December 11, 2005

I am my sweetest friend

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel.
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real.

The park was covered in snow and slush, but the road and pedestrian paths were clear, though wet.  Miraculously, I found a path not far from the baggage area that was clear of all forms of water.  Spotting the dry patch of tarmac, I 747'ed my ass down, letting the weight of my gear settle first and then happily touching my ass to the ground.  In short order, I was flat on my back, arms outstretched, still breathing deeply from the race I'd just completed.  As I sucked at the cold air and contemplated the beauty of the snow-covered branches above me against the stark blue sky, a head popped into sight, marring the view.  

"I don't mean to intrude, but are you alright??" the woman asked anxiously.  

I assured her I was and was just preparing to stretch.  Truth, I was exhausted and was quite happy to be lying down for a minute.  But I appreciated that she noticed.  Apparently, if you're lying on your back, you're cause for worry; unless you have a leg thrown over your side at an odd angle, in which case you're just someone stretching out.

Three hours earlier, I'd been picked up at my house by Beast and we drove into Manhattan for today's 10K run in Central Park.  Fine, fine weather we had; near perfect for a winter's day.  Just below freezing, no clouds, and a clear jogging path.  After picking up numbers and t-shirts in the madhouse that was NYRR headquarters, it took us awhile to find parking.  Just as time was becoming a pressing problem, he spotted a good space and took it.  I thought it not too near the hydrant; I hope he didn't end up with a ticket.  

The race start was near the 102nd street crossover, and we had just enough time to go drop our bags, use the port-a-johns and get to the starting line.  As the starting announcement blared, I perched up top a rock and surveyed the crowd.  Several thousand people turned out for today's run and the starting area was packed, as was the course.  It took several minutes to get across the starting line and the course remained crowded almost the entire run.

This was not a good run for me.  By the end of the first mile, which included heartbreak hill, I was seriously doubting my ability to finish the race.  It was clear to me right off the bat that any hopes of a 10K PR were shelved, as my breathing was labored and my coughing frequent and severe.  Not having gotten in a warm-up run, my legs were tight and that was also working against me.  I decided to wait and see and if I needed to drop out at the other end of the 102nd street crossover, I'd do it.  But by the time I got there, the course was headed downhill and I thought I should continue.  

I spent the entire time from the beginning of mile two to the end of mile three contemplating a DNF.  I didn't have a DNF on my running resume to this point and perhaps that's the only thing that kept me from posting one today; the shame would have just killed me.  I have yet to fail to finish a race and I hated for it to happen on a day when the course conditions were so RIGHT.

I struggled on and as the half-way mark came and went, I fought tension in many muscle groups, but most especially my neck and shoulders - something I haven't experienced to that degree in months.  Though my legs were warming up, the rest of me was getting way too warm and the race was just plain getting harder.  

And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I found myself praying for a magically truncated course.  Had Lucifer himself appeared in front of me and offered to trade me a shortened race for my soul, I might have taken him up on it.  I was NOT having fun.  But no mediation-meting mephisto materialized to mitigate my misery, leaving me to the melancholy of marching measured miles.

Having neglected to bring my music, I chose to get my mind off the stress by disassociating.  I thought about the throngs of holiday shoppers I'd already seen that morning (and would press through later that day as it turned out).  The holiday season, it seems to me, is the Micro-Age of Acquisition.  We give because we get.  We want and we want and what we don't get, we buy for ourselves.  How much of our holiday spending goes to things we won't even remember we own in a year?  This materialism is only offset by the small tokens of giving:  toys gathered for tots, checks written to favorite charities.  But it's rarely the 10% tithe of old, is it?  It's what we can "spare" in order to make ourselves feel better about piling our arms with gaily colored bags while we walk right past the homeless guy keeping warm at the subway entrance.  We drop a few coins in the kettle and fool ourselves into thinking we've bought Tiny Tim the biggest, fattest Christmas goose in the shoppe window, thereby earning ourselves a reprieve from whatever lake of fire awaits us.  And I...I am no better than the shoppers I dwell on.  But enough of this foolish speculation!

By the third water stop, at roughly the 4.5 mile point, I began to think I'd at least finish this race and was striving not to take a walk break.  Cat Hill nearly did me in and it took all I had to make it to the top and get to the flat section that passes Road Runners.  

I was concentrated so much on trying to suck in enough air that I didn't actually mind the extra .2 miles this time.  The finishing chute was crowded, as the course had been, and I hardly regarded crossing the finish line, though gratefully slowed to a walk and was soon at the side, coughing and dry-heaving into the snow.  I bypassed the long line forming in the baggage area and reached over the fencing and grabbed my bag, which I almost always leave near the edges for just such a purpose.  As if by magic, a cop appeared at my elbow, cheerfully commenting on how wet the bottom of the bag must be and could she please see the tag number?  I have to applaud her for doing the bag-checking job so cheerfully.  She didn't give me a hard time about side-stepping the line and once again I suspect that in this, as with my motorcycle lane-splitting, the cops would rather I do that and get out (thereby reducing congestion) than be part of the bigger problem.

Thus it is, I stretched my calves at a tree, staggered up a small slope, spotted some dry asphalt, and got pegged as a med case.

Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here
What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
in the end.

I gathered my gear and started sucking down a bottle of Recoverite while headed for a brunch that Derek Rose had arranged for the local bloggers.  I should have called ahead as the Metro Diner was packed, but I managed to shoehorn myself into the booth and passed the next hour quite pleasantly with Derek, Danny (who is still suffering painful running), Uptowngirl, and NYflygirl chatting about quite a few things.  It would be fun to meet up again, at the bars, after the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run.

Walking down to the 72nd street subway station, I had a lot on my mind.  Mainly the present state of my health, both lungs and legs.  My left IT band was on fire yesterday, but felt fine today.  A little tight during the race and twingy much later in the afternoon, but nothing like yesterday.  Still, my stride is short and I can't seem to stretch it out (it might be my long underwear isn't helping either!).  My lungs are definitely in poor shape.  I simply can't get the oxygen I need; spent most of the race trying to hold it at a pace where I wasn't gasping for air.  During one particularly bad coughing fit, where I was also trying to avoid slipping into "survival shuffle," one woman turned around and told me I should be in bed!  Coughing on the course is nothing new to me; but I'm not just having my regular productive cough.  These fits are extended and bring up little or nothing; they leave me drained.  I think I will call the dr. tomorrow and find out when my next regular checkup is.  I have some questions to ask, particularly about GSH and oil of oregano.  

Moving into the subway, the perfect cooldown song came up on my iPod:  Johnny Cash's "Hurt".  There're trees and there's forest; this particular song is good at making me forget the trees and see the forest.  This run was three miles too short according to my training schedule, but  it's no biggie in the grand scheme of things; I didn't even need it as a qualifier and if keeping it short today prevents a worse injury, then so be it.  And it wasn't my worst 10K, either.  Scotland 10K was slower.  Healthy Kidney 10K was faster - but only by 90 seconds!  So today wasn't a PR - but even feeling like I did while running I still managed an average performance.  

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way.


Beast said...

Sorry the race was so tough. Glad you perservered. Only DNF when going for the finish will cause you injury or death.

Danny said...

hope you're doing better today...

Uptown Girl said...

Hope you're feeling better! Nice job perservering through the race...a true competitor indeed.

Thanks for making it to was nice to finally meet the faces behind these blogs:)

nyflygirl said...

nice job hanging in there. i too, felt it was a tough day for whatever reason and gave up trying to "race" at mile 4 and just wanted to finish the damn thing standing. hope you've recovered well. :-)

and was great to meet you at the brunch too-i agree we all definitely need to do this again :-)

Brooklyn said...

Thanks everyone; I'll be back at the top of my game in no time.

Did anybody notice that Danny's picture blinks? How very Harry Potter of you, Danny.