Saline Chronicles: How Not To Train For A Half-Marathon

by on April 9, 2014
in aging, exercise

Is this a good goal?

Is this a good goal?

I was scheduled to walk the San Francisco Rock-n-Roll Half-Marathon last weekend.  Unfortunately, life had other plans for me and now I have a PICC in my arm to deliver antibiotic nectar to my lungs, as I ended up with pneumonia 5 days before the race.  Sigh.  Such is the life with CF.  You think you are on top of the world, conquering all there is to conquer as you build up to walking 13.1 miles, and then BOOM, you are on your back wondering what just hit you.  I’m sort of used to this by now…that happens after living 53 years with a disease that is supposed to kill you.  Nonetheless, each time it happens, I come away with a small life lesson.  Today’s article will hopefully prevent someone from being as stupid as I was.

Here’s the thing: There is an attitude amongst the “normals” (by normals, I mean those that don’t have CF; not that this makes them normal in any way, but “wildtype” might not be understood by all) that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and that you should just go out and overcome whatever tries to get you down.  For example, I recently read this online somewhere (can’t remember where), “To put it simply: pushing yourself physically reveals what you are made of mentally.”  I read it while I was in the hospital last week and here was my response that I jotted down at the time: “hahahahahaha, that’s vat you think, fatso.”

Sometimes pushing yourself physically reveals that you are make of hot air mentally.

What worries me is that this attitude is very common in CF circles these days.  I read on FB all the time about people who are running with PICCs, doing hardcore exercise routines even though they are sick, trying to fight off CF by proving they can beat it.  They know exercise is good for them, and don’t think that there is such a thing as too much exercise.

I get it, and I did this too.  I still do this, apparently, which is why I have pneumonia now.  But at some point, it doesn’t work anymore, and you actually have to do nothing but rest when you are sick.  I know I sound like an old lady or mother or doctor or someone you don’t want to listen to, but let me tell you a story:

I trained for the Rock-n-Roll like I did the two previous times I’ve done a half.  Shortish walks (up to an hour) during the week, and one long walk on the weekend that grew progressively longer as the race approached.  I started in December, which was a good thing, as January never happened.  So by mid-March, I was up to 10 miles for my long training walk.  Then I caught a cold, and on the day I was to walk 10 miles, just three weeks before race-day, I had a fever and wisely chose to not train.  This decision completely used up my allotment of wisdom though, because even though I was still not completely well, I chose to walk eight miles the next weekend.  Coughing the entire two hours, I plodding along, never dreaming that simply walking could ever do much harm.

It first dawned on me that perhaps I had made a mistake when I literally had to lie on the floor for an hour after arriving home before I managed to get up and get water.  That is how exhausted I was, after a mere 8 miles, when a previous 9.5 miles walk felt like nothing in comparison.  Then I began to feel a bit chilled, and found a thermometer.  This is when the reality of my stupidity hit me.  Fever…productive cough…exhaustion.  What could that mean?

The next day, the fever approached 103, and it was x-ray time, followed by hospital admission time.  Pneumonia…both lungs this time, for good measure.  “Half-marathon, my ass,”  the Universe said.

Maybe it’s my age, but I’m starting to think pushing oneself to exhaustion is almost never a good idea, even if you are healthy.  Obviously, this becomes more important when you need your immune system to be fully on board at all times do do battle with chronic lung infections.  There is a new(ish) thought in weight training that everyone seems to be writing about these days that I am finally going to try.  The idea is to NEVER exhaust yourself, to always leave the gym feeling better than when you entered. The same idea can be applied to conditioning type training.  Of course, you need to push hard enough to breathe deeply and frequently, and even to cough.  But when it’s over, you shouldn’t have to take an hour to get up off of the floor.

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