Monday, April 7, 2014

The Home Stretch

I absolutely cannot believe how quickly this has all gone by and how insanely busy the last few months have been.  Training has continued to have its ups and downs and was not how I expected it to go but in the end I'm feeling well prepared, excited for my big fundraising event this weekend, and looking forward to Marathon Monday!

First, the fun part, ROCK AGAINST CANCER BENEFIT this Saturday 7PM-MIDNIGHT at the Arlington Knights of Columbus, 15 Winslow St, Arlington Center.  All the planning and hard work, with the help of my wonderful friends and family, is paying off and I have a great line up of bands, awesome raffle prizes, and some amazing food.  I am looking forward to enjoying a great night and raising more money for DanaFarber, getting that much closer to reaching my fundraising goal.

On the training front, in February I ran my worst half marathon ever.  I broke the cardinal rule "never try anything new before a race" and instead of GU brand energy gel I tried Clif brand gel instead.  I've tried different gels before and never had an issue but this time it didn't sit well with me and by mile two my stomach was in pain.  I tried to run through it but it persisted and I must have been stiffening up because by mile 8 my hip started hurting.  The stomach pain went away by mile 10 but I was running on fumes, not wanting to ingest another energy gel, and my leg pain was spreading until I was reduced to a walk/run to get through to the finish.  When I did finally cross that line I was both immensely relieved and completely panicked.  How on earth was I supposed to do twice that distance in just 8 weeks?!

As the week went on, my muscles loosened up and my short runs went great.  The following Saturday I ran 16 miles on my group run with Dana-Farber and was over-the-moon excited about it.  My hip had started tightening up around mile 10 but a few stretching breaks and I was good to go.  I was so relieved and feeling good going into the following weekend's long run.  That run started off well and I was aiming for 18 miles.  The hip pain started creeping back in around mile 9.  I figured it would be the same as before but the stretching just wasn't helping.  I tried to push through but the pain got to where I wanted to cry and had to stop just before mile 15 and cut out the last 3 miles.  The next morning when I woke up, not only was my hip sore, but my foot was throbbing and my ankle felt weak and I was worried.

A few emails with my coach led me to physical therapy where it was determined I had injured my plantar fascia, it band, and lower back, all apparently common running overuse injuries and surprisingly nothing that would prevent me from running the marathon.  I was skeptical but diligently went to pt, 2+ hours at a time, 3x a week with elliptical workouts in between.  It was hard to tell if things were improving and I was getting really worried about being ready in time for the marathon.  March 29th was scheduled to be the longest run of the training season at 20-22 miles and I wanted more than anything to be able to get out there with the group, even if I couldn't quite do the distance.  At pt that week my amazing physical therapist Jake, of Kennedy Brother's Physical Therapy, told me I would be good to go, giving me a few tips to protect my injuries from excessive impact.

I was so skeptical starting out on the run that Saturday.  I was hoping to make it 20 miles but would have been ok with a solid 18.  As the miles ticked by I was feeling good and decided to go for the full 20.  I use the Map My Run app to track my mileage and it's usually pretty accurate.  When it told me I had completed 10 miles I was looking around for the turn around point.  I asked teammates heading back who said it was just a little bit away.  A water stop came up and I asked the volunteer if it was the 10 mile turn around point.  He told me they were .3 miles away from the turn around so I kept going on, and on, and on...  As it turns out, that water stop was the 10 mile turn around and I accidentally continued on until the 11 mile turn.  Realizing I was now committed to 22 miles I started to worry and doubt myself but was still feeling good so just kept going.  Around 16 I started thinking this is where I'm supposed to be hurting, I've never run this far, I can't make it.  Looking at the remaining distance as a whole seemed daunting so I just kept telling myself, one more mile, you can quit at the next water stop if you need to.  A few miles later, a weird daze came over me, I stopped thinking and just kept putting one foot after the other.  The Newton hills started and I just kept going, mile 19, 20, 21, and then came Heartbreak. I crested the top, my stopping point of Boston College in sight, and realized I had made it.  Just over 22 miles, and I was still going.  I no longer feared the marathon, I knew not only could I do it but I just might be able to enjoy it, and that was the best feeling in the world.

Since my last post, I have run 23hours, 51minutes and 22sec for a total of 110.10 miles.

My fundraising efforts have so far raised $3,870 which is 42.88% of my goal!  To support me and Dana-Farber, visit my fundraising page to make a donation or join us at the Rock Against Cancer Benefit!

Thank you!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A long overdue update

The training season is flying by and there have been a lot of ups and downs.  I was off to a strong start and then we had our first round of the polar vortex cold.  I ran multiple days in the single digits with negative wind chills and ended up getting myself sick.  I've been battling this cycle on and off with the snow, ice, or sub zero temperatures all affecting the training schedule. This past weekend our Dana-Farber group run had to be revised as the original course had too much snow and was unsafe for us to take.  Instead we did hill repeats on Comm Ave from Boston College down to the Newton firehouse and back.  It was challenging and I had the "pleasure" of running heartbreak hill twice with temperatures in the teens, avoiding patches of snow and ice.

So much of this distance running is a mental game.  Yes your body gets tired but your mindset is what really helps to push you through or can defeat you.  There have been quite a few times out there I've doubted myself, wondered if I can really do this, and questioned my sanity for being out there!  But every time I start one of those thoughts, I'm reminded of how far I have come.  I think about why I'm doing this, not just for myself but for such a good cause.  I think about all the people who are behind me, supporting me, encouraging me.  I look around at all my wonderful Dana-Farber team members and think of all the people who are counting on us to do this, to fund their research and help find newer, better cancer treatments until we find the cure.  There is something incredibly powerful in all this and that is what I think about on those frigid mornings amongst all my fellow runners.

My family has had good news as well.  Valerie's treatment through Dana-Farber is going very well.  In October she went in for her follow up CT scan and it showed her tumors had shrunk 30-40% already, in less than 6 months!  Her December check in was just blood work but those showed her liver function at almost normal levels and the tumor markers in her blood are half of what they were in October.  We are all so thankful that her treatment is working so well and so quickly.  Her next check up will be the week before the marathon and we are looking forward to seeing even more improvement.

The fundraising I am doing goes directly to Dana-Farber's Barr Research Program.  Here is just one example of what this research has accomplished in the fight against cancer:

Breast Cancer: Discovering New Treatments - Explaining how drugs like Tamoxifen have improved breast cancer survival rates by 33% in significant numbers of women, leading to the possible discovery of additional treatments with even better outcomes for breast cancer patients.

Myles Brown, MD, used Barr funding in 2002-‘03 to discover the way estrogen works in normal tissues and breast cancers, resulting in the first genome-wide map of all genes that estrogen controls. This has enabled scientists for the first time to understand why certain drugs have been so effective in treating breast cancer, including the 33% improvement in survival for women whose breast cancers respond to estrogen. Dr. Brown’s work is now expected to lead to new drugs and treatments for cancers that target critical pathways in breast cancer. His team has used this information to discover new ways to treat breast cancers that don’t respond to Tamoxifen. 

Since my last post, I have run 16hours, 37minutes and 33sec for a total of 82.36 miles.

My fundraising efforts have so far raised $2,745 which is 30.42% of my goal.  To support me and Dana-Farber, visit my fundraising page to make a donation.

Thank you!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Why I'm running for Dana Farber

So there are two ways to get into the Boston Marathon.  You can either time qualify by running really fast at a qualifying race or you can try to get on a charity team to raise money for a good cause.  I'm not fast so my choice was pretty simple.

This does not mean getting a spot was easy.  Boston is always a popular race and getting in is a challenge any year.  This year in particular, more people than ever are hoping to run in April and there simply aren't enough spots.  I began searching for the right charity group this summer.  I wanted to find a charity that I could really feel passionate about and as I scrolled down the list of official charities I came across Dana-Farber and instantly knew I had found the one.

Everyone is affected by cancer one way or another.  I know too many people who have had cancer, some survivors and some I've lost.  Wonderful people who never should have had to go through it.  And sadly I'm not alone in this.  Cancer research is an easy cause to get behind and one definitely worth running for.  Dana-Farber is particularly special for me as the wonderful doctors there are currently treating my step mom Valerie.

Valerie and my mom have been together since I was five.  She quickly became a second mother to me and helped me grow into the person I am today.  When I was in high school Valerie was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She went through a year of chemo and radiation and thankfully her cancer went into remission.  This spring Valerie began having pain in her side and scans showed tumors in her liver.  After more than a decade in remission, she was diagnosed with stage four metastasized breast cancer in her liver.   This was an initially devastating diagnosis for our family.  Valerie and my mom went to meet with the oncologists at Dana-Farber and they were just wonderful.  Thanks to advances in cancer research, they are now able to determine that her specific tumors are hormone receptive.   This means she is able to take medications to block those hormones thereby starving the tumors so they shrink.  Hearing that there wasn't going to be more chemo or invasive procedures was a blessing.  The cancer is something that will need to be monitored and treated for the rest of her life but it is manageable.  Valerie just had her 6 month check up and scans show her tumors have shrunk 30-40%.  Being treated at Dana-Farber, we know Valerie is in the best possible hands.  To read more about Dana-Farber's Barr Research Program and the great things they are doing click here.

Dana-Farber began accepting applications in early September.  After weeks of waiting, I received my acceptance email in early October. We had our kick-off meeting a few weeks.  Everyone I have met has been just wonderful and their running program is fantastic.  I could not be more happy to be a part of the team, to raise money for Dana-Farber, and to run for Valerie.

21 weeks to race day

This week's run summary: Time Running: 02:10:19 Total Distance: 10.36miles Average Pace 12:34 min/mile

Support me and my fundraising efforts for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's Barr research program by donating at :

Monday, November 18, 2013

In the beginning...

I am going to run the 2014 Boston Marathon.

Had you told me that two years ago I would have laughed and said no way. Back then I couldn't run a mile, seriously.

My endurance sport endeavors began in 2009 when I met a woman in the woods who convinced me anyone could do a triathlon. (My job has me in the woods daily so I meet a lot of people this way and it is not entirely as strange as it sounds).  I asked my friend San, a long time runner, if she would do it with me. We signed up for the Salem Witch City Tri which we completed but it wasn't exactly pretty. During training I really struggled with the run. I worked up to running a mile on the treadmill and tried to take it to the streets. It was horrible and my knee became very painful. I met with my doctor who advised ibuprofen 3x a day until the tri but suggested afterwards I should maybe look for another activity as running just isn't for everyone. So after the race I gave it up, but I didn't forget the experience.

Jump forward to 2012.  I was living in Cambridge, uninspired by the health clubs I'd tried, and looking for something to get me going. I kept thinking about that triathlon and wanted to give it another try.  Yes I'd been told I may not be made to run but I've always believed I could do anything I put my mind to so why should this be different?

I teamed up with my wonderful neighbor Emily and in March of 2012 we began running together a few times a week. It was awful at first, one minute in and my heart would be pounding and my lungs would be burning. We stuck with walk/run intervals and pushed a little farther each week. Yes I had sore knees and got shin splints but learned how to fix it and move on.  Slowly it started feeling better and I was thrilled when I was finally able to run a continuous mile. I signed up for the Appleman Sprint Triathlon that July and thought my running would be strong enough. But come race day it was hot and humid and a lot of things went wrong. I wore a wetsuit on my swim for the first time ever and it quickly became stifling and uncomfortable and I was overwhelmed with the thrashing crowd of swimmers. I emerged from the water already hot and tired and then headed out for a hilly bike course for which I was equally unprepared. By the run I was exhausted and the hills and hot sun didn't help! I was disappointed to once again need to walk/run to finish. I made it to the finish though and instantly signed up for my next race to prove I could do it better.

Looking for a little help, I found the Event Horizon Endurance Sport group on Meetup and went to a social they were having at the Brighton Beer Garden. I was so nervous going to meet this group of athletes when I certainly didn't feel like one yet. It was definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made. There I met the founder of the group, the wonderful Tony Rich who is an amazing athlete and certified coach in all three sports. I talked with him about my difficulties with running and how hard it was for me so far. He recommended reading Born to Run by Chris McDougal (this book alone was enough to inspire me to stick with running) and also encouraged me to come to one of the Tuesday night track runs with T.M.I.R.C.E (the most informal running club ever). It took me a few weeks to get up the nerve to actually go to the track. It was one thing to sit and have a beer and talk about running, it was another thing entirely to actually go where I'd have to run with a group of actual runners who would all get to see just how slow, splotchy red faced, and sweaty I am when I run. To my surprise everyone was so incredibly nice!  I was welcomed immediately and no one cared how "good" I was at running. It was enough that I was there. They encouraged and supported me through the workout without any feeling of judgement. Tony was there as well and even took video of me running to break down and show me where I can improve my form.

I followed my tri training plan to the letter and by September I was ready for my next race, the Vineyard Warrior Sprint Triathlon.  I had a proper fitting wetsuit this time and wore my heart rate monitor to help me pace myself throughout the race. The weather was comfortable and I was certainly in better shape than just two months before. The bike had some rolling hills but nothing extreme and I felt strong going into the run. It was a four mile course which is a little longer than most sprints but I started slow and steady and before I knew it I was rounding the bend and sprinting across the finish line. I ended up coming in 3rd in my division, ok so there were only 4 of us in my division,  but still I won a medal and accomplished my goal of completing the run without needing to walk.

I felt so great after that race and wished the tri season wasn't over. I had come so far with my running and was now actually enjoying it!  I decided I would take the winter to see just how much better it could get. I needed a race to keep motivated and have a goal. I decided to go big and signed up for the Hyannis Half Marathon at the end of February 2013. I followed the Hal Higdon half marathon training plan and did all my workouts outside. This meant I spent the winter waking up early and layering up to get out and run in the cold, through the rain and the snow and the wind. I loved being out there though, finding that meditative calmness that comes during a long run. Plus the healthier and more fit I became, the better I felt.

Race day was a cold and rainy 38 degrees but I had fully expected lousy weather when I chose to do a winter race on the cape. I stepped in a deep slush puddle within the first 5 minutes of the race and was soaked through entirely by mile 8. I paced myself well and by mile 10 felt strong enough to pick up the pace for the last 3 miles. Crossing the finish line I was frozen through and through but elated to have actually run a half-marathon!  One year to go from struggling to run a minute to completing 13.1 miles without stopping?! I never would have though it possible.

I began to think, how much further could I go?  Watching the Boston Marathon on tv last April, I was feeling inspired and began to seriously consider trying for a marathon. When the bombs went off, it felt so personal. The running community here in Boston had been so wonderful and welcoming and helped me reach goals I had never thought possible. For terrorists to attack something so positive that had become such a great part of my life was just baffling. I decided then and there that I wanted to run the next year to show support for my city and the amazing community that had embraced me.

I knew I would need to find a charity to run for and when I found out Dana-Farber had a team they immediately became my first choice. I'll get into why Dana-Farber is a particularly personal cause in my post next week. They began accepting applications in September and the wait to hear back was excruciating. So many runners feel the way I do about running next year and spots are hard to come by. I was over the moon when I got the email that I had made the team!

So here I am, looking forward to this journey...

22 weeks to race day

This week's run summary: Time Running: 02:00:28 Total Distance: 9.02miles Average Pace 13:35 min/mile

Support me and my fundraising efforts for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's Barr research program by donating at :