November 22, 2007

I am a rather poor turkey.

Ah, Thanksgiving Day! A day to sleep in, eat all you want, maybe get a little exercise since you don't have to go to work. Sounds ideal, eh?

But...nah, there's no "but" to this. Not today. I did sleep in, I am eating all I want (not that that's unusual), and I did get a little jog in. The weather today has been absolutely glorious. If anything, it was a little too warm for comfort. I've adjusted down to being comfortable at 45 degrees and it is 68 degrees out there right now. Amazing.

Let me back up to last Saturday. I went out for an almost-two-mile run (thought it was 2, but I calculated wrong - more like 1.75) and thought I was beginning to get a handle on things. My running-to-walking ratio is getting a little bit better and on Saturday, I was even able to string five blocks together before having to walk again. Five whole blocks. Five. Whopping. Blocks.

I know that doesn't sound like much of an achievement. Believe me, right now it is.

Between then and now, I've been put on IV antibiotics - the orals weren't doing quite as effective a job as my doctor and I had hoped. The home nurse who came to put in the midline did a good job, overall. I was nervous, since I particularly like a nurse named Gemini, who put in my second and third midlines a couple years ago. She wasn't available this week, unfortunately, so a nurse named "Josh" came. Actually, I had to send him home the first night - the meds and supplies had not yet arrived. I told him to come back in the morning (yesterday).

Surprisingly, Josh did a good, if bloody, job, getting the midline in on the first try. But my blood pressure is good and my veins are big, so there came a point where the midline was in and while he was trying to get the little extension port thing attached, I bled all over the damn place. Ruined a pair of jeans (my next to last pair), my IKEA wood stool (blood stains are cool, heh), my right sock, my right sneaker, the floor, the table - just everywhere. But still - the placement was quick, easy, and aside from the initial insertion, there's been no pain along the catheter itself - which is highly unusual. Out of my four midlines I've had so far, this is the best. And Josh knows his stuff; I like him. In fact, he JUST called and scheduled w/ me to come in tomorrow morning to change the dressing and draw blood.

So, it is with a midline that I was faced with going jogging yesterday. Now, there is initial pain in the arm - in the joints and muscles - and Josh recommended I take it easy, not to mention I'm now on six antibiotics total (3 oral, 3 IV) and the vancomycin in particular is known to cause fatigue. So I waited to run until today.

And I'm so glad I did! The mild arm pain was gone and I have nearly full use of that arm. The weather is superb for a jog; the traffic was lighter than usual, even along my backroads flat route, and my lungs really are feeling better. I'm coughing noticeably less, and the amount I'm coughing up is less. But my PFTs haven't improved and I still tire easily when exercising...

So today's run:

Uneven as all my runs have been lately. But not as uneven as it looks. If the iPod sensor sampled every five seconds (i.e. more often), you would see regular, consistent dips in the pace. I'm not sure the run was three miles, actually, though it was close. I was a bit past the hospital on 2nd ave when the iPod announced the halfway point - I should have been another four blocks, I think.

Whatever - it was an honest 44 minutes of work and pretty consistently jog 3 blocks, walk 1. Two and a half blocks was consistently where I'd run out of air; I'd push it to the end of the block, then walk the next; while coughing, of course. Every now and then I had to just stop, but not for very long.

This, of course, means mainly one thing: I'm just out of shape. Okay, it also points to persistent inflammation in my lungs that's not helping, but still. If this was my own little 5K Turkey Trot, then I make a poor turkey. In a flock of T-day-morning birds, I'd be the first turkey to get caught and put on the chopping block. Can you imagine some little turkey looking up at the butcher and wheezing out, "Wait,, really, just let me get my breath back and then you can chase me some more." In the game of survival, the turkey doesn't have to run fast, he only has to run faster than ME.

I got out; I ran. That alone is a big deal right now. I do have to cut up a sock, though, and get some control over this midline - it flops around too much while jogging.

November 14, 2007

I am a country and blues singer

There's got to be a country song out there with the approriately twang-flavored lyrics to express my running woes, for they are not special woes, really, but simply Everyman's running woes.

"This hurts."
"That hurts."
"I'm not as fast as I once was."
"I'm not as fast as I want to be."
"This is harder than it should be."
"Fall is great, but, man, those leaves are like soap on ice."

You get the picture.

Or maybe I'm looking for a blues melody, something like The Beginning Runner's Blues, for the blues really are democratic, as long as you're not filthy rich. (No, Trump, you can't have the blues. Not yours.)

Oh, my runnin' legs have left me,
left me way behind,
back o' the pack, havin' a heart attack,
over my lousy per-mile time!
Oh, I got the blues...
the beginning runner's blues...


Today's run - my first in over a month - did not go as I'd hoped. It's not that I had high-apple-pie-in-the-sky hopes (I did go dormant for a month, after all), but I had hoped that the problem of running out of oxygen would not be there. I've been on antibiotics for two weeks now and they're doing a helluva job. I've changed my therapy around and changed which albuterol I do and how its delivered - and it has made all the difference. Even my friends have commented that my coughing is down and I can tell I'm getting better because I no longer have to pause at the top of the subway stairs.

However, out of shape is just out of shape and that's what I'm fighting right now. I'm back to being a rank beginner at this game. Perhaps it was not wise to choose an uphill-downhill course, but that's what I did. As a percentage, I walked slightly less than in the Staten Island half - and didn't have to walk the downhills at all - but still ran out of oxygen way too early and too often. There were moments of complete stop, where I was gasping for breath and/or dry heaving. Thus, my per-mile time is actually slower than the Staten Island half. When I was moving, it was at a pretty good 11 minute/mile jog. And that part felt pretty good.

After about 2 1/4 miles, I arrived home, more than half an hour after I left. And I was wiped out. Now, my energy reserves have been lacking lately, and I'm trying to get my sleep this week and next and eat more and .... yeah. Etcetera. But I can't believe how utterly done I was after the run.

And that, I have to think, if I subtract out the lung infection, subtract out the CF, its just that my cardiovascular fitness is bad. I have a long, uphill battle and not much time to do it in if I want to do the Manhattan Half. In the meantime, I'm considering doing the 4 mile race in Central Park this weekend and warming up 1.5 miles for it - to give honor to Ryan Shay as a memorial run.

November 4, 2007

I am a useless Morlock

WARNING: This post is about to contain carcinogenic levels of bitterness and self-deprecation. Do not read if you're currently happy, high, having sex, operating a moving vehicle, or pregnant. Contains high levels of "truthiness", known to the Surgeon General to be addictive.


Three weeks. *sigh* Three....weeks. That's how long it's been since I last posted and, in fact, since my last run.

Let me get the simple stuff out of the way: I took the hint from the Staten Island Half, made an appointment with my new CF doc, yadda yadda yadda...and now I'm on two oral antibiotics for my lung infection. No surprises there. I've been on them since Wednesday and already I'm feeling the effects, though there's still a long ways to go. I think I'll avoid IVs; but my training... Well, I will have to start over. Again. I am out of shape and de-trained. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Which fails to perform first? The lungs or the legs? Without the breath support, I can't run continuously. Without the stress of 75% MHR, I can't train up the legs OR increase my VO2 max...

So. Running-wise, my ONLY future goal right now is to get back to being able to do three miles continuously w/ no walk breaks. I will have to learn all over again how to run through coughing fits.


Volunteerism. It's a good thing. I subscribe to the belief that everyone owes his or her community a constant debt. Some people pay 10% tithe; others, community service. I can't afford to give much to charity, but I can give of my time. It has always made sense to me to volunteer for some of the NYRR races, particularly the marathon. NYRR is always emphasizing how much volunteers are needed.

Unfortunately, events of late lead me to believe that volunteers are more of a nuisance than a help at the marathon. This one event is a horse of a different color for NYRR and they hire a LOT of temporary help - enough, I believe, to do without most of the volunteers altogether. But, as far as I know, they don't turn volunteers away, leading to a volunteer supply glut, evident at both the expo and out on Staten Island. I can't really speak to the situation in Central Park or along the route. And in a year, I hope to be writing from the perspective of someone who sees volunteers along the whole 26.2 miles.

But from what I experienced, easily half of the volunteers could stay home. As much as I believe "beggars can't be choosers," the staff in charge of volunteers could certainly BE choosier. Could also be far more intelligent in assigning appropriate jobs. ID check is not for the slow, dim-witted, or impaired, trust me. With an average of ID check rate over the whole of the expo of more than 1 person every 3 seconds, those volunteers need to be fairly efficient. Yet this was an area crippled with ID checkers who'd take a full 60 to 90 seconds per person (15 would be a better average), a blind woman, and a deaf man. I don't think the ADA applies to volunteers, but I may be wrong. Point is: NYRR needs to assess its volunteers before the expo, walk ALL of them through, desk by desk, so that everyone is on the same page, and assign volunteers according to their strengths, and not be afraid to re-assign. This first meeting could be a subtle audition: we need volunteers who are there to work and are smart enough to do so, not those who are there for the free lunch. That sounds harsh, I know.

And even among the decent volunteers, there's a certain quality I'm not interested in continuing to work with. We all want to feel important (I'm willing to settle for "useful", myself), but there are a LOT of blowhards among the volunteers. Insufferable, I think is the term. They act like martyrs for even showing up, then they take long lunches, disappear at odd times, and proudly tell anyone and everyone that they'll be doing "finish line duties," as if that makes them special. Let me tell you, handing out medals and heat blankets is powder-puff shit compared to trooping out to Staten Island at 4 a.m., enduring five hours of cold, and all for a few wan smiles of gratitude for giving out cold bagels and lukewarm coffee. I tell you, if I had the money, I would sponsor solely the starting area of the race and really bring some food, beverage, warmth, and weather protection to the starting area. I would make the NY Marathon a race people sign up for because we have the most impressive start area around. And Houston has set a VERY high benchmark in that regard!

As for Staten Island -- I truly believe that between the main "full-time" volunteers (those who volunteer for all NYRR events), the hired Staten Island staff, and the various and sundry security agencies wandering around, the number of low-level volunteers like myself that are actually needed is about 50: just enough to man the donuts and coffee. What I saw instead were three times that, with food and drink stations manned three layers deep and a whole crew wandering around for the entire morning doing little of consequence.

And, yes, that last crew included me. For the record, I could NOT do food and drink service again. It would have boring, for one thing, but at least I would have met and talked with runners....more important, I do have a lung infection and feel food service would be ill-advised. For the sake of the runners. Instead, I was on a "jump team" that got called hither and yon to do various jobs...none of which actually needed doing. I literally didn't do a goddamn one useful thing the entire morning other than advise a few green start runners as they came up to their starting line, "keep that shirt/jacket/trash bag for now, the bridge will be cold!"

In fact - and it grieves me to have to note this - due to the fact that the Staten Island organization and labor is mostly outsourced (and is patently NOT the province of NYRR-directed labor), I saw some disturbing events. Incidents involving runners and staff that I will be writing to Mary Wittenburg about and sending via registered letter (Restricted Delivery and Signature Confirmation in today's USPS). Yes, it was that bad. No, I didn't make a big deal of it at the time, preferring to keep things running smoothly. No, I didn't think to fucking document what I was witnessing or get the names of other witnesses, though I can recognize any of the participants and my fellow volunteers by face. No, I don't trust that a mere report through the "proper" channels will actually reach the people who need to know what went on. Yes, there was at least one, if not two, arrestable offenses. At the very least, I hope that particular crew is banned from future NYRR events, as employees, volunteers, or even runners. No, I can't go into more detail at this time.

Weather: perfect. I am jealous of the runners for having had the most perfect running weather I've ever experienced. Danny Farkas (Training For My Next Marathon) ran an absolutely amazing 3:44 today and I'm so thrilled for him, you'd think he was my only son. I am proud to know such a capable man.

Staten Island layout: same as always. Not as cold as last year, so everyone was more comfortable. I couldn't fucking find any coffee stations - probably hidden behind crowds. I answered a lot of questions - the same questions I'd been answering for three days previously, except with "Do you know where the ING tent is?" added in. Same confusing map as last year. Same confusing layout, same confusing start.

Actually, the start is multi-tiered, with handicapped and pro women going off before the pro men and the rest of the crowd. Pretty good idea and it works. This year's green start was looking at narrowed lanes on the Verazzano bridge, so they tried a staggered start - a "wave" start. This, IMO, was unsuccessful, even though it was "run" by "experts." It was almost a complete disaster, with staff members losing their cool, runners being uninformed, and everyone asking "where's the start line?" because, get this, they hung the fucking start banner BACKWARDS where the runners couldn't see it. The green start was, in fact, physically smaller than many of the half-marathon starting areas I've been in here in New York. Instead of trying for an ill-conceived, badly-managed, last-minute wave start, they should have gone with the simpler solution: use the barriers and buses available to create a physical bottleneck - this would result in runners crossing the start line at a restricted rate and keeping congestion on the lower level of the bridge to a minimum, as desired. But such a simple solution never occurs to the powers that be. Instead, they tried this fancy-schmancy solution that has never worked before when they tried it and expected to implement it correctly in a week and have it work flawlessly. What a joke. Another simple method: they could have simply routed every third green corral to the blue or orange starts. Again, problem solved. The upshot of this whole clusterfuck was that the very last runner to cross the start line - last of the entire race, since orange and blue starts were empty 20 minutes before green - finally crossed the start line 45 MINUTES after the start of the race. He made light of it though, stopping to pose for cameras, got the photographer's name and email, and made sure his crossing the start line was a Kodak moment. After a tense and unhappy morning, I appreciated his good humor.


I could go on for another 8,000 words or so, but I won't. I think you get the idea. I'm deeply unhappy with the management of this marathon. It's no longer for New Yorkers or about New Yorkers. It's run with imported runners and imported staff. If the executive board of NYRR thinks that those are the hallmarks of a world-class marathon (and we ARE in the Marathon Majors), they should reconsider their position. Because this marathon is losing its soul - and without the soul, the body cannot live.