  Sure, they were still there when I stopped my Garmin, but they felt smaller and more manageable.  And that is the power of running.

Running is simple, though hardly ever easy.  Running can be reduced to simply putting one foot in front of the other.  But it is not easy to get out of bed to go for a run when you could be having a lie in.  It is not easy to trek out into the bitter cold, the pouring rain, the blistering heat, or what ever adverse element is happening that moment.  Sometimes your legs and lungs feel like they’re made of lead.  Sometimes all you have is a spare twenty minutes and you wonder if it’s even worth it.  It’s always worth it.  Every run is a little bit of self-care and a celebration of what your body is capable of.

Running is both an independent journey and an opportunity to develop a support system of likeminded Weekend Warriors.  Kicking asphalt solo is necessary and rejuvenating.  It gives you time to be alone with your thoughts and to develop a mental toughness applicable well beyond the realm of running.  It teaches you how to adapt, persevere, and endure.  But running as a social vehicle is equally as powerful.  The running community is one full of support and positivity.  You hold each other accountable for getting out the door in the morning, for logging the miles, for challenging the pace, for one more rep, and for signing up for that race you said you wouldn’t sign up for.  Your chat ranges from the weather and politics to pure silence or your innermost thoughts and feelings (and poop, poop is a common topic of conversation).  You carry each other through the longest miles and come out stronger on the other side.

Running shows you how to feel comfortable getting lost (literally and figuratively) while simultaneously showing you how to find yourself.  It allows you to operate within a comfort zone while continuously challenging your limits (I love me some Vygotsky).  In this way, running has the power to reveal inner strength that you didn’t know existed.  This unearthed strength carries over to life outside of running.  It makes balancing 101 different things at the same time a little easier.

I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to running for helping me to discover this inner strength and so much more.  Running has helped me to explore new cities and roads less traveled.  It has led me to new friends and new PBs.  It aligns strongly with my other hobbies of eating food and drinking beer, making the phrase “uno más?” a whole lot more rewarding.  So, thanks, Running, if you’re reading this, for all this stuff.

It is also valuable to recognize the importance of balance with a hobby like running.  Like anything, too much running can be bad for you.  Overuse injuries are painful and frustrating.  Likewise, running shouldn’t be used to avoid aspects of your life that require attention.  Learning balance through running is also valuable when staring at that endless pile of marking, thinking about approaching dissertation deadlines, or putting off social plans that you said you’d make.  Put the marking away, don’t think about the deadline, make those plans.  Though it may seem like it, I don’t like spending all of my free time running.  I savor time spent not running just as much as I enjoyed the pure bliss of this weekend’s Long Run.

Summer running is already upon us and with three races on the calendar, I’m excited and nervous to be trying something different.  I’m being exceptionally vague here so y’all’s stay tuned to find out what’s up next.  Also, as per, I haven’t a clue what I’m doing with this “something different,” so there isn’t much to write about yet!  One foot in front of the other!

Happy Running!

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Barefoot Boston 2.0

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I said these words to myself, eyes closed, palms together and fingertips rested between my eyebrows, as I toed the line of the 123rd Boston Marathon.  It was a moment of calm amongst the wonderful chaos of the starting corrals of the World’s Oldest Marathon.  Reflecting on my training and the reasons why I run, which motivate each step, I knew I was capable of doing some damage to my Personal Best.

But part of marathon running is surrendering to everything that is out of our hands and performing under conditions in which we have absolutely no say.  Adapting, persevering, and enduring are all requirements, but accepting that, while, yes you may be capable of faster and stronger, there are uncontrollable factors that will ultimately determine your race time, is paramount.  It is not your fastest time, but the ways in which you react and adapt to race conditions that determine who you are as a runner.

I can proudly and confidently say that, this Patriots’ Day, I ran the fastest time that my body would allow under the day’s conditions.  And with that in mind, here is a personal recap of the 123rd running of the Boston Marathon:

After a strangely restful night’s sleep, waking up to humidity, pouring rain, and thunderstorms was nothing more than comical.  My friend Kelly (a badass veteran marathoner) and I laughed as the rain poured and thunder roared.  She outfitted me in waterproof clothes and saw me off to Boston Common where my teammate Steve (another badass veteran marathoner) and I boarded a bus bound for Hopkinton.  Along with the humidity, excitement was in the air as we reflected on training, fundraising, and general excitedness for the day.  After a little mix up with the bus taking the wrong exit, we found our team meeting spot and geared up for the race.

Marathons can be broken down in a million ways, but after reflecting on this race for a few days, the 2019 Boston Marathon has broken itself down into three specific parts:

Part I: Humid & Cloudy-  Right out of the gate I was running fast, but it was a manageable pace.  With these conditions, I knew it was a pace I could sustain.  I laughed as I crossed each checkpoint and wondered what my Support Crew around the globe was thinking as they got notifications of my speedy times through the first half.  I don’t often enjoy humidity, but the cloud cover made it pretty manageable for running.  The crowds through this part were epic, as per, and I was happy to completely immerse myself in their energy.  The run was fast, but I felt in control and ready for the hills.

Part II: Here Comes The Sun(burn)- For those of you who know my history with running Boston, I must have been foolish to think Patriots’ Day would let me escape without a sunburn.  The surprise appearance of the sun for miles 10-21 threw me for a loop.  I was able to hold it together through the half but nearly fell apart after that.  It was amazing to see my Crew at mile 17, as that was when I was feeling at my lowest.  I upped my water intake, started feeling sick to my stomach, and ditched my shoes just after the 20-mile marker.  Thankfully Kelly was able to force them off my swollen feet and I felt like a new person.

Throughout this part, I repeated to myself the mantra with which I began the race:

  • Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change– I cannot change the weather, I can only adapt to it.
  • The courage to change the things I can– Taking off my shoes was a change that I could make to help adapt to the uncontrollable weather factor.  It was a risk to run without shoes for that long, but it was a change that I could make in an effort to help the situation.
  • And the wisdom to know the difference– It’s easy to get frustrated by race day conditions when you know you had a strong training season that would allow for a faster time, but, ultimately, that is not what marathon running is about (and I’m glad I remembered that during the race).  I made changes within my control and thought about my people I run for- especially Meme and Tracey, who both showed courage and determination throughout their lives.  I am forever grateful to have had these ladies as role models in my life.  I also thought about the Stepping Strong ethos, which truly encapsulates the spirit of the marathon.  I am honored to run for such an incredible cause that is making an innovative impact on trauma survivors around the globe.

Part III: Washed By The Water- Barefoot and crazy, I beasted up the final hill of the Heartbreak section as rain started to pour from the sky, getting heavier and heavier with each step into Boston (I unashamedly reacted like that scene in Holes when it starts to rain.).  The fresh feeling in my feet, the mid-race motivation from my Support Crew in the Sky, and the cool rain lifted my spirits and my pace- I was back.

As the rain poured, I dug deep, engaged with the lively crowds, and tried to avoid pebbles and uneven bits of the road.  Overall, it was pretty smooth thanks to pre-race street sweeping.  Pro Tip: If you ever find yourself shoeless and in the midst of a marathon, run on the painted lines in the road- it’s a lot smoother than the road itself.  Some spectators questioned my shoeless-ness while others applauded and encouraged it.  I will admit that 10km is too far to run without shoes, but I would not have made it much further with them on.  Running without shoes does indeed hurt, but it hurt differently and a bit less than when I had them on, so I just embraced it.  Let’s be real, the latter miles of any marathon hurt.

 

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It was wonderful to see my Crew again near the end of mile 24.  Everything about that moment was so drastically different from when I saw them at mile 17.  It felt as though it was a completely different day!

The headwind up Hereford Street was strong, cold, and drove the rain into my eyes.  Mixing with the sweat on my face, it burned and made it difficult to see, but the famed Right on Hereford and Left on Boylston was impossible to miss.  The roar of the crowd down Boylston Street never fails to make me cry and, while I’ve never want that stretch to end, I was able to pick up the pace for a strong and fantastic finish.

Almost immediately after finishing, I was greeted with the biggest and best hug from Martha (yet another badass veteran marathoner I am lucky to know) as she bundled me up in a heat sheet to stay warm.  I missed a PB by 4 minutes, but I knocked about 30 minutes off my Boston PB, which is something I am quite proud of.  The challenge of the course between Hopkinton and Boston, the energy of the crowds, and the inspiration of the charity running community is something that I will never grow tired of.  Thank you, Boston for another incredible run.  I said I wouldn’t say it, but I’ll be back.

Thank You Notes

  • Thank you to Caroline and Ali for their hard work throughout the training season and race weekend.  You both make the logistics of charity running so simple and 100% enjoyable.
  • Thank you to Coach John for his invaluable training and racing advice.  You make me feel so prepared for and at ease about the Marathon Quest.
  • Thank you to Daddio for being the rock of the Support Crew (as well as the Crew’s official offline donation manager and Strava analyst).  I know you say that I’m your hero (which honestly, I don’t understand), but you are truly mine.
  • Thank you to my Sister/Best Friend for literally everything.  This woman is the most supportive and prepared human being to grace the planet.  If spectating a marathon was an Olympic sport you’d win the gold by a long shot.
  • Thank you to the rest of the Support Crew on the ground, including but not limited to, Leah, Jaz, and Chris Ray, Debra, Mum, Kelly, & Garrett.  Thank you for helping out with race logistics and cheers.
  • Thank you to Stepping Strong- I am so grateful to run for this incredible organization.  I get chills every time I read about the work and research they’ve been doing and the positive impact they are making for trauma survivors and their families.
  • Thank you to chocolate milk (as always) for that on point carbs-protein ratio, just perfect for kickstarting post-race recovery.
  • Thank you to that lady who gave me that freeze pop around mile 15 (?).  It was everything I didn’t know I needed in that moment.
  • Thank you to absolutely everyone who lined the course from Hopkinton to Boston.  Oftentimes spectators make the race, and this was no exception.  I am so thankful that I saw everyone who said they were going to be there and then some! x

Do Damage: Dublin Edition

The past eighteen months or so have been stressful.  There has been a lot of uncertainty in my career and personal life.  There has been a lot of frustration and a newly developed disdain for bureaucracy that came along with this uncertainty, and I am grateful that I have running, hiking, and cooking (and a great Support Crew) as releases for that.  It’s safe to say that I was looking forward to this marathon training season to help me navigate this rut.

That is until I ventured back to New England for an overdue visit.  A double-edged sword, it was wonderful to see family and friends, but the training season that I was so looking forward to succumbed to the heat and humidity.  My training lagged and I lost more fitness than I anticipated.  I hoped for the best, but didn’t bounce back quite as well as I had hoped as the season came to a close.  My paces were off and I made the mistake of comparing them, split-for-split, to last season.  Knowing that each season was run under very different circumstances, I still beat myself up over it.

After a quick vent sesh with a friend, I shook it off and adapted my plan.  Reflecting on the sheer exhaustion of the year, I let go of my time goal and switched to an “In It To Finish” mindset, and looked forward to a fun Irish getaway that just happened to include a wee 26.2 mile fun run.

I’d be remiss not to acknowledge the other little thing that has been affecting me and many people that I know: I read and watch the news.

The news has been disheartening lately.  Seeing horrific acts of violence and hatred and watching so many lawmakers vote against logic, seemingly neglect compassion, and attack each other leaves me with the impossible question of “why?”  In addition to several facets of anger, it makes me feel small and a bit useless.  It makes me wonder if we’re still on the same team here.

I won’t digress too much into this, because I’m sure you feel similarly and know that finding words to accurately describe your feelings towards the current state of affairs is an impossible task, but this weekend, I remembered that there is a way to restore your faith in humanity: be part of a marathon- run, walk, volunteer, cheer, honk your horn while you drive by- just be part of it.

Okay, so here’s a rundown of the 2018 Dublin Marathon:

“Fresh” isn’t exactly the word I’d use to describe how I felt as I toed the start line of the 2018 Dublin Marathon (although I wore compression socks to bed the night before, so my mind felt like my legs felt fresh).  I’m sure it would be lovely to start a marathon feeling “fresh” and confident in your training and the amount of rest you got in the weeks leading up to the race, but I’d say it was more of a “Here Goes Nothin'” kind of feeling.  The usual nervous-excitement, butterflies-in-your-tummy feeling was there, but I also felt like, “wow literally anything could happen in the next 4.5 hours, and I’m excited to find out what will happen next.”

It was an absolute battle, but I felt strong, physically and mentally, the entire time.  Not once did I second guess myself or question the idea of the marathon.  And for the first time in over a year, I felt in control.

Right out of the gate, I was running too fast compared to my watered-down season of training.  It was a challenging pace, but I went with it.  The fatigue and discomfort that naturally set in every time around mile 16, while incredibly present, were no match for my ability to run on auto-pilot.  I never walked, knowing that if I slowed or came to a stop, starting back up again would be nearly impossible and incredibly painful.

The entire journey from start to finish was entirely renewing.  It restored my faith in humanity, as marathons tend to do.  Seeing human barricades of spectators lining the streets with witty signs, demanding high fives, and shouting words of encouragement reminded me that people are good and we are all still on the same team.

And the encouragement wasn’t limited to the sidelines.  Other runners lifted each other up and pushed each other physically and mentally closer towards the finish line.  I was genuinely asked on several occasions how I was doing, and honestly, I don’t think it was limited to the task at hand.  We offered each other snacks and broke down the course for each other- “It’s just a 10km now, an hour at most!” I said to a runner, struggling as her GPS watch rang in the twentieth mile.  “That’s 5km, two times!” someone else chimed in.  Twenty minutes (but what seemed like three hours) later, we remarked at what seemed like the longest 10km of our lives, but found comfort in the fact that everyone around us was also embarking on what felt like the longest 10km of their lives.

In the end, I pulled off a PB…and it felt good.  It felt challenging.  I finished in the best way you can finish a race- feeling like I couldn’t have gone any faster.  When my legs checked out, my heart took over and persevered onward to the finish line.

No stranger to crying in airports and on airplanes (happy and/or sad crying), I shed an actual tear on my short flight back to Glasgow Monday morning as I replayed the day in my head.  I can honestly say that every moment of the race was enjoyable.  It most definitely wasn’t easy, but the challenge, the pain, and the exhaustion, were all deeply personal and reminded me of my own strength, the strength of others, and the kind and supportive people in the world.

Thank You Notes:

  • Thank you to my Support Crew (near and far), including the four lovely ladies I was lucky enough to spend the weekend with.  It would be impossible to train for and run marathons without a Support Crew.
  • Thank you to Dublin for putting on an incredible race! It was a gorgeous day and the atmosphere and support along the course were amazing.
  • Thank you, as always, to chocolate milk for being the most perfect, immediate, post-run recovery drink.

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History, Beer, & Running (Part III): The Best of the Rest

Traveling to five different countries with five different languages and several currencies is exhausting.  At this point in the Runcation, I knew I would want something familiar.  So I made a stop in Salzburg to take in the views and a few Stiegl.  It was nice to know that I wouldn’t have to plan anything or navigate any new streets.  The thing about solo travel is that you need to be “on” 100% of the time.  It’s all you out there.  You need to plan, navigate, and communicate every step of the way.  Having a travel partner or group allows you to share this responsibility or at least take turns, but on your own, it’s a one-woman show, which is fantastic, but also physically and mentally draining.

It felt nice to go to a few of the old hangouts and viewpoints, including a refueling stop at Stiegl Keller, a hearty bowl of gulasch at Café Central, a solid people watching session in the Mirabellgarten, and a run along the Salzach and to Hellbrunn.  My legs were absolutely beat, but stopping in Salzburg made for a perfect holiday-within-a-holiday!

Just in time for a rest day, I boarded an old-timey train to Ljubljana.  The Slovenian capital has been on my list for a few years now and has been a top recommendation of several friends.  This cosy city didn’t disappoint and is perfect for wanders along the river and nice Slovenian wine.  I definitely didn’t stick to the three themes of the Runcation in Ljubljana, and I wasn’t exactly on my proper planning game, but I walked up to the castle, took a very rainy day trip to Lake Bled, sampled Slovenia’s honey liqueur, and enjoyed some Slovenian wine with a couple other travelers and education enthusiasts.

I was pondering a run one afternoon, but seasonal allergies and tired legs pondered otherwise.  So, I took a vote, and a run through Ljubljana did not happen.  This scenario perfectly captures the beauty of solo travel.

And just like that, I was onto the final leg of the Runcation and half marathon number two of the trip: Budapest.  This was my second visit to the Hungarian capital and second half marathon along the Danube.  After straying from the themes of the Runcation in Ljubljana, I jumped right back on them in Budapest:

History– I chose to do the Communist walking tour of Budapest.  The guide walked the group through life in post-war Budapest and painted a picture of the current political climate in the country.  It’s always a nice bonus as well, when the people in your tour group ask fantastic and relevant questions.  Speaking of relevance, later that day, I walked into a massive rally protesting the results of the country’s parliamentary election that took place just one week earlier.  It was interesting to see, but it didn’t take long for my fear of crowds to take over and navigate myself elsewhere.

Beer & Food– The last time I visited Budapest, it was Christmas Market Season- a joyous occasion.  This time around, the spring markets were up and running!  Here I was able to refuel with Hungarian gulasch, Hungary’s national dish, chicken paprikash, and what ever they had on tap.  I also sampled Unicum, the 80-proof Hungarian herbal liqueur.  My top recommendation for a trip to Budapest, however, is a meal at Kisharang Étkezde.  This gem in the heart of the city offers inexpensive, authentic, and hearty Hungarian cuisine.  I went for dinner after the race, and I was starving.  I started with csülkös bableves, which is a delightful ham, bean, and dumpling soup.  I then enjoyed hortobágyi palacsinta, which I can only describe as a magical cross between an enchilada and a pierogi but with a paprika sauce.  The combination of the two made for the perfect last meal of the Runcation.

Running– Before this, I had never attempted two half marathons so close together, but figured if my body can keep up with marathon training, then back to back races wouldn’t be the end of the world.  However, my legs wanted absolutely no part of it at this point in the trip, so I ran solely with my heart (April 15th is a day where the heart tends to take over).  The pre-race logistics were a bit of a nightmare, and will probably prevent me from recommending this race, but the race itself was lovely (shoulder-to-shoulder for several of the first miles, but otherwise lovely).  Running this race was an absolute battle, and I left it all out there on the streets of Budapest.  Despite a frustrating Garmin malfunction in mile 3 that left me doing mental math for the next 10 miles, I can say with certainty that I couldn’t have run any faster, and that is a good feeling.  The chip time says I ran this race one minute and ten seconds slower than Bratislava, a consistent showing that impressed me.  I then spent the afternoon soaking my tired legs in the Széchenyi Thermal Baths.

All in all, I would rate the Runcation as a challenging success.  Two very consistent and quick races outran my previous half marathon PB, which was set in Glasgow in October 2017, and I am so grateful that this trip turned into an opportunity for several of my passions to collide.  Now that I’m back at work, it’s time to start planning the next adventure!  Stay tuned for that.  Click here if you missed Part I and Part II of this series!

Thank You Notes: Runcation Edition

  • Thank you to ice cream for being the most perfect snack for an afternoon wander.  The best part about being on holiday is that it’s pretty much expected that you break for ice cream around 1500.  No questions asked.
  • Thank you to fellow hostel-goers for plenty of stories, laughs, and travel recommendations.
  • Thank you to travel days for being a built-in rest day with scenic views.
  • Thank you to race medals for being the most perfect souvie.
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Home Sweet Salzburg

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Travel days are scenic rest days

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Rainy day in Ljubljana

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Budapest Half Marathon!

History, Beer, & Running (Part II): Beautiful Bratislava

Based on multiple reviews from trusted travelers, I had minimal expectations for Bratislava.  Not only was I pleasantly surprised by this charming city, but over the course of three and half days, it worked its way into my list of Top 5 Favorite Cities.  A bold statement, I know, so here’s the lowdown:

  • History– To get acquainted with this small city, I started with my go-to: a free walking tour.  This three hour lay of the land was fantastic, and easily one of the best walking tours I’ve been on to date.  The passionate guide walked the group through the history of her city, including its medieval, WWII, and communist histories.  She gave the history of Bratislava a very human emotion and bridged the past to the present while explaining the current and growing political unrest in the country.  She also gave an incredible recommendation for high quality and inexpensive Slovakian cuisine.
  • Beer & Food– Let’s start with the tour guides recommendation- Bratislava Flagship Restaurant.  This seat yourself, beerhall-style eatery offers scrumptious Slovakian cuisine and local beer.  Based on the tour guide’s recommendation, I had bryndzové halušky, which is a dish of gnocchi-like dumplings with a sheep’s cheese sauce.  Sprinkled with bacon, this national dish of Slovakia is an absolute delight.  I dined with a couple lovely Canadians who, together, sampled the bryndzové halušky, garlic soup, and potato pancakes.  They recommended all of it.  For beer, we had Kláštorný ležiak, which perfectly balanced out the richness of my meal.  The other food-related experience that pushed Bratislava higher and higher up on my top list of cities is Konditorei Kormuth.  For €15, you get 3 courses of dessert: a specialty coffee or hot chocolate, a piece of cake of your choosing, and a spirit of your choosing.  The decadent hot chocolate rivaled that of E. Wedel’s in Warsaw.  For cake, I chose the Esterházy torte, a favorite of mine from my studies in Austria.  And finally for the spirit, I chose Slovakia’s famous Tatratea.  The original tea liqueur boasts 104 proof, and the entire line of Tatratea ranges from 44 proof to 144 proof.  The entire dining experience at Koditorei Kormuth was complimented by the atmosphere and artwork of the cafe.  I definitely recommend everyone carve out a couple of hours of their time in Bratislava to enjoy this gem.
  • Running– Here we go, the moment we’ve all been waiting for.  The first half marathon of the Runcation.  My only goal was to finish.  I had been loosely maintaining my base of 10 mile long runs since February, but this trip came together fairly last minute, so I didn’t have time to properly train.  That being said, about 4 years ago, I made it a goal of mine to always be in reasonable fitness to complete a half marathon, and I suppose this was the first real test of that endeavor.  The race was fantastic and the course through Bratislava and along the Danube was fast.  It was my warmest run of the year to date, but I still managed a pretty sizable PB.  It was definitely a battle, but I felt strong.  My performance in this race was so unexpected that it made the victory so much more enjoyable and justified another serving of bryndzové halušky.  Also, the medal is of a fine quality.  The evening before the race, I went on the complimentary history run of Bratislava, which was one of the events of marathon weekend.  Talk about passions colliding!  This run reminded me of how strong and fantastic the running community is.  It was so nice to explore Bratislava with other runners.
  • Bratislava Bonus– Sculptures are scattered throughout the streets of Bratislava.  “Man at Work”, or Cumil as the locals call him, is a sewer worker who watches passersby in the heart of Bratislava’s old town.  According to the walking tour guide, many lighthearted sculptures like Cumil were added to the city to make the streets “more fun” after the communist regime.

Overall, I was impressed by my visit to Bratislava.  I went for the history, beer, food, and running, and all were met to the highest degree.  The next leg of the Runcation: a trip back to Salzburg, my home away from home(s).  Click here for Part III of the Runcation.  Click here if you missed Part I.

History, Beer, & Running (Part I): Easter in Poland

Life is funny.  Roughly a week after moving back across the Atlantic and starting a job in Massachusetts, I was offered a job in Scotland.  The color-coded pro/con flow charts made a resurgence, I consulted my Support Crew, I cried a bit, I accepted the job, I booked a flight, and the rest is history.  Well actually, I suppose the rest is History and Modern Studies, the two subjects I am currently teaching to the U.S. equivalent of grades 6-12.  A fantastic range of ages and part of the reason I was so keen to accept this position.

Alright, you’re just about caught up, so now I can move on to my 18-day solo adventure around Central and Eastern Europe.  I turned my school’s rather lengthy Spring Break into a little something I like to call the “Runcation”.  The first step in planning this trip was to look at the European half marathon calendar and connect the dots.  I chose two half marathons one week apart from each other and planned the entire trip from there.  Planning this adventure was an elaborate and exciting puzzle: linking one city to the next via bus tickets that could literally be paid for with pocket change and using hostels as a home base that offered free meals, free laundry, and a steady stream of fellow travelers to swap stories and travel recommendations with.  The Runcation had three major themes: history, beer (plus local cuisine), and running.

In each city, I had three goals:

  1. Explore history– this was usually done through free walking tours.  I didn’t do too many museums, as they were either closed for Easter, or the weather was too nice for me to want to go inside for longer than need be.
  2. Indulge in local beer and cuisine– I was incredibly strict on not letting the half marathons affect my eating and drinking game.  I thought of it more as a refueling strategy for all of the running, walking, and backpack carrying- averaging about 10 miles each day, sans running.
  3. Run– If not racing, just run and take in the sights of a new city.

So those were the parameters- a trip for passions to collide.  I put the necessities in my backpack and flew to Warsaw, where I was greeted with bitter cold, wind, and museums closed for Easter weekend.  Thankfully, this New Englander could handle it and did three walking tours in two days.  Here’s the breakdown:

  • History– The Old Town walking tour is a great overview of Warsaw’s history from its medieval walls to its WWII ruins and rebuilding.  I also enjoyed a few more specific walking tours, including Warsaw at War and Communist Warsaw- the former walking through Warsaw’s occupation and resistance during WWII, and the latter showcasing Warsaw’s post-war history through communist-style architecture.
  • Beer & Food– To escape a rainy afternoon, I went to a craft beer bar called Jabeerwocky.  Here they had about a dozen choices of craft beer on tap, many of which were local.  I also enjoyed Poland’s popular orzech laskowy, or hazelnut, wódka.  As for food, I ate my weight in pierogi.  Finally, I recommend a trip to E. Wedel Chocolate Lounge to sample Poland’s oldest brand of chocolate.  It was packed, so I got a takeaway bitter hot chocolate and it warmed my soul as I wandered the rainy streets of Warsaw.
  • Running– I didn’t want to, but I ventured back out into the rain and wind for an Easter run to Łazienki Park, home to Łazienki Palace.  The park was lovely, and the palace was fairly easy on the eyes too!  As always, I was glad I went for that run.
  • Pro Tip– Ask your walking tour guide for their top notch recommendations for places to eat.  They tend to point you in the direction of authentic and inexpensive local cuisine.

Then, after a couple hour’s bus journey, where I powered through some marking (need to maintain that work-life balance, right?), I arrived in sunny Krakow.  Of course, I was ravenously hungry, so after settling into the hostel, I went for a wander to find a late lunch.  I stumbled into the final afternoon of Krakow’s Easter Market and stepped right up to the pierogi booth.  Here’s the breakdown of my time in Krakow:

  • History– A couple walking tours helped me to get acquainted with this lovely city.  Krakow’s Old Town walking tour showcased, well, its old town, including Wawel Castle.  The WWII walking tour was an incredible look at Krakow during, well, WWII.  I suppose these are pretty self-explanatory.  My top recommendation for a trip to Krakow, though, is a tour of Auschwitz.  This history teacher was left speechless and reminded of the importance of studying and remembering the past. I’m not going to even attempt to capture it in words.  (Logistics: You can get to the site via public transportation or through a tour operator.  If navigating your own way via public transport, you will have to wait in line for a tour and are not guaranteed entry.  Going through a tour operator is more expensive, but guarantees you a tour and minimizes waiting time.)
  • Beer & Food– When traveling, I think it’s important to try the cheap beer that’s served in mostly every restaurant and bar and packs the shelves of convenience stores, AKA the “Local Bud Light”.  The hostel I was using as the home base offered free dinner every night, which included a free beer hour.  This was a fantastic opportunity to meet and share meals with other travelers and indulge in the local brews.  Poland is in no short supply of Tyskie and Żywiec, both of which can be found on tap mostly anywhere.  In terms of a local craft beer, I made a refueling stop at Ursa Maior during my afternoon wander through the Jewish Quarter.  Finally, I have to recommend Wódka, a cosy little vodka bar in the old town (Shout out to Babs for recommending this establishment for the past 4 years).  Here you can build a flight of six shots of vodka from an overwhelming menu.  The difficult part is narrowing down your choices.  My favorite was chili chocolate, but I don’t think there’s any surprise there.  Other than enjoying quintessential Polish beverages, I continued to eat my weight in pierogi for lunch, as breakfast and diner were provided by the hostel.  I really enjoyed this time to connect with other travelers, especially other solo travelers.
  • Running– I took advantage of a sunny afternoon and went for a run around the former moat of Krakow’s old town and up to Park Jordana, which was honestly a bit underwhelming of a park.  There were also a lot of youths there.  That’s okay though, I suppose they’re allowed to go outside too.  I digress.
  • Krakow Bonus– Spend a few hours wandering the Jewish Quarter.  There you’ll find street art, vintages shops, and a market.

After a wonderful few days in Krakow, I boarded a bus bound for Bratislava.  I didn’t want to leave Krakow, but I needed to get some more marking done!*

Teaser: What happens when you eat pierogi the entire week leading up to a half marathon that you signed up for with only a few weeks notice?  Read on to relive the magic of Bratislava with me, and the first race of the Runcation!  Click here for Part II and Part III of the Runcation.

*Denotes sarcastic tone

 

Redemption in Reykjavik

For the past sixteen months, I’ve been running for redemption.  I’ve talked openly about my bittersweet and barefoot run through Boston and DNS in Berlin, and finally, I am pleased to report that I’ve run a strong marathon.  I trusted my training, fueled and hydrated properly, and left everything I had on the roads of Reykjavik.

A poor performance during a race that you trained oh so diligently for can be as frustrating as an unanswered text message, but a botched race can also motivate you through another training season, to the start line of another race, and on to another finish line.  You can also learn a lot from a rough run.  It was the pain of running Boston and the disappointment of sitting out of Berlin that fueled my fire this season.  Every long run, hill rep, lap swum, lunge, squat, wall sit, early morning spin class, and late night foot soak had some of this fire and a whole lot of heart (No matter the race performance, let us never forget the underlying reasons as to why we run).

After a training season that went strangely well, I boarded a plane for Reykjavik.  I’ve had many a stop over in Reykjavik, but this was the first time I got to leave my favorite airport.  I spent two lovely days exploring Reykjavik and Iceland’s Golden Circle.  I certainly didn’t dislike it, but since honesty is the best policy, I’ll also say that what I was able to see of Iceland definitely caters to tourists and receives a great deal of hype.  That being said, race weekend was still incredible, and I do recommend a visit to Iceland (specifically for hot dogs and Icelandic donuts).

In a twist of events, it turned out that I would be tackling this race solo, which added to pre-race jitters and sparked a bit of fear and flashbacks to the breathing-induced back pain during and after last year’s Boston Marathon.  With that as my last marathon memory, it was easy to wonder, “What if that happens again, but this time I am alone and in a foreign country?”  Thankfully though, I learned from my mistakes and was determined not to let that happen again.

Okay, now on to the good stuff.  The air was cool and crisp and the sun was shining as I headed out of the hostel and to the start line.  Right then and there, I knew it would be a good day for racing.

After a crowded first mile, I locked into a comfortable pace and pretty much checked out until mile 11 when I looked at my watch and thought, “Wait, when did I run 11 miles?”.  This was the first time I’ve raced a marathon with a GPS watch, and it definitely helped to keep me on pace.  The course was flat compared to what I am used to, which tends to bore me, but it was also incredibly scenic and the spectators were lively.  My new maple syrup fueling plan proved successful, as evidenced by no GI issues and a measly wall-hitting experience of roughly 4 minutes.  The last few miles ran along the coast and were very quiet.  My legs were tired, but on autopilot, and this was more of a mental challenge than anything else.  Luckily the scenery and blue skies were there to help me through.  Also, the smell of low tide put a little pep in my step so I could get back into town more quickly.  And suddenly I made it to another finish line, but this time feeling stronger than ever before.

I definitely missed the physical presence of my Support Crew and running buddies, but know that they were rooting for me from various corners of the world.

Thank You Notes:

  • Thank you to all of the friendly runners and travelers at the hostel, race, and around town for sharing stories, advice, and travel recommendations.
  • Thank you to Reykjavik for an incredible race and post-race festival/fireworks show.  Iceland surely knows how to party!
  • Thank you to my Support Crew, a team of friends and family who have taken on a whole new role recently.  While they couldn’t stand along the race route with cowbells and wet paper towels, they were pretty fantastic at supporting from afar.  Furthermore, the Support Crew has consistently been by my figurative side lately, offering plenty of advice and perspectives on my post-Master’s degree quandary/waiting game.  I can’t express my appreciation enough for the Crew xoxo

Lucky Number Thirteen

I laughed to myself when I realized I’d be toeing the line of my thirteenth half marathon this weekend.  I laughed because I still can’t believe that distance running is a thing that I do, better yet, a thing that I enjoy.  In the moments following every finish line, I usually find myself wondering, “How did I pull this one off?”

Every race is challenging- some physically, some mentally, but many both.  Completing thirteen half marathons in the past four years and all of the training in between has unknowingly taught me a lot, specifically about enduring, persevering, adapting, and the importance of hard work.  It has also taught me how to effectively drain blisters, another valuable life skill.

Running certainly wasn’t easy at first, but now I feel free when I hit the road, and every worry on my mind, no matter the size, is kicked to the curb.  Running provides a window of opportunity to think, and better yet, time to not think.

During that window of time, it doesn’t matter that people haven’t answered your text messages, that you haven’t landed a job yet (keyword: yet), or even an interview for that matter, or that you didn’t write as many words for your dissertation today as you would have liked.  Sure, some of those worries slap you in the face when you stop your Garmin and slip off your sneakers, but for a brief moment in time, the worries, annoyances, and frustrations of the day cease.

Thirteen half marathons calls for a lot of training.  I’ve learned how to pass the miles in a variety of ways.  I’ve spent many a mile making pro-con lists about big decisions, thinking about lesson plans, chatting with friends, answering the occasional phone call, making up funny stories about people I pass on the street, and belting out the Hamilton soundtrack from start to finish (yes, runs can last that long).  I’ve spent many miles not thinking at all, laughing at the stories told by Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and Rachel Dratch in their audiobooks, feeling like part of the action while trail running to the Hunger Games, absolutely jamming out to the Spice Girls, enjoying pure silence, and sometimes all I can focus on is the pounding of my rough-day elephant feet on the pavement.

No matter what I’m doing from mile to mile, it always ends up being enjoyable.  Sometimes the miles feel less than great, or the pace is frustratingly off what I know I’m capable of, but other days the miles feel fantastic and every step is effortless.

This weekend I crossed the finish line of the Skye Half Marathon with a new PB and asking the ever-burning question of, “How did I pull this one off?”  The (very) hilly course and pouring rain perfectly matched the dramatic landscape of Skye and made for an incredible race.  Most of the spectators were sheep, and there were plenty of friendly runners to keep morale high throughout the race.  The course didn’t mess around, as the first incline began right out of the gate, through the first mile, and continued to roll until another long and steady incline in the eighth mile.  From there it was uphill and into the wind through mile ten where the course then made way for a mostly downhill finish.  The final three miles were a mental challenge, but I caught that train and finished with a burst of speed and my head held high.

In amazement of pulling off another race, I was handed a local beer and medal for my efforts, which is the perfect ending to any race story, but only the beginning of a wonderful weekend touring the Isle of Skye.  The jaw-dropping landscape of Skye was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and made a post-race hike impossible to pass up, beating the tired legs into submission.  One of my favorite destinations throughout my year of Scottish travels, I definitely recommend a visit.

Thank You Notes

  • Thank you to maple syrup for being excellent mid-race fuel.
  • Thank you to the group of nice gentlemen I spent the weekend with (many of whom were running their first ever half!!) for letting me crash their Skye Adventure.  Kudos on a race well run!
  • Thank you to my Sister/Best Friend for coming to visit last month.  I miss you tons, come back please.
  • Than you to my laptop for holding its own in its old age as we near the finish line of the Master’s degree.  Please keep it up.

There’s Something About the Mountain Air

Relaxing has never been a strength of mine.  Always balancing a tough course load, top-notch grades, part time jobs, and marathon training, I have never made relaxing a priority.  At the end of Fall semester last year, I realized you can’t pour from an empty cup and learned the importance of rest.  Simply learning the importance of rest, however, did not stop me from making the same mistakes the next semester.

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*Photo Credit: Pinterest 

Since starting graduate school, I have found myself with a lot of down time.  I realized this is not something I will have for very long, especially since my Master’s program is only one year and then I will be teaching full time, so I decided to take advantage of it.  Last week, I ventured back to Salzburg, the city that stole my heart, to breathe in the mountain air and learn how to relax.

I went to all of my favorite spots in town, saw my favorite views, ate my favorite foods, and took long strolls along the river. One day, I hiked Gaisberg, a 4,225 foot mountain with healing powers.  I spent a sunny day reading in the Mirabell Garden and a rainy day reading in a cafe.

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Looking for a good physical challenge after training for and not running Berlin, I ran the Salzburg Trail Running Festival for the second time.  It was, well, challenging, but refreshing and renewing all at the same time.  I entered Kapitelplatz where the finish line was just as all of the bells began to chime in unison.  It was a perfectly timed ending to a beautiful run through my favorite city.

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Though I missed my friends with whom I shared Salzburg, it was comforting to return to and relax in the city I consider to be my home away from home.  Until next time, Salzburg

Did Not Start

DNS- “Did Not Start,” it says next to my name in the record book for this year’s Berlin Marathon.  While those letters sting more than I can describe, they certainly do not mean that I did not try.

Four months ago, I began training for marathon number four.  As the hot and humid summer negatively affected my training, I knew I had to drop my ambitious time goal and run instead of race.  Oh, and I moved to another country.  That didn’t help matters given the time frame.

Undertrained, I was still looking forward to running another World Major Marathon and spending time in Berlin this weekend.  I strategically planned the trip for optimal museum time without putting too much strain on my legs.  However, a few days before I was scheduled to leave, I found out that Meme, one of my biggest runspirations, passed away.  My priorities immediately shifted and I made an impromptu trip home.

This trip was accompanied by many emotions.  The loss of my grandmother, who doubled as my friend, was difficult, especially being so far from family.  That, along with the stress of missing class, extensive traveling, and missing the Berlin Marathon (that I struggled but persevered to train for) all became very frustrating when you add in the exhaustion and resulting headache.

I thought the race was out of the question until I FaceTimed with Daddio and he told me that I should still try to run.  He made some good points, and while overwhelming, I knew I had to try.  Meme would have wanted me to run, and it’s worth it to try and have it not work out than to never know.  It is this combined determination and stubbornness that I inherited from Meme.

So, I coordinated a slew of one-way flights, traveled through seven cities, with four different airlines, and arrived at the marathon expo to pick up my number with just minutes to spare.  All of this activity with a dividend of five days- if I pulled it off, I would have done cartwheels through the airport.

SIDE NOTE: I would like to recognize the restraint involved in listening to the Hamilton soundtrack and not belting out a single lyric because you are on an airplane.  This restraint is far under appreciated.

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Meticulous travel notes to get me to the church on time! A bagel tally seemed necessary too!

It wasn’t until I got lost on the way to my hostel that the shear exhaustion of the week hit me like a high speed train.  Trying to channel the badassery of Barefoot Boston, part of me thought, “Well I’m here, I may as well give it a go.”  The other part of me decided that the exhaustion combined with being undertrained and alone was a recipe for disaster and the safer option would be to sit this one out.  With my adjusted projected finish time and added exhaustion, catching my flight back to Scotland didn’t seem plausible.  It is very important to respect the distance of a marathon.  After all, without proper training, marathons can be dangerous.  Still, the decision to sit out was painful to make.

My best friend summed it up pretty well by saying, “this seems like a lose-lose situation.” And she was right.  I would be upset to not run, and I would feel terrible (physically and mentally) if I did run, not to mention running the risk of injury as well.

A DNS is frustrating to a marathoner no matter the reason.  It’s easy to be upset because, although I’m not in the peak condition I originally planned, I still put in the hours of training and gave up a lot (especially a lot of family time) to get there.  At the end of the day, I’m still only human.  It wouldn’t have been healthy to run and that would have sacrificed my future running goals.  I’m in this for the long haul, not to be outrun before turning 25.  Maybe just one marathon a year will suffice!

And so, this “Did Not Start” has sparked the fire to begin working towards my next running goal.  Wherever the next race may be, I’ll be sure to make it a good one because Meme has the best seat in the house.

Thank You Notes:

  • Thank you for the outpouring of love and support my family received this week, and thank you to everyone for celebrating Meme’s life with us.  This goes without saying, but she was a special lady.
  • Thank you to my family for convincing me to give Berlin an honest try.  I wouldn’t have been able to give it a go without your support.
  • Thank you to the fellow marathoner I met on the flight to Berlin.  We split a taxi from the airport, swapped stories of travels and marathons passed, and got to the expo on time  (In case you are wondering, he finished with an incredible time!).
  • Thank you to compression socks for keeping my legs race ready with all of this travel.  If only the rest of my body could keep up!
  • Thank you to Meme for a lifetime of wisdom, wise cracks, and peppermint patties.  Your strength and determination have always inspired me and will continue to do so as I live, learn, and meander through life.
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Thanks, Meme

Marathons: A College Success Story

It wasn’t until my freshman orientation that I realized college wasn’t for me (Yes, the two day orientation the summer before college even starts).

Here I stand, four years later (after transferring, studying abroad, seemingly endless summers of catching up on credits, student teaching, and completing three marathons) with two Bachelor’s degrees and a license to teach in the State of Massachusetts.  Though I successfully navigated my college years, I can confirm that the “college experience” was not my cup of tea.

Luckily, I am stubbornly independent and was perfectly fine marching to the beat of my own drum as I moved around roughly every four months for four years.  My schedule and setting changed on the regular, and running became my constant.  When I wasn’t being challenged at my first school, I started to run.  And my oh my look where it got me.

I attribute much of my success in college to running.  Training for marathons has given me time management skills like no other.  It is the perfect release during a stressful semester.  It is the greatest excuse when I don’t want to stay out late.  It has led me to incredible friends who like to go on adventures.  It has taught me how to get lost on purpose.  It has taught me to adapt, persevere, and endure.  And sure, training for marathons while being a full-time student and working on the side isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m glad it’s mine.

I put a piece of my Boston Marathon heat sheet inside my graduation cap.  Heat sheets are given to runners upon completion of most marathons.  A heat sheet protects you by keeping you warm after you stop running.  Since 2014, I have kept a piece of Boston heat sheet in my wallet just because it means so much to me.  I like knowing it’s there.  Putting a piece of it in my cap was a no-brainer because I owe much of my success in college to running.  As I sat at commencement, reflecting on my collegiate accomplishments and glimpsing into the uncertainty of the future, I was glad it was there to remind me of where I’ve been and to protect me as I head into the Great Unknown.

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Austrian Adventures and Running: A Few of My Favorite Things!

Thank You Notes (College Edition):

  • Thank you to my Daddio for believing in me, being my biggest supporter, answering my phone calls at any time of day, and generally always giving the best advice.
  • Thank you to my Mum for always being there, especially when I’m sick.  (She makes the best soup).
  • Thank you to my Debra for believing in me when I forget to believe in myself.
  • Thank you to my Sister/Best Friend for being my best friend, role model, proofreader, and the person that I look up to most in life.
  • Thank you to my Austria friends for being adventurers.
  • Thank you to my co-teacher/mentor for giving me all of her secrets.  If I can be half the teacher that you are, I’d be satisfied.
  • Thank you to my first students who taught me more than I could ever teach them.
  • Thank you to my professors (four of them in particular) who prevented numerous b-downs over the years.
  • Thank you to my laptop for not crashing.
  • Thank you to my nine roommates over the past four years for the memories and for  putting up with my early-set internal alarm and the noises I make when I (try to) stretch.

Barefoot Boston: A Race Recap

Marathons are not run in a day.  They are run in months of early mornings, countless hill repeats, squats, planks, ice baths, and bowls of spaghetti.  Race day is actually the final stretch of a marathon, and it can be unsettling when your months of hard work are shattered because of that one factor we cannot control: Weather

On Tuesday,  I celebrated Monday’s accomplishment with some friends I am privileged to know through charity running.  We were all in agreement that Monday was a grueling day to race, and none of us are quite satisfied with our performances.  Mostly everyone’s times were off what they knew they were capable of based on training, and even the elite times clocked in a bit slow this year.  That being said, it was still Boston, a race that will eat you alive, spit you back out, but still have you crawling back for more.

The seventy-and-sunny forecast was a bit unnerving considering we never had a long run over fifty degrees this season and our coldest was somewhere around negative ten.  With race day being the first warm run of the year, it was difficult for the body to adjust and perform they way it did during training.  This was frustrating, especially because the day started out really warm and then 30,000 runners ran into a cold front with a strong head wind on their way to Boston.

This strange weather made for a tricky and technical race, and a lot of things could have gone better.  For example, I over hydrated.  Over hydrating can be very dangerous.  Feeling lethargic for most of the course, I searched the human barricades (beautiful crowds that mentally carried me from Hopkinton to Boston) for a spectator with pretzels.  I normally carry salt packets with me for long races, but it completely slipped my mind this time and sent me into a rut.

There are a few things you can do when you’re in a mental and/or physical rut during a race:

  1. Say to yourself, “One step at a time.”  It’s literally how you get from point A to point B in any situation.
  2. Remember why you run.  We all have our reasons.  
  3. Think about all of the other athletes around you.  If you’re in mile 21, so are they, and they probably feel the same way too.

One of the most important things running marathons has taught me is adaptability.  It is difficult for your body to adapt to sudden changes in temperature during endurance events, but there are always adaptations you can make on the fly while running.  I am not proud of how I hydrated and fueled on Monday, but I am proud of one fantastic adaptation that I made.  I took my shoes off in mile 24 and finished the race in my socks.

I have a love/hate relationship with my current running shoes.  I loved the previous version of this shoe, so when I was due for a new pair it was a no-brainer to just upgrade to the next edition, right?  Wrong.  Throughout training I had good days and bad days with these shoes.  I hesitated (and chose not) to try a new pair before the race because I was not up for the experiment with such a short amount of time.  Instead, I just hoped it would be a good shoe day.  It was not a good shoe day.  My Daddio helped me take them off and I sojourned onward to that beautiful finish line.  Getting those darn shoes off my feet provided instant relief and was the best I felt for the entire race.  It also made me feel like an absolute badass.

So, barefoot and crazy, I finished my third marathon.  I am incredibly proud of completing my second Boston, but redemption is needed (It’s in my three-year plan).

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No Shoes, No Problems

Thank You Notes:

  • Thank you to the spectator who gave me pretzels.  I think you saved my life and my kidneys.
  • Thank you to the spectator who gave me a wet sponge.  I’ll have you know sir that I carried that sponge many miles and I also thought you were cute.
  • Thank you to my family and friends for your constant support throughout training and the race.  Seriously, y’all’s know how to work a road race.
  • Thank you to every spectator who lined the course.  You are what makes Boston so special.  Thank you for the pretzels, the wet paper towels, the encouragement, the punny signs, the music, endless high fives, and never failing to provide more cowbell when asked.  Thank you for carrying me home to Boston.
  • Thank you to all of the wonderful donors who contributed to Brigham and Women’s Hospital.  Your donations provide Life Giving Breakthroughs to countless appreciative people and their families.  If you would like to make a contribution, there’s still time!  Click here for more information!
  • Thank you to the sun for only burning the right side of my body this year.  The annual Patriots’ Day Sunburn has much less surface area this time.
  • Thank you to the volunteers, medical personnel, and police officers throughout eight fantastic towns who kept the course safe for runners and spectators.
  • Thank you to the New Old South Church for a beautiful service on Sunday Morning.  The annual Blessing of the Athletes service is truly inspiring and I channeled it while I was struggling during the race.

Home Field Advantage

The Boston Marathon is the most prestigious marathon in the world.

That sentence (and the reality of it) is daunting.

The Boston Marathon has two hats.  The first hat is the kind of hat you see at the Kentucky Derby.  Boston is a marathon for the elites, it has incredibly strict qualifying times, and a BQ is at the top of every marathoner’s bucket list.  Calling it “prestigious” is almost an understatement.  But what makes this marathon even more incredible is the second hat, like your good ole baseball cap.  Regular Joe’s get to run Boston too by raising money and awareness for their favorite causes.

I say “Regular Joe’s” because some of us didn’t grow up runners, some don’t have a runner’s physique, and some aren’t very fast, but we are all passionate and crazy, crazy passionate, passionately crazy, all of the above.

On top of our day jobs and/or school, charity runners train like athletes (some getting in shape for the very first time) and raise money and awareness for causes that are near and dear to our hearts.  It is painful, exhausting, and consuming but at the same time, it is equally rejuvenating and rewarding.  Knowing that I get to spend Saturday mornings with Team Long Run is something that I look forward to week in and week out.  There is something very special about being surrounded by people who are so passionate and dedicated to the art of the marathon and the causes we run for.

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I am very lucky to call Boston my home, and I am even luckier to be running this race for the second time for the wonderful Brigham and Women’s Hospital [Insert shameless fundraising plug here].  I grew up outside of the city, but during my years living in the heart of Bean Town, I have witnessed the resilience that personifies the Boston Marathon.  I am speaking of a resilience that is inspiring, not only to get you out of bed in the morning to log some miles, but to be a kind human being.  Boston continuously reminds me that people are good, that love trumps hate, and that together we are strong and can make remarkable things happen.

Living and training in Boston for Boston has its perks.  First of all, the harsh winter weather makes you adaptable (buck up, it builds character!)  Secondly, training on the course gives you an incredible edge, physically and mentally, on race day.  Turning right at the fire house is when I click into gear.  Heartbreak Hill is the ultimate home field advantage.  I know every unforgiving incline of those miles.  This training season alone, I have run Heartbreak Hill 28 times.

I know that this will be my last Boston for a while, so I am ready to eat up every delicious crumb of Marathon Weekend: the Expo, every wonderful mile of the race, the Blessing of the Athletes on Sunday morning, Sam Adams 26.2, the camaraderie, pasta parties, the sound of cowbells, fancy heat sheets, hilarious and sometimes inappropriate double entendres on signs that were meticulously thought up and created by spectators, the butterflies-in-your-tummy feeling of busing to Hopkinton only to realize the only way back is via your own feet, the kind words of encouragement from family, friends, and strangers alike, the post-marathon waddle (swag walk), and that beautiful medal adorned with the prettiest unicorn in all the land

On the eve of the 2014 Boston Marathon, BWH’s beloved coach said, “The Boston Marathon is the marathon of all marathons.  It is your Superbowl, your World Series, your Final Four, there’s nothing else like it.”  I have trouble finding words to describe the experience that is Boston, but that pretty much sums it up.

Thank You Notes:

  • Thank you to each and every wonderful donor who has contributed to BWH’s quest for Life Giving Breakthroughs.  Your generosity is appreciated by more people than you can imagine.  Interested in donating?  Click here to help BWH meet our $1,000,000 goal!
  • Thank you to my beautiful family and friends for enduring yet another training season with me.  I am the only one who can put in the miles, but y’all’s make it easier.
  • Thank you to ice baths.  You hurt so good.

18 Miles Worth of Thoughts

Running 18 miles takes a long time and it eats up most of your day.  Oftentimes, people ask me what I think about for that long, especially when I tell them I don’t usually listen to music.  Lately I have been running to audio books which are surprisingly a delight to run to.  Other times, I prefer pure silence.

Looking to mix it up this week, I asked donors to craft a playlist for me by picking a song when they donated to Life Giving Breakthroughs.  The playlist was shorter than I anticipated, but every donation counts!  With a short playlist and an 18-miler, I ended up listening to each song about eight times.  So for those of you who ask what goes through my mind while running, here’s a little look into my brain on a long run:

  • Song number 1: “America F*ck Yeah”
    • “This is offensive but it’s kind of catchy.”
  • Song number 2: “Adventure Of A Lifetime”
    • “Ahh, some relief”
  • Song number 3: “Born To Run”
    • “Maybe I wasn’t born to do this, oh well it is far too late for that realization”
  • Song number 4: “Livin’ On A Prayer”
    • “OOOOOHHH WE’RE NOWHERE NEAR HALFWAY THERE OOOOH OOOOH”
  • Song number 5: “December 1963”
    • “OH WHAT A NIGHT, how does his voice go that high?”
  • Song number 6: “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You”
    • “‘We’ve got a long way to go,’ preach Mulan, preach.”
  • A quick thought
    • “Olympic marathon trials are today in LA,” *Looks at watch that is not visible because it’s covered by four layers of clothing* “I think I’m winning, well, with the time change, of course.”
  • Song number 7: “Friday”
    • “I think my ears are bleeding or maybe it’s my brain leaking out of my ears.”
  • *Playlist cycles back to beginning* *Face hurts*
  • Song number 1 (for the fourth time)
    • *Sings along* *Questions friendship with “friend” who chose this song*
  • Song number 4 (for the fifth time)
    • “OOOOOH WE’RE MORE THAN HALFWAY THERE OOOOH OOOOOOH WE’LL MAKE IT….IF I DON’T FREEZE IN MID-AIIIR”
  • Song number 5 (for the sixth time)
    • “Ugh, this song never ever gets old”
  • Song number 6 (for the seventh time)
    • “‘We’ve got a long way to go’ you’re still right Mulan, it’s not over til it’s over.”

And suddenly we’re back where we started, geographically speaking (not referring to the music).  That’s generally how it goes.  Put one foot in front of the other and you’ll make it back eventually, regardless of what you’re listening to (or not listening to).

Thank You Notes:

  • Thank you to Vaseline for protecting my face from the bitter cold today.
  • Thank you to my Daddio for being awesome, per usual.
  • Thank you to everyone who donated this week and created that interesting playlist.  You certainly mixed things up for me, and I appreciate it!

100% Chance of Awesome

Believe it or not, it is easier to stay in bed when it’s dark, cold, rainy, and there’s a long run quest ahead of you.  As my alarm sounded, all I wanted to do was stay in bed and watch the complete series of New Girl for the third time while cozily snuggled up.  But I got out of bed, and I ran the miles.

The forecast predicted a 100% chance of rain.  It was a cold rain, which makes dressing appropriately mission impossible.  The only true waterproofing you can do is to put your phone in a Ziplock bag.  Other than that, no matter how many “waterproof” layers you pile on, you will still be soaked and chilled to the core.  Puddles in your shoes, a little pond between your elbow and the sleeve of your coat, and a sweat and rain soaked jacket now the weight of a small child or large pizza (those weigh about the same, right?).  It is easier to stay in bed when you know that your future is soggy, but you put on your baseball cap and head out the door anyways.

With a 100% chance of rain, there’s a 100% chance of awesome.  Water was cascading down Heartbreak Hill as I fought the current and ran up.  Despite the weather, the carriage road on Commonwealth Avenue was packed with training marathoners- everyone getting their miles in with a smile on their face.  It’s just water right?

At the end of the run, I was glad that I ventured out of bed to log those miles with fellow runners.  And now?  Now I can watch the complete series of New Girl for the third time while cozily snuggled up.

Thank You Notes:

  • Thank you to everyone who has donated to BWH so far!  You are awesome!  If you’re looking to donate, follow this link!
  • Thank you to Brunch.  What a delightful meal, and a great way to warm up and refuel after a long run.
  • Thank you to Ziplock bags for your true waterproofing power.

Thankful

There is a lot I am thankful for, I am just not the best at expressing that.  After a wonderful run with my Daddio and two Thanksgiving meals, I reflected on just how much I am thankful for, and it was difficult to stop the list once I started.

I am thankful for my family and friends who not only put up with me but also believe in me and my crazy endeavors.  I am also thankful for my small handful of friends who are just as crazy as I.  I am thankful for my education and the wonderful opportunities it has brought, including Austria and all of the experiences, lessons, and friends that came along with it.  I am thankful for my students and my co-teacher because they have given me a world of knowledge.  I am thankful for my health and the ability to get out of bed in the morning to go for a run.  I am thankful for finish line hugs and watching movies by the fireplace.  I am thankful for being able to travel through food and road races.  I am thankful for mistakes and lessons learned.  I am thankful for ice baths and meals shared with loved ones.Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 4.02.12 PMNot only as the holiday season begins, but in everyday, it is important to remember what we are thankful for and why it means something to us.  Marathon training begins next week, and I am certainly thankful for that.  Get ready for updates and pleas for donations to the amazing Brigham and Women’s Hospital.  Speaking of which, there are so many people who give much of their thanks to BWH and their determination for Life Giving Breakthroughs.

What are you thankful for?  Would you consider donating to BWH in honor of someone or something you are thankful for?

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A lot to be thankful for

 

Bring It On

Back in February, I signed up for a running festival set for the end of August.  With the goal being so far off, I thought, “I’ll train really hard, be in the best shape coming off my second marathon, and I’ll PB in all four races!  Bring it on!”

SIDE NOTE: I signed up for this festival of running rather late at night, probably buried under piles of work, and looking for a distraction from said piles of work.

This summer has surely flown by, and I feel defeated.  Long days at work, anxious preparations for a semester of teaching, an itch to travel that I just can’t scratch right now, and I even managed to sneak in a summer class.  All of this while preparing for another move back to school, which always seems to be untimely and inconvenient.  Sadly, life has gotten in the way of my running, and it truly showed at the running festival that I was looking forward to so much.

The weekend kicked off with a Friday night 5km in the pouring rain.  It was a lovely race and the rain was welcomed because the heat and humidity have been quite harsh the past week or so.  My time was not nearly where I wanted it to be, so I knew right then and there that I had to change my game plan for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday morning welcomed a terrific 10km race, where again, my performance was subpar.  I enjoyed myself and ran, but I didn’t race.

Saturday afternoon was uncharted territory for me: a one-miler on the beach!  Barefoot and crazy, runners made their way 1/2 a mile up the beach, and then 1/2 a mile back.  It was…interesting to say the least.  I didn’t trip, so I’d say this race was a success.

Last but not least, Sunday morning rain fell upon an excited half marathon crowd.  I was a little ambitious following a pace group that was my original target pace, and not the target pace I knew I would be more comfortable with.  After a couple of miles, I fell behind, but stayed consistent for the rest of the race.  Slightly disappointed with my time, I was happy with my consistency, which I believe to be one of my strongest running qualities.

All in all, it was an eye opening weekend.  I realized how my overbooked schedule affected my running edge, and it lit a fire to do better and to work harder to reach another PB.  The whole “Four Races in One Weekend” thing was incredible.  I would absolutely conquer that quest again.

As this summer draws to a close, I end another chapter in the book, and look ahead to a new horizon: senior year of college.  Better yet, a semester of teaching, which will be an entirely new and exciting adventure.  The next couple of weeks will be full of transition and new experiences, and while I am currently yearning for simplicity, I have nothing more than to say, “bring it on.”

The Lake Placid Marathon

On December 31, 2013, I made a resolution to run a sub-4:35 marathon.  On June 14th, 2015, I became a sub-4:35 marathoner.

Against the odds, I took 38 minutes off of my previous marathon time.  I say against the odds, because this race was hillier, warmer, and smaller.  Smaller is the key element.  A mere 242 tenacious marathoners, the Lake Placid Marathon was significantly smaller than Boston (36,000 runners).  After the halfway point, the race became very spread out, and oftentimes, I was on the road alone.  Solo distance running is a big mental game.  Similarly, the crowds were motivating and wonderful, but few and far between.  So, it’s safe to say that this was a mentally tough course.

Luckily, the Village of Lake Placid is stunning.  The beautiful views include the gorgeous Adirondack Mountains and the Olympic Jumping Complex that towers above the trees.

You know I love hills, but there was a set of hills nearing the end of the course that were no joking matter.  The first was steep and quiet, not a good combo.  A fellow runner and I encouraged each other the entire way.  Then, we made a slight turn and faced another hill.  We talked each other through the entire trek.  Then, a final hill before a jaunt 3/4 of the way around the Olympic Speed Skating Oval.  I was not expecting the third hill, or the second for that matter, and I cursed the whole way up.

Then, I ran around the speed skating oval, luckily speed skating is not a hilly sport.  When I was about halfway around the oval, the emcee at the finish line said, “If you hurry, you can finish in 4:30!” I had no idea what my timing was, and hearing those words put a shocked and overjoyed look on my face  A runner who had already finished the race and was standing in the field in the middle of the oval was so elated by my reaction that he congratulated me and cheered me on closer to the finish line.  And then, with a lightning burst of speed, I crossed the finish line.

Thank You Notes:

  • Thank you to my family for following me out to Lake Placid.  I am so lucky to have such a great Support Crew.
  • Thank you to breakfast sandwiches for being the best kind of sandwiches.
  • Thank you to the butterfly that flew alongside me in the lonely miles around mile 20.  There is no doubt in my mind that it wasn’t you cheering me along, Tracey.
  • Thank you to the runner who encouraged me up those hills.  I know you said that you would have walked the first hill if it wasn’t for me, but I would have walked the second if it wasn’t for you.

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3 States, 2 Feet, 1 Morning

Today was the last big long run before the Lake Placid Marathon next month.  In Boston, it is easy to find places to run.  When in doubt, just run along the marathon course.  It has plenty of hills and a carriage road that protects you from traffic.  However, I am not in the city for the summer, so I had to come up with a plan.  I thought of some routes, but they all seemed boring (boring routes don’t help solo distance runs), especially the one that lapped my street 44 times.  The lack of sidewalks in town make finding a long run route challenging.  So, I ran to Maine.

22 miles up the Atlantic coast- Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine

It was a gorgeous day with stunning views.  The water looked so perfect, I could have jumped right in.  With the ocean and beach scenery, I couldn’t help but think of the half marathon I ran in Wales just on the other side of the pond.  Except, there are fewer cliffs here, and my legs are okay with that.  And there are fewer sheep here too, as in no sheep.  I digress.

This run was mentally challenging, as running distance solo can be.  Luckily, my Sister/Best Friend met me every three miles for water and a hug.  Breaking the run down into three mile segments really helped.  Oh, and seeing my sister, that helped too.

So the miles are in, and now it is time to taper.  I am only a few weeks away from marathon number two, and this run made me feel good about where I’m at.  Although, I could have run a little faster, but in hindsight, can’t we always run a little faster?  In the meantime, food and Netflix beckon.

Thank You Notes:

  • Thank you to my Sister/Best Friend for being my Crew today.  I absolutely would not have been able to do this without you- mainly because of the water, but also the hugs.
  • Thank you to the ocean air for clearing my mind and helping make an enjoyable longer than long run.
  • Thank you to chocolate milk (a repeat “thank you note” many a time now, I know) for an on point carbs to protein ratio as well as a post-run treat.

Race Day is right around the corner, so stay tuned!  Thank you, as always, for reading.  Happy Running!

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Mile 21- Am I delusional, or are we in Maine? A little bit of both

Weather or Not

Marathon training is tough.  Marathon training in the winter is tough.  Marathon training in the winter in New England is tough.  It’s been snowing for about a month now here in Boston (quite possibly a month straight, I’m not really sure if it has stopped), and the snow banks are taller than me, the sidewalks are either nonexistent or makeshift speed skating tracks, and the wind literally blew the headphones out of my ears the other day.  In this weather, it is sometimes necessary to adapt your training plan.  When distance is involved, it is much easier to run outside, but lately The Great Outdoors hasn’t been the safest option.  I am currently debating on whether or not I should brave the MBTA and join my hill group this evening, or stick to the treadmill for yet another Wednesday.

Weather is always an exciting factor in road running.  Winter marathon training means either a spring or summer race.  So we wake up at the crack of dawn and pile on a closet’s worth of layers to go run distance in the snowcapped mountains (streets), just so we can race in conditions that will be entirely different (but who knows at this rate, there may still be snow on the ground in June!).  I have been known to put on a pair of ski goggles and brave the elements to log a long run, and face the humidity (which is, in my opinion, the worst of the elements) to get some miles in.  Either way, training in extreme conditions really adds something to your running.  Not only does it help your physical strength but also your mental strength.

Regardless of when your race is, weather is something that we can’t avoid, so embrace it!  Let it mix up your training plan a bit and keep things exciting.  Happy Running!

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Training in this…

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…racing with this!

 

2014: A Remarkable Run

As 2014 comes to a close, I would like to take some time to reflect on where this remarkable year has taken me. A year of firsts, a year of adventure, 2014 has been truly wonderful to me. It all kicked off last January when I began training and fundraising for the one and only Boston Marathon. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but since when is that a reason not to do something? Soon enough I was standing at the starting line, a different person than I was just four months earlier. Shortly after that, I had a teary-eyed finish and a fire in my heart for more.

Summer was spent at camp with my wonderful campers and coworkers. I learned something new every day and nearly burnt myself out in the process. But time doesn’t slow down, and neither have I this year.

Next stop, Austria, another adventure to which I had no idea what I was doing, but dove in headfirst. A new country, a new culture, a new language, and new friends, my study abroad experience has been more than I ever dreamed of. Every day offered new adventures, and my only problem was deciding which country to visit next. I climbed Salzburg’s two spectacular mountains, went to Oktoberfest, wrote a message on the Lenin Wall in Prague, found my way to Wales for the half marathon of a lifetime, took a late night and incredibly cold swim in the Salzach, enjoyed the beauty of the Mirabellgarten, twirled in the hills, skied on a glacier, walked through a concentration camp in Germany, toured the tiny country of Liechtenstein, enjoyed an opera in Vienna, relaxed in the thermal baths of Budapest, the list continues. There you have a run-on sentence that could seemingly run on forever.

Through all of these adventures, I have met the most remarkable group of people who helped make this semester everything it culminated to be. I have learned so much through these adventures, and while I’ll certainly miss hopping from country to country at the week’s end, I will also miss the little things, like overlooking the stunning Austrian landscapes on long train rides, my daily adventures of taking public transportation in a country where I hardly know the language, enjoying our favorite lookouts and watering holes in Salzburg, laughing around the dinner table with friends, and staring at the mountains as I walk to class (For those who are skeptical, I did attend classes whilst in Austria).

Thank you, Salzburg, for the memories, the opportunities, the knowledge, and the laughter. All good things come to an end, and time goes on, so while I am sad that this adventure has reached its end, I can’t help but wonder what my next adventure will be. It’s going to be a challenge to outdo 2014, but like I’ve said before, I like a good challenge.

If You Never Try, You’ll Never Know

There are many difficulties in studying abroad, but they all seem to come so easily, so naturally.  Trying new foods, understanding and immersing in a foreign culture, constantly socializing, and trying to communicate and navigate in a land where you hardly speak the language, I spend one day after the next leaping out of my formerly small comfort zone, and being comfortable about being, well, uncomfortable.  I like that.  Living with a combined “When in Rome,” and “Sleep When You’re Dead” mentality has become a way of life, hardly imaginable a few years ago.

Before venturing to the Land of Unknowns I now know to be Austria, I found myself nervously excited for my next big adventure.  The fear of living in a country where I do not know a single person or the language was captivatingly exciting, so I (over)packed my bags and boarded a plane bound for endless adventure.

There is excitement in new found opportunities, and quite frankly, if you never try, you’ll never know.

The biggest difficulty for me has been the language barrier.  Boarding the bus, navigating busy train stations, or going to a store or café is a seemingly never ending challenge.

But there is something fun in that challenge.

That challenge forces me to constantly learn.  Yes, I have, many a times, spoken probably-lower-than-elementary-level German to bus drivers, sales clerks, waiters, and passersby, looking like a fool as I gesture and wave my hands, thinking that it will make my words more recognizable, but this process and frustration only makes ordering and paying for a croissant in perfectly conversant German all the more rewarding.

So in the end, it is okay to look like a fool, gesturing the not so international sign for “Will This Bus Get Me Home?”, it is okay to order something on the menu that you have never heard of and have it end up being liver, it is okay to hop on a bus only to find it’s not going anywhere near your intended destination, it is okay to get lost in the streets of a new city and find yourself again (in more than one way), and it is okay to book now and think later. It is okay because if you never try, you’ll never know.

International Road Runners

I ran my first international road race yesterday in Vienna.  A half marathon on an inaccurately advertised “pancake flat course.”  I think it could have been better described as “crêpe flat.”  Needless to say, it was flat and fast, which sets you up for a PB, and that is exactly what I did.  Flatter than flat, and slightly boring, the course consisted of three loops around a park (a very lovely park, however), and a few laps around the track of the Ernst Happel Stadion.

My friend Will and I finished in the top five for Americans, with only the slight technicality that there were only five Americans (Who needs to know that detail?).

Killin’ it, per usual, our next big endeavor as international runners is the Salzburg Trail Running Festival this coming Saturday.  Ample time for recovery?  We’ll see about that.

(The Return of) Thank You Notes:

  • Thank you to Vienna for back to back wonderful weekends and a fantastic start to my international running career, which is hopefully far from over.  Places to see, races to run
  • Thank you to gelato for curing all problems, such as the problem that is sitting on a train for 2.5 hours after running a half marathon.
  • Thank you to free pasta parties for existing and providing proper pre-race fueling to poor college students.

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Oh, The Places You’ll Go

A lot has happened in the past year.  At this time last year, I was getting ready to transfer schools, I was preparing for my first half marathon, then I started training and fundraising for the marathon.  It has been a year of firsts, and there has been no looking back and no slowing down.  A week from tomorrow, I leave for Austria, where I will be studying abroad for four months.  As I make my to-do lists and packing lists, say my “see you later’s” to friends, and finish my last days at camp this summer, I have also been taking some time to reflect on the places I’ve been, and of course, the places I’ll go.

Next week, I plan on retiring my current pair of sneakers and breaking in a new pair before I leave for Austria, and I couldn’t help but think about all of the places these shoes have taken me.  They have interesting stories to tell.  Well over 300 miles- phase II of marathon training, the Boston Marathon, early morning long runs, evening jogs, road races ranging from 5km to 13.1 miles, and today, a hike up Mt. Monadnock.  These shoes were on my feet through every kind of weather imaginable, up and down every hill, and across every start and finish line.  I can’t help but look forward to the adventures I will encounter with my next pair of shoes.

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I live one challenge after the next, and I always learn something about myself or the world around me with every adventure.  The world is out there, and as long as I’m alive, I will take advantage of everything it has to offer!

Thank You Notes:

  • Thank you to my sister for hiking Mt. Monadnock with me today!  It was challenging, and I am so proud of you, we did it!  Thanks for all the laughs, love you!  I don’t know what I’m going to do without you for four months!
  • Thank you to chocolate milk for fueling the drive home this afternoon- an on point carbs to protein ratio!

Side Note:

  • My family made homemade grilled pizza for dinner, and it was a delight.

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A Midweek Road Race

I ran my first midweek road race the other day.  I was hesitant to sign up because the thought of getting from work to then eating, finding a parking spot, picking up my bib number, and making it to the start line all seemed like more of a hassle than it was worth.  Thankfully, I was wrong.

The race offered a 5km or a 10-mile option.  I opted for the 10-miler because they both cost the same and I wanted to get more bang for my buck, ya know?  Registering the day before the race,  I was a little weary of the distance, and running after work isn’t exactly my favorite thing to do either.  Nine hours at camp tends to wear you out.

After parking with ease, I picked up my number, made a portapotty stop, and stretched.  The turnout of runners and spectators was incredible, and the people watching was superb!

This was my best race in a long time.  I started fast, stayed fast in the middle, and ended fast.  I was blown away with my time.  The course was scenically phenomenal as it ran through historic streets, lovely wooded areas, and picturesque neighborhoods.  Spectators lined the course to offer encouragement and water cups.

I am so proud of how this spur the moment decision turned out!

Thank You Notes:

  • Thank you to my Daddio for coming to the race and cheering me on.  I’m so glad you could be there to see me finish strong.  I hope you’ll run with me next year 🙂

There’s Pizza at the Finish Line

Today I participated in my second half marathon with the goal of beating the time I ran in a half in October.  That’s it.  No fancy time goals, just do better than last time.

It was a BEAUTIFUL morning, just perfect for a road race.  The sun was shining and there was a beautiful sea breeze along the route.  The scenery along the course was absolutely stunning, and it was a bit hillier than advertised, but that’s nothing of concern.  The course took runners along the water, through marshlands, historic neighborhoods, and farmland.  Some of the views were picturesque to say the least.

My only regret is that I didn’t bring along my fuel belt, as water stops were few and far between, but other than that, this scenic route led me to a half marathon Personal Best!  I shaved nearly seven minutes off my previous half marathon time!

Awaiting at the finish line were race medals and pizza, two of my favorite things!  The medal doubles as a bottle opener- that’s innovation if I’ve ever seen it.  I redeemed my ticket provided at bib pickup for a delightful slice of pizza.  How could you not sign up for a race that provides pizza upon finishing?  I then found my Sister/Best Friend for a post-race hug.

Thank You Notes:

  • Thank you to my Sister/Best Friend for coming to cheer me on!  I’m so glad you came.  Love you to the moon in back and then some 🙂
  • Thank you to this beautiful weather!  After a morning of hard work, I am now relaxing on the deck and enjoying the sunshine.
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Race medals and pizza! Which one to enjoy first?!

Thank You Notes

Training for a marathon is not easy, and I could not have done it alone.  While I am the only one who could run the miles, I would not have been able to do any of it without the constant support of my family and friends.  Here is my attempt to thank everyone who has helped me reach my goal, but as I said before, words just cannot do it justice, and I am unable to express my gratitude to you all.

When starting this project, I decided to write thank you notes with each entry as a way to find something good out of every day, even if the best thing one day is still having my toenails.

  • Thank you to all of the spectators that lined the course.  You may never know just how much that means to a runner, especially when you scream our names at the top of your lungs.  Your signs make us smile, make us laugh, and make us run on.  Thank you for the high fives, the cups of water, the pretzel rods, the wet towels, and most of all, your enthusiasm.  You all make running 26.2 miles that much easier.
  • Thank you to all of the volunteers along the route.  The marathon literally would not run without you.
  • Thank you to my toenails.  Five months of training, and you’re still hanging in there!  Some of you may be a different color than when we started, but still there nonetheless!
  • Thank you to my Mum.  I remember when I got the email saying I was accepted to run the Boston Marathon and I called you in tears.  Thank you for always being there for me and believing in me, regardless of the crazy things I do.  I hope I made you proud.
  • Thank you to Daddio.  You are my number one supporter, and my biggest cheerleader.  Thank you for answering my phone calls in the early Saturday hours, thank you for helping organize donations, and thank you for being my rock.
  • Thank you to my Debra for reminding me to believe in myself when I get lost.  Thank you for believing in me.
  • Thank you to my Sister/Best Friend.  You are the coolest person I know.  If only I could be half the person you are.
  • Thank you to Lindsey.  Thank you for listening to me vent, and for constantly believing in me.  837 miles cannot keep best friends apart.
  • Thank you to Catherine.  You were with me a few years ago when I first decided I wanted to run a marathon.
  • Thank you Meg for making incredible posters, but more importantly, for constantly being there for me.  I hope these aren’t starting to sound redundant.
  • Thank you to Jenny for swimming with me on Thursdays and for helping me stretch.  Thanks for not making fun of my inflexibility too much.
  • Thank you to McClanahan for running some hills with me, and thank you to Kiley as well, we know how to throw productive homework parties!
  • Thank you you to every single one of my donors.  Your donation is going to one of the greatest causes I know.  Because of you, BWH can find more Life. Giving. Breakthroughs. and help people just like my grandmother and my cousin.  Thank you for your generosity.
  • Thank you to my BWH family.  Waking up early on Saturdays was much more enjoyable knowing that I got to be surrounded by such passionate and dedicated people.
  • Thank you to Boston for being my home and for being such a resilient city.
  • Thank you to my Family.  Family comes first.  I actually don’t have any words for this one.
  • Thank you to anyone and everyone who has reached out me since I started this project.  Classmates, teachers, family, friends, acquaintances- every message means the world to me.  Between kind words with donations, race day tweets and texts, and running into people around town, all of your encouragement and interest makes me smile.
  • Thank you to my roommate for putting up with the marathon lifestyle.  Sorry for all the early alarms, and sorry you had to witness me foam roll.
  • Thank you to Kait.  I miss you so much, and if it wasn’t for you, I would still be figuring out the mile.
  • Thank you to my cousin for her logistical planning on race day.  Thank you for finding a way to get Meme to the race.
  • Thank you to everyone who has believed in me since the beginning.  There are far too many of you to name, but you know who you are.
  • Thank you to anyone who reads these posts.  The fact that people have taken an interest in this endeavor is shocking to me.  I said it in the beginning, I have no idea what I am doing, but thank you for coming along for the ride.

The Boston Marathon is the marathon of all marathons.  “It is your Superbowl, your World Series, your Final Four, there’s nothing else like it.”  This has been a truly amazing experience and I wish words could do it justice.

Onward to the Finish Line of all Finish Lines

Words cannot accurately describe what happened yesterday, but I am about to try, so bear with me.

26.2 miles, 5:08:02

Pre-race (in a few words):

  • Hopped on the train to the Common and then boarded a bus bound for Hopkinton.  We got on the “cool” bus, as everyone started clapping and cheering as soon as a new passenger boarded.

    Hey wave 4! Race you to Boston!

    Hey wave 4! Race you to Boston!

  • Had to pee a lot

Waiting-in-the-corral thoughts:

  • “OMG it’s warmer than I anticipated”
  • “What am I about to do?”
  • “I’m about to run a marathon, but first, let me take a selfie.”

Miles 1-13:

  • The crowds were incredible, and that doesn’t even begin to sum it up.
  • Cue digestive troubles- the first half of the race did not go well for me.  I was experiencing some unforeseen issues and had to take two bathroom breaks, which set me back a little bit longer than I would have liked.
  • I saw my mom at mile 8.  I am so glad she was there early on, because I was really in a mental rut.
  • The sun was beating down on us, and I wasn’t feeling so great, and Katie saw that I was out of my element and was clearly beating myself up over it.  She told me to snap out of it and keep everything in perspective.  A lot of things about race day are very different than training, especially when you’re running and eating at a different time than you’re used to.  I don’t know what I would have done without you, Katie, I cannot thank you enough for pushing me closer and closer to that finish line.

Miles 14-16:

  • Don’t get me wrong, the first half of the race was warm, but this is when the heat really started getting to me.  I adjusted the pace a little, and made sure to keep up with hydration.  This is where adaptability comes into play.  Doing some rough subtraction every time I ran past a timer, as the clocks followed the 10:00 am start, I was pleased with where I was at.

Mile 17:

  • So. Hot. Out.
  • Still feeling kind of miserable
  • More of my family was standing at mile 17, and seeing them made me so happy and ready to make the turn for Heartbreak.
  • KEY TURNING POINT10259907_10202488216701360_4498351023120395486_n

Heartbreak Hill:

  • The Heartbreak section of the Boston Marathon can make or break your race, and, generally speaking, it tends to break it for too many people.  Not I!  I trained for this.  I beasted this section of the course and didn’t look back.  The hills woke my legs up and the crowds were unreal.  I’m pretty sure I ran Heartbreak faster than any other section of the course, high-fiving a countless amount of people and feeding off their energy.
  • I saw my aunt, my cousin, and a bunch of my friends on this section of the course, and I am so happy they were there.
  • Digestive troubles behind, running fast, taking in the atmosphere, running marathons can be fun!
  • From here forward, the crowds were even more incredible than previously stated.  I have never high fived so many people in my life.

Miles 21-23:

  • The only thing I can recall from this stretch is that the BC crowd was electric.  Thank you all for telling me how pretty I am.

Mile 24:

  • Thought: “Woah there Chrissy, you just ran so fast, calm it down now so you can speed it up again before you see your family at mile 25.  Save it.”
  • *Slows down* *Can’t speed up again* *Everything hurts*

Mile 25:

  • SAIL SQUAD
  • I saw my grandmother, cue the waterworks.  Race day was her 90th birthday, and she celebrated in style at the 118th running of the Boston Marathon.
  • It wasn’t until I saw my family at this point that I realized just how excited they were.  Seeing them cheer me on was so much more than I ever anticipated.  The only thing I can accurately compare their excitement to is that scene in Miracle when team USA beat the Soviets and they’re celebrating on the ice.  I have never heard screams so loud and so passionate.
  • Not too many paces later, I saw my mom again!  I am so glad she made it to two different sections of the race.
  • Ugh, the overpass.  So. Steep.  Thoughts: “Keep moving.”  Every training run ended with the overpass and it was generally miserable, same goes for race day.

Kenmore Square:

  • Saw my old roommate, she and I began training for 5ks hardly a year ago.  If it wasn’t for her, I’d probably still be trying to run a mile.
  • Cue the coolest marathon signs ever made, props to Meg, Catherine, and Lindsey.
  • After I came out of the tunnel, I was too busy interacting with the crowd that I almost forgot to turn up Hereford Street.  Oops.10269632_10203540910154108_5929089260378290385_n
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Who looks that happy 25 miles into a Marathon?

Hereford Street:

  • Who decided they should put that hill there?

Boylston Street:

  • CONSTANT SMILES
  • Take it all in, Chrissy.  This is the coolest thing you have ever done.
  • I saw a BWH teammate as I progressed towards the finish line, and he didn’t look too well, so I cheered him on and we raced on towards the end, challenging each other.
  • Picked up the pace.  Always pick up the pace in the end, also, I didn’t want that guy to beat me.  I wanted him to finish strong, but not beat me (I won).

The Finish Line of all Finish Lines:

  • Tears

Post-Finish Line:

  • After receiving my medal, cape, food and water, I walked around for a few minutes, and then headed for the pre-determined meeting place to see my family.  I wanted nothing more than to sit down, so I figured, my family would be there, I’ll just take my time and take in what I just accomplished.  So I sat down.  A few minutes later, I decided I should keep trudging forward in my victory cape, but there was a slight dilemma.  I was stuck.  I physically could not stand up, so I called my sister and said, “So here’s the deal, I sat down and I can’t get up, so you’re going to have to come to me.”  Looking back, as much as I wanted to sit down, a curb probably wasn’t my greatest idea.
  • With my family, I walked home, feeling (simply put) exhausted and incredibly proud.

    Help! I've sat down and I can't get up!

    Help! I’ve sat down and I can’t get up!

To Sum:

  • I am incredibly sore, sunburnt (didn’t anticipate that), and exhausted, but this was the most amazing thing I have ever done.  Everything was worth it.
  • This was my first marathon, and it definitely won’t be my last.
  • Stay tuned for a special edition of “Thank You Notes”

Dress Rehearsal

I will not lie to you.  I spent much of this past week fearing the unavoidable and fast approaching long run.  21.8 miles.  A daunting distance.  I was afraid of it until yesterday when I realized that it was just three more miles than I’ve already built up to.  And I actually cried thinking about how far I have come on this journey.  This is the run that shows off just how much work you have put in over the past few months.  It is the “dress rehearsal” before race day so that you can test an eating plan, a new fanny pack, pair of socks, etc.

Unfortunately, I can count the hours of sleep I got last night on less than one hand.  That did not feel good, and it made me nervous as I headed out the door this morning.  Nevertheless, I boarded the bus, got dropped off in a parking lot in Framingham, MA and then started the trek back to Boston.  I’m pretty sure that’s in a lot of people’s nightmares, but apparently that’s just the way it is for marathoners-in-training.  Boarding a bus bound for an empty parking lot so that you can run the whole way back…just part of the fun! (?)

The run started out great.  Our miles were pretty fast, but they felt comfortable.  The roads were packed with other runners getting in their dress rehearsal run too.  The miles progressed, and they continued to feel great.  Not long after a bathroom stop, my legs started feeling it, but as we conquered the hills of Newton, they began to feel immensely better and they felt strong for the rest of the route.

I definitely picked up the pace in the last mile, which is impressive if I do say so myself, and I ended the run feeling as though I could have kept going if I had to, which is great news, and is the ultimate goal of the final long run.  All in all, I was very pleased with my effort today.  It made me feel optimistic considering all of the marbles are just about in the bag before the big day.  I feel as though my body and my mind can handle another four miles (insert sigh of relief here).

Thank You Notes:

  • Thank you to two of my absolute best friends for coming to cheer me on during the final stretch of the run, and for running to the finish with me.  You have no idea how much your support means to me and you really helped me finish strong.  Love you both.
  • Thank you to all of the amazing police officers who directed traffic earlier so that massive packs of runners could get in their final training run on the course.  Thank you for making our run safe.

While today was a big day on the training calendar, it was also a big day for a few of my sailing teammates who sailed in their first regatta of the season!  I’m so glad I got the chance to stop by and cheer y’all’s on!  Way to go Fenway Fenways!

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

Another Saturday, another long run.  Today’s 18 miles was a grab bag of elements.  We started in the rain, then it got windy (a little too gusty for my liking), then the sun came out, then it got cloudy again, and we finished with the sun shining down on us (am I tan yet?).

Running 18 miles just sort of happens.  You get to a point where the movement of your limbs is no longer voluntary and they’re just moving forward like a robot, and there’s nothing that you can do about it, and you can’t stop for fear that your body won’t start up again.  This poses a challenge when having to cross the street.  Some runners just go, others wait for a clearing of traffic, and others completely wait for the walk signal that never comes soon enough.  Either way you’re not done and you are either still running, or have to start up again.  So crossing the street is generally a lose-lose situation.  We usually get a lot of honks as we cross the roads, because people are in such a rush to get nowhere these days (I’m sorry the light changed .03 seconds ago, and you can wait), but my response to that is, “If I could stop I would stop” (*Insert Olympic snowboarder style shoulder shrug here*).  It also poses a problem when trying to clear curbs that are barely six inches in height, but seem like the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest (I would imagine).

The first three miles and the last three miles are generally the worst (maybe just for me, or maybe just the course I run on), but the first three bother my shins, and the last three seem to last forever (out and back, so the same three miles at different points during the run).  About 16 miles into today’s run, I questioned whether I was even still moving or not.  Luckily Robot Chrissy kicked into gear about eight miles earlier.  Nevertheless, we made it back to the start stronger than we began.

Thank You Notes:

  • Thank you to the two people who got on the elevator after me following the run.  I didn’t realize I hadn’t pressed any buttons after the door shut behind me, until you pressed the button to open the door about two minutes later.  I guess I can run 18 miles, but I can’t remember to press the elevator buttons.  You win some, you lose some.
  • Thank you to my running partner for keeping me somewhat sane during these longer than long runs.  I’d probably still be somewhere in Newton right now if it wasn’t for you.
  • Thank you to the group of runners we caught up to at every crosswalk on the final stretches of the route.  Your enthusiasm for how much you wanted to be done running was riveting.  Guess what- we all finished!

Superheroes Run Marathons

Another personal distance record today!  Today I ran 18 miles, and trust me, I am in just as much of a shock as you are.  Like I said the other day, I am about half-way through marathon training, and I was definitely in a mental rut this past week.  Plagued with homework, aches, and pains, bad food, and the fear of many people around me having mid-winter colds, I wasn’t exactly optimistic about the great distance that stood before me this morning.  Well, I was wrong.  Today’s run felt amazing.  My body held up nicely, and my mind felt great too.  The roads were filled with fellow runners, which always makes things better.

About halfway through the run, we started noticing other runners in superhero costumes.  Then a few miles later, we hear, “Batman coming through!” and it was actually a man dressed in a full batman costume, followed by Superman and Wonder Woman (wig and all).  We saw everything from Captain America to a leprechaun and everything in between.  We later learned that one of the charity teams was having a themed training run, so the costumes made sense.  Running distance makes you feel like you can do anything.  It makes you feel like a superhero.  IMG_2698

Thank You Notes:

  • Thank you to the superhero firefighters of Newton for giving out water.  That came in handy as my water bottles froze…again.
  • Thank you to all of the runners today who braved the long run in full costume.  You are all inspirations- true superheroes.
  • Thank you to the sun for shining today and making an early morning long run that much more bearable.

I am 75% of the way to my fundraising goal!  Thank you all, again, for donating.  Your support truly means so much to me and to so many people who receive Life Giving Breakthroughs from BWH.

Dear Tracey

Dear Tracey,

I hope you have the happiest of birthdays amongst your fellow angels.  I thought of you as I was running this evening, running in zigzags up and down the hill to avoid piles of ice, snow, and slush.  It reminded me of all the times we would zigzag up the long, steep driveway in your cool red car blaring “If I had $1,000,000” by the Barenaked Ladies.  I can’t help but smile every time I think of that, and every time that song comes on the radio.  I am so glad that I have the opportunity to run my first ever marathon in your honor, and I know you’ll be smiling down on me, all 26.2 miles of it.

Happy Birthday

With love from your cousin,

Christina Rose

One Step at a Time

How does one run sixteen miles?  Fast or slow, everybody runs sixteen miles one step at a time, one foot in front of the other.  Today I set another personal distance record, and I’m not going to lie, it was a struggle.  It took a while, but I finished.  The run started off well, but then the pack thinned out and I ran most of the course alone (sorry, Dad).  For me, running distance alone is the ultimate mental test.  Thankfully, water stops were plentiful along the route, which assured me that I was in fact still on the route.  On my way back towards the city, I stopped to use the bathroom, and got an unexpected (but incredibly welcomed) call from my Sister/Best Friend after I got back onto the road.  We chatted for a few minutes and she gave me the confidence and motivation to keep going.  One step at a time.  I finally made it back to Beacon Street, and at that point, most of the signs read “Bacon” in my eyes.  It seemed like forever until I saw the Citgo sign from afar like a bacon in the night (See what I did there?).  Finally, the home stretch.  I certainly felt the last few miles and confirmed that I do in fact need new sneakers.  I did the math yesterday, and I’m about due for a new pair, which makes me sad since I have become weirdly attached to my sneakers.  I logged over 300 miles on my sneakers, one step at a time.

Thank You Notes:

  • Thank you to my Sister/Best Friend for the surprise phone call.  You really helped me keep going.  I love and miss you.
  • Thank you to today for being sunny and 40 degrees, rather than below freezing, snowing, and/or raining.  Way to keep things fresh, New England!

This post is almost over, and I’m going to go watch Netflix for most likely the rest of the day, but not before I ask you all to consider donating to my fund for Brigham and Women’s Hospital and their quest for Life Giving Breakthroughs.  Thanks for reading and donating 🙂

Boston 2014: Why I’m Running

Why I’m Running: I am running the 118th Boston Marathon in memory of my cousin, Tracey, who lost a long fight with Cystic Fibrosis in 2010, and in honor of my grandmother, Meme, who is currently battling lung cancer.

Both Tracey and Meme have been outstanding female figures in my life and I am the woman I am today because of them.  Their courage and determination has taught me how to better my life and I want to honor them by running the Boston Marathon and raising money for Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Life Giving Breakthroughs campaign.

I have committed to raise, and hopefully surpass, $9,000 for Life Giving Breakthroughs.  Donations of any size are greatly welcomed and appreciated.  Your donation will help Brigham and Women’s Hospital fulfil their mission of discovering innovative treatments for diseases and improving the quality of life for patients and their families.

Follow the link below to donate, and be sure to check back to follow my training progress!  THANK YOU