22 Mile Fun-Run – An abridged story of Saturday’s DFMC long-run

Sporting my new Boston Marathon 2011
DFMC Team Jacket.

We had a great pre-run meeting at Boston College but with all of the charity organization runners and time-qualifiers converging on the marathon course, Jan made sure to keep it short.

With the temperature at 25 degrees for the beginning of our run and wind gusts up to 33 mph, it was not the warmest day to embark on a 22 mile run.  On the way out towards Natick, the headwind was brutal but we took comfort in knowing that there would be a very helpful tailwind on our return trip.  You allegedly feel about 15-20 degrees warmer while running this kind of distance, so that helped a little (I think).  Unfortunately, I could not say the same for our water station volunteers.  What troopers!  Fortunately, the sun came out about 1 1/2 hours into the run and made a huge difference – the feeling returned to our fingers and we could stop opening the Gu packets with our teeth.

Thinking warm thoughts.

Amazing water station volunteers finally getting
some sun action.

I again used Jeff Galloway’s Run/Walk strategy while keeping an eye on my heart with a heart rate monitor.  The toughest hurdles for me to overcome while exercising are the lasting effects of chemo and radiation on my heart and lungs.  Although the side effects from my treatment are minimal compared to that of other bone marrow transplantees, a decreased pulmonary diffusion capacity and LVEF can work together to make exercise a little frustrating.  Thus, I’ve started using my heart rate monitor again to help me gauge how my body is holding up.  Last weekend’s run was a little discouraging as I averaged about 180 bpm over 3.5 hours with a max of 195 bpm.  To translate – I was exhausted.   Going into yesterday’s run, I was determined to run the course as if it were Marathon Monday and strictly adhere to Jack’s advice – “If you feel like you’re running too slowly for the first 10 miles, you’re right on pace.”  As you would expect from someone who won the Boston Marathon, he was right.  My heart rate didn’t even climb to 170 bpm until we hit mile 16 – as you can tell by my willingness to smile for photos…  

Enjoying a water station.
Don’t be fooled into thinking the Run/Walk strategy makes you slower, though.  I finished all 22 miles with an average mile time of about 10:30, which was faster than last week, and ran successful negative splits.  Even more amazingly, I was able to crank out a respectable run with two pulled hamis.  Until I get my mile times under 8 minutes, you’d better believe I’ll be rocking the Run/Walk strategy.
Wondering why this run earned the title of “fun-run”?  Here are the main reasons:
1.) The countless cheering groups and water stations along the route.  We’re talking pom-poms, megaphones, yelling women on the side of the road who have pulled over their car and decorated it in window paint and streamers, a line of high-fiving five year olds, and of course, college girls wearing their underwear on top of spandex dancing to Taio Cruz on the roofs of their SUVs.  
2.) Throwing the low-sodium diet out the window and munching on 4 bouillon cubes over a 4 hour period. 
3.) Fresh baked cookies at mile 20!
4.) The insane amount of girl scouts attacking you with plastic leis at mile 21 and screaming even more than the college girls!
5.) The guilt-free consumption of chocolate milk that follows a 2500 calorie-burning workout.
6.) Most importantly, that amazing feeling we got when random people on the road stopped and said “thank you” because we’re running for Dana-Farber! 

Shots from Saturday – 19 Miles of Good Company and Sunshine!

Given the fantastic weather, we had well over 50 runners on the DFMC group run this weekend.  Almost everyone ran at least 18 miles, which included all of the Newton Hills.  Yes, that’s right – we all ran the infamous “Heartbreak Hill.”  Of course, it is important to note that “Heartbreak Hill” came around mile 9, not mile 21 (like it will on race day).  None the less, it was a great way to spend a Saturday morning.  Here’s the proof:

A Pre-Run Meeting with Jan, Jack, and the
DFMC Gang. 

Working our way up the second of the Newton
Hills and having fun!

Check out this year’s DFMC singlet!

The return trip, around mile 12 or so – it all
becomes  a blur after a while

Arriving at a water station for a Gatorade break.

Three of the amazing volunteers that come
out every weekend to man water stations.
 A special thanks to Glen Graubart for pulling out the camera and capturing all of the fun!

$10,000 DOWN, $5,000 TO GO!

Over $10,400 have been donated as of this afternoon!  Thank you so much to everyone who boosted the fundraising total over that huge $10,000 hurdle.  Specifically, I would like to send an ENORMOUS THANK YOU to Mrs. Pancoe, who not only is an amazing elementary school teacher responsible for any academic success that I have had over the past 22 years, but who also made an incredibly generous donation.  I cannot express how inspirational it is to have your support, and in such a large way!  Also, I want to send a couple shout-outs to other cancer-fighters: my former dentist, Dr. Michael Moore, who I highly recommend to all of the Buffalonians out there, The Defelice Family in Northern VT, my cousins- Shannon and Patrick down in the Jerz, and to someone at Stowe Mountain Resort who went the extra mile (pun intended) to set-up a corporate matching gift. This also serves as a good reminder to anyone who has already donated or who plans on donating, many companies will match your donations and it only involves filling out a form.  If you need help with this, just let me know!

To continue the Boston Marathon Course analogy… 
We have passed the 18 mile mark and the Newton Fire Station!  Boston Marathon Fun Fact: The well-known red brick Newton Fire Station marks the sharp right that runners must take as they turn from Route 16 (Washington Street) onto Commonwealth Avenue.  Even more notable, is what follows the Newton Fire Station – the last 3 “Newton Hills.”  Many locals set up picnics at the Newton Fire Station and encourage the runners as they continue climbing the hills.
It is incredibly fortuitous that the Boston Marathon Course analogy brought us past the 18 mile mark today, as this Saturday’s long run is exactly 18 miles.  It may be coincidence as well, but this weekend’s long run has the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge Team running from Wellesley, through Newton, and back again.  Although I will not be tackling the infamous “Heartbreak Hill”, I will be getting some practice on the other “Newton Hills.”  
With only 32 days to go, Marathon Monday is quickly approaching.  In fact, we are so close that the Boston Athletic Association (the organization that runs the Boston Marathon), released bib numbers today.  Bib numbers are typically assigned based on a runner’s qualifying time, with the exception of “charity runners” such as yours truly.  Bib numbers are used to place runners into corrals.  Each corral has 1000 racers, so runners determine their start corral by looking at the “thousands” or “ten thousands” place of their bib number.  For example, my official Boston Marathon bib number is 22187.  That means I will be starting in corral 22, with 999 other runners.  Although it may sound like I am in the back because I will be starting behind at least 21,000 runners, there are still 5,000 runners that will be starting behind me.  Who knew there were so many people interested in running 26 miles!?!  

Coming into the home stretch…

With only 40 days to go, there is still a lot to do with both fundraising and training!  Here’s the skinny…
Through the support of numerous generous individuals, we are 60% of the way there!  Thank you so much to Becka, Stetson, Mr. & Mrs. Eaton, Murray & Diana, The Howards, The Sepes, Julie and Jeramie, Craig & KT, Chris, Jules, Ms. Forni, Devon & Derek, Dave, and the amazing Chatterbox Drive-In Patrons!!!

To continue the Boston Marathon course analogy, we have run past the screaming (and kissing) girls at Wellesely College.  Yes, that’s right, I said kissing.   Random Boston Marathon fact: Many of the Wellesely students crowd the marathon course around the college and kiss some of the less experienced runners as they go by.  As one DFMC teammate who ran last year explained, it is meant to provide additional motivation, especially to the men.  He mentioned that it really seemed to help the Boston PD runners, in particular.  I expect that I will just have to rely on my power gel through this section.  Back to the course… we have passed by the half-way mark and are travelling through the beautiful town of Wellesley, on our way towards the Newton Fire Station. In terms of mileage, we’re almost at 16 miles and running 16 miles is nothing to scoff at.  Speaking of running 16 miles, on to the training update… 

As you may know by now, every weekend there is a Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team long-run.  Under the tutelage of Jack Fultz, our coach and fearless leader (although sometimes when I tell him how little I have trained I sense fear), our team embarks on some pretty challenging runs.  While some of the more experienced teammates ran a full 22 miles this past Saturday, I only worked up the courage for 16.  However, I will give myself some credit because the course was extra hilly.  No, Jack isn’t trying to torture us.  He just likes to prep us for race day by showing us terrain that is harder than what we will see on Marathon Monday.  With that being said, Boston is known for Heartbreak Hill, which is the last of the four “Newton Hills.”  Although these hills have a relatively low increase in elevation, they come at a point in the course where muscle glycogen stores are likely to be depleted… thus the name “Heartbreak Hill.”  

Heartbreak Hill (aka “The Hill”) photo by Richard Dale
This past Saturday, I had the honor of running with a marathon veteran who has run in many different marathons all over the US.  We spent much of the run chatting about cancer (we are raising money for cancer research) and marathon strategies.  He introduced me to the “Run/Walk Strategy”  made popular (and acceptable) by Jeff Galloway.  It may sound taboo, but walking during a marathon can be a very acceptable strategy.  It allows you to not only process oxygen better (something that my body struggles with as a result of chemo and radiation), but it also allows you to reduce fatigue.  As Jeff Galloway explains, “By shifting back and forth between walking and running muscles, you distribute the workload among a variety of muscles, increasing your overall performance capacity. Walk breaks will significantly speed up recovery because there is less damage to repair. The early walk breaks erase fatigue, and the later walk breaks will reduce or eliminate overuse muscle breakdown.”

This Saturday, the DFMC team will be running around Lexington and Arlington.  Since Jack continues to remind us ‘never do anything on race day that you haven’t done before,’ I will be trying out the “Run/Walk Strategy.”