Wednesday, May 4, 2016

RACE REVIEW:EARTH, ROCK, RUN 13.1

 This past Saturday, my good bud and running teammate, Kirsten H., and I headed out to Andover, MA for the Earth, Rock, Run half marathon; one of several events in the the Greenstride Race Series.  For the last half Kirsten and I did together back in March, I was easing back into racing after having just completed the LA Marathon weeks before and Kirsten, who's currently in the shape of her life, was going for the PR; which she took handily.  This time around our roles were reversed.  Kirsten, who will be running the Maine Coast Marathon in two weeks, was planning to hold back a bit and use the race as a training run and I would be pushing hard as I'd had plenty of time to rest, recover and get back into race mode since February.  Game on.  The race was set to start at 10:00am, which to be honest is kind of brutal as we are used to getting up early and rolling out at the crack of dawn.  But, at the same time, it was nice to wake up, make some coffee and take my time getting ready for a change.  Glass half-full.  Kirsten scooped me up at 8:15 and we cruised out to Smolak Farm, the location of the race start, pulling into the dirt parking lot right around 9:00.  The weather was perfect for running; nice and cool with plenty of cloud coverage.  Our plan was to grab our race numbers, throw our stuff back in the car and then head out for a quick warm up before making our way over to the line.  As we walked up the dirt/rock path that lead to the main event tent, we passed the Racewire timing table and I found myself thinking we can't possibly be finishing on this terrain, can we?  And then I let that thought fade as I focused on getting myself ready.  We grabbed our bibs and shirts and then quickly said hi to Eli, the race director and mastermind behind the Greenstride series.  Both of us know him from past work/race related encounters, so we caught up, met his adorable 4 year old daughter and shamelessly noted that we wanted to get our paws on the Greenstride Trucker hat he was sporting.  He smiled and told us we just needed to place in our age groups to pick one up.  We laughed in response but damned if we weren't going to go for the AG win after hearing that.  We said our goodbyes and then headed across the farm for our warm up.  I took a minute to note how calm and peaceful the farm scene was, which is always a nice thing to do when you're about to endure a sufferfest.  Around 9:45 we headed to the race start, did a little stretching, took our standard pre-race pic and then lined up with the rest of the runners.



We chatted with a lovely woman who was wearing a bib with the name KEVIN on her back, which I thought was a bit odd.  Turns out, she had her own bib on the front.  Her husband, who was standing next to her, was injured and couldn't run so this was her way of running with him.  I thought that was pretty cool.  Finally, it was go time.  My goal for this race was to try and run steady between 6:35-6:40 pace and finish around 1:26.  Up to this point, I'd been feeling strong, hitting my workouts right on target, and really enjoying my training, so I was fired up and ready to rock.  Eli had told us that the course we fast and relatively flat, with a few gentle rollers, so I had a good chance of hitting my goal if all went well.  I started right off with a group of about 10 people, crossing the first mile at 6:38.  Perfecto.  The group hung together, taking turns leading for a few miles, everyone smiling and incredibly friendly.  Only in the running world.  I love that.  The miles passed quickly and I was feeling good.  6:42, 6:36, 6:35, 6:37....and so on.  I've mentioned this before, but when you've recently run a marathon, my latest having been Boston in April, thirteen miles can feel insanely short comparatively.  Getting to mile 5 and knowing I only had 8 to go rather than 21, well, you get it, right?  So, I kept at it, hitting each mile right on the nose.  Until mile 10.  I'd been running solo for most of the miles up to this point.  I was getting tired and my mind started to become my opponent, which is never a good thing.  I had three measly miles to go and without realizing it, I kind of zoned out a little and lost track of my pace.  Mile 10 was a 6:46, not too far off, but then mile 11 was a 6:53.  Oops.  Thankfully, I caught up to a young chap who I decided to try and stay with for the rest of the race if possible.  Between having someone to run with and knowing I was almost done, I was able to get back on pace for mile 12 and then to eek out a 6:35 for mile 13.  Remember the dirt road in the beginning, the one I didn't think we'd have to tackle?  Yea, that was the finish chute.  I was really excited to be done, but I was also scared to death that I was going to trip as the path was downhill and there were rocks and ruts everywhere.  So, I kind of pulled back on the reigns and danced around the potholes to finish without falling, crossing the line in 1:27:24.  



I'm not going to lie, it was really fun to break the tape.  The guy I'd run neck and neck with for the last couple miles offered his hand for a high five which I gave him and then returned with a hug.  You just can't put a price on the support you get from your fellow runners out on the course and I know, whether he realized it or not, that this guy was a big reason behind the fact that I had been able to get myself back in check for those final two miles.  Two young kids were handing out medals and this one little guy said, Yay!  You're the first girl.  You can have TWO medals.  I laughed and thanked him but told him I was all good with one.  He's my new favorite for having referred to me as a girl.  At this point it was starting to rain so I bundled up and headed back to the line to quietly sit under a spectator's umbrella and wait for Kirsten.  And though she had planned to "take it easy" she still came across the line in a killer time, just seconds off from her PR having just run a 20+ miler and a hard workout earlier that same week.  Did I mention how strong she is these days??!!  We slowly made our way over to the snack table....that's right.  Snacks.  Each runner got a tote bag full of snacks.  What??  We also saw people eating ice cream which looked insanely delicious.  We found Eli and thanked him for the awesome race and all that he'd done to make it run so smoothly.  The man is good at what he does.


He let us know that we, too, could get ice cream as we had a ticket on our race bib that we could trade in for the sweet treat.  Hot DOG!  There is something about seeing a table like this after you've just run your brains out.  I found myself thinking how delicious it looked while at the same time noting how soft and fluffy it seemed, ideal for laying down and taking a rest.  I might have been a bit overtired at this point.  Not to worry, though, I did not, in fact, lie down on the ice cream table.


After our sugar fix, we wandered over to the results table to see how Kirsten had placed.  Not only did she find that she had finished in the top 25 for women, but that she'd placed third in her age group, thus guaranteeing her the cool trucker hat.  BOOYAH!  We checked in at the awards table to see about our prizes.  For taking first overall,  I was given a Greenstride backpack AND a trucker hat.  I also received a cash prize, which doesn't happen very often and for which I was beyond thrilled.  Kirsten was quick to note that I would be buying our post-race coffees on the way home.  Fair enough.  We were almost stupidly fired up about our new hats, but we'd earned them fair and square, which is definitely part of the reason we were so psyched to be taking them home.


Eventually, we made our way back over to the car, both of us now sufficiently frozen and eager to make a much-needed stop at Starbucks.  Kirsten was very pleased with her race.  I'll just be honest and tell you that I was very happy about my win, but I really wished I'd run a better time.  I'll also come right out and confess that I was simultaneously annoyed with myself for not being able to separate the two and just be proud of what I'd done.  Come ON, Rebecca.  Kirsten and I got our mochas and headed home, both of us a bit punch-drunk by the time we got back to Winchester, especially Kirsten who was throwing out zingers like nobody's business.  I was dying, almost in tears it was so funny.  And that's the thing, really.  These races...the training, the drives to and from, the swag and all the good stuff that happens in between including the race itself, all of them are such a blast when we do them together.  Sure, I was a little frustrated, but by the time we got home, I was laughing my ass off and already thinking about our next adventure.  And, later that night, I went back and read this post, yet again, giving myself that much needed remind that I do love to run and that every success, big or small, ALL of it matters.  #TEAMBACON

Listen to this:
PRAYHÆLOS  

Friday, April 29, 2016

GUEST POST:PRE-RACE WITH NICOLE DEVINE

'Keep Moving'

A few years ago, I connected with fellow runner and now good friend, Nicole Devine, through this blog.  Nicole shares my passion for music and, like me, uses it to get herself fired up and race ready.  She's also a mom of two busy young boys and an unbelievably talented photographer (see pics scattered throughout post & follow her on Instagram at @nicdimages).  Nicole is about to run her first half marathon this Sunday, May 1st and has somehow managed to find time to share both the story that got her to this point as well as the playlist that has moved her along the way.  I'm so incredibly inspired by Nicole and all she does and her music choices have always been a big influence behind my own.  To Nicole - huge thanks for taking the RWM floor today.  Have a blast at your race on Sunday and knock 'em dead!

An "easy" 10miler in the rain this morning
(RWM note: this is one my personal favorites)

THE HALF by NICOLE DEVINE
Hi, I'm Nicole, an admitted music nut and active in some form or another for most of my 43 years. But I'm not exactly what you would call a distance runner.  I follow my friend Rebecca here on social media and am in awe of her runs.  I ran cross country for a few years in grade school, as an adult I have participated in a handful of events, most of them 5Ks, and mileage for most of my normal "anyday" runs totals about 2-2.5 miles.  Then came Spring 2015.  My sister called me up on a Monday and asked if I wanted to run the Long Island marathon series 10k leg with her...that coming weekend.  I thought about it and by that evening we had signed up.  For someone who had never run a race of that length, I surprised myself with negative splits throughout the race, and a finishing time I was proud of.  After it was over, enjoying the satisfaction of the moment, I remember telling my sister "next year let's do the half".  


Red skies at night

I'm still not exactly sure if I was really serious or not. Then Fall came and I participated in one of Long Island's most famous races, The Cow Harbor 10K.  It's a hilly, challenging course but I really enjoyed myself and knew I wanted more.  Which brings me to now.  May 1st is the Long Island Half Marathon, my first, and something that I never ever thought I would do.  Every week now my long runs are new personal highs for me distance wise, and my trusty music playlist has been with me every stride of the way.  Training for the half has given me an excuse to listen to tons of different songs.  


Crosstown Traffic

My main running list is massive, 250 plus songs, helping to keep it fresh for most of my training.  I've plucked out my favorites for the race, (many of them on the list I sent with this post), and as I always do with my lists, added some older all time favorites.  I hope that many of you find something here worth adding to your lists as well.  During the race, I know I'll be able use these songs to keep me going and cross that half marathon finish line.  And it's going to be awesome.


Nicole (on right) & her sister, post-race


Listen to this:
THE HALF - A PLAYLIST BY NICOLE DEVINE

Monday, April 25, 2016

RACE REVIEW:BOSTON MARATHON - PART 2

"It's time to keep enjoying the best day in running history." 
-Amby Burfoot

MARATHON MONDAY, 6:00AM

If you're just joining us, Part 1 of this post outlines the days leading up to the Boston Marathon.  Feel free to take a minute to catch yourself up to this point if you so desire.  Otherwise, let's just pick up where we left off, shall we?  After a very restless sleep including several panic dreams where I forgot my bib (again) and slept through my alarm, I was up and at 'em at 5:15am.  I immediately made coffee for my ride into the city.  Huge props to my husband for getting up and taking me in and to Ashley for getting up for no reason other than to wish me good luck and send me off with a hug.  Rock stars - both of them.  We zipped into Boston easily and arrived at the Park Plaza hotel just before 6:00am.  I found the TWAV crew and followed them to our team bus which would be ferrying us out to Hopkinton.  It was an insanely gorgeous morning and I sat and watched the day come to life through the bus window as I zoned out and attempted to wake up.  We made it to Hopkinton without any issues and found the Hopkinton Vision Center which would be our command central for then next few hours.


It was a tiny little house with a very steep staircase and lots of tight corners and we were a very large group (about 70) so definitely a bit tricky from a logistical standpoint, particularly for those who were visually impaired.  Not surprisingly, we all took it in stride, happy to be in a comfortable spot rather than sitting outside at the athlete's village.  When we arrived there was coffee brewed and oatmeal on the stove thanks to our fearless leader, Andrea Croak, who was one of the great masterminds behind the successful operation of our team.  We all piled in and found a spot to plant ourselves for a while.  Fortunately, there was a small porch and a back yard so many of us filtered outside to soak up the rays and enjoy the morning as much as we could given that we were about to run a marathon.  Joyce and I found each other and then met up with Alex, one of the two guides that would be running with us.  Alex would be doing the first half with us so we chatted strategy for things like lining up for the race start, getting through the water stations, pacing and fuel stops for three of us.  Joyce still seemed calm and relaxed which I thought was amazing given what she was about to take on.  My nerves were starting to ramp up as the thoughts of all the potential things that could go wrong started to creep in.  Alex helped keep my mind at ease with his bubbly personality and easygoing nature.  That was hugely appreciated.  


The first wave of the marathon would begin at 10:00am and we had some speedy team members who'd be starting in that group, so before we said goodbye to them, we all gathered for a team shot and some words of encouragement from David Brown, another key player behind the success of the day.  Joyce and I would start in Wave 3, which was at 11:15, so we had several hours to wait before we would head to the line.  I'm not going to lie, the waiting was brutal.  For both of us.  We talked, watched the elite athletes on tv, went to the bathroom, ate, stretched, drank, put on sunscreen, organized and then did that all over again about ten more times.


Finally, at 10:45 it was time for Joyce, Alex and me to head to the start.  Oh my Lord, was I freaking out now.  Even Joyce, who'd been calm and steady up to this point was shaking and admittedly nervous, too.  Only Alex seemed to be unfazed.  


THE RACE:
Miles 1-6
We snaked our way through the crowds of people, Joyce holding on to my arm, eventually making it over to our corral.  We decided to start in the back hoping that letting the rest of the runners in our corral go ahead of us would make it easier to navigate in the beginning.  The sun was beating down on us and the heat radiated from the pavement.  It was significantly hotter than we expected and all three of us were sweating profusely.  Perfect time for a selfie, right?  Had to be done.  Finally, after a song and some announcements, we were off.  We walked to the start mats and then eased our way onto the course.  It was organized chaos at first.  Joyce and I were holding a tether which we pulled taught during this section so she could easily feel where I was going.  Alex was awesome, acting as a barrier from the other side of us and politely belting out blind runner coming through if we needed to pass.  And then we rolled into the first water stop.  Alex ducked off to the side to get us water and Joyce and I kept going.  I reached out to get some for myself but wasn't able to snag a cup before we were past the station.  Unfortunately, Alex thought I'd been successful so he didn't get any and thus all three of us missed out.  Clearly, we needed a better system.  For mile 2, Joyce and I moved away from the volunteers and the other runners grabbing cups and Alex went in alone to get multiple drinks for all three of us.  Then, I held up my hand so he could find us once he'd gotten the supplies. This is what we did for the rest of the race and it worked perfectly.  The miles were now ticking off, our pace somewhere in the high 9s to low 10s which was right on target.  Joyce seemed good, happy even.  So we just set ourselves into cruise mode and let it roll.


Miles 6-11.5
These miles flowed beautifully.  Alex talked non-stop, letting Joyce know what was happening in the crowds, reading the funny race signs out loud (ie. May the Course Be With You - my personal favorite) and pointing out landmarks of interest (bridges, lakes, funny costumes, etc).  He even told us a few stories and had us both laughing.  It was such a pleasant distraction and totally helped us stick with our groove.  Seth, the guide that would be taking over for Alex, would be meeting us at the transition area at mile 11.5.  It was clear the Alex didn't want to stop as he continuously talked about how hard it would be to say goodbye.  Twice he asked us whether he thought his wife would "kill him" if he kept going despite the fact that he was recovering from a broken rib incident.  Joyce and I just smiled and shrugged our shoulders as we knew he would make up his own mind regardless of our responses.  The transition area crept up on us quickly and we easily found Seth who jumped right in.  Though it was clearly hard for him, Alex decided to duck out as planned and gave us all hugs before sending us on our way.


Miles 12-17
With Seth, we had to reset a bit and find a new rhythm, so to speak.  I had changed the tether to my other hand so I could give my right arm a rest and thus was now running to Joyce's left which felt a bit odd. There were sets of two timing mats every 5K throughout the race and up until this point, Alex had been letting Joyce know when they were coming so she could lift her feet up to avoid tripping.  The first set after the transition zone snuck up on us and neither Seth nor I were ready for them.  Thus, Joyce wasn't expecting them and immediately got tripped up which resulted in a shot of pain to her calf, enough to make her stop completely.  She told us it felt like a charlie horse and began to massage it to get it loosened up.  Seth and I were both worried and not quite sure what to do so we waited for Joyce's cue.  Slowly, she eased back on the course, but she was struggling now.  She asked me what our pace was (it was the same) and told me she was really fading.  Again, I panicked not quite sure what to do.  I suggested that she stop and take some fuel which she agreed to.  Seth ran ahead and got us water and Joyce took some electrolyte tabs and when she was ready we started back up.  We crept along slowly, letting Joyce take her time and hopefully find her flow again.  Thankfully, she started to feel good soon after this and decided that she must have just been too low on fuel.  For the rest of the race we stopped every 2-3 miles to make sure she got the fuel she needed.


Miles 17-22
Finally, we made it to the Newton hills.  Joyce was hanging tight, definitely tired, but still holding steady.  Seth and I talked her through each hill, letting her know how well she was doing and bobbing and weaving around the many other runners who were walking through this section.  Between the crowds, which had thickened, and the water stops, where the cups on the ground were piled high, making it tricky for Joyce to feel the road, getting through these miles was incredibly challenging for us.  And yet, Joyce powered on, never stopping as we passed people left and right and eventually made it up and over Heartbreak hill.  Shortly after that, we heard Joyce's name and looked over to see her husband, her son and several of the runners on her son's track team waving and jumping up and down.  Seth and I turned Joyce around so she could go back and give hugs and high fives to everyone in the crew.  It was one of the more touching moments that I've ever been a part of. 



Miles 22-26.2
After that, all three of us were totally re-charged and ready to bring it home.  Seth and I knew Joyce could do it.  Joyce knew it, too.  At one point Joyce told me she smelled mulch and that the smell was making her wish she was at home gardening instead of finishing a marathon.  That made us laugh.  I told her she could mulch all she wanted in just a few short hours.  The rest of the way in Seth and I were pumping her up, letting her know that she had it in the bag, that she just had to dig in and hold on.  She told us she could make out the outline of the Citgo sign so she knew we were close.  The crowds were wild at this point and that helped propel us along.  She saw the MA Ave. overpass and asked us if that was the finish line.  We both cringed as we let her know that she still had to get down to Hereford and then turn onto Boylston.  She let out a big breath and said something like, Ok, we can do this.  And finally, we made the turn.  I looked at Seth and we both nodded and grinned from ear to ear.  This was it.  Joyce smiled the whole way down Boylston street.  The spectators were screaming YAY TEAM WITH A VISION and going nuts.  I literally got chills as we cruised toward the end.  I could see the clock which said 4:29 and was clicking away.  Joyce had wanted to run a 4:30 and damned if she wasn't going to make it happen.  We crossed the line in 4:30:45 and all three of us went bananas.  We hugged, we high-fived, we stopped and looked up to the sky in disbelief, and the Joyce and I hugged again, this time for a long one as tears rolled down our cheeks.  We had just done something bigger than big and we felt the impact of it from our heads down to our blistered toes and then some.


We slowly made our way to the water which all three of us grabbed and chugged.  Next, the medals.  Joyce and I automatically got one because we were qualified runners.  Technically, Seth wasn't supposed to get one because he was a guide and didn't have an official number.  But the woman who was giving them out said something like You take this medal.  You earned it as much as they did!  That was awesome.  I wish I could have grabbed one for Alex, too, as he deserved one as much as the rest of us.  The four of us were a team and we couldn't have done any of it without each other.  Eventually, we made it back to family area Z to meet up with the rest of the TWAV crew and our families.  Joyce and I had major post-race chills and were wrapping ourselves up in anything we could find.  But, we were still floating on our high so we weren't too worried about it.  It's virtually impossible for family members to get through downtown Boston on marathon day, particularly since they are not allowed to cut through the finish area, so we had a while to wait before everyone made it to us.  We just plopped ourselves down on the curb and soaked up the sun and each other for a little longer.  Truthfully, I didn't want the day to come to an end so I was happy that things were slowing down a bit.  Finally, Joyce's family, Seth's wife and Jeff were able to get to our meeting area so we all said our goodbyes, our thank yous, and hugged several more times and then we went our separate ways.  


I can honestly say that this experience was like nothing I've ever been through before and that my life will be forever changed because of it.  Joyce has thanked me several times since Monday, but it's her I should be thanking as I got as much out of it if not more than she did.  Running a marathon is such a huge accomplishment for anyone.  Running a marathon as one who is visually impaired, one who has to trust and depend on others from the first day of training all the way up through the race itself?  It's mind-blowing, really.  But it was clear from the minute I met Joyce that if she wants to do something, she will find a way to make it happen.  Her handicap has always been just a minor hurdle in her life, one that has never stopped her from successfully reaching her goals.  One that never will.  The whole adventure was a much needed reminder for me that anything is possible if you want it badly enough.  To Joyce, again, I want to say 'thank you'.  You are such an amazing woman and I am so damn lucky to know you and to have you as my friend.  I will gladly be your teammate any day.  #TEAMCRON

Listen to this:
BELIEVE - ROMES

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

RACE REVIEW:BOSTON MARATHON - PART 1

FRIDAY, 6:00AM

There is no way I'm going to be able to get this past Boston Marathon experience summed up in one post, so bear with me as I break it down into two parts.  Let's go ahead and start with Part 1 which began on Friday morning of marathon weekend.  After an unexpected snow storm the week before and several days of rain, we woke up to a beautiful, crystal clear, if not a bit chilly, day.  My husband, Jeff, and I had to get up at the crack of dawn in order to get our girls to the airport as they were flying down to Florida to visit my parents for their spring break.  I was not able to go down with them this year since I coach high school track so it was a solo mission (their third) and they were more than thrilled to say goodbye and head South.  Lucky birds.  My husband and I got home to an eerily quiet house, not quite sure what to do with ourselves without Rosie and Grace asking for or needing something.  No complaints.
It was an awesome day that began with a short run with my pup, followed by coffee and nails (marathon nails, that is),  lunch in Charlestown, my old stomping grounds, and some chill time (translation - a nap).  My dear friend and Oiselle teammate, Ashley F., was visiting from TX for the weekend and came in via train so I met her down town around 7:30 and we headed home to join Jeff for dinner.  Both of us would be racing the BAA 5K the next day which was starting at 8:00am, so we turned in pretty early (I know, shocker) in preparation for our 6:00am wake up.  We popped out of bed pretty easily, drank some coffee, gathered all of our gear and headed out, as planned, at 6:50.  We were chatting away, rocking out to tunes when Ashley mentioned that she needed to find some safety pins for her bib when she got to the race tent, to which I responded....OH SHIT!!!!  Yes, I forgot my bib.  No number, no race.  So, we had to turn around and head back to Winchester so I could grab it.  This set us back a solid 20 minutes.  Not good.  I had a mild freak out session.  Ashley was totally chill and took it in stride.  Bless her.  We eventually made it into Boston around 7:30 and found a decent parking spot which which was a serious stroke of luck.  We threw about 50 quarters in the meter and ran/walked to the Boston common so we could leave our bags at gear check.  On our way to the tent, we found our teammate Liz, who then joined us for a quick warmup before the start.  Ash and I had hoped to get two miles in and were only able to eek out one before we had to line up. We all considered a quick pit stop before the race but the lines at the port-o-pottys, all 100 of them, were about a mile long, so we decided against it and just jumped in with our pace groups.  I got through the National Anthem and the race announcements before deciding that I couldn't hold it, jumped back out of my corral and quickly went (yes, I'm 100% sure it was all in my head).  Better?  Yes.  But, now I was way in the back of the pack and nowhere near where I'd hoped to start.  Oh well.  The gun went off but because there were almost 10,000 people running there was no movement for quite some time.  I finally reached the timing mat about five minutes later, started my watch and hoped for the best.  Turns out, it's really hard to ramp up and hit race pace when you're in a crowd of that size with several people who are walking and simply enjoying the morning.


I darted and dovetailed shouting out many "sorrys" and "excuse mes" as I attempted to find a spot and get into a groove.  But, there would be no groove for me, at least not for the first mile, and I sighed as I crossed the mat in 6:28, not even close to the the 6:10 pace I was aiming for.  At this point I smiled as I realized I needed to let go of my time goal and just embrace the race for what it was, a fantastic Boston race experience on a beautiful day.  Don't get me wrong, I still tried to push and see what I could do once I hit the second mile and I was more than pleased to have crossed the mile 2 mat in a 6:06 and the mile 3 mark, which was a bit of a battle into the wind, in a 6:23.  My overall time was a 19:48 which, given the logistical nightmare that I'd just lived through, was absolutely fine.  After crossing the finish, I moved right into social mode as I ran around trying to find the rest of my Oiselle teammates.  I knew there were a lot of birds in for the weekend and several of them had just raced so I wanted to try and round up as many as I could to both meet them and to get a group photo. (thanks to Liz's husband for being our photographer)


Not surprisingly, it was an instant love fest as we all gathered, old friends and new, and talked about the race and our plans for the rest of the weekend as there were many more team events planned.  Eventually we broke off to go our separate ways but not before taking a quick shot with Sheri who had missed the group pic but ran in to catch up with us nonetheless.


Ashley and I had a couple more miles to do for our cool down, so we ditched our bags in the car, added about 10 more quarters to the meter, and then ran along the Charles River for another 20 minutes or so.  The scene was beautiful and so cool to be a part of as runners of all kinds were sprinkled along the path for miles.  The air was so full of excitement it was almost electric.  Once we finished, we headed over to grab our friend Courtney, the other Oiselle hot shot who would be staying with me for the weekend.  I needed to pick up my bib for the marathon, which I would be running with Joyce as a member of Team With A Vision (TWAV) on Monday, so they both came to the expo with me to do that and then some exploring.  We made our way through the various booths, stopping to say "hi" to friends at Skechers, Feetures, & NUUN, and then at the snack booth for a hot pretzel.  Oh man, was that good.  I also tracked down the lovely Staci from Runnerbox who I had not yet met in person but have known for many years.  I was thrilled to finally get to meet and hang with her.  By now, the expo was total chaos and we started to get overwhelmed so after about an hour, we darted out to grab a much needed coffee.  Can you believe I waited all that time until I got my second cup?  No, I can't either.


Eventually, the three of us headed back to Winchester for some much needed rest and relaxation.  The traffic in downtown Boston was insane and it took us a while to get out of the city, this was after the 52 point turn I had to make in order to get out of the stupidly tight spot I'd been parked into in the garage (think Austin Powers).  Not surprisingly, once we were home and settled,  all three of us were down for the count.  Sweet, sweet sleep.  A few hours later we reconvened and got ready to head over to the Cambridge Brewing Company to meet up with the Loopsters, an awesome group of runners and friends that I've met through Runner's World and have gotten to know well over the past few years. (yes, I'm on a lot of teams.  I can't help it)


 Many of us were carb loading for the marathon, thus the table was eventually covered from end to end in pasta and pizza and all of us were happily digging in.  We chatted and got to know each other as some of us had not yet met in person despite knowing each other through the Loop for years.  We ate and enjoyed each other's company for about two hours.  We had a ball.  We always do.  I love that!  Finally, around 8:30 we gave out hugs and said our goodbyes and then broke off to head back to our various homes and hotels.  Again, Ash, Courtney and I got home (easily this time) and turned in early in preparation for the next day which would be another big one.  Mind you, I was going to bed earlier than my kids do each night but I was having a hell of a time falling asleep with all that was going on.  And there was not a damn thing I could do about it.  Oh well.  It was worth every lost minute as far as I was concerned.


On Sunday, I got up early and had a quiet moment to myself on my front porch, the calm before the storm, if you will.  After some more Oiselle activities later that morning and a Team With A Vision brunch with Joyce, I would be hosting all the birds who were in town, their families and friends, for a pre-race pasta dinner.  So, yes, I needed to re-set for a moment and just breath.  Around 9:00am, the three of us headed back into Boston to meet up with more of our Oiselle teammates for a shakeout run and some coffee at the The Thinking Cup.   About 70 birds showed up, some of whom I knew and many that I'd not yet met, and after intros and photos we headed off for another run along the Charles.  It was another beautiful day and we all settled in together at various paces as we took in the scene, the vibe of Boston in general and each other.  After about 30 minutes, we met back in the Common and hung out for a while, a few people breaking off to enjoy the rest of their day and others grabbing coffee and soaking up the rays.


Around 11:00am, I made my way over to the Westin Copley hotel to join up with the volunteers, runners and staff from both Team With A Vision and MABVI for a celebratory brunch.  It was a lovely event.  We heard speeches from various members of both organizations along with several visually impaired men and women who benefit from their services.  Mayor Marty Walsh received an award for all the work he's done to make the city of Boston accessible to all, which I learned is a ton. All of it made me realize how little it takes to give back and what an enormous impact can make when you do.  After brunch, Joyce and I met up with Seth, one of the other two guides that would be running with us the next day, and talked strategy.


Joyce was aiming to run a 4:30 and felt that based on the success she'd had with her training,  if we paced ourselves cautiously, this was very doable.  We discussed crowd management and water stops as well and it was at about this moment that I realized enormity of the task ahead of us.  I tried not panic and to play it cool so Joyce didn't sense how I was feeling.  Hopefully it worked.  Around 2:00 we said our goodbyes and I bolted as quickly as possible to my car so I could pick up some last minute items for the Oiselle dinner that was happening a few hours later.  You could say my stress was at an all time high at this point and I was doing whatever I could (deep breaths, music, mantras) to keep myself in check.  I finally got back to the house around 4:00 and turned all the remaining logistics over to my amazing husband and to Ash & Courtney so I could take a minute to myself to shower and switch gears....yet again.  Around 5:00, the Oiselle crew began to trickle in.  What fun we had as runners, husbands, wives, kids, friends, dogs....all of us gathered together to eat, drink, and be merry.  I had been so tired just hours before and was totally rejuvenated by the excitement and love that was flowing over the next couple hours.


Around 8:00 I started to fade big time.  My TWAV shuttle was leaving from Boston the next morning at 6:00am, which meant I needed to be up and out the door by 5:30.  I'd been going on fumes and even if I wouldn't be able to fall asleep, I needed to get to bed.  So, I said my goodbyes to the remaining gals who were still lingering (sorry, ladies, totally inappropriate for a hostess to duck our before her guests) and got myself ready to go for Marathon Monday before finally hitting the hay.  I cannot thank Jeff, Ashley and Courtney enough for all the help they gave me both mentally and physically throughout this entire weekend.  Their support was invaluable and I am beyond grateful.  Next post...the Boston Marathon.  But first, a nap.  Stay tuned!

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Late Night (It's Okay) - VHS COLLECTION