02 March 2011

The Lost Dutchman Marathon & Half

Once upon a weekday dreary, while I pondered sick and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious sites of marathon lore,
While I coughed, nearly dying, pain-filled heaves while a lying,
Doubt came gently rapping, rapping at my mind’s door.
`'Tis but foul doubt,' I muttered, `tapping at my mind’s door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

And so began the week before The Lost Dutchman. On Monday, I felt as if I were coming down with a cold. So I upped the Vitamin C, ingested foul amounts of airborne, kept myself hydrated and prayed like I never had before that I wouldn’t get sick. I just COULDN’T get sick. This race was the last one I needed to join the Half Fanatic Asylum (www.halffanatics.com), I had already paid for the hotel, already paid the non-refundable race entry fee, Digs signed up to do it with me AND my friend Debi was flying all the way in from Washington state to do her first half marathon. There was absolutely no doubt – I would be at The Lost Dutchman with or without my body.

Tuesday evening came and I knew it was coming on strong. I get sick about once a year and apparently my body decided this would be the ideal time to do it. Being the stubborn Taurus that I am, however, I refused to acknowledge out loud what I knew was happening. I remembered reading somewhere that the best thing you can do for a cold or other simple illness was to sweat it out so I decided I would go to the gym and do my typical workout and then hit the Jacuzzi and steam room afterwards. Brilliant plan, wouldn’t you say? Not only medically unfounded but socially irresponsible – yup, that’s me. I’m the smart one.

I managed to make it through half of my usual workout and I did spend 15 minutes in the Jacuzzi and 5 minutes in the steam room but by the time I got done, I felt worse. My cough was awful. The little miner-dude in my head was insistently pounding to get out and every joint in my body ached. I looked in the mirror in the locker room and was amazed that my normally pale complexion was even paler. AND the lymph nodes in my throat were so swollen that if you were to just look at my face, you would’ve thought I gained about 100 pounds. This was not good, not good at all.

Wednesday found me calling in sick to work. I thought that if I just rested, my body would be able to kick it and put it to bed. That idea seemed to work – for awhile. That is, until I had to go to the fun job that night because, I of course, was pro-active in trying to giving up my shift (NOT). Fortunately for me, the crew on that night was very willing to get me out of there as soon as possible. I’m not sure if it was purely selfish on their part (they didn’t want to get sick) or out of concern for me but I honestly didn’t care - they got me out and I went home and went to bed.

Thursday I was even worse – so much so that I went to the doctor. I figured if it was bad, they could get me on some antibiotics or shoot me. I didn’t really care at that point. My diagnosis was not good – walking pneumonia – and my doctor was not thrilled with me when I asked her to just give me something so I could race on Sunday. I don’t know if you’ve ever been verbally lashed by a physician before but my experience with it was not the most pleasant. However, I got my medication, a doctor’s note excusing me from work on Thursday and Friday, one last look from the doctor expressing her intense dislike of my plan of action along with last minute advice of water intake and rest and was sent on my way.

During my illness, Tami was also sick. I didn’t give it to her, I’m sure, but we were quite the pair during our travels to Phoenix. Friday I was actually feeling better. I still had the cough and headache but the body aches were gone and as long as I kept ingesting ibuprofen, the headache was manageable. The cough, however, was a big pain in the patootie. It was non-productive and made my sides ache. Sleeping was a challenge as was almost anything else. But I was determined – I was going to get to Phoenix and get to the start line.

Poor Deb. She fought so hard to get to Phoenix on Saturday – from delayed planes, to canceled planes to routing through Buffalo (yes, New York) – she still didn’t give up. And I was still sick and Tami was just getting sicker. I think Tami had the full blown flu, whereas I just had pneumonia. Between the noise that Tami and I were making while trying to sleep, Deb couldn’t rest at all. She ended up on the bathroom floor with the door shut and earplugs in and she still couldn’t sleep. I felt so awful about that. “Hey Deb! Come do this race with me, share the hotel and I’ll let you sleep on the bathroom floor!” Some friend I turned out to be.

Sunday morning arrives way too early for people who didn’t sleep. Deb and I get ready for our race and Tami is just worse. I tell Tami to stay in the room and rest – she would be nothing but miserable out on the course and she wished us well and went back to bed. Deb and I headed out to the car to get to the shuttle point. The day was just beginning and we could tell it was going to be somewhat icky. I was actually feeling good, tho, and I enjoyed the drive with Deb – talking with her, catching up, and apologizing profusely for her lovely night on the bathroom floor.

We get to the parking area and are directed where to park. We then wait for Digs (who was also getting over being sick) and board the bus to the start line. There are dark clouds on the horizon and it’s a little chilly for Arizona. I just keep hoping that I get to the half way point before the deluge and Deb tells me of her plans to run the first 6 miles and then walk. Digs says she’ll stay with me. Break! We’ve got our plan! The Lost Dutchman is a large race; however, you wouldn’t know it by the feel. It felt like a small-town race – the volunteers were wonderful, the logistics absolutely superb and the course well thought out. Markings at every mile (no kilometer markings in this race!) and aid stations every two miles with incredibly trained water hander-off-ers and all that. AND this was the first large race I’ve done where they have not run out of the handouts at the stations by the time I got there. In my book, that’s everything.

No corral start for The Lost Dutchman – it was a free-for-all. Wherever you managed to line up was where you started for the race. I, knowing my slowness, automatically gravitate to the back of the back and Deb and Digs follow me. The race starts, Deb plugs in her iPod and she’s off. Digs walks with me and we get to moving. I know it’s going to rain, it’s just a matter of when and I’m still hoping it holds off until I hit the halfway point. Digs and I walk and talk, talk and walk for about 3 miles. She notices that we’re the absolute last and I think it hurts her incredible competitive nature. I tell her to go on – run, don’t let me hold you back! – yet, she still walks with me. So I pull over at the next porta-potty. It’s the only way she’ll go forward, is if I totally stop. She runs ahead and I use the facilities (might as well, I’m here). For the next few miles, I do a combination of shuffle, wog and walk and before I know it, I see Digs up ahead. I pass her (inside I’m exalted – I passed her! I don’t care if she’s sick, I passed her!) and keep on shuffling/wogging/walking. Then the rain comes. At first it’s a little drop every now and then, then it downpours. And I haven’t hit the halfway point yet: I’m close, just not there. I see Deb on the way back, toss her the car keys so she can stay warm while she’s waiting for me and walk on. Digs passes me, tells me it’s too cold to walk and starts her jog. Diligently, I continue with my walk (I’ve abandoned wogging/shuffling by this point) and I whittle away the miles, inch by inch. I have finally found a shoe/sock combination that doesn’t set my feet to fire and I’m loving it. I’m not whining, I’m not complaining, I’m just walking, walking, walking. I smile every now and then when I see a camera but I know it’s going to be a shitty picture. I sing to my music, I tell myself over and over again that I really need a new playlist. I wonder if the Half Fanatics will let me go by Starunner on my official registration. I see Marathon Maniacs fly by but no Half Fanatics and I see the cardboard brick wall the race crew set up at the 10 mile mark. I think to myself, “Yea! Only a 5k to go!” And then I think, “Wait, you idiot. It takes you an hour to do a 5k!”

Momentary discouragement.

Then I see a Girl Scout troop manning an aid station and their enthusiasm gets me going. I shuffle a little bit, wog even less and keep my walking pace up. I don’t feel like I’m making any better time than the Rock n Roll Phoenix but I don’t think I’m doing any worse, either. I finally hit the 1 mile left marker and I get a little pep in my step. I’m actually feeling pretty good, my feet don’t hurt and as long as I don’t breathe deeply, I’m not coughing. I first see Digs at the finish line – she’s cheering me on. Then I see Debi and she’s cheering me on. And then I cross the line, collect my medal and go to my friends. Another half marathon is in the books and I didn’t die. My official time was 3:57 but my cardio-time on my phone said 3:46 (it stopped when I stopped at the porta-lets). So while I officially increased my time on this one, I really didn’t. Not too bad for being sick, eh?

My official time was 3:57, Deb’s was 2:51 (way to go!) and Digs was around 3:31. Not bad for a bunch of sickies and a first time half marathoner, eh? And I’m officially a Half Fanatic now. I’m number 837.
And yes, they let me register as Starunner.

And Debi – if you’re reading this: I am so sorry you’re sick. You didn’t have a chance. :(
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