Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pardon the break, but I am back!

Sorry for the months of inactivity on this blog.  As it turns out maintaining 2 running blogs, running and working a full time job are a lot!  But have no fear, the time of year has come to begin training for my favorite race of all time, the Boston Marathon.  While you can read about some of my experiences on my blog, Run Along, I'll post here too with some more personal updates.  

Training has in fact begun.  Last week, this beautiful group of folks from the Run to End Alzheimer's team met for our first group run.  

This morning we were out again.  12 miles completed along a very windy Charles River in the company of Ken and Bob from the team.

And so has the fundraising.  My goal this year is $7500.  Please support me and the Alzheimer's Association this year if you can.  You can make a donation here.

Check back often for more updates throughout the course of the training season!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Trying Something New

"You can't say you don't like it if you have never tried it."  My mom used to tell me this about all the vegetables I claimed I did not like when I was a kid.  As it turns out, the advice is applicable to running as well.

I am a self-proclaimed "urban runner."  I like running on pavement and along city sidewalks.  I don't mind stopping at crosswalks some days, or picking up the pace to beat the end of the walk signal other days.  I know how to weave through packs of pedestrians.  I can tell what drivers are completely unaware I exist, and therefore not to try to cut in front of them before they make that left turn.

I will also admit to being a bit clumsy.  I have been known to trip and fall running on more than one occasion, yielding scrapes, bruises and swollen ankles.

So the idea of running a trail race was seemed to me to be as far from enjoyable as I could imagine.  The closest thing to a trail run I had ever done was running along the dirt paths, instead of the pavement ,along the Charles.  But, having gone without running a race since Memorial Day weekend, I was getting antsy and decided last week to register for the VERT Race Series Sasquatch Trail Race.

The word on the street (literally, I heard it while running with friends) was that VERT Sasquatch, a 2.35 mile race, was a great "first-time" trail race.  As I've been a little bored with my running lately, I thought a change might be good.  Plus, running this race would give me a basis for opinions about trail running.  I had never tried it, so maybe I would like it.  And if I didn't, 2.35 miles seemed to be a short enough course that I wouldn't suffer too much.

I recruited my running pal, Laura, to join me in this adventure.  We were both on the same page that the goal of this race was to have fun (and at least for me, to finish without twisting an ankle).  Humid and 80 degrees this morning, Laura and I ran a warm-up mile that left us dripping with sweat.  I was even more excited this race was only 2.35 miles.

The race had about 900 runners and the start was broken into 3 waves.  We started in the 3rd wave, in about  the middle of the pack.  The first 1/3 of a mile was on grass and then the road.  As soon as we turned onto the trail, I felt my heart rate pick up a bit, despite the fact that we were still on a paved path.  Shortly after we hit the dirt and rocks.

I was a bit nervous and made sure to pick my feet up as we ran over rocks and tree roots.  Slowly, I started to feel more comfortable and began to focus on running and not "not falling".  We started passing people and picking up the pace.  One significant difference between road and trail races is the need to run single-file on the trails, and the new challenges that results in when trying to pass others.  Seeing 2 runners fall kept me conscious of my own 2 feet and didn't let me get too cocky with a quicker pace.  One little slip gave me a small scare, and I may had gasped out loud, but I remained upright.  Coming out of the trail, about the last 1/10 of a mile finished on the grass.  Laura and I picked up the pace, and dodging a few runners crossed the finished line together.

And thanks to the excellent photography skills of my always-supportive boyfriend, Brian, we got a great shot of the 2 of us, just feet before the finish.

I must admit, I enjoyed today's race way more than I had planned.  Instead of now being able to say I know I don't like trail running because I finally tried it, I kind of want to try it again.  Sort of like brussel sprouts.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Weekend to Remember

Memorial Day is a day to remember all of the men and women who have died serving our country.  This weekend I participated n 2 events that honored and remembered officers and citizens.

As a result of the bombings at this year’s marathon, more than 5000 runners were stopped in their tracks along the course, unable to complete the race they had trained for all winter. 

#onerun was a 1 mile run along the marathon course that began with an email by Andy Marx, leader of the Most Informal Running Club Ever and grew into a city-sanctioned event thanks to the collaboration of leadership from running groups across the Boston area and coordination of the race management company, RaceMenu.

The event was pretty amazing.  I arrived early to volunteer and so did a heck of a lot of other people.  So many in fact, that RaceMenu had to close their volunteer registration link on their website because so many people wanted to help out.  I helped set up and sold t-shirts for a while, but then got to head over for the coolest part of my volunteer assignment – being part of the human chain that would lead runners to the starting line

The runners lined up on Beacon Street, listening to pep talks by Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino, former Celtic Walter McCarty and city Councillor Mike Ross.  Four runners, 3 with American flags and one with a Chinese flag in honor of those killed, led the line of about 3,000 runners.  I held it together while children from the St. Ann’s choir in Dorchester sang the national anthem, but after our human chain walked to the “One Mile To Go” mark on Beacon Street, my eyes filled with tears as the Boston Police played the bagpipes and our human chain broke apart to send the runners on their way. 

After most of the runner’s passed, I jumped in and myself ran the last mile of the marathon route.  For a portion of my run, I was near a couple, the guy shouting words of encouragement and filming the girl, who it appeared had run the marathon April 15th.   I separated from them a bit and made my way down Boylston Street. 

The crowds were not marathon-sized, but the cheers were.  Runners who had already finished lined both sides of the street and along with spectators cheered as new runners finished.   Many runners who had run the marathon wore their marathon bibs, and several had family hand them their medals at the finish line. A few moments after I crossed, I saw the couple I had run near earlier hugging, the girl, between sobs, saying, “I finally did it.”

Obviously there were a lot of urgent issues to resolve after this year’s Boston Marathon.  For the Boston running community, it was important to again make the finish line a place of joy and celebration again.  

It seems very appropriate that Boston’s Run to Remember was held at the Seaport Sunday to honor Massachusetts Law Enforcement Officers who died in the line of duty.  Given the role law enforcement has had in Boston over the last 6 weeks, specifically as it related to a running event, it was also not a surprise that the race sold out well in advance.

While originally I had not planned to run, I registered after the marathon as a way to both honor the law enforcement officers who played such an important role in the marathon and post-marathon events, as well to come together with my teammates, many of whom ran today as well.  A small part of me also registered to run to prove to myself that I could again be a part of a large race without fear.

About 9000 runners showed up on this chilly drizzly morning.  Due to the size and timing of the race, extra security precautions were taken this year that had never been implemented in the past.  Only limited roads were open to access Seaport Blvd and all who entered through the open roads had to go through a security check.  Runners were given a clear plastic bag to bring belongings into the World Trade Center, instead of the usual option to bring your own bag/backpack to leave in the designated “bag check” area. 

As we lined up at the start, my friend Nicole mentioned she had her phone and some other items weighing down the back of her running skirt.  After being unable to retrieve her personal items on the baggage buses at the marathon, she didn’t want to leave anything she might need behind in case she couldn’t get back to it.  It seems like the events of that day still stick with us all in various ways.

The World Trade Center, which serves as the hub for both pre- and post-race activities, did not allow new entrants, except runners, once the race was underway.  I can’t say how everyone felt about these extra measures, but for me, these steps did not add any inconvenience to my race, and actually made me feel a bit better about being in the largest crowd I have been a part of since the marathon.

And while the weather, 42 degrees with on and off rain, had many runners confused about how to dress, no one was complaining.  (Having run and volunteered at this race when it was 90 degrees and sunny, personally I was much happier with Sunday's weather.)

Before the race began, the stage near the starting line hosted several speeches, bagpipes played Amazing Grace (I held it together this time) and a moment of silence for the fallen officers we were there to honor.  Tributes were also made to the marathons victims and Officer Sean Collier.  Race organizers printed copies of a second race bib for runners to pin to their backs, to honor Officer Collier who had registered to run today’s race. 

Police officers were on duty throughout the race course.  And for as many officers I passed, I heard at least 10 times as many “thank yous” from runners around me and even several high fives exchanged.

With an upset stomach for most of the race, this was certainly not my best day.  But I am so glad I ran, as this run will absolutely be one to remember. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Newbie Run!

I'm a little behind on this, but could not let it slip by.  Last weekend, my cousin Liz visited from NY.  The main purpose of her visit was to run the Harpoon 5 Miler, her very first race.

On January 1st, we had a text message exchange that went something like this:
Liz: My new year's resolution is to run a race.
Me: Hooray!
Liz: Maybe I can find a race in Boston and use it as an excuse to visit too.
Me: Woohoo!  I'll find us some races and we can figure out what will work.

One of the things I love most about running is the feeling of accomplishment that comes from completing something challenging.  A new distance.  A new pace. I get excited when I train with first time marathoners when they run their first 16 miler, first 18 miler, first 20 miler...sometimes I may be more excited than they are.

So needless to say, I was excited for my cousin's race, and not just because I secretly hoped it would provide me with a running buddy when I head home for holidays from now on.

Five months, and a marathon later (for me), it was race day.  I offered to run with Liz, which she accepted.  She said it was so she wouldn't stop and walk, but I know she is way too competitive to have let that happen.

She was running really well and in the last mile, she did start to get tired.  I told her we were going to pick someone in front of us and just focus on passing that person.  We would forget about how far away the finish line was.  Girl in the pink shorts.  Check.  Girl in the blue shirt.  Check.  Guy in the red shirt.  Check.  Suddenly the finish line was in sight.

With about 25 yards to go, she broke out into a sprint.  With about 5 yards to go, she moved to the left, putting me behind another runner and crossing the finish line 1 second ahead of me.  The little stinker.

Liz was awesome, and she even had a good time.  She left the following morning and by 6:00 that night was asking me about 1/2 marathons.  As the week went on, she bought a GPS watch and found a local half in October she plans to register for.

Congratulations Liz.  And welcome to the world of running!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Marathon Blog Posts

This year I was fortunate enough to be selected to blog about my training for Boston on the Marathon blog.  I was a total slacker and did not keep up with this blog at the same time, so here are all my posts, for record-keeping and historical purposes.

A different focus this time around - March 6

Getting by with some help from my friends - March 13

It's all in my head - March 20

Boston is running at its best - March 27

My own March madness - April 3

Laying out the Game Plan - April 10

Boston Keeps Running - April 25

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Putting the FUN in Fundraising

Asking people for money is not easy.  I hate asking friends for the $20 they owe me or for the $5 everyone at the office promised to chip in for that other coworker's farewell gift.  So, it might be slightly unnatural that year after year I volunteer myself to ask friends and family to help me raise thousands of dollars.  Except, it's exactly the opposite.  I actually look forward to the opportunity.

To me, being successful at fundraising comes down to one very important thing - being passionate about the cause.  The fact that I think the Alzheimer's Association is an organization worth supporting makes asking for money to support their work much easier.   I also know I could never donate a gift of an equivalent amount, so if I want to help, this is the way I can do so.

However, even once the barrier of being uncomfortable asking for money is broken, fundraising can still be challenging.  I find you get people to support you for any combination of these 3 reasons - 1) they want to support you, 2) they want to support the cause you are raising money for and 3) they will pay for something they want and you can direct the proceeds to your fundraising efforts.

So that was my strategy today.  With the help of my great friend Brenna, I planned a spin-a-thon - a 3 hours spin class that folks could pay to attend, with all proceeds going to the Alzheimer's Association.  Brenna, an Alzheimer's team running buddy temporarily sidelined with some health issues, generously volunteered to teach the class and coordinate the space at the gym where she teaches, Commonwealth Sports Club.  She also recruited many of the attendees, apparently having a huge following of gym members who LOVE taking her classes.  Folks signed up for 1, 2 or 3 hour class options - and 8 participants spun for all 3 hours!  Sweaty and tired afterwards, everyone seemed to have a great time.

We put the FUN in this fundraiser, if I do say so myself.

If you didn't make it to today's fundraiser, you can still make a donation by clicking here.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

This one's for Gramps

February 28, was my grandfather's birthday.  As I train to run my 7th Boston Marathon, the 5th in his honor, it seems like a good time to talk about the man who inspires me to unabashedly ask for donations to raise money for an organization I believe can help those with Alzheimer's disease and their families.

Felix Iovino was my mom's father.  He was the father of 5 and youngest of 5 siblings himself.  He emigrated to the US from Italy when he was a boy.  He grew up in New York where he met my grandmother and started a family.  He worked for the New York City Transit Authority when I was a kid, although had a short stint as a pizzeria owner before that.  I begin to salivate just imagining if that had worked out!

Continuing to talk about my favorite bready foods, I'll make this simile; Gramps was like a good New York bagel, crusty on the outside, but a real softy inside.  He would grumble and complain about pretty much anything.  He would curse in Italian when he was really mad, usually at the squirrels in his yard or his crazy dog, Spanky.  But he would never hesitate to help any of his kids or turn a grandchild off his lap.  He drove us to the airport early in the morning for many family vacations.  When I was in college, he took a "day trip" to Baltimore with my dad to see a weeknight volleyball game against our conference rival.

That's me with Gramps!
As Gramps got older, we laughed about the list he kept in his wallet with the names of his 10 grandkids.  But that was really the beginning of what would later be diagnosed as Alzheimer's disease.  I lived in Boston for most of the progression of the disease, but when I did come home for holidays, the changes were that much more noticeable.  It was difficult to watch these changes take place, and even more difficult to see my mom, grandmother, my aunts and uncle deal with the decline of their father and husband.

On January 8, 2005, Gramps passed away.  This year is the 8th anniversary of his passing.  As a result, I have pledged to raise $8000 for the Alzheimer's Association, running the Boston Marathon, in his honor.  

After skipping Boston last year to run other marathons, this year running Boston for the Alzheimer's Association just seemed important.  I have continued to be involved with the organization and fundraised for 2 Reach the Beach relays since my last Boston Marathon in 2011, but Boston is just different.

The past week has been a little rough.  After having gum surgery on Monday and a stomach virus Thursday night, my diet and workout schedule have been far from normal.  Today's long run was not surprisingly miserable, as I just had nothing in the tank.  I still slogged through 16.5 miles, but it was not pretty.  However, on days like this, training with a greater purpose than a race PR can make a run like this tolerable (though definitely not enjoyable).  

I'm still working towards that $8000 goal.  Donations can be made here, and are very much appreciated!