2019 Stone Mill 50 Miler Recap

For my 40th year of life, I wanted to choose one crazy race and in the spring, I set my sights on an October race. During the summer, I enjoyed training for my 3rd Erie Marathon with the Early Bird Dunkin’ Donuts crew and also joined new Wolfpack friends on the trails fairly often. In August, three weeks before I was going to attempt to qualify for a 3rd Boston, I suffered a significant ankle injury. Goodbye Erie. Goodbye Boston 2020. And Goodbye Epic 40th Race. Boo.

After some time off, I slowly creeped back through the For Lucas 10×10 Challenge, an adventure on the Appalachian with some friends and then decided to find a new race adventure. Two years ago, I considered Stone Mill 50 but chose JFK instead. Stone Mill is fairly local, cheap and mostly runnable trail. Jump onto RunSignUp, CLICK, I’m in. Uhhh, am I really going to run 50 miles again? Can my ankle handle this?

I guess crazy is contagious because fellow Early Bird Patrick quickly followed suit. And if you think that isn’t nuts, Jeremy jumped on board which would mean he would toe the line of a 50 miler just 6 days after the NYC Marathon. I really didn’t think he would follow through just due to possible soreness but I guess he found some superhero strength.

Although I completed JFK in 2017 (and had a great time with Sara!), the night before Stone Mill, thoughts like “What the hell were you thinking?” and “You aren’t ready for this” tumbled through my mind. That night I did not sleep well. Dylan and I woke up super early and soon, Patrick, Jeremy and Mario (our main crew chief!) were at the house and ready to hit the road. After a 1.5 hour drive, check in was easy and Patrick was pretty anxious to get the show on the road. My self talk included a conversation with Competitive Becky and I told her Stone Mill was not a race, but merely an adventure.

Coming into Aid Station #1
Let’s doooo eeet!

At dark o’thirty (well, 6 a.m. – which is actually later than when this team usually FINISHES our training runs), we joined the rest of the illuminated runners on the starting line. With little fanfare, we were running down the pavement in search of the trailhead. With no predetermined plan to run together, the three of us fell in stride next to one another and then in a caravan through the dark trails. At this point, I was glad we had run 2 days of trails in the dark the previous week. We meandered through the forest and by the time we reached the first aid station, the sky had lightened and we could hand off our lights to Mario and Dylan.

Early on, my stomach was off. For miles, I felt nauseous. At one point, I told Jeremy 50 miles seemed insurmountable. I knew I needed calories – and not the sweet sugar-y stuff I had in my pack – I needed real food. Unfortunately the next aid station had mostly liquids and then I remember trying to choke down PB&J as much as my stomach turned just to force some calories. Thankfully, the guys were still within striking distance and eventually we reconvened around mile 10. While we zigzagged through the forest with an upset stomach, I created plans to DNF. Mario and Dylan had told us they would see us at Mile 27, so I kept telling myself to make my way there, then make a final decision.

Smiling through the discomfort

As we approached Mile 24 at the Pennyfield Lock of the C&O Canal, there was Dylan and Mario. In addition, there was a feast!

Mmmm, pierogies!

My eyes caught sight of pierogies and this Polish girl quickly grabbed a cup of these delicious potato dumplings and then washed them down with Coke. A handful of M&Ms and we were off for 3 miles on the towpath. We knocked out these miles pretty fast and I chatted with Serge, an 11 time finisher of JFK (his fastest was a 6:19!). After these miles, I felt great and was able to focus on the task ahead.

After the next Aid Station, we took a well deserved walk as we ate. Soon after, we were back on trail and heading into the 30s. The race seemed much more manageable to me at this point although we encountered more inclines than in the first part of the day. I fell for a 2nd time maybe around mile 33 and ouch. Got vertical again and walked it off before continuing to chip away. Jeremy joked “Can we just walk the rest of the 17 miles?” No. “Can we walk the rest of the 12 miles?” No. After a Sunday marathon, I knew he had to be definitely feeling the toll. One time when we walked up an incline, I could hear Patrick singing something about “I love walkiiiiing.” Oh boy. Or maybe I hallucinated all of this.

Leaving Pennyfield and onto the C&O.

Mile 34. Then Mile 37 (BEER. Miso soup. YUM!). Mile 42. Maybe more pierogies? I don’t know – Pierogies definitely saved my day. It seemed to take us FOREVER to get to the Mile 46 Aid Station (I got to hug a unicorn before we did). Last time to indulge in calories – this time, potato chip paradise (I’m starting to see a potato theme here…). I was ready to get to that finish. Yes, the legs are sore. Yes, it’s hard to stay mobile. But you just want to get to that finish.

The three amigos pressed on. We chatted a bit and realized we had spent the majority of the day together and we were crossing that finish line together. Once we exited the trails, we did a little speedwalking. The pavement hurt.so.bad. and of course there was a good incline to tackle before the end. We powered through and woohoo! 10:04:30. Throughout the day, I paid no mind to my watch – didn’t care about pace, miles or overall time. Just wanted to prove to myself I still can run 50 miles. Sharing this adventure with friends made the day so much better. I love seeing smiles in our photos because you know the pic only shows the surface – we all were experiencing some level of discomfort underneath.

Big shout out to my little buddy D. Having him at each aid station was amazing. Dylan was excellent crew having water/Nuun ready if needed, giving a hug or some encouraging words. Later that night after the race, D told me he was hoping if I was going to drop out, I was going to do it at an aid station he was at. I said why would you want to witness that? He said, “Because if you were going to drop out, I was going to tell you some things to hopefully keep you going.” Saturday was one long day for crew and runners and Dylan was one heck of a trooper. He decided he will run his first 50 “maybe around 37”. I sure hope I can return the favor and crew him along the way.

Top notch crew!
Patrick, Becky & Jeremy (PB&J) at the finish!

Thank you to Mario for walking up super early and driving us to the start as well as navigating to each aid station. You are much appreciated. Thank you to Dylan for his crew help. Thank you to members of the Wolfpack who volunteered – seeing your familiar faces was a bright spot of my day. Huge thank you to the race directors and all other volunteers who spent hours in the chilly air to ensure our safety and provide aid. Now, what’s next??

Race Recap: Boston 2019 – Take Two!

Boston. Over the past few days, I’ve tried to decide which details to include. Should I recap what we did before the marathon – the 5K, expo, Sam Adams and the duck tour (all extremely fun by the way)? Should I bring up the warm-hearted Bostonian who helped Dylan and I post-race at the T station? Or how you feel like a rockstar the entire weekend especially when you wear your race medal around town after?

 

I think my friend Laura D. summed up Boston pretty well by referring to the event as the “Disneyland of Running”. The spirit of running is abundant and overflowing all weekend. A myriad of events – seminars, expo, shakeout runs and pop up shops ready for every running geek to attend. Boylston Street is a hot spot for days with people taking photos at the freshly repainted finish line, watching the invitation mile or visiting Marathon Sports. Last year I only visited this “Main Street of the Boston Marathon” when I ran the 5K and the marathon. This time, the expo was located back in the Hynes Convention Center so I was able spend a little more time really checking out the famed last stretch of the Boston Marathon. The collective energy which surrounds you is palpable and can be so overwhelming yet exciting. Being surrounded by like-minded individuals amps up my passion and I always feel like I’m right where I am supposed to be.

 

Citgo sign!
Shakeout on the Charles!

As I ascended from the T station and made my way through Boston Commons for our shakeout run Sunday, I couldn’t help but smile. Coming into my periphery from every direction were runners. Some alone, others in pairs and then groups just pounding the pavement together. Running along the Charles River was a beautiful experience this year. The weather was wonderful as we passed elite runners and watched crew teams row down the river. Our small group took the obligatory photo with the “1 mile to go” Citgo sign in the background and of course made a stop where “everyone knows your name”. I enjoyed a pasta dinner with friends and family and I was ready to run.

 

Although the forecast called for more cold, wind and rain, it’s New England and the joke is,  ‘If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.’ So true. As we waited for the buses to transport us to Athlete’s Village, we were in a full thunderstorm. The rain poured down, the thunder rolled and lightning brightened up the sky over the city. Once we arrived in Hopkinton about an hour later, the storm had subsided and clouds and drizzle remained. Once our corral was called and we started the .7 mile hike to the starting line, the sun decided to shine. I found my way into Corral 7 and met up with a few Facebook friends who I hadn’t yet met in person. And soon, we were off. My favorite part in the beginning of the race was running with Gary, a 50 year old 1st time Boston Qualifier. As we started down the hill surrounded by runners and spectators, Gary exclaimed, “I can’t believe I am running the Boston Marathon!” There may have been an expletive in there, but I was overjoyed to share this moment with him. The sound of everyone’s footsteps is amazing; I made a comment about the people who choose to wear headphones were missing out.

Some of the crew at Athlete’s Village

After all the trouble during my training cycle to lock into my goal pace and being adamant about not going out too fast like all my previous marathons, I was happy to dial in right where I wanted to be. The first half was great- miles just ticked by, I gave so many high fives, made sure to stay hydrated and fueled and of course enjoyed the Wellesley scream tunnel. Then, things suddenly got hazy. After miles of the sun blazing, I felt so hot. Even as I write this, I cannot remember much about the last half. This race was never a mental battle as far as feeling like I was giving up or needed to drop out – I honestly went into a lightheaded fog focusing on moving forward and hydrating. As I slowed down at one water stop, my vision blurred but I never became idle. I stopped looking at my watch at some point, alternated walking and jogging and tried to stay moving in a straight line. I honestly expected to see 15 minute miles because it seemed I was walking more than running at this point. As I passed the Citgo sign, I mustered whatever strength I had left to soak in the last few turns stacked with enthusiastic and screaming spectators. Not far after, I was lowered into a wheelchair and peppered with questions about my status. I said, “I just want to get my medal.” The volunteer asked if I wanted him to get my medal. “Absolutely not!” I rose and staggered on and allowed someone to place the hard-earned medal over my head. I continued on, trying to stay upright and reach our meeting destination. Once I arrived, I found my friends and family who were wonderful in keeping an eye on me as the nausea and lightheadedness continued. About an hour later, after liquids and some food, I finally started to feel a little more like myself. Remember my sentence about New England weather? When we went back outside to find food, the sun had retreated and now it was chilly, rainy and windy. Really?!

Although the day was a struggle, seeing my finish line smile with my medal absolutely makes me ecstatic. I have no regrets. I crossed my T’s and dotted my I’s in every way possible, but the day just zapped me. It feels so good to look back and not think, “maybe I should have…” My heart has been breaking this week chatting with a few friends who have been devastated to run 15-30 minutes slower than the race they trained for. Find the positives. Thousands of people would have loved the chance to be on the course no matter what the weather. Find the joy. Words cannot describe how amazing it is to run 26.2 miles full of spectators cheering you – the young and the old from all walks of life simply taking time out of their day to cheer strangers on to finish a race. It sounds crazy just to write that. We all live busy, busy lives with so many priorities and yet people took their precious time to give me a high five to run a race that in the scheme of the big picture of life is quite insignificant. This is what I will remember. Not my time, not my struggle, but the kindness of people I may never meet again.

I ran, I walked and may have nearly crawled, but I crossed the finish line to become a 2X Boston Marathoner. I am Boston Strong.

Last but never least, I want to say I am full of love and gratitude for my family and my friends who shared this experience with me whether with me or from afar. Not a moment goes by that I do not feel loved and supported by all of you. I know several of you were worried about how I would feel after mentally – being upset about my time or my performance – and I love you all of you for being so kind and caring. Boston can break your heart; but only if you let it. I encourage you to always find joy in whatever journey you are on. Enjoy the highs and appreciate the lows for in the darkness is where our inner light truly shines.

 

Now let me get back to signing up for the next race so I can run Boston again in 2020…..

Ultra Crazy – Preparing for WTF

By now, you may already classify me as certifiably crazy. If not, I may be able to convince you before you finish reading this entry.

In two days, I am signed up for a “training run”. The WTF 50K. Noooo, it does not stand for “What the F*ck” – it’s Waterfall (what is wrong with you??). Actually, the closer we get to Sunday, the more I am thinking the acronym does stand for that potty mouthed acronym.

Let’s preview what I’m up against…

The course is 31 miles on trails. The course is unmarked. You are responsible for carrying your own turnsheet and paying attention to your surroundings. It’s going to be snowing and/or raining. And windy. And cold….and the temp is going to drop. The high for Sunday is about 38. The low? 8. Without a wind chill. WTF (remember, that stands for WATERFALL).

In 2018, I endured the historic (read: insane) weather conditions of the Boston Marathon. It was cold, windy, raining – over a thousand dropped out due to hypothermia. I suffered from a sense of race weather PTSD for months. Anytime that weather trifecta is forecasted, I remember the paralyzing feeling of running along for 26.2 miles as a mobile popsicle. Now I’m thinking that race was just preparing me for something bigger; more challenging.

Not going to lie, this week I’ve been really contemplating over my decision making. The run has no entry fee. There is no tangible reward. No race t-shirt. No medals (that’s right, no bling!). If you complete the task? A WTF50K sticker. Yes, I said sticker.

I shared my anxiety with my fellow 2018 Boston teammates Mario and Jeremy. Jeremy quickly reminded me, “You wanted a challenge. It just got more intense.” Mario agreed it’d be a challenge, but assured me I’d be fine. I messaged with friends who are experienced WTF50k finishers. Thankful for their brutal honesty, tips and a little bit of comfort, my attitude started to change. By the end of the day, my fear was slowly dissipating and the beast mode was flickering on.

By nature, I am competitive. However, I am not treating WTF50K as a race. To me, this adventure is so much more. There are so many variables and obstacles I will be up against – what if I get lost? What if I start feeling hypothermic? How will I handle 7000+ ft of elevation gain over 31 miles?

My competition will be me, myself and I. Pace will not matter. Who finishes ahead or behind me does not matter. What matters to me is continuing to push my limits and see what I am capable of. And yes, getting that dang sticker.

On Thursday, I asked you via Runner In Training – what would you do if you knew you could not fail? Part of this journey is knowing I can definitely fail and choosing to forge ahead despite that possibility. You will never know your limits until you push yourself to them.

While most will be pulling up the blankets a little tighter Sunday morning as Mother Nature unleashes another bout of unsettled weather, about 60 runners will be preparing for several hours on the WTF 50K course. Crazy? Perhaps. In our minds, it’s a chance to willingly put ourselves outside our comfort zone and see what we are made of.

Hopefully, I’ll be back on Monday with an exciting race recap to share all the highs and lows of this next challenge. Stay tuned!

“The longer and farther I ran, the more I realised that what I was often chasing was a state of mind – a place where worries that seemed monumental melted away, where the beauty and timelessness of the universe, of the present moment, came into sharp focus.” – Scott Jurek

Keepin’ It Real

“Running is my therapy.”

Over the years, I’ve heard this statement from many and have said it myself. Some use running as means of recovering from an addiction, some are running down one problem at a time and some just need to escape life for an hour to help manage stress or anger. Consciously or not, I think we are all often in search of the “runner’s high” – a little bit of euphoria before we tackle our day or to escape whatever the day heaved upon our shoulders.

Sometimes, running alone in silence can be therapeutic – just tuning into the rhythm of your footsteps and the sound of your breath. Some of my best thinking occurs during a run; away from all of the distractions of life. Nearly of my blog posts have been mentally hashed out and many decisions have been made as I logged my miles. The road is a good listener.

Other times, running with a friend may create a safe space where you feel comfortable letting your guard down. Running side by side, runners often offer each other advice, sympathy and support. Over thousands of miles in my lifetime, I’ve listened to stories of heartbreak, vents of frustration from work and relationships, sadness over divorce and death. I’ve played devil’s advocate, I’ve suggested gifts for birthdays, holidays and anniversaries. I’ve also experienced the positives –  times of excitement over exam grades, proposals, pregnancies and promotions. Thankfully, others have also listened to the good and the bad I’ve shared. Running tends to break down barriers. Some days it’s not about speed or miles; it’s just therapy.

Social media has become a highlight reel of our lives. Marriages look picture perfect, our children look like Albert Einsteins or Michael Jordans and we all have bottomless bank accounts to experience exotic vacations. The marital arguments, financial distress and the times when Junior failed history stay hidden offline; where we may pretend they do not exist. I feel the reason many may struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s vibrant highlight reel.

But you know what? Life is hard. We all struggle sometimes…and that’s okay. We fail. We get sick. We have bad days. We make mistakes. We doubt ourselves. We are human. As positive and cheery as I may seem, I too, am pessimistic at times. I stumble and fall; yet pick myself up again and again. Some days, I have terrible runs. Some races, it’s just not my day. No need to make excuses. I am human.

Especially in the darkness of pre-dawn runs, I’ve learned just how much we all struggle. You know, the types of stories that don’t show up on our news feed. No one wants to read stories of sadness and no one wants to be the Debbie Downer. I’ve chatted with people who have been afraid to share goals or stories with others in fear of being a disappointment. People who feel they aren’t “enough”. Friends who have distanced themselves because they feel alone in their struggle (whatever it may be). We tend to be hesitant to share the “real” version of ourselves to each other.

Why am I writing about this? I want people to know they are not alone. I want people to know life is not about being rich, or popular, being highly educated or being (or seeming) perfect.

Life is about being real, being humble and being kind. I want you to know I will be there if you need someone to run (or walk) a mile with you and hash out the ugly. Or I’ll run/walk by your side in sacred silence just so you know someone is there for you. Running has taught me to plan for life’s obstacles and showed me how to tackle the tough parts while making sure to enjoy the journey. I’ve learned that, in order to get where we want to go in life, we have to keep moving forward no matter how difficult it may be. And I’ve learned we don’t have to do it alone.

My offer will always stand. You know how to reach me 🙂

Mission Complete!

If you landed on this page from my personal Facebook page, sorry for the click bait. Since you are here, you might as well keep reading!

I promise, this does have something to do with cake pops.

On November 11, I began the For Lucas 10×10 Challenge! Why? Top 10 Reasons I joined the 10×10:

  1. If I’m going to run, I might as well run for a good cause!
  2. Thanksgiving Prep. One would think you might drop a few pounds running 100 miles in 100 days. Wrong. You are hungry. All. Day. Long. This challenge should be called 10x10x10 (gain 10 pounds by doing 10 miles 10 days in a row because you want to eat everything in sight).
  3. I love a challenge. You might say, “But Becky, you’ve run 50 miles in 1 day. Surely, you can easily do 10 miles 10 days in a row.” Not the same. Knowing I had to run 10 miles every day for 10 days in a row was a little mentally overwhelming.
  4. To push my limits. I learned I am capable of running more miles in one week than I previously thought. 100 miles and I feel surprisingly great (other than a bit sleepy!).
  5. Our family has a connection to UVA Children’s Hospital. Dylan had surgery in 2017 at UVA Children’s Hospital. We were so pleased with his doctors and all the staff who took great care of him during his procedure.
  6. November is Prematurity Awareness Month. Dylan was born approximately a month early and had a short stay in our local NICU.
  7. To bring awareness to the Sanders’ new goal. $30,000 in 3 years to the UVA Neonatal Intensive Care Unit’s Bereavement Program. This program will use the funds to help emotionally console families with hand and foot molds, memory boxes, photography and to offset funeral costs.
  8. To encourage you to aim for a goal you feel may be slightly out of reach. Set your goals high and don’t stop until you get there! Believe in yourself.
  9. To give back. A little over 2 years ago, I met Jeremy as I returned to the running community. He has helped me surpass many of the goals I set for myself (including Boston and becoming an ultrarunner) in addition to introducing me to so many runners I now call friends.
  10. To pay it forward. I get the miles; one of you gets cake pops. To thank you for your generosity, I sweetened the deal with the offer of yumminess.

So, how did I do?

FL (2)

Okay, okay, I’ll get back to what you really came here for – cake pops!
You have 10 more days to have a chance to win cake pops. Visit my personal giving page to donate.

Anyone who donates any amount to the For Lucas Fund through my page will be entered into a raffle to win 2 dozen holiday cake pops.45886317_499003043924990_8787057643672829952_n

You know me – simply meeting a goal is not quite enough – help me surpass this goal for the Sanders family and other UVA NICU families!

I will pick a winner on December 1, 2018. Don’t miss your chance!

#ForLucas 10×10 Challenge!

10 days. 10 miles a day. In a row. I will take care of the miles, but I need your help in other ways!

First, read all about the For Lucas Fund. Then, visit my personal giving page to help Jeremy and Jen Sanders achieve a new goal: $30,000 in 3 years to the UVA Neonatal Intensive Care Unit’s Bereavement Program. This program will use the funds to help emotionally console families with hand and foot molds, memory boxes, photography and to offset funeral costs.

In addition to your generous gift, I am going to “sweeten” the deal. Anyone who donates any amount to the For Lucas Fund through my page will be entered into a raffle to win 2 dozen holiday cake pops.

For those of you who don’t know, I was a cake artist in a previous chapter of life at Beckaboo’s Cakes.

You don’t live local? You are in luck. I will even ship the cake pops to you f you are the winner.

Win-win right? Your pocketbook may experience a temporary strain, but I am going to take on the majority of the physical discomfort. You get to help NICU families and you may win dessert. You have until 11/30/2018 to make your donation. On December 1, I will pick 1 winner! Let’s blast my fundraising goal out of the water together.

Again, go to http://get-involved.uvahealth.com/goto/bmcgraw and make a donation #ForLucas!

2018 Boston Marathon Recap: Part 1

Wow. More than 48 hours after I finished Boston and I still feel like memories are popping up in my mind – unsure if I am finally thawing out or just being able to wrap my mind around what I just experienced. I know there is much to say, so I am going to break this one into two parts. Are you ready for a novel??

 

Around 8 am Friday morning, we (Mario, John, Dylan, my Mother-in-law Marcelle and I) departed in Mario’s vehicle headed north. We were excited and ready for our long weekend adventure. This was Mario’s second trip to Boston and if you remember, he ran with me during my Boston qualifier (read here). To try to make our ride easier, we decided to stay away from NYC and take a little longer route through Pennsylvania. After some thought, I realized we would be going through my hometown (Wilkes-Barre) around lunchtime. I texted my family to see if anyone would be around to meet us. Here we are with my Dad!

We were just about halfway and continued on our way. Traffic wasn’t too bad until we started to get closer to Hartford, CT. Luckily, we were able to reroute before we got snagged in an hour and a half backup. I messaged with my college teammate Monique as we passed by (she works in the tallest building!).

As we neared Boston, our GPS got a little squirrely and I received a message from Jeremy that he and his wife, Jen had landed in Boston. After a little rerouting, we finally arrived at our hotel. Check in was easy and we quickly freshened up and made plans to meet Jeremy, Jen and their friend Sharon for dinner. We were able to stretch our legs on a short walk to the T. I had been a little nervous about using a new transportation system, but it was fairly easy to figure out. We found our way to the right station and finally made our way to dinner at Kinsale Irish Pub. I had a delicious chicken pot pie with what else? A Sam Adams!! We also had the opportunity to meet Mario’s niece Andrea and her boyfriend, Manu, who both live in Boston. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to settle in and get ready for Saturday’s 5K.

Dylan and I were running the Boston 5K together and I was very excited to share this race with him. He wasn’t sure if he was going to try for a PR or just have fun. We woke up early, ate breakfast and once again used the T to arrive in Boston Commons. We picked up our T-shirts and tried to find our friends. Mario found us and the three of us warmed up to the starting corral. At first, few runners were in the corral but quickly, it began to fill. Dylan spotted Jeremy walking towards us and we chatted about the race. As the area became more crowded, we saw our friend Becky Polite on the sidelines (who took our picture) and I saw my college teammate DiGi!

Dylan began to be a little nervous and a bit overwhelmed since we were jam packed in the corral. We held hands as we shuffled forward to the starting line. We were able to see some of the elites warming up as we waited to begin. Knowing about the impending weather for Marathon Monday, the race announcer joked maybe we should start the marathon today (I’m pretty sure the majority of us would have said yes). Soon, we were off. Dylan mentioned he would like to run about 7 minute pace so I dialed us in. Even though the corral was crowded, we were able to spread out in the streets. We raced through the streets of Boston and I kept encouraging him to look around and see the sights. We clocked through the first mile at 7:09. As we continued down Commonwealth, we could see the lead runners heading back the other way. We saw the women’s lead pack and I told Dylan to start looking for Jeremy & Mario. I said, “We can’t miss Jeremy’s pink shorts!” and as soon as I said that, I saw Jeremy and Mario on the other side – I yelled out to them and we continued on to the turnaround.

After the turnaround, we had a slight hill and then we were about to share 2 famous turns together for the very first time – Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston. We hit mile 2 at 6:49 before turning onto Boylston. Up ahead, we could see the Boston Marathon finish area. We soon crossed the Boston Marathon finish line and I said, “YOU just crossed the Boston Marathon finish line!!” I think he got a burst of energy because he started to really push. With about .5 miles to go, he turned it on and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up! We cruised through the spectator-lined streets, weaving in and around other runners and he was going full tilt. This mom was doing all she could to keep up with her speedy boy! Our last split ended up at a 6:28. We crossed the finish line, he looked over and said, “Thanks Mom.” Wow, right to the heart. I will never forget this moment.

We walked hand in hand through the chute, got our medals and into the finish area. Up ahead, I could see Jeremy and Mario found my college teammate DiGi. I was able to catch up with him for a few minutes. Then, we saw Michael Wardian and were able to grab a quick pic and chat with him. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Maryland flag shorts and thought “cool shorts!”, then realized it was another college teammate, Jason. Chatted with Jason for a few minutes and then chatted with everyone while we waited for Jen and Sharon to finish. Mario came in 3rd in his age group! Here are all the 5K runners and some race day shots.

Me, Dylan, Jeremy, Jen, Sharon and Mario
From top left clockwise: The four of us in our corral; my college teammate DiGi and me; with Michael Wardian after the race; Dylan and me.

After the race, we headed to Finagle Bagel to refuel before we headed back to the hotel to clean up. After showers, we caught an Uber to Sam Adams Brewery for a tour. The weather wasn’t too bad so John and Dylan played some cornhole. Then, we had a great tour and of course, awesome beer! Of course, I purchased a bottle of 26.2 Brew and a T-shirt. We were hungry after Sam Adams and ended up going in search of lobster rolls. YUM! At this point, we were exhausted and decided to head back to the hotel and relax. When we walked into our room, there was a surprise waiting for me. My sole sister and her family (our running family, the Ilnickis) sent me balloons with an amazing note. I felt so loved!! Our mealtimes were so off Saturday, so we didn’t really end up eating dinner. We relaxed in the hotel and ended up playing cards. Around 9 p.m., we called it a night.

Sunday, I woke up and headed to Cheers to meet the crew for our shakeout run. The temperatures had started to dip and the winds had picked up, so I figured we wouldn’t see the crewers out on the Charles. I arrived a little early, so ran through Boston Public Garden taking photos and checking out the area. Soon, I ran into Mario, then Jeremy, Jen and Sharon. We waited at Cheers for a few minutes for Shane and Renee and we were off!

The one who paced me and the one who coached me

Running along the Charles, we saw so many other runners including what we assumed were some elites. Heading out the wind wasn’t so bad, but on our return trip, whew!! Once we were on a bridge to get these pics with the Citgo sign, I thought we were going to be blown off the sidewalk. After our shakeout run, we once again headed to Finagle Bagel. After, I headed back to the hotel to meet up with my family. Once I showered, there was a knock on our hotel door. Who is other side? My dad and his wife! They drove all the way up to Boston to see me run. Crazy!

Today was Expo day and we headed to the Seaport World Trade Center to pick up our packets. By now, the weather was brutal. Cold and windy. When they placed my bib in my hand, I got chills. Here was my ticket to the race I worked so hard for; I was so excited! We made our way downstairs to grab my Tshirt and check out the expo. Once we were in the main area, wow, was that overwhelming. Jam packed with runners and their support crew checking out all the booths. We first went to the Clif Bar booth so I could meet Scott Jurek and get a signed copy of his new book, North. For about an hour, we meandered through the booths picking up goodies.

We decided to then grab some lunch and head back to the hotel for some rest. We really wanted to do a duck tour, but the weather was just miserable. After getting back to the hotel, we decided to take a little siesta. A few minutes later, knock on the door again. This time it’s my sister! Knock, knock again – now who?? My mom and my aunt! I told them they were all crazy for coming to watch what may be my slowest marathon yet. They didn’t care – they just wanted to see me in my first Boston. Wow. I am blessed.

More family surprising me!

We all went downstairs to the hotel bar to chat and have a few beverages (Nuun for me) for an hour or two. After catching up, we all took an Uber to an Italian restaurant Jeremy goes to each year. Thankfully, Jen had made reservations for us in January! The place was small, but the food was great and us marathoners were very excited for the next day. We chatted a bit about the race and the crazy weather that was expected. After, we headed to Mike’s Pastry shop for cannolis! Wow, the shop was slammed with patrons and I could not fathom how many cannolis they had prepared for this marathon weekend. After we all ordered our goodies, we headed back to our hotel so I could prepare for the morning, which proved to be a difficult task.

I took my time and gathered all the items I would need – old and new Topos (I planned to keep a pair dry as long as possible), Injinjis, shorts, my Runner In Training tee, arm sleeves, my Legend Compression leg sleeves, my Racedots (2 new Boston Strong ones and 1 lucky Michael Wardian 777), my bib (of course!), throwaway clothes, a heat sheet (Thanks Katie!), my fuel belt, hat, gloves, earband, Goodrs and a poncho. Wow, just writing that made me realize how much I had to gather! I also stuffed my one gallon plastic bag I was allowed to bring with me with 2 trash bags, a banana, peanut butter sandwich, Nuun and unsweetened applesauce. Finally, I was ready to set my alarm and (attempt to) get some sleep.

Next, race day!