Friday, October 29, 2010

Where perseverence ends and insanity begins

On Sunday, November 07, I will step up to the starting line of the NYC Marathon. For those of you that have been following my training progress, this is hardly the fall racing season that I had planned for. I was going into the fall thinking that if things fell into place, my "A" goal could be a sub-4 hour finish. Obviously, that is no longer the case.

A couple of fun facts about my 2010 NYC Marathon training season:

  • I had THREE surgical procedures on my heart in the 11 weeks leading up to the marathon, the most recent one being 25 days prior to race day
  • My last "normal" training week before all of this heart drama started was the week of August 1st. I have not run > 20 miles per week since then.
  • My longest run of this training cycle was 18 miles on September 19th
  • My total mileage logged for the months of September and October were 50 miles (each)
I know what you are thinking, this is complete insanity - and you are probably right. You could say that I'm not respecting the distance, I probably wouldn't argue with that. I have decided that I will not give up, I don't care how long it takes, but I'm going to finish. I feel like at least stepping up to the line means that I am taking back control of my life. I will not allow circumstances outside of my control to dictate what I can and cannot do.

For what it's worth, I have medical "acceptance" for this endeavor. I don't think that any of my doctors would actually "recommend" that I run the marathon this year, and to be honest, I don't blame them. I don't believe that I am putting myself in imminent danger (no more so than anyone else that runs a marathon), and I don't believe that running the race will impair my recovery. I guess I'll find out how true that was when I go back to my doctor next Wednesday

Even if this wasn't the way I had hoped to run NYC this year, I'll try to at least make something good out of the situation. I plan to run the race this year with the same Mobility Impaired athlete that I guided through NYCM last year. While I won't officially be his guide this year, at least I can rely on him and his guides to keep me at a pace that I can handle, and provide some company and continued motivation for the run.

Obviously, I'm disappointed with my current situation - and I was hoping to be over my issues by now, but I'm doing the best with the cards that I've been dealt. I'm going to step up to the line, give it everything I have - and come out of this a winner.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Slogging it through two half marathons

I recently completed two half marathons, powered by my not-yet-fixed heart. I wanted to write something, to thank my running buddies from the NYC scene, for keeping my chin up, and really helping me keep moving through this rough time.

The first half was the Newport Liberty Half, held in Jersey City, NJ. I learned about this race from my friend (and old college roommate) Ansky, and saw on the website that race day registration was still available. I also learned that my Tweeps Samantha and Eissa were going to be running as well - so I made a decision the night before to sign up and head over. Race day weather was great, the lines were minimal (except for the bathroom lines) and the crowds were generally pleasant. I met up with Samantha, and we headed to the start together.

I ran the first few miles with her, but then I felt my ticker starting to rebel. At around mile 3, I wished Sam a good race, and sent her on her way. The next few miles were a combination of running and walking, eventually turning into more walking than running. By mile 10, the wheels were coming off bigtime. I mostly walked the next few miles, until I finally started to run again around mile 13. It was a tough day for me, and by far, my slowest ever. I started to feel really sorry for myself, thinking that this really isn't what I had in mind for the fall racing season, and that I was supposed to be past this by now.

A couple of weeks later, I decided on a whim to register for the Staten Island Half Marathon. A number of my friends were running, and I decided to take a different approach to this race. I made it a challenge for myself, Joe vs. the Busted Heart. I decided that I was going to tackle the race mile by mile, but in the end, I was going to win, not my busted heart.

On the morning of race day, I made the trek to Staten Island with my friend Sharon. We met up with Erin and made our way to the start. After a quick stop at bag check and the restrooms, we set off to the corral. My heart rate jumped right away, so I wished Erin a good race, and sent her on her way. Samantha passed me a few miles later, and at the turnaround, I caught sight of Sharon making her way back, look of utter focus on her face. Miles 3 - 5 were the worst for me, I just gritted my teeth and gutted it out through the pain. Amazingly, by mile 6, I felt my heart starting to calm down, and I had a few pretty comfortable miles. The trouble started again around mile 9 or so, and I just remember gutting it out, and hoping for a finish. As I crossed the line, I remember thinking that my busted heart didn't win, and it made me tear up a bit. I can't remember feeling so grateful about finishing a half marathon before.

I have come to a realization: Even though I can't run very fast right now (not that I was ever "so fast" to begin with), it's better to be out there racing than doing nothing at all. I have come to accept where I am now, and am I am hopeful that things will work themselves out soon, and I can get back to where I was. I am so grateful for the support of my running friends, who offer a wave, a smile and some encouragement out on the race course when I am feeling my worst. Thank you guys so much - you are what keep me coming out week after week.