By Matt Goisman
BU News Service
Every Friday, in preparation for the next day’s long run, Jess Galer, 29, eats cheese pizza from Emilio’s Pizza & Sub Shop, down the street from her apartment in Boston’s South End. It’s part of her training regimen for the Boston Marathon.
It might seem like an odd thing to eat when training, but Galer’s emulating Dean Karnazes – the pizza-eating ultramarathon runner who once ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 consecutive days.
The morning of the run, the 5-foot-7-inch, 160-pound Children’s Hospital pharmacist from Fennimore, Wis., eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Then, she dons her training gear. First come the black crop pants from Lululemon Athletica, whose “Luxtreme” fabric is designed to quickly wick away sweat. Then she puts on two or three layers of shirts of varying length (she likes sleeves that end in thumbholes) so she can stay warm or cool as necessary. The innermost layer is made of Nike’s Dri-FIT fabric (also designed to wick); the outermost layer is pink, aqua or teal. Last come Brooks “Adrenaline” sneakers, white, blue and gray, size 9½ wide.
She stretches, then she goes.
On Saturdays she usually trains along the Boston Marathon’s course. These Saturday runs have been building incrementally since she began her training 18 weeks ago. Her first Saturday, she only went five miles.
On her last long run in March, she ran 21 miles, beginning at the race’s start in Hopkinton, and finishing after Heartbreak Hill in Newton (so named because at that point in the 1936 Boston Marathon, defending champion John Kelley passed race-leader Ellison Brown and taunted him, only to have Brown retake the lead and win the race, “breaking Kelley’s heart,” as a Boston Globe reporter wrote).
She runs with Miles for Miracles, – a 300-runner group that’s raised more than $1.3 million for Children’s Hospital. She maintains what she calls a “conversational pace” during the Saturday runs, talking mostly about work.
Galer always starts her long runs amped up, so she has to make sure she doesn’t come out of the gate too fast and burn up too much energy. It takes her five miles to get into rhythm, which is why she says she likes the middle miles so much.
“It’s like you finally don’t have to try to run anymore, your body is just doing it,” she says in an e-mail. “You’re feeling great and everything is in sync.”
The easiness passes around mile 18, and gives way to exhaustion. The sweat starts to pour, the sneakers feel heavy as they pound the pavement, the breathing gets heavier. Galer tells herself, “with every breath I get stronger,” and she says the phrase helps her maintain her focus. She uses a similar reframing with hills, telling herself she loves them instead of dreading them.
Galer pushes through the final miles of a long run by remembering that stopping would hurt more than continuing. The most painful part of an 18-mile run that took her through Boston to simulate the end of the marathon was when she had to stop and wait for streetlights to change.
Every three miles Galer drinks a mixture of Gatorade and water, to rehydrate without hurting her stomach. Every six miles, she eats a GU Energy Gel, which combines caffeine with the sugars and carbohydrates needed to maintain energy levels, and electrolytes to help stay hydrated. Galer’s favorite flavors are “Chocolate Outrage” and “Espresso Love.”
At the end of a run, she downs chocolate milk to recover.
During her three weekday runs, none longer than six miles, and occasional solo long run, Galer listens to music on her red iPod Nano. Her musical preferences range from country to hip-hop to Lady Gaga. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, she also listens to Zooniversity Music’s “Teach me How to Buck” (UW’s mascot is Bucky Badger).
“I really try to listen to songs that make me happy, because it makes the running more enjoyable,” Galer said at a fundraiser on April 2 at the Baseball Tavern in Kenmore Square.
She says she also zones out sometimes when running by herself, trying to clear her mind and relax. Running, she says, is “free therapy.”
Though this is her second marathon – her first was the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in June 2008 – Galer says her 18-week training schedule would suit an even less experienced distance runner.
“You’re supposed to be able to pick this up even if you haven’t been working out before,” she says.
When she isn’t running, Galer takes an hour-long spin class or lifts weights for an hour at the Healthworks fitness center in Copley Square. The weight training involves light weights and many repetitions, which tones existing muscle instead of building bulk.
Galer’s training hasn’t caused a drop in weight, mostly because she says that she eats “way more” than she used to.
“It’s absurd,” she says. But the training turns fat into leaner muscle, so Galer lately finds she fits into smaller-sized clothing.
As much as the training physically tires her out, she says it also has made her more focused, more organized.
The training regimen’s structure has made her feel far more positive, confident and fit heading into Race Day, a change from her first marathon, which she says she didn’t run so much as “willed myself through it.”
Galer has enjoyed the changed lifestyle so much that she has signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 30 in Washington, D.C.
Though Galer’s training hasn’t limited her diet, it has definitely limited her socializing. She says she drinks far less alcohol than she used to, and finds herself going to bed most nights before 10 p.m., needing longer, deeper sleep to combat the physical exhaustion she feels by the end of the day.
At work, she talks about her training with her coworkers. Responses have been mixed.
“Some of my friends who I used to go out with more told me I’m maybe not as much fun,” Galer says, laughing.