Posts Tagged by Boston Marathon

Boston 2014 Follow-up

So…Boston. Are we still talking about this??

2014 boston registration news

Registration is open! My social media channels are saturated with pictures of entry confirmations or excited tweets about signing up. And up until basically the last minute (ie the day before), I was pretty convinced I’d be forking over $175 to add my name to the list. I had some hesitations about it, of course, and I carefully read and thought about each and every piece of criticism/advice about why running Boston 4 months postpartum may not be the smartest decision (honestly — the comments on the post are way more interesting than anything I ramble about. If you’re thinking about training for any race postpartum, I highly recommend reading through them!). But I still remained convinced.

Evan was supportive, as was my mom — a woman who had 4 children of her own and has been an athlete all her life. One of my biggest role models when it comes to working hard to achieve your dreams while also balancing a family told me that she thought it was great to have a goal for myself, and she was truly on board if I felt like I could handle it. Even my OB said that she was confident I could run Boston and that I’d have no problem finishing.

So then, if I was so passionate about wanting to run the race and convinced that I could physically and mentally handle it, why not sign up?

Because ultimately I realized I couldn’t just ask, “Can I do it?” and let that answer guide my decision. I had to follow that question up with an even more important one, “At what cost?”

Now, this question is a lot more complicated. And it got me really thinking about postpartum exercise: How soon? How much? And how important is it? I realized that a lot of the comments on my last post really pertained to that larger discussion. It’s not just about Boston. It’s about how we push our bodies as runners and how that changes once we go through labor/delivery. It’s about the goals and values we have for ourselves, our families…our lives outside of raising children. And I find it all really fascinating. Because it goes well beyond what we can (or should be able to) handle physically.

I don’t want to get into that whole discussion in this post. Partially because I’m not on that other side yet. As a pregnant woman who is still only dreaming about getting back into shape post-baby, my opinions come with a strong measure of naiveté. I can tell you what I hope/want to be able to do, but we all know that my life is going to change forever in a little over 3 months.

Framing it in terms of Boston, however, most of the concerns with postpartum exercise that I heard/read fell into 3 categories:

1.) Time away from the baby

2.) Toll that training takes on your body

3.) Logistics of the marathon

Taking time away from a newborn baby to train

To be perfectly honest with you, #1 was my lowest concern. Maybe that makes me sound like an awful mother…maybe that just convinces you that I’m even more naive about motherhood than I thought. Yes, I’m planning on working and yes, the baby will be in daycare during the day. So obviously I am going to want to see her as much as I can on the weekends, evenings, etc. But, I’m really not nervous about training taking away from that time. First, because our daycare is literally right down the hall from my office. I may not be with her all day, but I can stop in and see/feed her at least a couple of times during work, and she’ll never feel too far away. Second, I have a husband who is really really excited about this baby. When I asked him if it was selfish that I wanted to spend time away from the baby to train his response was: “What about MY time with the baby? What if I want time alone with her?” Yes, I know my relationship with Cheese Baby will be different from my husband’s. I know she’s going to be a lot more dependent on me than him in those first months of life. But I also really value his relationship with our future child, and I’m excited that he wants to take such an active role in her life.

And finally — I don’t want to get completely caught up in that post-baby haze. Okay, so maybe I do a little. I know the newborn stage goes by quickly and you never get those first few months back. So I’m sure that I’ll be 100% content to have my life revolve completely around her at the start . But it’s going to be winter in Vermont. Cold, dark, lonely. I need something that motivates me to get out of the house now and then. I need something that makes me feel like myself — something beyond just being a mother. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with just embracing being a mom for a while and putting other goals to the side. I know many women who do it and are completely happy. But I also know that’s not for me.

The toll that training takes on your body

This gave me a bit more pause…not just because I have no idea what my labor/delivery/recovery will be like. I hope to breastfeed. I want to use cloth diapers. I’m going to be sleep deprived. Balancing a newborn and work. My life is going to be turned upside down (in the best possible way) and I will need to figure out how to manage it all. I want to train for something, but a marathon within 4 months might be a little too much to handle. I could face issues with my supply, or do further damage to my body down the line if I’m not careful.

That being said, I don’t really feel like this is insurmountable. I still believe that if I was really careful and put in the bare minimum number of miles to train, I could definitely finish the marathon. It wouldn’t be easy and I’d probably be exhausted, but I could do it.

Logistics of the Boston Marathon

Personally, this was the tipping point. Even if Cheese Baby arrives right on time and I have a perfect labor/delivery…even if training goes well and I feel strong…even if everything fell into place in those months leading up to Boston, there’s still the issue of race day. A huge race that requires lots of sitting around beforehand. And after last year’s tragedy, it will have even tighter security measures. BAA has already stated that runners need to expect stricter baggage claim policies, and has warned that that may not be able to check a bag at all. Running a marathon while breastfeeding would require me to pump right before the race. If I can’t check a bag, I definitely can’t pump. And if I can’t pump…I honestly have no idea how I’d make it through the day.

So could I do Boston 4 months postpartum? Yes. And I am so thankful for all the encouragement I got from many of you and other people in my life.

But at what cost? Between trying to fit in the training with a newborn while keeping myself (and her!) healthy and trying to figure out race day logistics, it became clear that the cost might be too much. I debated signing up anyway and just seeing what happens. That would spare me from the regret I feel right now about not registering, and the regret I’d feel on race day if everything was going well and I felt capable of running. But I ultimately decided I might regret it more later if things don’t work out. Not only because I could use that registration money for things that might actually benefit Cheese Baby (like nursery furniture and baby products!), but also because in the end, I’m not sure if I can handle another failed marathon attempt. In 2012, I wasn’t able to run either marathon I trained for (Boston due to injury; NYCM due to cancellation). 2013 started with another marathon DNS due to pregnancy. Do I really want to continue this trend for yet another year? Or do I want to pick a race, train my heart out for it, and cross the finish line breaking my 3:18 streak once and for all?

For now my plan is to come to Boston in 2014 as a spectator once again. I wish I could be one of the runners on the course, but at least I’ll be able to celebrate from the sidelines. Meanwhile, I’m going to find another race to train for. I won’t plan a marathon only 4 months out, but I need a goal to work toward. Whether that’s a few spring half marathons and a fall full or something else, I don’t really know.

All I know is that I am a runner. Running has been with me through all of life’s major changes. It’s more to me than just a form of exercise – it’s a constant in my life and an integral part of my identity. I don’t see how having a baby should change that.

Nuvision action image storefront 1692316Crazy to think this was almost a year ago now

So I may not be running Boston. But when 2014 comes around, I plan to be running.

 

Boston Dreamin’ (My Crazy Plans for Spring)

If you’re a runner who pays even a tiny bit of attention to current events/social media, I’m pretty sure you know that Boston Marathon Registration opens on Monday Sept 9th. You probably know that they’re planning to expand the field to 36,000(!) runners to accommodate the increased interest. And I’m sure you also know that everyone and their brother wants to run it.

Including me. 

I have a long and not so positive history with the Boston Marathon that I won’t bore you with again. Basically I ran it once in 2009 and haven’t made it back since — despite having a qualifying time every year. Like many runners, Boston holds a special place in my heart. And after the horrific events at last year’s race, I feel more motivated to run it than ever.

So why is this even worthy of a blog post? (Well, besides the fact that all bloggers really do is post their mental drivel online for everyone to read…)

Cheese Baby is due on December 21st. Boston is April 21st….exactly 4 months to the day after I (might) give birth. This is not a lot of time to train for a marathon, especially when you factor in the 6-ish weeks of recovery, sleepless nights with a new infant, winter in Vermont, and the fact that I’ll sort of be starting from scratch. Even I can accept that it’s sort of crazy and a potentially unrealistic goal, especially since I haven’t been through this whole birth/raising an infant thing before and really have no idea how I’m going to feel.

But I also feel like it might be doable. I’ve even mapped out a tentative plan. So humor me for a minute…

If Cheese Baby comes right on her due date (which I know is unlikely, but go with me here), I will have 17 weeks and 2 days to get ready for Boston. Figuring in 6 full weeks of no running puts me at a little over 11 weeks to actually train.

Just a snapshot of my craziness…

Boston training_tentative

Obviously this plan is completely arbitrary. Like I said above, I have no idea how I’m going to feel after birth or how many miles I’m going to be able to handle once I start running again. I know my body is going through some pretty dramatic changes during this pregnancy, and an aggressive build up under those circumstances is not ideal.

But, I’d be running with the following assumptions:

I do not care about my finish time. In fact, I fully expect a PW. I really just want to be a part of that field celebrating in Boston.

I’ve run marathons before and know I can handle the distance. Yes, I know going through labor can change things, but mentally I know I can make it to that finish line…even if it’s a shuffle.

My training is not going to be ideal. I won’t be focusing on speed work and I’ll only get in one 20-miler before the marathon. The entire goal will be to get enough miles under my belt to be able to safely complete it.

I don’t know when I’ll get another chance. Honestly – I don’t know what next year is going to bring. I don’t know if I’ll have any sort of speed when I make my return to running. I don’t know how long it’ll take me to reach my pre-pregnancy levels of fitness. In short — I don’t really know when (or if) I’ll be able to qualify again. And I certainly can’t count on doing so before registration opens next year. I have a qualifying time now. So it’s either 2014 or…some date far in the unknown future.

So that’s why I’m turning to you, internet strangers! Some of you have been there before and can tell me definitively if I’m being absolutely crazy and stupid to want to attempt this. And all of you are at least removed enough from the situation that I can pretty much guarantee you’re looking at it more rationally than I am right now.

What would you do? Attempt the race or be content with just cheering on the sidelines for another year? Am I being completely unrealistic here? Go ahead and call me crazy…I promise I can handle it.

My qualifying time from last year’s Manchester City Marathon is 3:18 and change. Which means I have until Wednesday the 11th to decide. At this point, I really don’t know what I’m going to do. All I know is that I’m already dreaming about spring races. And that no matter what, come April 21st, I plan to be in Boston one way or the other.

 

Boston

I didn’t run my half marathon this weekend. We had some stuff come up with our family that resulted in a last minute trip out of town, leaving me with yet another DNS to my name. Selfishly I was disappointed. No runner wants to DNS a race they’ve been training for, and I seem to be accumulating quite a few of those these days.

The one silver lining to all of this was Boston. Our last minute trip meant that we’d be heading back through MA on Monday morning, just in time to cheer for the marathon. As always, I pushed to go into the city. Every year, no matter where we start out, we make our way down to the finish area after everyone we know has run by. I love being a part of the crowd on Boylston Street. Seeing finishers push to the end on nothing but pure will and heart is one of the most inspiring moments you can hope to witness as a runner…and as a human being.

But Evan somehow convinced me to stay out of the city. We had a long drive back to Vermont after the race and I knew that we’d make it a lot easier on ourselves if we stuck to the suburbs. So instead of starting off at Mile 20 like I’ve done for the past few years now, we camped out in Natick Center (mile 10), excited to cheer for runners in the first half of the race.

It’s crazy to look at the pictures now. To see the images of Evan and me and all the other spectators soaking up the Boston Magic, cheering for strangers and loved ones alike. I had planned to write about how awesome it was to be so close to greatness as the elites sped by, how great it was to cheer for a few friends who were running and then track them to fast finishes, and how disappointed I was that I didn’t get to see everyone — somehow skipping over the faces of friends in an endless sea of runners.

boston marathon women leaders_mile 10Women leaders, mile 10

boston marathon elite chase pack_women_mile 10The chase pack led by Rita Jeptoo, the eventual winner of the women’s race (with Felix just behind)

Boston Marathon elite men_mile 10The winner – Lelisa Desisa in the front in blue. Amazingly, Jason Hartmann (first US runner and 4th overall) is well off the pack at this point. You can see him in the distance in a red singlet

All that seems silly now. In the face of such senseless tragedy, it’s hard to find the words. I don’t know how to adequately express my reaction to the horrorthe complete violation…that occurred yesterday afternoon. How could someone attack a marathon? How could anyone in this world take an event that celebrates the triumph of the human spirit and shatter all that to pieces?

I was actually back home by the time we found out what had happened. I wasn’t feeling well so we decided to head out a little earlier than planned. I drove all the way home reveling in the excitement of the day, until I got a frantic phone call from my youngest sister (who is on a military base all the way out in Missouri) asking if we were okay. When she first told me about the bombing, I didn’t believe it. Couldn’t believe that something so awful would happen right in Boston, my favorite city on my favorite day of the year. It was too horrifying to process.

We spent the rest of the afternoon glued to the news and checking in with friends who were in Boston or running the race. So many people called/texted/tweeted me to check in to see if I was okay. I was overwhelmed — thankful that so many were thinking of us, but devastated that there would be many families whose frantic calls to loved ones would go unanswered, or would be returned with tragic news. It’s almost too much to bear. Even now I feel sick. Every report that comes out gives a higher number of individuals killed or injured. Tragic, life altering, war zone-like injuries. I can’t fully wrap my head around the devastation. And like so many, I can’t make any sense of it.

It seems like we are hit with tragedy after tragedy lately. Each one devastating in its own right. Each one claiming the lives of innocent people and altering our nation forever. Sometimes it seems like there’s no safe place anymore. No love and hope in the world to count on.

It’s almost impossible in the face of so much loss, but I keep trying to focus on the positives. Of the way so many runners and first responders rushed into the chaos instead of away. Of how many locals opened up their homes and hotel rooms to stranded runners — complete strangers in need of a place to stay. How people all over the world took to social media to share stories of hope, or pledge to unite with Boston by wearing Boston Marathon race shirts or colors on Tuesday. Small acts. But when a situation leaves you feeling helpless and devastated, those small acts are sometimes all you can do.

This morning I looked through some of the pictures we took at the race yesterday. Pictures that captured complete strangers undertaking a huge physical and mental feat and all those people that came to support them. At first these images just made the tragedy all the more real. I look at the faces and wonder what happened to each of the individuals I saw running by; to those families that were cheering next to me. I wonder if they are okay, if they made it out unscathed. And I want to cry when I look at the joy on some of the faces — because yesterday should have been joyous. It should have been a celebration of months (or years) of hard work and training, of realizing a dream. One where the only blood, sweat and tears should have come from a runner using every ounce of strength they have to finish 26.2 grueling miles, not caused by a cowardly bomber.

But in a way, these pictures taken a few hours before tragedy struck also capture the amazing community that running creates. They show the triumph of the human spirit. They remind me that no matter what happens, we will continue to bond together. And we will continue to run. For ourselves, for our community, for those whose lives were lost or altered on April 15th and all those tragic days before that. Because when faced with such unspeakable tragedy, it’s the only thing we know to do. The only response that makes any sense.

boston marathon mile 10_cheers

boston marathon_mile 10_support.jpgThe mother and child shown crossing the finish line during the blast (that were mistakenly identified as the Hoyts by many). Not only is this women’s strength incredible, but I love the runner next to her cheering her on.

DSC 0124A spectator on his knees giving high fives while a sea of runners pushes on around him

boston marathon_mile 10_high fives

I don’t really have a point to this post. Only that after debating whether or not to write anything at all, I realized that I had to say something. Even if what I’ve written doesn’t begin to do justice to the hurt and devastation.

So I’ll leave you with these — articles written by those who are much more eloquent than I, but (like the rest of us) are doing their best to process the horror of yesterday afternoon, and to find a way to keep pushing forward.

Ask Lauren Fleshman – Bombing in Boston

Lauren’s account of the events from the Fairmont Copley Hotel, where the elite athletes were staying after the race.

The New Yorker – The Meaning of the Boston Marathon

“…Or perhaps it was someone who saw a reflection of the human spirit and decided just to try to shatter it.”

Runner’s World – Boston Bombings: A Loss of Innocence

Even without that special purpose, marathon running is a sport of goodwill. It’s the only sport in the world where if a competitor falls, the others around will pick him or her up. It’s the only sport in the world open to absolutely everyone, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or any other division you can think of. It’s the only occasion when thousands of people assemble, often in a major city, for a reason that is totally peaceful, healthy and well-meaning. It’s the only sport in the world where no one ever boos anybody.

And finally, a post that has been making its way around the internet, but is worth sharing again here.

The Washington Post – ‘If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon’

[emphasis added]

The finish line at a marathon is a small marvel of fellowship. Everyone is there to celebrate how much stronger the runners are than they ever thought they could be. Total strangers line up alongside the route to yell encouragement. Bands play. Some hand out cups of water, Gatorade, even beer. Others dress up in costumes to make the runners smile. The fact that other people can run this far makes us believe we can run that far. It’s a happy thought. It makes us all feel a little bit stronger.

Today, the final line of the Boston Marathon is a crime scene. It’s a testament to how much more evil human beings can be than we can imagine.

If you are losing faith in human nature today, watch what happens in the aftermath of an attack on the Boston Marathon. The flood of donations crashed the Red Cross’s Web site. The organization tweeted that its blood supplies are already full. People are lining up outside of Tufts Medical Center to try and help. Runners are already vowing to be at marathons in the coming weeks and months. This won’t be the last time the squeakers run Boston. This won’t be the last time we gather at the finish line to marvel how much more we can take than anyone ever thought possible.

 

Boston — I love you. And I grieve for you today.

 

 

Moving On

Thank you all for your wonderful, thoughtful comments on my last post. Missing Boston (again!) this year was tough. Yes, I know the temperature was sweltering and not conducive to a PR. And yes, I saw so many runners in complete misery on Monday. Every marathon is a battle, but Monday’s race seemed to be more of one than usual. However, that didn’t change the fact that when it comes to Marathon Monday, no matter what the conditions are, I’d rather be running.

Still don’t fully grasp how hot is was? This elite pack of women ran with a parasol in an attempt to find a tiny bit of relief from the unrelenting sun.

elite woman_boston 2012

I kid…

If you ran on Monday – whether you finished or not – congratulations. I ran the last 6 miles with Corey and even that little bit was brutal. I saw so many runners (Corey included) digging deep and leaving all that they had out on that course. I have the utmost respect for anyone that {safely} took on Boston in those conditions. And if you didn’t run due to heat or injury – I respect you all as well. I know the whole deferment policy has gotten a lot of flack from runners across the country, but I think we all need a little reality check. First of all, deferment from Boston isn’t exactly a new thing. In the past, people have been able to defer due to injury. It was only a couple of years ago that Boston stopped allowing deferments due (I expect) to the increased popularity of the race (please correct me if I’m wrong about this). And while I wish that they would allow people to defer because of an injury instead of just instituting a last-minute policy because of the weather, the BAA did what they had to do in the circumstances. Will it make it harder for people to get in next year? Maybe a little (though maybe not, since the number of eligible runners isn’t that high). But the safety of the runners who had already qualified and gotten into the Boston Marathon is much more important than your chances of signing up for the race next year. Sorry.

I know this subject has already been beaten to death, so I will get off my high-horse now. I did not defer from the race, but it wasn’t due to any principles. I simply wasn’t able to get myself to the Boston Expo to pick up my number. At first I was stressed out and disappointed by this (but I paid so much for that stupid shirt!!) but in the end, I realized I needed to truly embrace the spirit of my last post, and move on.

Figuratively and literally.

So this past weekend, instead of getting ready to run Boston, I was a little busy with other things…

moving truck

Things like packing up all my belongings and moving 3 hours north.

And trying to turn this mess…

kitchen_unpacked

…into a livable, functioning kitchen.

kitchen_2

That’s right, EC and I have finally made the big move – out of Rhode Island and into the country. Moving to Vermont had been one of those “someday” dreams of ours. We imagined coming up here in 5 years or so, when life was a little more settled and our directions in it seemed a little more clear. But it’s funny how things happen. When we least expected it, everything suddenly came together in a way that allowed us to take a huge leap. A leap that required giving up many of the conveniences we had gotten used to from living in the city (like convenient grocery stores and 5 minute commutes to work), but that has already made me so happy.

My life is still in transition. I’m not living up here full time yet because I’m still working in Rhode Island. This is obviously not an ideal situation, but my job ends in a couple months. I think I can make it work for a little while. Plus, every time I walk outside at our new house and see the mountains all around me makes it all worth it.

I still haven’t been able to run much, but I feel like I am slowly on the road to recovery. Which, to be honest, can’t come soon enough. I have miles of trails and dirt roads to explore.

covered bridge

The Boston Decision

For the past several weeks, I have been living in denial about the Boston Marathon. At first, I convinced myself that the pain I was feeling in my knee was just something minor that I would get over within a week. It didn’t matter that it hurt to even walk — all I needed was a few days and I’d be as good as new.

After all, I had big plans for Boston. Plans that included running with some speedy marathoners and chasing down an aggressive PR. And did not include being sidelined due to a stupid injury that came out of nowhere. Even though I’ve been doing this running thing for long enough to know better, a big part of me believed I could will myself to not be truly injured. …because we all know that’s how our bodies work.

But as the pain stuck around and my peak week turned into one week of doing absolutely nothing…and then two…all hopes of a PR went out the window. I let go of that dream and just focused on being able to run again. My sole goal became to finish the race. I figured that as long as I could get myself healthy before Boston, I should be able to handle 26.2, regardless of how slow it ended up being.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. Despite a constant stream of anti-inflmmatory meds coursing through my veins, extra rest, ice and stretching, my stupid knee still isn’t healed. After an unsuccessful run on Monday in which I was both in pain and painfully out of shape, I realized it was time to stop deluding myself.

It was time to admit that I would not be running the Boston Marathon in 2012.

I am not going to pretend that I accepted this gracefully, rationally, and without tears. I know that I’m not the only runner in the history of the world that has needed to drop out of a big race due to injury, nor am I the only one who will be stuck on the sidelines in Boston. I also know that there are other things in life besides Boston and running. And that I have many things to look forward to at the moment.

But there’s something about having a goal that you’ve been working toward for so long taken away from you that erases all rationality. The fact that this is just one bad thing in the midst of a very exciting spring didn’t matter. For awhile, it became all consuming.

Which means that, naturally, I thought a lot about how I would write about my ultimate decision to drop out of the race. At first, I planned to post about how non-runners just don’t understand. How they don’t really grasp that you can put so much of your heart and soul into running. How the fact that “it’s just one race” often has no bearing on how devastating an injury can be. How they don’t realize that it’s not just about the exercise running provides — it’s about my sense of self. It’s about feeling strong, in shape, and confident. And it’s about loving – no, thriving off - the challenge of always striving to be stronger, faster, better.

Many people direct those emotions toward their career. For me, however, it’s always been about my running. It may seem silly, since I will never be fast enough to run professionally…or even on a semi-elite level. I know that I won’t be taking home huge trophies or winning race money anytime soon. But that doesn’t change the fact that running challenges me in a way that nothing else does. So when I can’t do it, well, I’m just not completely myself.

I thought about writing all that in what probably would have come off as a whiny, self-entitled, “woe is me” kind of post. Because even though those things are true, after a little bit of reflection, it became clear that it was me who needed a little bit of perspetive, not those other people.

Injuries suck. There’s no way around that. They are frustrating, depressing, and can make you feel powerless and question yourself as a “real”runner. But — injuries happen. Most runners are forced to deal with injury at some point in their career. Most of the time, this is not the end of the world. You skip a couple of races, lay low for a little while, and then, before you know it, you’re on the road again.

Do I wish I were running Boston? Heck yes (although at this point even running at all sounds amazing). Am I entitled to a little sadness because I’m not? I would say yes again. But do I have the right to mope around, snap at my loved ones and act like my world has ended?

Ummm…no. I have said it in the past and need to remind myself of it now – There is more to marathoning than the Boston Marathon. And there is a whole lot more to life than marathoning.

So on Monday morning, instead of running as far away from Boston as I possibly can, I plan to be back where I was last year — on the sidelines, screaming my lungs out. Allowing myself to be inspired by all the talent around me, and dreaming of one day being back on the course myself. Cursing the world as I push harder, faster, stronger than ever before.

 

—–

Good luck to everyone running on Monday!! I will be with you in spirit!

 

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