CrunchyMetroMom

Trying to create balance…

My 3rd walking marathon September 10, 2013

I’m still not entirely certain that it’s sane to walk 26.2 miles but, if I’m not altogether there, at least I’m in good company. On Sunday, I walked my third marathon in support of The Jimmy Fund – the fundraising arm of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. That part is completely sane…so sane, in fact, that I’m super-proud to say that I made “Pacesetter” again this year (which, this year, meant raising a minimum of $1,500).

The day started early enough: my alarm was set for 4:00am. Since I get really edgy when I have my alarm set for very early times, I slept fairly poorly and woke up a few minutes before the alarm went off. DH and I crept out of bed, got dressed and headed out the door at 4:30am, heading to Copley Square to park the car. The theory is, if you park the car in Copley, you take the shuttle bus to Hopkinton and walk back to your car. And so, we repeated what we’d done in the two prior years, making great time to Copley and boarding the first bus we were able to get on. After a quiet drive out the Mass Pike and a quick pit stop at the registration area for dh’s hat, we grabbed a bagel (thanks, Dunkin Donuts!) and hit the course at 6:18am.

I know this sounds like I’m just making it up, but the first 9-10 miles are always the easiest. You’re excited. You’re enthusiastic. You’re fresh. We took a couple of stops along this part of the route, pausing to change socks at the 8mi “refueling” station (the first of three such changes I’d make during the walk), and then on we went. It was at this point that the bursitis I’d been fighting all week – and that randomly, rather cruelly hobbled me for DAYS preceding the walk – started to come into play. Following the advice from the nurse practitioner I’d seen earlier in the week, I iced my hip at the 8mi point, while we stretched and rested, and I took 600mg of ibuprofen at the start and partway through the walk. It helped, but it only really took the edge off and never really made the discomfort go away entirely.

Ashland

Welcome to Ashland…town #2 along the route

I felt like I ate my way through the course, though really all I ate on the course pre-lunch was a peanut butter and honey sandwich. My breakfast was a hardboiled egg eaten in the car, along with a granola bar, and half of a wheat bagel (dry, untoasted) before hopping on the course. Mostly, I tried alternating between water and Gatorade, just to try to stay hydrated. Lunch was a turkey and cheese sandwich, some chips and a couple of brownie bites. It was a fantastic balance of carbs, protein, sugar and salt to refresh myself. I only snacked minimally after that, although I have to say the Ritz Bits cheese sandwiches I had when we turned onto Beacon Street were all kinds of awesome.

The weather was rather lovely for the start – brisk without being chilly, and cloudy to a fault. But then, once we were about a third of the way through the walk, the clouds started to give way to the sun, and things started to warm up a bit. When we stopped in Natick, I changed my shirt from the long-sleeved “2012 Pacesetter” shirt to a tank top. I teased dh that I was probably challenging town decency laws, but he shrugged it off as, “Enh, you see more skin in a Target flyer.” Touché.

Joel & Jesse

An institution for NINETEEN YEARS, they follow the walkers along the route

The latter portion of the middle third of the walk was probably the toughest. When we were deep into the hills of Newton – which are steep and tall – there was virtually no cloud cover and the trees were spaced out enough that there was very little shade to be had. Worse still, there was almost no breeze. For the last two years, our arrival at the Boston College refueling station was where I would hit a wall that I’d have to climb over. This year, I started to feel a bit out of it while climbing one of the last hills in The Heights (the area that includes BC), but I only needed a few minutes to sit in the shade and rehydrate to get myself back on track.

The Orange Guy

Manna from heaven…and The Orange Guy

Then, up I went..and up WE went. My slightly awkward gait from the bursitis flare-ups, combined with sweatier feet from heavier padded sneakers, led to a couple of blisters atop the balls of my feet. These managed to pop – or something – as we were making our way through the five miles from BC down to the finish, but I didn’t really mind. Fortune smiled on us during the last portion of the walk and most of the final stretch was done in shade and with a cool breeze blowing on us. I was loving every minute of it, while dh was actually complaining that he was getting chilly. I suppose it’s the few extra layers of fat I have on him that probably meant I’m better in cold than he is.

Finish Line

DONE-ZO!!!

Regardless, right around 4:20pm – nearly 10hrs to the minute  from when we walked across the official start line in Hopkinton – we crossed the finish line in Copley Square. This includes about 1-1/2hrs of stops and breaks along the way, so we still made fairly decent time (averaging about 19-1/2mins per mile). We flew through the early miles, but the ones in Newton were much slower due to heat and hills. (I’m utterly convinced that the person who designed the Boston Marathon course loved hills and hated people.) In reality, the time we made is a little better than that, since we walked MORE than 26.2 miles (the finish line of the walk is a good block farther down Boylston than the official finish line of the Boston Marathon, and we start our walk from the official start line of the Boston Marathon, rather than the slightly-farther-down walk start). No womens tee here, folks.

Anyway, it was a great day…so great, in fact, that I did a post-walk, post-stretch plank, just to prove that I could. We had so many great supporters along the way, like Joel & Jesse, and The Orange Guy, and there were so many others who were new or regulars that clapped, cheered, gave us MOAR COWBELL and all that, and it was phenomenal to know that there are others out there who were helping us along the way.

Mile 19 marker: Keira

Why we walk…

 

I dedicated my walk to four people whose lives were directly affected by cancer. One year ago as of Saturday, we lost my dear, sweet aunt to lung cancer after a lengthy fight. Jackie had breast cancer twice before, and this was her second occurrence of lung cancer (most likely from having been a heavy smoker for years). Just a handful of weeks ago, we lost our friend Tim to mesothelioma after a battle that didn’t even last a year.  He will always be remembered as a sweet, kind, funny, and wonderful person. Within the last few months, a friend’s mother – Rosette – began her own battle with brain cancer. Rosette is another sweetheart, and she’s been quite perky in her updates as she has her appointments at the “Dana-Farber spa”, as she puts it. Clio is the only one of the four I haven’t yet met; she’s the young daughter of my sister’s neighbor, and she’s been fighting cancer for more than a year. It’s unfair that kids should have to deal with this crap. It’s bad enough that adults have to deal with it. If anyone ever asks me why I walk, why I’d be nuts enough to walk a marathon and spend a day on my feet, I can answer easily enough: because my marathon is nothing compared to that of a cancer patient.

I’ll leave with this quote, from a sign left to cheer on a walker up one of the nightmarish hills in Newton, because it made so many of us smile. It’s so true.

Your feet hurt because you're kicking butt!

Advertisements
 

20 books and 20 lbs (week 19): EHRMAGERD May 9, 2013

I was really hoping that giving myself a challenge like this – losing 20lbs and reading 20 books in one year – would somehow force me into the discipline of posting weekly about my progress. AND THEN I HIT A WALL SHAPED LIKE SALMAN RUSHDIE.

Holy cow.

This. Book. Is. Slow.

I’m speaking of course, of “Midnight’s Children”, Rushdie’s 1981 novel about the life and times of some of the children born simultaneous with the creation of India as an independent state. I had originally reached for “The Satanic Verses” (which I’d bought when it first came out and almost immediately put down because I had trouble getting into it). DH deflected me to “Midnight’s Children” because he’d heard it was an easier read than “Verses” and he had enjoyed “Midnight’s Children” when he read it. He failed to mention that it was on his SECOND attempt to read it that it stuck. Sigh.

I’m finally past the 2/3 mark in the roughly 500pg novel, so I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Expect that this will not be a positive mark in my review, when I finally FINISH THIS BOOK and can move onto book #5 for the year. (Which I really need to do, lest I just bonk on this part of the challenge.)

As far as the attempts to lose weight go, I’ve spent the last few weeks trading up/down 1-2lbs…or sometimes even just a few oz. I haven’t done anything dramatic to my diet, and trying to get more walking time in to train for my Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk in September has been only semi-successful. Work commitments for me and/or DH have done a good job of derailing a lot of our best shots at training time.

We’re now 1/3 of the way through the year and I’ve dropped a little more than 1/3 of my goal – I’m down about 7lbs right now. Of course, I still feel like I’ve plateaued, so I have to do more there.

The one area where things really have been coming together nicely is with my #plankaday. As of yesterday, I had 3 consecutive weeks of #plankaday for at least 2min! I consider that a nice victory, although the next step beyond this is to aim for 2:30. Ouch. I can feel the ab burn even before I get down to my forearms!

So, in summation, life has been busy, but when I’m not at work or doing stuff with the family, I’m hip-deep slogging through “Midnight’s Children”. I will finish this book soon (before it finishes ME), and then I’ll grab book #5. With any luck, I’ll even manage to drop another pound or two and find my way off this plateau (in a positive direction, of course!).

 

My 2nd walking marathon (part 4) September 22, 2012

{In the prior parts of this series, I talked about selecting a walk & gearing up, training & fundraising, and actually DOING the walk. This last post focuses on the recovery, which was an area where I had difficulty my first year. As with the other posts, when you think about doing a walk like this – make sure you talk to a doctor and maybe someone who does personal training. They can give you far more tips than I can as to what’s appropriate for YOU. I can only comment on my experience and I don’t claim to have any medical training, professional certification, etc.}

Last year, when I finished the walk, I was tired and in massive amounts of pain. When we got back to the house after the Walk, my temperature dropped and I was then coping with pain and something that felt much like the worst chills I’d ever had in my life. The next few days I was sore – intensely sore – but after a week I was back to normal.

This year was COMPLETELY different.

For starters, I had my fuzzy slippers and a zip hoodie sweatshirt waiting for me at the car. I ditched my shoes and socks in the back seat and switched to the slippers, then I put on the hoodie and zipped it up. The whole point of this was to keep my body warm. Sure enough, I had stretched for a bit after the walk was over, but that’s not enough to cool your body down enough to resist the fact that it’s just done SO MUCH WORK for SO LONG. So, the extra heat from the slippers and hoodie kept my body at a stable enough temperature that the transition from Walk to home was an easy one.

When we got home, the kids were waiting eagerly for us and we managed to have dinner in tow (we’d called our local pizza joint on the ride home), so that made life a lot easier. I took some more ibuprofen, since I was starting to stiffen up a bit, and I took a lukewarm shower so I could wash off all the salt and sweat without setting my muscles off. Getting the kids to bed was easier than expected, and we all managed to sleep through the night this time – no nocturnal freak-outs from either child.

The next day, both dh & I pushed fluids and kept the protein going, and we both kept moving. Even when we were a little stiff or sore, the idea was not to just spend the entire day on the couch. Two days after the walk, my quads hurt, but that was to be expected. Typically, it’s not the day after a workout that gets you; it’s the day AFTER the day after a workout that has the peak pain. Even so, somehow, my body was in a better state for this Walk than it had been the year before, and I felt like I could go up and down stairs, walk around and generally be in less pain than I had been in the recovery period last year.

Next year, I think the plan will be much the same – have warm gear to change into at the car before the drive home, push ibuprofen as needed and don’t stop moving for an entire day. While I took a few days off from actual exercising, that doesn’t mean I didn’t get moving again quickly. Within a couple of days, I was doing strolls at lunchtime with co-workers, and I think that definitely helped me recover. I’m still amazed at how well everything went before, during and after the Walk. Honestly, all the planning in the world couldn’t have made it go any better.

And so I can close the book on the 2012 Walk and plan for 2013. Who’s with me?

 

My 2nd walking marathon (part 3) September 20, 2012

{As mentioned in the prior two posts – the first on selecting your walk & gearing up, and the second on training & fundraising – it’s incredibly important that you understand this is what I did and these are the choices I made based on my experience. Before you get into doing a walk like this, you should definitely talk with medical professionals, like your doctor, a personal trainer, etc., to make sure it’s the right thing for you. Also, another reminder: none of the companies mentioned in these posts asked me to mention them or compensated me for talking about them in the context of my marathon walk.}

And now we come to the big dance:

Walking

The Walk has a rolling start, beginning at 5:30am, and since it can take 8-9hrs to walk a marathon, there was no way I wanted to start it late. So, we got up at 4am and started preparing to go. I will also note that dd, who didn’t want us to go, kept us up from 12:45am until we gave up and turned off the alarm a little before 4am, so we were already operating at a deficit.

We made a couple of peanut butter sandwiches for each of us, stuffed those and some granola bars in our bags, and off we went. DH had a couple of bottles of water, and I had my Camelbak hydration pack (which I’d filled about halfway with water, since I didn’t go through all of the water I brought last year, when I’d filled the pack’s bladder). We drove up to Copley Square and parked, then hopped one of the schoolbuses chartered to bring walkers out to Hopkinton. Some people chatted loudly, others (like us) nodded off and slept most of the way out the Mass Pike to the start line.

Once we got to Hopkinton, it was ON. DH and I got to the start line and just started moving. Knowing that I would probably start to have hip and knee problems about halfway through, I’d taken some ibuprofen at the start, just before we got on the road. This turned out to be a more common practice than I’d suspected; many of the veteran walkers I spoke to had done the very same thing. I’d even dumped a bottle into a baggie to bring with me, in case others needed some (much as I’d been helped by an angel at the lunch tent last year).

Every mile marker we passed was a sweet reminder of why we did this Walk.

2012 Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk - Mile 2 Marker

Each marker brought you one step closer to the finish line, one step closer to a cure for the cancers that plague Dana-Farber’s patients. The walkers’ tradition is to touch each mile marker as you pass it, to acknowledge the amazing heroes chronicled on each sign.

I didn’t start to feel twingy, really, until around the 9th mile, at which point I knew we weren’t too far off from the halfway point. We had stopped to stretch a little more than last year, and I was good about grabbing snacks at the various “hydration stations” situated a few miles apart along the route. My typical take was a bottle of red Gatorade and something with some carbs and/or protein, here a Larabar, there a banana, occasionally a package of pretzels. I tugged on my hydration pack’s drinking tube here and there, and the rest of the time I was rocking the Gatorade. After having had such great success with it during last year’s walk, there was no way I would abandon a winning formula in the current year. I also brought more socks with me this year, and I changed my socks when we were at the 8th mile marker, planning to do one more change when we got to Boston College (mile 21).

On and on we went, and the twinges in my knee were starting to bug me. It wasn’t so horrible as last year, though, so I soldiered on until we hit the halfway point in Wellesley. When we stopped to stretch, I took more ibuprofen and ate a peanut butter sandwich, figuring that would give me some more power for the next portion of the Walk.

2012 Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk - Mile 10 Marker

Just after the halfway point, around about mile 13 or 14, we made it to the lunch tent, where we reunited with a pair of walkers we’d met earlier on in the day. That’s the great thing about doing such a long event; you tend to see the same folks over and over again, and you use them as some way of determining where you are in the “pack”, especially when it’s not a well-defined grouping like you’d see with a shorter distance event. The lunch tent was filled with sandwiches of all kinds – peanut butter and jelly, ham, turkey…as well as Cape Cod chips, Fig Newtons and fruit. DH and I grabbed hefty lunches: a sandwich, a bag of chips, a bag of cookies and a banana. Everything has its purpose; aside from the tremendous number of calories you burn by walking for so long, you also lose minerals and you dehydrate, so everything you take is there to help replace what you’re using up.

Feeling refreshed, we got back on the road, and I can’t even say how happy I was that I wasn’t limping. It’s hard to explain to someone who’s never been in tremendous hip and/or knee pain, but when you are able to WALK TALL when the prior event you were limping and shuffling, it’s an amazing difference and a huge confidence boost.

2012 Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk - The Orange Guy

Coming into the hills in Newton, year in, year out, you come across “The Orange Guy” – a resident who passes out pounds and pounds of orange wedges to the hungry and thirsty walkers who pass him by. He and his wife were such sweethearts, and I’d been given the head’s up last year to expect their tasty oranges. Sure enough, both years, I’ve seen them out there dishing out tasty treats to keep us moving. They do this same drill for the Boston Marathon (race) in April, and I think it’s just fantastic. They’re not the only ones who come out to cheer on the walkers, but they are certainly the most intrepid…and scurvy-preventing.

On and on we walked, and here’s where I start to get a sense that even my not-quite-optimal training schedule managed to get me closer to where I needed to be. One girl, sporting a back sack covered in pins from an herbal supplement company that she (clearly) worked for, was having quite a bit of trouble making her way up the hills. I could tell she was in pain, as she held her hip and moved stiffly. I offered her some ibuprofen, but she had already taken some, so she thanked me and limped along. I felt somewhat proud that I’d been able to make it so far without much difficulty.

2012 Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk - Boston College

NO PARKING means “KEEP MOVING” in walker-ese

The sun and heat were starting to get to me by the time we reached BC. I’m not great in heat, and I’d already stripped down to my tank top (I started the Walk wearing a tech t-shirt over my tech-tank, along with tech capris). At Boston College, I pulled off my tank and replaced it with a fresh one, just to try to cool me down a little further – and reduce the goat factor. Another change of socks, a swig of Gatorade for strength, and back down the hill, out of the Heights, we went. I knew…only five miles left…I have to make it better than I did last year.

2012 Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk - Kenmore Square

We kept moving and sometime between a few minutes and forever later, we came upon Kenmore Square, only two miles from the finish. At this point, I’m still WALKING. No limping. I have a pair of very small blisters starting to form on the bottoms of my feet, but they weren’t bugging me at all. It seems improbable, impossible, even, that I’m feeling less pain than dh claims to have. How is this happening? Even ibuprofen isn’t THAT good.

And then the amazing happens. We get to the finish line and I could RUN across it. I won’t lie – I was tired, and I was warm, and I was ready to SIT DOWN FOR A WEEK – but I danced across the finish line, so incredibly thrilled that not only did I finish the marathon, but I finished it strong. I surprise myself sometimes. Ask me if I want to walk another 26.2 for The Jimmy Fund and the answer is OH MY YES. It’s not that it’s not a challenge; it’s a huge challenge. But what an amazing thing to do that helps so many.

2012 Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk - Finish Line

YYYYYEEEEESSSSSS!!!!!

Next post (and final in the series): Recovery

 

My 2nd walking marathon (part 2) September 18, 2012

{In the first part of this series, I began with the selection and gearing up issues and choices I ran into with walking my second marathon. Now, we’ll move into training and fundraising. Also, now’s as good a time as any to repeat that I am NOT a medical professional, I am NOT your doctor, and I am not a certified personal trainer. Before you decide to do any of the stuff I talk about, go talk to someone who can give you a professional medical opinion.}

Training

Ah, training. My least favorite part of any event – not because I don’t like having to train but because I often find it hard to allocate the time to train. When you’re training for an event that involves speed, like running or swimming, your training is timed around a speed sport. When you’re training for an event that may or may not involve speed but that requires a lot of endurance, your training is timed around building endurance. Walking a marathon isn’t something where you immediately focus on how fast you can do it; the goal is to finish, not necessarily to finish first. And, unlike training for something like a 5K or 10K walk (which I don’t even really train for, after the number of them I’ve done in my life), training to walk 26.2mi can take TIME. Think about it this way: the average non-speedy walking speed is around 15-20min/mile. That means that a 5K (3.1mi) walk should take about 45-60min to complete when not packed in like sardines. A 10K should be double that, so maybe up to 2-1/4hrs. A marathon, however, could then run you anywhere from 6-1/2hrs to 8-3/4hrs.

Imagine trying to train for an event that takes you an entire work day. It’s nuts.

And then there are the logistics, like finding bathrooms along your route (once you’ve mapped a route), staying hydrated and fed, and even HOW to map a route! It adds up to a lot of stress very quickly.

To minimize frustration, I came up with a couple of routes that I could easily tap as standard walks, and I familiarized dh with them so that he would have a general sense of where I’d be when in my training walk. Google Maps has a nice option for doing walking directions; it’s not perfect, but it’s useful enough that you can drag the route around until you find your desired mileage. For me, a 10K is my preferred length for a weekend training walk, since I can’t get 2hrs of dedicated time during any given day in the work-week to walk. Typically, if I can manage to get about one hour a day, 2-3 times a week, I feel like I got a decent set of workouts in for a work-week. On the weekend, at least one longer walk (such as a 10K), makes me feel a lot less like a schlub.

There are training calendars out there that will help you figure out what you need to walk and when, such as these from The Walking Site. Remember, though, that it’s not all about just walking. You have to intermix the walking with other exercises, like strength training or some form of weights work, so that you’re cross-training. Whether you decide to go for personal training or just buy a DVD from Jillian Michaels, there are tons of low-cost, high-value options to help you build strength and insert some variety in your schedule. For me, I found that some of the workouts I did when testing out products I was reviewing, like the Empower Fitness Fingertip Grip Medicine Ball, helped me cross-train. And the stretches I got from the trainer at my gym were ones I used both when I was cooling down from walks and when I was stretching during the marathon walk.

Think of all of these things as tools that go into a toolbox; use what you need when you need it, but fill it as much as you can so that you have the best possible chance for success.

I will admit that I didn’t train as much as I wanted to this summer. Early and often, I let picking up the kids, my husband’s triathlon training schedule, and a whole host of other things give me the excuse as to why I wasn’t working out that day. So, when it came to the day of the marathon, I really didn’t know how I would do. Scary stuff.

Fundraising

The other marathon associated with this walk is the fundraising component. You can raise as little as $300 (or at least that was the minimum this year), and once you cross the threshold of $1250, you start making “Pacesetter” designation. Given that I’m not sure I’ll ever raise another dime for Komen, I wanted to pour all of my effort into this; I decided I REALLY wanted to make Pacesetter.

I started out by leaning on the tools available through the Walk web site. Most events these days have either use a solution from Kintera or make their own Kintera-like setup, so there are the usual reports, e-mail features, etc. I blasted out an e-mail and waited. And waited. And waited. Sigh.

Realizing that my own group of friends and family would be insufficient to get me where I needed to go (and understanding that from the moment I set my goal of $1250), I set up a meeting with the Corporate Social Responsibility team at my office. For some folks, this may be a function embedded within Human Resources; ours is a wholly separate team that handles all of the requests for fundraising events, among other things. Anything related to philanthropy goes through them. Unfortunately, since I work in Rhode Island and live in Massachusetts, I wasn’t able to use all of the internal means we have available in order to promote my events. Ah well. This is where knowing A LOT of people comes in handy. Being shameless also helps, too.

I decided to do two events, the most profitable being an “opportunity drawing”. In any other world, we’d call that a “raffle”, but there’s all kinds of legalese around raffling, whether or not it’s gambling and BLAH BLAH LEGAL BS BLAH. The way it works is simple enough: just come up with a bunch of baskets or gifts that people can donate to get a chance to win. Each donation results in the donor getting tickets. The key thing for it not to be a legal nightmare is to make sure that anybody can participate; if someone had no money (or simply didn’t want to donate) but wanted to get a ticket, I’d give them one. It’s as simple as that. Also, I had to keep the total value of any one gift to no more than $250. OK – easy enough.

I had a few things I pulled together myself, plus a basket donated by a co-worker and a bunch of stuff I got at BlogHer ’12. That raised me enough to get me about 1/3 of the way to my goal, which placed me within striking distance when combined with what I’d gotten from friends and family. A few more reminder e-mails and some pleas on Facebook got me the remainder weeks before the Walk started – and I raised almost $1400. It was really amazing.

Realizing that some long walking events, like the 3-day breast cancer walks, have stiff donation minimums (usually $2000 or more), I can’t imagine trying to raise money without doing something drastic – like opportunity drawings at work, having a lemonade stand, or hitting up extremely rich relatives. It’s hard to raise money when the economy’s somewhat in the tank and people are more worried about making their mortgage payment than cancer research. Still, people opened up their wallets, and I’m sure it helped my cause tremendously that The Jimmy Fund has tremendous name recognition in New England. The fundraising was somewhat stressful, but the help I got from the Walk organizers made it a ton easier (once they had my event information and approved it, I was able to get official materials with the Jimmy Fund Walk logo to use as part of my promotions). Key lesson for those who haven’t done this before: work with the official teams in your office and at the event, since they are there to help you. Most companies like to tout their philanthropic work, so don’t be surprised if they jump at helping to take credit for the good work you do. For me, that’s fine…as long as I get what I need in order to raise the most possible money for charity.

Next post in this series: walking…

 

My 2nd walking marathon (part 1) September 11, 2012

This time last year, I was gearing up to walk my first marathon. Given the schedule, this year’s walk came sooner…but at least I knew what to expect this time around. Until I registered for the 2011 Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk, I figured that there’s no way I’d ever get to do a marathon. First off, I thought you could only really run them (not true). Second, I knew I couldn’t run one (true – and also would be in direct violation of my doctor’s “DON’T RUN” rule). Third, I assumed marathons were only for elite athletes or people who are VERY, very in-shape (not necessarily true). And it wasn’t until I did my first marathon that I figured out what was really true and what wasn’t. Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, walking one marathon prepared me so much more for the successive ones than anyone’s advice could have, so I’ve decided to cram all those lessons learned into the next couple of blog posts.

As a reminder, the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk is an annual walking event in the Boston area that benefits the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a cancer research and treatment facility that has gained a lot of notoriety for their pediatric care, in addition to their adult care, as well as a boatload of research and treatment options that they’ve developed or pioneered. Loads of people support them, and they have strong affiliations with local sports teams, like the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Bruins. Kids with cancer – how can you NOT support that?!

You don’t have to walk a full marathon; you can walk a half-marathon (13.1mi), which departs from Babson College, you can walk a 5mi course that departs from Boston College, or you can walk a 5K course that departs from Dana-Farber itself. I chose the full marathon (26.2mi), which leaves from Hopkinton, MA, and follows the entire Boston Marathon route run by all those amazing people on Patriots Day every year.

The way I see it, walking any marathon comes down to a few essential things – and walking one for charity just adds an additional component:

  1. Event Selection
  2. Gearing Up
  3. Training
  4. Fundraising
  5. Walking
  6. Recovering

I’ll cover the first two of those items in this post, and the remaining two will go into the next three posts. Now for the VERY important disclaimer: None of the manufacturers, companies, etc. that I’m writing about have given me ONE THING in exchange for this. I’m writing my opinion about products, services, and businesses that I picked on my own without any kind of quid pro quo. Also, I’m not an expert. Before you go and do something as nuts as walking 26.2mi in one day, PLEASE consult with your doctor, personal trainer, and any other folks who can give you an eyeball up and down and determine whether they think you’re up for it. In other words, don’t do or say as I do until you’ve had someone else confirm that you should take part in a walking event.

Event Selection

There aren’t a ton of walking marathons in this area, or at least there aren’t a lot that I hear about. The Boston Marathon is one of those elite, world-famous races, so the temptation to get to do this amazing route is incredibly high. Since I know I can’t run a race (remember: doctor’s orders!), I figured I HAD to try to walk it. The bar for entry is incredibly low – anybody can register (small entry fee) and this year, you needed to raise a minimum of $300. In events like this, where there’s a minimum fundraising amount, the event organizer will take a credit card number from you (whatever you use for registering) and if you haven’t raised at least the minimum by some time on or after the event date, the difference to get you to that minimum will be charged to your card. So, there’s motivation to raise $$. If you want to try a walking marathon with no fee, I suppose you could always organize something that gives you bathroom breaks around every 2-3mi, walking past your friends’ houses for 26.2mi…but going with a professionally organized event is a much better bet. Really.

Gearing Up

I had some trial and error going on here, at first. My first selection of shoes, a pair of Saucony Grid shoes, was nice enough…but the toebox wasn’t really big enough for my ultra-wide feet. What this meant was that I ended up with a bloody sock and damage to my feet. NOT. GOOD. My pointer toenails STILL haven’t recovered from that, even more than a year later.

After a false start attempt with a running store nearish to my office, I found what I needed at Marathon Sports – a local chain of running stores that’s known for being serious about getting you into the right gear. In my case, my wide feet demanded a similarly wide shoe, so the right fit for me ended up being an EXTRA WIDE pair of men’s Brooks Addiction sneakers. What’s the lesson here? It’s not that you should go to a running store, since that should be a given. The lesson I learned was that I should ignore the mens/womens labels when it comes to certain gear, since the womens line may not have what I need to fit my size or shape. Mens shoes proved to be the right way to go.

As far as everything else – all I wear is wicking material. A trip to the nearby outlet mall scored me plenty of that; I have sleeveless shirts (tanks, but not spaghetti strap ones), capri pants, and jog bras that all wick moisture away from my body. I’ve come to the point in my life where I’m so used to wearing wicking materials that I can’t work out in cotton. I had a workout in a cotton t-shirt at BlogHer ’12 and I thought I was going to suffocate, the material was so hot and stuffy. UGH. I won’t link to specific items, since everything I got came from the outlet and is likely discontinued by now. I can say that I tend to favor Reebok items, because they’re local. Of course.

My socks are also wicking material. You may not care a ton about socks until you realize how much work they have to do on your behalf. You need the right amount of cushion but not too much thickness, you need breathable material while still providing protection…you need your socks to do a ton without costing you an arm and a leg. The ones I chose come from REI; they’re fab socks that go just above the ankle, so I don’t have to worry about any possibility of them slipping down and leaving my ankle exposed for blistering. Not that my Brooks shoes would ever TRY to give me a blister, but a little protection can go a long way.

At the recommendation of a friend, I even went with wicking underwear (also from REI). I can’t tell whether the stuff is magical or not, but I can say that having everything on your body in the same general level of breathability can contribute to your overall level of comfort, and even a little bit of straight-up cotton can throw things off. At least for me, that’s what I’ve found. In other words, your mileage may vary, so try stuff out if you want to change things up or leave them as they are when you find something that works. This is what works for me.

Next post: Training and Fundraising…

 

The marathon before the marathon August 16, 2012

Filed under: walking — crunchymetromom @ 8:52 am
Tags: , , , ,

Today I managed to reach – and then beat! – my stretch goal for fundraising in support of my marathon walk. I can’t really describe the feeling I got when I realized that I had raised more money than I’d ever raised in one event…and I’m still rather astonished.

The event, for those who didn’t follow my walk last year, is the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk, a fundraiser for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI). DFCI is monumentally instrumental in researching and treating cancer, especially cancers that afflict children. When I saw the ads for the walk last year and decided (only 8 week prior to the event!) that I would try to walk 26.2 miles, I felt like I was probably getting myself way in over my head. But as I walked past each mile marker with the picture, name and bio of some sweet child who was in the fight of their life, I knew I was there to make a difference.

2011 Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk Finish Line

The view coming into the finish line in Copley Square, September 2011…ahhh!!!

 

I chose the marathon walk because I knew I’d never be able to RUN a Boston Marathon, but I figured I could walk it. And it wasn’t without pain (oh my, there was pain), but there was the angel with the ibuprofen at the lunch tent and there was the knowledge that there were people doing the full marathon walk with braces, canes, etc., and…ALL MY EXCUSES ARE INVALID.

The entry point for this year’s walk was $300 – you had to put down a credit card and if you raise less than $300 by the time they do the final tallying post-walk, the difference is charged to your credit card. Last year, getting to $300 was pretty easy, and I have enough experience raising money for Races for the Cure that it never occurred to me to be worried about raising so small an amount. Even in a recession, people are generous about giving even small amounts (and sometimes large!) when it comes to cancer and kids. Plus, given how DONE I am with the Komen folks, this is now the charity that I will target for all my personal fundraising efforts. Narrowing things down to one event per year is good, narrowing it down to one I can trust is even better.

This year, I wanted to go big and make “Pacesetter”. The Pacesetter designation is for walkers who raise a minimum of $1250, and there are varying degrees of Pacesetter, based on how much you raise (one star is $1250, two star is $2500, etc.). I tried to figure out how to handle things, and I knew that fundraising on a grander scale would be needed, so I engaged the Corporate Social Responsibility folks at my office, as well as the walk organizers, and I set up to do some events on-site at work. I had to get everything approved by work, and I had to get the events that would be considered “official” approved by The Jimmy Fund folks, too, so I could borrow a banner and some other materials to show that this was indeed a legit fundraiser.

My coworkers were fab about supporting me – some donated online and others donated through the events that I ran. Some did both. My family kicked in a bunch of money. My friends, solicited through e-mail and Facebook status messages, kicked in more money…and shortly after breakfast this morning, I reached my goal. At this time, I have nearly $1300 in, with another $67 still *somewhere* in the Boston mail system.

I’m tired from all the fundraising, since that seems like it was a huge exertion all on its own, but I have to say that it was a brilliant time and I’m really proud that I was able to bring in so much money for such a worthy cause. I’m still able to take donations, but I’ve deliberately chosen NOT to solicit via my blog because I’d like to keep this space free of appeals for money. If you want to donate, feel free to comment and I’ll get back to you. Otherwise, no worries.

So now I can focus on my neglected training schedule, in order to keep myself from limping my way through the course this year. I finished the first “marathon” for this year’s walk, and now I’m on to the second. Here’s hoping that the actual walk is easier than the process of getting there…

 

Recovering from Komen-maggedon February 4, 2012

Filed under: blather — crunchymetromom @ 12:52 pm
Tags: , , , ,

It’s been a rough week. Of course, it’s probably been rougher for the folks at the top of the Komen National HQ, but they deserve all they get for having been so monumentally stupid as to make a high-profile change to their grant “eligibility” without having spin doctors at the ready. That’s just Marketing 101, folks.

So, now we have a problem. How do we still donate to breast cancer-related organizations? How do you know who you can trust to be a good steward of your money? They’re tough questions, but the latter – in particular – can be applied to any philanthropy, really, and this is just as good a time as any to be reminded of that.

Having been a regular of the Komen Races for the Cure for 16 years, having raised thousands of dollars for Komen (mostly for DC, but some in Massachusetts), and having encouraged friends to donate their money or their time to the cause, this whole s**tstorm puts me in a bind. So, I’ve had to re-evaluate things. Thankfully, an interview last night on WGBH with the Executive Director of the MA Komen affiliate triggered my memory and that cleared my head A LOT on the subject.

What she explained is that the affiliates – the regional arms of the Komen organization – are licensees of the Komen name, but they’re locally operated and they give locally. When you do a local RFTC in, say, Massachusetts, your fundraising efforts go to the MA Komen. That means that 75% of what you raise stays in YOUR neighborhood/area. (I knew this but was conveniently forgetting it, because I do the Global/National one most frequently, and the sheer size of it throws me off sometimes.) The other 25% goes back to National to fund research and other grants.

WHAT THIS MEANS: if you want to give local, one option is to do the local RFTC or donate to the local Komen. Some of your money will go back to the National organization. The local Komen affiliate SHOULD have a list of who receives grants from them. For example, the MA Komen was extremely forthcoming in putting out their list of grant recipients. If your local Komen doesn’t have that list, don’t be shy about asking…if you still want to.

But what if you’re just ready to burn your pink ribbons and don’t want to deal with Komen? That’s okay, too. Again, I shall refer you to the aforementioned list of grant recipients. You can always donate directly to them, bypassing the middle-man and getting your funds to exactly the organization you want to benefit. This is one of the reasons I always duck-and-cover, if not belly crawl, away from United Way fundraisers – I’d much rather give directly to the organization I want to fund than a larger organization whose overhead costs I question.

As someone who frequently gives to charities and who does typically 2-4 fundraisers a year (some of which are in-kind donations, like food drives), I always encourage people to know who they’re giving to and who will benefit. If you can’t get the answers that satisfy you and actually ANSWER your questions, move along. There are plenty of other organizations that are very transparent and forthcoming because they know that’s more likely to get them donations than if they just do a bunch of handwaves and tell you not to worry about how they’ll spend your hard-earned cash.

Another way to make sure that you’re an informed donor is to check out what others say about a charity you’re considering donating to. Charity Navigator is fantastic for that; it has objective ratings of charities based on their overhead costs, how transparent they are, etc. It also allows for people to post their feedback on interactions with the charities – good, bad and indifferent.

I’ll leave you on this one last note: not all Komens are bad. National has its issues (perhaps a newsstand full of them), because they’ve changed their mission and don’t know exactly how to express that without stepping on more landmines. I still think that National has lost its way and the only way I’d want them involved in things related to my uterus is if they suddenly expand the organization’s mission to include uterine cancer. Otherwise, they have no business getting involved in politics related to abortion. Period. That said, the local Komen affiliates have minds of their own and many of them (including the MA one) were fighting behind the scenes to get National to reverse course on the “new eligibility” requirements that suddenly cut out Planned Parenthood’s grants. Please do consider donating locally – whether to the local Komen affiliate, the local Planned Parenthood clinic, or some other worthy organization.

No matter what, please don’t get the impression that the breast cancer riddle has been solved or that there’s only one way to donate to help those in need; it’s just not the case. We still have plenty of work to do, and there’s no requirement that anybody put their money into an organization they don’t trust to be good stewards with those funds. So choose wisely, but please continue to choose. Many people still need help, and it would be a shame if people were turned off giving to a fight that’s not over yet…

 

How Komen isn’t “for the cure” anymore February 1, 2012

Filed under: blather — crunchymetromom @ 8:28 am
Tags: , , , , ,

So, this is one of those posts where I’m going to rant a little. My apologies in advance. It’s just that I’m really ticked off now, and I feel the need to get some of this off my chest.

Since about 1996 (excepting only 2 years), I’ve done the Race for the Cure down in my hometown of Washington, DC. When I couldn’t make it down, and even in some of the years when I did, I also tried to do the Boston Race for the Cure, although that’s been less frequent due to all kinds of other things cropping up on my schedule. The RFTC at home is my chance to pull together a bunch of friends – plus my family – and do the Race in a crowd. I’ve even pulled together a team with one of my BFFs, and we’ve raised thousands of dollars for Komen over the years.

But not anymore.

I was thrown off a little by seeing things bathed in pink and wondering whether Komen was taking it a little too far to have Kitchenaid stand mixers that had “a portion” of the sale going “to the cure”. Anything that could be painted pink, short of a poodle, seemed to be – and there was always that “portion” going “to the cure”. It seemed a little opportunistic, perhaps a lot whorish, but I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt because it was all going to the right cause: to raise funds in support of research to stop breast cancer and to provide services to men and women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. When you have friends and family touched by this awful disease, it seems like low-hanging fruit in terms of fundraisers. Everybody knows SOMEBODY who’s had it.

I was peeved when I heard that Komen had started to sue other charities and fundraisers that used the term “for the cure” because they deemed it infringement on their brand. I could understand some of why this could be an issue, since I’ve seen things that look dodgy that have “for the cure” that are certainly not going to Komen…and people who aren’t familiar with the organization may just assume that anything with “for the cure” is going to them, even when it’s not. But still, you don’t see the Minute Maid people using bulldozers to take out kids’ lemonade stands.

But then I saw a story from the Washington Post that said Komen was cutting off further grants to Planned Parenthood, under the guise of a new internal regulation that barred grants to organizations under investigation by Congress. Since some of the more conservative members of Congress are hellbent-for-leather on driving Planned Parenthood out of business, OF COURSE it’s under investigation. Thus, Komen cuts off grants. That means that life-saving breast cancer-related services (like, say, mammograms) provided for free or at a discount via local Planned Parenthoods just got defunded. In other words, the pro-life agenda is actually turning pro-death: by turning womens health issues into some kind of moronic political hockey match, poor, uninsured and underinsured women will no longer be able to get the services they need from Planned Parenthood and will risk having cancer go undetected or untreated.

WAY TO GO PRO-LIFERS IN CONGRESS: you just got Komen to do some of your dirty work for you.

And WAY TO GO KOMEN: you were stupid enough to think that playing politics with womens health is an okay thing to do.

So, here’s what I plan to do about it: I’m not going to raise one red cent for Komen until they fix this mess.

I will continue to do the walk with my family (although the money that goes into my registration basically covers the cost of my participation and the event itself; they rely on the fundraising to help get them in the black). I will raise money BUT that money will be directed to Planned Parenthood. I will set up a site via FirstGiving that allows me to accept donations online (securely) that will go straight to Planned Parenthood with a minimum of fuss. I’ve already checked out the site, and I’ll be setting up my page in a few weeks, as my plans for the Race start to come together.

I’m so angry I can’t even describe it in words that will make sense. When someone says that it’s okay to defund medical services to women – especially poorer women – they’re saying that those women are acceptable losses. I’m here to say that’s not the case. This isn’t about abortion. These grants weren’t going to pay for abortions. These grants went to help detect and treat breast cancer. And I’m offended that it got politicized by people who apparently only pay lip service to the notion that they’re trying to be “for the cure”. What the hell can you cure if you cut off services? Nancy Brinker et al, should hang their heads in shame. Komen was supposed to broaden access, not choke it off.

It blows my mind.

And I’m done. Until Komen removes its head from its rear-end, I refuse to raise money for the organization. I will encourage my friends and family to donate to Planned Parenthood to keep those services available for women in need. Somebody has to. Because, honestly, that’s “for the cure” so much more than any pink ANYTHING in the world.

Consider this Race this year the Race for Access. The Race for Non-Stupidity. The Race for Non-Assholishness by Organizations That Should Know Better. The Race to Keep Medical Facilities Open For Medical Needs.

In the meantime, if you want to donate to your nearby Planned Parenthood, you can donate to a regional PP via the Planned Parenthood web site.

 

 
%d bloggers like this: