#11. Salt Lake City, UT: “Too cold to touch it, your walls are up.”

July 24, 2010
Age: 27
Occupation: Account Executive at RN
Residence: Chicago, IL
Time since last race: 5 months, 10 days
Conditions: 5000 ft. above sea level, dry, hot
Official time: 03:38:43 (New PR by 20 minutes)


I have a muse.

Having always been enchanted by this concept, it seemed elusive to me and something that only really great, historical, influential artists could have.  But I have one!

My muse is strong but very weak, fearless but a coward, lives and breathes but is already dead.  And I am inspired.  Inspired to the point where I have realized that my life flourishes because of my muse’s influence.  When you have a muse, do you keep it forever?  Does it evolve over time just like everything else in life?  Will my inspiration change or will I just collect it, adding one muse on top of the next?  Drawing from this today and that tomorrow?

And is there always some pain involved in having one?  My Uncle Vince had me living by the phrase, “No Pain, No Gain” very early on in my childhood.   I’ve come to notice this year, via my muse, that if I’m not inflicting pain upon myself in some emotional or physical way then I’m not satisfied, I’m not growing.  I don’t mean pain in a bad way… necessarily.  I have a very high tolerance for physical pain.  When this happened last year, I didn’t cry at the onset or when the drugs wore off.  I cried when I got home because I couldn’t change my clothes and had to rely on others to help with simple tasks that I normally wouldn’t dream of asking anyone to do for me.  But, to get physically beaten down like that, it actually felt good.  Does that make me sick and demented or really tough?  With a devilish grin, I vote a little bit of both.  It wakes you up, reminds you you’re not invincible; human.  It’s this desire for pain, for the raw, uninhibited challenge, for the humbling experience that is healthily fulfilled for me, only by marathon training.

On the emotional side, the pain is my ambition and motivation.  I don’t stop, don’t settle, don’t give up, don’t give in, keep going for it- whatever “it” is.  Be true, be honorable, be real.  I don’t want to be better than everyone else, I just want to be better than yesterday’s version of myself.  It’s tiring yet it makes me feel alive.  And I hate sitting by idly waiting for things to happen.  I am not patient in that way.  When I decide I want something, I want it yesterday.  I practiced patience this year- I tried to put water into a bucket full of holes.  I kept trying but it was completely useless.  I knew it wouldn’t work even before I attempted but I did it anyway.  Did I want to feel the inevitable pain that it caused?  Damn you, this time I didn’t.

Since January I’ve had blinders on.  I saw nothing else, I thought about nothing else, every single decision I made lied on what affect it would have on my training to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  I wanted this badly.  I have a lot of friends who have achieved this goal and it’s been eluding me for the past five years.  Dinner time moved from 8:00 to 6:30.  “Going out for a drink” didn’t happen.  A container of protein powder sat on my kitchen counter.  My wine shelves were full.  I did everything right.  Aside from one week with the flu, I never skipped a workout, and that includes resting when it was prescribed.  I was any coach’s ideal athlete, I listened and did everything I was told.

I controlled every variable I could and then the universe threw me a curve ball.  Before I tell the story, I have one thing to say to the universe (and everyone in general):  Don’t ever get in the way of something I want because I will still get it no matter what you say, think, do or feel.

The Story of the Salt Lake City Marathon a.k.a I Qualified for Boston
by Gina DiCello

24 hours before the race, I’m excited, nervous, anxious and ready to get to the airport.  I made a couple phone calls for work, entered some leads and decided I was done for the day.  I showered, put on makeup and a cute travel outfit from lululemon (of course) and headed for the train.  The air was heavy, the sun was fierce and I soaked through my shirt on the three block walk but grinned the whole way.

“I am going to qualify for Boston!” I thought.

A sweaty, smelly, rush hour train ride didn’t phase me.  I arrived at Midway with a good 90 minutes to spare before my flight.

Knowing that dinner was needed, I planned on getting something I’ve been eating regularly because I knew it wouldn’t upset my stomach – two chicken snack wraps from McDonald’s.  Don’t judge – I’ll get to that later.  As soon as I settled into my spot at the gate the sky darkened, lightning flickered and I pretended it was just lights from other airplanes.  I was in complete denial that there was even the possibility my flight could be delayed.  Scheduled to leave at 7:10 CST and arrive at 9:45 MST, we ended up taking off at 11:45 pm, almost five hours later than planned.  And I had to be on the bus to take me to the start by 3:30 am.

I’m narcoleptic when it comes to falling asleep on planes.  Except of course, for this one.

Dear dude next to me on that plane ride,
If you’re reading this, you are creepy and made me so uncomfortable that I couldn’t sleep, not even for one minute of  the three hour and 10 minute trip.  If someone has headphones on and is turned away from you, don’t try to talk to them and ask questions.  Also, don’t take up the whole arm rest and force your broad shoulders into the space of my seat. Kthxbye.

Somewhere above Colorado while listening to Jason Mraz I burst into tears.  Cried for a lot of reasons and for no reason at all but it felt good.  I listened to five complete albums on that ride:

1. Temper Trap – Conditions
2. Kanye West – 808’s and Heartbreak
3. Erykah Badu – Mama’s Gun
4. Jason Mraz – We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.
5. Temper Trap – Condidtions

At 1:30 in the morning we landed and I felt like shit.  In the back of my mind I knew I had to grind it out.  My plan was to catch a cab and sleep for maybe an hour or 45 minutes.  As I stumbled off the plane I looked left and saw my escape route from all things travel-related.  I heard my name called out and the earth stopped turning when I focused my gaze upon my sister.  Having no CLUE she was planning this, tears began streaming down my face as I buried my head in her shoulders and sobbed.  Cried for the tiredness, for the hard work, for the loneliness, for the off-chance I might not accomplish my goal and for the fact that my sweet, selfless sister surprised me at the airport.

Arm in arm we walked and leaned on each other (in more ways than one) towards the cab which took us to the hotel.  In my brilliant pre-race planning, I booked a sold-out hotel that was .03 miles from the bus pick-up because I told them I was with some outdoor convention that I had figured out was taking place at the same time which had gotten a block of rooms reserved for their attendees. Heh heh.

We slept for 30 minutes.

I woke oddly refreshed and mostly excited to throw on my brightly colored lulu duds.  Self-tattooing the race plan on my arm and loading up the salt tablets (which I now know how to use!) we were off.  A 30 minute bus ride and we found ourselves in a holding tent at 7400 feet above sea level.  My sister was getting a bit dizzy from the altitude and lack of sleep.  I stood, stone solid, not letting a single thing affect me.

Normally at these things I’m quite chatty.  I want to know where people are from, how many marathons they’ve done, any connection we might have since the world really is so small.  But this time I did not care about anything.  In my head and in my heart it was silent.

The race it self was a blur of major downhill descents and almost 1000 feet of climbing.  Not one mile of the entire race was flat.  The altitude ranged from 7400-3200 feet above sea level.  Guess where Chicago is on that chart?  About 500 feet.  Did I do hill training?  Nope.  Did I do altitude training?  Nope.  Did I do the mental training?  Hell yes.

The altitude did not affect my breathing or heart rate at all.  However I knew something was off because every time I turned my head to the right or to the left I got dizzy and it moved in slow motion.  People always ask what I think about when I’m running and I can never remember.  Even if I could, I probably wouldn’t share.  That time is sacred, personal, spiritual and private.  This was by far the most difficult race I’ve ever done physically.  I was simply not prepared for the hills and I don’t think there was much I could have done to prevent that aside from random trips out West to train in the mountains. Yeah sorry, I have a full time job and a life besides all of this.

I knew I would qualify for Boston when I got to mile 20 and realized I had 80 minutes to run 8 miles.  I realized this as I was running past Rice-Eccles Stadium, site of the 2002 Winter Olympics whose motto was “Light the Fire Within.”  There was nothing more I needed at that point than to see the monuments and photos dedicated to the athletes from that year.  At that moment I felt like an Olympic athlete.  I put myself up to that caliber and that mental dedication and decided that if I am going to talk the talk then I better walk the walk.  So I kept my head to the ground and I soldiered on.

At mile 26.1 sun blazing, feeling leaving my limbs, blisters pulsing, I rounded the corner spotted the finish, my sister and the time clock.  I was the only one in the chute at that time and I threw my hands up in the air and yelled, “I’M GOING TO BOSTON!” The crowd erupted and I was done!  I did it!  I qualified for Boston in the most unlikely of conditions that could have possibly been thrown my way.  Because like I have said before, when I decide I want something, I want it yesterday.

The End.

Click thumbnail for larger view and continue reading below!

Intense, right?  So how did I do it, what was the preparation like? Let’s break it down.  Come race day, I landed in Salt Lake City knowing there wasn’t a single thing more I could have done to prepare for this race.  Injury-free for the entirety of training, here was my four-month schedule:

Monday – Cross Train: either the rowing machine or spin bike, yoga
Tuesday – Track workout, Intervals, Speed Drills, yoga
Wednesday – Tempo Run
Thursday – Steady State Run, yoga
Friday – REST.  Sometimes I took yoga
Saturday – Long Run (ranged from 12 to 24 miles)
Sunday – REST

I made some pretty significant, but not too difficult, lifestyle changes in order to enhance my training.  A quick glance at my week-long food journal and my coach told me that I was consuming enough calories but not the right kind of calories.  She told me to get 115-130 mg of protein per day.  While I know what foods have protein in them, I had no idea how much or how little is in what so I employed the help and knowledge of my sister and a friend who really knows a lot on the subject.  Here’s what they told me (and what have become staples in my fridge) to eat:

Egg Whites
Sunkist Tuna packets
Turkey Sausage breakfast patties
Dark Choc. Roasted Almonds
Greek Yogurt
Bone in Skin on Roasted Chicken Breast
Steam Fresh veggies
Roasted veggies – on Sunday I would go to the grocery and buy a ton of veggies and roast them with olive oil, salt and pepper, keep them in a plastic container and add as a side to my egg white omelet every day.

Another weekly staple in my diet?  McDonald’s.  Yep, I ate McDonald’s probably once a week, sometimes more, these past few months.  Getting the same thing every time, I know that what I got had a pretty decent balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat and satiated my craving for “the forbidden.”  Here’s my order:

1 Grilled Chicken Snack Wrap with honey mustard
1 Crispy Chicken Snack Wrap with ranch
(sometimes) Small or Medium Fries depending on size of workout I had that day
Medium Diet Coke

While I’m all about eating locally sourced food these days, especially from my friend TKTC’s garden, as with everything, moderation (even for McDonald’s) is key, right? :)  I ate some combination of the above foods every day but I also did NOT limit myself when I was in the mood for a burger, pizza, beer other things that might curb a diet heavy in lean meats and protein.

I also really nailed down my stomach issues by eating dinner earlier, very highly limiting dairy, going easy on the fiber late in the day and using Hammer Gel (which is made with all-natural ingredients) during my runs.

I’ve been taking a lot of vitamins and supplements and I am not really sure what benefit they’re supposed to provide but a combination of my coach and my acupuncturist told me to take them so I do.  I should probably do some research on supplements.  Note to self for the next blog entry.

My garden of nutritional products:

Well, it’s just about August and we’re more than halfway through this year.  My friends and I have been commenting lately that 2010 has been putting out some awesome stats.  A quick picture re-cap and you’ll see what I mean:

Moved into a new condo:

Three-day jaunt to Milan/Verona for Vinitaly:

Visited sister and Dan in Portland, OR:

Best friend in town from Russia before moving to Sweden:

Best friends in town from Singapore and NYC:

Nana (mom’s mom) turns 90:

Lots of boating on Lake Michigan, volleyball on the beach and biking up and down the lakefront path:

I became a lululemon Ambassador:

Spent time getting to know some great new friends – these people are lifer’s:

I’m really excited about the journey I’ve been on this year.  I feel like I have learned A LOT about myself and how to do certain things to maintain an equilibrium between my physical and emotional self.  Learning that stuff is priceless.  I wish it were tangible so I could hug it.  While it certainly hasn’t come without trials, tribulations and of course lots of pain, I find myself taking great pleasure in this ride.

And so I must remember when I try to put water into buckets with holes, that “you are water and water can’t be contained.”

24 thoughts on “#11. Salt Lake City, UT: “Too cold to touch it, your walls are up.”

  1. So I just cried through this whole post. Thanks for sharing some of the things that I feel (although not to the 26.2 mile extent… atleast not YET!). It was beautifully written and gave me the confidence that I will do the Chi half marathon come October. For me, that’s saying A LOT – especially with what my body has accomplished the last 2 years. :) Nicely done, DiCello!

  2. I AM SO PROUD OF YOU! (And I also cried through this whole post.) You are amazing, G, can’t wait to see what you do next!

  3. I got chills while reading this – I am SO VERY PROUD of you G! Your commitment when you set your mind to doing something is truly inspiring! I am so thrilled for you at the fantastic year you’ve had, and know that “The Fabulous Life of Gina DiCello” will keep getting better and better. LOVE YOU SO MUCH! XOXOX times 1,000.

  4. I’m so excited and very proud of you Gina! I’ve Always been a big fan of yours since Forever! You strive to be the best you can at whatever you do! You are an inpsiration to us! Take care!!!!

  5. Gina, congratulations!! What a way to qualify! Hopefully we’ll make it to boston to watch next year, we usually try to go! It’s such an amazing event (to watch, haven’t run it) I’m so thrilled for you. Love the blog.

  6. WTTMB.

    It’s rare that you find someone who is so dedicated to something that they are willing to sacrifice everything, and yet they find time to fit it all in. Your physical transformation is a visual cue to the mental and emotional prep that you have done to put yourself well ahead of the pack. Humble. Driven. Complete. Almost. Boston awaits. Much pride on this end. Why stop now?


  7. GI!! I just read this, and I love it. I am so happy for you and know that you will have an fabulous time in Boston, especially when you worked so hard to get there. It makes it that much more special–, I should know, it was the same for me this year, after trying to qualify since 2004! Love you always!

  8. G-Weezy! I’m so proud of you…I hope you are equally proud of YOURSELF, dearest! Your qualification is a monument to the growth you’ve experienced in the past few years and I think it’s just amazing…and inspiring. You truly can do ANYTHING you set your mind to – nothing can stand in your way. Hug! I love you!

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