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Keeping It Under Control

Yesterday I had an echocardiogram (ultrasound of my heart). It's been over four years since I had congestive heart failure. I am sure everything will be OK.

I ran two marathons in two weeks.

Actually, I only ran one marathon; that was NYC on November 1st. Then I ran 27.5 miles across Rhode Island with ActiveinMySixties  (Jan) and another friend to raise money to defeat cancer. We finished our run, raised a few grand, and cancer still exists. :(

I hate cancer. I really hate cancer.

As I get ready to run Philly this coming weekend, I am still not feeling well. It has absolutely nothing to do with running! I had a physical a few weeks ago and all is well with the standard stuff. I had my echo and they let me go home; I am guessing that is great too. I got the all clear from my summer surgeries and my PSA and all the other exams showed nothing new.

Now we are going to start looking in other places. Scary.

What does all this have to do with being fit? Well, my calorie consumption has gone up and I have gained weight I worked hard to loose. Even after two marathon runs I am up 6 pounds. This food consumption problem is so damn hard.

Really, there is no excuse except that I gave myself permission to overeat.

I am back to the basics of portion control. What I eat isn't the problem, it's how much.

What do you do to keep it all under control?

NYC Marathon and Cancer

The smell of bagels and coffee made me want to go back to bed - my own bed - back home. I had been up since 5:45, walked to the subway, taken the Staten Island Ferry and been bused to the athletes village.

It was now 10:45.

I stood amongst 50,000 runners and I felt alone. The call came to enter the corrals.  Over the nervous chatter of my corral-mates, I could hear the roar of the NYC Police helicopters overhead. It was a little windy, warm and overcast.

I closed my eyes and breathed gratitude to my Savior.

I had beat heart disease. I had beaten three types of cancer. I could still run with my prostate tumor. One of my runner buddies lay sick in bed from chemo treatments to treat stage 4 brain cancer. She ran a marathon last month with her tumors too.

I'm OK.

In the cool distance I could see the towers of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. I remember crossing it as a kid. My siblings and I could see Lady Liberty from our mobile vantage point. It was our first visit.

Then the call came to head to the starting line.

I chatted briefly with a gal supporting a kid’s cancer charity. I thanked her for running. Then she told me her daughter was 8 years cancer free! I confess, I tried to act excited, but inside I wasn't. I was a little jealous, a little tired, a little hungry, and for a moment, I dreaded the fact that hours of running lay before me.

The runners were amped up for their big day!

I moved towards the start and thought about my six other marathon starts. The tiny, in comparison, Cape Cod Marathon where it was cool and sunny. My longtime friend Tom wished me well after the cannon boomed. Then there was my first Boston. I had so many hopes for that one. It was so exciting, it was so hot, and it ended in near disaster with a tibial fracture. In Chicago I stood with my Hope for Young Adults with Cancer teammates including my MFP buddy Dan E. I remember having to pee that cool and sunny morning, but there was no place to go.  And there was the Zydeco Marathon with another MFP buddy, Bobby D. We took off in the warm twilight of the Cajun spring. I got a personal record that day. Another Boston in the cool rain last April, and then my last in the desert heat of San Diego with a few Elvis impersonators.

This is NY, I said to myself.

The National Anthem began. I bowed my head and placed my hand over my heart. The cool harbor breeze against my face felt good. The clapping and cheering segued into the boom of a 19th century Howitzer.

The crowd of neon inched closer to the starting mat.

We were off and running. Well, walking. Before me a sea of runners and the towers of the bridge stood sentry not far in the distance. It took a mile to get on pace. My plan: take it easy for six miles, run my pace for fifteen miles and see what I had left for the last five or so.

Marathons are about strategy and mental toughness as much as they are about running.

It was 11:15, five and half hours since I had crawled out of bed. It would be three miles until the first of 22 aid stations. I was looking forward to a cup of Gatorade. It was then I realized I forget to take my electrolytes. I had only downed a small coffee and no water.

Bad planning.

What you do in the early stages of a marathon can greatly effect what happens in the end. I was already at a food, water and an electrolyte deficit. It's hard to make this up while you are running. Down into Brooklyn we went.

The crowds were thick and loud.

Running along Atlantic Avenue, the edge of Bedford Sty, I thought about the movie, The Cross and the Switchblade. This is where Teen Challenge began.

Finally there was an aid station. I got water, Gatorade, took my Endurolytes but I skipped a GU gel which I should have had right before the race.

The course was crowded, but there was enough room to run.

Blocks and blocks of spectators blew whistles and shouted out to the marathoners. This was unlike Boston where they clang cowbells and San Diego where they have cheerleaders with pom-poms.

There were great bands all along the course playing every style of music from Folk Rock to Gospel, and Heavy Metal to Classic Rock. The miles disappeared behind me. I was on pace, on plan and starting to feel pretty good about my marathon which was already a third over.

As I came up on the aid station at mile 13 I felt a familiar twinge in my right calf.

Leg cramps are a brutal adversary. I had them in three out of the previous six marathons. I learned my lesson in San Diego. I started ingesting salt packs which I brought. Cramps are still a mystery, but they seem to be related to one or more of the following: electrolytes, dehydration, lack of training, lack of sleep and specifically, a sodium deficiency.

Whatever it was, the precursor of doom was present.

Within a few minutes, my legs began to feel better. Every mile I took another packet of salt with water. I ate my GU energy gels and my Endurolytes too.

I also slowed down.

Finishing was more important than not finishing. I decided to do my best to enjoy the city. Through Queens and up onto the Queensboro Bridge. To my left was a magnificent view of Lower Manhattan. The Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, and off on the horizon was the new World Trade center; all standing at allegiance. There was a man on the bridge blessing us in Jesus' name. It felt good to hear his voice. I thanked him.

It was a steady grind and my legs were acting up a little. I decided to walk for a bit.

At the apex of the bridge I started running again. It was a great downhill and I made my fastest mile there. I took three more salt packs at the next aid station. I had a 1/4 of a banana and kept moving.

At mile 19 I had my slowest mile. I was just tired. My legs hurt. I pulled over to stretch out. My mind was telling me stories about how awful all the other marathons were at this point. I began to get discouraged. I even cried a little.

What the hell am I doing out here?

I had nothing to prove. Not to me, not to anyone. I couldn't think of one good reason to be on the course. I didn't know anyone. I thought about the 2 gals that had given me a hug. I could have used one then.

I had acquired a friend somewhere along the course, but I didn't know if I would see her again. I was running along in the Bronx and the guy next to me locked up and hit the pavement. Me and couple of others helped him to the sidewalk. Leg cramps suck.

Mile 20 turned into 21.

I checked my phone and had a couple of texts from family and friends. It was my only connection. I felt a little better.

Mile 22 was a blur and so was mile 23. I just put one foot in front of the other.

At mile 24 some guy yelled out, "Hey Zero, you're my hero." (I ran with a ZERO Cancer shirt) A woman I knew appeared out of the sea of faces and gave me a quick hug and kiss on the cheek. I ran by the Plaza where Home Alone II was filmed. My kids loved that film.

"What kind of idiots work here?"

"The finest in NY, m'am."

Finally, there it was. Mile 25! I stopped for a quick drink and took a picture of the banner across the road. There was a guy walking and he was in pain. I grabbed his arm. "Dude, let's go get a medal. I know where they keep them."

He laughed. "My knee is shot. Have a good race"

I started running again. I didn't care if I locked up, but I was going to finish.

Central Park was a filled with shouting spectators. I was almost done. For whatever reason, now I was excited about New York. I picked up my pace and raced towards the finish.

Mile 26 seemed to take forever!

I rounded the corner and there was the finish line. I poured it on. I just wanted to be done. To drink. To relax. They hung a medal on my neck and wrapped a space blanket around me. I drank chocolate milk, ate an apple and walked the 6 or so blocks to my hotel.

I plopped in a chair in the lobby and thanked God for allowing me to finish. Finish with cancer. Again.

Thoughts on the New York City Marathon

I just finished the NYC Marathon. That makes seven since I had heart failure in 2011. I also checked off my third World Major Marathon. It wasn't my best and it wasn't my worst.

BUT it was NY!

I grew up not far from New York City. We went to"the city" for field trips in middle school - the UN, the Empire State Building, the Staten Island Ferry, Rangers and Bruins at Madison Square Garden, Led Zeppelin live, Times Square, the Brooklyn Aquarium, the Bronx Zoo, waving at Lady Liberty and watching hookers on 42nd ST.

New York is quite a city!

I love NY. Even so, there are a few things I don't like about NYC. You can't put anything down, it's hard to find a bathroom, the subway is confusing, parking is hell and expensive and the Yankees.

I have run Boston and Chicago too. The US World Major courses are top shelf.

I will say this was my most difficult marathon. Emotionally it was a huge battle. I missed some of my training this summer when I had surgery. That was followed by a move, changes at work, another cancer scare with high PSAs and my regular life. I have been feeling sick for about a month. I missed Chicago this year due to all that, and was just about to drop out of NY too.

Getting to a big city marathon is a lot of work.

I drove 4 hours into NY, parked my car for $40 a day and got my "two by four" room. It was so small I didn't think I could change my mind in there! The bed was nice. I found the subway to the Javits Center and went to the expo. I walked to Times Square for a team lunch; that was fun!

I got on the train going the wrong way on the way back...

I enjoyed dinner with a friend I have known since Kindergarten and went back to my room to relax and get ready for the 5:45 alarm. I made sure to hydrate as much as possible. I took my electrolytes and ate a pretty regular meal of pasta, broccoli and chicken. I was hoping that my GI issues would subside from the weeks before.

I was up before the alarm. There was NO running water!

I was glad to have some leftover bottled water to use brushing my teeth. I had also set up the coffee maker the night before; which was precariously balanced on the flat screen TV. (This is real talent...) I got dressed, downed a cup of coffee, slapped on Body Glide and sunscreen and drank a little Imodium; I was ready to hit the subway.

I walked 2 blocks to the 1-2-3 and headed for Times Square.

The Minions, Elvis and the Naked Cowboy weren't at work yet. I got on the R with a guy I met wearing a runner's bib. Richard and I chatted about his first marathon.

The train zoomed past our stop. WTH? It said express to the Staten Island Ferry.

We got off and on to go back a stop. We wished each other well and went our separate ways. I found a clean bathroom without a line. I looked to heavens and praised God! I was early, so I sat down for a bit before heading out to get on the bus to the starting line.

I finally arrived at the athlete’s village and got in line for a bagel, some coffee, a little water and the porta-potty. There I met a couple of gals from Ohio. We chatted about our race. One of them asked me, "What is ZERO Cancer?", reading my singlet.

I told her that is a research and advocacy charity for prostate cancer sufferers.

"Did you have it?" She asked.

"I have it." I replied. "I am running with it today."

"Oh my God! Can I give you a hug?"

She didn't wait for an answer. In fact both of them gave me a hug.

We separated into our starting corrals.

Before me lay 26.2 miles of the City that never Sleeps. But more about that later.
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