Monday, January 30, 2006

The Hardest Thing I've Ever Done (Part 1)

(Author's note: I've decided to break this into two parts. Its going to be a long post and I'd like to get at least this first part done and out. And I always hate blog entries that go on and on when they could be broken into parts.)

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Around mile 21, having "hit the wall" (run out of glycogen in my body, which was now forced to burn fat for fuel...a much more inefficient process) as all marathon runners do...it occured to me:

This was all BS's fault.

Five months ago, back in August of 2005, I wasn't in a particularly great mood about a bunch of things. I was frustrated at the lack of progress on the dating front, a battle which had seen some ugly failures in the recent past. Moreover, I was still trying to finally get over a nasty little crush that I just couldn't ditch...and I didn't know how to channel all of my excess energy I seemed to have. Anyway...in an e-mail exchange with one of my female friends, BS suggested to me that I could always try training to run a marathon. Other people do it, she said. My friend CGG did one a couple of years ago (before I really knew her very well). Lots of people do them having never really seriously run in their lives. And I had run track back in the days off middle and high school (though at shorter distances, obviously). True...I had a pair of bad knees, the result of ligament damage to both of them when I was in high school and in college (the latter a particularly embarassing story involving a TV, a bunk-bed, Shiner Bock, and the card game "A**hole"). Also true was the fact that I wasn't really a runner. Oh...I could putter around on a treadmill for 30 minutes to an hour...but nothing more than that, and I certainly wasn't "fast."

Still...the idea piqued my curiosity and interest. I was intrigued by the idea that I could even possibly consider such a thing. It would be a great way of showing off now that I'd lost so much weight over the previous year and a half...plus, a good way to meet new people, raise some money for charity, etc. So I asked around...and with BS's encouragement (it was her idea)...I decided to do it.

So began my marathon experience. And thus...at mile 21 of the race itself...I was able to look back and blame BS for the mess I was in.

I trained for the better part of five months with the National AIDS Marathon Training Program, raising money for the Whitman-Walker Clinic here in Washington, DC. Five months of Saturday mornings getting up and heading to Waterfront Park in SE and doing group runs...rain, snow or shine - hot or cold (and we had both). Five months of maitenence runs during the week...mostly before I showered in the morning. Five months of Friday nights where I couldn't go out or really drink anything. Five months of Saturday afternoons with sore muscles and headaches. Five months battling sinus infections, tendonitis, fund raising and all kinds of other stuff. Training first for one marathon (the Mardis Gras Marathon in New Orleans) and then another (we switched to the Miami Marathon after Katrina).

And despite all those obstacles...I thought the toughest was behind me. Earlier in January, I'd run out last "big" long run of training - a 23 mile run here in DC. It was tough. I'd been sick for the better part of two weeks, battling first a cold, then the "pray for death" stomach distress, and finally a sinus infection. So I was full of medication that had me dehydrated, plus I hadn't been able to eat right all week. An in addition to that...it was in the 20s that morning when we started and it didn't get much warmer than that. And I finished...everyone in my pace group did. But it was tough. It was hard. I was sure that...feeling healthy, strong and running in much nicer weather...26.2 would be a walk in the park.

Boy was I wrong.

But let's take a step back for a moment. After the 23 mile run, the biggest problem I'd had was that the XXX tendon in my left leg was a bit sore. Strained or possibly inflamed with a bit of tendonitis from so much use - but still nothing like the pain when I had tendonitis in both ankles during the second month of training. Over the next couple of weeks, it got better. But after my last group Saturday run, it got worse again. Over the course of last week, however...it did get better and better and I hoped that with stretching and a little ibuprofen...it would be alright.

Meanwhile, I was having some sinus drainage during the days before (I've learned that many runners...particularly marathoners...are plagued with chronic sinus infections) I left for Miami...but it was nothing I thought was truly serious. I was coughing up some junk and whatnot, but it was mostly just the remanants of the earlier sinus problem this month, which I'd never quite gotten over.

So...on Friday morning, I departed for Miami...full of confidence and also (honestly) a little nervous/anxious. Little did I know what was really in store for me on race day.

(Coming tomorrow: Part 2)

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