Monday, October 5, 2015

Vermont 50 race report

I hope you took you Claritin or Zyrtec.The dust coming off of this blog has to be horrifying. I would apologize but obviously I'm not REALLY sorry because, well, if I really was I would blog more.

BUT... just over a week ago there was a blog-worthy event and I've had a few requests to share more info. I ran my very first ultra race, the Vermont 50. That 50 stands for Miles... and Kilometers. And  you better believe that I ran the K, not the M! I thought I might get to 40 miles in 24 hours but the 3 I ran the day before only took me to 34. And I didn't run 6 more miles after the finish line. Oh well.

Much of the race was so amazing it seemed fake. Vermont was SOOO Vermont in the very best Vermonty way. The weather was SOOO late September in New England in the very best late September in New England-y way. The Best Running Friend was SOOO badass and fierce and supportive in only way my BRF knows how to be.

This was my first trail race. My first ultra. My first true post-Boston challenge. I had a training schedule that I did a mostly good job of following. The actual mileage I ran each week was not much different than training for 26.2 (a 50K is 31 miles... "only 10 5Ks!") The most I ran in a week was maybe 45 miles. The difference was that I tried to get out on trails as much as possible and all of my 'speed' work was spent going up hills and (carefully) down to prepare for the climbs and descents. I also ran long on Saturday and with a moderately paced hour long run on Sunday to get used to working on tired legs. Tuesdays and Thursdays were always 'short' (45 minute to 90 minutes) easy runs and Wednesdays were the hills. I over did some trails along the way and had to cut back some now and again but overall, the mileage was there.

Granted, if  the called for a run between an hour and fifteen - an hour forty-five I ALWAYS did 1:15. And when it called for  strength training on low mileage days I always did it... for the first few weeks. But my great intentions were once again thwarted by the reality of my life: I can strength train OR I can train for a marathon +. There's just no scenario where I'm gonna do both.

Lauren, my dearest BRF, had sort of the opposite situation. She now works for a company which promotes health and wellness. They offer many fitness classes to their employees. She very wisely takes full advantage of the strength and agility programs. Let me tell you, she looks amazing... do NOT challenge her to arm wrestling, kids! But, she told me she had not put in the mileage she should have before this race. She was pretty worried and told me after the race, fairly certain she would not finish. (Spoiler alert: she finished and was strong as hell!)

Horrifying before pic in car. The phone didn't come w me on the trail, which means I missed a lot of amazing pics.
I have of course almost completely forgotten the details of the race. I will mention the only negative from my POV: the mountain bikers were terrorizing. Though I'm quite certain they didn't mean to be. This race started as a 50M bike race so even though they started in waves at 6AM, they were out on the course, too. A very large chunk of the course was 'single track' and so we spent many miles watching our backs and leaping into the bushes/trees/rocky hedges/etc. out of their way. Maybe the least ideal aspect of the whole thing. We even had one young rider who I think was German-speaking fall over right in front of us. I was really worried about her for a minute but she leaped right up pretty quickly. I'm guessing we lost several minutes because of the need to take shelter on the side of the course. But unlike famous (in my head) ultrarunner/singer Meghan Trainor, I am not "All About The Pace" when it comes to this race.

The best part of the race was the course. A little bit of dirt road, a little bit of grassy fields, and a LOT of true trail running, much of it single-track. We used the wisdom of the crowd and - especially in the first half of the race - walked up the steep hills we saw others walking up. By the second half we had a better sense of what we could handle and did quite a bit of passing on the hills. There were many miles of switch backs up and down the trails and I found that to be just way cool. Parts of the course were mildly nerve wracking due to the drop offs and the footing. (If I had been one of the people on a bike I literally would have DIED, because my nerves would have led me straight over the edge of one of the cliffs!) We were super lucky that the weather had been dry for a few weeks because in the past the runners and bikers have faced some really unfortunate shoes-going-into-muddy-bogs-but-not-coming-out-with-the-owners-foot situations. We definitely lucked out on that score!

Oddly enough our least favorite part of the course was the road stretches. Don't get me wrong, they were top notch rural gorgeous-ness... but despite our self reminders, something about the relative flat and wide stretches made us want to up the pace. Which we did. Which was just NOT the way to go on such a gorgeous Sunday meant for long, slow ascents and descents.

A word about aid stations: YUM! The variety and deliciousness offered at each spot was fabulous. I indulged in everything from boiled potatoes (chopped into small pieces which I dipped in salt) to peanut butter cups, to watermelon (never has such an amazing fruit existed than a watermelon during an ultra race!), coke, pb and j... and I'm sure the I had some M and Ms. Lauren was the Gummy Bear queen. The volunteers happily and helpfully filled our water bottles if we were carrying them. As you approached each station you could almost convince yourself it was the finish line, such was the enthusiasm of the assembled crowd. Many of the stations had a section for runner drop bags. I had placed mine at mile 13.4-ish. It had spare socks and shirts and Tylenol and band aids and Vaseline and chapstick and.... NOT the ONE thing Lauren asked me to have: home made peanut butter 'protein bites'. (I had them but left them in the car. OOPS!) Because the weather so epic-ly perfect, we didn't need to change our shirts or socks.

The final aid station was just a 5K from the finish. We were feeling really strong and pushed ourselves to get there 'fast' to finish under 7 hours. I did not have my GPS app running because I knew coverage would be so sketchy, but Lauren's Garmin was handling the remote area just fine. As we bombed past lots of folks (and once even literally bursting out into "THE HILLLSSS ARE ALLLIIIIVEEEE" because out of the woods and into a meadow it was that.freaking.spectacular!) I always find myself to be highly amusing but after running for more than 26 or so miles I am the most hilarious creature that has ever strode the earth. Just ask me. So, we were feeling amazing and passing all kinds folks who were decidedly NOT feeling amazing and I began singing that well known ballad/drinking song "The Legend of Lauren and Phoebe". I wish I could remember the words but believe-you-me, it was something George Gershwin and Carol King and Taylor Swift WISH they had written.

Maybe inspired by my singing (but probably in an effort to be DONE with it) Lauren really turned on the overdrive at this point. We had been passing people before this but at this point she was Goucher-esque in her speedy splendor.

Lauren: All we have to do is 15 minute miles and we'll finish in under 7 hours. And we are under that now.

Phoebe: You mean we are faster than that, right?

Lauren: No. We are slower than that.

WHAT!?!!? This was the saddest/funniest moment of the race. I truly felt like we were FLYYYING over these trails and yet in reality were going s.............l.............o..............w...............!

It's all relative.

In the end, we DID manage to get our under-7 hour finish. Lauren had run one 50K before this and we managed to get her a PR, so that's cool.

Post race we decided to skip the ice cold (but free) showers and just get our food, which was amazing. The only missing element was beer. Rats!

It was a great race. I am not in a hurry to train for that distance again but I am definitely going to stick with trail races if I can help it. Who needs 8 minute pace when you are getting passed when you can do 15 minute pace and feel like an Olympian?!

After, before food.
I liked the chili.

OMG the food was soooo good!

After w medals. Lauren got cleaned up and I said, "feh... I'm driving home solo so I"ll stink if I want to."

Saturday, May 9, 2015

People of Panera: We are SO SO SO sorry

Today promised to be a busy but wonderful day for Team Giessler. Scott & the big kids were set to spend the morning and early afternoon at William Lawrence Camp for the annual camp clean up. The kids would get a chance to hang out all day with some of their camp buds and (kinda) pitch in with raking and stick retrieval. Scott would presumable find something slightly more Varsity level to clean/rake/mow/haul. The late afternoon would find Scott getting cleaned up and heading to Wolfeboro for the annual Promenade, where he would announce the couples before they headed onto the boat for their lake cruise/prom. (He's a killer MC, in case you were wondering). Then, he and Elliott would head to the movies to see The Avengers. Due to great weather, good food, and plenty of pals for the kids to play with, the first part of their day seems to have gone as planned. As I write we are on phase 2: the prom. The weather remains delightful (if a bit buggy) so I foresee nothing but smooth sailing for Scott's & Elliott's evening.

For the smallest Giessler and me, the bright and early morning found us heading over to school for our running club's annual 5K. Gabe is a veteran of this race, having been in or at it for 3 years straight. I am always a little worried about how he will handle a whole lot of hanging around but he was a champion. While we waited for the start, he played pretty delightfully on his own for entire minutes at a time, then would come to me and in a Hollywood Adorable voice and with Disney-worthy eyes say, "Mommy, do you want to come play with me?" And of course I would until he seemed at ease on his own and again, where upon I would return to 'helping' get ready for the race. (I showed up early but honestly, I was not very helpful! Sorry to our RD, Carol!)

The race itself was great, too. I had run the course with Gabe on Thursday (with 11-years-old-but-still-very-unsure-on-his-bike-because-we-live-in-boonies-and-bike-riding-requires-cars-and-travel-to-safe-places-where-children-won't-die-and-frankly-we-just-never-made-it-a-priority-until-a-couple-of -weeks-ago-when-he-came-to-us-so-very-upset-because-it-was-humiliating-that-he-was-so-bad-on-his-bike-even-though-he-was-11-for-the-love-of-god) after school when it was very hot. (All things being relative). Keeping my eye on Tom and keeping myself hydrated was a struggle, but I finished the course not loving the time on the clock. Oh,well. But today, the weather was beautiful for a 5K and we trotted along very happily. The stroller gave me a mental edge, in that I felt not obligation to go fast and I just trotted comfortably. (Fun fact: I ran  mile 1 in 8;31 and miles 2 & 3 at the EXACT same pace: 8:12. I am Robot.) Gabe was very agreeable for the whole race, if a little chatty. He was even very agreeable waiting around for awards. He accepted my 2nd-in-age-group award and got a special certificate for his own 'participation'.

Many of my friends and co-workers commented on how sweet he was and what a good boy he was for the whole, long morning. Wasn't I a lucky mama? (If these conversations were shadows, they would all be named Fore.)
He said we were # 3, 2, 1. So smart! 
We loaded up post-race and headed to our next destination: grocery store. He threw a small (but welcome) wrench into the works by falling asleep in the car. Naps are almost never a bad thing so I decided to drive past  the store I was going to hit and go to one further along. If you can help it, you obviously never want to interrupt a kid's nap! Gabe has a history of being awakened mid-nap and things not going well. I was starving by the time he (cheerfully) woke up so I decided we would hit Panera first, then shop. Thank goodness he woke up of his own accord so we wouldn't have any meltdowns. (There's that shadow again!)

Into Panera we go. Into the bathroom we go. I go. He goes. But he is doing a slow version of his business. Lots of chatter and some #2. Oh, well. It's fine. Until a mom with a baby comes in and I hear through the handicap stall door, "Oh, is there a changing table in there?"


Okay, Gabe. You need to hurry up now because a baby needs this stall.

I'm not done. (I'm not convinced of this. I think he's just chilling).

I know, honey, but please push-push-push and finish so the baby can get her diaper changed.

I'm not done! (Seriously. He is done. He's messing with me.... But what if he's not?)

Okay. I know. Just do your best.

I'm! Not! Done!

(Reader, you think is the bad part don't you? Oh, how I wish!)

Okay, honey, I'm just going to lift you up super quick and put you on the other toilet. There's no one in the other stall. We'll just scoot over there.

(A perfectly maneuvered, bare butt, pants down transition to stall #2. His butt and pants, not mine, FYI. The baby's mom was very grateful.)


All of his language, at this point, became incomprehensible.

He was loud. He was angry.

He had his pants down and he was sitting on the floor.

Eventually I gathered that he wanted me to get out of the stall. He does plenty of solo bathroom trips at home so I thought this was a reasonable request, even if it was requested in a most unreasonable manner.

Then? He locked me out.

And continued to scream.

And rolled over on his belly - pants still down - so that his tiny junk was all over the floor.

And he screamed some more and got, if it's possible, even louder.

I stood outside the stall extremely calmly, all things considered. When he took it down to jumbo jet decibel levels, I soothingly suggested he open the door so we could go get some lunch.

More incomprehensible screaming.

Good freaking Lord. I still did not panic. I found the whole thing a little bit amusing. I mean, I've been in the Mom biz for 11+ years. I've raised my own kids and to some extent taken care of dozens more if you count babysitting gigs, nieces, nephews, and my years as a daycare provider. And THIS? THIS was brand new. I was pretty impressed that he found a way to surprise me.

I wish I could report that my very rational, loving, empathetic talk on the other side of the door had done the trick. I also wish I could report that 5 or 6 customers did not come into the rest room and find us in that state. Sadly, I can report neither.

I CAN report that I never freaked out or yelled and I never even felt like I had to FORCE myself to stay calm. I truly just pondered the unique nature of the situation I found myself in.

Eventually, I had to slide under the stall, pull up his pants, unlock the door and extract him from the restaurant. He did not love that. I did not love that. I failed to look closely at the restaurant patrons and workers to see where the whole sitch fell for them on the 'loving it' scale. I'll assume they found  my parenting method both insightful and inspiring. Possibly award-worthy. Yup. I'll just assume that....

Outside, he wanted to get as far away from me as possible. Some form of Safety First training was still inside his Reptilian Brain because he ran away from me but stayed out of the parking lot, so there's that. He continued to scream words and demands I could not comprehend, but eventually, huddled behind an evergreen bush, he said something I could understand:

I. Want. Ice. Cream!

Now he was talking my language!

I want ice cream, too! How about we go get some lunch and then go get some ice cream! Does that sound good?

More sobbing but he walked over to me and collapsed into my arms.

Yeah. I know. I totally rewarded a fit, maybe. But the reward was after he ate a healthy lunch and after we spent about an hour in the grocery store. So, I like to think of it as verbally rewarding a fit but by the time the reward actually came, he did not associate it with the fit.

There's something about this 3-year-old and waking up from naps. It's not good. Not good at all.

Good news is, what ever my Mother's Day brings, I'll feel I have earned it!

P.S. Hilariously, as I was about to hit "publish" on this, Gabe went running into the bathroom. Diarrhea. A little in his undies cuz he couldn't get the bathroom door open in time "When you're walking down the hall and feel something fall..." Happy Mother's Day, all!!!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Perfect. Part 3: Return of the Jedi (Or, Beyond the finish line)

 If you if missed Part 1 (leading up to the race) or Part 2 (race day through the finish line), and you want the full experience, click these links.

The main thing you need to know about life after we crossed the finish line is that the weather became a factor. Despite the cold rain and wind through the course, it was mostly a nuisance but never a real problem. One detail I left out of Part 2 was that I lost one of my gloves during the port-o-potty stop – my full proof plan of stuffing them in my bra was not-so-full proof after all, I guess. After that I had to keep switching the remaining glove back and forth between hands, which was kind of a pain but not overwhelmingly so. Mostly it was just my hands that felt it during the run, and never too badly.

So. Cold. We took a quick selfie, got our medals, got a couple of pics with the official photographer and a random photographer asked to take a pic of my bib number because he had taken a picture of the sign I was wearing on my back and wanted to be able to identify me later. (This comes into play later…) then shuffled to the table where the Merciful, Amazing, Generous, Lifesaving Volunteers were literally dressing people in the ‘space blankets’. This was fantastic but it was also just not enough for me.

Meanwhile I had called Scott to check in and received a call from a teacher at my school. I could not hear what she was saying but I assumed it was not “Hey, we can’t get the printer to work!” (I was right. They were calling to say they saw my finish and give me a big cheer. Yay!) . I was incapable of dialing or maneuvering  my phone in anyway at that point.  Lauren used the phone to call Mike, who you may recall was near the finish line and we eventually shuffled our way to where he and their 11-year-old twins were waiting. Sometime in between all of that, my phone went dead.

Again. Cold. Both Lauren and I were shivering and a little brain dead by the time we found Mike. One volunteer looked at me skeptically and asked “Do you need help?” I guess I looked like a felt. I knew that I was not in a great shape, but I knew that help was nearby, so I said “no thanks”. Mike and the kids, now located, shuffled us inside a very crowded Dunkin Donuts. Now, I don’t hate Dunkin Donuts. But I do think most of their food is not very good for us and I try to avoid going there if I have other options. In this case, however, Dunkin Donuts was Shangri-La. Heaven on Earth. It saved me from the med tent and possibly hours of getting cleared for exit.

Another detail I left out of yesterday’s post was that somewhere between the hotel lobby and the car we took to Athletes’ Village, my ‘emergency’ $20 bill got lost. The Cadys saved my bacon (ironic for a vegetarian, eh?) by buying me a hot chocolate/coffee at Shangri-La. I mean Dunkies.  They also all decided that I was in worse shape than Lauren and so I would get the down jacket that Mike had carried around for Lauren all day. Bacon Double Saved! We spent a good 20 or so minutes in there (I threw away the nasty single glove/snot wiper I was still carrying) and then decided it was time to walk to the T.

The Green Line, which was closest to us, promised to be complete chaos so despite the longer walk, we chose to head to the Red Line. It was not exactly a pleasant stroll but it was really good for our bodies to walk for a while and I was definitely no longer in danger.  I did, however , really really have to (you’ll never guess…) PEE. So, we headed into a Peet’s Coffee shop on Newbury Street. I had no compunction about  heading in, going, and heading out without being a paying customer. (Rules of etiquette  fly out the window when you are have just run really, really far). Mike, however, is a better human than I am so he bought a drink for himself and Ali so we were legit costumers. Thrice, bacon salvaged!

Finally, we made it to the Red line and took the train out to the Cady’s car and they drove me to the hotel where my family was waiting for me. I said good bye to the Cadys (have I mentioned how grateful I am to them?) and headed to Mom and Dad’s room. They were staying over another  night so I got the chance to take a Top 10 shower of my life. Post-marathon showers are up there with post childbirth showers, in case you are looking for where they are on the scale of amazing-ness. (Only a mild amount of chafing, so it was all pleasure and no pain, thank goodness!) 

(In another "d'oh!" moment, when I was getting undressed for the shower, the glove that I 'lost' during my port-o-potty stop fell to the ground. Who knew it could get lost in my very-modestly-sized bra?!?!)

It was about 6PM when we were ready to go. The boys and Scott had eaten a very late lunch so we got in the car and just headed toward home. The ride seemed long but it wasn’t. We were home around 8PM, got the kids in bed, unpacked ‘enough’ and finally, around 9PM. I sat down with a plate of nachos. And then I had another plate of nachos. And if I weren’t so darn tired, I would have had a THIRD plate. So YUMMY!

During all of this eating and unpacking, I was, naturally checking social media to let people know how things went and accept generous mountains of good wishes and support. Then, unexpectedly, I saw a FB post from Kevin Sperling, a runner friend who now lives in Oregon, letting me know that I “made Runner’s World”. WHAT? Turns out that photographer who took the pic of my back at the finish line was actually from Reuters. The picture went through the wire services and, apparently, Runners World dug it. The sign said, “Stick with me. I’m gonna finish the top 30!! (Thousand….)” A few folks chatted with me on the course about it and I was happy it lifted some spirits. But I was flabbergasted the Runners World had it on their site. I went to bed feeling pretty awesome.

The next morning I woke up to see a Facebook post from my friend, Josh Spaulding (local sports reporter and theater pal) that said I had made the front page of the Manchester Union Leader.


Later I found that the picture was the second in a series of 85 on’s photo gallery of the race. Adam Kaufman, a sports writer for (and many other media outlets) also mentioned me in his commentary of the race.  "(Thank you ) You, with the paper on your back reading, “Stick w/ME. I’m gonna finish in the top 30!!! (Thousand…)


It was great to transition back into real life while still having trickles of this ‘celebrity’ hitting me. It may not be obvious from my posts but I am not exactly afraid of attention from strangers.

So, here’s The Big Lesson I learned from this race, the lesson that can be applied to most of life, is thus:

“If you can’t be first, try to be funny.”

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Perfect. Part 2: Race Day

To hear about the couple of practically perfect days we made prior to Marathon Monday, check out Part 1 of this post. Here, we begin with the Big Day.

After two beautiful Boston days with cool-but-not-cold temps and delicious sunshine, race day dawned blustery and cold, as forecast. Lauren spent a hilarious amount of time deciding between wearing running tights or shorts. She decided on the tights. Definitely the tights. Until she changed her mind and it was obvious that she should wear the shorts. But then again, tights might be better... Spoiler alert: she wore the shorts and it was the right call.

I had not prepared for the windy, raw weather in my packing so I made an impulse buy at (Won't You Take Me To...) NIKETOWN on Sunday. I was aghast at the $110 price tag for women's tights... and then I went upstairs and found the girls' section. Not quite as high quality, maybe, but I scored a pair of size large capri tights for $30. Coulda been cheaper at Target or Kohls, but I was not in a Kohls-adjacent vicinity. And I will wear them a million times more.

Lauren snapped a pic of me so my friends and family could try to spot me on the live finish line webcam. You will note the pink, which is in honor of my cousin, Polly and the many other breast cancer patients we have known and loved. You can see the pink boxing glove hanging off my bib number. It's from a "Fight Like a Girl" party that was held for Polly after she told her cancer had returned.

The shirt is Lauren's and it is Team in Training, a fundraising marathon training group. They do great work.... I felt like a tool on the race course bc many people cheered for me because of the shirt. Gah! I am a fraud!
We had breakfast in the hotel. It was a buffet-breakfast-comes-with-the-room-but-we-are-going-to-bill-you-for-it-and-see-if-you-notice situation. Really delicious stuff, actually, but kind scummy/scammy IMHO.
Final 'click' before we hit the shuttle.
Caught up with the boys & Scott briefly before we headed out. Sweet, sweet boys!
Sweet, sweet husband.
With plenty of extra layers for tossing, we headed to the lobby where we had signed up for the shuttle to the starting line. It was well worth the $20 because it meant we didn't need to take the long T ride into Boston, board a school bus, and then take the REALLY long bus ride back out to Hopkinton. Some nice chatter with other runners of various ages, goals and talkativeness. (I was NOT the most yackity on the ride, believe it or not!)

One wrinkle was that the driver was not able to get us to Athletes' Village. Like, not even CLOSE. Like, over a MILE away. This would have been OK because we had plenty of time, but Lauren and I HAD. TO. PEE! We seriously thought about making pals with a friendly neighborhood tree or shrub, when we came upon this beauty:

It was kind of like a locally owned Whole Foods. Totally clean. Totally empty of customers. Totally no questions asked . It was PERFECT and made the rest of the long walk much  more bearable. 
Empty of bladder, we made the rest of the walk to Athletes' Village quite happily. We went through security, paused for pics, and headed straight for... the portapotty line. Where we waited in line for slightly longer than forever and Lauren said something like, "I just hope it doesn't start raining until we get to the starting line." (FORESHADOWING!) We pee'd and then... got RIGHT back into the portapotty line. Yes, that seems like a lot of peeing but believe it or not, by the time we got to the front, we had to go AGAIN. It 's a very special super power. Don't question it.

Set Your Dorkness to 11.

Final Prerace Selfie. Who's worried?

When our Wave (3) was called to the starting line, I was startled and delighted by how many folks from the neighborhood were out and cheering for us... and we were JUST walking to the start. The volunteers were just as positive, offering to take any clothes were ready to ditch (they collect them for donation). Before we knew it, it was raining (See: FORESHADOWING) and Lauren and I were both cursing her previous comment. 

And then, we started. 

Much has been said about the Boston Marathon course. Mostly, as far as runners are concerned, are Heartbreak Hill and "It starts off with a lot of downhills so you have to hold yourself back a little.

I'll get to the former thought later, but about the latter, I gotta say - never, ever, did I feel like I was holding myself back. I had a nice taper of 3 or so weeks so I should have felt like my horses were jumping to get out of the gates. I didn't. I didn't exactly feel like I was pushing it, but I also did not feel like I wanted to go faster.

Truth be told, I think I had two opposite things happening as the gun went off. I was the most psychologically and emotionally ready for the this marathon than any other I had done. IT was the Big Thing. IT was the dessert I got to enjoy after working so hard to qualify (again)... to recover from The Fall... to survive the Bastard Known As Winter 2014-15. I just wanted to get on the course with the other athlete's and live the race at long last.

But, I was also the least physically fit I had ever been before a marathon. I knew I could get through the course, that was not a concern, but I also knew this was not going to be a speedy effort. All of the issues from the above paragraph pretty straight-forwardly explain why I maybe wasn't my tip-top best. I am not sad or annoyed with myself about this. I don't think I had a lot of better options for getting myself in PR shape. I'm just, ya know, sayin'....

Anyway, the race goes off and sometime in the first mile Lauren and I dare to maneuver ourselves out of our extra clothes and get them over to the side for charity collection. I immediately realize I have to pee. Great. A few miles tick by. I am noticing plenty of the downhills people talk about, but I'm also noticing that there's no lack of uphills either. Huh. Also I am noticing that it never completely stops raining and neither does the wind ever really stop blowing.

I pretty much did exactly what I had set out to do: soak it in. The first mile of the marathon alone had more spectators and energy than any other race I have ever done. Like, all 26.2 miles of any other race. It was a feeling of triumph and joy

The mass of heads going East in down the road is just breathtaking. I've seen pictures of it but there's nothing like seeing it in real life. I know it wasn't a million people, but honestly, if you had asked me and I had know idea that there were "only" 7,000 or so people in that wave, I would have guessed the number to be in the hundreds of thousands. Like Barbie said, "Math is hard."

Lots of the early part of the course goes through towns where people are already up and partying. Biker bars, front lawns, churches... it's amazing. There are plenty of less populated areas, too, which make a girl strongly consider finding a shrub to squat behind. 

I asked Lauren a couple of times what our pace was and she said we were at 8:45 or 9:00 or whatever. I still really had to pee. I was still loving all the humanity around me (guy dressed as Olaf; guy who was running the course for the 26th time, and oh, this was his second time THAT day because he started at 4AM at the finish line, turned around and was not heading back; mobility impaired runners with their guides....), the chatter from runners and spectators (including Santa Claus and a very inebriated dude carrying a beer down the street and trying to give a pep talk to a runner who was clearly having a very had day out there), the little kids looking for high fives and giving their count as they competed with their friends to score them. But, I still really really had to pee!

Finally... finally!... around mile 9 or so there were a row of port-o-potties that didn't seem to be all occupied. By then Lauren said she would like to go too, so we scooted off the road and there, like an Angel from Heaven, was a volunteer pointing out to runners which johns were unoccupied. (Whoever she is, she might be my favorite person on earth. She definitely was at that moment!)

Our strategy to take in energy gels every 5 miles went well. I discovered along the way that I could not deal with whatever flavor of Gatorade they were serving (Buuurp with a little barf. Nice!) so I stuck with water after that. Nothing hurt too much. The Wellesley 'scream' was fantastic and I blew kisses to lots of young ladies whose mothers would not at all like the suggestive signs they were holding up. Tsk tsk. (Titter, titter). But this whole time I was only thinking of mile 17, cuz that's where where my family would be. And there they were!

Poor Gabe. It was so wet and so cold. He was a trooper. His dad was a straight up Miracle Worker. (Mom took these pics, not me... in case you were confused...)

I asked for a banana. They came bearing bananas. Four of them, actually!

Mom and Dad were down the road a bit from Scott and the boys so I am searching for them here, while trying to eat a banana.

There was a barrier but I wanted at least grab my parents hands to connect with them. mission accomplished! 
That encounter gave me a great boost, but things don't get much easier in a marathon after mile 17. They get harder. And of course, this is where the Real Hills began. Thankfully, this is also where living in a very hilly region of our fine nation really pays off. There's no such thing as a training run around here that is not also a hill run. The Newton Hills were no joke, but Lauren and I pounded up each one, focused and passing folks all over the place. And remember, we were passing people who started the race around the same time we did, which means they had a qualifying time about the same or better than ours. POW! It was super hard but super motivating to never, ever stop.

Among the hills I was also looking forward to mile 20 where I knew another friend would be. Ellie is a lifelong family friend (formerly my babysitter, poor dear). She has been a Boston Regular for (sommmme??) years in order to support a friends who raises money (I THINK for Mass General, but I'm not sure...) through the race. She always cheers at mile 20. She is a music therapist with a theater streak a mile long so I heard her LOUD AND CLEAR when I came upon her. I even managed to scoot over to her and say "THIS IS OUR MOMENT!" because I promised her I wasn't gunning for a great time and I would try to get in a squeeze. Yay!

"I see Ellie!"
And then, guess what? The hills continued! And we continued to rock up them pretty well. Our running joke through the course was about how many miles we had left to run. At mile 13, for example, "Hey, Phoebe, you wanna do a half marathon today?" "Sure, just let me do a .1 mile warm up and we'll start." We cracked ourselves up with this many many times. When we hit mile 23, however, neither of us joked about having a 5K left. Neither of us found it amusing. We both HATE 5Ks because they are just hard hard hard all the way from start to finish. Nope. No 5K joke. We were not in a good place. I was, frankly, thinking, "Screw it. There's no reason to run faster. I'm gonna finish when I finish." But I also kept thinking of the kids at school waiting to watch me on the webcam. If I didn't cross before 3:15 or so they would not see me. I would be a tool!

But then, we hit Boston. And the crowds were getting more and more excited. And someone in the crowd said something I really needed hear: "YOU DIDN'T TRAIN YOUR ASS OFF THROUGH THIS CRAP WINTER JUST TO GIVE UP NOW!"

That did it. I focused and brought everything I had to the finish. Well, some of my energy went to the spectators, who I grinned at and fist pumped to get them cheering for me. We continued to pass lots of people at this point. We got to the mile to go mark and I felt like a rock star. (Okay, a tired, sweaty, stinky rock star. But a rock star none the less.) We got to Hereford, took that famous right turn and I started to get emotional. I am not really a crier, but I was just overwhelmed. We took the left on Boyleston and the finish line was in sight. WHAT??!?!?  At that moment, Lauren heard her name called in the crowd. It was her husband and kids!! She did not know they would be there. A beautiful surprise... and she almost turned back to talk to them - but we went on.

We were then just 30 or so yards from the finish line, realizing we made it in under 4 hours, when the announcer asked for... a moment of silence in honor of the victims from 2013.

Okay. I'll admit, my first thought was, WAIT! I want to whoop and be excited. This is not what I wanted at ALL!

Then I remembered when 2013 happened I said to anyone who would listen that the time the bombs went off would have been almost certainly the time I would have been crossing the finish line. I was right. They had the moment of silence at the exact times the bombs went off. I was crossing the finish line. Whoa. Goosebumps.

My confused/deflated feeling quickly subsided because literally when we were 1 step away from the line the announcer said, "And now let's hear a mighty roar" (or something like that, because what I heard was "Let's hear it for Phoebe & Lauren rocking this freakin' marathon and passing like a jillion people in the last 6 miles!!!!"

Yeah, pretty sure he said that.

3:57:20. Finish line photo. Jay Leno, you can have your chin back now....

I promised you a two-parter. And here I am way past my bedtime and I'm just getting to the end of the race. There's SO MUCH MORE to tell. So, Much. MORE!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Perfect, Part I

Outside of, say, Nadia Comaneci (millennial kids: look it up) I know that there's no such thing as perfect.

Next to "perfect" in the dictionary you may find her pic or pics of my Boston Marathon weekend.

Everyone... everything... every moment has flaws.But last Saturday - Monday were possibly the most perfect series of events I could ever have dreamed up. It's hard now to recall what I expected ahead of time. As with any highly anticipated event that I try to imagine a million times ahead of the Big Thing, I can never remember afterward what I thought it was going to be like. If I were to do the weekend justice, it would take 30 blog entries. I'm going to try to hit the highlights thru pictures.

Night before:
Signs created by a wonderful school family and signed by most of the kids and staff. Glad I left them home because they would have been wrecked in the rain. 

The pals who came to T's bday party Friday night. They had a blast and WERE a blast.

Trip down: Easy traffic. Quick lunch at Panera. Three (yes THREE) pee stops. (I take hydration seriously.)
Happy guys. Shining sun. (Tom was not actually sleeping...)

Hotel entry: Room was ready. Pool was warm. Boys were happy. Parents were happy.

Afternoon in Boston: Drove to T station. ALMOST didn't (but did) get a parking spot due to Red Sox game. Easy train ride in. Met up with Lauren and her family outside the Expo. Got my bib (poor Lauren left her ID in the car so didn't get hers till the next day). 

T selfie.... and it was T's 11th birthday!
One of my theater pals joked that I should have hoped for the # 24601. Les Miz fans get it.
Lauren's kiddo, Ty. (Twin sister Ali and Dad were off to the car on a wallet hunt...)

HA. It really said "Your Best Run Ever" but we are standing under "NEVER". 

We left the craziness of the Expo with all of our money still in our pockets (OH, the money you could spend!) and full of sample sized energy drinks and bars in our bellies. The TOP moment that afternoon came outside Expo. I saw Kathrine Switzer. THEEEEEE Kathrine First-Female-to-Register-and-Run-Boston-Marathon Switzer! She had clearly just finished giving a talk or something and was heading out. I was completely dumbfounded and giddy and literally speechless. I stupidly babbled and said nothing to her. It was just an amazing random moment that plopped us on the sidewalk by her. Talk with her or not, I was very very happy to have been in her presence. 

Next we headed to the finish line for lots of great photo opps:
Best photo of my LIFE?!
Finish line love
Just a few folks on the course....

We were starving at this point in the day and the train back out to our hotel was going to be at least 35 or 45 minutes. So we decided to hit a California Pizza Kitchen. STILL a long wait, so the boys enjoyed some of the energy chews that came in my swag bag. Note the very full mouths below.

Great crowds of runners at the restaurant as well as a table of wheel chair racers. That was pretty cool.

Everyone was tired but still speaking to each other on the way back to the hotel.
Sunday we went back into Boston for straight-up touristing at Faneuil Hall, Public Gardens, Boston Common. We had a couple of exciting Gabe's-gotta-pee-RIGHT-NOW moments and one classic 3-year-old-meltdown, but otherwise it was another great outing. As you can see from the photos the weather was perfection.

We called this the Friends' fountain. (It's not.)

Red Auerbach's cigar.

Bill Rodgers' shoes.

Quincy Market

Return train ride was quiet and restful.

When we got back to the hotel, my parents had arrived and were eating (a very late) lunch. We caught up for a while, rested, and headed (with Lauren) out for the carb-load/Tom's 11th birthday dinner at Bertucci's in Wellesley. Dinner took a little longer than it should have but the boys were fantastically patient and everything was just right. When we went back to the hotel, I abandoned Scott with the 3 boys and I went to Lauren's room where I had the luxury of a bed to myself and no kicking 3 year olds. We obsessed over what to wear for the race and I laid out the most important elements.

Part II will have to wait until tomorrow. Stay tuned, cuz that's RACE DAY and the aftermath! 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

26.2 People to Thank


Too little. Too late. But here's a long overdue acknowledgement of some of the people who have gotten me Monday's starting line.

26. Senator Birch Bayh. And all the other voices  behind Title IX, which was passed two years before I was born.

25. The coaches of Owego Scamps Gymnastics. Holly, Terry, Annie, Todd, Rich, Dave.... I know I am forgetting a bunch. But at the age of 5, I started gymnastics and therefore easily claimed the title of Athlete without any reservation. (Took me years to understand that claiming that title was difficult for some women. Huh).  I also learned early how to push myself and to be tougher than I want to be. Well, a little. I'm no Nadia....

24. Cyndy Hynes, Tony Bonilla, Kay Kushner. These were my volleyball coaches. I started playing in 7th grade and kept it up through my Freshman year in college. I was not particularly talented but found some success because of these coaches... and I happened to have fantastic teammates.

23. Julie Czerenda, Mickey Herzing, Coach VanDuzer. These were my track coaches from 7th - 11th grade. I had just enough speed and toughness to be almost OK in some races. They were patient with my adolescent drama and pushed me to keep coming back for more.

22. Lauren Jordy. My track coach senior year of high school. She gets her own billing because she was for SURE the reason I started running farther than, oh, 2 miles at a time. She had run Boston. She was wicked smaht. She thought I was pretty smaht, too, and thought if I got my head out of my own ass I could run a little faster and a LOT further. (She was smaht enough not to phrase it that way, blessedly). My roots of athleticism go back to age 5, but my roots of true running are planted right there with Lauren in the spring of 1992.

21. Allison Punger, Shannon Legge, Jodi Riggs, Katherine Ward, Sarah Centeno... and so many others. I am using these ladies' maiden names because these are the GIRLS I was with that senior year when running started to mean something to me. We ran relays together. We ran hills together (sometimes with lightning strikes for added 'zap'!). We ran to the ice cream store together.... I carry them in my heart when I run, too, and their presence makes me lighter. (P.S. Shannon is now Shannon Prasarn and GREAT GATSBY if she isn't the most rockin' fitness model you ever saw. Seriously. She could totally kick your ass. Thankfully she only uses her power for good.... as far as my FB intel can surmise...)

20. Kim Swartz. So Kim was Kim Atkins in high school and we played volleyball together.  But I use her married name here because now she helps inspire me as a runner. She has done a few 1/2 marathons and I love watching her progress. I always feel very supported by her, even though we live far apart. Her daughters (one of whom is named Phoebe! awwww!) sent me cards and bracelets when I first got injured. Just too kind.

19. Mickey Mouse. After the race, we have to head  back to real life for 4 days but then on Saturday we are heading to Disney World for a vacation with my in-laws. I would be lying if I said the idea of chilling in a Disney resort was not very appealing.

18. Jane and Eric Giessler. #20 would not be possible without the generosity of my father- and mother-in-law. They live far enough away to miss the kids a whole lot most of the year so we all benefit from their generosity. They are also very interested and supportive of  my running and are always willing to watch the boys so running can happen when we are all together.

17. Polly. I qualified just after she past away. Every run, Every race. She's in there. Pink is the color for Monday.

16. Twitter followers. I love the #BQchat. I love the links to other people's thoughts and experiences on this crazy running world. Tweets are just sweet because runners don't throw shade at other runners.

15. Facebook friends. Oh. My. Suppportness! I am so feeling the love from my people, virtual and otherwise. I can't say enough how much it means to see the "likes" and the comments.

14. Kathleen. One of my dearest friends and one of the toughest people I know. She would  not consider herself a runner, though she has donned a race bib at least once. She was going to be my 1/2 way point in my ill fated 40 mile run. Work responsibilities won't allow her to be at the race on Monday but I know she truly wants to be there. She's just the best.

13. Dimity McDowell Davis. One of "the" mothers of Another Mother Runner. She is 50% of the team that made me fall back in love with running after having kids. The books. The website. The FB page. The events. The honesty.

12. Sarah Bowen Shea. The other 50% of #13. I could put these ladies in the same line but their import to so immense that they deserve their own shouts out. And Sarah is a BQ badass who is foolish enough to think I'm funny and include me in some of the reindeer games whenever possible. xoxo, Champy!

11. Carol Viens. She's a runner and a coworker. She coordinated a huge to do at school for me yesterday. She leads a school running program for the 4-6th graders. She calls me her hero, which is insane. (Her REAL hero is Joan Benoit Samuelson but she says my name in the same sentence, so that's cool).

10. Heather. My sister. She's not a runner. She is "merely" awesome and supportive and hilarious and fierce and kind and honest (whoa, can she be honest!) and I just love her.

9. Heidi. Another sister. See #10 but she really IS a runner (not that she'll admit it) and a track/xc coach. Our scant 15 months age difference made us best friends and worst enemies when we were growing up. What I wouldn't give to live close enough to love/hate her in person every day!

8. Dr. Hennig. He was my knee surgeon. He put Humpty Dumpty back together again. I owe him a finish line photo.

7. Kevin Stanton. My PT. Oh. My. God. Dr. Hennig maybe sewed things together, but THIS is the guys who kept it all rolling. Runner. Triathlete. Neighbor. He understands, literally, where I live, what I want out of running, and exactly how to get me there. I am happy to say I have not needed to make an appointment with him in quite a few months. (Knock wood).

6. Tom. My 11-on-Sunday-year-old.  Maybe had I  not run my first marathon a teeny bit pregnant with him and maybe had he not been born on marathon Monday 2004... maybe I would not be so committed to this crazy scheme. He got an awesome new video camera for his birthday so watch for him on YouTube. (And let me know if you see anything untoward!)

5. Elliott. He's 8. He is ready for the youth track and field program this spring. He walks on my back and helps me stretch. He is incurably lovable. Also, he is pocket-sized, which adds to the sweetness.

4. Gabriel. He was 3 on April 14. He is the most demanding AND most loving creature in my life. And, he is potty trained so the whole Boston trip is going to be a LOT less stressful thanks to that!

3. Dad. Boy, what he's been through the last year or so. How many shoulder surgeries? Hip replacement. But he's coming to Boston, baby! Word is he is feeling so very much better and is ready to rock the urban scene. Wit. Insight. And just enough profanity to catch you off guard. Too bad he is not a runner cuz those are the perfect traits in a running buddy!

2. Mom. It all started with her, literally. She will be there for this race, as she has been for so many. I've never doubted my mom's pride in me. She shows up. She brings chocolate. And wine. She massages calves and shoulders and opens Advil bottles. I'm sorry for you that she's not your mom.

1. Lauren Cady. My running partner in this race. She lead  me to my BQ Fall 2013 and so much more! I am so incredibly lucky and happy and EXCITED to share this weekend with her. This is like her 600th Boston run (or maybe like 5th or 6th?) and I know she will remind me to hold back hold back hold  back hold  back on the first 20 miles. And I  know she will remind me to hit the gas to get over Heartbreak Hill. And I know we will cross that finish line in our own personal triumphant victory.

.2 Scott. My Boston medal will be his Boston medal. Literally. He doesn't know it but I am giving it to him. And he never reads my blog so it will still be a surprise. The day of my ACL repair last year he created a countdown-to-Boston on our bedroom wall. (400 days).  He seems to always know the exact amount of ass I need kicked v. the nurtured reassurance and encouragement. I cannot express how much this race is his race.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

I can't count to 18

I've just completed week 2 of marathon training.

Except I didn't.

Even though I did.

Confused? I was.

One of the annoying things about the Roman Calendar is that it's not base-10. This whole 7-day week, 4-ish week month, 30-ish day month, 365-ish day year.... it's not easy for some of us to keep track of. It's a cruel trick that we evolved to having 10 fingers insead of something more useful like 7 or 30-ish or 365-ish. (I'll let you settle on that mental picture for a minute. Kinda gross, huh?)

My problem on this occasion was that the end of the month of March overlaps a LOT with the beginning of April. How this kicked me in the butt this time around is that I gave the same week TWO different training weeks.

Thank goodness my much-better-at-counting-than-me BRF alerted me to my mistake. Of course, she alerted me of it way back on December 20th or so. I felt sorry for her for being confused about the schedule. After all, I had literally hand-written out every.single.workout. No small commitment. I knew I had to done correctly. Poor Lauren. She was mistaken, but I knew she'd figure it out.

Friday, I got a text from her suggesting I double check my 'math'. Whaddayaknow? She was right. And I was wrong. And therefore, I was a week 'behind' in training.

My low-tech, very messy training schedule. Gah...

This barely even registered on my things-to-worry-about scale, since I spent the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas running But, it's just more of a pain the ass. And in the immediate sense, it meant I needed to run 15 miles on Saturday instead of 14, with the mid-5 at race pace. (We are shooting to run a 3:45 so this means 8:35/mile). Something about trying to make those paces was a bit of a big deal.  (I am doing the Train Like a Mother marathon "Own It" plan.)

I shouldn't have worried though. Cuz there was just no bleeding way I was going to make those paces on Saturday. It was 10 degrees when I started out at 6AM. I was wearing about 467 layers and quite honestly, I never got overly warm. Every winter I have to embrace (and remember) that it's just not feasible to run your 'real' paces in such cold weather. I honestly don't know if it's the extra layers of clothing or the physics of moving your body through frigid temps, but even when I was on the flattest part of the run - the part where I was meant to be doing 8:35s - I could not make my body move any faster. My paces for 5-10 were 9:01, 8:50, 9:00, 8:32, and 8:14. I think the 8:14 was fairly desperate - I was coming up on the public rest room where I knew I could take a small break, get a teeny bit warmed up, and slug my gels and water in relative comfort. And pee, of course. Always, always, I can pee.

If you can't beat it, take a selfie with it. Truly beautiful scene.
I was VERY happy to see the end of that run and spent a bit the morning grumbling at myself for my paces... but not long. One of the benefits of being on the the dark side of 40 is realizing that this is Small Stuff and I can still call the run a success. S'all good.

Which brings us to the coming week. It's supposed to get OH-so-COLD this week. In fact, Thursday we are forecast for a low of 3 and a high of 5. (And that's an upgrade from a low of -1 and a high of 3....) So that will mean 5,893 layers for that scheduled 6-7 miler...which I'll have to head out for before 5AM... Oh, gawd I could talk myself out of this and it's still 5 days away!

Finally, here's a little resolution/goal setting I did as part of the Another Mother Runner community. I don't know if I'll get to these goals (especially the one about my kids) but it's worth the public pronouncement, in case that motivates me.