Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Phoenix from the Flames

I never intended to stop blogging, but a week turned into a month, and then three months . . .

It's been a period of relative stagnation. It was difficult to handle being sidelined by the Achilles injury, particularly since it came just as my marathon training miles should have been peaking. I raced the 25K on 11/9/08, and I didn't even try to run again until 11/27/08. That lasted all of one mile. As a last-ditch effort, I tried the Tornado 20M run on 11/30/08 -- the last 20 miles of the marathon route. I only lasted 8 miles. But it was enough to convince me to run the full instead of the half.

Two days later, on 12/2/08, I ran four miles at a 6:30 pace, and it was everything I had in me. It was obvious that I'd lost some conditioning by not running for essentially three weeks. But I still had a few weeks left before tapering, so I was going to give it a go. I ran 35 miles the second week of December, 76 miles the third week of December, and 69 miles the fourth week of December. My heart rate was through the roof and I struggled physically and psychologically during those weeks. But I toughed it out with a 23M run on Christmas morning, and a 20M run two days later.

And then, as luck would have it, I collapsed into bed after that 20M run on December 27th with a fever. I spent the next week in and out of bed without running a single mile. Just as I was coming back from injury, I was sidelined by sickness. And it was the whole nine yards -- nasal infection, fever, achiness, fatigue, lung congestion, coughing of rainbow-colored phlegm.

If you're doing the math at home, you know that the missed week was the last chance to train for the marathon. The next two weeks were spent tapering at 38 miles and then 16 miles.

But STILL, being the hardheaded person that I am, I wanted my 3 hour marathon. I worked so hard in September and October -- so what if November and December were bad to me. I was standing at the starting line, still coughing up fluid as I had ever day since December 27th, right next to the 3:00 pacers in 57 degree weather, ready to go to work.

Well, I didn't get it done. My official time was 3:05:18 -- which is respectable but still disappointing. I fought the good battle -- hitting the half in under 1:30, coughing all the way. I held up through about 21 miles with a 6:53 pace (needed a 6:52), but my next few miles were 7:28, 7:29, 8:02 and 8:11. I found some reserve strength to finish out the race at a 6:12 pace for .86 miles, but it was obviously too little too late. That last boost was due to a remarkable stream of cheers by my friends over the last half mile. I really appreciated (and needed) their support.

I made my way outside of the convention center to look for my family. Thanks go to my mother and Jeff for their support who drove in to track me, and who always had a genuine interest in my training. Thanks also go to my wife, who sacrificed perhaps more than I did by delaying dinners, modifying weekend plans, cutting trips short -- all so I could train. She weathered my emotional roller coaster, carried more than her fair share of the weight, and understood when I wasn't available physically because I was on the road or emotionally due to exhaustion. Without her I could not begin to contemplate, much less achieve, what I have done.

I continued to cough up fluid quite a few more weeks -- into February. Then Julie convinced me to take Zyrtec, the allergy medicine, and I was healed within a week. Who knows if the medicine has a placebo effect I finally kicked it on my own, or if the solution was right in front of me all this time. But as of the past couple of days, I'm starting to feel like I'm back to where I was before the injury. Hence, the title of this post -- The "Phoenix from the Flames".

And other than the fact that the song below uses that phrase, it has no other relevance to this post. However, I should comment that I really like this song, but I'll bet that nobody else does. It never charted, it's not exactly mainstream, and it takes some effort to enjoy. But the emotion that it takes to perform, much less write, wins me over.