You gotta know when to fold 'em. As in after mile 4 of this morning's Ted Corbitt 15K race of death. I went into this with high hopes, after surviving the brutal weather conditions of last year's race. I really wanted to show Ted who was boss this year. Alas, finishing was not meant to be.
Last year, I was healthy on race day. Not so this week. I've been dealing with a major respiratory cold/bug/whatever since Tuesday. Yesterday morning in Central Park, I did a 4.04 mile run-walk in 1.01 hours, and didn't feel particularly bad afterwards. My warning sign should have been when I started losing my voice on the phone last night. It should also have been when I woke up wheezing and coughing a few times during the night. My body was trying to tell me something, but did I listen??? NOOOOOOOO!!! I was very intent on kicking Ted's ass. My plan was, at least according to whatever I wrote on my facebook page at somewhere around 5:30 this morning, to show up, attempt the first 4-mile loop, and then quit if I felt like death. At least I can say I stuck to my plan!
While it was not as brutally cold as last year's race, it's still December in New York City, and it was still cold. Maybe not, as my father would've said, "snot-freezing weather", but still cold enough at somewhere around 32 degrees (that's Fahrenheit, not Celsius, for those who weren't sure). Somewhere between the corral and the starting line, I lost my left glove. Fortunately, I had stashed my pair of dollar store gloves in my pocket, so I didn't have to do the race looking like a Michael Jackson impersonator. Then, somewhere before mile one, my left groin muscle started to hurt. Not horribly, but eventually enough to make the "run" part of "run-walk" pretty much out of the question. Special thanks go to my friend Liz and Coach Dari for hanging with me up until around the 4 mile mark. I was not a particularly happy camper, and was probably WAY not fun to walk with. (Note to Liz: Next race, if I'm not feeling 100%, RUN FAR AWAY and SAVE YOURSELF!!! Seriously, I won't be upset, nor do I want to inflict my pain on others - it may be in everyone's best interest to just leave me alone with my misery:-)
So, I get to around the 4 mile mark and just know it's time for "Plan B" to go into effect. I wasn't feeling well, and the thought of having to survive another 5 miles was just too much. So, I decided to stop. Not quit. Stop. There's a difference, and what happened next made that distinction very clear. There comes a time when, as Coach Dari put it, you have to listen to your body. Your body gives you signs and you really should listen to them. The way I see it now is that it's kind of like those cheesy horror movies I watch all the time. You know, when the young couple with the two kids gets a great deal on a house that is generally way, way, way out of their price range. That would be sign number one. Then they ask the realtor why the house is so cheap, and they get some lame-ass story that only people in a horror movie would believe. That's sign number two. Sign number three is when they go into town to do some food shopping, and get all sorts of funny looks when they tell people that they've just bought the old "Bates" place up the road. They still don't realize that something is wrong with that house. Usually, they don't realize it until the walls start dripping blood and the house starts yelling at them to "GET OUT!!!" That's a really BIG sign that they really SHOULD listen to, but DO they??? NOOOOO!!! They decide to fight whatever's possessing the house, which usually involves it having been built over a sealed portal to hell that's been re-opened or some old sacred burial ground. That's when it gets really messy.
So, what happened next that made me realize the difference between quitting and stopping? When I started barking. Yes, you read that correctly. I had just passed our head coach Michael and told him I was done and leaving. I got about 10-15 feet away, and I started making these very strange barking noises when trying to breathe in. It sounded like a barking seal. Now, I'm totally used to wheezing, and an occasional barking cough at some point during my semi-annual cold. But this was happening when I was inhaling, not exhaling, and I was having trouble breathing air in. Pardon my French, but that scared the fucking crap out of me! I have never, ever, even with my mild asthma, had problems getting air into my lungs, much less made strange barking sounds while trying to do so. Definitely my body telling me to "GET OUT!!!" So, I stopped, and, after a few more barking incidents, they eventually stopped, too. This was not about quitting or giving up, as much as it felt that way at the time. This was about stopping because I could not breathe. I even started crying at one point while I was changing into my warm clothes, which definitely didn't help matters any. Bad enough to be barking like a seal, but having a snotted-up nose from crying was just the icing on the cake!
(Edited to clarify, because someone expressed concern about this being something potentially more serious: The barking was not coming from my lungs, but from my throat, which, if this makes sense, felt like it was closing up. Don't know if it was due to over-exerting myself or some sort of emotional/stress-related thing, but it stopped once I stopped the race, and hasn't happened again since.)
Interestingly enough, once I got out of the race and out of the park and onto Fifth Avenue, I started to feel more human. I decided to try to walk down Fifth Avenue from East 102nd Street to 86th and Lexington to catch the subway. I started to relax, and made it down to the Metropolitan Museum, and a coffee vendor, at East 82nd Street. With hot coffee in hand, I decided to keep walking down Fifth Avenue for as long as I continued to enjoy the walk. I made it down to East 57th Street and still felt good. I stopped at Rockefeller Center both to see the tree and to use the restroom, and kept going. I made it all the way down to the #7 subway station at East 42nd Street, where I got on my train back to Queens.