The other mood I'm not in is a running mood. I've been dropping/reducing several runs lately and have begun to feel like my depressed lung function is just an excuse - that I could tough it out if I tried. And I will, I suppose. I'm skipping today's workout, as I really didn't want to face rain this morning, but have only two things planned for tomorrow: Salvaging what tools I can from an unintentionally water-logged toolbox and a slow run of at least eight miles. I realize that winter has this effect on a lot of runners, but I was much more gung-ho last winter.
I'm looking foward to Emerald Nuts Midnight run; hopefully the party and short workout will snap me out of this winter funk.
Two days later, we went to a converted trail that runs behind Grants Museum and Grants Farm. This is a long, straight, flat trail. I only stopped to walk once, and even that was merely a pause. We only did about four miles, but the quality of that workout made up for the lack of quantity. The first couple miles went fairly smoothly, if slow, and I ran the last mile and a half very well, even picking up a couple of strides. Again, I don't think my lungs would have held out for more than another couple of miles, but the legs are feeling good.
The biggest bright point was that my sister took my little nephew (the monkey in question) with us in the jogging stroller. She doesn't often take him with her on her runs, as the stroller really slows her down and is quite difficult, she says, but I think it was a treat for my nephew and myself. He sat quiet and behaved until we turned around, when he decided he wanted to run with us - or more to the point, me. I have to admit, he might have the makings of a runner when he gets older. He ran nine or ten small sections, with little walks in between, probably a quarter-mile or more. And not slowly, either. I was jogging slowly and he was keeping up on those little legs! My sis and I finally realized, though, that this stop-and-go would keep continuing unless we could get him back in the stroller and the only way to do that was for me to run on ahead. So I did, and my sister, with nephew in the stroller, chased me about twenty yards behinds for the rest of the run.
He's cute at this age and yes, he can climb like a monkey. (click for bigger)
Got to get back on the schedule. Got to get serious about this training. May have to revise the long runs schedule, though, to more accurately reflect what I can do right NOW.
Nathan Sports Quickdraw Plus Bottle (and holder): this is OK. The holder is great! Fits my RAZR perfectly. Fits around the hand very nicely; adjustable strap; reflective bits. The BOTTLE is garbage. As a holder, I highly recommend. But do yourself a favor and leave the bottle in the store; it's not worth carrying home. (Details: rubber cap is bite-friendly, but the seal is for crap.)
(similar product as...) New Balance dri-fit long-sleeve, half-zip, collared training top. Mine's in orange and grey. Awesome piece of clothing!
Ultima replenisher sports drink mix: Not bad. Packaging looks like something you wash clothes with, not drink, but the ingredients seem good. Strong flavor, but more palatable than Gatorade and less sweet than HEED.
I spent yesterday feeling the burn from my newfound mode of commuting, and traveling to St. Louis. After missing two flights due (more or less) to the transit strike, I finally got on a late flight towards St. Louis that connected in Atlanta. Twelve hours of travel for three actual flight hours, pitiful. Long story, short: the TWU has no idea what kind of ripple effects this strike is having. [One of the elements of me traveling by air is that I can check my suitcase, but must carry with me anything I can't afford to be without for a week, in case that suitcase gets lost. This means I had two carry-ons with me: my running bag filled with medicines and back-up nebulizer, and my Vest, which is about 25 or 30 pounds. The attendants required numerous and lengthy explanations about all of this and why I wouldn't let them be checked, even on the tarmac. They eventually understood, though. :) ]
Anyway, arrived at my sister's and was up pretty late, even had a beer last night. (For what it's worth: Bud Select ain't half bad. It ain't Guinness, but it ain't horse piss either.) In the course of things, I forgot my dosage of Levaquin and completely skipped therapy, which I'm paying for today.
Woke up after a long, deep sleep feeling rested and ready for a four- or five-miler. The soreness of the bicycling is gone and my legs aren't as tight as they were yesterday. However, I am massively dehydrated and am having to play catchup with medicines and therapies. My urine was very dark and my sputum - while coming up without too much effort - is plentiful and very thick. Well, I'll get back on the regular schedule and keep at it.
Heading out from my sister's house, I realized just how hilly the area is. She lives up on top of a hill (perhaps 200 yards), accessible only by a culd-de-sac. That cul-de-sac connects to a lane at the bottom of the hill. That junction is at the bottom of more hills, either way you turn. I chose to go to the right and managed to keep running all the way up to the top - probably a third mile or more. And while I've tackled long hills before of a mile in length - they were gentle or medium grades. My sister's neighborhood is built like San Francisco and the hills are STEEP. I remember having to really gun my motorcycle up the hills on my last visit - very rare.
Anyway, this kind of rapid elevation change is unique to me: I've only encountered such hills on a few short trails in Central and Prospect Park - they don't have this kind of distance to them. (If this is what my sister starts her runs on, she's going to positively laugh at the hills in the NY Marathon!) I chose to do hill repeats, rather than the five-miler; I won't get this opportunity often. I went up the hill at a hard, though not all-out, pace each time, concentrating on keeping a steady speed and not slowing. I jogged back down as slow as the hills would let me, experiencing some real pull for the first time. I can see why one needs to train for downhills as much as uphills!
So a 2x repeat and a half-hour of stretching and three large glasses of water later, I'm feeling pretty good. The Levaquin is kicking in finally and I won't be as dehydrated for the next run. I may try this again tomorrow or hold off and ask what my sister plans for the weekend - we may do the newly-rebuilt cinder loop in Forest Park.
A final note: I like the variety of this new terrain. I can manage seeing the same routes over and over again, but the change is certainly nice.
Now let's here some jeers for the striking MTA workers. 10% raise my ass, not when even the lowliest platform scrubber makes $47,000 a year base plus required offers of overtime. Fuck them.
Last night I had thought I would be heroic and do a brick. Run five this morning (or run-walk as the case may be), and then commute to work on my crappy little 10-speed. This morning, realizing I've never actually bicycled more than six miles straight, I thougth I should save my legs for the bike ride ahead and skipped the run.
I got a workout in anyway! By my GPS, the bicycle route to work is 11.9 miles and I did that in two hours - a half hour was lost in having to WALK the bike across the Brooklyn Bridge and in stopping for some flashing LEDs for tonight's ride home. I was annoyed by the cops on the bridge telling bicyclists to get off and walk - it was 11:00 and traffic was pretty light. Seems to me the cops are actually compounding the problems of getting around, as usual.
I think if I did this ride regularly, I could get it down to about an hour, which is what the subway commute is and what the motorcycle route is on a bad day.
Hoping to get some good work done before tonight's ride home. I may take the Manhattan bridge for that.
My frustration level is at an all-time high. It isn't the legs, it's the LUNGS. Maybe I was expecting too much of the Levaquin, hell maybe I was expecting a miracle (I've only had four doses so far), but still.
Today's Hot Chocolate 15K was a miserable, abject failure for me. No, I didn't DNF. And I actually did finish running, but for the most part the race was just miserable.
I'd woken up five minutes before my alarm, fully rested. I got ready to hop on the subway, thankful the MTA had put off their strike for a while, and headed out the door with everything I needed for a day outside. For once, I got it perfect: just the right clothes, just the right nutrition and hydration. Brought painkillers and Albuterol. I had a strategy planned for the race. I mean, a fuckin' strategy, ya know?? Strategies are for the fast runners. Strategies are for confident runners. Strategies are for competitive runners. In short, strategies are for winners.
Didn't help a bit.
The first couple of miles of race were great. After a good warmup jog along the bridle path, I started the race at the back of the pack, just jogging real easy and didn't have a hard time until after the second mile. As the third mile wore on and I tried to speed up to my regular pace, my breathing got more and more labored and my lungs were closing up. (This despite taking a shot of albuterol before the race; I wonder if the canister I brought is out of medicine - you can't tell by feel.) By mile four, I was really suffering - and then came Cat Hill.
I've written about the bobcat statue before. It essentially boils down to this: that thing is waiting to eat the unlucky runner who doesn't RUN by him. And he sure as hell had me for lunch today. Twice! I walked Cat Hill. I walked a lot of the hills today. I am unhappy and frustrated that I should have had to walk at all, but I simply couldn't quit coughing and I was starving for air.
If you're curious what I'm talking about (or can't imagine it) it's kind of like having a nice big engine in your sports car -- that somebody's put a restrictor plate in, thus keeping the incoming air flow down and thus limiting the engine's power and the car's speed. The engine can only go as fast as the breather lets it. Same with me. If you're just dying to know what I'm experiencing, try wrapping a nice thick scarf around your mouth and nose for your next run. You can walk and chat just fine, right? Now try jogging. See how much harder it is? Now wrap it twice - and that's what I was dealing with today.
It was shameful to have to walk. For the entire second lap, I kept passing and being passed by a couple of people. One in particular, an elderly member of CPTC, was a very slow jogger, but very steady. I tried matching his slow pace, but just can't run that slow - a fast walk would do it. Yet when I walked, he got ahead. When I ran, I passed him. I came across the finish line barely ahead of him, I think his name is Paul Saunders. 64 years old and he pretty much wiped his ass with me.
I eventually crossed the finish line for a net time of 1:44:09 - an 11:11 per mile pace. Results here. Such poor results. I doubled back to the med tent, intent on borrowing a pulse-ox meter to check my sats. Though excercise should put one's sats at 100%, I suspect mine were in the mid to low 90's. Turns out that while they can bring heart attack victims back to life, they don't have a pulse-ox meter! Grabbed my bag from the baggage area and headed for the hot chocolate waiting at 103rd street.
As I walked over, I thought about the race, trying to tally up whatever positive elements I could. Ultimax socks: good stuff. New water bottle carrier (hand strap style): very helpful. Clothing choices: almost perfect, perhaps leave the long underwear at home for temps above freezing. I finished. And, not to fail to see the forest, I did get my full scheduled long run in.
A couple of moderately related things to note:
One, this race has brought up the whole God issue for me again. I won't go into how or why or what I'm mulling over; not yet, but my ride home was not spent dwelling on my poor performance, but rather what allowed me to finish the last mile of the race running.
I got an email from an old friend, who lives in Nashville. Apparently she read my blog entry about entering the Nashville Marathon and sent me a virtual thumbs-up. I'm encouraging her and her husband to enter the race, too; perhaps for the full, perhaps for the half. It would be neat to think I've had such a positive effect on people so far away.
Nashville is a little over four months away. Plenty of time to get my lungs in better shape and play catch-up with the training schedule - and learn a little patience.
But there might be a transit strike! If so, getting to the race will be difficult, if not impossible. I'm planning on bicycling to my doctor's tomorrow, a distance of about seven miles. I'll have to start out at least 90 minutes early. If I want to race Saturday, I may have to bicycle to that, too - a distance of ten miles. (Balls. I haven't even figured out if I can take a bicycle across the Brooklyn or Manhattan bridges!)
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The recent distress I'm having when running isn't all in my head. After the terrible race, and after coughing up blood-streaked sputum over the last few days, and a few other indicators, I called the doctor Monday and got my mid-Jan appointment moved up to today. (I got to see Dr. Ting, as Dr. Shaw is out on maternity leave; can't wait to see pictures of the little guy.) The PFTs are not encouraging, but they at least point the way to getting some treatment going. From a high at the beginning of summer of 52% FEV1 predicted, I'm down to 42%.
Based on October's sensitivities, Ting's put me on Levaquin, which is really quite good in my experience. New cultures are currently cooking and by the time I leave for Xmas, I should be able to report improvement (or none) to the doc, and he'll be able to assess my current bugs and their sensitivities. IV antibiotics are not out of the question yet, though I have great faith in Levaquin. Hell, even Cipro, which I am supposedly resistant to, still works pretty well.
I did avoid hospitalization, though, which is pleasing. Part of what took that option off the table is that my heartrate read as 66 and my sats at 97. Sats below 90 are cause for inpatient care; but my sats have never been that low. The other factor in avoiding the hospital: I GAINED WEIGHT! THREE POUNDS!! You've no idea how tickled I am, as this is something I've been working on for most of a year. I have been good about doing my therapy and taking in a steady, fairly-high-calorie diet. And my reward is three pounds!
All of the above discussion is to say: I'm sure that I'll have a little easier time running this weekend at the Hot Chocolate 15K and certainly by the New Year's Eve 4-miler I'll be in great shape.
I did go running in Central Park after the doctor's appointment. I had to hurry, since NYRR closed early today. I'd been planning three loops of the reservoir for 4.8 miles, but quickly found that running on frozen-solid compressed snow, cinder, and ice is worse than running on cobblestones. So I shifted to doing the loop, cutting across at the 102nd and 72nd street crossovers, for a 4-mile run. It was hard, and bad. Walked about 1/2-mile of it, total. Didn't make it up Cat Hill running. I know the cold air (22 degrees!) isn't helping the whole "breathing" thing, but I was quite warm overall in three shirts and if I can get this lung infection under control, then Old Man Winter can bring it on, baby!
I should have known it was too good to be true.
I woke this morning feeling more rested than I have in a long, long
time. I felt energized, like yesterday's run had been the last of
some kind of crap and my body and mind had changed the filters
overnight. Cheerfully, I climbed right into my running clothes,
threw on a warmup jacket and overgloves and opened the door.
Snow. No big deal, I've run in snow before. But not this kind!
This is the wet, slushy kind in a thin layer that affords no reliable
footing, especially in running shoes. By the time I was done
shoveling the walk and laying down salt (which turned my glove rather
white itself), I decided that discretion is the better part of valour
and a sprained ankle or banged knee is something I don't need.
I'll put my energy today into getting my apartment clean and get some
unneeded crap listed on eBay. Maybe later if the walks get cleared
up and enough of slush melts away, I can get a short run in; try to
get this week up to its scheduled totals.
...yet Ceasar was ambitious...
So why is it so fucking HARD?? I mean, the last few runs have been difficult to the point of satire. I should be having no problems pounding out anything under nine miles. Yet I find myself consistently defeated by my own body.
Last Thursday, I did my five mile flat out-and-back, which takes me along the BQE to the point where - if I continued on - I'd cross through a small park and then be jogging along the bay toward the Verazanno. Going out I experienced few problems, though I did walk for a half block to get my coughing under control. Coming back was much worse, I kept having to walk.
It was the same story today. I'd meant to get in 10 miles - just add a loop of Prospect Park to my 6.8 route - but I ended up at a longish five instead. Going up to the park and going round I simply couldn't get a good breathing rhythm going and my coughing was really draining me. What's particularly frustrating is that I have had hellatious coughing fits while continuing to run in the past. Staten Island Half was a dream - I didn't slow below a good trot even once! But now...I get so short of oxygen, I have to slow down to a walk. What's ironic is that this doesn't happen on hills, either down or up. Only on flat sections, though by the time I crest a hill, I may have to slow to a walk. Another bit I can't figure out is whether the cold air is causing this or not - usually I breathe better in cold air.
Speaking of temperature, the temps have been slowly falling over the last week. I'm fine with this; I like winter. Right now is near-ideal temps to run in. But I'm having some difficulty acclimating. Today, I wore some long-johns underneath my running pants and wore a sweatshirt, knit cap, and knit gloves. While my legs were fine, I was still chilly up top and my hands were lumps of ice. I'm willing to attribute some of the chill to the wind, which was bad but not brutal. Still - I should be very comfortable in that amount of clothing or perhaps too warm, but I'm not.
Finally, another CF factor cropped up today: my gut. I woke up this morning with stomach pain and tenderness in the right side. I've had this before and it went away once I got my diet on an even keel (read: strictly regular and regulated). Recently, I broke the norm and had myself a nice grilled, marinated flank steak night before last and last night delivery sushi (a new place called Kiku; they did a good job, but I was most impressed with their oshinko plate). So did this small variance from my routine become my downfall today? Is the fact that I used the toilet four times in four hours before I got out the door of significance? So this gut pain isn't good and while I'm content to run through it, I'd really rather not.
Perhaps I'm not properly motivated. I have to admit I'd rather have skipped today's run altogether. But I didn't. It's nice that I got out there and did it; but it isn't exactly a victory either. Well, I'll be motivated as hell next week; I'm doing the Joe Kleinerman 10K next weekend. I'll have to tack on a four-mile warmup in order to get back on track with my training schedule. If all goes well, it could turn out to be a great 10K run!
The bright sides of all this recent frustration are a) I know this won't last forever - I'll get acclimated and my lungs will adapt to the cold &/or the doc will get me on some antibiotics [I suspect a mild infection but not enough to go see the doc before regular exam]; and b)my legs are fine. A bit tight, but I'm doing good with the before-and-after stretching, keeping on my PT homework, and the like. And I can once again feel the results of being a good boy about that. In fact, the short downhill run (maybe half mile) from the park to the grocery today I actually felt good. Legs working, lungs finally cooperating a bit, and weaving in and out of people on the sidewalk also felt charmed.