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AUTHENTICALLY BOLD: REBECCA

BETTER, NOT BITTER

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Determination

Never Say Never

Another weekend has come and gone, much like the fleeing of those two days of rest often seems to disappear like the fog in the early morning.  Typically, my weekends are filled with the activities of your run-of-the-mill parents:  sports activities of the children, errands necessary to maintain a household, and some type of relaxation activities if there are not upteen birthday parties or family parties to tend to.

This past weekend, I chose to spend the bulk of my “down” time with eleven other adults, five of which were crammed in the same tight quarters of a twelve-passenger Ford Transit van for over 36 hours.  Trust me when I say I’m not quite sure how TWELVE passengers would fit in this vehicle as it was just barely doable with five other adults and our belongings for the 36 hours.

What were we doing that required the rental of a large van and our belongings for 36 hours?  Oh, right.  I signed up for another Ragnar Relay race.  What….on….earth…is…wrong…with…me?

A couple of years ago, I was conned persuaded to join a 12-person relay team to run a 200 mile road race in 24 hours.  I enjoyed the experience tremendously; it was unlike any other race experience and I knew I would do another one someday.  Twelve people sign up to run three times in 24 hours; six people in van 1 and six people in van two covering 36 legs of the relay route by foot passing a wrist bracelet “baton” to one another at pre-arranged transition areas continuously until the entire team crosses the finish line.

Flash forward to May 2016, I completed the Ragnar Relay Cape Cod with some Crossfit and running friends of mine.  As hard as it is to run multiple miles in 24 hours, the adventure afforded by the Ragnar event leaves you feeling an enormous sense of accomplishment, but also, the memories of doing something outside of your comfort zone and an escape from your everyday burdens life.

At the time, I recall saying repeatedly that I would *never* do Ragnar-Reach the Beach New Hampshire.  No way.  No how.  That race is full of MOUNTAINS.   You know…never ending inclines, hills, and did I say MOUNTAINS – as in the WHITE FREAKING MOUNTAINS?   Yes.  No way am I ever doing that!  NEVER.

Oy vey.

In the immediate after-glow of Ragnar Cape Cod, in my delirious and over-tired endorphin laced stupor…..I somehow agreed (it still makes me wince) to do Ragnar-Reach The Beach New Hampshire.  Yes.  Remember I said never?

I was duped. 

I was conned. 

Two of my Ragnar Cape Cod teammates/friends must have batted their eyelashes at me and wooed me while I was inebriated on serotonin.  What kind of friends ARE those; I ask?

Fast forward again to this past weekend, somehow, suddenly a mere four months had vaporized into the time machine and here I was again, sitting in a large white passenger van en route to the deep, dark woods of New Hampshire’s lake region on a Thursday after work.

Why a Thursday you ask?  Because the team I was on was assigned a race start time of 6:45 am on Friday.  We decided it would not be in our best interest to leave at 2 am on Friday to make a three-plus hour trek up to the starting line located at Bretton Woods when we would then have to be awake for however many hours it took us to complete 200 miles to Hampton Beach at the finish.  Fortunately, one teammate in van one and one teammate in van two had homes in the lakes region so we could stay and sleep for a little while before continuing onward North and to higher altitude (aka MOUNTAINS).

Instead of that dreaded 2 am wake-up call from home, we woke at 4:40 am to get the final hour drive up to our race starting point for the safety meeting and check-in of our team.  My nerves began to intensify and my belly reminded me multiple times over that my brain was indeed on crack, or something far crazier than serotonin.  My Gremlin came out and started with her negative banter:

“You are too old for this!” 

“You are not in shape for this!” 

“What WERE you thinking?”

“You are way too fat for this!” 

“You are so slow, you will hold the entire team back!”

“What on EARTH (or any other planet) were you thinking?”

“You are going to fail.” 

“You won’t be able to complete your legs, someone else will have to pick up YOUR slack.” 

On and on and on this terrible self-torture went on.  ENOUGH!  I would shout to myself once in a while.  That sneaky slimeball Gremlin would weasel back in:

“You think Crossfit training is enough for you to run all these miles? HA!”

“Maybe you should have focused on more training runs and not lifting weights!”

“Seriously?  400 meter runs at Crossfit, a few longer runs around town and you think you can do this?”

It was too little, too late; I was committed to a team and fidgeting nervously, anxiously, at the base of Bretton Woods waiting for Runner #1 to go off and wonder if I could start my race with a decent enough run to shake off the demoralizing Gremlin.

I started to look around me and I shivered; but it was only 39 degrees at the base of this particular mountain.  Thank goodness it’s not hot and humid, I gently reminded myself.  Look at that sky!  Look….at….that…sky!  The crisp sky was such a brilliant shade of blue contrasted by the dark green of the mountains around me.  There were hardly any clouds except for a wisp here or there.  As I took in a deep, cleansing and calming breath, I knew it would be okay.

Once the baton was handed to me, I reminded myself to start off comfortably as I tend to want to bolt out – partially in anxiety and anticipation, but partially because the old running star still thinks it resides in my brain and has yet to meet this 42 year old body.

Brain, meet body (again, for the thousandth time).

Body, meet brain (again, also for the thousandth time).

Not only am I 42 years of age now, but my body still suffers from the collateral damage of breast cancer treatment and the never-ending gifts that delivers.  Three different types of chemotherapy have left life-long residual effects such as neuropathy and a post-cancer diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.  Have you ever tried to run several miles on numb feet and with massive joint pain?  For some reason, I do – and for fun!

My first leg of the Ragnar was simply a four and a half mile excursion from Bretton Woods to the Grand Washington Hotel and back to the base of Bretton Woods.  As I took off from the base of the ski lift and the grassy knoll it calls home, I headed into a trail that consisted of a sandy, uneven and rocky bed.  Deep cleansing breaths ensued as I kept my feet steady on the shifting and moving foundation underfoot and I chuckled as I read the “Beware of bears” sign I wobbled past.  Because it was cold, my muscles started to threaten to cramp (damn, why didn’t I warm up more?) and I shook off the pending fear that tried to take over.  Before I knew it, I was out on pavement on Route 302 distracted by the glorious peak of Mount Washington before me.   I continued on and met the Nordic cross country ski trails to run on; again, somewhat of a nightmare for feet impacted by the nerve damage of Taxol.  I found myself chuckling again as I remember what a disaster my one and only cross-country skiing excursion went two years ago at my work retreat on these very same trails.  Why would someone try cross-country skiing when they have severe neuropathy?  Oh, why the heck not?

Distracted by my own laughter, I suddenly found myself at the base of the rear of the Grand Washington Hotel.  It was majestic in its white and red glory against that radiant blue sky. img_5711

The trail evened out and was sure-footed as I wrapped around to the other side of the hotel and around the Nordic Ski Center itself where the front of the Grand Washington caught my breath again.

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Knowing my teammates were waiting, I scaled the uphill driveway to find myself following several other runners scattered along the exit and back out onto Route 302.  As I blasted into the transition area, my team was eagerly and happily waiting for me and I was so pleased to learn I had finished that leg of my race a little faster than I had anticipated.  *THIS* is why I do this, I said to myself.  I *CAN* do this.

My teammates in Van 1 plowed along through majestic mountains and scenery until about 11:30 am where we handed off to the rest of our teammates in Van 2 for them to start their adventures.  We had a few hours to eat, rest and regroup before starting up again for leg two later that afternoon.

By 5 pm or so, the temperature had soared to around 73 degrees and sweat was coming off everybody coming into the transition area for runner #12 to pass off again to runner #1.  My Gremlin started to undermine me and cause me uncertainty for my next leg; the same of which was 6.8 miles.  While runner #1 was out completing his mileage, I worried about what I had gotten into once again.  The pesky questions of self-doubt started to rise and my stomach flip-flopped making me question my lunch choices.  The angel on one shoulder was reminding me of my efforts ten hours earlier and giving me words of confidence.  The devil on the other shoulder was chastising me, berating me, and trying to convince me that I would be unable to do it for a myriad of reasons.

A little after 6 pm approximately, I trotted out of a sandy pit and onto a winding, country road to start my longest leg of the race.  The sun was starting to set with brilliant pinks, reds, and oranges disbursing through the green leaves of the trees.  The farm animals lent their smells to the warm mountain air.  I practiced breathing as I found myself withholding from the anxiety that still remained in the early mile and I tried to shake out the stiffness from sitting in the van for so long coupled with the remnants of rheumatoid flare the week before.

The rolling hills started to turn into much larger rolling hills; with me trying to make up time on the downhill with my friend gravity as I slowly and steadily plowed my way up, up, up the seemingly never-ending and growing hills.  Panic set in as I realized I was only about three miles in; I questioned how I would get through more.  Slow and steady.  Slow and steady.  I recited this to the different beats and tunes surging through my earbuds.

The hills got longer, steeper, and much harder.  I wanted to cry.  I wanted to call my van and plead mercy.  I give up.

No.

Keep going.  You have more.  Slow and steady.  Slow and steady.

I can’t do this.  I can’t.  My feet hurt.  My joints scream.

You have beaten cancer.  You have more.  Keep going.  Slow and steady.

The conflicting dialog continued on in my brain as my body detested the motions I pushed it through.  Suddenly, I hit town and more vans were approaching.  I must be near the transition area.  I can do this.  As I turned the last incline, I saw the crowd of people waiting for their teammates to approach and I knew my very own team would be there waiting.  I did it.

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My van-mates were done around 12:15 am before passing the baton off to van two again.  We had the luxury of getting a shower, a meal, and about two and a half hours of sleep at a family member’s house nearby.  Another 4:40 am wake-up call and we were en route to the final and third-leg runs for our van.

The long and short of it is my body was by now, very sore and achy from the 11.3 miles it completed in the hours before.  Getting in and out of the van was now a challenge, my knees and hips telling me they were not a fan of my activity and my muscles stiffening.  I modified by getting out of the van backwards each time.  Thanks to a wildcard leg for runner #1 and runner #2 in these legs, the mileage was to be determined by both of us.  Runner #1 felt good enough and was a trooper enough to accomplish over 6.4 miles, leaving me with the remaining 4.5 miles to track down for the transition to runner #3.  My van-mates reminded me it looked to be mostly downhill, as words of reassurance and confidence.  Early on, I knew my final leg was going to be a challenge simply because we had lack of sleep, we had too many miles thus far, and my stomach would not tolerate enough fuel for these last miles.

As I tried to maneuver the downhill grades with a faster clip, my quads started screaming at me.  I may have told them to “STFU” and used that momentum for the continuing hills I ensued on this last leg.  Are we not getting closer to the freaking ocean?  Why are there still so many hills I pondered?  My piriformis muscle really let me know it was angry; angrier than my nerve-damaged feet and with more intensity that my quads tried to bail out with.  I walked.  “Just to that telephone pole and then you get your ass moving again, Rebecca!” I said.  I would run until near tears.  I walked.  “Just to that telephone pole and then you get your ass moving again, Rebecca!” I said yet again.  Over and over and over until the final hill of the leg was standing before me.  At this point in time, it looked as if it were Mount Everest before me and I nearly burst into a full on girl cry.  One more massive hill.  I had no choice.  Quitting was not an option.  I walked the entire last hill.  I felt shame.  I felt guilt.  It took me a long time.  I apologized to my teammates who were just so glad I was there.  I started to chide myself again for my lack of performance as I nauseously stepped my sweaty mess of a body into the van.

As we drove to the next transition area, I made a decision.  I had completed 15.8 miles over three legs in 24 hours.  Does it *really * matter how fast or slow I went?  Does it *really* matter if my legs were hilly or not?  Does it *really* matter that I walked some of those big hills?  Really?  No.  It does not.

I said I would never do Ragnar-Reach The Beach New Hampshire.  Yet, here I sat……sore, broken, exhausted, but yet, done.  My never had turned into a reality.  My never had delivered forty-eight hours of memories and adventures with good friends and new friends.

My never had once again reaffirmed that despite the negative Gremlin that lives in my head, I have the power to overrule the nasty words she spews.  My never had also reinforced the belief that despite my sadness that I will never have a “normal” like I had before cancer, my current state of “normal” is okay.  My never allows me to be alive and live…truly live by doing things that are not only a test of my physical body, but my mental ability to overcome.

Putting myself aside, I saw friends of mine take on this endeavor and crush every mile  Friends of mine who are not “runners” as they label themselves, are now the owners of bragging rights for completing distances equal tonor greater than a half-marathon!  What a sight to see!  What pleasure I gained from seeing their smiles and sense of accomplishment!

Life is always full of challenges for all of us, that will not change.  Instead of saying never in the future, I will look at challenges with an open-mind and I will know that I am responsible for whether I choose to accomplish or overcome those challenges as I see fit.  Instead of saying I will *never* do an ultra Ragnar (only six runners for 200 miles, instead of twelve); I now firmly, confidently, and emphatically say, “I choose NOT to do an ultra.  I have zero desire to consider that challenge.  I will look elsewhere for a different challenge.”

Anyone in for Ragnar Cape Cod 2017?

 

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Fatty McFatty Pants (The Gremlin)

You may recall in Right On Hereford, Left on Boylston, I completed the 2014 Boston Marathon; a lifetime dream of mine came true on April 21st.  Despite my months of training, particularly through New England’s Artic Vortex and miles upon miles logged; I somehow experienced a hip labral tear just past mile seven.  Because I am incredibly stubborn and ­­­_______________ (reader’s choice, you pick: crazy, tough as nails, resilient, stupid, mental, stubborn again…..), I did finish; albeit nearly an hour and a half after I expected to.

After a very painful (mental, not physical) six week, doctor-ordered mandated break from working out, I returned to Crossfit.  For those of you who have deemed Crossfit a cult, that “cult” welcomed me with open arms and had me feeling as if I were not only genuinely missed but everyone was proud of me for coming back in.  My workout “family” was non-judgmental and gently nursed my bruised ego as I crossed the gym floor to resume my vacant spot.

A gentle manner and easing into something is not a regular habit of mine; so I was even a bit worried about how my still healing hip would feel as I resumed throwing weight around – both that on my body and that on my barbell.  The pain was virtually non-existent in my hip, but there was a good instability and a random clicking to remind me to be safe.  My coach was excellent about providing modifications to me that did not further add insult to injury.  On top of that, my “box-mates” were constantly asking me if I felt good, if I was okay, and so forth on making sure I respected my bodily boundaries as I regained my pre-marathon weights and workouts.

Surrounding yourself with caring people in an environment where each person is out for his or her own, but he or she pushes you to hit new personal bests or simply get through a bad day is most rewarding.  I know I can rely upon myself to push myself harder than most, which is a hard-wired trait of mine. However, I cannot always stop the Gremlin – the voice that enters my head and tells me that I should have pushed harder, faster, stronger or better.

gremlin

Last week was a perfect example of how my Gremlin started to take over when she had NO business being anywhere near my sweatiness.  Our strength portion of our workout was a 1RM (one round max) of a bench press; or in other words, the heaviest we could go for one rep.  I had not done a bench press for a max in a very long time, so I had no recollection of what weight I should be at.  Instantly, I asked a strong Crossfitter friend of mine to work with her, as I am typically 10-20 lbs behind her and she’s an inspiration for me to work with.  This fellow Crossfitter is always encouraging me in the kindest of ways and making me strive to find my peak strength without losing my femininity (yes, I joke about my growing man-muscles).

We added weights and benched pressed our way up and down the rack.  Once I hit 125 pounds, I lost my mojo and simply could not get the bar up over a certain sticking point.  My box-mate rallied and pushed her way through to 137.5 pounds.  As we put the weights away to prepare for the next phase of our workout, I started to allow myself some disappointment that I did not hit the 130 pounds I deemed as the appropriate number for myself.  The funny thing is I have no manual on what numbers I should be hitting.  Crossfit, itself, has no manuals on what numbers I should be racking up.  My body told me last week that 125 pounds was the max it was going to afford that day.  Enough said.

We finished the rest of the workout, which included things such as toes-to-bar, handstand holds and double unders.  Yes, toes-to-bar. Anyone who is overweight and has had 3 kids has something of a pooch (not a dog, but a hanging flabalanche that starts just below the boobs and ends somewhere in the southern nethers) that is a clear obstacle to your toes meeting the bar.  Ah, yes, there’s a thing called a modification: knees to chest. Let us just say that my knees get parallel and I have to be happy with that (for now).  However, I swing and I sway so that my movements sort of blend in with the rest of the monkeys who make getting their toes to a bar over their head second nature; as if they have been practicing since they were in utero.  Maybe I should stick to running…….Fatty McFatty Pants can cover the distance.

Handstands. Publicly, I will admit it: I am TERRIFIED to try a real handstand in the vicinity of other people, regardless of how much they love me and how they would NEVER <ahem, publicly> judge me or laugh at me. I reluctantly did the modified version and I felt strong despite leaning the opposite way of my box-mates.  Take your weight and invert it upside down using the strength of your upper-body to hold it versus your legs?!?!  Who ARE these people?

Photo: crossfitannarbor
Photo: crossfitannarbor

Recently, another WOD (workout of the day) had me doing thrusters and pull-ups.  Thrusters are a barbell exercise that require you to clean the bar to your collarbone from the ground, squat and then press the weight up over your head.  While I manage to be fairly strong in any barbell required exercises like thrusters, I still carry a tremendous amount of extra weight for body weight movements – making things like pull-ups all but nearly impossible (did I not just outline the pretty picture with toes-to-bar above?!).  However, instead of just jumping up trying to reach the bar as I have for months on end, I am noticing lately that I can actually get my chinny chin-chin up there to the bar.  With more work and practice, I know someday I will be able to do a pull-up without using the force of my jumping legs up to get there.  I may actually complete a handstand as well.  (Insert eyeball roll as I wonder if I will EVERRRRRR get a toes-to-bar).

Every single day has become a routine:   I look at the posted workout on my CrossFit page and a part of me gets giddy. I anxiously await the time of day later that belongs to ME.  I *strut* into my box knowing full well I am about to get my big ass handed to me in some terrible manner, courtesy of no one but myself and my enormous girth.

During the workout, I will curse myself a million times over, and then a few times over again – for being crazy and out of my mind. I will actually question my sanity. I will tear myself down for being so overweight and for allowing myself to get there (chemo weight or not…it still feels like an excuse).

I will complete the workout to the best of my ability on that given day. Most days are given a good effort, but there is a random day where the energy cannot be mustered from any source. However, nine times out of ten, I will walk out of the vast gym feeling like a million dollars and high on an ever-growing addiction to endorphins.

hardest

CrossFit is hard; that is why it is not for everyone. CrossFit is not the latest fitness craze that anyone can just jump into. The workouts take hours practice for proper form, the weights take time to build up to, the endurance adds with each push or pull given by you.  CrossFit is commitment.  CrossFit is determination.  CrossFit is a lifestyle change.

One would not expect their life savings to grow overnight, much as one should not expect their health to grow overnight as well.  With each deposit into my health bank (i.e. a completed WOD), my health is vastly expanding.  I am chipping away at my future health by giving my body the strength it needs to be strong, whether it is in my muscles, my cardiac system or my mental health (including kicking that ugly Gremlin to the corner once and for all).  Each day I complete a workout, I am one day closer to changing my name from Fatty McFattyPants to something more appealing…….(i.e. The Beccinator; Beastly Rebec; Sweaty Bec; Bodacious Becca…….) but until then……..

strong

Yes, I am stronger, I am leaner, and I am a better person than I was the day before.

Should that not be the goal for each of us?

yestrday

P.S.  What do you do with YOUR Gremlin?

Friday’s Inspiration: Not about falling down, but more about getting back up again. Right?

http://www.godfruits.com/2208/runner-falls-during-the-race-of-her-life-then-gets-up-and-shocks-the-crowd.php?ref=8

Runner falls and then……what happens will make YOU cheer.

Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston

boston rjs numberThe journey to the Boston Marathon is truly unlike any other experience. Sure, there’s the twelve week (or longer) training programs you follow to pave the way for your body and your mind to start preparing for race day itself, but nothing, truly prepares you fully for anything and everything that can happen.

The winter of 2013-2014 was known as the one plagued by the Artic Vortex; many of us runners had no choice but to log mile after mile after mile in temperatures that would barely break the freezing point. We were layered upon layered with clothing, gloves, hats, face masks, wool socks, Yak-Trax and more to muscle our way through what Hal Higdon told us to for each respective week.  Our plans revolved around when we had to run, how long we had to run and life in general simply had to follow that course.

We runners try to do everything in our power to prepare for the big day, whether it’s the veterans who have done countless marathons, or us newbies who have only ventured as far as our half-marathons and our longest training runs have taken us. We use body glide to lube up every part of us to avoid the dreaded chafing everywhere that skin may rub.  We clip our toenails super short. We find clothing that makes us most comfortable, often ditching the undies and running commando in the simplest way to prepare. We carb-load the week before and we drink gallons upon gallons of water or Nuun-laced water to be sure our glycogen stores and hydration levels are prime come the day of the big dance.  We double, triple, quadruple check our supplies and make sure in our typical OCD style that EVERYTHING is ready and we are PREPARED.  We are a neurotic bunch.  We check again.  Yes, we do.  (Okay, we check one more time, too).

Many of us are not talented enough to qualify via time for the prestigious Boston Marathon, so we offer to fund-raise and pray for a spot on a charity team. I was fortunate enough to land a spot on Team Eye and Ear for the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Institute and given a minimum (eek) balance I had to raise in exchange. Coupled with the intensive training that lied ahead for me back in December, I also had the challenge of raising several thousand dollars.

boston team eye and ear jerseyFast forward and suddenly, April 21st was upon all of us – race day was here. Carefully laid out clothes were put on after pounds of body glide was applied. For me, I body glided nearly everywhere because at the Disney Princess Half-Marathon I experienced some horrific chafing on my inner arms due to the excessive humidity.  Deodorant was forgotten (and yes, I noticed profoundly of that forgotten task around mile 20 – peeeeee uwwwww). I apologize to any and all people I hugged smelling like a rotten rhinoceros.As luck would have it for me (TMI ALERT!!!!!), my period showed up just in time.  @#&%$@?, thank youuuuuuu body.  (Yes, I can hear all the women uttering complete empathy for me at this point whereas the unfortunate men reading this are raising eyebrows and saying we could have done without that piece of information).  Running with your period sucks okay and it changes EVERYTHING.  Fortunately, for me, I only had to relieve myself ONCE during the race so I chose to ignore whatever else was going on down there until I got home that night.  Your assumptions are correct, I last peed about 12:30 pm about mile 5-6 of my run in Framingham and I did not go to the bathroom again until 9:30 pm that night.  Welcome to the land of Marathon running.

Filled with nervous energy that morning, we shuttled to Athletes Village in Hopkinton, which looked to me as Woodstock should have looked, except we were bouncing around to a nervous energy, not some hippie style music, and no one was smoking anything (maybe we should have been?). We made the half-mile trek with literally thousands of others to find our way downtown to the most profound starting line of my life. All this preparation for months, and here I was, quite unsure of what lied ahead of me and what to really expect.

Just like that, we were off…and running, as fast as thousands of sardines packed in a 29 foot stretch of starting line and road would allow. I was overwhelmed by the amount of spectators already screaming my name and ringing cowbell for me. Before I knew it, mile three was approaching and I realized I better start grabbing some water as it was much hotter than the weatherman had prepped me for. As soon as I started worrying about the weather, I spotted some of my family on the sidelines freaking out! My sister-in-law, her husband, their children were so happy and cheering for me – so I stopped for a selfie with them and on I went.

Somewhere along the way, I grabbed a drink of Gatorade (against my better judgment) because we were coached to alternate water/Gatorade every other mile. Having this be my first marathon, I thought it would be wise to listen to the professionals. I should not have. I know my body better and I have always used JUST water. By end of mile six, I was feeling particularly hot and incredibly nauseous.

The week prior to the marathon, I woke up with a massive chest cold and barking like a seal.   #@#(*&%@#$#(@*!!! All winter I remained healthy, with the exception of a one day stomach bug, but NOW, one week prior to the race of my life, I am hacking up a lung?!? I did not prepare for that.

After ingesting the Gatorade, I began coughing and felt like each cough would end in a projectile of vomit. The phlegm from the chest cold seemed to be hovering behind my trachea covered with sticky, sweet Gatorade.  Trust me, have you ever felt like puking in front of thousands of spectators? Not a good feeling whatsoever and I struggled to keep the contents of my stomach from surpassing the hollow in my throat. The last time I puked in a race was the Falmouth Road Race in 2003 when it was ninety degrees out and 90 percent humidity. Somehow, as the coughing worsened, I found a small stretch with no spectators and a bush – I ran over, gagged a few times and dry heaved into the bushes until the Gatorade was no longer in my system. Onward, I went.

My friend, Michael, had caught up to me earlier in the race, and we were running together as I started to gag on Gatorade.  I apologized for having to cough, gag, sputter, puke and we continued on. Poor guy. (Believe me, I *tried* to get him to go ahead and leave me be).  Within minutes thereafter, I felt a sharp snap in my right hip. @#(*$&#(*@#. A few minutes later, four more snaps in my right hip and the excruciating pain ensued.  I was having a panic attack about being able to finish the rest of the race, as I was only one-third of the way in. As the pain progressed, my weaknesses surfaced and I thought strongly about bailing out of the race at mile ten and again at mile twelve. As we passed two medical tents, I was lured by the premise of listening to the pain in my body but I knew too well that the medical attendants would not let me re-enter once I stepped out. Onward I went. I had no choice.

Race day hit nearly seventy degrees at its warmest point. Only a fellow Team Eye and Ear teammate from Florida was adequately equipped for the pools of salt and sweat that rushed down our faces last Monday. Several people I know were struggling with staying adequately hydrated, perhaps battling severe nausea thereafter or even having to drop out at a certain point because of confusion and disorientation.  Others simply had to take more walking breaks or slow their pace in order to persevere through the afternoon highs.

The finish line of the Boston Marathon is much more symbolic to me and to many of my friends. Sure, the famed marathon is bigger than life and surreal. However, for me, to cross that finish line meant so much more – as I blogged previously, 26.2 Examples of Inspiration, finishing this trek from Hopkinton to Boston was the completion of a few chapters of my life allowing me to move forward. The venture over the vinyl mark on Boylston Street really does mean I am done with cancer, those steps forward are more steps away from my deceased parents, the tumultuous years and ensuing bad feelings that linger, but more importantly, my triumph in crossing that finish line gives other cancer patients *hope* – and I will say it again, I am living proof that cancer can be beaten and we are able to take back that control we lose during our experiences.

Cancer is a very scary world and those of us who have been afflicted often have fears of recurrence, despite all sorts of statistics thrown our way and milestones that we strive to hit. Knowing that I took my body back and completed the Boston Marathon may just give someone else the little bit of hope that they need to persevere in their own daily marathon. For if I have given one person that teensy bit of hope, I will feel very good about taking my journey here.

Needless to say, the race carried on and I saw friends and family and critical mental points. I knew after the twelve mile mark that I could really not ever bail; and with Michael’s encouraging words (“We will walk the rest if we have to!”), I pushed through the pain. My mind constantly battled with my body; and yet, as soon as I thought of a few of the names I had carefully written on my shirt, I found more strength to put one foot in front of the other for another mile and another mile thereafter.  I saw beloved friends at mile 6, mile 15, mile 16, mile 17, mile 18, mile 19 and again at mile 21 before those on the final stretch.  Thank you for helping to carry me forward.

boston friends picboston iacaboni pic boston mile 18 pic

My last meltdown was at mile twenty-two, not only was my hip slowly about to come out of its socket, but the blisters on my neuropathy-filled feet were popping with every step. Thinking we had just two miles ahead of us, I forced myself to quell the pain. Suddenly, an awesome cheerleader on the side yelled, “You’ve got this guys, only four miles left!” I angrily turned to Michael and asked him to repeat what this spectator had just screamed. He confirmed alright that we had four miles left to go. Mentally prepared for two more miles of extreme discomfort had just doubled before my eyes.  Yet, I must go on as the Prudential Tower was in sight. Moments later, I passed a man with a prosthetic leg and reminded myself that I had NOTHING to complain about.

I thought about Jackie and Cara; I knew they would need me to finish this race.  I pulled up my blue and yellow Boston Strong inspired Athleta running capris, courtesy of my best friend, Karen who is currently undergoing treatment for leukemia.  I thought of her literally…on…my….ass…..  How fitting?  Karen was riding my ass to get to the finish line.  Suddenly, I could HEAR her voice telling me to dig deep and finish this damn race.

We *finally* turned right onto Hereford Street and I looked up the slight hill to see that the crowds were still in full force on Boylston Street. Despite the hours that had transpired, the message of Boston Strong rallied through shortly after 6 pm, when the majority of the other runners had long since completed their race. Michael and I charged on and looked at each other – we both verbally announced that once we turned onto Boylston Street, every step of the remaining two-tenths of a mile would be RUN to the finish line.

Michael pulled ahead of me, while I was trying to soak in every face that was then screaming my name, clapping for me, and ringing more cowbell for me. I heard my name in a familiar voice from behind me and across the street, which with my hearing impairment is something of a miracle in and of itself, only to see my good friend Deana and her significant other, David cheering me on. I could not stop or go backwards, for fear I would not finish with my injury, so onward I ran.

As the crowd got louder, I threw my hands up in the air in triumph! Twenty four years after I first wished to run the Boston Marathon at the age of sixteen, over six and a half hours after I first stepped over the starting line in Hopkinton, and here I was……..running down Boylston Street. The tears escaped me and the inconsolable sobbing began. I had runners before me, I had runners behind me, but here I was in the middle of the street with thousands of people cheering my name and applauding my finishing efforts. For that brief moment in time, this was MY race and I felt as if I were Meb Keflezighi about to soar across that finish line.

I spotted my family in their red Team Eye and Ear shirts in front of Crate and Barrel, I ran over to hug them and sob all over their happiness-filled faces. My oldest quickly proclaimed, “Momma, go finish YOUR race!”  I hobbled on another 200 yards to the blue and yellow line that signaled the completion of my journey. More tears, uncontrollable sobs and a feeling of victory oozed from every ounce of my body.

boston official finish

A fellow Team Eye and Ear teammate had finished at the same time and we were instantly interviewed by an unknown reporter before I was greeted by my exuberant family and a couple of work colleagues. I had a compelling need to go get my medal and hobbled down further until I could see my beloved friend Lauren waiting for me. Lauren is a volunteer who distributes medals every year and I knew I could get my medal from NO ONE but her.  I had fears that she had left earlier in the day since I came in so much later than planned. However, I saw her standing in the throngs of medal presenters and I dragged my leg to get there as quickly as I could.  Upon Lauren’s notice of me coming, I burst into yet more tears and sobs as she grabbed a medal to place around my neck. I hung on to that poor petite girl for longer than necessary, embraced my hours-long body odor all over her tiny being.  I could not stop, I cried hard tears for finally being at this point of closure.

boston lauren rjs meda

I do not remember much thereafter, other than my NEED to get to the medical tent for my hip. I demanded ice and some ibuprofen from the kind medical attendants after they laid me on a cot. I was given ice in no time, but told they do not disburse medicines of any kind. I was slightly annoyed because this *was* the medical tent after all (I realize afterwards why they do not distribute, but in that moment, I NEEDED ibuprofen). The physical therapist refused to work on me and the doctor came over to evaluate. I insisted that if he could not give me ibuprofen, then he better damn well give me a shot of vodka for the pain. Unfortunately, they denied me that as well but they did get a good chuckle out of me. The doctor suggested I had a stress fracture, despite my description of feeling something actually tearing in my hip. He gave me crutches and ordered me to call my doctor the next morning. I declined the crutches with a disgruntled “no, thank you!” and a nurse told him I had injured myself at mile seven. He looked at me with a wide-eyed gaze and asked in disbelief, “You just did 19 more miles with that injury?” I smiled and said, “Yes, we ARE a special breed, aren’t we?” The doctor discharged me from the tent and I met my loving family to find our way home. Little did I know that not only was the Copley T station closed, but all surrounding stations were also closed for safety. It took me another hour to walk from the medical tent to Park Street station so we could catch the T to Alewife for our car ride home.

April 21st left me feeling pretty beat up: blood blisters on three of my toes and I will lose at least two of those toenails; a foot sized blister on the ball of my left foot (over-compensation for the right hip injury?), and a torn hip flexor. However, all of these injuries will heal quickly as the body is a remarkable machine.

legs tired run heart

My memories are rampant:

  • Participating in the 118th Boston Marathon in the year after our city was shown some of its darkest memories helped add to the display of perseverance, strength and determination shown by those affected last year, as well as those that trained through tough New England weather to be ready.
  • Raising nearly $12,000 for Massachusetts Eye & Ear Institute and meeting some of the kindest people on earth on my Team Eye and Ear; but also by securing donation after donation from the good people I have in my life who wanted to not only be a part of this historic day but to carry me along in this journey of a lifetime.
  • Taking that *stroll* down Boylston Street to the finish line……. these memories and my finisher’s medal will last me for my lifetime.

Thank you.  Thank you for reading this.  Thank you for supporting me in my never ceasing talk about the race or my training.  Thank you for your donations.  Thank you for being the world’s best cheerleaders.  Thank you for making me feel like I am a superhero and that I can do anything I set my mind to doing.  Thank you for positively changing the world we live in and helping Mass Eye & Ear in making their strides to help each other as fellow human beings should.  The 2014 Boston Marathon has restored my faith in humanity.

It is not too late to continue to make a change, donate here:  http://www.crowdrise.com/teameyeandear/fundraiser/rebeccasoulliere

Now, we move on to our next, as of yet undefined, adventure!  Any ideas?

(No running quite yet, thank you very much.  I just cannot wait to get back to my crew at #Crossfit 978.)

boston believed she could so she did

P.S.  If your stomach can handle it, here’s the physical toll 26.2 can take on you:

photo 5 photo 4 photo 3 photo 2 photo 1

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