Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Endorphins - Katie

The day I discovered what an endorphin felt like changed nothing on the outside but it was like an extreme makeover to my inside. For days I walked around with a stupid smile. I may have hummed a bit. I was kind, patient and happy. The moment the realization hit me I immediately signed up for another marathon. After the next marathon I was a little quicker to realize the good cheer was not a fluke. It was indeed endorphins. To date (actually over the past 15 months) I have run four marathons and attempted number five but it ended in a DNF (did not finish). Thankfully they gave out the tee shirts before the run so it’s all good. I’ve almost let it go. 

I started running when I turned 30-ish and it became too easy to put on pounds and keep them on despite a fairly healthy diet. I dabbled in half marathons and road races as I became a two-time divorcee and needed to find an outlet for the anger and disappointment. I continued to run as my child grew into an angsty teenager and needed less and less of me. I set my sights on a marathon when I was settled into my Monday through Friday job in the PACU and had weekends free for long runs. I continue to run because endorphins. ENDORPHINS! But also because I have a network of running friends and partners that kick my butt and whose butts I kick on a regular basis. They are the people who get excited about gear and new sneakers and eyelash icicles and race dates. They are my people. 

My plan for training is written in my day planner in red ink (thanks Hal Higdon). It, however, is not a foolproof plan. It only becomes a workable and reliable training plan when I DO. THE. WORK. That means setting the alarm, checking the weather, setting out the clothes, committing to the miles ahead of time, packing the tissues, queuing up a good book to listen to and not hitting the snooze button. These days I’m mostly running to and from work and have a long run scheduled for the weekend. I’m rebuilding my base of endurance and am getting back into the swing of winter running. I’m trying to follow the plan and do the work. I’m trying not to aggravate the injury that kept me from finishing marathon number five (hip bursitis/IT band nonsense). 

I’m thrilled to be running Boston for the second year in a row. Last year despite the rain and puddles I enjoyed an amazing experience that I look back on with fond memories. From the expo to the pictures of my parents in the grandstands it was an opportunity to be proud of myself and my discipline. With this year’s Boston Marathon I’m hoping for a finisher’s medal to go with my tee shirt.

Beyond My Bucket List – Drew

I started running in earnest in 2010 while in graduate school when I met my wife who had previously run three marathons including Boston twice. Running was a way to spend time with her, and it led me to complete my first half marathon.  At around mile 11 of that first half marathon I decided that I might as well just sign up a full marathon under the rationale that I’d never be closer to the goal than I was at that point. 

I’ve aspired to run Boston for as long as I’ve understood what it meant to the people of Massachusetts, more or less. Running any marathon was always on my bucket list, but running Boston was beyond that, and I couldn’t be more excited to have this opportunity.
This will be my eighth marathon. My wife and I make it a point to both run one marathon a year. My first was in the Outer Banks, North Carolina (2010). I’ve done the Vermont City Marathon twice (2011, 2014) and Hartford Marathon 2012. My wife and I got engaged at the end of Rock N’ Roll Madrid Marathon in 2013 when I dropped to one knee at the finish line and everyone around thought that I was having a medical emergency. I ran the Seattle Marathon in 2014 and most recently the Newport Marathon in 2015. 

I run Monday through Thursday throughout the week and try to tally 20-25 miles during those runs. I then do a long run on the weekends, building up by two-mile increments weekly with a couple lower mileage weeks scattered along the week. If I could get two 20-mile runs in before the race I would be very happy. I’ve had some troubles in previous marathons with muscle failure towards the end so I’m also doing a fair amount of lower body strength training.

I try to minimize how much time running takes on a daily basis by running every day at work on my lunch break. Even if I can get 2 or 2.5 miles in, that adds up over the course of the week and helps me avoid having to run for hours on end in the evening. As the distance of the long runs increases, those runs tend to take a big chunk out of your weekend, and that’s unavoidable.  My wife adores the Boston Marathon, and she understands how important it is that I train well and she’s cutting me a whole bunch of slack around the house.

The standard concerns that all the forces will conspire and I’ll have a terrible race, but those concerns are minimal and I am moreover eagerly anticipating being able to complete my first Boston Marathon. All the moments of misery during training (and there are many) and when you would just rather be anywhere else doing anything else at mile 22 or mile 23 are quickly forgotten when you finish a marathon, and that’s what I try to focus on.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


The week before the Marathon was a blur, I was able to get all of my short runs in, but unfortunately a death in the family kept my mind occupied elsewhere. Although my nana had not been doing well, she took a turn for the worse on Sunday.  The whole week was a ball of stress between caring for the family, wondering when she will take her last breath, late nights staying up and wondering when the final goodbyes will be and hoping she knew deep down inside I could not miss her services, but did not want to have to miss running the Boston Marathon! She hung on for a strong three days and took her final breath Wednesday night. Services were Friday and Saturday and everyone kept asking me if I was excited and ready for Monday, but the truth was I could not even proceed to think about Monday until I said my final good byes and knew I had an angel watching over me while running Monday.

Sunday was a day of rest, well kind of. I volunteered at my school’s 5k run in the morning, did some grocery shopping and had a great family meal. At this point I was not nervous or anxious and that night I laid out my outfit for the following day, hoping the rain and cold wouldn’t be too bad. Surprisingly I was able to get a solid night sleep.

Monday morning arrives and I couldn’t believe it, Marathon Monday is here! I woke up got ready and headed out the door to be dropped off at a fellow runner’s house. I am getting slightly nervous now wondering what the weather is going to be like, what socks should I wear, headband or no headband and the list could go on. I arrived at Anne’s house where I met her brother Matt from Washington, who will also be running the Boston Marathon with us today. After meeting the family, Anne’s husband was kind enough to drive us into Hopkinton, but we had to pick up our third amigo Katie along the way! Once we arrived in Hopkinton we boarded the buses to Athletes’ Village where we tried to stay dry and get out all of our pre-race jitters. But as the time grew closer and we started to walk to the starting line, not only did the rain increase so do my excitement and jitters. 
Saturday was a day filled with many tears of sadness and also tears of joy. After spending the morning with the family I proceeded into the city to obtain my golden ticket; my bib. While walking down Boylston Street, it finally hit me! In two days I will be running not only my first marathon, but also the famous Boston Marathon. This gave me chills and pure joy all at the same time. I picked up my bib number and walked around the packed expo obtaining a few last minute items, one being a Garmin watch. I had borrowed a fellow runner’s watch the week before and instantly fell in love. I can’t believe I had been running for so long without one. This was my present to myself. After having enough of being squished like a sardine for two hours I went to see the finish line. Oh what an amazing feeling this was.  I took my picture with the finish line and stood there taking it all in.

It was crazy. You just kept walking up the street in Hopkinton and then all of a sudden you cross the start line and start running. The time is here and now. It was so busy that immediately two of the runners got separated, but this is something we had expected to happen. The first half of the race went extremely well, I held my pace anywhere from a 10:15-11:00min/mi, which is exactly where I wanted to be. Matt, who I had just met hours before, seemed to become my new best friend and running buddy. He kept me going and keeping up the pace for the first 12 miles. Matt amazed me. He has never run a race before in his life, he just finished residency last month and owns his own business and yet he was conquering the Boston Marathon! After about mile 12 I unfortunately lost my running partner, which meant it was just me and the road ahead. I was able to run straight through until mile 22 where finally my feet and legs had had enough. I was cold and wet and very soggy. The last five miles were the biggest challenge of the whole race. Those rolling hills of Wellesley are truly as challenging as all others say. I finished the next four miles running and walking and then the last mile came. I dug deep down and told myself this is it, the last mile, no more walking. I took that last turn onto Boylston Street and I was in such awe. This was one of the most amazing feelings of my life! The crowd was unbelievable, I saw the finish line ahead and instead of picking up my pace I actually stayed steady just to absorb the whole experience. I have never felt such an amazing feeling in my life. I fought back tears because if I started to cry I could not have been able to breath and continue running.  I ran over the finish line with a big smile on my face, my angel over my shoulder and such a feeling of accomplishment. The 70 lbs heavier and unhealthy person I was back in 2009 would have never been able to do this. I finished around 4 hours and 49 minutes and my goal was to run between 4:30 and 5 hours so I am extremely happy I was able to accomplish my goal of not only finishing, but also finishing within my hopeful time. I am also pleased to announce that all four of us that started that day were able to cross the finish line and completed the 119th running of the Boston Marathon.

This was an amazing experience and I am proud to say that I ran the Boston Marathon. I am happy, excited, over whelmed with joy and extremely sore, but I would not trade this experience for anything else. I am glad I got to run for Newton-Wellesley Hospital, a place I have gladly called my home for the past 3+ years of working there. I also want to thank the other two running amigos, Anne and Katie for helping through all of the training; I could not have done it without them. A big thank you goes out to my family for all of the support throughout this whole process and coming to support me on the route and at the finish line the day of the Marathon, even in the rain and cold. Also a big thank you goes out to all of those that donated towards my running fund. This was one of the best days of my life!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

My Last Post…But Not My Last Race - Gabe

I have completed the Boston Marathon. I ran the 26.2 mile course from start to finish. I am proud to say that this is one of my biggest accomplishments in my life.   Monday was a wonderful day. While the weather did not cooperate, the emotions of the event certainly made up for the lack of sun.

The race for me started four months ago with the start of training. But I guess, officially, it does not begin until you cross that line in Hopkinton.  On Saturday, I dragged my wife and son, along with my sister-in-law to the bib pickup at the Hynes Convention Center. It was packed with racers, friends and families, there for their bibs but also the huge athlete expo. Tons of vendors, and samples and clothing for sale, but we elected to get my race stuff and get out of Dodge.

Sunday, I tried to keep a low-key day. We did a few errands around the house, and I tried to rest. My goal was to get to bed early, but falling asleep with the excitement of the next day’s events proved to be a bit tough. But after closing my eyes, I was up early ready to go. I drove into Boston, parked my car at my sister-in-law’s place, and walked to the Common. I was nervous, not because I was worried about finishing, but I wanted to make sure I would perform to the best of my potential. 

The ride out to Hopkinton on the BAA buses is long. It makes you realize just how far you are about to run. When we got to the Athletes Village, it was already pretty chilly. I met up with some of the other NWH athletes at the medical tent (fitting) sponsored by NWH. I think we were all a bit nervous. The rain was on and off to this point, more like a spitting rain, never pouring.  Just enough to remind you conditions were less than ideal.

When it was our turn for our wave to make it to the corral we headed out. The rain started to pick up, and I started to get a pretty good chill. I left my sweatshirt and pants on for as long as possible. Discarded clothing was to be donated to charity so I planned accordingly. Right before the start it was time to strip down to my race attire, and I was ready to go.

There is so much hype, and there is such a large mass of people, I wasn’t aware of when I was about to cross the starting line until the last minute, but then boom, there I was, actually running in the race.  My first 5k split was SLOW.  It was really crowded, so between bobbing and weaving around some of the slower runners, it was tough to get into a comfortable pace. But as the race went on, and opened up, my splits dropped.

I came prepared to run, I had my four packs of Gu that I had planned on consuming during the race. I also had my headphones and music, though truthfully with all of the people along the course screaming, I kept the power on my iPod turned off.  The spectators along the course were great.  Out there in the elements, screaming, cheering, having a great time. I just tried to soak it all in.
I felt great for the first half of the race. I was in a comfortable pace (faster than I had planned on) but I had to make up for my first 5k split.  Even through the start of Wellesley, I still felt pretty strong still, and as I ran past the college and the adoring fans I felt my pace pick up a bit. But as I made it to the east side of Wellesley, I started to fatigue. But I got it together as I approached NWH as that is where my family would be watching. I kept telling myself the faster I ran, the sooner I could see them.  Eventually making it to the Hospital, I looked to see friends, but it seemed like a blur with the crowd of people. I did manage to find my family across from the Hospital; I planted a kiss on my wife and kept going.  Just seeing them out there in the cold, screaming for me, gave me the boost I needed to keep going.

When I made the turn onto Commonwealth Ave, I again started to get tired. But I kept kicking away. I know the hills of Newton well, so I was aware of what was ahead of me. I remember going up Heartbreak Hill at what was a snail’s pace, but I kept on moving, never walked, just kept going forward. That was my goal. I did have three very brief stops along the course where I had to ask medical staff and strangers to open up my Gu packs, as my fingers were too cold and swollen to function. But that was it for the feet stopping. Once I made it to the top of Heartbreak Hill, I knew I had made it through the toughest part of the course, and I was going to make it the rest of the way. 

My pace slowed a bit through BC and Brookline as I continued to get a bit more tired. It seemed no matter how hard I wanted my legs to kick, I just couldn’t move faster.  The last six miles of the race is really about mental strength just as much as physical. It’s easy to get sucked into thinking about how tough the race is, but it’s in these moments where your mind challenges you to stop, where you can tell your body to keep moving.

Towards the end of Beacon in Kenmore Square, at the 20-mile mark I got a cramp in my left thigh.  It was pretty uncomfortable, and for about a quarter of a mile I was in near tears. My gait worsened, and I had a pretty bad limp. But after making it that far, there was no way I was stopping.  The cramp began to improve, my stride lengthened, and I was ready to finish. I made the turn onto Hereford and the Left onto Boylston, and I saw the finish! Crowds were screaming, and I just soaked it in.  As I ran down the street, I was able to see my wife and mom again and gave them a smile and a wave. 

I crossed the finish line, and felt a huge sigh of relief.  I felt great for about 20 seconds.  Then I felt cold. Really cold.  Really really cold.  I couldn’t stop shaking.  I got my medal, my blanket, they gave out snacks and I started to walk to our designated family meeting place. I tried to eat some bread because I felt weak, and lightheaded. It made me nauseated. I made it to my car, turned the heat on full blast, got home, took a hot shower, drank some Gatorade and felt 80 percent better. With some food I felt great.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tick Tock... – Gabe

The countdown is on.  The final week is here!   I can’t believe the race is almost upon us.  When I look back on the past few months of training, I must say I am pretty proud of myself.  I said it during my first blog post, I am not a runner.  I still don’t consider myself a runner.  It doesn’t come easy to me.  But I still enjoy a challenge. 

Preparing for this race has been an amazing experience.  So many firsts.  I consistently increased my mileage, well above anything I’ve run in the past. Now, I can get out and do 10 miles and it’s easy.  I’ve spent more time on the treadmill than I ever have in the past.  I have consumed more Gu than I ever thought I would.  I have lost feeling in my toes during cold weather runs way too often.  Would I do this all again?  In a heartbeat.

This week is all about the taper.  Low miles, a couple of pickups and plenty of stretching.  I’m planning on picking up my bib and info on Saturday, and spending Sunday continuing the carb consumption and laying low.  Monday WILL be a fantastic experience.