January 30, 2006
Many of our bloggers ran the half. Our BlogFather Derek left a brief post, it's brevity indicating his disappointment more than anything. By contrast, Dasmoo, of whom I know nothing, seems very happy with his new PR, though his post is equally as short. What is it with you guys? Details, people, details!
I volunteered to write this week's Rundown partly because I knew I'd be there myself. Got all responsible and took a lot of photos and posted my own personal report here. My race was not as good as Dasmoo's, nor even Derek's... well, life goes on. I did run into my neighbor (Boy-Who-Has-No-Blog) and was astounded to find out he ran the half in a 1:29. Very impressive. He's currently training up for Boston.
Chelle finally got off her lazy-posting butt to tell us about her race. Turns out, a good half marathon was just what she needed to shake the heavy feeling. (I mean, seriously, ten days between posts? Please post more!) She finished strong, fast, and feeling like the Flyer she is. And, of course, NYFlyGirl had an equally good race while not officially running it. She stuck to her plan. Even runner Getset, who hasn't run more than 6 miles since Christmas, managed a PR!
Before I go, I'd like to cast an eye further afield and give a shout out to Jon, who also PR'd in Houston. StSean also ran this race, the 3M Half Marathon and makes me wish I were a student again. Unfortunately, this race will be noteworthy for another reason: the course was marked improperly and the distance was off.
And that's about all I can find on half-marathons this time around. Lots of bloggers promising they'll be running various upcoming halfs and fulls. In the meantime, let's all look forward to the Brooklyn Half, huh? I know I am.
January 29, 2006
I'd signed up for the Manhattan Half Marathon right after Christmas. I was in the middle of fighting a lung infection and believed that the oral antibiotics would bring my lung functions back up to nominal and I'd be on training track and this would be a good long-run for the weekend. It was a bit of a surprise to everybody that the Manhattan Half, usually an August event, was being held all of a sudden in January, but there it was. In contrast to the six thousand who show up later in the year, we had a (paltry?) showing of four thousand for this, the beginning of the Grand Prix. (I am determined to run four of these this year, and will miss the fifth because I'll be running a marathon in Nashville two days later.)
I brought along my Motorola RAZR and took some pics along the way. Me, all chipper and cheary before the race:
Runners entering the park and walking to the start line. Baggage buses in back.
My friend Lou, otherwise known as the Bells Guy. Very recognizable, and he's actually started recognizing me, too. :)
The starting line and the announcer. We would pass this point three times total.
Anyway, I just want to say right off the top that I had good, but not unreasonable hopes, for this half-marathon. I knew I wouldn't be turning in anything but my slowest 13.1-mile performance to date, but had no idea how bad it would get. I knew I'd be straining to beat the three-hour time limit, but had no idea how frustrating and humiliating the reality would be.
Leaving the house, I got out early and happened to hit two express trains right off, so that I arrived an hour before the horn. Not a bad way to start a race. The weather was cool, but not cold, and it seemed clear to me that most of the people around me were not counting on a PR today. It's just too damn early in the season for a half-marathon!
Realized I'd forgotten my tunes. Huh. Well, that might be a lesson, in that every time I DO use my tunes, my runs end up uneven - and I've turned them off in the past in order to even out my pacing. So maybe having only my own thoughts to keep me company is the best way to go, I thought. I decided at the last minute that since this race would involve a lot of walking for me, and I wasn't worrying about a real time, that I'd use the water stations and not take my bottle of HEED with me.
Now, as I'm still battling that lung infection (and it seems to be getting worse, unfortunately), I decided to cheat. I mean, I really, REALLY shouldn't have even gone to the race, and I knew this. So I pulled every dirty trick I had in order to ensure I could at least breathe well: I took albuterol when I got up, along with ibuprofen, had a cup of regular coffee on the train in to Manhattan. 30 minutes before the start of the race, I took Primatene tablets (ephedrine and glu-something) and pocketed a Primatene inhaler (epinephrine). I thought I'd be all set to slowly toil out a 2:45 or 2:50 half.
Oh boy was I ever wrong!
First, the primatene tabs didn't have nearly the punch they had the last time I took them, two years ago. I guess you don't get passages opening up if they're already filled with gunk. But I did at least FEEL good. Not quite as good when running on Dayquil, but I wasn't willing to take them if I didn't have a cold.
The starting lineup...from the rear POV.
Yes, the lighthouse did jog the race. And yes, I was beaten by a f***ing jogging lighthouse!
The first half of the race was OK and conformed to my expectations. I ran continuously the first mile and half. Not fast, but steadily, except for the upper half of the harlem hills. (I managed to jog past the overhanging rock, so I feel I hit a certain minimum there). After that, breathing got difficult again and I slipped into a pattern of walking up inclines, and jogging the downs and flats, which meant I'd run a quarter mile or so, walk a quarter mile, back and forth.
The first few time splits didn't make sense, but the splits for six and seven told the story: I was on track, if I could push it a bit more, to come in under three hours. That would be nice.
Breathing continued to worsen little by little. I took the Primatene mist at mile six or seven... didn't seem to help much. I'm now out of answers to the essential problem. :(
And then the cramps started. Mile 9, I tried to pick it up to a jog again and slammed with cramps in the calves, coming on like spasms and not quitting until I slowed to a fast walk again. After a half dozen tries at this, I decided I'd finish the last 3.1 miles (I was now at about marker 10) walking. I tried to keep up a steady, consistent pace, but noted with sadness that even those who ONLY walk races were slowly passing me by and that I saw no more mile markers after 10, though I did manage to snag cups of water just barely before the tables were dismantled. (I want to express my gratitude to all the kids NYRR hires to man these stations - they're out there for far longer than the runners and don't have the advantage of exercise to keep them warm!)
Moving up Cat Hill and passing where the starting line had been at 81st street felt great. The last mile passed swiftly, though with everybody else around me being recreational joggers - no more racing people could be seen - it was pretty lonely. I did the last third of a mile with a guy who caught up from behind. We crossed the finish line together and that - if this isn't grasping at straws - just about felt like the best part of the race; that I didn't have to cross that line alone. Astonishingly, the finish line was still up and the mats beeped as I stepped across. Still, the time didn't get recorded and I'm not officially listed among the finishers. Nor is my erstwhile companion or the two people who came in after us. (I have sent an email to make sure I at least get the credit for having done the race!)
Cleopatra's Needle, outside the Met, about 84th street or so. Yes, we clever Americans stole this from Egypt. No, they don't seem to want it back.
Cones have a thee-hour expiration date:
So does the finishing chute:
I finally make it to the end - and I'm surprised it's still there!
The lung issues are continuing to be frustrating. I don't know when - or even if - this will ever get resolved satisfactorily to where I can at least slowly jog a continuous 5K. The thought that I may never breathe well again scares me, particularly since this isn't only a problem when running! (I'm winded at the top of stairs, am having asthma attacks resting at home, etc.)
The legs, I guess, are becoming de-trained and that's what caused the cramps. OR perhaps the unfamiliar drugs in my system did that. Or just a lack of potassium (haven't been eating my banana-a-day lately).
I'm a lot Disappointed right now, and just about as much Confused. I feel like I'm losing control over my body. The only clear thing after this race is that Nashville is now in jeopardy. If things don't turn around by the Brooklyn Half, I will have to run (or walk) only the half-marathon in Nashville.
My legs were pretty sore and stiff today. I imagine I'm not the only one suffering though. I heard one guy getting ready to drive home tell his buddy that this was the first time he'd run in four months
January 26, 2006
For the last ten days, I haven't run. I decided weekend before last
that if I'm to have any chance at beating this lung infection and
healing up and getting on with my training schedule, then my body
needs rest, just like anybody else battling an infection. It wasn't
really that hard to skip the runs, as I've been working a lot and the
last runs that were so difficult and disappointing was making me feel
pretty negative about the whole thing.
But this morning, I got out for a short run. Very short. I took a
package to the post office and then continued jogging VERY SLOWLY to
the one-mile mark, then turned around, stopped at the post office
again for 2-cent stamps, and returned home. For a lousy two miles,
the run took entirely too long. However, I only had to walk three
times, and only for a very short distance. In fact, it wasn't so
much my lungs I was worrying about as my knees. Nearly two weeks of
non-running doesn't seem to have been good for them at all.
It's funny, not only did I go to the post office - twice - but I also
passed four mailboxes I'd never noticed before. For some reason,
their blue was really standing out this morning.
Have you heard the phrase "phoning it in" to describe a half-assed
job? That's what I felt like this morning, knowing that I didn't
exactly give it my all - or that maybe I had and this is what I'm
reduced to. It wasn't a bad run, just not even close to good. And
unless a miracle happens between now and Saturday morning, I'm afraid
the Manhattan Half will be a real test of my willpower. I believe
this will be my slowest half yet and most probably I'll be straining
just to beat the time limit.
Of course, this brings up an interesting question: am I fucking
STUPID? Fail to run well or at all for three weeks and then go
tackle 13 miles?? Then again, you could say that if I did a little
over two hours for twelve miles three weeks ago, I should still be
physically able to do this. Besides, no matter how long it takes,
I'll get a qualifier done for NY Marathon 2007 and I'll be able to
get a good guage of my lungs and legs for the next round of doctor
And so, in honor of the mailed-it-in effort this morning...I am, in
fact, emailing this post in.
January 16, 2006
If people knew of their extra risk, they would have an incentive to stay thin and exercise, [Steffansen] said. Uh, you haven't been reading the other recent NY Times articles, have you, Mr. Steffansen?
January 15, 2006
My schedule said 14 miles. This was doable, I thought. I'd done 12 last week, how bad could 14 be? Well, lemme tell ya. It can be bad. Unlike last week, my lungs did not cooperate. My legs did not cooperate. Like Beast, my form was off and the run was a struggle. It should have been a good run; it was sunny and not too cold (no worse than what winter's supposed to be). The wind was pretty gruesome. It blew in high gear much of the time; a trade-off for waiting until the sun came out, I suppose. The windchill when I ran was supposedly 14 degrees, but in my three layers of shirts, two layers of pants, and regular hat-and-gloves routine, I was quite comfortable. I didn't get chilled until I was slowed to a walk.
And that's the essential problem. The walking. It isn't training my LEGS to do anything! But my LUNGS are no better than they were a couple of weeks ago, despite my adherance to drug therapies, physical therapies, and (mostly) to my running schedule. I am bringing up more junk than ever and it has me concerned. I'll give the Bactrim a chance, I guess, before I start to get really worried. Fact is, when my lungs do cooperate, my legs are more than up to the challenge of a half-marathon right now. But how much longer will that last??
I cut the run short. In the middle of the first loop of the park, I knew I wouldn't be able to finish the run, no matter how badly I wanted it. I simply couldn't breathe, couldn't jog more than a 1/4 mile at a time, even walking fast was leaving me breathless. Coughing frequently had me bent over, hands-on-knees. WARNING: NEXT PARAGRAPH NOT PRETTY
<gross> At one point, I sniffed hard, snorted, and hocked out. I looked down and the snot had bright red blood in it! Up to that point, I hadn't realized my nose was bleeding from the exertion of the last coughing fit. Here I am leaving green, white, and red all over the park; Italy would be proud. Just before my shower, later, I looked in the mirror and was shocked. Like some sick Japanese porn, my face was flecked in dried blood, spit, and sputum streaks. I simply couldn't feel them happen in the cold! </gross>
I did half the run; 6.7 miles, probably 4 of that walking. Still, I'm not as short on mileage this week as the last couple weeks of December, so that might indicate improvement.
January 13, 2006
PAIN is WEAKNESS LEAVING the BODY, the sticker said.
Huh; now that's food for thought. Wil would love that line!
Anyway, on this grey day not unlike the weather we had LAST time I ran, the run was increasingly difficult and I spent more and more time walking - even on the downhill final segment! I sometimes think the suffocating feeling in my lungs is all in my mind, but the physical evidence is there: I cannot take a deep breath, all my coughing is productive, and my sputum has color and quantity. Damn. I hope this Bactrim gets to work quick and that my lung function gets back up the last couple steps to where I was a few months ago. I also hope that winter is mercifully short this year; I'm certain that the weather works against me psychologically.
It's just that this flip-flopping of good runs then bad runs is annoying. Why can't I experience something approximating an even keel?
Confidential to Beast: I'm also noticing other goobers in the park, but all of them are clear. Not mine!
January 12, 2006
The New York Times continues its series of articles on diabetes. This one talks about how insurance companies have it rigged so that successfully treating diabetes doesn't pay, but treating complications does. Truly, our nation's health system is a sick one. Today's article is about the problems Asians have when they move to America. Asians are very susceptible to Type II diabetes and the western (American) lifestyle is practically a guarantee that they'll get it. The fast food culture, the Snapple machines in school hallways, the lack of exercise, and the lack of PE programs in the schools all contribute. I'm not so sure I'd pin it all on Snapple - after all, we've had soft drinks in vending machines for 60 years - but kids do exercise less these days. Fast food does go after kids aggressively, telling them fast food is healthy food.
On a related note, there was a thread on Fark.com last night in response to a survey from SeattlePi.com that only 24% of Americans find overweight to be unattractive, down from 55% 20 years ago. This, to many people, just means that 76% of America is overweight. As the posts bickered back and forth, a number of people in that 24% were quite vocal. Most people seemed to agree that plump is OK, even pleasing, but outright fat is just a huge turnoff. But the very vocal ones were quite cruel, even surpassing my own intolerance of the obese. What I know, though, that these vocal idiots don't seem to, is that if 3/4 of America is overweight, then as a thin person, I'm outnumbered 1 to 3. Factor in the weight difference and I'm suddenly outnumber 1 to 6! Those aren't odds I like...so I stayed out of the conversation.
Just got home from work. I am starving! I'm gobbling up everything I can get my hands on. I had a good breakfast, a good lunch, a bottle of Recoverite after this morning's ride, and now I'm sucking down another bottle. The ride back was harder, though not "longer". I felt the whole time like each gear was the difficulty of the next higher gear; it was frustrating. Made me realize that I really gave it my all when I went in to work and tonight my legs had little left to give. A half-Iron is a LONG way off for me.
On the next-to-last leg of the route - a recently-paved 3rd ave w/ bike path - I really wanted to kick it into high gear. I'd been toodling along in what I think of as "4th" and wanted to do like I did that morning, go in "5th". Imagine my surprise when I clicked the lever upwards...and the derailleur didn't shift! I glanced down and found I was already in 5th! My derailleur has mysteriously become unadjusted sitting in a warm office for six hours. Hm. It also makes a lot of noise and squeaks. Okay, some of that's the chain. I wish I knew more about these mechanics, so I could adjust them better. And is it possible to save a rusty chain? Or should I replace it?
Last thought for the day: this article off the Houston Running blog is a fine, fine eulogy to Willy Kane, the poor fucker who kicked off at the finish line of the Disney Half. It contains not only a touching summation of his drive and courage, but also silouhettes Kane against the backdrop of modern sports, revealing in Kane the purity of a true athlete. I encourage you to read it.
Yesterday's run was OK, not great, not terrible. I walked quite a bit - three or four times - in my 6.7 mile Prospect Park loop. Even had to walk part of the biggest uphill. :( Most hills didn't get me, though; the out-of-breath seems to come almost randomly. The weather probably had a lot to do with it. It was murky, grey, not rainy, but not dry. No warm, but not cool. Weird. It was interesting to run in, but not something I want to do every day.
I used the run to pick up a fresh box of contacts and go by the ATM. I had meant to stop there, but it seemed faster to run the 1.5 miles home than to walk down to the subway and take that home. So my run was longer than planned, but that's OK, as I'll wind up short on mileage this week anyway. I'm doing a bike commute to work today, since the weather is so warm and perfect, and that will definitely equal the effort and cardiovascular benefits of the otherwise-planned 5-miler.
I found this article to be an interesting and quick read. Good solid advice all marathoners need to remind themselves of.
I'm signing up for Manhattan half today. My plan for that race will be to test pacing, hydration, and fueling strategies. I'd like to run negative splits and if last weekend's 12 miles is any indication, I can probably do it.
BTW, doc found micobacteria in my cultures as well as staph. No pseudomonas has shown up. So I'm going on a version of bactrim for the next 2-3 weeks. Hope it helps; I've been feeling like hell lately, and being drained from the constant coughing and not sleeping well.... none of this is helping my training.
January 10, 2006
The New York Times has recently been running a series of articles on the diabetes epidemic. Most of these have been informative, objective, and highly interesting - and most conclude that our nation's workforce will soon be crippled by legions of workers "blind and halt." (Not that we aren't already crippled by legions of workers "stupid and lazy".)
Today's article, Living at an Epicenter of Diabetes, Defiance, and Despair, takes a close look at the overwhelming incidence of Type II diabetes in East Harlem. Many things in the article angered me, however, though a part of me is apalled that I would even have the gall to BE angry. Why? Because my anger is directed not at the author (mostly), but at the people in East Harlem; the victims themselves. Their attitude crazes me.
"Months spent [by the author, Kleinfeld] in the easy company of the shop's dozen or so regulars reveal something more than just the insidiousness of Type 2 diabetes, the disease's most common form. Those months, and conversations, disclose with relentless consistency the human behavior that makes dealing with Type 2 often feel so futile - the force of habit, the failure of will, the shrugging defeatism, the urge to salve a hard life by surrendering to small comforts: a piece of cake, a couple of beers, a day off from sticking oneself with needles." Force of habit? Failure of will? Shrugging defeatism?? Spare me the melodrama, Mr. Kleinfeld, I'm not hearing that.
And as for the East Harlem crowd: "the urge to salve a hard life by surrendering to small comforts..." -- give me a fucking BREAK! I'm not an unsympathetic man, I really do feel for all the people of the world who have daily (sometimes several times daily) and often painful maintenance routines they must go through for their health. But speaking as both a moderately dedicated athlete and a person with a chronic condition - no pain, no gain! You slack off, you die off. Period. We all know this to be true. The second we stop rolling that boulder up the hill, O My Sisyphean Siblings, the boulder comes down and crushes us.
In East Harlem, they are handed the knowledge and tools to combat diabetes on a silver platter, yet they won't participate. One woman whose weight was quoted in the article as over 200 pounds said, "The doctor said if I didn't diet, I'd have to take the insulin," she said. "I don't want the needle." Despite that dreaded prospect, she had difficulty satisfying the disease's persistent needs. Among widespread chronic conditions, diabetes is arguably the most arduous to control.
I have little sympathy for the crowd of diabetics who won't take care of themselves properly, and thus suffer the worst effects of the disease. Oh, you have to watch what you eat? I'm so sorry for you! Why don't you try my diet? My every-day-the-same diet, one in which if I eat just a few ounces of the wrong food I'm having stomach pain for the next two days? There were other quotes in the article about the typical diet in East Harlem; jokes about the see-food diet (if my daughter sees it, she eats it) and points made about the culturally-driven aspects: in that neighborhood, you eat hot dogs, you eat cake, you drink beer and real soda. None of this diet crap, "diet" is a four-letter word and to be "on a diet" is seen as a weakness. I purse my lips at that idea, trying to understand the power of it, while wondering why they as individuals can't take control over the culture?
One woman slacks on her regimen: She carried her glucose meter around, but didn't like to use it regularly, especially when she was with friends, a vanity of hers. "It's embarrassing to check your blood in front of people," she said. It irked her, this machine laying a claim on her.
Shiiiiiiiit. She doesn't want a machine laying claim on her? She should try dealing with two machines everyday, twice a day. You go anywhere, you have to take them with you, because the therapies must not stop. These diabetics are positively burdened by a glucose meter. This is the attitude I don't understand. Sure, I've been known to be less than compliant in my treatments, as have most Cystics; but by the time one's health is truly jeopardized, one gets hopping on the treatments! This does not appear to be the case, though, for the majority of the diabetes sufferers in East Harlem; their attitudes are cavalier and fatalistic. In short, their attitudes represent all that pisses me off about how some Cystics handle their disease. Remarkeably few, I grant, but still. I just don't get it!
The same woman remarks later in the article about the never-ending finger-sticks, monitoring, pills, etc. "You get used to it, but you know what?" she said. "You don't get used to it." Excuse me? You managed to avoid all this for the first twenty, thirty, forty years of life; you managed to shun reality even when the doctors said, "lose weight and stop eating that way, or you'll become diabetic," and NOW you want us to feel sorry for you?
Then things really got surreal. The article started breaking it down by economics (and implied race): Mr. Rivera said: "You know what I think? I think there's a cure. We're the poor, so they don't want to give it to us."
You've got to be fucking kidding me. Isn't that the first cry of the dissolute? The man is oppressing me! There must be a cure but it's not as profitable as allowing us to suffer and die! Sure. Let's just conveniently forget that the vast majority of the East Harlem diabetics don't have insurance and end up passing on health care costs as bad debt that hospitals must write off, thus driving up health care costs for everyone. Those who HAVE insurance, or can afford care without it, are apparently the rich (white) folk who live south of 96th street:
The art-shop gatherers sometimes talked about 96th Street, the tangible southern divide of a neighborhood and of a disease. Go north of 96th Street and you enter a constricted world laden with poverty. Go south and you find promise and riches, thin not fat, the difference between East Harlem and the Upper East Side, the difference between illness and health. The article quotes a diabetic rate south of 96th street of 1/10th that of East Harlem. Is the author really trying to pin this on economic differences, when he just finished concluding the problem was cultural?
Or is the real problem individual motivation? "Failure of the will" as the author put it? I believe this to be the biggest problem. As a cystic, I must summon the willpower to do treatments twice a day 'til the end of my life, and it's been that way ever since I can remember. The treatments will ultimately get longer and more numerous. The drugs get more heavy-duty and caustic. I'm not complaining, I'm just saying that this is what is; it's the background noise of my life. It's the hand I've been dealt and one thing I've learned is that I can't PLAY the hand I've been dealt if I'm always looking at (and coveting) the other players' hands!
As an "athlete" (I dare not fail to put quotes around that), I have learned the lessons of slacking; the sliding backwards, the loss of tone and performance and ability. It takes daily attention to continued training and dietary particulars. To make the time necessary for all this (exercising and the CF treatments), the rigorous control over my body extends to control over my time. Sure, I'm not as hard-core about that as Wil, but I do have to plan very carefully.
I don't know why I'm so frustrated. Can't I just let them go their own way, and I can go mine? No, it seems I can't. It is that attitude, that defeatism, that really gets my goat, partly because I can't change it, partly because I see the same attitude and excuses from some of my CF cohorts...and partly, I admit, because those horrible thoughts - that sheer laziness - lies just underneath the surface in me.
I skipped today's run. Turns out not only do I have a head cold that won't go away, I've also got a staph infection in my lungs. (The doc is going to let the cultures cook another day to see if the Pseudomonas shows up; it was expected, but hasn't turned up yet. Then he'll make a treatment decision. I may be going on Zyvox and I may be avoiding IVs!) Between the two, I'm exhausted. This morning, after again not sleeping well, I made the decision to forego what would have been a lovely sunny-morning run and instead get two more hours of sleep - which indeed seemed to help. I'll be in bed early tonight and have plans to make up the run tomorrow morning. But the illness is just an excuse - some part of me just wanted "a day off" from being an athlete.
Fuck, I don't know.
January 8, 2006
Woke up still feeling stuffed up and suffering from the head cold, but it wasn't as bad as yesterday. I planned to get out the door by 10 a.m., so I was really trying to hurry to get out the door. But with therapy slowing me down, I got out the door about 10:40. No biggie, still plenty of time to get to NYRR and get in my planned run before they close at 3. Just before I headed out the door, I downed two more Dayquil geltabs. These things are truly amazing! And I knew, given my planned miles for the day, that I'd need every advantage I could get. Twelve miles is nothing to sneeze at, so to speak. :)
On the way to the subway, I stopped and got myself a cup of caffeinated coffee. Caffeine has a powerful multiplying effect on drugs and past experience has taught me that Dayquil should probably HAVE caffeine. So it was, once again flying on cold medicine, caffeine, and albuterol, that I spent an hour on the train to 86th street. On the way, I browsed through my Nano, listening to my very favorite tracks of running music: Eye of the Tiger, Baba O'Reilly, Standing Outside The Fire, etc. I used this to pump up my motivation and enthusiasm for the difficult run ahead of me as well as to remind me of WHY I'm doing all of this: because, as my dad says: no guts, no air medal. There are other reasons, of course. My health is important and I felt today would be a prime workout for the lungs. My training schedule is important, and I needed this long run to feel like I'm still on track to Nashville. But also - and maybe more important - I run for those who can't. In the last year, I've lost several CF acquaintances. My meditations on the train centered around reminding myself that this isn't all about me: it is also about them. I WILL run Nashville, and I'll run it for Richard. Later, perhaps, I'll run New York for me.
And so, now mentally charged as well as physically drugged, I arrived at NYRR headquarters.
The weather, by the way, was stunningly beautiful today. It got into the upper 40's, I do believe, and was clear and sunny with only mild breezes. I could not have wished for better weather. I entered the park knowing that this wouldn't be an easy run, but I was determined to make the beast my bitch. My main goals: a) keep walking to a bare minimum - try for none at all. b) Keep a steady pace, trying not to let my speed get out of control. They say slow and steady wins the race, and I've found that to be true. c) Reduce my stress, or at least not let any physical complications stress me out, which has been a problem lately.
With these goals in mind, I set off. The first six miles were amazing. They came and went and just sort of flowed. I haven't felt that kind of total running experience in quite some time - my breathing was fine, my legs were fine, I was at peace, and my energy was good. I felt like all these separate systems were finally getting integrated again.
I turned around after the first loop and ran the second one in reverse. Cat Hill sure as hell is easier to run DOWN than UP. You see, going up it, it fools you at first. When running the normal direction, you reach the boathouse and get your first glimpse of the next grade. It looks gentle and easy. But the second you round the next turn and actually start up it, the whole world tilts and Cat Hill begins to look very, very vertical. The cat did not have me for lunch today.
In mile eight, I began to feel the effects of my recent lack of training and could feel my energy starting to dip. By mile nine, I knew that the last three would be a struggle. This is what training is for, I reminded myself over and over. Each hill became a fresh challenge and I had to start really slowing down to be able to get up them while still jogging. But thankfully I was able to keep my breathing and my coughing mostly under control and the hills did not defeat me. The biggest challenge was to be in mile eleven: the north end of the park, with it's major hills. I found myself really struggling, but having mentally prepped myself for this particular set of hills - and the long, steep one especially - I was able to keep going, finally making it to the top still running! The last 3/4 mile was bunny hills and then the flat section beside the reservoir. I ran the flat section double-time, finally letting my legs go and carry me through to the 90th street exit. I felt good that I could still generate a final kick for that last 1/4 mile and was amazed that my upper body actually moves less when I'm at speed than when I'm jogging. I'll have to think about that.
I made my way home and was thankful for hot water and indoor plumbing. And just a few moments ago, my new queen matress arrived! I will be sleeping on a real matress for the first time in months and am delirious with the Happy. Or maybe it's just the Dayquil.
January 7, 2006
I took two nasal decongestant tabs this morning. Did nothing. By mid-afternoon, I left the house to go to the drugstore, as well as get some errands done on 96th street. Goddamn subways; always running on strange routes on the weekend. Took me 90 minutes to get where I was going. Finally got some Dayquil in me and a small coffee (with caffeine!) and half an hour later started feeling noticeably better, though still have the runny nose and such. This could really make my run tomorrow quite difficult and it may, in fact, be inadvisable to do a long run. Exhausting oneself when already sick can make things worse. On the other hand, running while high on Dayquil, caffeine, and fresh albuterol can make for a fantastic run.
The irony of all this is that I just last week got the flu shot and just Thursday took my last Levaquin.
I don't usually post on off days unless I'm catching up on the journaling, but I'm posting today because I was found by this guy, BayCityWalker. Turns out he has severe asthma, the life-threatening kind, and that he took up technical walking (betwen recent hospitalizations) as a way of fighting it. [81 hospitalizations and counting!] He's already walked half-marathons and has in mind doing a 50K someday. (Which, by the way, is 31 miles - a distance that begins the genus of distances known as ultramarathoning.) This guy has balls. He linked to my blog and left me a note. On his blog's intro, he very plantively asks where all of us are, the ones with lung disease?
We're out there, buddy, just few and far between.
And the reason I post this here, fellow bloggers, is in hopes that you'll visit his blog and leave him a note of encouragement. I think I may have to create a subset of the Running Blog Family, called the Wheezing Blog Family or something...
January 6, 2006
Day started badly as I woke up with a sore-throat, stuffy nose, and something at the back of my nose I couldn't move. But my body didn't feel like I'm getting a cold or flu or anything, so...
Went to my CF doc's office for a checkup, see how well the Levaquin's been working. Good news is, I feel somewhat better than three weeks ago and that's what counts most; bad news is, my numbers (on the PFTs) have gained only slightly (FEV1 is up to 1.84 from 1.76) and I've lost three pounds. :( More good news is that by using an aerosol chamber with my albuterol, the doc and nurse believe I get a better delivery of my albuterol - we tried this in the office during the PFTs today. I have to agree; seems to be worth carrying around this extra little plastic tube if it will help make the same medicine more effective. So-so news: I'm probably going to be put on Zithromax (azithromycin). It is a macrolide antibiotic that also has antiinflammatory effects. It has the ability to penetrate the biofilm that my P. Aeruginosa uses to protect itself in the lungs. But we have to wait for the cultures to cook and make sure there aren't any -- somethings. I forget what. And we also talked about getting me on IVs next week, again dependent on what the cultures say. The fact is, my lung function hasn't bounced back to the benchmark and as it's affecting my running, it makes using the running as physical therapy less effective. Next visit, they plan to do glucose stress testing (Cystics often turn diabetic) and an exercise stress test. I think I'll ace the latter. ;)
So I'm left with basic options: no IVs and continue to be unable to really work out, or go on IVs or whatever else - possibly adding MORE pills permanently to my routine - and hopefully see my running return to what it should be. This is the rock and this is the hard place.
After the appointment this morning, I dumped my stuff at NYRR and did a loop of the park. My mental prep was all about not worrying about the physical, and to focus on just keeping moving foward with as few (and hopefully no) walk breaks as possible. I am happy to say that I walked a total of maybe 60 feet and those were more a matter of slowing down to to increase the accuracy of my spitting and not get it on me! So. I ran six miles today - slowly - but with no stops, no real walks! I did chicken out and cut Cat Hill out of the route by exiting the park at 72nd and running up the sidewalks to 89th. How hard could 17 blocks of pedestrian-filled, stroller-clogged, fat-person-barricaded, cobblestone-paved sidewalk be?
I wish I'd tackled Cat Hill.
I did notice during that last mile that my breathing was 2-in, 2-out without triggering coughing. This isn't necessarily good, since it was all on flat terrain - my body is too stressed to keep a 2-in, 3-out breathing rhythm going?
At NYRR, I practically collapsed. I was (and still am) exhausted. In my lungs, it felt like I'd finished a LONG run. My legs - though a bit cranky - weren't in too much pain and felt like I'd done maybe only five miles. I slowly packed my things and the lady at the front desk actually asked me if I was OK. Did I look that bad?
I headed over to Super Runners Shop to try to track down a new pair of NB 991 B shoes. They didn't have any in stock, but did call another store to bring over a pair in a few days. (The size 9s I bought at the Expo are just too long, so I need new 8 1/2s.) I also asked about perhaps working there part time - as in one day a week or a couple of half-shifts - you know, to keep in touch with the running peeps...but they weren't too keen on that. They're looking for full-time people.
I've indulged in some POM today and after wolfing down three servings of oatmeal, I'm looking forward to a long, hot shower. I have a 12-mile run scheduled for Sunday and it's supposed to be very cold. I hope it doesn't turn into sheer torture.
BTW, anybody doing Manhattan half? It's in January this year!
January 5, 2006
However, the coughing has abated a bit and I'm bringing up a lot less junk - and it's lighter in color, too. At this point, I believe that I almost have this particular infection conquered and that my lung weakness is just a matter of lost conditioning. I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow and we'll see what transpires. After the appointment, I'm doing six in Central Park, maybe eight if I'm feeling real good. This weekend's planned long run is supposed to be 13, but as my longest so far has been 10, I think twelve will be a reasonable compromise. I'm still ahead of the typical four-month training curve, after all.
I need to see the orthopedics doc and ask why the ball of my left foot hurts after a run. That's the only thing bothering me right now (from the waist down at least).
Finally, I got a new header, thanks to Okolo at Bloggerheadz.com. What do you guys think?
January 1, 2006
Funny thing is, that phrase equally describes the microcosm and the macrocosm. As it so happens, this blog caps off exactly a year of blog writing: my very first post was January 2, 2005. This year of blogging has chronicled a wild ride with thrilling highs and almost-equally thrilling lows. Running was my big thing this year - my work, living situation, health, and other extra-curricular interests stayed pretty much the same as always - and I must first of all once again thank my sister Rachel for providing the spur to get me going. She continues to be an inspiration to me. So much for the macrocosm.
The microcosm was tonight's run, the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run. This run is, as far as I know, the only nighttime run NYRR puts together and I was amazed at the quality of it. There were thousands of people there, many of them dressed up in costumes, or clothing with blinking lights, or Statue-of-Liberty style 2006 foam hats.
The very very small oftens mimics the texture and patterns of the very very large to a remarkable degree. Today's run was no exception. It began over 24 hours ago, as I prepared for bed. Unfortunately, I was having some very strange abdominal pains of a kind I haven't felt before. I didn't get to sleep until almost 6 a.m., and even then I had to sleep propped up and leaning slightly on my left side. I slept badly until 10 or so, then dropped into a deep sleep until noon. I got up, planning on putting in the planned long run early in the day, then getting some rest and going to Central Park for the 4-miler. The weather had other plans. Cold, I'm fine with. Rain, I'm fine with. Snow, I'm fine with, really! But when all three are mixing, it's time to pour another bowl of cereal, make some hot chocolate and watch a dumb comedy on Fox.
Towards evening, the weather cleared up and I began to have hope of salvaging my long run. 12 miles was on the schedule, so I figured I'd get to Central Park about 10 p.m. and do a couple of 4-mile loops before running the Midnight Run, thus totalling 12. I was feeling really pretty good on the train into Manhattan and was thrilled to find the t-shirt and souvenir were quite spiffy: BLACK long-sleeve T's with a great logo and black headbands to keep one's ears warm. Good stuff.
I managed to drop my stuff, use the john, and get moving by about 10:20. I figured that at 10 minute miles, I had plenty of time to do two loops. Well, the best laid plans of mice and men...
The first two miles were great. I was moving smoothly, easily, and marvelling at the ability of my legs to go all Nike Slogan on me. It was awesome running alone in the park that late at night with a dusting of snow turning all the fields and grass white, whilst the road stayed clear. The two-mile mark was at the 102nd street crossover and it was brightly lit with teams setting up the water station. I was pleasantly surprised to see them setting up a champagne station, too! The guy doing that job looked up at me and called out I was a bit early. I smiled and asserted this was a "dress rehearsal". I should've known that things would be all downhill from there: if the final dress is good, then opening night is often a disaster.
My lungs began closing up during the third mile. I walked a little, but finished the four-mile loop fairly well. I didn't have any albuterol with me; I'd already checked my bag for it before I started running. I'd hoped to run through any mild asthma attacks, but this one turned out to be a real doozy - I haven't had such problems breathing in a couple of years. I had to cut my second loop short, due to time constaints. I made it to the first mile marker and turned around. I made it back to the starting line with about ten minutes to spare, but in real distress. It struck me that though the asthma attack may be cold- or exercise-induced, my stressing out about it probably wasn't helping. Had this not been the Midnight Run, and instead just a regular non-race run, I would've gone home.
Midnight rolled around and fireworks started. The pack got moving. Because I'd returned to the starting line backwards, I'd gotten stuck in the pack at the 5-minute/mile flag. Oddly, it didn't seem to matter this time - EVERYBODY was slower than normal. In fact, I couldn't even begin to run until the second quarter mile.
I ran as much as I physically could, I want to establish that now. I grant that was less than a mile in total, but I really was trying out there. I managed to cross the finish line running, but it took all the air I had left. That last four miles took me 54 minutes. Ugh. But walking had it's advantage: I could really look at the fireworks. Somehow, I like New Year's fireworks more than 4th of July fireworks. New Year's fireworks are less gaudy, less pretentious. They're more a celebration of a universal truth than July 4th's patriotism-fueled money shot.
Walking this race also gave me time to ponder the road just traveled as well as the road ahead of me, more figuratively than literally. A lot of people have been posting end-of-year summations and lists to their blogs: top ten achievements, top goals for the next year, fifty things I didn't know about them, etc. Many of them are interesting and informative, enough so to make me examine those things about myself. I don't make New Year's resolutions though; when I decide I need to change something, I just start changing it at the time. I don't need New Year's to be some big monumental thing. So I'm not going to post tonight's fireworks-illuminated ruminations here. :)
But I will post the one resolution I made tonight and must start keeping: I MUST make sure I have my FUCKING albuterol IN MY POCKET - EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I LEAVE THE HOUSE!
After the race, I was waiting for the C train - still, half an hour later, unable to breathe easily, even just sitting there. I got up to stretch my muscles again and a girl who was chatting with her friends looked at my bag and pointed it out to her friends. I smiled. She asked about the Flying Pig marathon and had I run it? I acknowledged that I'd particpated in it, that I'd had to walk a few miles towards the end. She and her friends were in agreement that that was not a bad thing at all. I think they were impressed and probably have their first marathon ahead of them. Later, as I got off the C train to transfer, she bid me a Happy New Year's as I was leaving.
I returned the wishes and sat down on the platform to wait for the D, thinking about how much it meant to me just then that by completing a marathon I had, in her eyes, become a person, rather than just another meatbag sitting waiting for the train. It is so hard to retain that status in New York. The more individuals make up a community, the less AN individual matters. One has to constantly make their own bubble of humanity, and just when I was feeling about the lowest I'd felt all year, this girl had blown that bubble back into existence.
And as I pondered the strange workings of the world, and dug around in my bag to take a better look at the new t-shirt, what should peek out at me from under a small rip in the liner? My goddamn albuterol.
Peace on earth, everyone. Good night.