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.


Stephen said...

OUCH...Don't be so hard on yourself.
I think your ego took more of hit than your running.

You were sick, you could'nt run that much, so you had to walk. Simple as that ! No crime committed.

You still finished under 3 hours!
Heck ...you walk faster when you're sick, than I do when I'm well.

Brittney said...

Not that you know me, but here is a great big HUG. Make that two.

You did great. You got out there and did your best. Walking during a race because you tried to run it when you are sick does not make you less of a runner. It shows you have more guts then a lot of other runners do. Most of them wouldn't even attempted to run if they just had a cold, let alone asthma and CF.


Uptown Girl said...

I'm with the other commenters here: Much too harsh on yourself. You finished under 3 and that's with being sick. Just like that cop on the side of the road, I doubt others would even be out there! Rest up and hope you feel better soon!

runliarun said...

You may put this race behind you. We all do. But do not kid yorself, not even for one moment. You said you wished you had half of what I had when I finished RVM. I am proud of that race, proud of the depth I had to reach into to finish it. But you run against greater odds than I.

My accomplishments, no matter how
substantial, pale compared to yours. Do not deny it. This is why you run - to prove that you are not limited by your illness. This is what I respect.

And even personal handicaps have nothing to do with it. We all run against our limitations, no matter how physical or subtle they are. Yours are just a little bit more constricting, but we all run.

This is where we meet.

Anonymous said...

I'm also a terribly slow runner, having a hard time getting faster. Don't be so hard on yourself. You are out there doing it instead of sitting on the couch!