Tuesday, February 21, 2012


When I decided to run the Boston Marathon, I expected the training process to be long, strenuous, and physically demanding. What I did not fully expect was the emotional ride this journey would take me on as well.

Dana-Farber is such an amazing charity to run for. They host group runs, informational meetings, dinners, and have 24/7 access to our training coach and other teammates online. They also offer something called the "In-Memory Program". This program allows a Dana-Farber runner to run in memory of a child who was treated at Dana-Farber, but sadly lost their battle to cancer. The runner and the child's family meet and connect throughout the training months, all the way up to marathon Monday. This program seemed very unique to me, and it was something I was interested in being a part of, so I applied back in November with hopes I would be accepted and matched with a family.

In January, I received an email saying I was accepted to the program, and was matched up with the Hayes Family from Sandwich, Ma, in memory of their son, Jeff. When I read this email, I was excited and nervous all at once. The email didn't say anything specific about Jeff. I didn't know which form of cancer he had, or even how old he was when he passed away. I then emailed Jeff's mom, Susan, and introduced myself and asked her to share anything she wanted to about Jeff. She responded and included some great pictures of Jeff, and we made arrangements to meet at the upcoming dinner for the In-Memory program participants in February at Maggianos in Boston. I really didn't know what to expect from this program, and was very anxious to meet Jeff's parents and learn about him.

A few weeks passed and it was finally time to meet the Hayes Family. Pat and I walked into Maggianos and I saw Susan (I recognized her from a picture on her email signature!). She gave me a huge hug and said "thank you" and handed me a stack of DVD's for me to watch that are all of Jeff. I then met her husband, John, who also gave me a big hug, and right then and there, I felt a connection to them I can't explain but I knew this was the start of something very special. We sat down and began talking right away, all while served an amazing dinner at Maggianos. We had so much to talk about and they were so easy to talk to, which made it even better! They told me all about Jeff. I can't do their stories justice but here is a background on Jeff: Jeff lost his two year battle with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, in 2007 at the age of 17. Jeff was an outstanding baseball and hockey player, and wore #12 on the ice. He never complained about his treatments or wanted people to feel bad for him. He was an inspiration to his teammates, coaches, teachers, and pretty much everyone in their community. The Boston Bruins were a big part of his life during treatments. Players would visit him at Dana-Farber, give him tickets to games, skate with him when he was able to, and even bought him a Playstation 3 when they were impossible to get. Jeff has left such an impact on so many people and he lives on through the memories and stories that are told.

At dinner, Susan, John, and I made arrangements for me to come to the "1st Annual Jeff Hayes Memorial Hockey Tournament" in Bourne, Ma, which was on Feb 20th. I was honored to be invited to this event and was excited to be able to see the place where Jeff skated and spent a lot of his time. The hockey rink was full of people, all there in memory of Jeff. I was able to meet Jeff's cousin, Julie, who ran the 2011 Boston Marathon in memory of Jeff. We got to chat about training, the race, and everything else that comes with the marathon. At this point in the tournament, they planned a beautiful opening ceremony on center ice of which they invited me to be a part of. They announced me as Jeff's runner in the 2012 Boston Marathon and called me on the ice. I was presented with flowers and was able to stand next to his parents and Julie.

 So many emotions shot through me at that moment, but I was so honored to be there running for such an amazing, inspiring boy. The ceremony ended with a slideshow of Jeff, showcasing some of his greatest memories and pictures of how people honored his life after he passed. (You can read more about the hockey tournament, and Jeff here.) Leaving the rink that night gave me all of the motivation in the world to get to the finish line. In addition to my grandmother, I will be running the marathon for Jeff. Both of these people didn't deserve the fate they were given, yet never complained or felt bad for themselves. They are both such an inspiration to me and to so many others.

This marathon is so much more than just running. I have had the chance to tell my grandmother's story to so many people, and have had the chance to relive the memories I made with her as a child. I have also had the chance to meet the Hayes family, who have been through so much, yet are always smiling and always happy and willing to tell a story about Jeff. I am so grateful to have found Dana-Farber and have been accepted to the marathon team. When looking back at this experience, I won't remember how tired I was during a run, or how I skipped a day of cross training. Its the memories I am making with the people I am meeting, the stories I am hearing, and the funds I am raising to find a cure for cancer.

Happy running!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ziplining, Surfing, and Peanut M&M's

Well..... back to reality.

Pat and I had a fantastic trip to Costa Rica and we both agreed it was our favorite trip to date. There was so much to do there, the weather was beautiful, the people were nice, and the food was delicious. However, in the back of my mind, I was a little nervous about how I was going to keep up with training that week. We had a full week of activities ahead, so I figured as long as I was doing something active, I would be ok!

We stayed in Tamarindo, which is on the Pacific side of the country and it is a very popular spot for surfing. I was so excited to learn how to surf, and took a lesson on our first day there. It was myself and 2 guys from Canada in the lesson and we had a blast. I actually got up on my first try, which I didn't expect to do! The lesson was 2 hours long so by the end of it, I rode a bunch of waves and was so tired, and my legs were pretty banged up from some good falls. We rented boards a few more times that week and now I can't wait to surf up here once the summer comes!

Later in the week, we went on a snorkel cruise and had a blast. It included an open bar, food, and 5 hours on a beautiful catamaran, so in a nutshell, it was perfect! We didn't see much in the water when we were snorkeling, but at least the swim was refreshing and a nice break from the sun. On the way back, the sun was just setting and it was breathtaking. Pat and I sat at the back of the boat and just watched it set as we made our way back to shore.

On our last full day there, we had a day full of activities planned. We drove 45 mins on unpaved roads to a ranch where all of our excursions were based out of. We started the morning off with a 2+ hour horseback ride up a mountain. It was a nice and relaxing ride.... until the horses had to make their way up a steep, narrow, winding trail to the top. The horses do this everyday so they are used to it, but we don't do this everyday and were a little freaked out, only because the horses were slipping on the gravel beneath their hooves. However, the view from the top of the mountain was worth every heart attack I had on the way up. It looked like the mountains just went on forever and ever. The way down was just as steady as the way up (not so much!) but we made it down safe and sound.

Our next activity was an ATV tour. It was just Pat, myself, and our guide barreling through trails, water, hills and dirt. LOTS OF DIRT. We saw lots of monkeys, and actually ate fruit right from a tree as a little snack. We took a break to enjoy the view and to document how dirty we were....

Our last activity for the day was the one I was most terrified about and that was ziplining. I am petrified of heights. I don't even like looking out the windows of tall buildings. I don't do rollercoasters. So what do I do? I sign up for a zipline tour. On the tour, it was just Pat and I and our guides. We took a bumpy 15 minute truck ride to the very top of the mountain, where we got suited up (aka waist harness and helmet) and were informed of safety instructions (aka don't let go).  When I realized I didn't understand anything he said because of the language barrier and I also realized I was REALLY going to have to do this, I freaked out! If Pat wasn't there, I would have asked for a ride back down the mountain and bought the man a drink for wasting his time. However, Pat talked me off a ledge (no pun attended) and I did it. The first line was scary because I didn't know what to expect. I closed my eyes for the first 10 seconds, then mustered the courage to open one and was amazed by the view. There were 11 lines in total and each one got a little easier to do because I was getting used to it. I won't lie, I was so happy when it was over, but I am very happy I did it!

I did manage to make it to two yoga classes while I was down there. With all of the different sports and activities we were doing that week, yoga felt amazing. The teacher spoke mostly Spanish but translated a lot for myself and a few other english speaking students. It was a really beautiful studio and the teacher was excellent. As well as making it to yoga, I was able run twice, even though it was on the "dreadmill". I don't like running on treadmills for longer than 30 mins but I didn't have a choice. I wasn't too comfortable running by myself in an area I didn't know too well, plus it was 90 degrees and sunny everyday, which I am not used to! I was happy I got a couple runs in because it made me feel a little better about all of the drinks and food we consumed that week! But thats what vacations are for, right?

So, now we are back to reality, which also means I am half way through marathon training! I drove out to Wellesley yesterday for the Dana-Farber group run, which they have every weekend at different locations. This was the first one I have been able to make and I was anxious heading in to it because I didn''t know what to expect, it was snowing/raining and I didn't really know anyone. I walked into the gym and there were 70 runners signed up, all on the Dana-Farber team! Everyone was so energetic and positive, even at 7:45am on a Saturday. I talked to some other first time marathoners and we all shared our training progress, setbacks, and worries. Once 8:30 hit, we were off and running! I ran with a guy from Hopkinton for the first 6 or so miles. He has run 19 marathons and was giving me a lot of helpful advice from what to eat, to where my family should watch the marathon along the route, to how to fundraise. Along the training route, Dana-Farber volunteers set up aide stations every 2-3 miles full of water, gatorade, pretzels, peanut m&m's (YES, peanut m&m's!) and other goodies to make you smile. The volunteers were amazing and cheering us on and I felt like I was running in a race instead of a training run.

I ended up running 12 miles along the Boston Marathon course, and it included 2 of the 4 infamous "Newton Hills". Because of my mileage, I didn't get to run up heartbreak hill but I got more than my fair share of hills in yesterday. The best part of my day (besides the peanut m&m's) was coming home after running outside in the snowy weather for 2 hours and Pat surprising me with an early Valentines day gift... a gift card to the spa! It was a very generous gift so I can get a few massages between now and the marathon. Perfection!

Anyways, busy week coming up that I will surely be blogging about.... Dana-Farber In-Memory dinner (so much to share about that topic), and the Hampton Beach Half Marathon next Sunday! Have a great week !

Happy running!