Monthly Archives: March 2010

no diggity, no doubt: runnin’ with the phatness.

like many people i know, i would consider giving one of my kidneys in exchange for a free tee-shirt.  tee-shirts that i have to pay for come in a very close second, especially if they have a snappy logo or advertise some sport or event that makes me look really tough.  right now, one of my favorites is a grey long-sleeved tee that advertises the “get yer ya yas out along the charles river” four-mile road race.  it is decorated in a variety of clashing colors, and the center looks like this:

amazing, right?  it’s like mick jagger and an old timey typewriter collided, and then some 1980’s-era clip art jumped into the fold.  and if i was able to score something as magnificent as this for running four miles, what might i be able to get for running 26.2?  oh my gosh, the possibilities abound, and i am giddy just thinking about it!

but there’s just one problem.  under no circumstances am i allowed to investigate, observe, or touch any 114th boston marathon® apparel until AFTER i finish that race.

i guess that you could say i’m superstitious.

every day at 11:11, i hold my breath and make a wish.  when i play softball, i carry two dimes in my back pocket (a habit passed down from my equally superstitious dad).  i have named all six of my previous goldfish “atlas,” based on the belief that they will live to a ripe old age if they’re named after the strongest man in the world.  (since i am now on atlas seven, i may need to reconsider this tactic.)

so, when i ran 21 miles (!) last saturday morning, it should not come as a surprise that superstition played a large role in the plot.

i woke up extra early at 5:45 a.m. (ew,yish.)  i wanted to have a chance to shower (mainly just to wake up, not cleanse, since i was just going to sweat my pants off anyhoo) before nandi and her beau the toyman came to pick me up at 6:20.  i had all my items: freakazoid spandex suit, gloves, sweatpants, fleece, chocolate milk, 189 gu’s and jelly beans, and my lucky penny.  the toyman dropped us off at alewife station, where we joined forces with fellow teammates kelly and brandt, and together we trekked to b.c.

once we got to b.c., we boarded a cushy charter bus (complete with very necessary restrooms!) and headed to hopkinton.  the plan was to run all the way from hopkinton along the marathon course back to b.c., a full 21 miles.  and hurray!  the last part of our run was going to be none other than the dreaded heartbreak hill, aka my hill of sorrows.

on the bus, i was incredibly nervous, and my stomach was a jumpy wreck.  i tried breathing deeply, sipping water, and organizing and reorganizing my fanny pack.  these things did not help.  so finally, i went for the big guns and said my never-fail prayer, the memorare.  i’ve been reciting this prayer since i was 11, i think, when my seventh grade english teacher made us say it every day at the beginning of class.  i am not a religious person by any means, but i think that somehow, though, this prayer has become stuck to the fiber of my being, and i just sort of unconsciously rattle it off when i am nervous or stressed.  and strangely, whenever i say it, good things happen.  i am not sure if the bvm is pulling some strings for me in heaven, or what… but so far this winter, the prayer has granted my sister the editor-in-chief position at the u.b. law review, my friend fred an acceptance into a phd program, and me (and the rest of simmons college) a random and impromptu snow day!

as i finished my last memorare (when i am really nervous, i say it multiple times), the bus glided to a stop.  off we tumbled, into the 28-degree morningtime.  the start was a ZOO… and that was just with 200 or so charity runners milling around– i’m having a hard time imagining what it’ll be like with one gazillion marathoners in just three weeks’ time.   tents were set up, and wiry little men were handing out gu’s and free saucony gloves.  it was amazing!  unfortunately, i was not able to partake, because i was completely unwilling to carry anything in addition to the fanny pack that i had strapped to my gut.

8:30 came, and we were off.  my peerless running mate kelly and i established a nice pace– but both of us were very aware of the fact that the marathon course is very downhill, especially for the first five miles.  according to my fit friends who have done this race before, it’s a real temptation to go out too fast, and then have nothing left to give when mile 17 (this is the beginning of four miles of hills, culminating in the devil itself, aka heartbreak hill at mile 21) rolls around.  so we checked ourselves so as not to wreck ourselves, and employed the run-walk strategy starting at mile one.  basically, after each mile, we would walk for one minute.  i know it sounds counter-intuitive to WALK when you are supposed to be RUNNING, but the method seriously yields good results.  and for a race like boston, i’m willing to try just about anything in order to cross the finish line in a conscious state.

on and on we ran (and walked, every ten minutes or so).  through hopkinton, to ashland, to the framingham train depot! we were feeling great.  as the miles ticked off, i kept exclaiming, “kelly!  i feel like we JUST STARTED this run!”  and yet, knowing that this was THE course, we kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.  and it kept NOT DROPPING.  i started to wonder– was this going to be okay after all?

and then we received an omen from the heavens.  waterstops were set up every three miles or so on the run, and as we came up to one on a particularly desolate stretch near route nine, the most appropriate thing ever occurred.  it goes a little like this:

and then i knew.  i just knew– perfect day, perfect weather, perfect song to match my measured pace… this run was going to be phenomenal.  the memorare was working its magic again!

kelly and i soldiered on through natick and wellesley, loyally adhering to our run/walk principle, and managing to feel pretty good in the process.  as we ticked off the miles, i kept trying to reign in my pace, because i knew that the hills were looming just around the corner.  i also kept peeking at my blood sugar readings on my sensor– they were coming in pretty high for the first 14 miles of the run, because i had had very little insulin to cover my pre-run pb&j bagel.  at mile 14, though, i decided to have a gu (coupled with a little bit of insulin), not to aid my blood sugar, but to give me some more energy for the last seven miles of my trek.  it was a strangely wonderful feeling– for once, i was eating because i WANTED to, not because i felt horrible and needed to.  see!  see how charmed this run was?!

we lumbered past newton wellesley hospital, the site where my cousin yuley and aunt brain and i cheered on my uncle joetails when he ran the marathon in 2008.  i remembered standing on the sidelines, cheering and clapping wildly for the folks who glided by.  i remembered thinking how much i had wanted that to be me.  and then i remembered how quickly i’d discounted the idea back then, telling myself that my insulin-laced body would never be able to survive an endurance event like boston.  so, as the hospital disappeared behind us, i ever so slightly shook my fist in tiny and quiet celebration of the miles and the finger pricks and the bloody glucose sensor sites and the tears that i have gone through not just over this training, but over the years, to arrive at this  one perfect moment on this one perfect 21-mile run.

then we rounded the corner.  and saw them.  the newton hills, looming like k2 in the distance.  not really– i don’t think that newton, massachusetts sports anything close to the elevation of k2, but daaaang, those hills are still tough.

“okay, kelly!” i yelled, “let’s remember our mantra– wwnd!”  wwnd, of course, stands for what would nandi do.  my dear friend nandi is a BULL when it comes to running hills.   she charges up them like whoa, leaving only dust and less hearty folk in her wake.  so, summoning up the spirit of nandi, we did our best to attack the slopes.  up and down we ran.

it’s funny, though… no matter how many times i study the course map, or picture race day, i always forget the exact location of heartbreak.  after we crested the third hill, i thought that maybe i had already run heartbreak, and that my heart and mind had survived intact.  but that’s the thing about that hill– when you finally reach it, there is no question.  so as i started to climb the fourth, most treacherous and nefarious slope, i silently laughed at my naivete.  THIS was heartbreak, and sure enough, my heart was suffering.  or was it my lungs?  or was it my brain, collapsing?  whatever it was, i wanted it to be over.

but i kept pushing.  and then i reached the summit!  just ahead of me, i could see a party of people wearing spandex and wacky leis!  i was almost home!

chug chug chug– kelly and i rumbled to the finish together, yelling at each other in disbelief!  WE HAD RUN 21 MILES!  yes, US!  WE.  DID.  IT.

many people might scoff and say that superstition and divine interference played no role in propelling us to the finish… but i disagree.  our day was charmed, and i have proof.  just as we were stretching our tired legs, i looked up to see this guy crossing the finish line:

MAGIC.  anyone who knows kelly and i must also know that we are the world’s biggest nintendo fans… and it is exceedingly clear that SOMEONE SOMEWHERE had our backs.

and guess what?  after the run, i checked my blood sugar.  it was 74.

see you in three weeks, o marathon course.  i don’t know if april 19 will be as charmed as march 27 was, but i am ready for you, no matter what.

magical book recommendation:

love in the time of cholera, by gabriel garcia marquez

there’s a lot to love about this book, particularly what i think is one of the most vivid endings ever written.

19. 19? 19!

i enjoy weddings.  i like to put on a fancy party dress, eat tiny foods, and toast to happiness with champagne.  i like to sit at tables with place cards, hoard minty candy favors, and get really weepy, even if i don’t know the bride and groom that well.  i.  love.  it.  LOVE.

but the that i love MOST about weddings happens at a certain point in the evening when i look around and realize that everyone around me is exceptionally sweaty and maybe a little overserved from the open bar. and then i realize maybe i am also sweaty and overserved.  and suddenly, without warning, the greatest thing in the world happens.  and that great thing, of course, is this:

magic.  there is no other word for it.  at that moment in time (and, now that i am 30 and have been around the wedding block at least 17 or so times, this moment has happened on many occasions), this song is represents everything that is amazing in the world.  there is nothing else that matters!  i stop whatever i am doing, even if it is talking to my own grandma at my own wedding (yes, true), and i RUN TO THE DANCE FLOOR AS FAST AS MY STUMPY LEGS WILL TAKE ME, and i BELT it out WITH my eyes CLOSED, pumping my fist in DELIGHT!

STRANGERS WAITING!  UP AND DOWN THE BOULEVARD!

THEIR SHADOWS SEARCHIN IN THE NIIIIIGHT

STREETLIGHTS, PEOPLE!  LIVIN JUST A SOMETHING SOMETHING

what does this say about me, besides that i am hugely ridiculous and that my dad will refuse to be seen in public with me, now that i have very publicly admitted my love for journey?  the answer is this: although i am pretty much a shy librarian type, i love an epic.  anything gigantic or over the top?  move over, i’m jumping on that bandwagon!  (another example: red sox.  eighth inning.  sweet caroline.)  this love for drama might be the only reason my body and mind survived the biggest obstacle that marathon training has thrown at me yet: the epic of 19 miles.

it all started on the saturday before last.  for those of you in the boston area, you might remember this as the beginning of the great deluge of 2010.  at the time, i wasn’t aware that we were going to get so much rain that the park at the end of our old street would flood and people would be able to float a boat in it (yes, also true).  i mean, i kind of knew that it was going to rain, but whatever.  whoop dee effing doo, that’s what i said.

that morning, i put on my freakazoid spandex suit, and coupled it with my sporty little running jacket.  that would protect me from the showers, i thought!  surely, i was in great shape!  i gathered the rest of my items, including the approximately 183 gu’s that i now have to carry with me in a fanny pack (i have a new system almost figured out that seems to serve my blood sugar pretty well– 1 gu and 10 jelly beans every 7 miles.  my dentist will be so pleased to hear this, i’m sure.), 183 packets of aforementioned jelly beans, gloves, and chocolate milk.  i was ready!

nandi and i met at the corner of our street, and we trekked to davis square and hopped on the T, with not a raindrop to be seen.  when we disembarked from the T in back bay, this was no longer the case.  fat drops cascaded from the sky, and i sighed mightily.  suddenly, i was not feeling so hearty.  after a quick team meeting in the little back bay gymnasium where we hang our hats, we set off into the rainy, cold gloom.

trudge trudge trudge

trudge trudge trudge

through the windy streets of back bay, over the arthur fiedler footbridge, and to the esplanade i ran, accompanied by my fellow rain warriors nandi, kelly, lisa, and a lovely woman who i think might be named teresa, but i am terrible with names, and teresa is my mom’s name, so maybe i just want this to be this woman’s name, because i love my mom.  anyways.  the first five or so miles went well enough.  the weather was colder than i had anticipated, though, and i began to regret my wardrobe choice of a too-short short-sleeved shirt under my sporty little running jacket.

and then i began to really regret it.

right around mile 5, i began to feel an unpleasant tugging on my stomach.  uneasily, i peeked under my too-short shirt.  sure enough, rain was flying up under it and soaking my stomach, which is a pretty sensitive area for me, because this is where my pump and blood sugar sensor are connected to my body.  (click here for a helpful visual.)  the pump looked fine, but the sensor was a completely different story.  because it’s kind of a hefty piece of machinery, it doesn’t really just cling to my body weightlessly, like my pump does.  instead, the sensor needs to be stuck to my tum with a large piece of tape that is pretty similar to the tape that hospitals use to affix IVs.  because the tape had gotten so wet in the first five miles of our journey, it had started to shrivel up and peel off.  what’s worse is that since the sensor wasn’t being held snugly into place with the tape, it was sort of bouncing around.  and what’s worse than THAT (please don’t read the rest of this paragraph if you are eating or have a weak stomach), is that since the sensor was bouncing around, the tiny little site where the sensor enters my stomach was grossly bleeding.  not gushing, mind you.  but still, not pleasant to even look at, much less run 14 more miles with.

but, as i have continually been proving to myself over the past four months of training, i am one tough cookie, and i am also one stubborn cookie.  so i stopped for a minute, smoothed out the gross old shriveled tape as best as i could, and then tucked my too-short shirt into my freakazoid spandex pants, thinking that if the tape stayed dry-ish for the rest of the run, i would be okay.  and it worked!  now, i don’t really like to toot my own horn, but man!  let me just have this moment:

trudge trudge trudge

trudge trudge trudge

after a few more miles, two things happened.  first of all, we crossed over to the cambridge side of the river, and the wind ceased to be at our backs.  instead, driving pellets of rain flew into our eyes and mouths, and gusts of winds pushed us back with obnoxious force.  secondly, i began to get really thirsty.  normally, on our team runs, volunteers can be found along the route, staffing little card tables filled with dixie cups of water.  however, on this run, fewer volunteers than normal had turned up, which i totally understand because by this point, it was pretty much a MONSOON.  had i been thinking harder that morning, i would probably have anticipated this reality, and brought some water with me on the run.  but nope!  i was at the mercy of the two waterstops we did have.

the first waterstop was magical.  staffed by nandi’s beau, the toyman, and his great pal gary, it my run’s equivalent to hearing “don’t stop believin’.”  i could not have been happier as i gulped three or four tiny dixie cups of delicious delicious water, and i could not have been more appreciative of the two amazing guys who stood in a rainstorm for over an hour just to provide our team with said dixie cups of water and encouragement.  i hope that there is a special place in heaven for these two grand men, along with a special place in heaven reserved for tiny puppies and ponies, and everything else that is adorable.  clarification: it doesn’t have to be the same place in heaven.  i just hope that all these things wind up in heaven.

trudge trudge trudge

trudge trudge trudge

on and on we ran.  my sensor situation was behaving as well as it could– i kept checking my shirt, but it managed to stay mostly tucked in a la steve urkel, and therefore, mostly dry.  at one point, kelly started speeding up a little bit.  and so, if you know me at all, you know that i then had to speed up too.  kelly recently wrote an excellent explanation of this behavior, which i will now quote.  the astute kelly writes, “Laura and I both grew up participating in competitive Dr. Mario Nintendo tournaments with our fathers. This probably explains our similar running styles: try to keep up with the other person, and say nothing when the pace is slightly quicker than you might otherwise run by yourself. Oh yeah–and if there is even an ounce of energy left in a single muscle of your body, sprint the last few yards to the finish line in a not-so-subtle attempt to cross before the other person.”

yeah, that’s basically how it is.  now, kelly was quite a little speedster on that 19-miler, so i was focusing all of my thought and energy on keeping up with her.  which may explain why i simply missed the next water stop on our journey.  i plumb didn’t see it!  and kelly didn’t either.  so off we went, quiet competitors trying to outgut one another, and still breathe and move with the monsoon trying to blow us off course.

“surely,” i gasped, “things will improve when we cross to the other side of the river!”

over the longfellow bridge we trudged.  by this point we had about 13 or so miles done, and were beginning to get a little ridiculous.  so we started to try and recall all of the various merits and drawbacks of the super mario brothers 1, 2, and 3 nintendo games.  it was a very involved conversation that i really think you can only seriously conduct while attempting to run an ungodly amount of mileage.  we even discussed how cute mario looked in his random little teddy bear suit in mario 3!  (does anyone know what the purpose of that suit was?  we didn’t.)

“wow!” i thought as we approached the hatch shell, “we’re almost there!”

i need to stop being optimistic, i think.  as soon as i said this, the WORST wind EVER howled out of nowhere, slapping us in the face and almost lifting us off the ground.  but we soldiered on, little happy nintendo conversation forgotten.

the last six miles of this run were a level of difficult that i have never before experienced.  i was parched, yet drenched.  my sensor hurt, my blood sugar was dropping, and my hands were so frozen that i couldn’t even open my jelly bean packets.  (thanks, kelly!)  but we kept going.  as we hit mile 17, i hit the wall for the first time in my running career.  every step felt terrible, and although nothing specifically really hurt, i just felt like i didn’t have anything left to give.

that’s when i saw the man on the bike.  and that’s also when i started screaming at him.  he wasn’t close enough to hear me, luckily, because i am pretty sure that i would’ve gotten my @$$ kicked if he had.  but man, was he annoying me.  why?  well, he wasn’t pedaling fast enough.  no, he wasn’t in our way.  but looking at him wobbling along in the distance made me so ANGRY that i couldn’t help but scream.

“kelly!  make that man speed up!  why won’t he speed up?  HE’S MAKING ME SO SAD!”  i howled in the windy, rainy, messy monsoon.

kelly managed to keep her wits about her, and just sort of looked at me questioningly.  we soldiered on.  and on.  and ON.

finally, we crossed over the fiedler footbridge and headed back towards the finish.

“kelly,” i said, tentatively, “do you think that maybe we should run 19.2 miles, just in case my GPS watch isn’t giving us the exact right mileage, and we can be totally sure that we did this?”

“um, okay…” she said quietly and slowly, the way that one might talk to a rabid dog or rearing horse.  clearly, at this point, i had gone all kinds of crazy.  together we ran, using every ounce of our strength to propel us to the end of our crazy journey.  (and, just in case you’re wondering, we did try to race those final steps, but it ended in a tie.)

talk about epic.

book recommendation:

into thin air: a personal account of the mount everest disaster, by jon krakauer

i was so obsessed with this book that i stalked a sherpa.  really, i just went to the museum to see a sherpa speak about this amazing trek, but still, i was obsessed enough to be a stalker.  seriously, though, folks, this is a remarkable read.  krakauer does a fantastic job of reporting the facts in the context of a thrilling story.  i think that it’s his best work, hands down.