Runsketeer run at Bethpage with SIOR

If she ran 12 and I ran six, why do I look twice as tired?

Today’s run (Bethpage bike trail): 6 miles

As they say in baseball, this is a rebuilding year for my running. I’m accepting the precipitous decline in my performance and, although my ego has taken a hit, I still enjoy the running experience as much as ever. I ran with SIOR this morning and admitted to her that I was a little intimidated by her speed. Usually TPP serves as the performance buffer, able to keep up with SIOR for the majority of the time while I languish behind. Today I had no buffer.

I mentioned my concerns about that to SIOR after our run and she was completely supportive of the effort I put in today. She is training for an upcoming marathon in Utah and following the Hanson training method that includes slow runs. Of course her definition of slow is my current definition of 5K pace. I was really happy that we were able to run together for much of the last three miles. The way it worked was for her to slow down a lot more and for me to speed up a little.

SIOR’s schedule called for 12 miles today and I was aiming to do about six. We worked out our plan so that SIOR ran six miles out and back north of the Bethpage lot and then three south where she’d rendezvous with me. From there we’d run our last three back to the lot together. We met up on the path just as planned and made our way north.

Today’s route

While I know I can run faster when I have to, I tend to default to an easy pace. Post workout, we discussed the fact that my breathing sounds labored during my runs and we wondered if my bout with pneumonia in 2010 has had a long term effect on my lung capacity. I wasn’t much faster when I ran with SIOR, but I did improve by a couple of minutes over the first three miles.

Once we’d finished our run, we headed over to Starbucks™, the official run recovery spot of the Runsketeers. We missed our buddy TPP today. She was with JC in Connecticut running with the Iron Cowboy to support his goal of running 50 Ironman distances in 50 days for the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation. SIOR and I covered a lot of subjects including her upcoming marathon and the challenges of high altitude running.

I had a great time with SIOR and realized later that today’s six miles was my longest run so far in 2015. In past years I would have already run a 10K and/or a half marathon by this point. My experience today motivated me to try to push a little more next time. I look forward to our next Runsketeer run and I’m going to try to keep up with SIOR and TPP a little longer than I have. After yesterday’s near trip that (happily) did not re-aggravate my disc issue, I’m think I’m ready for some intervals next weekend.

Why I skipped my workout

I work for a company that virtually shuts down between Christmas and New Year’s day. Business still goes on during that time but many people take “Dark Week” for vacation. I’ve always liked taking that time off, with little going on in the office I can detach fully from work and relax with my family. As it happens, I frequently end up battling a cold – or worse – during that period. I’ve contracted the flu more than once during the holiday week and last year was the worst ever: severe pneumonia requiring a week’s stay in the hospital.

Since that experience I’ve become more concerned when I begin to feel out of sorts. Last year, during the break, I went from feeling well to going into a zombie-like state in a period of 24 hours. It didn’t help that this happened on New Year’s day when a visit to my doctor was impractical. Waiting until after the weekend to see my doctor was a terrible decision but a lesson learned. All this is leading up to my rationale for skipping today’s run. I felt okay but was a little more tired than usual when I got up. I had laid out clothes for a treadmill run but I decided to forgo exercise and take the extra time to rest. I have a long and busy day today and I thought (and still think) it was the right way to go. It should warm up slightly from now through the weekend so I’ll feel better about running outside on those days. Nine days until I start my end-of year vacation. I’m doing what I can to avoid a repeat of  last year’s experience.

I’m proving that running beats pneumonia

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from my doctor. I had just gone through 30 minutes of tests with the respiratory therapist and my results were in my doctor’s hand. “Your lung capacity is back in the normal range. When you came in on January 4 you were only at 50%. You’re getting close to a full recovery. The running and exercise are helping. Keep doing that and steadily increase your distances as you see fit.” I didn’t tell him that I’d signed up for a grueling trail race that’s less than a month away. I know enough to keep my mouth shut once I’ve made the sale.

Despite the encouraging words from my pulmonologist it wasn’t all good news. Almost all traces of pneumonia are gone from my lungs but there’s still some residual infection. My breathing capacity is far improved but I’m slightly below normal in terms of breathing efficiency, another metric they they use to gauge progress. I was assured that if I maintain the current recovery path the efficiency number will soon rise.

I took on the elliptical this morning thinking it would be an easier alternative to a treadmill run. From the start it felt hard. The effort required to maintain my usual pace, even at a lower level of resistance, was surprisingly high. Despite my recent respiratory problems my breathing has been rock solid since I started running again. However, this morning it took over five minutes to fall into a comfortable aerobic rhythm. I did a total of 25 minutes and stepped off the machine feeling like I’d run the equivalent time at a fast pace. My wife suggested that all the testing I did last night took more out of me than I’d realized. I’ll buy that explanation. Back to the treadmill tomorrow and back to the headlamp and the road at 4AM (next week) if it feels right.

The long road to recovery

“I want you to listen very closely. Do not run today. Do not run this week. When I see you next Monday I’ll let you know when you can start running again.”

Those were the words of my pulmonologist when I saw him on Tuesday. I totally understood his position. He had just looked at my X-Rays which show that I am still battling pneumonia. He stepped up my Avelox and my Tamiflu doses. “This is a serious illness. Do you understand?” Yes doctor.

Later that day my wife and I went for a walk around the neighborhood. We covered about a mile and it really helped me understand that my level of conditioning has dropped. Any thoughts about immediately returning to 5 mile runs under 9:00 min per mile were quickly dashed. Yesterday I ran up the stairs with some laundry and found myself winded. I’m beginning to realize how long the road to recovery might be.

On the positive side it’s almost like starting again and I can go into my return to running knowing things to avoid and things to expect. I’ll try to maintain the front/midfoot striking form and hopefully that will become a natural style for me. I want to try out some less cushioned running shoes to strengthen my feet and better support the Tarahumara running style. I spent the last year as the Emerging Runner, going from inactive to plenty active. This will be the year of the re-Emerging Runner – version 2.0. I can’t wait to hit the road but I will respectfully wait until I’m ready. Doctor’s orders.

Metaphorically, a house fell on me last week

The last time I sat down to write a post on the Emerging Runner I had no idea what was in store for me in the days to come. I was on my end-of-year vacation and was experiencing some symptoms of a coming cold but I still had enough strength to have run four miles of trails the day before. On Wednesday the 30th I went out for a fun family lunch event and by mid afternoon my world had started to crumble around me with a force that I could never have predicted. What began as a series of chills, intense fatigue and coughing along with a complete lack of appetite led to a week-plus of hell that included a five day stay in the hospital that involved a course of anti-viral and anti-biotic megabomb IVs around the clock.

Due to the New Year’s holiday I was unable to see my doctor until Monday morning. He immediately diagnosed pneumonia and sent me to a pulmonologist who put me through a series of tests and X-rays before sending me to the hospital. My wife and I followed the grim and tedious process of getting checked into the hospital and I found myself hours later saying goodbye to my wife and kids as they brought me into a small airless room and began sticking needles in me everywhere. The time passed and I was eventually moved into the hallway accompanied by numerous others whose horrific coughs and other noises made me wonder how sick they must be. After hours of laying there on this stretcher they moved me into a room facing dozens of patients. I discovered that I needed to be isolated because I was deeply contagious. My pneumonia, characterized on the diagnosis sheet as “Severe Community Acquired Pneumonia” was very bad. I had patches on multiple lobes of my lungs. The level of discomfort was intense.

I was eventually moved upstairs to a quieter room that had its own bathroom (sort of). The bathroom was like something you’d find on a boat where the unit could be swung out from under a cabinet. The days in that room were horrifying dull and I began to hate the isolation, the depressing surroundings and the constant changing of the IVs. My wife was an incredible friend and resource for me. She’d arrive as soon as she got the kids off to school and she stayed with me until she had to leave to be there when they arrived home. Mid way through the week my doctor, who initially indicated a two day stay, broke the news that the earliest I would be leaving was Friday. My mind became focused completely on what it would be like to leave to hospital. I felt as though I’d never get there.

When the doctor gave me my release on Friday morning I was beside myself with joy. It still took hours to complete the processing but when I finally reached the point of crossing the threshold between the hospital and the outside world I was hit with an intense feeling of freedom. That was easily the most depressing week I had ever spent, anywhere. I still have a ways to go to get past the residual pneumonia and I have full course of powerful antibiotics to get through over the next couple of weeks. I feel stronger today than I have for over two weeks and I’m starting to think about getting out for a mile run as soon as my doctor gives me permission.  As a marathoner himself, I’m hoping he’ll keep an open mind. I am so happy to be back reporting on the progress of the Emerging Runner. Looking ahead to my next run is giving me something I haven’t had in weeks – hope.