Saturday, April 26, 2014

Boston Marathon 2014 Recap: Dear "Baby"

Dear Baby,

I thought that I should write you a letter before the details slip my mind. Someday you'll hear this story, and I want to be sure to get it right.

When we found out about you in January 2014, your daddy and I couldn't have been more excited - and scared - but over the moon thinking about your arrival. We sincerely felt so lucky to know that we were going to have a little baby joining our team.

At that time, it was the middle of one of the worst winters in Wisconsin's history: cold, snowy and endless. It was also supposed to be the middle of my training for the 118th Boston Marathon. My training didn't go quite as I planned between the awful winter, feeling very tired (you were working hard to become a little person,) and feeling a little bit nauseated for a couple months. Needless to say, I would rather sit on the couch with a hot chocolate and your daddy while I read about what to expect when having your first baby! My priorities shifted pretty quickly, and running had to take a backseat to learning all about you.

Over the next few months, I "trained" when I could and when I wanted to. I didn't stick to a plan, and I wasn't worried about it either. I knew I would be able to go to the race in April and run the marathon - it just wouldn't be fast. 

The weekend of the marathon arrived. Your dad and I were so excited to get back to Boston. We packed our bags and got to the airport at 4AM. The weather was beautiful in Boston that weekend - 50s/60s and sunny. The day before the race was Easter Sunday, so we went to a church service at the Old South Church right at the finish line of the marathon. We had to wait in line for two hours to get into the mass. The church was beautiful - and filled with local Bostonians and others in their blue and yellow Boston Marathon gear. At the end of the service, they did a very emotional athlete's blessing - asking God to protect all the runners and spectators the following day. I couldn't keep myself from crying. They also gave all the runners scarves that had been made by volunteers from around the country. My scarf was bright yellow with a blue peace ribbon, made by members of a church in Macfarland, Wisconsin. That made me feel like it had been made just for me and it put my mind at ease.
Easter morning at the marathon finish line.
The night before the race, we got back to our hotel early so that I could get ready. I had one important thing to take care of before I could get to sleep: I had to decorate my running tank top to let everyone know that I wouldn't be running the race alone; I was running with you. I bought some silver duct tape and borrowed scissors from the front desk so I could spell out "BABY" across my chest with a little arrow pointing to my small-but-growing belly. No one would miss you - I made sure of that!

The morning of the race, the local newspaper ran a very nice article about the people from Racine that would be running. The article talked about how we all planned to run the race to feel close to the running community and recovery of Boston after last year's tragedy - but for us, it also served as a surprise announcement to anyone in town that didn't already know about YOU. (You're not even here yet, and you are already making it into the papers!)

Your dad and I walked to the buses that would take us to the start of the race. It was a sunny and chilly morning, but I was so excited that it didn't matter. Your daddy gave us a good luck kiss and a long hug before we jumped on the bus to Hopkinton. They only let the runners get on the buses, so I got pretty sad as I had to wave goodbye to him.

Before the race started, I sat around the Athlete's Village sipping water and eating the worst bagel of my life. I was feeling a little nervous, so it was hard to get any food down, but I knew I would need the energy to get through the 26.2 miles that were waiting for us. I sat on the grass with other runners and waited patiently. They finally made the announcement for runners in Wave 2, Corrals 1-3 to proceed toward the start. I donated my extra clothes and started walking. For the first time, people were able to see my tank that read "BABY" in big, bold, proud letters and the reactions started right away. One lady couldn't even help herself as she put her hands on my belly and said, "Oh my God! A baby!" I just smiled - it made me feel really happy to know that you were completely welcome there.

As I waited in the corral, I went over my race strategy. It was never a "race" for me; it was always a fun run that we would do carefully together. My plan was to go very slowly for the whole race, so that I could take in the scenery, interact with the crowd and let the crowd interact with you. I also wanted to leave myself the freedom to stop for water, fuel, and rest as needed - so I put absolutely zero time expectations on myself. It was more important to make memories and to be careful (it was your first marathon, after all) than to take the risk of going out aggressively.

The race started - and I was surrounded by a really fast group of people. They were clearly well-trained and had goals of competing. I drifted off to the side of the course and found a much slower pace that was comfortable and easy to maintain. The number of spectators lining the course was just incredible. They estimated that there were about a million people watching the race that day, and it certainly felt like it. Whenever I would approach a group of people, their faces would light up when they read my tank. They had some pretty amazing reactions, but here are some of the common ones and some favorites:
  • Go Baby!
  • Aww, she's got a baby!
  • Take care of that baby!
  • Go momma! 
  • You're pregnant? That is so badass!
  • You go, girl!
  • Baby's first Boston!
  • OH. MY. GOD.
  • Congratulations, mommy!
  • I'm not pregnant and I can't run this!
  • How did that baby get in there? (haha)
I loved, loved, loved all the great responses. The women were especially responsive, because they could probably relate a little more. Surprisingly, a lot of the men laughed when they read my tank - almost in disbelief. The best part - I only heard one person say "That is not safe." Don't worry, baby. I wouldn't have done it if it wasn't safe.

I chugged slowly along as the day got warmer and the sun got higher. There was very little shade along the route, so I actually got too warm. I didn't want to overheat, so I got water whenever it was available and started to build in cool-down walk breaks towards the second half of the race. I called your dad at mile 15 to see where he was, because he was going to meet us. I was very excited to hear that he was just one mile down the road at mile 16.
Mile 16: Our family of three, still smiling.
I was so happy to see him. I gave him a huge hug and we snapped a few photos. It would've been easy to stop there and just watch the race with him. I did have the goal to finish the race, so we made plans to find each other at the finish line and said a quick goodbye.

From that point on, I REALLY took my time. Since I was so hot, my feet were sweating more than normal and I could feel my feet start to blister. I could also feel some chafing under my arms. I found a medic on the course and had him give me some Vaseline and about 100 bandaids for my feet. When I took my shoes off, I found a bloody mess - it looked like both of my arches had exploded. (They kind of did, I guess.) Once I was bandaged up, I was good as new and I was back on my way.

Around mile 21, I ran into my friend from Milwaukee (Sheila aka She-She of Oiselle and OlallieMKE fame.) She is a rockstar runner - running two marathons in one week! We ran together for a few miles and the company was more than welcome. She helped to push me through some of my aches and pains, but ultimately, I just wanted to slow she ran on to finish while I kept up my "baby on board" pace. 

Before I knew it, I was passed the Citgo sign and into the last mile. The crowd was deafening! They were all so energetic and excited. I made sure to record some of the crowd on Boylston, so I would always remember what it is like to finish the race. I crossed the line with my hands in the air and a smile on my face. We did it! It took 4 hours and 19 minutes - almost a full hour longer than last year, but I think one extra hour is the perfect amount of time to make sure we were both safe and happy the whole time. :)

After the race, I had some chocolate milk, a pear and found your daddy. He gave me the biggest hug in the world and congratulated us on a successful run. We walked (hobbled) to Boston Common where we sat on the grass and watched the people for about an hour. It was an absolutely beautiful day. I couldn't have asked for it to go any better and I couldn't have asked for better company. 

I just want you to know that I ran this race to set an example for you, baby. Your daddy and I are tough, hard-working people. We love life. We love challenges. We love fun. We love each other more than anything in the whole world. We can't wait for you to join us in all of our many get ready.

And who knows - maybe we can really run the marathon together one day.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Boston Marathon: One Year Later

I know the news and the internet are overwhelmed with remembrances today, so I'll be brief. I just want to say that it still feels very surreal and I think about that day quite often. More than anything, I am looking forward to the closure we all get to experience on Monday. Let a gigantic, triumphant celebration of life ensue! 


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Boston 2014 Plans & Race Strategy

I finally sat down today and did some planning for next weekend in Boston! I feel relieved that I worked out some of the details, because I had been procrastinating.

First of all, let's talk about this forecast! Since Wisconsin has been way below average so far this "Spring," I am pretty pleased with the temperatures. High 40s and low 50s make for good running conditions - and I prefer some cloud coverage, too. Last year was quite sunny and I ended up with really ugly, red sunburn. Now, let's just hope the rain stays away.

When I registered for Boston, I couldn't believe that the race was the day after Easter. I love holidays with family, so it made me a little sad to think about missing out on the festivities. I still feel weird about it - but I am trying to find "Eastery" things to do while we're in Boston. There are some Easter-themed brunch cruises, which could be fun...although I get seasick. I'm not sure what we'll end up doing, but I feel like some sort of celebration is in order. Anyone have any suggestions?

*Tangent: Speaking of Easter, I was on a run the other day and I saw a bunny stuck in a chain-link fence. His backside was too fat, so he couldn't pass through. Poor guy died like that. Being a vegetarian and a hormonal pregnant chick, I started to cry. I felt like I should get him out of the fence or something, but then I thought, "No, that's gross." I hope it wasn't the Easter Bunny. *

Anyway, we plan to explore the city when we have time. Our hotel is in a great location - close to Boston Common, Faneuil Hall and the North End. But Boston is easy to navigate as long as you figure out the subway system. (That would be my number one piece of advice to anyone who hasn't been to Boston before.) The marathon has several "events" planned, so those will also take up some time: the Expo, the Pre-Race Dinner, the Open House at Fenway, the After-Party at House of Blues and of course - the RACE! :) So much to do! 

Race Strategy: Version Running for 2.0 
I have been hemming and hawing for the last few months about how I wanted to handle the race. It was never a question about whether or not I would still run it - of course, I would. My cousin, Sarah, said something to me last week as a reminder:

"Pregnancy is not a disability."  

She is 100% correct. With that in mind, I intend to run and complete the race. As I said in my last post, I will be mindful of my body and how I am feeling. If I need to walk, I will. If I have to stop, I will. But my intention is to run well on Monday and to complete the race with results I can be proud of as a 4.5 month preggie runner. I do intend to run at a less competitive pace: shooting for around a 4 hour marathon. That puts my pace at 9+ min/mile. I feel like that is totally reasonable, and honestly, I am afraid of going too fast naturally or unknowingly (adrenaline, race mode, competitive person, moving with the crowd, etc.) I am not going to wear a watch. I am going to run entirely on feel. And I am not committed in any way to a 4 hour time goal; if it isn't in the cards on Monday, so be it. I'm just happy to be going back...I can't believe its been a year already.

*Tangent #2: I am wishing I had thought ahead and had a shirt made that says, "Don't get beat by a pregnant girl" on the back. I think that would've been funny.

18 week bump and my fur baby, Gertie

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Blogger's Apology - and Updates!

I have officially been a terrible blogger. A non-existent blogger. How inconsiderate to disappear for a REALLY LONG TIME without any explanation! I do apologize. And really, I feel like I can explain myself - but I'm still not very pleased with my performance (in most things) as of late.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses:
After the marathon in October, I was taking it easy as far as training goes. I was frustrated with some Plantar Fasciitis issues that had been bothering me for a long time. I took a break from real training and focused on enjoying my fitness - rather than feeling obligated to stick to a regimented schedule. 
Then came January and I wasn' quite like myself. I put my detective skills to work and realized that my symptoms all pointed to one very specific thing: PREGNANT! Ahhhhhhhh! Holy shit. I mean that in the best way I can - like - "oh my God - that's amazing, but oh my god, there is a baby alien in me. WHAT?!!!!!! Who allowed this? Check again. Does eating garlic or too many gummy bears cause a false positive???"

In all honesty, we were both extremely excited right from the beginning. We didn't tell anyone though - and that started the beginning of my silence on the internet. I think my mind was so consumed with the news that I just could not focus on the other things in my life that usually get my attention. 

You're Tired As Hell? You Have NO Idea: 
One thing they do not tell you as a young girl is that when you are growing your own human person, you will be tired in a way that a normal non-pregnant person cannot relate to. Those little people are LIFE SUCKERS for the first trimester. Literally. Sucking every ounce of energy - but I get it - they are busy growing arms, legs, and brains. Hard work! But oh. my. god. 

I pride myself on being a really energetic, motivated and busy person. I always have a million things going on and I usually achieve them with relative ease - work, coaching, training, cooking, gardening, blogging, PaperMichelle and still maintaining a totally normal social life. I simply could not do those things for the first 12 weeks or so. I would sleep like ten hours a night, if not more - and SIT ON THE COUCH the second I got home from work - completely zapped of anything resembling motivation. It was torture. I was not in a great place mentally - crabby and annoyed with myself for being so lazy, but too tired to do a thing about it. I did workout when I could get the energy to put on a dvd and some sweatpants - but it was ugly. Frumpy, heavy and slow. I felt like I was turning into a lethargic monster, doomed to a life of zombie-like sluggishness and naps.

I also had no interest in talking to anyone that was able to train, to blog, to make healthy food and live the awesome, active life that I was used to. Look at you and your perky self in your tiny little workout gear - looking so refreshed and happy? PUKE. It just made me more depressed and so, I avoided everything on the internet (blog, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, all of it.) I didn't even want to read RW! *gasp* I am fairly confident in saying that I didn't do laundry for that entire time - and lived in a Milwaukee sweatshirt, running shorts and knee-high wool socks. So sexy.

What other fun symptoms did I have? Nausea and one vomit-y morning. Food aversions. The smell of beer was the worst thing I could think of for a while - blasphemy! Headaches. Did I mention being tired and crabby? Oh, the rage.

This Too Shall Pass:
As they say, all things come to an end - and so did that first trimester! Good riddance, dude. You suck. And from what I hear, I had a really easy time compared to what others go through. (I hope I haven't offended any mommas out there that had an actual hard time. I'm just whining. I can't imagine puking that whole time, too! I would only have one kid. Seriously.) 
But that first trimester is long gone (I'm 17 weeks!) and I feel really great. I don't hate people anymore (thank God.) I have been working out every day. I sleep like a normal person. Aside from this tiny, itty-bitty, barely-there bump - I would forget that I have a tiny person hanging out in my belly. I'm like a normal person...a sober and normal person. Yay!

17 weeks, 1 day - little bump!
Training and Boston:
The short version is that, yes, I am still running Boston in two weeks! Am I prepared for it? Not really. I am prepared enough to complete the distance without injuring myself, but my training was nowhere near where it should have been for apparent reasons. And you know what? I don't really care. I am going to run slowly, carefully - and if anything feels weird AT ALL, I will stop. My doc says that it isn't an issue to run the race, because I am a trained runner and I can do whatever my body is used to. So, this is one of those times when common sense will be my guide. I can't believe the race is so soon, though. With all the distractions lately, I feel like it snuck up on me. I am really excited to go back to Boston and see how everyone rallies. I am expecting an epic celebration...and we wouldn't miss it.


After I return from Boston, my plan is to keep running until I can't anymore. I'm hoping to make it well into the summer - it will be slow and sweaty, but who cares? So far, I have only gained one pound and I'd like to stay as "in shape" as is healthy for both me and the kid. 

Blogging From Now On:
My intentions are to return to the blogging world now that I am feeling better. I can't guarantee that it will always be super regular, because like everyone, I've got a lot going on - but I will do my best. I miss blogging and all of you that I only "know" through our connections on the 'net. I also like having an outlet to share my little weekly updates (belly bump, fit mama recipes, cute baby things I found, training updates, etc.) I am truly excited about all of the changes coming my way, and I love getting to share it! :) 

Any advice from you 'been there, done that' fit mamas? I know nothing.