October 14, 2007

I am the slowest of the slow

I'll run what I can, and walk what I have to. Great game plan, huh? I walked what I had to, alright - four-fifths of the race. What a disaster.

Today was my ninth qualifier for the year, the Staten Island Half. I've enjoyed this race in the past and this was my third year in a row doing it. Unfortunately, it was the worst of the three. At a chip time of 2:52:10, this was mere minutes from being a personal worst. I haven't done this badly since the Manhattan Half of early 2006.


The day started well enough. My gout attack was nearly over and the weather promised to be perfect. I swallowed indomethicin, Tylenol 8-hr, multivitamin, and magnesium supplments, grabbed my gear and headed out the door. I had solved the squeak on my motorcycle the day before (brake line rubbing against tire), and so I very much enjoyed the ride to Staten Island. I knew the route by heart and all was well with the world.

And then I started running. Oh, god. I know things haven't been too good lately, but I was hoping that by hitting my therapy extra hard in the last week, I'd have the lung power to get in some continuous mileage. Was I ever wrong. I'm not sure that there was even a continuous half-mile in my running today. Thankfully, after the initial warm-up period and a stop to stretch and pee, my legs were fine all the way to mile 11, but my lungs just didn't give my body the oxygen base I needed and so I ended up walking most of this race.

I was frustrated and upset early on. A friend of mine asked me recently, "what do you think about during races?" I focus on the race, honestly, I don't zone out. But today that worked against me as it served to magnify the unsatisfactory performance I was turning out. It did not help that by the time I'd gotten to the fourth mile, I was already seeing runners on their way back, mere minutes from finishing their race. We were separated on the course by police barriers.

I was so focused on trying to keep going and not DNFing that I didn't notice where the course turned. And I should have, because while I was off course, I knew something wasn't right - things didn't look familiar and I wasn't seeing ANYBODY ahead of me, and I knew that even as slow as I was, there were also other slow runners and a bunch of walkers. I soon found out that I had followed the returning runners' barricades right through Fort Wadsworth, instead of going around the fort as per the route. Technically, having gone off route is a DQ offense, but according to both gmaps and Google earth (same images, different measuring software), the route I took was .16 of a mile longer than the proper route, so I'm not going to contact NYRR about it. So, yeah, I did my 13.1 today - in the form of 13.27! That didn't have the slightest impact on my time, I assure you.

After that fiasco, it seemed like forever 'til the turnaround. My ipod, which was measuring short a little bit, was now off by a large margin with a resultant measured distance for the day of 13.9 miles. I'll attritbute the inaccuracy to the varied pace, which accelerometers don't like. A real indication of how bad this race was is how squiggly the pace line is:

I coughed continually during the race, not bringing up a whole lot, but enough. The asthma was just killing me. I was asked twice by professionals - a cop and a race marshal - if I was OK or needed help. I assured them I was OK and I kept going. I passed a woman on the big uphill who was sprawled out on the ground, blood all over her face, crying. She was being helped by medics...her race was done for sure, so I felt like I had nothing to complain about since I was, after all, still on my feet. (Speaking of which, I just have to say for the tenth time how much I like my shoes. I also super love my ipod and Hammer Nutritions Sustained Energy - energy was NOT a problem today!)


I know this is ridiculous. I can't hold myself to something my body can't do. But I also can't go 2:52:10 and call myself a runner, either.

It really didn't help that I lost my private little races with the other runners, too, such as the group of four Japanese runners who were doing a very slow pace - but were highly consistent. I finally got them behind me at mile seven and stayed ahead of them, but they caught up at mile 12 and I just couldn't catch them. I couldn't catch the old guy 100 yards in front of me either - both of us pushing ourselves as hard as we could, but walking most of it and, ultimately, doing the exact same pace. I like being able to pass people in the middle of a race and never see them again - so it was miserable when I couldn't. On the way up a hill, I slowed to a walk again and a cop that was right there said, "Done already?" "For now," I answered, but I wanted to deck him. I felt cyanotic, but am at least in the race. HE'S leaning on a crowd barricade.

Perhaps the worst was that at mile eight or nine, I started seeing other runners - the ones in good shape - who had finished their race and were putting in extra miles to get in a good training long run for the upcoming marathon. Fuck me.

Well I finished the race. And in under three hours, which means I don't have to write a letter to make sure this qualifier counts. And, yeah, there were about 50 people who came in after me; but that doesn't make me feel any better about this race.

There weren't any bagels left, though I could have all the apples I wanted. They tasted great. I took my time changing. I was so late that by the time I left the parking lot, they'd re-opened Bay Street. To people who drove to the island and ran this race, this says something, doesn't it?

I went to look up my results when I got home, so I could log this run in my database. I half expected the page to read "You finished? Really?" Or perhaps: "We're sorry, you are not authorized to view your results, as making such a miserable time public would bring shame upon your family, dishonor to your house, and let down the entire Cystic Fibrosis community, you pathetic loser." Instead, I got the stats: I placed 3200 out of 3258. What a disaster.


I also ran this race as part of the Phedippidations World Wide Half Marathon. I was bib #1083. This is only the second year of this world-wide race and I am pleased to say that it attracted almost well over a thousand runners. Not bad for a race directed from online and run on a thousand different courses all over the world. Unfortunately, I didn't feel like I deserved to use the one perk of that race: the Phedippidations podcast called "shouts of encouragement", meant to be listened to during the race. Encouragement or not, I would not have been able to up my pace. So I didn't listen. I will probably never listen to that episode - I am too bitter. Still, I DID print my finisher's certificate:

For the World Wide Half, I finished third from last, as far as I can tell so far. (There's still a week left of people posting their finishing times.)

But here's the thing: Somehow, somewhere in all this, though I felt terribly alone out on that course, I know I wasn't. There are other runners with asthma, other runners with bad days, other runners w/ CF. In fact, I did see one other runner with a Team Boomer shirt! He didn't glance up from the road when I shouted "Go Team Boomer!" but he waved. I wish he'd looked: I was wearing my TB jersey. It would have been a nice moment of connection. He looked like a father of a cystic...

And, as if to make me wonder if someone didn't peer into the future and read these very words, I just downloaded the "virtual goody bag" of the World Wide Half, which had in it only a single brochure: for a 5K in Cincinnati to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Spooky.

I don't know where to go from here, except to the doctor's office. I'd like to keep training UP - I wouldn't mind tackling the Houston marathon - I really enjoyed their half marathon. With better lungs supporting my legs...who knows?? But for the present, I go to bed bitterly disappointed and will try to put this race behind me.

October 11, 2007

I am going nowhere....fast.

There is a time when, as you're driving along idyllic scenic routes, when you may suddenly encounter the entrance to a tunnel. A smart person will immediately ask him or herself a couple of questions: How long is this tunnel? Is my vehicle too big for it? Do I have enough gas to get to the other side? The same applies to bridges.

As a motorcyclist, one of my nagging fears, especially when encountering major tunnels or bridges such as the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, is of leaving myself stranded, not having enough gas to get to the other side, or having a flat mid-way. These are concerns of import because it bears not only on the rider's own preparedness as a traveller, but also on the gambling-like nature of traveling.

These same fears, though, also apply to my running. I am terribly beset with fear lately. My preparation has been the best it could be, yet in the face of this upcoming half-marathon this weekend, I am looking at a tank nearly on reserve and tires that have been leaking air.

In short, I am not 100% confidient in my ability to make it to the end of this tunnel. From this side of it, I see no light at the other end. Recent evidence is that my machinery - my body - is ailing and may not be able to handle what I'm about to ask of it.

Yep, you're reading that right. An hour and 27 minutes for a 10K run. At that pace, I will turn in a personal worst for a half-marathon on Sunday. I believe the farthest I actually ran, uninterrupted, last night was less than half a mile. My legs felt fine, actually (!), but my lungs...well, they're in bad shape. Even with the cooler, cleaner air we had due to recent rain, my lungs just couldn't support the machinery. The oxygen-bed wasn't there. I walked a LOT of last night's workout and that worries me.

I'm in the same position I was in nearly two years ago before the disastrous Manhattan Half. I'm going to have to consider that, if the running doesn't happen right, I may be reduced to power-walking most of the race. At this point, I'm just hoping to come in under three hours. I'm looking at the equivalent of pushing a dead motorcycle through half of that Bridge-Tunnel. Ugh.

There are other problems. I woke up this morning with a mild fever and the gout is back. I am going to leave work early today and spent the next couple days really hammering the therapies in an attempt to reduce the coughing and such. I think I can leave work early...we are winding down the season at work - one of my client's products is out the door, the other is packing up Tuesday, so I've given all the notes I could or wanted to give on that set of products, and the third client is looking at two weeks left to get his products complete - so he can't possibly ask for too much from the design department at this point in time. We have a few details to iron out tomorrow....

I'm not making much sense, am I?

On a moderately related note, I have noticed that the sicker I get and the more these runs become a struggle just to breathe enough air, the madder I get at smokers - particularly the swishy, devil-may-care, arrogant little NYU shits that populate the most crowded sidewalks. Older smokers tend to at least step aside and into nooks where their smoke stays out of the way, more or less, but these metrosexual little motherfuckers with their emo clothing and their filtered, ultra-thin Capri cigarettes just reek of arrogance. They deserve to have their hides branded "I AM NOT THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE" with the lit ends of their cigarettes. I mean, for god's sake, if your going to smoke, just fuckin' SMOKE. Turn to something a real man can be proud of polluting his lungs with, such as a nice aromatic pipe tobacco, or a good unfiltered Camel. And ladies, you just go ahead and smoke the Capris - I know that you're not smoking because it feels good, but because of social pressure to be a certain image and smoking those wispy little deathsticks is not only a direct part of the image, but also helps you stay thin - the base upon which the rest of your conforming rests. Hey, who am I to tell you to bust out and take control over your self?

Finally, I will note that last night's shutterbugs were not the usual passle of clueless photogs. I noticed that while most of them still had point and shoots instead of a good digital SLR, they at leats turned off the flash and used little tripods or braced the camera well before taking an image - they were doing a pretty good job at getting the breathtaking views from the bridge recorded I guess. And they seemed aware of the people around them and timing their photo-taking well. Good job, guys.

October 7, 2007

I am getting sick

sigh....where to start? Maybe I should start with the surprise visit from one of my exes. She and I have remained good friends and I've helped her career to some extent. She has been working in Baltimore on an opera and flew down to New York for a couple of days. I was under the impression we were just meeting for lunch or dinner today; she was under the impression she is staying at my place for a couple nights. *sigh* I rarely have such miscommunication.

Well, it's not all bad. I've been wanting to have a house guest as an excuse to stock an Aerobed again. After my friend and I had lunch at a sidewalk cafe (it's a New York thing and she's very much in love with being back in New York), I went to BB&B while she went wedding dress shopping. NO, not to me! I briefly met her fiancee several months ago by chance in the subway and he's a great guy. Anyway... I got the premium model this time, though just the twin size. It's actually quite good and I think my friend will be comfortable for the next couple nights. My kitchen almost looks like a real bedroom right now. More so than my livingroom/bedroom, where my matress is still on the floor, after many months of promising myself to put a down payment on an Inova Sofa Wallbed. It just isn't square for a bachelor of my age to be sleeping on a matress on the floor.

So. she's still out, I'm needing groceries, I lace up my running shoes to run to the grocery store. I have been feeling less than 100% all weekend and so made today a very short run - almost a direct line. I say almost because I ran up to Sixth Ave and took that across to 9th street - a route I've never actually run before. I found it far more pleasant than running 5th or 4th aves.

This run was unreasonably hard, lungs-wise. Those dips you see in my pace chart map nicely to the spots in the road where you'll currently find two or three fresh blobs of phlegm. Gross, but true. Ironically, my legs felt fine, considering they were still in warm-up mode - but it was my lungs had control of me. I finished this run at the grocery store with a moderate headache. I don't think I'm dehydrated, but that's possible, I guess. It's also quite possible my sats were dropping too far. I have no way of checking that while running, right now.

I'm just having a hell of a time. I began feeling unwell on Friday and it is continuing. Monday, I will call and get an appointment at my new clinic, even though my insurance has not approved them and has approved some other place I've never heard of. I'll have to call insurance and ask how I can appeal so that Columbia is covered. This first appointment, though, will be a Point of Service visit, so it will cost me plenty. :(

Lastly, the weather is just not cooperating. It MUST get cooler this time of year! Instead, things have been warming up. And still humid. And with no rain, the air is terribly dirty. Things have got to change.

As a last note, I'm not the only one suffering, I know. In fact, the Chicago marathon was cut short due to heat. Amazing, and very sad about the one fellow who perished.

October 3, 2007

I am an urban runner

Got my regular Wednesday night run in tonight, though I had to cut it short. I had planned to run all the way home again, but just couldn't do it. My legs actually felt pretty good, but my lungs were having trouble. I just could not stop coughing and after a couple of miles that turned to dry heaves. I had to just stop several times to get nausea under control. So much for corned beef and cabbage for Wednesday lunches.

Just look at that run! Fast, slow, fast slow... ridiculous. Fortunately, I broke the 100 miles mark with the Nike+ system. Yay, me. That only took two years.

The culprit may have been the air quality today. Take a look at this neat little chart, courtesy of weather.com:

Sure, weather.com says the air quality isn't horrible...but I beg to differ. I could barely see the world financial center from two miles away through the haze. It has been warm and humid all day and I'm thinking my lungs just couldn't handle the ... well, the smog. It might have been wiser to have put off this run, but I didn't think of that. In fact, I'm still coughing - I sound like my dad! (just joking, dad)

4 and a half miles, one hour. A pace of almost thirteen minutes per mile. Ugh. What happened to the days of just going out and doing seven miles at 10 min/mi with no walking? The running has not been rewarding lately; this needs to change soon.

So besides breathing shitty air, what makes me an urban runner? The fact that one of my best running paths is a tiny, thin little strip of asphalt squeezed between a highway and a river and despite it being crowded by bicyclists and dog-walkers, I'm thankful for it. What else makes me an urban runner? I think the cross-country part - the running along streets and sidewalks dodging bicycles, pedestrians, and taxis. It's actually great fun and keeps the run interesting.