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.