Quick Heartbreak Hill Update

20140609-124855-46135190.jpgI have so much I want to say about my weekend in Newton, Mass, but I’m a little overwhelmed? Ambivalent? I’m sorting through my feelings, and the first thing that comes to mind is the advice from Dave McGillivray, race director for this event and the Boston Marathon, who said in the course strategy seminar that to be disappointed in your results is being selfish towards those who are unable to do this sort of event.

The short story is that it was an incredible experience and I highly recommend the whole event. The courses were great and some of the harder ones I’ve done in my brief running career. My right hip/groin area is paying for it. I’ve been having niggles there for a little while, and the up and downhills seem to have aggravated it. It was tough getting up to walk after driving home, but today it feels somewhat better. I’m pretty worried about it, though; I have another half marathon on my schedule in less than 2 weeks. My whole right leg feels sort of twitchy, all the way down to my ankle.

My favorite moment was running past Newton-Wellesley hospital where I was born. I might’ve gotten choked up there. All I could think was: “I’m back” and “This is mine now.”

No PRs, which I didn’t expect. My performance was solidly in the middle of my best and worst times. I think I might’ve been able to PR in the 5k if that had been my only race for the weekend, but I had to rein (or rather yank) it all in the last mile, which was uphill, because I remembered that I had another, hillier, race in just around 30 minutes and the half marathon the next morning.


The Hills of Newton

Heartbreak Hill was tough, especially given our course for the half mimicked the elevation profile of the Boston Marathon with us running primarily downhill the first half and up the second. But the first hill right after the famous fire station was the hardest hill in my opinion. Maybe I felt more confident on Heartbreak because I’d run it during the 10k. One thing different than the Boston Marathon was knowing the finish line was only a half mile away from the top of the hill. You’ve still got a ways to go during the marathon.

My overall Hat Trick standing put me in 15th place out of 80 (or so. I think some people dropped trying the Hat Trick because of the course difficulty and/or the heat and did fewer of the races.) in my age group. In each race, I was in the top 19-22% in my age group. I was triumphant as hell crossing the finish line of the half knowing I’d made it through with my hip being in pain. Even though my time was mediocre, I fucking did it. My last .2 was in the 7:45/mile range, which — given that my right leg was not its best — made me happy. I’m pretty sure there will be a goofy picture or two of me in that last half mile. I was grinning like a doofus and throwing my arms in the air.

I also just found out I won the silent auction for some shirts signed by Katherine Switzer, who was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon (and nearly got thrown out for doing it. Click here to read about this inspirational woman.) The money goes to the Boston Children’s Hospital, which is where a family friend’s daughter received a heart transplant.

22.5 miles in the bag.

A Sense of Doom

Hello from Boston. It’s been a strange sort of day. I had my semi-regular pre-race “why’d I sign up for this thing?” anxiety attack. Not a full blown attack, just the kind where I feel this impending doom of nothing less than my fear of mortality. No biggie. I know the reaction is all out of proportion — it’s something I’m working on related to my PTSD. It sucks when I’m driving alone and stupid me has been listening to the audiobook of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, which doesn’t help matters. I swear I’m not a drama queen.


HHHalf Expo. That’s it, folks.

I made it to Boston College, collected my Hat Trick bib and race shirts, and then checked into my dorm room. The expo was a bit of a bummer. I’m not sure why I expected it to be bigger. Not that I need more running stuff. Not for the first time, I realized I am a knucklehead. I signed up for a shakeout run with Bart Yasso that I thought was tonight at 6pm around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. Well, turns out I signed up for a pre-Boston Marathon shakeout run that was the Friday before that race. So, yah. I stood up Bart Yasso.


My bumper has a boo boo :(

After this discovery, I realized I’d have time to go to the Heartbreak Hill Running Store before dinner. When I went back to my car, this guy runs up to me to let me know some woman smashed into my bumper and then took off. He got her license plate and was going to leave me a note. This Good Samaritan tried to chase after her when he realized she was making a run for it. He also gave me his phone number if I needed to contact him for a police report. I believe he was with the Runner’s World team, and I’m so grateful he stuck his neck out to help me.

While I was on the phone with my husband trying to sort out what the hell to do, the woman actually came back. I’m not sure what prompted it, but I suspect that there was a witness may have had something to do with it. I got her info and I hope it can be sorted out with her paying for the damage.

I made it to the running store and bought myself a super cute tank top. Then I went off to have dinner in Newton Centre at a place called 51 Lincoln. They had popcorn with sriracha sauce, some to-die-for polenta fries and a delicious peach shortcake with blueberry ice cream. I also had some rigatoni Bolognese but it was just ok. My husband makes the best one ever, so I’m spoiled. I’m officially stuffed.


Now I’m back in my dorm room, which happens to be larger and nicer than my son’s at Northeastern. It’s also lacking the pungent smell of the male dormitories. I’ll probably watch some movie on my iPad and turn in early. The 5k starts at 7:15, and I’ll want to be up plenty early for my race morning rituals. I’m not looking for any PRs this weekend, just a chance to enjoy running. So hopefully the sense of doom will not plague me tonight. I dream of a day when I can get to a starting line and feel relaxed. Logically, I know everything is going to be fine. It’d just be a lot more fun to not have to swim through the ick of anxiety to get there. 20140606-204635-74795037.jpg 20140606-204634-74794059.jpg

Why the Boston Marathon?

Pretty much everyone who knows even a little about running and racing knows that the Boston Marathon is the Holy Grail of races. I read somewhere that fewer than 10 percent of runners ever qualify for the race.

This by itself is almost enough for me to put myself through the training to qualify and eventually run this race, but it isn’t the main reason.

Running has been an incredibly healing act for me. It’s not a secret I didn’t have the greatest parents and that I’ve spent the better part of my adulthood trying to untangle myself from the devastation. I made a ton of mistakes, including using alcohol to cope. I also have to be mindful that I don’t use my love of running to do further harm to myself. I’m prone to literally beating the crap out of myself, whether with drink or eating disorders or  self-mutilation (at one particularly dark time, I tried to break my arm and another my leg. Fortunately, I was unsuccessful). I’m sort of shocked that I found a decent husband and stable relationship with him. My marriage also is one of the biggest factors in me being able to fight for my self-worth.

Most of my bad behaviors were ways of diverting myself from the real underlying pain. By the time I got to therapy for the first time in my early 20s, it was already my default to self-destruct rather than feel anything. Somehow, I’ve managed to have at least some small instinct of self-preservation that drives me to seek help and wants to get better.

And I am better. Much better. But as my previous post showed, there are lingering effects that come out when I try to achieve something significant, even if it’s only significant to me. When the achievement is on the line, and not just a training run that no one sees except me, I hear my mother’s voice telling me I shouldn’t even be trying. Except it sounds like my own voice.

I learned at an early age that doing too well in anything would result in some sort of punishment, usually the withholding of affection or sometimes something more devious. I wasn’t always able to put together one over-the-top punishment and my mother’s resentment of me achieving things she could not. I just knew that my mother was one rage from killing me and I never knew what thing I might do would set it off. Being invisible was the best course of action.

Boston+Marathon+signageSo, not only do I start to doubt my ability in things, I also feel like I am not allowed to benefit from my abilities. I’m simultaneously afraid of failing and succeeding. It’s a nasty double-edged sword that I tend to fall on.

But I really want to stop.

The responses to my last post helped me greatly and warmed my heart. It also reminded me that despite how my parents discouraged going to outsiders when we were in need of help, I don’t have to be an island. So, I decided to mention briefly to my running coach a little more about why I struggle in races. She responded kindly and also is sending me a DVD by a sports psychologist that helps athletes with their mental struggles.

She also suggested a book by the same psychologist, Stan Beecham, called Elite Minds. I started reading it, and it’s a terrific book. I think it’s actually already working, as I thought about it today during my 13.1 mile training run. I was struggling with the pace, but I reflected back on what I’d read, and it helped me through. I want to do a more detailed review of the book in another post once I finish. The author had me at the disclaimer when he said that the book was not for me if I was looking to be happy. But if I was looking to be the best version of me, then this might be the right book to help me. This book might be for athletes, but everything I’ve read so far applies to children of narcissists. Beecham advocates truth, both good and bad, and encourages people to confront the false truths about ourselves. Beecham also quotes Scott Peck, which many ACoNs will recognize from his book on narcissism, People of the Lie.

I’m running the Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Hat Trick in less than 2 weeks. I’m approaching these three races as a learning opportunity in several ways:

1) The 5k race is an hour before the 10k, so I get to test out doing a longer warm up run before a race.

2) Both the 10k and the half marathon are on the infamous Boston Marathon Newton hills. I’m excited to arm myself for my future Boston race with experience of running these hills.

3) I’m participating in a shakeout run with Bart Yasso on Friday evening. Totally running-geeked out about this.

4) They are offering several seminars on running. In particular, Shalane Flanigan is talking about how women’s running is different, and there will be a seminar on course strategy for the half marathon.

5) I’ll find out how my body deals with 3 races in two days. I have to admit, this sounded much more daunting when I signed up and before I ran two marathons.

6) iPods and earphones are discouraged, so I’ll be running sans an audiobook. I’ve been thinking about trying this in races anyway since I tend to not remember anything I’ve listened to when racing.

7) I won’t be running for time. I plan to enjoy the hell out of myself while running part of the Boston Marathon course. No pressure, just practice.

The weekend will be about preparing me to run better, be a part of the running community and help me get that elusive BQ.

But why is Boston so damn important to me?

Well, I was born in Newton, Massachusetts, home of the Heartbreak Hill. I want to be reborn, goddamn it. I am going to crest those hills and cross the Boston Marathon finish line triumphant. The act of running is my journey to taking my life back.

Happy Mother’s Day

Hope everyone is having a great day! Weather is awesome here & we’re grilling steaks. I even have on shorts! Real shorts, not just running shorts.

I may not have achieved my BQ (yet!), but my husband and son got me these for Mother’s Day. I think I’ll use them when I run the Runner’s World Hat Trick in a month.


I found another picture of me from the Cox Providence Marathon. This was around mile 20-21. I surprisingly don’t look as miserable as I felt just then, although my stomach was turning around for the better at this point.


My training is moving from recovery time back to some speed work. I still feel nervous about the decrease in mileage, but I’m going to defer to Coach Emily’s expertise and behave myself.

Also, I’m looking into boxing lessons. It turns out a longtime acquaintance teaches boxing (we know him from his day job) right around the corner from my house. My son may even join me for a few. Thank god because our basement sofa has his ass print permanently installed of late. At least he showers regularly. I celebrate the small victories.