October 11, 2009

Staten Island Half Marathon

*turns on lights, starts clearing away cobwebs*

Well. Well, well, well. Haven't been here in a while, have we? Too much time spent at work, not enough spent running. Nothing to report, nothing interesting to blog; until very recently, that is.

To catch up: In the last three weeks, I've logged a grand total of 4 miles. Yeah. It started as an intentional week off. After the Queens Half, I was digruntled and needed a break. Well, work and weather turned it into two weeks off. Then a run last Tuesday turned into a suck-fest, literally - I was sucking down air and still felt like I was suffocating. So I cut that run short.

I went to see my doctor right after the Queens Half and we decided to put me on IV antibiotics again. It's been seven months since the last round, and that's pretty good for me, and we both wanted to arrest this lung infection before it got too bad. Unfortunately, the process of getting a PICC line, of getting insurance approval and scheduling this thing, turned into a terrible ordeal in which I felt extremely victimized and in no way being taken care of by any of the offices involved: my primary care physician, my CF specialist, my insurance, or the interventional radiology department I was referred to. Getting a PICC line after one is ordered should be a one-day process, two at the most. I still don't know exactly what went wrong or who wasn't doing their job. I have my suspicions. I am still very unhappy about the situation. But as of this writing, I have been on IVs for nine days and will see my doctor to do PFTs on Wednesday.

I have a feeling the tests will show improvement. While I have no felt like things were improving, there was an amazing change today. During the race, I was able to breath freely and easily. This may be due to a combination of tackling the infection, doing nebulized albuterol before Beast picked me up this morning, doing two puffs of albuterol half an hour before the race, taking Advair in the morning, and consuming the caffeinated gel prior to the race. All combined to give me one good breathing day at last.

So: race report. With detrained legs, questionable lungs, and a PICC in my arm, I determined to do this race anyway. Had the completion of the Grand Prix not been at stake, I probably would have skipped it. I just couldn't see any part of this that looked like a good idea, other than this would ensure I got some exercise at least. But I arranged for a ride with Beast and we got rolling. I brought with me some warm clothes (48 degrees when I left the house), some food, hydration for the race, and my IVs I'd need to start right after the race. Beast arrived and I met Jess, whom Beast was going to pace in an attempt to set her a new PR (successful, BTW).

Before the race, I had a large coffee and while I needed the pep of the caffeine, it would come back to haunt me later as by mile three I had to pee badly. Before the race, I changed out of my warm clothes and put on a trash bag to keep warm. I've done this every year I've done this race; this was the fifth year in a row. I waited in line for the portajohns, but they were moving to slow. I joined the corral as it was beginning to move up and happened to notice a willowy young woman ahead of me dressed like a clown. Well...not really, but she did have a bright orange Fred's Team shirt, bright yellow patterned arm warmers, bright colored shoes and a bright colored cap. Quite colorful. "Hey Marci!" I shouted. She was happy to see me and we chatted a bit as we walked toward the start line. Once across the line, she was off and running a pace quite a bit faster than I, so we said good luck to each other and ran our own race.

I was amazed at how easily I was able to draw breath. For the record, my walk breaks this race had nothing to do with my lungs, really - my legs simply weren't ready for what my lungs could have handled today. In fact, I was running sub-12-minute miles for a good portion of the race, stringing together longer and longer distances in between walk breaks - until mile 11 when cramps started to hit. Not enough electrolytes, I guess. I spent the last three miles walking quite a lot trying to ward off cramps.

Probably the most difficult thing to deal with was my coughing. Oh, not the coughing itself - I'm used to that - but I was bringing up quite a lot. A mere half-mile in, I spat on the ground and (as usual) noted the color - some green phlegm, some clearish phlegm, and red. Quite a lot of red. More than spots or streaks, and bright red, not brownish. My lungs were bleeding, though it wasn't yet full free-flowing hemoptysis. The thought of stopping right away crossed my mind. Was my last race also to be my first and only DNF? Did I get my ass out of bed at 5 a.m. for nothing? Well... let's see how things go; see how I feel at mile three or four, eh?

So went the race. Jog, cough, spit out phlegm and blood, walk, repeat. The weather was fine - absolutely fine. I remember promising another runner a month ago at Queens that the Staten Island Half would have perfect weather and I was right. Would not have asked for anything different. I was even enjoying the refreshing breezes off the water. It was quite cool and once I got warmed up, I lost the trash bag and was comfortable in shorts and long-sleeve running t.

Towards the end of the race, still coughing up blood and once the cramps hit, it was all I could do to keep up with Billy, the old black lady I see at every single race. She's always way back here at the back of the pack, but she's never last. She's very, VERY consistent. Today, she became the one I had to beat. And I did - but not by much and I think she may actually have a better net time than I. And how does beating a woman twice my age make me feel? LOL

There were so few people coming in by the time I finished that the announcer had time to look up every single person's name by his/her bib number and announce their finish. I heard my name and where I lived and even what team I run for (remember, I've signed up under the Cystic Fibrosis Running Team for about three years now). I contemplated the irony in finally getting to hear MY information out loud at my very last race.

So. 61st road race, 20th half-marathon, second-worst half-marathon time ever (second only to the 3:05:00 of the very bad Manhattan Half 2006). And yet I'm satisfied with my performance. I expected to be coming in at 3 hours exactly, or maybe just a couple minutes under, but I was able to do about a minute per mile than I expected. I didn't do this race for time, anyway, but rather to finish the fifth of the Grand Prix. And THAT feels good - I said way back in December that I wanted to be able to do the whole Grand Prix this year and I finally did it! Not even Beast has finished all five in one year. (No fault of his own this year - he helped an injured woman at the Bronx Half and gave up his race.) And I did this today despite bleeding from the lungs the entire time! Ta-da!

After donning warm clothes, I sat on the grass near the finisher's chute and proceed to hook up my IVs. Another person resting on the grass noticed and was trying not to stare. I met his eyes briefly and he gave a curt nod. What must he have thought as I then pulled out my diabetes pack and tested my blood sugar and injected insulin in prep for my post-race snack (about 75g carbs)? Munching away, I reflected that, as far as racing goes, I'm through for a year. I will look at Staten Island as my comeback race a year from now - I really do love this race. In the meantime, it has to be about shorter distances, better time, better running, less walking, more quality, less quantity. More quality, less quantity.

I finished eating, packed up, and prepared for the long journey home. As I was getting up, the man from before was passing by and our eyes met again. Another nod and this time, "Good job, man." Then the moment was over and he was gone.

3 comments:

Breathinstephen said...

Your lungs out-lasted your legs muscles? I think that's actually a good sign.

The fact that you tackled a half marathon ,despite all the crap you have to go through with your PICC lines and all that stuff, is amazing in itself.

Actually, YOU'RE amazing!

You're way too hard on yourself.

pengo said...

You are awesome.

Dan said...

Hey man, well done on all accounts. My daughter has CF and if she's doing as well as you are when she gets older I'll be amazed and feeling blessed. Keep up the good work!