Monday, May 3, 2010

The final entry

I started writing my final blog post almost two weeks ago. April 21st. The day my mom died. This year, it will have been 16 years. It has been so long that the anniversary doesn’t feel like the punch in the gut that it once did. However, you just never get used that the fact that your mom is gone. In a cliche way, it felt like the perfect day to make my last blog entry but it didn’t happen. That day, I sort of went off the grid. Didn’t answer the phone. Didn’t really go on the computer. Took a 1.5 hour nap. Started this blog entry and just stalled out.

SOOOO, here I am to tell you all about my 2010 Boston Marathon experience! Have you been on the edge of your seat?!?! I am feeling that emotional let down that commonly follows a big event, like the post-wedding blues. So much planning and anticipation and then “poof” it is over. Although, that marathon was no “poof”... It was more like a “SLAP, BAM, BASH, POW!” It kicked my ass.

Dana-Farber hosts a big pasta party celebration the night before the marathon. It is quite an affair and really hammers home WHY we are running this race. We were introduced to the “patient partners”--kids suffering with cancer who are paired with a number of runners. There is a video montage of former patient partners who have lost their battle. It is absolutely heart wrenching. We met Delores Barr Weaver---the daughter of Claudia Adams Barr for whom our fund is named. Delores’ goal for creating this fund in her mother’s memory was to have a world without cancer. Remember, 100% of funds raised by our team go to innovative cancer research--research that has a difficult time getting funding due to unknown outcomes. Translate: cutting edge, experimental and very important!!

After the party, Regan and I stayed in a nice hotel in the city while Theo took the kids out to Rockport. We took a stroll, checked out the Finish Line, got ice cream on Newbury Street and hit the sack early. Alarm was set for 5 am...I slept like a baby! Met up with my team in the lobby of our hotel and befriended a really cool girl, Mae. We are both moms to 3 kids, our mothers were treated at Dana-Farber for uterine cancer, both passed away. She was a great compadre that morning before we lined up. Once we crossed the start, I was on my own.

Mile 1-9, I felt really strong. I was determined NOT to run too fast, to stay in my zone and enjoy the crowds. I saw Theo, the kids, Sean, Emily, Henry as well as my friend Erica and her son, Jimmy (somehow missed Jonathan and his family) at mile 9, which was a great boost. From mile 10-13, I was starting to feel the same fatigue that I felt the first time I ran this course and it scared me! If I was going to beat my 2008 time of 4:28, this was not a good sign. During my training runs, even my longest, I never felt pooped out at 13. I did a lot of deep breathing, tried to find a good mental place and kept going. Passed through Wellesley College, Wellesley Center (Mile 13, 14) and was starting to struggle. I knew that my friends Danielle and Tim were at 15, so I just wanted to get there. Then I made a surprising decision--I walked. I have a strict “no walking allowed” policy, but it was not a choice. Nausea, fatigue, general dis-ease. FFFFF!!!! So, Danielle and I walked a few hundred feet and then I was on my way.

I knew Regan was at 17 and she was going to jump in and run with me. That got me through. I was hurting. Hit the wall early...with so much race to go. Regan was an amazing running partner--it was so nice to have moral support and someone to encourage me with every step. We saw Dad at 19 and Danielle and Tim bounced along the race course to a few different spots. The inebriated crowds around BC and BU were screaming “AMY! AMY! AMY!” thanks to Regan’s shirt...which instructed them to “Yell for AMY!” I walked intermittently until 23 and then made a commitment to myself to finish this thing out running. Which I did!!! Finishing time: 4:53

At first, I was disappointed in my time. I had fully expected to beat my 2008 time. I trained SO well and felt so great for every long run. But by mile 15, I realized that this race was going to challenge me in a way that I didn’t expect. That was very humbling, but in a good way. I have to be proud of myself for training for 16 weeks one year out from having Alice, my third c-section at that.

It has taken me almost 2 weeks to write this entry because I just couldn’t figure out the best words to describe my experience, especially what happened at the end of race day. Regan met up with me at the team headquarters and we hobbled back to the car to make the drive out to Rockport, where we had a whole crew waiting to celebrate with us! After running the 2008 marathon for Dana-Farber (on the day mom died, no less) Regan and I saw a rainbow on our ride home! It was magical and amazing and really felt like it was mom saying, “Way to go!” So, on this year’s ride home, I brought that up. The sky was strange--it had been a beautiful day. Partly sunny. But all of a sudden, the clouds were alive and strange and mysterious. As we made the 45 minute drive home, I obsessively stared up at the clouds. Regan joked that she was driving with only one eye on the road. As the ride was coming to an end, Regan said, “You know, I don’t want this to turn into a disappointment if we DON’T see a rainbow. It was so cool that we saw one last time and we KNOW mom is with us.” I agreed, but kept my eyes out.

As we made one of the final turns home, there it was. Huge, bright and laying right out in front of us! I screamed, “HOLY ****!!! PULL OVER!!!” Regan swerved to the right and stopped the car. We clutched one another, staring at the sky in disbelief! We noticed that this rainbow was right over the ocean, so we jumped back in the car and sped ahead about 1/4 mile to the end of the pier. Mom was there again! Winking at us. Letting us know she was there. That she was proud and happy. I was so lucky to have captured the rainbow on my phone because when I ran back to the car to get my camera out of the trunk, I turned back to take the picture and the rainbow was gone.

So, another Dana-Farber marathon on the books!! During the pasta party, I was inspired by those teammates that have done this race 5, 10, even 15 times! So, I think I am in for 5. Two down, three to go! My fundraising total jumped by like $2K in the week leading up to the race--currently, I am at $8,900! My goal of $10K is within reach! Donations will be accepted until August. If you are so inspired, please go to and click “support a runner.”

My decision to run the 2010 Boston Marathon was born out of my fear of this race. I remember sitting on the couch in the fall faced with the application. Do I or don’t I? It was so hard in ‘08--can I really take this on again? Training is practically a part time job and now I have one more kid? Then, I thought about my mom. She had no choice when she battled cancer. She took the disease head on and really fought until the finish. Her (and my) dear friend Jody shares that it was only after her doctors made the decision to stop treatment that my mom finally surrendered. Mom cried and said, “I never believed I was going to die.” For this reason, I ran and will run again.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

$7,041 and counting!

Whenever I share that I am "running Boston," people make the assumption that I qualified. Which then makes me feel like I have to explain that I didn't. Which, for then makes me feel sort of lame--like I am not a TRUE Boston Marathoner because I got a free pass into the race. But then I remind myself WHY I am doing this.

I am running for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. My mom was treated here, so it has personal, emotional ties for me. 100% of donations go to INNOVATIVE BASIC CANCER RESEARCH. This is important. The Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research is unique because it enables research initiatives that cannot be supported through any other mechanism. It provides financial resources for young DFCI scientists and their brilliant novel ideas that are too daring to secure funding from traditional sources. Sometimes the Barr Program also supports more senior scientists who are striking out in a completely new, uncharted direction. The idea is that after two years of funding, Barr Program investigators will have advanced their projects far enough that ongoing success looks likely. Now they can attract more conventional funding.

My fundraising goal is $10,000...please help me reach it! You aren't just helping me reach my goal--you are honoring EVERYONE you have every known that is or has suffered with cancer by helping to fund THE CURE!

This will probably be my last blog before the race. Unless I am up with insomnia the night before! I will take all of your well wishes with me from Hopkinton to Boston. My running goal is two-fold: to beat my 2008 time and to ENJOY the race.


Friday, April 2, 2010

17 Days to GO!

I can't believe it! All of my long training runs are behind me! Looking ahead at the start of a marathon training program is overwhelming. And now, I am practically finished. Crazy. It is funny to think that my 9 mile run this weekend is a piece of cake. It sure helps that the weather has taken a major turn for the better--beautiful, sunny, warm! I can actually wear shorts again. 17 days I will wake up around 6 am and gather with my Dana-Farber team in the lobby of the Boston Marriott Copley. Then we will walk to the buses parked along side the Boston Common. Trek it out to Hopkinton and wait. Nervous anticipation. Lot's of chit chat and milling around. Second-guessing and double-checking. "Do I have my this and that?" "Did I train enough?" "Did I eat/drink enough?" Well, too late now! At 10:30, wave 2 will start (that's me) and off I will go.

I am also realizing that April has begun. For me, April is more than just a month. It is the month that my mom died 16 years ago...and I can really replay the entire month day by day in my head. Easter fell on the same weekend in 1994 as it does this year. That was not a fun holiday--Mom was really sick and I learned that she was not going to survive this cancer. Life was really never the same after that point. I returned to Gettysburg and coasted through the next 2 weeks on autopilot. Thank GOD for my very best friends--I will never forget that call on Sunday the 17th. "It's time to come home," says my Dad on the answering machine. Anne and Murph were there to help me pack. What do you pack when you know you are going home to watch your mother die? Anne and Lee drove me to the airport. I boarded that plane and flew home. I have never been so scared in my entire life. She was waiting for me and I got to spend 4 more days with her before she died at 10:45 pm on April 21, 1994.

I ran the Boston Marathon 2 years ago...on April 21, 2008. It was an amazingly beautiful day--a bit hot for a marathon, actually. I raised over $10,000 for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (my team) that year! It felt amazing to be running in honor of my mom supporting the hospital that tried to save her on the day that she died. Regan and I actually saw the sliver of a rainbow on our way home. It was magic!

17 days until the marathon and 19 days until April 21st.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Ides of March

Ran my 16 miler last Saturday in a rainy, windy Nor'Easter. I don't know what was worse: sloshing repeatedly through 2-3" puddles or getting full-body splashed by cars or the fact that Theo's golf raincoat was only water RESISTANT or that my clothes weighed 10 lbs by the end of the run. Alas, I successfully completed the run, checked it off my training chart and took a 2 hour nap!

Yesterday's 18 miler was in stark contrast to last weekend's run! GORGEOUS! PERFECT! AMAZING! The sky couldn't have been bluer. I honestly think I could have run another mile...which is good since a marathon is 26.2 miles!

I can't believe I have only one more super long run ahead of me before "the big one." As challenging as this training has been, what with the weather and working out the logistics of getting my runs in while taking care of the kids, it has gone by FAST. And has proven to boost my self-confidence yet again.

I will always remember my Mom's unwavering support during a really low point in my life. She couldn't understand why I didn't think I was amazing as she thought I was. I remember one day coming in to my bedroom and she had taped to my mirror a Nike "Just Do It" ad that she had ripped from a magazine. She wrote "You can do it, Amy. Love, Mom." Or something to that effect. I feel like she is smiling at me now.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chateau Relaxo

Chateau Relaxo. That was my brother Sean's nickname for the maternity ward of Brigham and Women's Hospital. I find that so hilarious that I had to use it as the title of today's blog entry!!! He couldn't get over the room service, the quiet, the nice nurses... I mean, I can't say that Emily, with incisions galore, would agree. But when you are holding that little HENRY BRADY SHIELDS---it does make you want to say, "Ahhhhhhhh...."

I was at my own Chateau Relaxo last week. I went to Rockport, MA SOLO to meet baby Henry---first time away alone in over a year! I went to my favorite Mexican restaurant...drank margaritas...slept until 8 am (which is late for me). I hung out in Regan and Cam's beautiful home on a sunny weekend...CHATEAU RELAXO.

So, training. It has been a challenging few weeks between the stomach bug, the multiple snow storms, and back-to-back weekend trips to Boston (one planned assuming Henry would be here by President's Weekend--which wasn't his plan...and then one to meet the little peanut). HOWEVER, the bright side is that I was able to do my 12 and 14 mile runs along the ocean...nothing like a change of scenery!

16 miles planned for this weekend. Danielle is coming down from NYC so that we can keep each other company for the almost 3 hour run. Should be interesting since the 4th major snow storm of the winter is heading our way tonight...10-15" predicted. UGH!


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Herman's Head with lots of shout outs

Remember that show Herman's Head? When people lived in a guys head? Or Being John Malkovich? Consider this my version of that...dedicated to my dear, hilarious friend, Linda Rubin who made the request.

Thoughts during each of my 11 miles today

Mile Marker 1: That school bus almost hit me
Mile Marker 2: My shadow looks life size (refer to earlier blogs about me and my shadow!)
Mile Marker 3: Song--The Reflex by Duran Duran. Made me think of 2 people. First, my old friend Leah Bougere from Kingwood, TX. In 6th grade, she was a HUGE Duran Duran fan. And I thought she was incredibly cool. Also makes me think of my friend Noah Stein. We used to work together at Crane Marketing Communications and would often volunteer to pick up pizza for office lunches. One time, we blasted The Reflex and sang it at the top of our lungs. Lots of laughs with Noah.
Mile Marker 4: I think I am going to give all of the money I earn in April (marathon month) to Dana Farber. Consider this a shout out to my home business:
Mile Marker 5: Song--Battle Flag by Lo Fidelity All Stars. Love this song...but has the f-word in it so I can't play it at home anymore. Thank you to John Hewlett for helping me figure out the name of this song and actually getting the CD for me! I first heard the song during a "very special episode" (aren't they all??) of ER. The one when John Carter and Kelly Martin were stabbed on Valentine's Day by a patient in the middle of a psychotic episode.
Mile Marker 5.5 (half way mark): Song--Hypnotize by Notorious BIG. Now, I love Biggie. But I also love Eazy E and Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. Aren't they all enemies? East Coast/West Coast?
Mile Marker 6: Song--Jessie's Girl. This is the song I played on the way to the hospital to have Declan and Alice. OH! I should knit Sean and Emily's baby-to-be a due in 3 days!!!
Mile Marker 7: Heading up a treacherous hill (Gray's Lane from Mill Creek for those in the area). I am going to text Danielle (we ran this together last weekend). Actually, I am going to take a picture of myself with my iPhone and send it to her. AHHAHHAHA! I am texting, taking pictures and running up a hill!
Mile Marker 8: It is getting dark
Mile Marker 9: Haverford College on the horizon... Getting close... What questions do I have for Dr. Offit (pediatrician) for tomorrow--Alice's 1 year well visit.
Mile Marker 10: I hope Desmond is doing OK at home. Desmond is our 15 year old babysitter. Kids LOVE him...but 5:00 can be a tricky time. D--N! I don't have any cash. I am the lamest employer.
Mile Marker 11: DONNNNEEE! Turns out Alice screamed the entire time until Desmond decided to give a nap a try. Good work, Des! And Thank You!

There you have it! Riveting, huh? Wow, 2 blogs in one day!


Negligent Blogger...

Guess who is running on the Dana Farber team with me? The one and only Valerie Bertinelli of One Day at A Time and Jenny Craig fame! I need to do some investigating on how she ended up on the team roster, but I think it is admirable that she is doing this. Training for and running a marathon is HARD WORK and a part time job. If she fundraises (or just donates) like crazy, then good for her! 100% of all money raised from my team goes to innovative cancer research at Dana Farber. That means cutting edge research that has a hard time getting funding from other sources. Maybe she and I can run together? HA! I was running yesterday envisioning running along and noticing her struggling (no handlers or people carrying her water bottle...) and I run up next to her and we pull each other through. HAHAHHA! By the way, If any one is inspired to donate towards my fundraising efforts, visit then "search for a runner". My goal is $10,000+! I could use your support!!!

I had the privilege of running my 10 miler this past weekend with fellow marathon trainee, Danielle Poirier (going for Big Sur in April) AKA my terrific friend and DG little. Love in the Bonds! Much more fun to do long runs with a pal. Wish she were here today for my 11 miler. I don't like that I have to do it on a Thursday at 3:30 pm. I am a creature of habit and prefer to run my long ones on the weekend first thing. But, there is a big snowstorm coming on Friday into Saturday and I don't want to miss a run.

So, I will now address questions from my fans. Well, Linda. But to have questions is exciting!! I will happily address any more that come my way. Oh, to be famous...

1. What is my warm up? My warm up involves running around the house trying to find my iPod, hat, gloves. I walk out the front door as I am starting my Nike Plus running thing on my iPod. As soon as Song #1 (always Blue Monday by New Order) starts, I start running. That's it. I am not great at stretching. I have been trying to do Pilates 1x a week to keep my alignment and flexibility in check.

2. What kind of sneakers do I wear and why? I have been wearing the same style Nike shoe since 2002. It was the Nike Kantara but when that shoe was discontinued, I moved onto it's replacement, the Nike Structure Triax. I was fitted for the Kantara at a running store way back when and as I have said before, I am a creature of habit (thanks, Dad). I typically replace my shoes every 300-500 miles, but lately have been intrigued by the barefoot running movement. I was inspired by reading Born To Run by Christopher McDougall. He did research about why runners have so many injuries to back/knees/feet. There is supposedly a link between the injuries and the super stable, cushiony running shoe industry. That our feet are intended to absorb the shock of running without the bells and whistles. That it actually weakens our feet to have all of the cushion leading to injury. SO, I haven't replaced my shoes in a while. Conflicted on what to do. Any advice?

3. Can I divide my blog into how I feel with each mile. No, Linda. Can't commit to that. However, I will do that for you today. How I feel for every mile of my 11 on a Thursday at 3:30.

4. Do I have to push through the first mile until I get a rhythm? No. Typically, the first mile just goes without me noticing. That is a nice feeling. I have a harder time with the last mile...I know I am almost done. Running is all mental.

Linda, I will take your advice and put She's Crafty by the Beasties on my mix. The whole Licensed to Ill album reminds me of 9th grade at Kingwood High School. Very fun memories. Now that you mention it, I will also add Paul Revere. And So What'cha Want. And then iTunes Genius recommended Going Back to Cali by LL Cool J. So I will add that too! Always taking music requests. The Eminem song maybe too slow. BUT, did you know that Eminem is back together with Kim and she is pregnant?

I, too, think when I run. I am most organized in my head when I am running. Must be all of the endorphins. It's just that my thoughts have a soundtrack!!

OK, enough for now...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Moving through Week 3....

OK, so maybe I won't write after every run. That goal may have been a little ambitious! Week Two of training was bitter, bitter cold. Although, with the right gear, running in the cold isn't that bad. You just get a frozen face. My third week of training has been thwarted by the dreaded stomach bug. If you know me, the simple utterance of those two words sends chills down my spine. Just an example of how having 3 kids can make training a challenge. So, today I set out for my Week 3 long run...7 miler.

Things that I have been thinking about over the past few runs:

Thought #1
You know how you have things in your life that just really boost your confidence? Running does that for me on many levels. I can look down at the ground in front of me and see my shadow. It is like I am watching myself run and I feel proud of that person! Dorky? Maybe...but this is a forum for my uncensored self-expression! I just get a kick out of the fact that I am intensely involved in a sport that has a reputation for being strenuous, tough, and intimidating for many. Growing up, I shied away from sports when they became intense. Quit tennis when everyone started the topspin. Quit softball when the pitchers started that fast pitch. I tended toward dance, drill team, cheerleading and aerobics--which people constantly underestimate for their athleticism, by the way. But if you were to tell me that one day I would have several marathons under my belt, I would never have believed you.

Thought #2
When I am running, I feel really connected to my Mom. This association began long ago, before I joined the Dana-Farber team in her memory. I started running a lot in my early 30s. As a matter of fact, one of my 30th birthday presents to myself was making the decision to run the Marine Corps Marathon. Training for that race was a TOTALLY different experience. I had a job, no kids, lived close to really great running trails. I imagined that Mom was my running partner. I am not sure if running is anything my mom was ever interested in, but I sort of think she would get a kick out of me doing it. I imagine she would be that person on the sidelines with the huge sign that said, "GO AMY!! You are an inspiration!!" She was always my biggest cheerleader. So, I always feel her there with me. Trotting along. I visualize that she pulls me when I am feeling slow or tired. By a rope tied around my waist. I probably sound nutso, but if you have ever lost someone you love, you do anything you can to feel connected to that person.

Joining the Dana-Farber team was just so obvious for me. For those of you unaware, my mom was treated for endometrial (and eventually liver) cancer at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. I was in college during her illness and only made one trip to Dana-Farber and it was a total blur and is really an awful, awful memory.

It was during a long training run for the Philly Marathon in the fall of 2007 that I wondered if I would ever qualify to run in the Boston Marathon (answer: no way!). But while on the Boston Athletic Association website, I noticed two things: a link to the Dana-Farber Marathon program and the date of the 2008 Boston Marathon: April 21. My mom died on April 21, 1994. I HAD to be on that team--it felt like fate! And the rest is history. I ran the race in 2008...took a year off to have Alice and am now BACK.

OK, just got back from my 7 miler. Beautiful day out--endorphins flowing. Song of the run: "Praise You" by Fat Boy Slim. I like to pretend that my mom is singing this to me. "We've come a long, long way together. From the hards times to the good. I want to celebrate you, baby. I want to praise you like I should!" Nice to feel like my mom is proud of me. And this song always just pops up on my iPod at the appropriate times. My second song of this run: "Gotta Get Through This" by Daniel Bettingfield. Nothing like a song to remind one of Sarah Ford modern dancing while dressing in Michelle Brown's Aunt Ro's clothes. AHHAHAHHAHAHHA! And nothing like making yourself laugh when running!

Enough for today...