Friday, November 28, 2014

Turkey recap and little known facts about me

How's everyone doing after the big feast?!  I proudly maintained decent portion control during dinner, most likely because I drank seltzer with my meal which filled me up, so I woke up without regret!  (But with a sore throat, boo).  Yesterday was a good Thanksgiving.  After a little snowstorm Wednesday night, the roads got cleaned up in time for the annual Whitin Five road race.  Temps around 30, clear roads and no wind made for great race conditions!  I really enjoyed myself and ran at a "I'm enjoying this run" mixed with "it hurts a little but I'm not dying" pace.

It was also my first outdoor run with my amazing new watch that I'm completely obsessed with: The Garmin 920xt.
Rather massive looking on my tiny wrist

I was so afraid I was going to have an operator error and hit a wrong button or accidentally delete my data, but it all worked out great!  More on my love affair with this watch in an upcoming post.

After the race I headed home to make a deadly sangria concoction.

Luckily some friends came over after dinner to help me drink it because my family was afraid of it.  It was amazing.

Things you never knew about me (and most likely don't care)
I'm stealing this from the Shut Up + Run blog...kind of a cute idea to share some random information about myself.

Four names that people call me other than my real name:

1. Jilly
2. Jilly bean
3. Ma
4. Shorty

Four jobs I've had:
1. Cashier at Cumberland Farms (when I was an Art major in college)
2. Horse stall mucker (in high school, when I was dreaming of becoming an Art major in college)
3. Horseback riding instructor (when I realized I wasn't going to make a living selling artwork)
4. Operations manager (when my heart turned to stone)

Four movies I've watched more than once:
1. Bourne Identity
2. Forrest Gump
3. Twilight
4. Good Will Hunting

Four books I'd recommend:
1. Gone Girl
2. The Hunger Games series
3. The DD Warren Series by Lisa Gardner
4. The One Good Thing

Four places I've lived:
1. Massachusetts (I don't get out much)

Four places I've visited:
1. Iceland
2. Ireland
3. Nova Scotia
4. Niagara Falls

Four things I prefer not to eat:
1. Onions
2. Moldy things (except some cheese)
3. There must be something else...
4. Nope, that's it.  Just onions and some moldy things.

Four of my favorite foods:
1. Mom's cranberry coffee cake
2. bread things
3. cheese things
4. pasta things

Four TV shows I watch:
1. CSI
3. Criminal Minds
4. Scorpion

Four things I'm looking forward to this year:
1. Spending more time with my Garmin 920xt.
2. Road trippin' to some races
3. Going to the Kenny Chesney concert!
4. More camping

Four things I'm always saying:
1. I'm starving
2. It's freezing in here
3. I'm literally dying I'm so hot
4. Hey Cat Face! (to the cat)

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!  My next posts will be about the Wine and Dine half marathon from a couple weeks ago, and more on my new boyfriend, the Garmin 920xt.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Happy hip-anniversary to me!

Okay I know it's been a hundred years since I've written anything about training or race recaps, and I swear I'll make it up to you... but today I want to focus on something really cool:  Me.

Three years ago today I went in for my hip surgery.  At this time three years ago I was in the operating room, after shoveling snow off my car from a rogue snow storm that wreaked havoc upon the Halloween season.  It was a major surgery due to a torn labrum.  The injury itself had left me in constant pain for six months leading up to the surgery, and post-op I had many months of physical therapy and a very long road to recovery.

If you asked me at the time, I would have told you I thought my life was over.  Being on the sidelines, struggling to repair your body, watching everyone live their life and continue to improve while you're feeling left's an awful, lonely feeling.  Especially for a "doer".  I'm a doer.  I like to do things.  I like to make things better and fix things.  The hardest medicine to take is rest and patience.  I remember when the doctor told me how long it would take to recover, I thought, sure, maybe for the average surgical patient.  Not an active runner like me.  I'll cut that in half.  I was wrong.  He was right.  Of course, all of his surgical patients were active runners so I guess his prognosis made perfect sense.  I was too panicky to see it that way back then.  I had a major case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), and I didn't want to get left behind.

It's easy to get caught up in every day struggles, thinking this is the worst thing in the world and it will never get better.  The thing is, it does get better.  Sometimes it takes a really long arc to see the progress, and I remember being down on myself for a really long time, feeling like I lost a major part of my identity.

I'm a numbers gal.  I like data.  It helps tell a story and put solid facts behind what I'm saying.  So here's some data to help tell the story of my "life ending hip surgery":

In the last three years following my hip surgery, I have completed:

  • 3 full marathons
  • 10 half marathons
  • A bunch of triathlons, including a half iron distance
  • Hundreds of miles on my horse
  • Thousands of miles on my bike

Ironically, this is the first "hip anniversary" that I can celebrate with a run.  On my first anniversary, I had just stress fractured my foot, forcing me to miss the Newport half marathon.  On my second anniversary, I had a torn ligament in my other foot.  In both cases I thought it was the end of the world.  Luckily I have a habit of being wrong about that.  On Sunday I completed a half marathon, and I completed another one the Sunday before that.

I'm here to tell you that if you are struggling with an injury, it will get better.  It is not the end of the world, even if it feels that way at the time.  You aren't missing out as much as you think you are.  Do the work, even if it means rest and patience because that's work too, and remember that it's just a little blip on an otherwise long, enjoyable, journey.

I'll be celebrating this journey and my anniversary with an easy run after work today, shaking the rest of the junk out of my legs from Sunday's race.

It's good to be back.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Crazy intervals & Death of a Garmin

It's been a relatively quiet couple weeks here at the ranch.  I went through a brief weird mental funk where I just didn't feel like doing much, but luckily it didn't last long.  I'm starting to shift my training a bit more towards running, and less on triathlon, since I have several road races coming up this fall.  However, I also have the Greenway Challenge coming up in September, where I will be doing a 19.5 mile road bike segment, so I need to get in plenty of quick miles on Lexi between now and then!

Here's the calendar for the next couple months:

August 16: Larry Olsen 10K
August 23: Cranberry Sprint Tri (should I do it?? I haven't signed up yet)
September 27: Greenway Challenge
October 19: Baystate Half Marathon
October 26: Newburyport Half Marathon
November 8: Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon

Yeah, sooo...three half marathons in four weeks? I'd say it's time to focus on running!  I think for a couple weeks I was starting to feel a bit stale, and just couldn't get excited about anything.  Then Kristen mentioned she wanted to do bike/run intervals, which was perfect timing since I had recently read something about bike/run intervals and Scott had just mentioned he was starting them too!  We set up the trainers in Kristen's driveway, and after a 15 minute warm up, alternated between 5 minutes on the bike (2 minute recovery, 3 minutes zone 5 effort), then an 800 yard run on the street at a 5K pace.  It was the most pain fun I've had in a while!  I think because it was different, it was with a friend, and we were constantly switching roles, it seemed like more of an adventure than a workout.

Photo cred to Luke, who distracted us from the pain while target shooting with his bow
The next day I went to track and realized I can't do speed work two days in a row.  A few days later, I tried the same workout, except alone, in my house.

This was not nearly as fun without a friend or inquisitive neighbors wondering what the hell we're doing riding our bikes in place in the driveway and sprinting up and down the streets like maniacs.  My transitions were super fast though!

Part of the reason I did this indoors is because my Garmin 610 committed suicide.  This Garmin has been a thorn in my side for about a year, so I can't say I shed a tear at its demise.  It was constantly reverse-charging (ie the battery would actually drain on the charger instead of charge!) and recently the side buttons were getting cranky.  Well, the side buttons finally stopped working altogether on Monday, which was very bad timing since I was trying to get out of my whiny funk and didn't need even one more reason to skip a workout.  Well... nothing improves a mood faster than buying yourself a fancy new gadget (well I guess maybe if someone buys it for you instead), so at just prior to 7pm I ordered the Garmin 910xt from Amazon, sprung for the $3.99 overnight shipping, and the Garmin was on my doorstep the next day at 5pm.  Amazon is magical!  Hilariously true side story: On Monday, just before learning of my Garmin's passing, (like seriously maybe an hour) I finally paid off the treadmill I bought in February.  It's like these gadgets talk to each other.  I spent last night pairing the watch with my foot pod, bike cadence sensor, and trainerroad, but apparently I forgot to pair it with my heart rate monitor.  I did a super early trainer ride this morning and so far I'm loving the new watch.  Can't wait to take it swimming!  (Wait, didn't I say I was going to focus on running??)

6 other things that happened in the last week:
1 - My favorite running club had a trail race in the woods behind my house last week.  In addition to running the course with Anthony the day before, Rocco and I went out Thursday afternoon to check signage.  Rocco approved and thought the runners would really love this sign:

And no, Rocco didn't leave a mess for the runners on the trails!

2 - In no-way-shape-or-form is this related to running, but I gave Andrew a much needed haircut.  My friends gave me a hard time about it, thinking maybe Andrew is a little too old to have his mother cut his hair.  I don't see a problem with it... I'm saving him money and it comes out looking spiffy!

3 - On Friday night Julia and I went to Gillette Stadium to see Ty Law get inducted to the Hall of Fame, and then the in-stadium practice.  The event was free, meaning free tickets and free parking.  What a treat!  I still spent $45.  ($2 for a hot dog and $43 in booze).  It was a great time and we had a lot of laughs thinking of ways we could incorporate some of the Patriots drills into our track workouts.  Like maybe the stretching in a circle around the field, the shedding random clothes wherever for someone else to pick up, and most importantly the air horn.  We also contemplated what our "walk out song" would be when we are inducted to the Tri Valley Front Runners hall of fame.  I think we can all agree Julia's will be Turn Down for What.  I'm sure mine will be something like Beer For My Horses, Bottoms Up, or Drunk on a Plane. 

4 - On Saturday I headed over to Marie's house to do her nails and lend her my wetsuit for a triathlon on Sunday.  We spent the day drinking seltzer water, and then she slithered into the wetsuit and tested it out in the pool!

We then went to dinner and watched Wolf of Wall Street, which was a nice quiet, wholesome movie for the whole family to enjoy.  (*No it's not).

5 - Sunday I woke up at 4am and drove with one eye half open to the start of the Blackstone Valley Triathlon.  I had no desire to race this but figured volunteering would be a nice way to participate and still get to see my friends.  They did great, naturally!

6 - Yesterday morning I went for a run before work, and since my Garmin was in its final resting place, I had to go without a watch.  I've been doing most of my runs in the trails (at least partially) lately, but I wanted a run that I knew precisely how long it was, so I figured I'd go up the street on my 4 mile loop (which I tend to avoid because it's so hilly).  About a mile in I realized I was having some - um - digestive issues.  Mile 2 I wanted to die.  Mile 2.5 I had to walk.  Unfortunately I chose this particular run to go through a development where there were no safe bushes to duck into.  I finally made it back to my street and did the shuffle of shame into the woods, watching the cars drive by and breathing a sigh of relief when they didn't look in my direction.  And here's a picture of it:

Just kidding... On the positive side, the last mile of my run was great!  That's one run I'm glad I didn't have my watch for!  After conferring with my mother and Andrew, we determined that we all were suffering from "bad scallops".  I was just the unfortunate one that decided to go for a run that morning.  I have new fondness for trail runs now, and all the privacy that comes along with them.  I also have a new appreciation for Rocco, who apparently has better trail etiquette than I do.  :-)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Iron Girl 2014 race report

Well I finally got my act together and signed up for another race.  After the Patriot Half, I briefly considered retiring on a high note, but naturally my friends wouldn't let me.  I had to take a couple weeks off of training due to a non-running-related surgery, so I struggled a bit getting going again.  Within just hours of Iron Girl registration closing online, I finally agreed to do it (with some aggressive suggesting by Coleen!).  Since Patriot, I had only swam twice and biked once on the road.  My running was doing okay but with some lingering issues from my surgery I wasn't running at 100%.  In the meantime, I somehow managed to get a flat tire even though I had it on the trainer.  I've gotten pretty good at changing tires, but getting the rear tire back onto the bike seems to be my hang up.

I was getting a bit nervous in the days leading up to the race because my quads were killing me.  I assume it was from Wednesday's track workout, but it was strange that it was lasting for so long.  Then I remembered I've been doing a lot of squats on my bosu ball, so I think it was a combination of both.  I ran 3.5 miles on Saturday to see if I could flush out my quads.  I normally wouldn't run that far the day before a race, but I'm glad I did because my legs felt a ton better afterwards.  Saturday night I figured I should probably just make sure my bike was working okay since I hadn't taken it on the road in a full four weeks.  I brought it outside and hopped on for a quick spin.  I didn't even wear my helmet because I was only going to ride it for about 20 seconds, but I was having so much fun I sprinted all the way up my hill.  Whoops!  While riding, I noticed my neighbors had porta-potties set up in their front yard.  Weird.

As I was getting tucked into bed, I texted Coleen and asked her to text me at 5am to make sure I was awake.  I've had a couple issues with my alarm lately and didn't want to oversleep!  We were carpooling together and I was supposed to be at her house at 5:15.  She's very punctual so I knew I could count on her.  Then... the music started.  It was weird music.  Heart thumping, shake-the-house loud music, and it was coming from my neighbor's house, but it sounded like it was inside my skull.  I had my windows closed and the fan on full blast, and couldn't escape the noise.  I was so angry, but I wasn't going to be a snitch and call the cops on my neighbors.  Unfortunately, the party lasted all night and I didn't get any sleep at all.  When my alarm went off at 4am, I was still trying to fall asleep!  I knew this was going to make for a rough race.  Finally at 4:30am I walked outside to move my truck and the music abruptly stopped, and I saw several police cruisers next door.  At 4:45am I texted Coleen and said, "no need to text me.  I'm awake and I've been up all night".  I finished getting ready and went to go pack my bike on my truck.  I lifted my bike off the ground and gave it a little bounce, and realized my rear tire was loose!  When I had changed the tube, I had trouble getting the tire back on securely but thought I finally got it on.  Turns out, I hadn't.  The skewer wasn't even locked down, and I very easily could've had a disaster.  I guess rolling up my hill last night without a helmet wasn't such a good idea!  So, I spent a couple minutes getting the wheel back on correctly, and ended up running late.  I texted Coleen at 5:15 saying I was running late and leaving my house now.  At 5:30 I pulled into Coleen's house and there was no sign of her!  I walked up to her house and she came bursting through the door, announcing her alarm never went off and she just woke up!  It was kind of hilarious.  Definitely not the best way to start a race, but all we could do was laugh.  We finally got to the race with just a few minutes to spare before the transition area closed.  Maybe that was a good thing, because I never had a chance to obsess over how to lay everything out.  My main priority was finding a porta-potty, so I quickly set up my transition area and made a beeline to the toilets!

It was a chilly morning, only in the low 60's.  The water was over 78 degrees so wetsuits weren't legal, which was fine with me because I wasn't using one.  It felt so warm in the water, which was such a nice change.  At Patriot the water was cold it took my breath away.  They split up our age groups into two swim starts to make the swim waves smaller, and there were 5 minutes in between each swim wave.  This was a great way to start the race.  Very relaxing and inviting for even the most timid swimmers (like me!)  Last year I had started in the far back and off to the side to stay away from everyone.  This year I was a little more confident so I started right in the middle and swam in traffic.  I swam next to and in between other swimmers and was very successful!  I didn't panic at all and had no trouble breathing.  I passed a few swimmers and a few passed me, and it was just a nice relaxing swim in clean water.  I know this doesn't sound like anything special, but I think I'm happier about this than anything.  Swimming has always been an issue for me, so I'm very proud of how far I've come!

Swim stats: .33 mile swim
Time: 13:51
Pace: 2:36/100m
Place in division: 48/82
Place overall: 302/583

I exited the water and jogged to the transition area.  For some reason my transitions are just always slow.  I should work on this, I guess.  It felt like it took me forever to get my feet wiped down and my socks and shoes on.  Finally 3:11 later I exited T1 with my bike and headed to the mount line.

My bike felt great.  I cruised out and felt like I was keeping a quick pace, passing people constantly.  No one passed me on the whole course, and I passed tons of people.  On the big hills where many people were walking their bike or zigzagging across the street trying to stay upright, I just kept pedaling.  I wasn't crushing the hill, but I was making steady progress and not killing my quads.  After the big hills I knew there was a long fast downhill and then some fun rollers, so I settled in and had a great ride.  I finished strong, hopped off my bike, and was happy to discover my quads didn't feel completely trashed like they had last year.  I remember last year thinking I wasn't even sure if I was going to be able to run my bike back into transition, let alone run 3 miles!

Bike stats: 12 miles
Time: 41:40
Pace: 17.3 mph
Place in division: 5/82
Place overall: 29/583

Once I got back into the transition area, I was miffed to see that there was a bike in my spot.  I know it's a crowded area and it's not 100% scientific, but in this case, someone's bike was literally laying on top of my running shoes.  I had to waste time moving that bike out of my way so I could rack my bike.  Quickly changed my shoes, tossed my helmet, and took off running.  My legs were tired but not too bad, and I passed a lot of people on the run.  I got passed but not too often.  Just after the turnaround spot I saw Coleen coming up behind me.  I figured she was only about 30 seconds behind me so my new goal was to try to hold her off as long as possible.  She had started 5 minutes behind me so I knew she was technically "ahead" of me, but this was my motivation to speed up!  I held her off as long as possible, and then heard her call out to me about a quarter mile from the finish.  Crap!  I sped up a bit, but then she caught me in the last tenth of a mile.  It gave me motivation to try to stay with her and finish strong, so it worked out great.  I think that's the key, I need a 5 minute head start in all my races!!

Run stats: 3 miles
Time: 26:49
Pace: 8:57 min/mile
Place in division: 29/82
Place overall: 177/583

Finish time:
Time: 1:27:50
Place in division: 12/82
Place overall: 76/583

As usual, Iron Girl did an awesome job putting on this race.  I heard my name as I crossed the finish line (albeit a bit botched: Jill Doohommy).  The post-race breakfast was amazing, but I just wasn't interested in eating.  I took a Greek yogurt and a chocolate milk.  I got very chilly and we couldn't get into the transition area for another hour, so I was relieved when Joe loaned me his jacket!

After the race I started rethinking my bike split.  During the race I really felt like I was cruising and I was happy, but then when I saw my time I realized I wasn't as fast as I thought I was.  I became fixated on this, and had to go find out how I did last year.  I looked up my Iron Girl results from last year, and sure enough, I was 12 seconds slower this year.  This made me crazy, because after all my bike training this year, I definitely should've been faster!  I looked back at my Garmin stats from last year and compared them side by side.  Note: Garmin has this course measured at 12:29 miles, which is why my pace is so much faster on Garmin versus the official results.  And since for 2 years in a row Garmin has measured it identically, I think Garmin is correct!

It looks like mile 5, "the hill" is where I lost the most time.  I also lost some time in the first couple miles, but made up time towards the last few miles.  I probably shouldn't be as annoyed by this as I am, but what can I say.  I'm not an age-group winner, so I compete against myself and don't like to see myself get slower.  However, this year's run split was 4 minutes and 11 seconds faster than last year!  So I'm very happy with that.  Maybe sacrificing 12 seconds on the bike helped give me such a positive run.  Imagine what I could do with a full night's sleep!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Patriot Half Race Report

As you probably already know if you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or <gasp> in real life, this past Saturday I completed the Patriot Half Triathlon in East Freetown, MA.  As a newbie to triathlons, I really set a stretch goal for myself in registering for such a big event, but I did whatever I could to be prepared!

I had taken Friday off work to pack and head down to my hotel.  What I didn't factor on was the torrential downpours and flood watch!  I was getting a little panicked seeing all that rain and it was a nuisance to pack the car and drive in it, but my bigger concern was what impact it would have on race conditions.

I first headed to the hotel in New Bedford to check in, because I wanted to make sure I knew my way from the hotel to the race venue and wouldn't be scrambling around at 5am.  (I know this is neurotic.  I test things for a living, what can I say...)  I was a little freaked out when I checked into the hotel, because it didn't look like a hotel and I'm pretty sure I was the only guest.  Since I only booked the room a few days ahead of time, all the suggested hotels were full.  It was definitely spooky and I can see why it wasn't occupied, but it was only about a 12 minute drive from the race venue so it really worked out just fine.  As long as you don't mind random pills on the floor, and a generous 1/4 roll of toilet paper.

I left there shortly after checking in (wondering if I'd ever see my stuff again) and headed to the race start for packet pickup.  The rain finally started to let up.  I picked up my race packet and attempted to donate some shoes but no one could tell me where to put them so I brought them back to my car (where they remain to this day, which is quite unfortunate on this 90 degree day).  I walked down to the swim start and saw folks starting to put buoys out into the water.  Really, really, really far out into the water.

Then I went to find my rack in transition.  How cool that they actually list out your number and name!

I met up with Ronnie, Rori, Rudy, and Mike, and we headed out to dinner at Fireside Grill.  I don't know how I managed to not get a single picture with these guys.  We had a great time over a couple beers, delicious food, and colorful conversation.  Talking with more experienced triathletes is a double edged sword.  On one side, you get a lot of good tips and insight.  On the other, you are bound to hear lots of horror stories!  After dinner we headed back to our hotels.

I didn't sleep well, and way too early the alarm was going off.  I ate a bagel with peanut butter, got dressed, and headed to the start.  Ironically I ended up parking right behind Rori and Ronnie, so it was nice having familiar faces (and Rori's bike pump) nearby.  I loaded up my nutrition onto the bike, gathered everything up, and headed to transition.  Transition was a tight squeeze with no room to spare, so I had to lay things out efficiently!

Since it was a damp morning with the threat of more rain, I didn't want to leave everything out to get wet.  I brought an extra large towel which I folded in half, and covered everything up while I was out swimming and biking.

After one final stop at the porta potty I went back to put my wetsuit on.  This, naturally, coincided with the singing of the national anthem, so everyone standing solemnly behind me got to watch me shimmying into my wetsuit like I was hoola-hooping.

I headed down to the water with Ronnie to sneak in a quick practice swim before the race started.  The water temp was 64, similar to what I had been swimming in during my open water swims, so I was thankful I had prepared.  The anticipation of the race, the number of people zigzagging through the water, and the water temperature all gave me some trouble breathing, but I quickly got it under control and got in some practice strokes before we got pulled out of the water.

Everything turned into a blur at that point.  I was slowly meandering my way towards the start of the swim, stopped and talked to Alex for a minute, noticed people were already swimming, realized it was 7:07, and my swim wave start was 7:11!  I needed to boogie to get to my corral!  The format of the swim start was a time trial, where they release three people at a time.  I was grateful for this, since I'm a bit of a nervous swimmer and don't like crowds.  However, I also knew that the running-into-the-water thing was going to cause an instant heart rate spike and most likely give me a breathing issue.  And it did!  I probably wasn't 10 yards offshore when the people lined up behind me were already passing me, and I struggled to catch my breath.  But, I knew that I had a long day ahead of me and it wasn't worth struggling right at the beginning, so I just treaded water for a minute, waited til my breathing found its rhythm, and took off at a very relaxed pace.  Maybe a little too relaxed, since my swim took 57 minutes, but I stuck to my plan of not wasting energy during the swim.  I knew this was my weakest segment so this was a matter of just getting it done, and I was actually expecting it to take an hour.  And man, that was about the longest thing I've ever done in my life.  57 minutes felt like all day.  There was so much fog in the lake, it was actually hard to see the buoys!  They just kept going and going and going.  I was happy for not panicking in the water, especially when I was bumped into and (almost) swam over.  I don't mind getting bumped from the side, but I really feel that there's no good reason to swim over me.  The lake is pretty wide, and I'm not taking up that much of it.  If you swim over me, I'm going to suddenly have very active kicking legs.  I know this is a waste of energy, but it makes me feel better.

The only real problem I had with the swim was that I became extremely nauseous and dizzy.  I felt seasick, like my equilibrium was thrown off, and I kept burping up peanut butter.  I spent a good deal of the second half of the swim wondering what the water would look like after I vomited into it, and thought it might be a good way to keep people from swimming over me.

I made it out of the water (57 minutes later...) and jogged into transition while removing the top half of my wetsuit.  Ronnie was right ahead of me (despite starting 20 minutes behind me!!) so it was nice to see him.  I was able to get my wetsuit off quickly and got out of transition in relatively short time.  My only regret is that I carried my gloves with me instead of putting them on during transition.  I thought I would save time by putting them on while I was on the bike.  I don't recommend this, because it turns out I'm not that coordinated and was swerving all over the place.

Right as I was starting out on the bike I passed two elite guys who had clearly gotten tangled up.  They were bloody messes with dirty, ripped shirts.  I used that as my reminder to not do anything stupid, ride carefully, ride smart.  My goal was to start off slow, conserve energy on the bike, and finish in 3:30.  My biggest concern was that I would push too hard and have nothing left for the run, so I forced myself to average about 16mph.  I didn't really know if that was the magic number since I had nothing to really compare it to, but my gut told me that 16mph was mild enough that it wouldn't wear down my legs.  Because of the residual nausea I had from the swim, I had to adjust my nutrition plan.  I had expected to eat my Honey Stinger waffles immediately, and then switch to endurolyes and chews.  The nausea forced me to delay solid food for about 30 minutes, but I did start taking the endurolytes right away, and took 2 every hour.  I snacked on chews every 15 minutes, so the ride was like a 3 hour buffet.  My only real hiccup was the water situation which caused me great anxiety.  I only had my one water bottle, which I tossed at the bottle exchange at mile 18.  They gave me a new bottle, which was just a Poland Springs squirt bottle, and it bounced right out of my bottle cage not even a mile later.  This left me without water for about 10 miles, but I was able to get another bottle (and hold onto it) after that.  Altogether I drank about 3 bottles of water on the bike.  By about mile 40 I was looking forward to getting off the bike as some things were starting to get stiff and other things were starting to get chafed.  Despite the generous application of Body Glide, nothing seems to prevent chafing on this sensitive skin!

56 miles and 3 hours and 25 minutes later, and I was off the bike and trotting a long long way back to transition.  My legs felt a little wobbly so I really took my time.  I racked my bike, switched into run mode, and headed back out.  I think the trick is to do the transition so fast that your brain doesn't register what's happening.  If I thought about it too long I probably would have sat down and just hung out for a while.  I was surprised to realize that my legs actually felt pretty good running.  They were tired, yes, but not weak and rubbery like I expected.  My back was stiff and I wasn't sure how well I would be able to run, but figured I'd gut it out and see what happened.  By mile 3 my back soreness was gone!

The run went well and I'm surprised how quickly the miles ticked away.  There were aid stations at every mile, and since I wasn't really in any rush, I decided to take full advantage of them!  I stopped at each one, grabbed a drink or two, some ice a few times, and even some endurolytes.  I love the fact that they had Coke at every aid station, and I took some at probably at least half of them.  The run course itself was beautiful with some easy rolling hills and beautiful farms.  My only real issue was that I felt a blister developing on the bottom of my foot early on, around mile 5, which got progressively worse.  I decided the best thing I could do was to keep running because walking would just take longer!  I passed a surprising number of people on the run, so I was very grateful I had stuck to my plan of taking it easy on the bike.  By no means was I ripping up the pavement, but it was nice to feel surprisingly fresh.  The more I ran, the more I started becoming aware of all of my chafing spots.  The one that started bothering me the most was on my chest, where my tri suit was rubbing.  I tried unzipping it more, but that made it bounce against my skin.  I zipped it all the way up, but then that rubbed too.

I stopped at the final aid station, just after mile 12, for my last dose of Coke.  I walked for a minute, and then my Garmin gave me a "low battery" alert!  It was like my Garmin was kicking me into gear, because there was no way I was going to let my Garmin die without tracking my full race.  I picked up the pace and ran the last mile strong.  As I ran onto the grounds I was so excited I had goosebumps!  I couldn't believe I was finishing this thing, and feeling so good!  I ran into the final stretch strong, high-fived Rudy, and gave a big wave to the Caruso family.

I crossed the finish line, got a nice cold towel and bottle of ice cold water.  Then I dunked my feet in an ice bath!

I checked out the bottom of my foot, which was sporting a super ultra disgusting blood blister.  Finally I made my way out and met up with everyone.

It's weird to finish such a long event feeling good.  Usually when I finish a race I feel like I couldn't possibly take one more step.  My body is completely depleted and I'm running on fumes.  On this day I crossed the finish line feeling fresh and fantastic.  I don't know if that means I did everything right, or if I took it too easy.  I don't really care though, because this was definitely the better way!

Final stats:
Swim (1.2 miles): 57:26
T1: 3:21
Bike (56 miles): 3:25:41 (16.3 mph)
T2: 3:50
Run (13.1 miles): 2:17:11 (10:29 min/mile)

Total (70.3 miles!!!): 6:47:29

As for post race damage, I felt pretty good.  My hip flexors were a little sore the next day, but muscle wise I was in pretty good shape.  My skin, however, was another issue.  I had major chafing on so many parts of my body I looked like I belonged in a burn unit.

One final thought: I had a surprisingly good attitude during this race.  I reminded myself that I had trained for it.  I was good enough to do it, I was going to relax and enjoy it.  I never got sucked into anyone else's pace, and I never got down on myself when I got passed.  Several times I reminded myself how fortunate I was to have a body that can perform like this.  When I felt the sting of the chafing throughout my body, I looked at the guys with road rash all over theirs and reminded myself how lucky I am.  I consciously gave myself a mental pat on the back when I completed the bike ride, for doing so safely, and did so again when I finished the run without injury.  I absolutely believe my positive attitude played a big part of having such a successful day and it's something I will remind myself!

And one more final thought: This was a top-notch event.  Sun Multisport Events really knows how to put on a heck of a race.  Every detail was well done.  The volunteers were outstanding.  The aid stations were bountiful.  I think if I asked someone for a meatball sandwich, not only would they have given me one but they would have given me a choice of cheeses.  I can't say enough great things about this race, and now I see why it sells out six months in advance.  I'm already looking forward to next year!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Wetsuit wrestling and other triathlon nonsense

Well, time sure flies when you're busy training for a half iron!  I've been swimming, biking, running, and horsing around all over the place in the last month, and apparently I didn't leave myself anytime for a quick blog update.  I'll try to catch up here as concisely as possible, since this Saturday is the big day!  The Patriot Half is this Saturday, and I'm pumped.  The weather forecast looks like AM clouds and maybe a shower, then afternoon sun, and highs in the upper 70's.  Couldn't ask for anything better.  But before I get into that, let's recap some of the more interesting parts of the last few weeks.

Wetsuit wrestling
A wetsuit is a necessary piece of equipment for early season triathlons, especially for long distances.  I had never swam in a wetsuit before since I've of course only done one tri in my life, and that was last July.  But I had gotten this super nice Xterra Vector Pro on a steal last year.  I remember getting it in the mail, attempting to get it on, giving up, and hanging it up for six months.  Well, eventually the ice melted and it was time to get in the open water, so I met up with Joe for a very chilly early morning swim a few weeks ago.
Farm Pond, Sherborn MA
The night before the swim I dusted off the wetsuit and tried putting it on again.  It took 25 minutes and I was lathered in sweat by the time I was done.  Luckily, over time I've gotten a little better at it!  The first time swimming in it was shocking.  I wasn't prepared for how buoyant it would be, and although that can be a good thing, it was alarming and I found myself fighting it a lot.  I felt like I was hanging upside down!  The biggest problem was that I couldn't breathe.  Between the tightness of the wetsuit and the cold water temperature, my lungs felt paralyzed.  I couldn't even exhale.  It was an awful feeling, but eventually with Joe's advice I was able to get things under control and had a good second half of the swim.  After that, I got in a bunch more open water swims through MRA and attended an open water clinic, and I'm feeling a lot more confident now!  I also picked up one of these awesome little inventions:

Not sure if I qualify as "competent"! 
This swim buoy is awesome.  It can hold your belongings and makes you very visible to other swimmers and boaters.  A must have for open water swimming!

And like any other piece of sporting equipment, the wetsuit found a way to chafe me.  Ah the perils of having such baby soft skin!

Grossness on the back of my neck!
And finally, does anyone else like to play "dress up" with their wetsuit and put them in funny positions?

Pavement Pounding
I've been diligently trying to get in long rides on the bike, and whenever possible I try to get someone to go with me.  But on Memorial Day I went out alone.  The weather was iffy,  but finally the weather man insisted that the rain was done, the clouds were breaking up, and we were in for a sunny afternoon.  I headed out for my 30+ mile ride, and got stuck in a rainstorm about 10 miles into it.  I pedaled through increasingly heavy rain through Grafton, Upton, and Westboro, and finally took shelter under a tree in Hopkinton until the rain let up a bit.

Hiding under a maple tree
At this point I just wanted to be done, so I hopped back on Lexi and headed home.  I got to Winter Street, which is where my favorite hill is.  I started hammering up the hill and my chain let go, and instantly I was pedaling with no resistance and toppled right over.  I thought the chain broke but it didn't (thank GOD because I was a long way from home!).  I scuffed up my knee, and my knuckle started swelling immediately, but otherwise I was fine and so was Lexi.  I tested out the chain a few times and it seemed okay so I hopped back on and continued up the hill (which was very challenging starting from a stop on that steep incline!).  Several miles later, in Upton, I got stung in the throat by a yellow jacket.  I spent the rest of the ride wondering if I'm allergic to bees, since I hadn't been stung by one in probably at least a decade.  By the time I got home and was still alive, I concluded that I must not be allergic!  That was definitely not my best ride, but all you can do is laugh it off!  Oh, and spend a butt load of money at the bike shop getting the bike fixed up.

This is my sad face, dropping Lexi off at Landry's for some repair.  This is *not* my blue steel face.
Sporting a pretty impressive bruise on my knee after the crash, which bulged out like an extra knee cap
Maximum exhaustion
Two weekends ago I hit my peak volume before starting to taper for this race.  On Saturday I did a 1 mile open water swim, then 25 miles on the bike with Marie, and then a 5 mile run.  On Sunday I met up with Rori and did a 53 mile ride with him through a bazillion towns.  I was actually tired going into the ride, and pretty pooped about halfway through.  I was also having a lot of neck pain and had to stop a couple times to stretch.  I picked a pretty sweet place to stop though!

I could've spent all day watching those chickens!  This was in Dover, MA
I was very tired by the end of that ride, and my neck was killing me.  But Rori gave me a hefty dose of Ibuprofin and a beer as a parting gift, so I'll ride with him anytime!  As soon as I got home Stanley wanted to hear all about it and make my tired legs feel better.

That busy weekend left me feeling tired for days, so I listened to my body and backed off a bit.  In the meantime, I had other things to do!

After being out of commission since winter, Rocco is finally ready for some short rides.  If there's an upside to this, I guess it was good timing since it allowed me to invest more time in my triathlon training, but I'm really looking forward to hitting the trails again with this handsome fella.

Kayaking!  Julia and I went out last weekend for Julia's maiden voyage of the kayak she got for Mother's Day.  It was only my second excursion in mine, but we looked like pro's out there and had a blast paddling around all the little islands of Lake Whitehall in Hopkinton.

So, tomorrow afternoon I head down to the race venue.  I'll be staying at a hotel about 10 miles from the race start, so I'll check in and then head to packet pickup.  They're having a seminar for race day strategies, and although by now I should have my strategy nailed down, I could probably use a few tips!  Check back in next week to hear all about the 70.3 miles of pain fun!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Boston is so "last month"

It's been a few weeks since Boston and I have to say, I'm so over it.  It was fun (actually, it was half fun, half agony), and I'm glad I did it, but I'm so glad it's over.  Training for a marathon is tough business, and training for 3 in 16 months is just downright tedious.  I'm ready for more fun, more variety, and different forms of torture.

Better weather means the return of our club group fun runs (yay!) as well as weekly track workouts (ouch!).  It's nice to have a purpose to each run again.  During marathon training I felt like most of my runs were just mile-logging runs and didn't really have a specific purpose.  (This was my own doing, most people training for a marathon do have specific workouts throughout training).  I went to my first track workout this week and survived, but it wasn't pretty, and yes I whined a lot.  I haven't done any speed work in close to a year, and it really showed.  We did a one mile time trial and I was humbled to barely break 8 minutes.  I equate this to eating junk throughout the holidays and then stepping on the scale after New Year's, and being shocked at what the scale is telling you.  It was eye opening, and shows I sure have a lot of work to do!  Track is a weird thing though.  I dreaded going, pretty much hated running that mile, but afterwards I couldn't wait to go back to track and focus on improving.

In other exciting news, did I happen to mention this silly little half ironman triathlon, the Patriot half, I'm doing in five weeks?!  I got so caught up in Boston blabber that I never really gave it much discussion.  I still can't even believe that back in December I somehow thought this was a good idea to sign up for a half iron just after Boston.  I rationalized it by saying that I would already be in running shape, and the swimming and biking would be good cross training it would be the perfect fit. Right?  Well, sort of.  But, things got pretty complicated trying to blend my Boston training plan with my Patriot plan as the marathon got close.  I missed some high volume weeks of triathlon training because it conflicted with my marathon training taper, but I just kind of had to wing it for a few weeks.  I'm back on track now though, all recovered from Boston and finally hitting some of my triathlon training targets.

Last weekend I kicked off the season with a challenging duathlon!  This was a 1.5 mile run, 14 mile bike, 2 mile run.  It was good practice for me, and showed me that I need to speed up my transitions and do more running right after cycling (aka "brick sessions").  I found out real fast that I'm not good at clipping into my pedals under pressure, and I struggled with that for about 50 yards before finally settling in.  I also learned that my adorably petite bike is so small it doesn't reach the ground in transition:

As if that wasn't bad enough, this happened to be an extremely windy day, causing my bike to swing wildly off the rack.  It got a lot of chuckles from the guys around me.  Eventually I ended up stuffing my gear bag under the front tire to keep it secure.  In the future I'll bring an extra towel with me to use as a chalk block.  Now I know!  The course itself was a little painful.  Lots of uphills, and even the flats were challenging because of the steady, strong head wind, and the downhills were a little scary with the cross wind!

Okay there were a lot of complaints in there but I'm kind of kidding about most of it.  It was actually a super fun race, my first duathlon, and I felt pretty accomplished afterwards!  It was a small turnout, but hey look what I got!

The good thing about where I live is that there is no shortage of hills, so I have plenty of opportunity to hone my climbing skills.  However, the Patriot course is pretty flat so I won't have worry about any crazy climbs.  Yesterday Rori and I headed down to Freetown and took a ride on the course.  I was a tiny bit worried about doing the whole thing since my longest outdoor ride this season has been the 14 miles I did in the duathlon, but I had been doing a lot of indoor cycling on the trainer, so I wasn't overly concerned.  I woke up in the morning with tired legs from track, but I guess this is good training!  I was happy to see that the 56 mile ride was no problem at all.  In fact, the only issue I had was that my butt got a bit sore and I had to stand up every now and then.  The course itself is beautiful.  The roads are in good shape (as opposed to the potholes and patchwork we have around here), and the scenery was full of cranberry bogs, lakes, horse farms, and beautiful properties.  Hopefully Rori didn't get too tired of hearing me blabber on about how beautiful it was and how much fun I was having.  I also used yesterday's ride as a chance to practice my race day nutrition.  I took 2 Endurolyte tabs every hour, and 2-3 Honey Stinger chews every 15 minutes.  I felt strong the entire time, and in fact, some of our last miles were our fastest!  The ride was a huge confidence boost and makes me feel that I might actually have a shot at surviving this crazy thing in 5 weeks.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Running Dreams and Nightmares

Runners and non-runners alike have had the dream.  The stuck-in-the-mud/quicksand/concrete dream.  I have that dream all the time, although I kind of feel like that even when I'm awake!

Lately I've had a few unusually vivid running dreams and nightmares and I just had to share them.  Please tell me I'm not the only one that has these...

The night before the Boston Marathon, I had a dream that I was being chased around my property by a deranged man in a bunny suit.

He was trying to kill me.  I went to the back door of my house and tried to sneak in, but the door was locked.  I knew my mother was in the house so I was frantically (but quietly) knocking on the door so she'd let me in.  Then I was flashing a light switch to get her attention without making too much noise and drawing the rabbit to my location.  (The light switch was on the outside of the house, but controlled the light on the inside of the house.  It's dream logic, don't fight it).  She slowly meandered into the kitchen and saw me, and I woke up before I found out if she opened the door before the rabbit caught me.

The day after Boston, I had crazy dream about running a half marathon.  It started off like a regular race, but suddenly the course was full of people scattered about like a party in the street.  I lost the runners in front of me and couldn't figure out which way to go.  The course wasn't marked, and eventually I ended up in some obstacle course inside.  I made it back outside, and saw Rich at one of the intersections.  I asked him which way the course went, and he said, "I don't know, why don't you ask that fruity guy".  I couldn't figure out what he was talking about, until I saw a guy at a corner dressed up like a kiwi.

He pointed me in the direction of a shoreline and before I knew it I was running in the water.  I finally decided to drop out of the race and just do my own 13 mile run, but then my watch didn't work and had no idea how far I had run.

A couple nights ago I had a quick dream that I was in my old apartment in Franklin, and Ryan Hall was there.  And he was trying to kill me.

Luckily I woke up fast from that dream, because I'm pretty sure Ryan could've caught me no matter where I ran and hid.  Ever since that dream I get a little creeped out when I see a picture of him.

The good thing is, I know I'm not alone with these crazy dreams.  Just this morning, Julia emailed me with the most vivid dream she had last night, about the Greenway Challenge (a run/bike/paddle relay race we did last year).  This is her email, verbatum.  I've only added pictures to bring the story to life.

I had a dream about Greenway last night. The dream first started out with Jill and I climbing Mt. Everest. 

Yes, we made it to the top and even took some selfies. 

Then, we took our spaceship to the planet Venus where the first leg of the challenge began.

 We were pretty much neck and neck with RI DEM the whole race then I was the anchor for the paddle leg but I only had a row boat. 

I still managed to pass the DEM girls and bring it home only to find out we got totally smoked by 2 russian teams. We took third.

Julia gets award for the most creative dream!

What weird running dreams or nightmares have you had?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

2014 Boston Marathon

This year's Boston Marathon was certainly one for the record books.  It included all the markings of a good story: grief, struggle, resilience, redemption, heroism, and as only Boston could: unexpected plot twists (and unicorns, of course).  To be a part of it, whether running, volunteering, spectating, or watching it online, was to witness the best of the American spirit.

Monday morning, Ronnie and Coleen met at my house and then we headed over to Julia's.  Like last year, we all wanted to meet at Julia's before heading over to EMC to catch the shuttle bus.  That way we'd all be together heading to the Athlete's Village.

Wearing our Wal-Mart special throw-away clothes!
We met at Julia's around 7:45 (I'm documenting this because we were fretting about what time we should meet and I was chastised for not including this specific detail in last year's blog!) and paused for some photo ops.  Funny thing overheard: "Coleen, take your pants off so we can get a picture".

Danny, Julia, Coleen, Me, Kristen, Marie, and Ron
We got to EMC at 8:30 and easily found parking.  This is where we first started experiencing major differences from last year.  We had to go through security checkpoints and screenings before getting onto the shuttle buses and there was a strong police presence even just in the parking lot.  No one was bothered by the increased security, and we all made it through security in time to get on the same bus.

The annual bus ride pic
Also new this year, instead of the bus dropping us off in the center of Hopkinton, where we would have to walk 3/4 mile to the Athlete's Village, this time the bus took a different route and dropped us off right at the village.  At first we thought this was pretty cool, until we tried to leave.

The Athlete's Village was a massive sea of people strewn about all over the damp ground and outlined by ripe toilet-paperless porta-potties.  This, combined with the interesting array of throw-away clothes and people gulping down their final pre-race goodies, felt more like Woodstock than a marathon!

Dude...pass me the banana
We met up with a few more club runners and got another group picture.

A very noticeable difference this year was the way that runners were sent to the start line.  Unlike last year, where runners could leave the Athlete's Village when they wanted, this year they were very strict about staying in the village until their wave and corral assignment was released.  Because Ronnie was in the 3rd wave, he had to head to the start a half hour earlier than us, and we couldn't see him off.  They were very strict about corral assignments also, so they would announce, "If you're in wave 4, corral 1, 2, or 3, line up.  Everyone else needs to wait".  So as we started getting ready to head to the start line, most of us got split up.  Part of me is a little disappointed about this because part of the excitement of the race is standing at the start line waiting for the gun to go off.  We didn't experience that this year.  Instead, it was more of a rolling start, where we (at least in the further back corrals), walked from the Athlete's Village right up to the start line and then started running.  No fan fare, no seeing friends or family at the start line that had been waiting there for hours to catch a glimpse of us.  I understand the need to keep the start line free of too much congestion, and it's tough to manage 35,000 people, but still it was a bit anti-climactic!  Not to worry, the rest of the course more than made up for it.

Just before we headed to the start line, the temperature went from pleasantly brisk to warm and sunny.  As we took off our throw-away clothes, we speculated that it might be getting warmer than we expected.  I immediately wished I had worn the singlet instead of the short sleeve shirt.  At that point all we could do is hope the temperature didn't rise too much higher!  Since I was in the final wave of runners that started at 11:25, we would be impacted by the warm temperatures more than any other group of runners.

Heading towards the start line and seeing the spectators for the first time gave us a preview of what the next 26 miles would feel like, and it felt amazing.  We were like rock stars, and people even lined the street a good half mile before the start line wishing us well.  And offering us beer, cigarettes, and ribs.  It was a tempting offer, those ribs looked delicious!

As the race started, it soon became clear that this was indeed a special, once in a lifetime experience.  Crowds lined the street for 26 miles, with an unprecedented level of unity and patriotism.  There was almost never a bare spot along the entire course.  Shalane Flanagan later commented that it was like "running through a 26 mile stadium".  I stuck to my goal of keeping it slow and steady in the first miles, resisting the urge to sprint down the plummeting hills into Ashland.  I had people lined all along the course to look for, so as I approached TJ's in Ashland I slid over to the far left, where I saw my sister, her boyfriend, and then my friend Eddie.

My goal was to finish in last year's project time of 4:45.  That would require a 10:50 pace, and I started off a bit under that to give me a cushion for the later miles.  My plan started off great!  My only question mark remained the heat.  I knew I might have a problem when by mile 2 I was already saturated with sweat.  The sun quickly got to me, and I would've killed for a rain cloud.  Even still, the first 10 miles went perfectly.

At mile 10 I took my first walk break (as planned) and assessed my heat situation.  I was starting to get uncomfortable, but my lungs, heart, and legs all still felt good.  I decided to switch gears and take a mini walk break each mile for the next couple miles and see if that helped.

I realized that if I kept taking mini walk breaks each mile, my average pace was quickly going to pass my necessary 10:50.  Time to reevaluate.  I stopped at the 13 mile clock and said hi to Anthony and Mark.  While I felt okay, I knew the heat was getting to me, and I needed someone to tell about it.  Anthony always seems to know just what to say.  He said, "Take in more water, get ice if you can, and adjust your pace.  Now you can sit here and complain for 10 more seconds, but then you have to go".  I love him.  Off I went.

This marathon was absolutely a "Tale of Two Halves".   The first, very successful half, and the second, just-survive-and-get-it-over-with half.  I was in full-on survival mode, taking in ice at every opportunity, and pouring water over my head at every water station.  Around mile 15 my quads started hurting, a lot.  Never in my life have I had sore legs while running.  Tired maybe, but not sore like this.  Every step was a pounding, and I knew the next 10+ miles were going to be a challenge.  Everyone around me was feeling the same, because soon water stations were out of cups and volunteers were holding pitchers of water and offering "refills".  At each water station, the race seemed to come to a halt as everyone stopped for refills or - if they were lucky - actual cups.  The road was so covered in cups that there was literally no asphalt left to run on, and those cups got slippery!  Ice was my best friend, and every time I saw some I grabbed a handful and stuffed it under my hat and down my shirt.

Just before mile 15 I veered over to the left to find Andrew's friend Dominique (she saw me and even got pictures!) and then veered back over to the right to get ready to see Jackie and Mike.  When I saw them I was instantly jealous of them standing on the side of the road.  I wish I was standing on the side of the road, not running.  I ran by them saying "I'm SO HOT!" and Mike said, "Yeah you are!!" and I laughed and kept going.

I turned onto Comm Ave at the Newton fire station, which was busting with spectators, and heard Toby Keith's "American Soldier" booming from a stereo.  The whole course was a steady reminder of where we were, and why we were soldiering on.  It was a well placed song and gave me some motivation as I tackled the hills.  I was definitely disappointed with the way I felt going into the hills.  I had prided myself on running so many hills in training, and yet here I was, facing some relatively mild hills, and I couldn't even drum up the energy to run up them.  I walked off and on for the next three miles (more walking than running).  My quads weren't cooperating, and I was extremely nauseous and getting lightheaded.  I stopped at a medical tent and asked for some biofreeze but they didn't have any.  (What?!)  At mile 21 I spotted Mom and Dan and made my way over to them.

When I saw this picture after the race, I said "wow, I look so much better than I felt!"  I stopped and hung out with them for a few minutes, answering their questions with grunting nods and head shakes.  I drank some of Mom's water and used the rest to wash my face.

Is it just me or does that look like the Walking Dead coming up behind me?

I have to run HOW MANY more miles??!

I couldn't put this off forever, so eventually I left them for the last five miles, and promised to text her in an hour.
Off I went up the last incline before heading back downhill and into Boston
I made it past the Boston College crowd without getting too annoyed by the spectators.  They seemed a little nicer this year.  More encouraging and less rowdy.  My stomach continued to betray me, and I would've given anything for a Coke to settle it (and give me a little caffeine jolt).  I started asking spectators if they had any Coke or Pepsi.  A couple people said they did, then realized they didn't.  What a tease! If I saw someone with a Coke in their hand, there's no doubt in my mind I would've stolen it out of their hand.  My head was so out-of-sorts that I could no longer count.  I don't even really remember miles 22 and 23.  When I got to mile 24, I couldn't figure out how much longer I had to run.  Three miles I think, right? I honestly don't know.  I was trying to run as much as possible at this point.  Around mile 24.5 I saw a sea of people wearing Team Hoyt shirts, all walking in a cluster.  Then I realized they were surrounding Dick and Rick Hoyt, and they were all finishing the race together as a team.  That was a special moment hearing the crowds chant for them.  I said hi, passed them, and then thought to myself, I absolutely must keep running now so I don't get passed by Team Hoyt!

I passed the "1 mile to go" sign, and that was the best sign I'd seen all day.  I did my best to shake the cobwebs out of my brain.  I needed to think clearly and really take in everything that was about to happen.  I couldn't help but compare this year to last year.  I remember seeing the shift in behavior of the cops and spectators last  year around this section, so I looked for any similar indications, and found none.  The occasional drone of a helicopter overhead gave me some flashbacks, but since they weren't accompanied by SWAT teams, they gave me a measure of comfort rather than distress.  I saw the bar we took refuge in last year at BU.  I saw the curb we sat on when we were stopped just shy of the finish.  And then I got to see sights I had never seen before.  I finally made it under the Mass Ave bridge.  I took the right on Hereford, and that's when it got real.  I was finishing this race, even if it meant I had to yell at myself to keep going.  (And I really did, I was talking to myself - out loud - to make myself keep going).

They say at the end of a marathon, when there's nothing left in your body, and you're totally spent, you're not running on carbs, fuel, or maybe not even adrenaline.  You're running with your heart.  As I turned left onto Boylston Street, I understood what that meant.  The finish line begged me to continue moving forward, and the crowds pulled me along.  I didn't want this moment to end, and I looked all around, left and right, trying to absorb and preserve this memory.  I had wondered how I would feel about this final stretch.  Would I be nervous? Anxious?  Emotional?  Would I suffer a meltdown and be unable to continue?  Maybe this was the blessing of the heat, but I was too exhausted to be nervous or emotional.  I felt nothing but pride running down Boylston Street, towards our finish line.

I wasn't kidding about the "Tale of Two Halves!"

After crossing the finish line, my body came to an abrupt halt and could barely move forward.  I shuffled at an excruciatingly slow pace for what seemed like an eternity to the water, the heat blanket, and started towards the food until I realized it was too long of a walk, and I was too nauseous and lightheaded, to bother with food.  A concerned medic offered me a wheelchair, but I told her if I sat down I might never get back up.  Instead I shuffled towards the shuttle bus where I very nearly had to crawl up the steps to get to my seat.  Finally sitting for the first time in six or so hours, I took my finisher selfie and posted it to Facebook:

I was so tired, I actually thought I was smiling in this picture
The patriotism and sense of community was apparent throughout the course.  I had wondered how the new BAA restrictions would impact the feel of the race, but I truly feel that this race couldn't have been better.  Instead of costumes this year, runners ran with Boston pride, regardless of what city they flew in from.  They ran for Martin Richard, Sean Collier, Lu Lingzi, and Krystal Campbell.  They ran for fallen firefighters Michael "Dork" Kennedy and Ed Walsh.  They ran for survivors, and they ran as survivors.  One great quote I heard was from someone who said, "your scar is a reminder that you are stronger than whatever tried to hurt you".  We all have scars from last year and this race was our way of showing them off and fighting back.  This was one of the most significant sporting events of our nation's history, and we were all a part of it.  Really, where else could someone like me compete in the same event as Olympians and world record holders?  It was an honor to be there, and hearing midway through the race that an American man won was the perfect ending to this story.  But Meb wasn't the only winner.  We all won, as Mom says, "to finish is to win".  I'll drink to that!