Monday, April 18, 2016

Boston, Take 2: 2016

I don't really blog anymore, but this was an epic day for me so, I'm blogging tonight.  It probably won't happen again for another year or two.  :)

It has been a good running year..  After hitting the wall at mile 20 and passing out at the finish of the Newport News marathon in March 2015, I went on to set personal records in every distance, from the 5K to the 50 miler (to be fair, it was my only 50 miler.)   I had a strong finish last fall at the Chicago marathon, and decided to just train hard for this race with the goals of having a good time with running buddies, getting in some good workouts and shorter distance races, and staying injury free.  With all that in place, my goal for the day was to run my best Boston and finish without a complete crash and  burn in Newton and beyond.

Weather for race day was looking pretty bad a few days prior, predicting a high of 75 for a majority of the time I'd be on the course.  So although the temperatures we were given -- 72 at the start and gradually cooling as the race went on -- were not ideal, they were certainly better than what was originally forecast, and kind of similar to Chicago.  I decided to wear as little clothing as possible,  to go out no faster than marathon pace, not make the same mistakes I did last time I ran it.  (Note:  my 7:29 first mile in 2014 was not planned marathon pace.)

I also decided to run by myself.  In 2014 I ran with a friend and we were chatting most of the way.  I probably ran faster than I should have because I was distracted.  This time, I would run my own race.

Go time.  The first two minutes were so crowded I couldn't get under an 8:20 pace, but then the crowd thinned and I noticed my watch was at 7:30.... oops.  Then, all my GU fell out of my race belt.  All six packets.  I had to turn around and get them - and could only find 4 - and almost got trampled while profusely apologizing and feeling like a total loser, but I was pretty sure I couldn't get to mile 12, where they give out the first gels, without any fuel and still have a decent race.  I crossed the first mile in 7:48, including the GU snafoo.   I know the first 8 miles are pretty much all downhill, and I managed to keep a pretty solid 7:48-50 pace.  For the next 8 miles I tried to settle into marathon pace but take some advantage of the downhills.  I had a couple 7:30ish miles in there.  It was still very warm with no cloud cover, and I started the routine of drinking Gatorade at each aid station and dumping a cup of water on my head.

Then I hit Newton.  This is where I fell apart last time.  My pace had been too fast for the first 8 miles, and after the first hill my quads didn't work anymore.  I did the first of the four hills and it wasn't so bad.  The legs felt like they could keep going.  Hill two is the steepest, and I just kept chanting "Pickett Hill is steeper than you!  Pickett Hill is steeper than you!"  (Pickett Hill is a .34 mile beast with a 5-9% grade that I run least twice a week on my morning route.)  Hill three didn't feel bad at all.  And then there was Heartbreak.  It wasn't all that steep, it just seemed to go on forever (in reality, it was a half a mile.)  It was my slowest mile of the race at 8:27, but I knew I could still PR if I didn't fall apart in the last 5 miles.

I decided not to turn on my iPod, which was clipped on just in case, and instead to focus for those last miles on keeping pace.  I was starting to get a little tired,   I managed to keep mile 22 just under 8 minutes, but then I couldn't do sub-8s anymore.  And I was running straight downhill.  My legs actually felt pretty good, but I was low on energy.  Focus.  Focus.  Focus.  The crowds carried me though those last few miles that were feeling like eternity.  Finally I saw the finish line and looked at my watch.... If I managed to run a sub-8 pace for the last half a mile I could come in under 3:28... so I pushed it, and ran a little faster down Boylston St.  3:27:41.  PR.  At Boston.  I was stoked.

I wish I could say that my race story ended there, but things got a little scary later on.  I met up with my husband and friends and we headed to a restaurant for a celebration drink.  I just stared at my beer - it didn't look appetizing.  Nothing did.  I started to get those hyponatremia warning signs -- nausea, headache, dizziness... so I asked the waitress for some salt.  I drank a tablespoon of salt which usually helps in about ten minutes, but I was still feeling bad.  I walked to the bathroom and realized I was close to passing out.  My friends and husband walked me to the med tent, and on the quarter mile walk I started to lose feeling in my limbs and lips, and turned blueish.  By the time we got there I was shaking.  I've never felt that horrible after a race, and was terrified.  They did blood work, and  I had low blood sugar, low sodium, and dehydration.   I was there for 90 minutes, and after an IV and some time flat on my back, I started to feel better.  I was able to eat dinner a couple hours later and am back to feeling normal.

I'm thrilled about the PR, but the after situation scared the pants off me.  This is the third time I have ended up with an IV after an endurance race, and I have had three other similar situations where the onset came well after I'd left the race site.  Looking back, I actually felt fine when I finished the race.... and then I didn't eat.  For two hours, I didn't eat or drink anything.  I am so angry with myself - likely if I'd downed the recovery shake they handed me, I would have been fine.  Instead I ended up in a potentially life threatening situation, and halted the celebrations of my husband and friends who waited nervously outside the medical tent.  I guess every race comes with some lessons to be learned.

Other than that, though, couldn't have had a better weekend.  Boston knows how to put on a race -- I was congratulated by everyone in the entire city, including police, subway drivers, and passersby.  This city comes together for the marathon -- there is nothing like it.

Boston, Take 2: 2016

Bull Run Run 50 Mile - 2015 Report

I had wanted to do this race for three years now, but it just hasn't worked out.  In 2012, I ended up third on the wait list (in restrospect, I was in no mental or physical shape to run it that year, anyhow.)  In 2013, I got in, but fractured my hip 5 weeks before the race. Last year was my first Boston, so doing a 50 miler the week before didn't seem like a great plan.  This year the date worked, and I planned my race schedule around it, but I still wasn't entirely convinced I'd remain injury free until, well, Friday.  :)
In the weeks leading up to the race, I had nightmares about the last 20 or so miles.  It's a tough course with about 25 short but steep climbs, and anything over 31 miles was a big unknown to me.  I had done a 50K put on by the same running club on the southern part of the course (definitely the more challenging end) in December 2012, but other than that, marathons had been my longest distance.  I also have had some somewhat concerning health issues at endurance events, including collapsing at the finish of my last marathon a month ago.  I have since found a GP who is an ultrarunner, and we discussed this race and my nutrition plan in detail.  
Also, I was feeling a little unprepared.  The night before, I got some texts from my friend who did the JFK 50 last November.  How many pairs of shoes was I bringing?  What about socks?  Who was my crew?  Was anyone pacing me for the last 10 miles?  Whaaaaa??????  Um, I was bringing one pair of shoes.  One pair of socks.  I had no crew.  And pacers weren't allowed on this single track trail.  I actually wasn't bringing anything except my fuel belt, a change of clothes for after the race, a bottle of shampoo, and a hairbrush.  
I carpooled with a guy from DC Road Runners -- an experienced 50 miler -- and he assured me I had brought everything I needed.  Phew.  We arrived at packet pickup at 5:10 a.m.  Just like the 50K, which started from the same location, I was immediately taken with the vibe of the crowd.  Such a friendly bunch of people.  I made myself a peanut butter bagel and chatted away with, well, everyone around me. My former boss, Tim, who inspired me to do this race about 5 years ago (I think he has run it 21 times!) showed up around this time.  We wished eachother well.... and it was time to head to the start.
The start of the race is a loop around the paved road at Hemlock Regional Park -- the only paved section of the course.  The goal is to spread out the runners before they head onto the the single track trail for the remaining 49 miles.  I knew I had a bad habit of starting entirely too fast, and also knew the first 16 miles are the most runnable, and so, with no time goal other than to finish under the cutoff and not crash and burn, I practiced my "snail pace" from the start.  I was also forced to stop and walk/ simply pause at some of the tricky parts, as there was a huge backup.  
Tim caught up to me when we got to to those tricky bits -- he is an amazing trail runner.  I was scared to death of falling, but he ran though the steep and rocky sections like it was second nature.  It was nice to catch up with him, and he gave me some good advice for the rest of the race.  Stay steady on the runnable parts.  Plan what you need in advance from the aid stations, and don't waste any time there.  And... it's all mental.  You can do this.
Around mile 5, we hit a rocky section, and I saw a small crowd of people gathered around a woman who had fallen. She looked like she was in pretty bad shape, and they were waiting for medics.  It's always hard to know what to do in those situations -- stop and help?  Keep going?  I asked if they needed anything, and they didn't... so I kept going.  How awful to fall in the first few miles.  (Note:  she was okay, I found out at the finish - she had done something to her arm.)
At mile 7 we hit the first aid station.  I grabbed some of my favorite treats -- some cookies, some jelly beans, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I filled my bottles with Gatorade and headed to the out and back - the only long flat section of the course.  I ran conservatively so I could eat my food without cramping - I know how important it is to eat early on - and I didn't want to trash my legs with more miles left than I'd ever run in my life.  As it was an out and back, I could see the leaders coming in... they were looking strong, and even had smiles on their faces as they ran by.  We got to hit up the aid station again four miles later, and I noticed that the food was looking less appetizing.  I asked for a salt pill, and kept on going.
The next few miles I ran with a guy from upstate NY -- it was great to chat with someone, and it made those miles fly by.  You have to climb a small mountain to get back to the start area -- I remembered this from the 50K, and we would again climb it at the finish, at mile 49.5.  I got to the Hemlock aid station and got a little confused on where to head from there.  I grabbed some food and headed back to the course, but had lost my NY friend.  Soon, though, I fell into stride with a woman from Philly, who I ran with for a few miles.  She was a veteran Bull Run Runner, and had to turn around in order to be on the road by noon to get home for her son's senior prom.  I was amazed she came all the way down to run only half the race, but was beginning to see how special this race was to so many people who keep coming back again, year after year.  After she and I parted, I was all alone.  I could hear gunfire up ahead, and knew that meant we must be coming close to Bull Run Regional Park, where there is a firing range.  Sure enough, I was soon at the Marina.   They had a great spread of food, but nothing looked very good.  I got some salt pills, a cup of cola, and tried to make myself eat a PB&J, however, I wasn't able to swallow it.  My mouth was pretty dry.  I ended up spitting it out about a quarter mile later.
Since I'd run the 50K on the south end of this course a few years ago, this part of the course was familiar, and I knew was was coming up.  Up, down, up, down, and more up, down.  Relentless hills.  My quads were starting to hurt already.  I'd been walking the ups but running the downs.  The downs were really beginning to bother me.  I was starting to get a little discouraged as I ran into the next aid station, but then I saw the sign - MILE 26.1! - and I knew that meant I was over halfway done.  Never mind the fact that I had 24 miles left.  Never mind that my cumulative time was 5:20 -- almost two hours longer than my last marathon.  I could do this.  I could finish.  I turned around, and there was Tim again.  It was nice to have some company for the next couple miles, but then I lost sight of him at the next aid station - Fountainhead.  The volunteers were great and told me to "Enjoy the Do Loop."  This would be the fourth time I've run the Do Loop -- I'd done it at the Women's Trail Half Marathon, the 50K, and earlier this year on a training run -- and it's killer.  Massive hills.  Beautiful views of the Occoquan Reservoir.  On the way in, you catch people heading out, who are a good hour or so ahead of you.  These were the same people I'd seen on the out and back at the beginning, all with smiles on their faces.  Now, they all looked exhausted.
I ran the Do Loop by myself -- there was a guy a ways behind me keeping a steady pace, but other than that, it was just me and the trail.  I hit the Do Loop Aid Station, and knew it was only 2.5 miles to get back to Fountainhead.  Those miles took For Freaking Ever.  FOREVER.  How could 2.5 miles take so long?  And then I still would have ten miles to go.  TEN MILES!  Never mind that I would be 3/4 of the way done.  The hills were killing me.  I could not stomach food.  I heard two guys behind me talking.  One said "When I get to the next aid station, I'm finished."  The other guy said "You have it in the bag!  You are 2.5 hours ahead of the cutoff.  You can walk the rest of the race and still finish."
When we got to Fountainhead, my good friend Ami was there waiting.  I tried to smile - I was so grateful to see her!  She did her first 50 in the fall, and she knows how bad you feel at this point in the race.  She had brought me trail mix, socks, and a new t-shirt.  I felt horrible turning them all down, but my socks and shirt were working for me, and a couldn't even fathom putting anything solid in my body at this point.  I thanked her, drank some Coke, tried to eat something solid (I might have managed a strawberry), and continued.  That guy I mentioned above?  He dropped.  As bad as I felt, I don't know how you could drop when you'd accomplished so much.
That other guy, the one who tried to convince him to stay in the race,  passed me as I was relieving myself behind a tree.  I noticed that my urine was the color of copper.  I was a little concerned, and then remembered how my mouth was so dry I had to spit out my sandwich.  I had been good about my salt intake, but maybe not drinking as well as I should have.  I caught up to him and asked him what he though (hey, long distance runners can talk about their pee.  It's okay.)  He was great -- this is someone who had run the race 12 times, done multiple 100 milers, and he figured I was dehydrated and told me to drink all my water in between aid stations.  I realized I'd been drinking a cup or two at each station, but not much in between.   For the next five miles, we chatted on the flat sections, he'd fly ahead on the descents (which I could no longer actually run due to quad pain), and I'd catch up on the uphills (as long as they weren't straight up, I could still run them.)  He confessed that he had not run at all since Marine Corps Marathon.  I figured he meant he hadn't run much.  Nope.  He hadn't run at all.  Not a step.  HOW DO YOU GO OUT AND RUN A 50 MILE TRAIL RACE ON ABSOLUTELY NO TRAINING?  He says it's all muscle memory, and mental.  He knows he can do it.  Apparently he can.
At the final aid station, I see my next door neighbor, who is volunteering.  He tell me I've only got five more miles to go!  I tell him that every mile is now taking freaking forever.  My new friend (the one who can run 50 miles without any training) reminds me that we've got a lot of flat parts coming up.  That's it.  I'm finishing, and I'm running as fast as I can.
Which isn't all that fast.  I'm actually really excited when my GPS registers a 12 minute pace for some of the miles.  We reach the river bed, and those ridiculous rocky sections which my new friend is really good at and I am not.  He runs over them like they are no big thing, and I'm holding on for dear life.  So I lose him.  But I know I'm close, really close.  I remember from the 50K that I pass two mile markers, and then I reach that ridiculous mountainous climb, and then it's about a half a mile on a flat field to the finish.  So I run.  I pass a group of guys, and they tell me that mountain is just up ahead.  I run, and then I have to walk up, up, up. but then I run... and I see the finish.  And I smile.  I cross.  I am done.  I just ran 50 miles.
The finish line is incredible.  A feeling I haven't ever felt at a road race.  Such support for the runners coming in.  One of the most touching moments of the day happened after I'd met up with my family, showered, and was enjoying the amazing finish line food.  A runner, aged 71, who had finished this race 22 previous times, neared the finish line.  Everyone cheered for him by name.  He crossed with such determination and joy in his eyes.  He wasn't the only 71 year old runner, either.
I think I'll run Boston next year, and pretty sure I can't do them both within a week of each other, but I want to do this one again.  Hats off to VHTRC for putting on such a great event.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Here we go again...

It's officially been two months (plus a few days) since the Boston marathon, which was really the last time I had a somewhat decent run.  Turns out my hunches about being injured pre-marathon were correct.

In the weeks following the race, I felt horrible.  Beat up.  Like I never recovered.  I tried to follow reverse taper schedule, but instead of getting better, I was getting worse.  A month after the marathon I attempted to race the 5K my school puts on every spring. I finished over 2 minutes slower than my normal 5K time and my knee swelled up like crazy. A week later I tried one more time to get in a decent run.  I did three half mile repeats, and by the last one I couldn't walk on my right leg.

Back to the orthopedist.  He suspected a torn meniscus.  The MRI confirmed what I already knew. 

So... here I am on the couch recovering from knee surgery.  I'm a terrible patient.  I can't stand lying around.   My doctor says I can try running in about a month.  A month.  A month feels like forever, especially since I haven't run at all for three weeks. Granted, it's better than four months.  That's what I keep telling myself.  

Check out this quote I found today when I was bored out of my mind and reading medical journals on meniscus surgery (yeah, I'm a nerd.)

 Dedicated seemingly beyond logic.  A difficult group indeed.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Boston Part 2: Game On!

6 a.m. and I'm wide awake.  I'm the only one in the whole apartment.  I don't know WHY I'm awake, we don't have to leave until 8:30... the whole reason we stayed by the start was so we could avoid the crazy early race wake up time (that, and it was $144 a night for a two bedroom apartment with free breakfast and parking.)  I went downstairs to the buffet when it opened and expected to see tons of runners, but no, it was just me.  Apparently everyone else was still sleeping.  I had some oatmeal, a waffle, and some coffee, and headed back upstairs.  Everyone was STILL asleep.  7 a.m.  What was I supposed to do for 90 minutes?

Eventually, after an hour that seemed like eternity, Jamie (and Jack, and my dad) got out of bed, got ready, and headed to the lobby with Tuan.   They ate, I watched the news which was now predicting high 60s by 2pm,-- likely when I'd be in the last 10K, fantastic -- and headed to the car.

I was predicting mass chaos similar to our traffic jam disaster prior to the Philly Marathon, but there was none.  We got to the South Street athlete shuttle in less than ten minutes, and the line moved quickly.  There was a man with a metal detector, and I "went off" when he scanned me.  Why? GU packets.  Haha.  The detector really went off like crazy when he scanned Jamie, who removed a box he was holding under his sweatshirt.  He had Clif Shots.  "How many Clif Shots did you bring?" I asked him.  "Not sure."  he said.  I grabbed the unopened box that I had recently bought for $25.  "Um, honey, how many gels are you going to take?  There are 24 here.  You didn't want to grab, like, 6?"  "Ooops?" he said.  Tuan quipped "He's not taking any chances with his nutrition!"  I just rolled my eyes and we got on the bus.

By the time we got to the Athlete's Village it was starting to get warm.  Jamie, whose wasn't exactly in tip top marathon shape (the whole breaking a rib by falling on the ice back in late January didn't get his training off to a great start... six weeks of recovery, so he really only got in a six week cycle), decided he would go ahead and start in Wave 1 (which I wasn't allowed to start in) to avoid the later heat.  Tuan and I still had a 25 minute wait before I was allowed to walk to the corrals.  Jamie handed me the 18 Clif Shots he apparently didn't really need (which I tried to donate to other runners, but nope, no one wanted them, so I left them on the bagel and banana table) as he headed off.  Tuan and I got in the port-o-pot line.

It didn't move.  At all.  Not one step in ten minutes.  And then they called my corral.

There is no good place to pee in the Athlete's village.  And I really, really, really had to go.  We headed towards the start and I heard my name.  I turned and saw my (fast) friend Andie.  The first thing out of my mouth was "I have to PEE!"  I was really about to cry.  She pointed behind the dumpster.  "Just go!"  There was a police officer standing right down the road.  Game time decision -- I did not want to pee on myself.  So I went behind that dumpster and I swear the officer saw the whole thing.  He did not arrest me, and I felt SO MUCH BETTER.

I drank a half bottle of Gatorade on the 15 minute walk to the start, and when we arrived, I saw this HEAVENLY SEA OF PORT-O-POTTIES WITH NO LINE!  Seriously.  There were like hundreds of them. "I'm going again!" I told Tuan.  So I did.  By the time we got back, my entire wave was gone.  We had missed the Wave 2 start entirely, and Wave 3 was nowhere to be seen. So it was kind of a weird start.... we just started running.  And as I clicked on my Garmin and crossed the timing mat, I welled up with tears. I was really running the Boston Marathon.

1: 7:29 
2: 7:49 
3: 7:46 
4: 7:51 
5 - reset clock to match mile markers so 1.1 miles in 8:01 (7:53 pace) 
6: 7:47 
I was so excited!  I didn't really look at my Garmin much, and as usual Tuan was chatting to everyone, high-fiving all the spectators, throwing cups of water into my face... he qualified for this race with a 3:00:23, so going out at a... hey, what pace were we running anyhow?  We crossed the 5K timing mat just over 24 minutes.  Ooops.  That was not much slower than my 5K split at my last half marathon.  "SLOW DOWN NGUYEN!" I yelled.  "You're fine!  It's downhill... you need to have a little time in the bank for Newton, those hills are tough."  We kept running.  I took my first gel at 4.  I was already hot.

MILES 7-16
7: reset clock to match mile markers so 1.11 in 8:05 (7:58 pace) 
8: 7:50 
9: 7:54 
10: 7:57 
11: 7:57 
12: 7:51 
13: reset clock to match mile markers so 1.1 in 8:06 (7:59 pace) 
14: 7:52 
15: reset clock to match markers so 1.1 in 8:10 (8:04 pace) 
16: 7:49 
The course wasn't as steep of a downhill anymore, and I was able to settle into the 7:55-7:59 pace I had planned.  It felt great.  Tuan told me I'm right on pace to PR, and throws another cup of water over my head.  We get to Wellesley and he leaves me to kiss all the girls cheering on the right.  Their signs are hilarious.  I love this race.  I am running Boston.  This is the best marathon ever.

MILES 17-18
17: 8:31 
18: 8:34 
The Newton Hills begin.  I had budgeted on an 8:30 pace for the UP parts, and a 7:40 pace for the down parts..... unfortunately after I got up the first hill, the down started to hurt like crazy.  My quads were not happy. This suddenly was the worst marathon ever.

MILES 19-21
19: Reset laps so 1.2 in 9:35 -- 8:55 pace. 
20: 8:48 -
21: 9:07 

I'm seeing a lot of 9:XX registering on my Garmin.  That isn't boding well for a PR. I'm really hot, and I know I have two more miles of hills.  My quads are revolting.  I turn to Tuan after the 19th mile and say "We went out too fast."  He says "Well you aren't PRing today.  You might as well just have fun."  I look at my watch.  I can still BQ... maybe... but it's going to take some hard work.  I stick in my ear buds, which I had set to my favorite playlist "in case emergency motivation is needed", but instead of what I thought I had it cued to -- my hip hop mix of running songs (BORN TO RUN, CHARIOTS OF FIRE, etc.), out blares THE WIGGLES.  THE FREAKING WIGGLES!  You have got to be kidding me.  What happened to my playlist?  I am not listening to my two and a half year old's favorite band while I run up Heartbreak Hill.  I ripped my iPhone out of its case and shuffle up hill #3 as I find MY playlist.  It made Heartbreak a little more bearable, but I think that half mile was at a 10 minute pace.  I started to wonder if a re-BQ was even possible.

MILES 22-25
22: Reset clock to match mile markers. 1.2 in 9:15 -- 8:40 pace. 
23: 8:54 
24: 8:51 
25: 9:14 

After Heartbreak, the course is pretty much downhill, so I was sure I could make up some time and finish under 3:35.  Except I couldn't run downhill anymore because MY QUADS HURT SO BAD!  The sun was blazing.  Tuan had given up on me and kept telling me to "run for fun."  I didn't train this hard to give up at the end, and I was going to give it all I had, which at this point wasn't much.  Every time I saw a 9 on the Garmin, I'd try to put some surges in.   They didn't help my overall pace, and 3:35 was no longer attainable.  Under 3:40 and try again next year?  Maybe.  My legs felt like they were going to fall out from underneath me, and I was beginning to wonder if I could even pull THAT off -- it would mean no ten minute miles.  And the pace was really starting to creep up there.  It was so hot, and Tuan had disappeared, so that meant he wasn't dumping water on my head anymore. Screw this marathon.  I hate everyone.  I think there might have been people cheering on the sidelines, but all I could see was pain.  I am never running this far again, ever.  Ever, ever, ever.  And where the heck was Tuan?   (Apparently, I found out later, he saw me suffering and ran off to get me water, then accidentally dumped it on the wrong girl, who was not pleased... and then lost me completely.)

26: 9:11
.2: (which came in at .3) - 2:41 (9:20 pace)
 I ripped out my ear buds because even MY PLAYLIST was annoying me, and figured I should listen to the crowds at the end.  Except my legs hurt so much I couldn't enjoy them.  WHERE WAS THE FINISH LINE?  I crossed the 26th mile marker, and spotted Tuan, who wasn't running... he appeared to be looking for me.  He was on the left side facing the oncoming runners, and I was on the right.  I feebly attempted to wave my arms and call out his name, but I didn't have any energy left, and I knew I was only a couple of minutes from the end, and very close to having absolutely no BQ cushion.  So I just kept my eyes on that finish line.

And then I crossed that timing mat that comes a few yards from the finish, so they can call out your name as you cross, and I knew I was going to make it.  And I smiled.  Big time.  I finished Boston.  Not in the time I had set out for, but I did requalify by a little over two minutes and I did give it my all.

3:37:52.  The Garmin says 26.55.... way to run those tangents, Gretchen.


A year ago I had a pelvic stress fracture.  7 months ago I was running on an Anti-Gravity Treadmill.  6 weeks ago I fell on ice and wasn't sure I would be able to run this race at all.  On April 21, 2014, I finished the Boston Marathon.

My phone, fully charged at the start, was almost dead even though I didn't turn on the music until I was well into Newton... how did that happen?.  Jamie called me and said something about he was done and his legs hurt so he was getting a massage.   Tuan was nowhere in sight, and hadn't brought anything with him except his drivers license, so I had no way to find him.  My dad met me at the end of the finish chute (he has some iPhone app he can track me with, which come to think about it probably was the reason my phone was dead.)  I posted something on Facebook that Tuan and Jamie should meet us at the Family Meeting area (and later I found out there were TWO family meeting areas -- what kind of ridiculousness is that?), and eventually - like an entire hour later, after Tuan checked his Facebook page at the AT&T booth for some clues on where we might be -- we all reunited.   But too late to get the train back to our car and retrieve Tuan's backpack.  He just got on the T and went straight to the airport, carrying nothing but a credit card and his drivers license.  He claims that 75% of his flight were runners. Wouldn't you love to be the non-runner on that flight.....

The Boston Marathon - Part 1: PRE GAME!

April 19.  Arrival to Boston.  We made great time, leaving at 5am and getting to our hotel in Westborough at about 12:45 pm.  Jamie had a nap (he had driven most of the way ) and my very restless kids starting tearing the two bedroom apartment to shreds.  It started with hide and seek and turned into tag, and I decided that we needed to get out of there.  We headed into Boston to pick up our bibs and hit the expo.  My parents were NOT making good time, so we had to take them with us.  Note to self:  two kids under the age of 6 at an expo who have spent the majority of the day strapped into a seat belt watching movies on the iPad is a bad, bad idea.  They decided to run their OWN marathon in the convention center.  We lost them a few times.  They hid behind the expo curtains.  Susanna almost knocked over one of those 50 foot high booth dividers.  Sooo....  we headed back to the hotel and gave up on dinner.  My parents were there when we got back, and hadn't eaten either, so my mom and I headed out on route 9 to try to pick up some food as well as Easter treats.  We ended up getting lost.  Got back to the hotel at 10pm with beer and pizza.  Probably not the BEST carb-loading strategy.  Got the kids to sleep, played Easter bunny and finally got some sleep myself a little after midnight.

April 20.  I had every intention to go to a church for Easter, but that didn't happen.  Instead, we celebrated in our hotel, including a fabulous brunch in the lobby (with a lot of other runners -- about 109 of them, I believe.....) and then headed out to a park so the kids could burn off some energy and hunt down some plastic eggs.  Loved the little New England town we were staying in, and met a family from Hopkinton who was just fabulous.  They had a little girl Susanna's age and we played and chatted for an hour.  They said nothing ever happens in Hopkinton except the marathon!  I got a text from Tuan that said he was at the expo and that he'd decided he would run with me.  I had made plans to run with some of the people from DC Road Runners also hoping for a 3:30ish pace, but hadn't yet met up with them (actually, I had yet to run into ANYONE I knew) so Tuan and I decided we'd stick together and start with the other two if we actually found them.

We got back in the car and headed to Boston so my parents could do some sightseeing and we could pick up Tuan.  We decided to drive the course.  All 26.2 miles.  This is probably not a good idea to do the day before running it.  It was hilly.  It took almost an hour to drive it.  My daughter was complaining about how far it was.  At about halfway, she whined "I HATE BOSTON!  IT IS SOOOOOO FAR AWAY!"  I turned to her and said "Mommy and Daddy have to run there tomorrow."  She looked at me like I was crazy and said "Mommy, why would you do that when you could drive?"  Yeah, that's a very good question, isn't it.  Then we hit the Newton Hills, and I decided there were actually four of them.  This did not look like an easy course.

We had a hard time finding parking and only got a space we had to get out of by 6 (it was 4pm at this point), so we split up and Jamie and I met Tuan and decided we'd walk to the athlete's dinner and stop and check out the finish line area on the way.  We stopped on Boylston and tried the 26.2 Brew, which I REALLY liked and was bummed it was the day before the race because I would have liked to have more than a couple of sips (Jamie drank most of it) and then walked to the athlete dinner to get in line.  Except we couldn't find the end of the line.  We walked around the block... and the next block... and the next block... and the next block... and still hadn't seen the end of the line. I guess if you offer free food to 36,000 .... It was cold.  I was hungry.  My husband was really hungry and really cold and these are the two things that turn him into a gremlin.  I felt very sorry for Tuan because at that point, I think we pretty much almost got divorced right at Boston City Hall (this was, of course, my idea to partake in this dinner... he wanted to just eat at Unos on Boylston.... poor Tuan!) so we went down to the train station and discovered that there wasn't another train going back to Ashland for like two hours.  Soooo..... we called my Mom and she agreed to pick us up at Boston College, which was still like 20 miles from our hotel.  We got on the train and met a family who had gone to the pre-pasta dinner.  They had waited in line for an hour.  They said the food was quite good (salad, rolls, pasta, 26.2 brew.... all free...) and were carrying the dessert goodie bags containing Lindt Easter Bunnies and Toblerone bars....I was really, really, really hungry now.

At BC, we found a little pizza shop that served pasta.  It was greasy and not very good, but it was food.  We finally got picked up at 9pm, and were back to the hotel by 9:30.  I spent some time getting my race outfit ready, started getting really nervous, freaked out a little more, and finally got to sleep.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Verdict.... IT Band Tendonitis.  I landed right where it connects to my knee during my fall, and it is apparently just a little angry.

I can live with that.  Normally that would not be super news, but I think I can keep it under control until the race.  At least I hope I can.

My immediate future looks like I'll be wearing an IT Compression Strap on all my runs, taking NSAIDs afterwards, and resting the day after long runs (and I only have one more long run) to give the IT time to calm down.  Also, the doctor prescribed massage.  Can't complain about being ordered to get multiple massages in the next few weeks!

Here is my IT strap.  Stunning!
I was pretty excited to not even feel my IT during this run.  Except right after I took my selfie, I did start to feel it, but it wasn't really painful.  Definitely improvement!

AND IT IS SPRING!  FINALLY!   I saw about 8 deer on my run in the woods, but I only could catch two of them before they hopped away.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

18 more days and a doctor's appointment....

I finally broke down and made an appointment with my orthopedist.

It's been exactly four weeks since I fell.  My knee and hip are still popping all the time.  I still get some knee pain on and off during runs. And my knee and hip keep swelling up after hard workouts, with stiff muscles the next day.

The positive:  I'm not having, and haven't had, any major pain during a run. I've been able to go easy for 18-20 miles, I've even done some tempo runs at race pace without major pain, and aside from a few runs where my knee started bugging me with a very manageable ache, I've had no chronic pain.  When I had the EPIC fracture, the pain would start within a mile and just get worse as I ran.  Now, if I do get knee pain, it comes and then leaves as my leg loosens up.  I can hop on my leg and it doesn't hurt.

BUT the "payback pain" is so similar to what I had when my stress fracture was undiagnosed, but healing.  When I would run about two months into the healing process (and I never tried to go more than a couple of miles) it would feel okay but the next day my leg would lock up and I'd have an inflamed hip and knee, with snapping and popping in the joints.  Exactly the same feeling as what I had all day today.

So I called and made an appointment.  And I'm so, so scared.

I broke down crying this afternoon.  I'm terrified of another stress fracture.  I've been so good about not overdoing it, about taking easy days and rest days, and not running on anything that hurts.  And then I fall.

I was going to make today a rest day, but my husband told me to go out and run with the kids in the jogger, and to stop if it hurt.  They needed fresh air, and I needed that run.  I took some Advil and ran about four and half miles on the Accotink Trail.  I didn't go fast.  It didn't hurt, and it still feels good.

 Some days I have no doubt that I'll get to the starting line healthy, and other days (like today) I am convinced I have a major injury that is going to take months of rehab.  I'm not willing to race Boston if it's going to put me out for another season, so I am getting this checked out.

But -- please excuse the sappiness here -- it's going to break my heart if I can't run this race.  Jamie is running. My parents and children are coming to cheer us on.  And.. it's Boston. I worked SO hard to qualify for this race.

Selfish?  Maybe. It's just a race, right? Last year I put in the training cycle of my life, and got a stress fracture during the taper.  This year I have trained through the winter that nearly killed me -- can we say FROZEN -- I'm talking miles and miles on the treadmill, long runs with negative wind chills, far too many numb fingers and toes and honestly, unpleasant runs that I could only do with this goal in my head....  I want to cross that starting line, and that finish line, more than I can put into words.

Anyone training for a spring marathon through this Polar Vortex deserves a medal just for the training...

Anyhow -- virtual hand holding appreciated at tomorrow's doctor's appointment.  Fingers crossed that this is nothing major.