Boston Marathon Week 6 Training Recap: The Week Where I Try Not to Complain About the !#$&!^@ Weather

Boston Marathon TrainingI was thinking it would be fun if every week my Boston Marathon training had a theme, but honestly, at least for January and February, every week’s theme would be some form of complaint about the weather. Not only am I not a cold person anyway (which you may have guessed from my tendency to live in northern states), running in the cold increases the mental and physical challenges quite a bit. I figure that people probably aren’t here because they want to hear my thoughts on Mother Nature, but please know they aren’t very complimentary right now.

So, instead of choosing a weather-related theme, I will say that Week 6 is a landmark because it means marathon training is 1/3 done. It’s also the first week with a long run significantly over the half marathon length (at least for us novice and intermediate runners. I think the advanced runners have been doing 15+ miles this whole time. Crazies.)

Cross- Training

I started the week early Monday morning with spinning at Flywheel before jetting off on a day trip for work. The class felt hard, and my score was lower than usual, which I take as further evidence that mornings are the worst.

On both Tuesday and Friday morning I took a Power BURN class at Burn Fitness Studios in Boston. This is a high-intensity interval strength training class that includes six-exercise circuits for your lower and upper body and core. It’s pretty hard but because you move so quickly from exercise to exercise, the time passes very quickly.

This is Jonathan from Burn. In case you were wondering who's kicking my ass in the studio. Photo from the Improper Bostonian.
This is Jonathan from Burn. In case you were wondering who’s kicking my ass in the studio. Photo from the Improper Bostonian.

When I went on Tuesday, I was struggling with one of the ab exercises that focuses on your lower abs. This often happens; many moves targeting the lower abs really bother my lower back. After class, I asked the trainer, Jonathan, what I was doing wrong, and the first words out of his mouth were “Well, if you have tight hamstrings . . .” Yep, that’s me. He gave me some advice to modify the exercise to protect my back next time. Maybe now I will finally develop the six-pack I was born to have.

I also spent some time foam rolling and stretching at home. It’s a good habit for runners to get into and one I’m not so good at, despite having two foam rollers in the living room.

Mid-Week Runs

Supporting current Dana-Farber patients at our monthly team meeting. These personalized banners get delivered to patients.
Supporting current Dana-Farber patients at our monthly team meeting. These personalized banners get delivered to patients.

Not much interesting to report on the mid-week runs. I got in a 3.3, 6.7, and 5.1 mile run, all of them uneventful and under acceptable weather conditions (insofar as winter in Massachusetts is ever acceptable). Thank goodness.

I heard a rumor that I might not be able to say the same about the upcoming week’s runs.

Saturday Long Run

Of course, mid-week I learned that New England was expecting a major snowstorm over the weekend. Because why wouldn’t the first big storm of the year happen when I needed to get in 15 miles?

However, I remained optimistic because running in the snow is FUN and it’s actually not as cold as you’d think. You need to be careful because the ground can get slippery, but snow running feels like being a little kid. I was ready to take on the challenge.

Then, I got this email:

Quelle horreur!
Quelle horreur!

OK. I figured I’d get up super-early on Saturday morning and squeeze in the run on my own before the weather got really bad (projected to be roughly 9 am according to the hourly forecasts). I set my alarm and got out of bed and had breakfast by 6. Then I looked out the window:

Oh for crap's sake.
Oh for crap’s sake.

The snow was already coming down heavily, which isn’t necessarily a problem for running as I’ve said. The problem is that the sidewalks and paths were completely unshoveled (of course; it was so early) and therefore would be slippery and hard to run on. Snow quickly builds up on the soles of sneakers and creates a slick shoe surface, and while I do have StabilIcers for traction, they’re intended more for ice or packed snow, not fresh snowfall. If you run with them in fresh snow, they get packed with snow and eventually get heavy and pop off the shoe. Basically, I looked out the window and instead of seeing beautiful fresh snow I saw a recipe for blowing out a knee, which I do not want to do.

So with disappointment I decided to postpone the long run and try again Sunday. We went away for the evening Saturday and got home around noon on Sunday after brunch, where I skipped the fun stuff like Bloody Marys and bacon so I wouldn’t get sick on my run. Around 2 pm I finally set out for a solo 15 miles.

I thought snow was so beautiful until I became a runner.
I thought snow was so beautiful until I became a runner.

This was a really difficult run, even though it didn’t have the hills that characterize all of the organized DFMC runs. First, while much of the ground was cleared of snow, there were patches throughout the entire 15 mile route that had either never been shoveled, were shoveled badly, or were just uneven ground so that enormous puddles developed. Second, the pedestrians who were out along the river taking photographs were seriously in the way! I wouldn’t have minded so much (small lie: I always kind of mind weaving around people who are blocking the sidewalk) except the paths are so much narrower once there’s snow on the ground and it was slippery, so dodging people was not easy.

I also got soaked by another runner who thought it was a good idea to vigorously sprint through a huge puddle while I ran on the dry ground next to it. Thanks, jerk.

That's me!
That’s me!

And if I may have just one more complaint, I took the skin off my lower back right below the waistband of my running pants. These pants have one of those small flat pockets with a zipper. I never use these pockets on winter pants, and don’t like them because they make the pants hard to wear for any exercise where you lay on your back, like yoga or ab work. Now I also don’t like them because in this particular pair, the seams in the pockets rubbed on my back for the entire run and now it’s raw and red. Getting into the shower wasn’t fun.

On the positive side: 15 miles are done! As I said, this is a milestone in the training because it’s the first long run beyond the half marathon distance. From here on out, shit gets real.

Oh, and I further innovated on my winter “urban water bottle.” During the winter, the water fountains throughout Boston that normally let me refill my bottle are turned off because it is “cold” and that is how “pipes explode.” The urban water bottle is cash that I tuck into my gear so I can duck into a CVS once my bottle is empty and buy a replacement. I forgot to bring cash on my 15 miler, but remembered that the BU bookstore has a public restroom with a sink just perfect for refilling a bottle. Nailed it!

Fundraising Update

Fundraising is going very well. I had originally set a goal of raising $12,750 for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. I arrived at this figure as part of my application process. You’re asked to put together a financial plan that estimates how much money you think you might be able to raise. I tried to be conservative, not wanting to over-promise, but even so, arrived at what I think is a very impressive figure. I included fundraising activities like the Super Bowl Squares as well as a possible event in that total.

The DFMC team plots our fundraising progress on a map of the marathon course. We're roughly at Mile 7, if you consider our team goal to be the finish line. The map also calls out "Pacesetters" who have raised above certain threshold amounts. You can see my name as an $8k Pacesetter at the bottom!
The DFMC team plots our fundraising progress on a map of the marathon course. We’re roughly at Mile 7, if you consider our team goal to be the finish line. The map also calls out “Pacesetters” who have raised above certain threshold amounts. You can see my name as an $8k Pacesetter at the bottom!

I’ve been so grateful that my generous friends, family, and co-workers have enthusiastically supported me, allowing me to get almost 75% of the way to my goal already. That’s more than I ever expected to attain this early in the game, and I can’t say enough how much it means to me to have this kind of support.

Of course, this means that there’s still 25% of my goal to go. So if you’ve been thinking of donating, or you want to support a great cause that directly funds important cancer research, please consider doing so on my DFMC page. Every little bit helps.

I hope to add another $1000 to my total with the Super Bowl Squares fundraiser on or before February 1. As of Sunday night, I had 15 squares still available. I’m hoping the squares sell out this week. I’ll put DFMC on any blank squares at kickoff, but really would rather see a supporter win. It’s going to be really exciting to notify the winners.