Sunday, August 26, 2007

Lights Out, Part I

Just when you think the marathon training gods are shining on you, they will turn in an instant, giving you the nastiest of reality checks.

Part of me believes I deserved the kick in the gut...and I got the kind that knocks the wind right out of you. I was getting too bold. I just knew my ultimate goal in Chicago had to be within my reach.

But on Saturday, I had a bit of a scare.

Forget how long it took to finish my 20 mile run. I shouldn't have been out there in the first place. The rational part of me knows this, somewhere inside this head of mine, but my ego and my pride took over.

Ego and pride, for the record, never win.

I drove into Manhattan early on Saturday morning. I should have taken the hint when I was approaching the Lincoln Tunnel from New Jersey and the air was so thick with humidity that I couldn't see an inch of the skyline across the Hudson. But I was excited for this run, because my legs were ready and I was so very much looking forward to my reunion with my running buddies Alan and Moffat.

The GW Bride on Saturday morning -- we couldn't see the top of it on the way over!

The three of us and Adam started up the West Side with the goal of running according to my heart rate, which was not to exceed 180 for the duration of the run. Perhaps I should have given the plan the once-over when the monitor read 144 just standing there after warming up, waiting to run. It was hot, humid, smoggy, and just miserable outside.

Never one to let something silly like weather conditions get in the way of my training plans, I felt good for about the first three miles, then pretty suddenly I really didn't. When we hit the first hill, my chest hurt in a way that was, well, just not right. My breathing was all off and I felt wheezing coming on. I pushed forward. My heart rate shot up to 195. It hurt. I pushed forward, again, but slowed down. I listened to Adam calmly suggest taking "baby steps," so I did. We climbed up the hills and I simply couldn't get enough air.

I stopped and walked for a minute. Adam, Michelle, Alan, and Moffat stopped too. Those are the kind of teammates I have -- I couldn't convince them to leave me behind, although I did not want to be the one to ruin their training run. I relaxed and focused on filling my lungs for a minute, and started shuffling my feet again, up and over the overpass to the big hill up 181st Street.

And then it started again. I made it just to the top of the hill before a full-on asthma attack scared the shit out of me. Heart rate? 198. I haven't had one of these since I was probably 19 years least not one like this. Wheezing? Yes, it's part of the deal when I am training hard. Feeling like I might never get a breath of air again, however, is not normal. I don't carry an inhaler (I don't like the way the medication makes me feel so jittery). Truth be told, I haven't come remotely close to needing an inhaler for decades.

Again, I stopped. Again, Alan, Moffat, and Adam stopped too. What would I do without these people? I really wanted them to go. They really wouldn't. I walked and I couldn't say anything but "go...just go." They patiently walked beside me while I played those games in my head to relax myself and eventually my breathing. I rationalized that the weather was tough, but if I just tried to breathe in through nose and out through my mouth, I'd be okay.

Soon, I was okay and began to shuffle my feet up toward the George Washington Bridge and followed Alan and Moffat right over, into New Jersey.

And for the remaining miles, the self-coaching persisted in my mind: "Just get the miles in. You'll be fine. You can walk if you need to. Just get the miles in."

Off of River Road, I stood at the top of the hill and again I stopped. I was scared to go down. I knew if I did, it meant I'd have to run back up. I stood there for nearly 5 minutes while Moffat and Alan went ahead. I shuffled down halfway and waited. And then I ran the rest of the way down and waited for them to head back up. I ran. Baby steps, baby steps, baby steps. I made it back to the water stop and we took a break before taking more baby steps the whole way up the giant hill leading back to the bridge.

I stayed with Moffat and Alan until mile 12 and then watched them power up the rest of the hill. I knew it just wasn't my day and trying to stay with them would be bad for all of us, as disappointed as I was to come to that conclusion. It was awesome to watch them run so strong in such ridiculous conditions. I was (and always am) so proud of them.

Alan and Moffat in the homestretch of the run.

At the end of the bridge, Kim, another Race with Purpose teammate, came running up behind me, looking so strong. She was having a great run and it was awesome to watch her success for a little bit. We stuck together for a few miles down the West side until it was necessary for me to take another walk break (my self-coaching gave me permission ;-)). We met up at the water stations until we made it home, back to 72nd and Riverside.

It was easy to let those stupid demons start demoralizing me for such a crappy training-run performance. I hear them. They're still there, nagging me. I'm trying to ignore them and realize that one horrible day does not preclude me from having one glorious day on October 7th. There just isn't much I could have done to make the day any better -- when you can't get a breath of air, the rest of it all seems irrelevant.

I always try really hard to shake it off immediately, because there's nothing worse than moping around your teammates, when all of them have every reason to be happy with what they've accomplished. Who wants to hang around with Debbie Downer?! The best cure for a bad training run is breakfast with people who can make you laugh hysterically, so that's what I did. Thanks to Moffat, Jennifer, Avi, Russ, and the magnificant return of Alan Gardner -- what an awesome way to end an otherwise horrendous start to the day. the way, since I thought up the killer post-run meal, I WIN :-).

[For those of you wondering what we just discovered to be the most perfect combination of food to refuel: A BLT, two scrambled eggs, a cup of regular coffee, and an iced coffee. Spilling the iced coffee all over yourself is optional.]

So then it was time to head back to the lake house in Pennsylvania, get cleaned up, and go to a dinner to kick off our Strout family reunion.

But then, the lights went out.

To be continued...


Coach said...

Yeah, not exactly an ideal day to lock in on pace, perceived effort and heart rate. I had a difficult day as well. It was the end og a strength build period so its expected to not feel 100% but that heat and humidity can wreak havoc. Clearly some people like Kim dealt with it better than others. As you say, "Better Days Ahead." The good news is that you still have the option to pop off a middle distance run this weekend if you want, to build up confidence and align your metrics.

Javier said...

Well Irecall at the last run at the Rockies you had mentioned to me that you have been weazing a little. So I guess maybe that was a preclude to this. But hey you finished in the best way possible, with goo dfriends. Glad yo managed not to be Debbie Downer :)