Wednesday, April 16, 2014

2013 Boston Marathon — The "Other" Finish Line

Countdown to Boston: 5 Days! 

Last year, 5 weeks after the Boston Marathon I finished the "other" finish line on May 26th on the yard of bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Here is my story:

As a symbolic gesture, Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials invited non-finishers from Indiana and surrounding states to cross the racetrack’s iconic finish line. About 35 runners, including me, took them up on the offer to run the half-mile stretch from Turn 4 to the Yard of Bricks.

I was one of the runners caught in the bottleneck a half mile from the Boston Marathon finish line. One week before the Indy 500, I received an email from the Boston Athletic Association inviting me to “Finish Your Race Across the World’s Most Famous Finish Line – The Yard of Bricks on Sunday morning May 26, on national television before the start of the 97th Running of the Indianapolis 500.”

This was a good consolation to my non-finish 25.8 mile Boston marathon. On race day morning my family and I arrived early to meet up with the other Boston Marathon runners who came to finish their race. We were briefed on what was in store for us. 

We were treated like celebrities. About an hour before the start of the race, we would walk the “red carpet” before the “real” celebrities arrived. We posed for photos for local and national television stations as well as assorted newspaper and magazine companies. 

We were then loaded up in vans to transport us to Turn 4 to begin our run. Because this is live television the main concern was getting the runners to run the half mile within 3 1/2 - 4 minutes. This translated to a 6:10-8:00 minute mile (or 7:00 average).

This became my big concern as I was nursing an sore hamstring and hadn’t been running the miles like I used to. I asked the other runners if we were really going to have to run 7 minute miles. For live TV, yes, we had to come across the finish line just before the announcement of “Start Your Engines.” We got the cue to start running. They gave two of the faster runners up front American flags. This made for great photos.

We started off in a tight pack and I was in the front half. The spectators were on their feet and I could hear the cheers and chills went down my spine. I was trying to look good on TV and run with the pack but within a few minutes I was falling back. When we came to pit lane, I saw all the pit crews  lined up to give us “high-fives” and cheer us on. The other side of the pit lane was flanked by firefighters and police officers.

The front runners broke the tape as they crossed together with hands held high. The roar of the crowd was unbelievable. It is regrettable that I was prevented from crossing the finish line in Boston, but finishing across the yard of bricks brought tears to my eyes. This was truly a moment to cherish and commemorate the tragic event of April 15, 2013. r

 Starting out from Turn 4

 At the finish

Getting high 5's from the pit crew 

On the Yard of Bricks

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

2 Rules for Qualifying for Boston

2 Rules for Qualifying for Boston 
#1 Be a woman
#2 Get old

I don’t remember whom this quote came from, but it made me laugh when I first heard it. But this is how I qualified for Boston at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in 2010 at age 59.

I began my marathon training at age 50 ten years ago as a challenge to myself because I wanted to do something special to mark this “over the hill” era of my life. At the time I was a casual runner, running to stay in shape with an occasional 5 or 10K race and never had a thought of running a marathon, let alone think about Boston.

After an injury sidelined my training for my first marathon, I ran a less-than-elite time of 5:18 in the Honolulu Marathon. Unhappy with my finish time I thought I needed to run another to redeem myself. I ran the next several marathons with injuries and kept adding make-up races to prove I could run faster. After marathon #9, I finally ran under five hours with the help of a pacer. By then I had been running two marathons a year so I figured I should shoot for a goal of completing 20 marathons in 10 years and make #20 the Honolulu Marathon, right where I started.

On a very cold Saturday morning, November 6th , I ran marathon #17 in the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. My training started back in April when I decided I needed a running coach. My new coach, Brennan Liming, asked me what my running goals were. My only goal was to reach a PR of 4:45. So this is what we went by. My training calendar was filled with midweek easy runs, tempo runs, fartleks, strides, mile repeats, 400’s, 800’s, 1000’s, negative runs, and Saturday long runs – all gradually increasing in volume and intensity. By the summer my weekly mileage was climbing higher than I had ever trained in the past. It was getting tougher, but I loved it.

In fact, I was improving. I ran a half marathon in May and had a PR. Then more PRs followed – The Cary Road Race, Magnificent Mile, Anna’s Angels 10 Miler, and the Triangle Autism 5K. Using the race time predictor at, I figure I could run my next marathon under 4:30. Was this a Boston qualifying time? Only if: #1 you are a woman, and #2 you are old.

My running friend, Lena Hollmann, who is in my age group and has followed my Facebook accounts of my training, suggested that I could qualify at 4:30 even though I would be 5 months shy of my 60th birthday when I try to qualify in Indianapolis. She explained that a runner must have completed a qualifying marathon within the year and a half before the upcoming Boston Marathon.

This changed everything about my training. I would go for it. I received so much encouragement from my running friends on Facebook. Logging in my training miles took on new meaning. I knew that my Facebook friends were looking over my shoulder at my entries. I was on a quest. I looked forward to those long runs over 20 miles so I could practice my race strategies.

On race day, I had three long runs of over 20 miles under my belt and had confidence that I would make my goal. Using my new Garmin, I was keeping myself on target mile after mile. At mile 10 I was one minute ahead, at mile 21 I was one minute behind. The 4:30 pace group had caught up with me at mile 22 so I hung with them, thinking I could stay at their pace for the next two miles. I figured if they plan to come in at 4:30, this would match my time. But then I realized this wouldn’t work because they started behind me.

Mile 23: I’m tired, and it’s cold, and I’m slowing down. What a shame it would be to miss my mark by a minute or even a second! I kept thinking: “Dig deep. Remember my practice runs.” I had a full minute to make up at mile 24, so I left the 4:30 pace group and focused on my form. I moved my arms more, picked my legs up and visualized my finish.

The last two miles were my fastest –
Mile 25 pace: 9:39.
Mile 26 pace: 9:09.
Marathon finish: 4:29:07.
The Boston qualifying time:
Women Age Group 60-64 is 4:30. 

I barely squeaked by, but sadly I was NOT able to make the Boston field the next year. But the feeling of BQ-ing was pure elation.

 Esther crossing the finish line in 4:29:07! A BQ.

 Raleigh friends at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon Expo.

 Celebrating our race at the Corner Wine Bar in Broad Ripple.

Showing off our race medals in our hotel room. Cheers!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Remembering Boston April 15, 2013

In 2 weeks, I will be lining up to run Boston. One year after the horrific day of the bombing that injured many spectators and killing one innocent little boy. All eyes will be on this race and it will be significant because many people around the world - not just the running community - but those that support the survivors will be on the sidelines united as "Boston Strong."

I am privileged to be one of the 36,000 runners and I will lace up my shoes and say a prayer as I start another journey to Boylston Street finish line.
 The finish line the day before the race.
 The day after many media stations are camped out.
 I saw many memorials going up around town.
 "Justice Will Prevail."
 The drop bags were available the day after.
The folks manning the drop bag area presented me with my medal.

Here is my race report from 2013:
My 25.89 Mile Boston Marathon

After struggling through this tough course within a half mile to the finish line, I was finally feeling elated to be crossing the Boston Marathon finish line. My first Boston Marathon! The spectators were cheering us on. Street bands were blaring. I notice the “T” Boston’s commuter train on the left has come to a stop and commuters have become race spectators too. I push my pace trying to revive my slow pace to one that I can live with and then I came to a halt. We all came to a halt!

I stopped my Garmin at 25.89 miles in 4:44.

Some of the runners ahead of me turned around and said the race has been stopped. A few minutes earlier I heard sirens, one after the other. This brought back memories of another marathon that was stopped in 2007 when I ran the Chicago Marathon. One person died and over 300 other runners were taken to emergency rooms due to heat. I had a bad feeling, but couldn’t understand why this would stop a race. I texted my husband, Mark to let him know my race was stopped. We had planned to meet after the race as he stayed back at our friend’s home while I ran. Runners were in a holding pattern wondering what was going on. Mark texted back about a bomb and several people were killed and many more injured.

What? Really? Why? Who? A few minutes later I could see several people hugging and crying. And it sunk in what had happened. Mark said he would come pick me up. I knew this would be difficult with street closures and the chaos around me. I walked up to the nearest street corner and noticed city buses lining up so I got on thinking I just need to get out of here. Then I realized that they were evacuating all the runners. Runners were boarding the buses. Many of us still needed our drop bags which were still at the finish line. We were told that they were going to have dogs search for explosives first before they would let us get them. Many runners had their car keys, hotel keys, and cell phones in their bags. I lent my phone to several runners who did not have their phones. The man next to me had his smart phone and was reading us the current news reports of what was going on. It was grim. The buses finally moved us off the race course. We arrived and at the Boston Commons area which is a major road through town. Up and down the road came the police force, the SWAT Teams, the Bomb Squads, and then Military tanks. It looked like we were going to war. And the sirens kept coming.

It was going to be a long day. Mark posted to my facebook page that I was safe. This proved helpful as my family and friends back home were sending texts, voice messages, and emails asking if I was okay.

I am okay. It was an unspeakable tragedy that I will not forget. I hope no one ever forgets those who suffered greatly from this event and know that runners form a strong bond.

Here is my story from the beginning of Monday, April 15th:

I arrived in Boston’s suburb of Lexington Thursday before the race and got right to an easy run of 5 “hilly” miles. Since I live in a city with no hills to train on, this easy run was not so easy. The weather was cool and breezy, but good for running. I went to the Expo on Friday and I was in paradise. I was in the Mecca of the running world, like the Super Bowl, or the Indy 500. I was surrounded by the fittest of the fit.

The Expo was large as you would expect. After packet pick up I headed straight for the official marathon merchandise. (I had to buy my jacket!)

I did one last easy run on Sunday to get my legs used to these hills. And after my pre-race dinner I set out all my gear and went to bed early. Since I was staying with friends, I did not need to catch an early bus to Hopkinton. I arrived at the Athlete’s Village and found my corral. The sun was out and the music was blaring as runners milled around waiting for their starts. I was in corral 3, wave 3. I found some other Raleigh runners to walk to the start with.

I started at 10:40 AM with 48 degrees, sun and clouds with slight breezes. The conditions seemed perfect and after one mile in I took my jacket off and wrapped it around my waist. Since this course is predominately downhill, I was advised to “hold” back and not start out too fast. But so many runners were flying past me and I thought, “What do they know that I don’t?”

I was hoping to average 9:45 but averaged 9:35 in the first 7 miles. Going downhill was hard to keep my pace “down.” (Everyone talks about the 3 hills, but it’s more like 12 and lots of them in the first half even though they aren’t as big as the Newton hills, still you have to constantly change gears.) I was especially surprised at the end of mile 1 to find my first hill (323 feet - 353 feet). I pushed on. Another hill at mile 4 (190 feet - 243 feet). I kept my pace in check and pushed on. Mile 9 came another hill (139 feet - 223 feet) and I wondered what would “Heartbreak Hill” do to me? My pace slowed down to 10:23 in the next 7 miles.

Then miles 16 - 21 came the BIG hills and I was NOT prepared for them (since living in Indy is very flat). It’s embarrassing that I walked a lot. I averaged 12:50 in this area. Then in mile 16 a little old, gray-haired woman hunched over ran past me. I couldn’t catch up to her. In the next mile an Achilles Guide was running past me with a blind runner. I couldn’t catch up to them. Another slow mile for me, a man with a fake leg (not a blade runner either) was passing me. The last straw for me was when a man in a wheelchair (not a special racing one either) and aided by two Achilles Guides pushed past me.

Finally, I crested Heartbreak Hill and I could pick up my pace, but not as much as I wanted as my legs were screaming at me. I averaged 10:50 in the final miles. The winds changed and became strong headwinds in the last miles and I had to put my jacket back on. I gathered my wits and pushed on trying to find the wheelchair guy, the fake-leg guy, the blind runner and the little old lady runner so I can pass them. I managed to pass 2 out of the 4. I pushed on until the race came to a halt.

The spectators were fabulous all along the course. There was hardly a moment where some type of street performers or cheering crowds were absent. The whole town celebrates “Marathon Monday” and you are the star.

This was a historic event and I won’t ever forget my first Boston Marathon, but this race was truly humbling. My initial thought was “I would never run this freaking course again.” But in the aftermath of today’s events, “It will be an honor to run this race next year and I WILL BE BACK!” Bring on those hills!  r

Friday, April 4, 2014

Turning 63

Today is my birthday and I am now 63! I look in the mirror and, yes I notice the permanent creases around my eyes, the dropping chin and extra laugh lines. All appropriate for a woman my age.

I remember reading lots of child growth and development books when my daughters were babies and they would walk you through all the stages of development from infant to kindergarten. This was helpful to mothers to determine what to expect at what age. By 6 to 8 months your infant will begin sitting on their own, for instance. Or by age 4 months they will begin teething. Well, for the aging, a "development" book would be interesting. By age 60 your mother will begin to lose muscle. Your mother will begin to lose memory, lose balance, etc. Ha. Well now, I do believe aging has changed in my lifetime. My mother, at age 63, was far more elderly than I. Her mother was quite old at age 63 and confined to a "rocking" chair for the most part.

I am 63 and energetic and feeling quite young. In fact, I may be in better shape than most 40-somethings. I am a conscientious eater, I work out and I run marathons. Of course, I do not kid myself, none of these activities "keep" you young and as I mentioned, I have all the facial lines that a senior woman should have and I have a bit more arthritis pain than ever, BUT the secret to youth is ATTITUDE. When you let the little old lady in, you become just that - a little old lady.

I enjoy this stage in my life. I have never been busier doing all the things I've put off. I recently wrote out some "bucket list" items and getting to them. We don't have any guarantees that we will live a healthy life until we die at 70, 80, 90 or 100, so today is the day to live. I will do my best to take care of my health and remember that life is short and we live to love. I praise God for allowing me to wake up each day in good health.

Okay, these are my thoughts for today.

Love today.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Back to Running

I am injured and have been injured for a few months. As a runner, something always hurts. And if you are distance runner, you know what I mean. And if you are a "senior" runner, it's always something. And you know that runners have a great ability to tolerate some type of pain.

Let me say this, I have been a "casual" runner since my mid-20's. I started running to lose weight, but then I just loved running. I joined a running club and entered fun runs and local 10K races. Then came life— work, marriage and kids. My running became spotty at best.

It wasn't until I turned 49 that I gave serious thought to train for a marathon. I got injured for the first time with shin splint. So I missed the first marathon that I signed up for. I managed to run a 2-man marathon relay a few months after and that was a fantastic experience. It was a cold December race and right after that race I signed up for another marathon. But this time I had my sights on a warm destination– Honolulu the following December.

My Honolulu training went well until the training miles reached 18. Another bout of shin splints. More physical therapy, and ibuprofen. I finished the race with my leg in a compression sleeve and a few pills in my system. I was disappointed that my time was so slow, so I decided to enter another marathon as a redemption race. Another race and another injury! This time I had a stress fracture. You would think that this would slow me down, but I kept running.

I am tolerating this running pain quite well. I enter another redemption race and this time it is a spring marathon in Virginia Beach. That didn't go so well as the temps reached 83 degrees on a boring stretch of beach. But at least I wasn't injured and my time improved by 15 minutes, so I did gain some confidence that my legs could get me through another redemption race in a quicker pace. So this was my new focus. I changed my shoe selection and slowed my training pace for some good training sessions.

I threw out my old prescription ibuprofen and trained on. Each year I had one body part or another make my training interesting. Achilles tendonitis, IT band, iliopsoas syndrome, hamstring strains, and piriformis syndrome. Nothing I can't handle and run through.

My hamstrings started to complain a few years ago when I moved to Indianapolis where training is run on completely flat terrain. I really enjoyed this in the beginning, but quickly realized that a runner never changes up the running muscles and the hamstrings take a hit. Then with my long drives back to Cary, my hamstrings started to scream. It became painful to sit! But I kept on running.

I now live back in Cary and really appreciate all the hills around here. And my training improved and I was a happy runner. I completed my 25th marathon the Myrtle Beach Marathon in February and this was when the "wheels fell off." The race was not a good one as the weather was crappy, so I had to deal with that and my right hamstring couldn't go anymore after mile 20. So I just "scooted" in and finished 20 minutes slower than I had hoped. Ack, now I need to get this fixed.

So now I am less than 30 days from Boston Marathon and I'm still undertrained for this. My therapist doesn't know that I'm back to running. He had me test out my running legs last week for 8 minutes. Ha. 8 minutes! He said I could get back to running with walk breaks. His comment was, "don't go crazy and run 10 miles." Yeah, well, I ran a half marathon the week before and this week I ran 35 miles (with a 15-mile long run). What can I say?

I am trying to balance this out— you know, get healed (PT, stretches, ice, meds, patches, k-taping, etc.) and keep up my running. I am your typical distance runner. I am competitive, too. And it's killing me to go slow and feel old. I plan to push on and get my miles up again and show up at Boston. I'll be tapped, wrapped, and medicated and tolerate this nagging hamstring strain. I will run my 26th marathon at age 63 and be proud to be among the running elite and my running friends.

Call me crazy, but I'm going for it.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Starting again

Today is March 2nd and I feel guilty that I haven't been posting. I have posts in my head all the time and I compose great ones while I'm out running. Since I've retired, I thought that I could start up my blog and get lots written with all my extra time.

Well, that is a big laugh. Extra time? I saw someone post a photo on their facebook page of a young man sitting in his back yard on a lawn chair holding a beer with the caption, "time to relax." It struck me that this was an imagine I had of myself after I retired. Maybe not of me sitting in a lawn chair drinking beer (but that doesn't mean I would not like doing this), I did think that I would be sitting in my easy chair sipping hot tea and catching up on my reading.

Why am I so busy? I don't have time to sip tea and read.

Flash back to June 2013.

Mark lost his job with Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He really enjoyed working his dream job, but that didn't come without major stress and office politics. He did a bang up job of putting together the best 100th Anniversary Celebration at the speedway. But after that, things went down hill. We knew it was a matter of time that he wouldn't be working there. Good and bad news. Good because it would mean moving back home, bad because Mark really wanted to make a difference for the speedway. Plus, we were both enjoying our apartment on the canal.

From November to May, Mark would use this time to finish up his research for his book. He would leave in the mornings and walk the half mile to the downtown library and come home in time for dinner. I was using this time to get our big move arranged. We settled on staying until the end of May so that we could take advantage of the activities going on in Indy and give Tamara and Brian time to find a house to buy and move into.

I made several trips home to Cary during this time. We drove home in November for Thanksgiving and stayed for 10 days. We drove back to Cary in December and stayed for 2 weeks to spend the holidays with family and friends. My trip back to Cary in February was short, only 1 week so I could drive to the Myrtle Beach Marathon with friends. I was running the half marathon with NCRC and my running partner, Alex. February was a good visit with good weather, a nice reprieve from the cold winter in Indy. Mark and I drove in some iffy weather when we came home in March. It started to snow, first just a bit, then a steady snowfall for another 3 hours. I was glad to be back home with decent weather. We only stayed for 6 days this time. We were home so that Tamara and I could run the Tobacco Road Half Marathon. We had a good time, but because it was cold and damp, we didn't stay long. Because Mark and I were driving to the Boston Marathon in April, we did not make a trip home to Cary for Tamara's birthday, nor mine. Our road trip to Boston was great. We broke up our trip by staying at a nice B&B in Harrisburg, PA. May is always a busy month for our family, but this year Sherri was graduating from UNCW and we made a quick trip for this.
We drove home on Thursday, May 9th. Sherri graduated on Friday, May 10th. We stayed in Wilmington for a few nights and helped her celebrate. We drove back to Indy on May 13th.

The next drive to Cary will be when we move back! Since this would probably be the last chance for the entire Dill family to get together in our Indy home, we had the girls and Brian come visit us during the Indy 500 weekend. In addition to our family coming to stay, Mark's brother and his son also stayed with us. It was a tight squeeze, but we managed. We all had a blast. I will never forget this weekend and despite our impending move, this didn't hamper the fun.

After the family left, we only had 5 days left before the movers would pack us up. Mark and I spent the last days with friends and sigh-seeing around downtown. We even got in one more Indians Baseball game. I got in several more runs in around my favorite routes along the canal and river. That winter was harsh for me but when spring came around it made my heart hurt thinking about leaving it all behind.

So back to my thought of me sitting in an easy chair sipping tea and reading, well, yeah, that isn't happening.

Brian and Tamara bought a nice older home only 4 miles away, but once we moved back home, Tamara hadn't completely moved out. She had a relapse a few months earlier and the stress with her school, work and marriage all played a role. She was still figuring out what she wanted to do with her marriage. We could only encourage her to work on her marriage, and it was off and on, up and down for the months ahead.

Moving back to our home meant that I had lots to do to get it in shape. I did an initial clean up before the movers brought our furniture back. That was a huge job. Then while our furniture and boxes were piled up in the bonus room, I began to move my office to Sherri's old bedroom.

That was project #1. My new office, or my "woman cave."

So little-by-little, things were being fixed up. I had a big garage sale, took many trips to the second hand store to donate, and lots of trips to the city dump. I was on a roll, but in the meantime, I am still training for marathons and this takes lots of time when my race gets nearer. Mark was really getting impatient and then gets on me about this.

Project #2 was the dining room. Since we were having all the hardwood floors cleaned, we had to move out all the furniture. And since all the furniture was removed, it seemed like a perfect time to get those rooms redecorated. When I moved back home, I saw my house differently. I guess it had something to do with the fact that I had lived away for so long and lived in a fairly modern apartment. So when I saw my Cary house, I saw an old lady's house. So outdated with way too many knick knacks and doilies! So I de-cluttered as much as I could and gave it a clean look with neutral colors.
I even painted the ceiling dark brown.

Project #3 was the formal living room and foyer. Took down the wallpaper border and also painted in neutral colors with an accent wall for effect. I love the new look, and will eventually reupholster the sofa and chairs.

Porject #4 & #5 are my latest and I'm almost finished is the bonus room (aka Mark's man cave) and my little laundry room.

The bonus room is a large space and I really didn't know what to do here. I removed lots of the small stuff and had it painted. Also made an accent wall around the built-in shelves. I had lots of shelves that held my craft stuff under each of the dormer windows, but since this is Mark's room, I removed them. I painted all the built-in shelves which meant that I had to take out all of Mark's books. After this, I just could put them back because it looked sloppy. They are now stored in the attic. I hung new wooden blinds and some nice valances up on the four windows. My laundry room got new shelves and a paint job. Everything in it's place now. New washer and dryer too!

Project #6 is the old guest room and the smallest room. It leads to the attic through the closet doors. I want to use this room as a sewing/craft room, and possible extra guest room. So another big job ahead. For now it is on hold because I need to pay attention to the outdoors.

Project # 7: the back yard. I have hired a crew to come clean this up. It is so overgrown. And once spring gets here, it will be a short period when I can get some plantings done and weeds pulled. (Wish I could still get a hot tub and deck installed for my birthday. But this was a short-lived dream.)

Project after project, when will I catch my breath and relax. I like keeping busy, so don't misunderstand me, it's just that I don't see an end to this. Perhaps this is good. Retirement has offered me more opportunities to finally take charge of what's important. I feel rewarded with every progress in my little projects.

Next post, I'll blog about my journey to the Boston Marathon, which is only 49 days away!

Marathon Mommy, Esther

Friday, August 19, 2011

Day 5 in my new life

I'm sitting at my computer surrounded by boxes that need my attention. My new little computer room is also my new guest room. I've moved from a 3,000 square foot home in the suburbs of Cary, NC in the lovely neighborhood of Prestonwood Country Club to a 1,500 square foot two-story town house on the canal in downtown Indianapolis. I'm learning to live in smaller quarters, and after five days of living here, I think it can be done.

I am still having moments of heart ache thinking of what I've left behind in Cary. Mostly, it's my daughters and my routines. Living without my daily routines has been so difficult. Running with friends, meeting for a beer on Monday nOg nights, long runs on Saturday, family dinners, Buddy snuggling on my lap, shopping with Tammy, visiting Sherri at the beach. But living apart from Mark for 15 months has been difficult, too. So I am happy to be reunited. We are on our second honeymoon and this is good. We've been enjoying the view of the canal from all the windows in our new home. We take walks along the canal holding hands like young newly weds. Dinner out at the many canal restaurants. You can't beat our view of the canal, we have coffee in the mornings and beer in the evenings right on our porch. We say hello to those who walk, run, bike, or paddle along the canal. 

Yes, I'm retired, but it hasn't really sunk in. I still have so many boxes to unpack. But one box at a time and I'll get through this.