Saturday, December 28, 2013

Below the neck

They say you shouldn't run when you have symptoms "below the neck." I have known this for a long time, and Runner's World even recently ran a helpful article about this. But when you have had bronchitis for over 2 weeks and haven't been working out at all, and you're gradually feeling better, and all you have left is this tiresome, hacking chest cough, isn't it tempting just to start working out again? Why, yes it is, and so I did, and so I now find myself lying in bed feeling like someone is stabbing my right lung with sharp knives, because I have pneumonia. Lesson (re)learned.

Back before I caught that initial hacking cough (thanks, 7-yr-old son who caught it first and hacked in my face countless times!), we did finish up that USATF-NE cross country series, and our masters team did win both the final championship event (out of 7 teams) and the whole series. One of my teammates won the individual series as well. Our open team ended up a close 2nd in the series--not bad for the team's first year!

This shot shows me (slightly blurry in the back) doing my best version of pack running with my super teammate Karin, the blond with black compression socks. I make this next observation, I swear, not in some cloud of body dysmorphia: as a triathlete, I look like kind of an amazon around all these little distance runners, especially in the upper body. I can't look at this picture without thinking that it looks like I'm trying to chase them down for a snack. Back to pack running: my version of this consisted of merely trying to keep Karin in visual range, something I did better in this race than in all the previous ones. Maybe because she had just run a marathon the weekend before. In the end Karin was our 3rd scorer, and I was our first displacer, with another teammate Janet right off my shoulder to displace the heck out of our competition, but you can read all about it in the Nov. 10 article on the USATF-NE homepage.

Oh, no, wait--you actually can't read anything about our team there, because they named the winning masters men's team but not the winning masters women's team. Which is consistent with the fact that their coverage was totally uneven by gender--named the 1st and and 2nd place open men, but only the 1st place open woman; named the top 3 masters men (plus the winning team) but only the top 1 masters woman. USATF-NE is hardly the only entity to be guilty of this gender bias in reporting, but I sort of feel like, as the governing body of the sport, they should do better. And just to be clear, I'm not saying masters coverage should be as extensive as coverage of the open competition--the people who win outright should get the most press. But women who win the women's race should get the same treatment as men who win the men's race.

A much better article, but with the same gender issue in the masters reporting, appeared on Level Renner. One of my teammates and I both wrote to the Level folks, independently, to express or disappointment. To their credit, they got back to us and were gracious about it. Ironically (in hindsight), one of their excuses at the time was that the editor was suffering from pneumonia.

After cross country season ended, I did a Thanksgiving weekend 5K out on the Cape. My plan here was to hold back the first mile and then gradually pick it up, and while that may or may not be the route to a PR, it sure is the route to feeling good in a 5K. I spent the last 2 miles passing lots of people, including the only women I could see. Turns out (of course!) there was one I couldn't see, which made me 2nd woman overall.

Right about this time was when I developed the hacking cough. Coincidentally, it's also around the time my family decided we needed to do a polar plunge in Cape Cod Bay.

My favorite part about both these pictures is how my husband and I, after running into the water hand in hand with our children, left them to fend for themselves while we got the hell out. Ironically, the only member of the family who seemed unscathed by this experience was the 7-yr-old, who has approximately 0.5% body fat. I spent half an hour afterward rocking back in forth in front of my in-laws fireplace while my circulation-challenged toes thawed out in the most painful way imaginable. (How painful? Sort of like your lungs feel with pneumonia.)

Not long after the Thanksgiving 5K my cough turned bad enough that I stopped running or working out completely. The Hot Chocolate Run, my yearly last hurrah, fell right in the middle of this period. In my somewhat compromised physical state I decided to focus more on the costume than on my running performance:
I can take credit only for the silver lame leggings and arm warmers (although everything appears rather white in this shot); the shirt (silver zebra/tiger stripes, hard to see here), sparkly headband and bow are all courtesy of Karin, who outdid all of us:
Some of our speedier teammates swept the women's podium, a remarkable feat for what is always a suprisingly fast (for a winter, small-town 5K) field. The men's team did the same, and so the local paper had a nice front page article about the race, in which they interviewed both the men's and women's winners and mentioned that our team also raised over $1,500 for this great fundraiser.

Oh wait, that's not exactly true. They did run a front page article, and they did name the top 3 men and say they were all from our team and explain a little about the team, and they did interview the winner, and then they just named the first-place woman, ignored the rest of the women's podium, and failed to mention that they all ran for the same team. Something that was actually more obvious on the women's side, since they all stood on the podium wearing matching team singlets:

As opposed to the men's team, God love 'em, who got up there looking like some random group of fit 20-something men (two of whom happen to be identical twins):
I got annoyed enough, and saw this article close enough to my morning caffeine hit, that I dashed off a letter to the editor. I know I'm sounding like a very grumpy middle-aged woman, but I just feel like we should be past this in 2013. And I'm not the only one.  Check out this year-end wrapup about trail running in Running Times, plus the 2nd comment after the article. (Yes, I may have a little too much time on my hands, what with all the sitting around and hacking up a lung.)

Where was I? The Hot Chocolate Run. I didn't feel great, so I didn't push it, and I definitely felt no worse afterwards, but I got serious about another full week completely off from all aerobic exercise. At the end of that week one of my teammates was doing a monster trail run, so I broke my running fast by joining her for any easy 20 minutes, plus 20 minutes back to the trailhead. I was too stupid to get a picture of her running, so here's one of me on the way back, trying to capture what was truly a beautiful, silent, snowy day:

After that I slowly eased back into running, biking and even swimming. I went back to masters swimming and had to cut the workout short, which was my first inkling things weren't going so well. Two days later I tried to do a 50-minute easy run with a friend and could barely catch my breath, went to the doctor the next day, had a chest x-ray, and Bob's your uncle: pneumonia.

I have promised not to even think about exercising until all my drugs and all my symptoms are gone. For now, my right lung is making me sort of feel like this. You're welcome.

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