Monday, May 22, 2006

Maybe...

Okay, I've got a little cautious optimism going here. As you all know, running has been going very well for me lately. Darcy and I spent a lot of time during the race on Sunday talking about running a marathon in the fall. Darcy has decided to start training for Portland - which is what I've been thinking about. So here's the deal...

I ran the Skagit Flats Half on September 10, 2001 (that's a date that sticks in the mind). Training for the half was good, no problems. During the race, at about 6.5 miles, I started feeling tight in the chest, a searing pain between my shoulder blades. I did the old "pick a spot, run to it, pick a spot, walk to it, repeat" to finish. Eric was waiting for me at the last water station and I burst into tears when I saw him. I wanted to finish no matter what, so we continued the walk/run in for a finish time of 2:51:52. As soon as I crossed the finish, I found a quiet spot to lay down, flat on my back. Ten minutes later the pain was gone. I was fine the rest of the day. I called the cardiologist later that week and asked what had happened and was told it couldn't be my heart, not to worry about it. Okay.

I dropped back to a normal running schedule - about 20-25 miles a week. By spring of 2002, I was having a lot of trouble breathing and a constant (running and non-running) tight chest. The doc thought maybe asthma and prescribed inhalers. They seemed to help. I managed to run 12 races that year, from 5K to 15K. In December, Sonya and I decided to start training for an April 2003 half. Things were going pretty good, right up until our 10 mile training run. Again at about mile six or seven, tight chest, severe pain between the shoulder blades. This time, Sonya and our friend Bob were with me. They both wanted me to stop, but I kept thinking I could make it back to the car - and I did. At this point I was wheezing a little, so I got out the inhaler. It didn't help. So I'm thinking bad asthma attack. I keep training.

Next time we go out for an 11 miler, we leave from the Y and start uphill. By a mile into it I was in trouble. But, being the foolish runner I am, I kept pushing forward. At about four miles I conceded. I had to stop. I turned around and started walking back to the Y. Bob and Sonya did not want to leave me, but I insisted I was fine, I just needed to walk back. I felt embarrassed that I let myself get so far out, and I didn't want to ruin their run, so I told them I was fine, that I just didn't think I could finish. I was lying - I couldn't get a good breath. Now usually on my runs, I see all kinds of people I know driving by - but not that day. I walked the whole four miles back to the Y barely able to breathe. I climbed into the car, reclined the seat and laid there till Eric got in from his run. Once again, that seemed to relieve the pain and I was fine.

This time, though, Sonya and Eric wouldn't let me ignore it. They insisted I call the doctor. Thus began my whole heart odyssey. The doctors wanted me to skip the half. I wouldn't. They couldn't get me in for the tests before the race. They finally imposed all the limits that I'm still living with, plus made me wear the "nitro" necklace. Of course, when I ran the half, guess what happened? Same old, same old - right about mile six. Walk/run the next seven. Finish time: 2:51:35.

That was my last half. A couple of times since, I've felt pretty good and started training, only to run into the same problem. For whatever reason, eight miles or about 1:20 seemed to be as far as I could get. Fast forward to now. Gall bladder gone. Feeling better than I can remember feeling in the last five years. Marathon dreaming begins...

Why am I telling you all this? I think I am hedging my bets. I want to train for Portland. Eric and I emailed back and forth about it all day (I'm not sure how much work he got to do!). Final decision: I'm training for the half in August. If it goes well, it's on to training for Portland. Training for the half won't be perfect because of the races I've already got on the schedule, but I'll be flexible and make it work. Yesterday's race went well, though my heart skipped beats for the rest of the day. It's been fine today though. I've done a 7.4 mile hill run without a problem. Cautiously optimistic.

I'm pretty excited, but also nervous. What if the pain comes back? What if it turns out that I hate long distances? What if I decide I don't want to do it after all - after all this time of wanting it? Mostly though, what if the pain comes back? Part of me thinks I could be happy if I could at least have the half marathon distance. I'm going to be one of those five or six hour marathoners anyway, so maybe I should stick to the half. But no, I've got to try a full. At least once. Maybe these are thoughts that everyone has before taking on marathon training? Well, now you know my story and my plan. You can hold your breath with me every time I head out for the long run. You can celebrate with me if I'm successful, and cry with me if I'm not. The thing is, I am compelled to try, I don't know quite why, but I've just got to.

12 comments:

angie's pink fuzzy said...

oh, Michelle, good luck!!! you can always try, and if the pain comes back (here's hoping it won't!!!), you can modify your plans.

I will hold my breath with you every time you head out for a long run, and will celebrate with you if you are successful, and cry with you if you aren't.

robtherunner said...

I feel compelled to keep quiet not knowing where Eric stands on this issue especially since I try to keep quiet with his plans until I know where you stand as well. I want you both to do whatever it is you feel compelled to do.

I say there is no harm in continuing to train for the half and if all goes well continuing on to the marathon. I knew this was coming, but I didn't think it would be this soon.

Sarah Elaine said...

Sometimes, we have to try for things, even if we don't know if we'll be able to do them or not... It's the striving that makes it worth doing... sometimes less than the doing, if that makes sense.

Late last fall, I decided I wanted to train for a half marathon for this July. Not going to happen. Not this year, anyway. So, I am setting my sights on next year... striving...

Success is less about what we do than how we live. You'll be successful no matter what. You already are.

TryAthlete said...

I've only ever gone past half-marathon distance a couple of times, and have only marched a marathon, so that doesn't really count ... the thought of doing a marathon has often crossed my mind, but for me the time commitments involved in doing it are more than what I want to give. Still, the thought is always lurking...

Rob has good points there. I think if you couldn't manage the marathon, somewhere along the training you'd know, so there's no harm in training for it. And yes, it is a decision both you and Eric should be comfortable with.

robtherunner said...

Oh, and of course I am thrilled that you are thinking about it. I am not sure if I am ready to cry with you though.

Anne said...

It's common to make grand, future plans based on the current euphoria that comes from consistently feeling good. We all do it. I agree with Rob that there's no harm to come from training for the half and, if the breathing issues haven't returned, pressing forth with Portland. As you mentioned, the race has the kind of cutoff that leaves plenty of room for error. And unlike that lonely return during one of your Y-based runs, there will be plenty of support on that course -- should you need it.

backofpack said...

Anne is exactly right - euphoria is what I've been feeling for weeks now. It's a nice feeling. Even though I feel it, I keep thinking that this well-being can't last. I sure hope I'm wrong!

olga said...

If you hate distance 9and I don't allow to think another "if") - you have a solid base for running shorter races.
Euphoria is a great feeling, don't let it slide away.

*jeanne* said...

You can ALWAYS change your mind. There's no reason that you MUST do a marathon if you discover you don't like long distances.
But as long as you have the desire and the interest, go for it. Listen to your body, of course. Don't push yourself past the point of SAFETY. A marathon is less important than a life. There are plenty of great runs/races/distances out there.

Maybe start REALLY REALLY slowly for your next longer distance training run or race. Way more slowly than you are at all used to, even take walking intervals...just see if you get past your crucial spots...THEN speed up if want to.
It may be that expectation and anxiety is aggravating your body's response.

I'm a walk/runner. I don't apologise for it; I enjoy it! When I push too hard, when I'm NOT enjoying my races or my runs, isn't that defeating the point? And if it isn't fun, I won't want to do it. I am a MARATHONER. My fastest time was about 5:04, my slowest time was almost 6 hours. Lots of MUCH faster runners out there. Lots of people who look down their noses at Galloway-type walk-runners. So what? Their goals are not MY goals. But there are LOTS of people who consider me a role model. And lots of people who consider us all NUTS for even running a 5k or 5-miler.
To each his own.

Follow your dream. If you find you need to revise the dream because of health issues (or ANY issues) you'll do so.
There's a world of support for you whichever path you follow, and wherever it leads you.

:-)

Donald said...

If you don't try, you'll never know for sure, and you'll always wonder. If you try it and the pain gets to much, at least you'll know for sure.

Robb said...

I'm just plain optimistic. Give it a try. Chase the dream!

Dori said...

You're a vegetarian and you've been running for 12 years? If you've got heart problems, I'm really in trouble! Good luck with your training. We can't let fear hold us hostage.