Chicago Marathon; The Parts You Don't Know
Many of you know that I recently competed in the 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. You may also know what my finishing time was and maybe even saw me in my special CDWA Boston Marathon race attire strolling through the streets of Chicago. If you did see me running, I hope you saw me on mile 1-20 and not 20-26. This blog is not really about my race but really more about what went on after the race but I will give a short blurb regarding the race.
As I mentioned in my recent blog before the race, I was coming off sprint triathlon training and in 6 weeks had to convert to a marathoner. My goal was to run under 2:40:00 but this would be a very hard feat. I went out and tried to stay conservative for the first half but still stick within my the 6:00-6:10 per mile pace. My guide Kyle Larsen and I were clicking right along pretty good through the halfway mark as Kyle handed the leash to 2nd half guide Brandon Giddleman. Brandon didn't know my history as a jack rabbit but he would learn about that tendency later in his guiding experience. We continued holding 6:05-6:10 up through mile 18 and then the miles slowed closer to 6:20. By mile 21 when we entered China Town I had faded to 6:30. After mile 23, I was too delirious to know or even care what pace I was going . The final mile on Michigan Avenue was far from what could be considered the Magnificent Mile but I tried to at least make it look as though death's door was not knocking.
As I held my composure down the finishing stretch, I knew that when I stopped things would not get any better. You see, onlookers have this idea that when you cross the line in a marathon your body just starts functioning totally normal and you go on with your day. This is so far from the truth. In reality, you have programmed your body to believe that you are trying to destroy it and therefore your body has decided to go into survival mode, shunting all the blood to the working muscles, engaging all its cooling systems, decreasing blood flow to the stomach and GI system and going into automatic mode with the gait cycle. When we abruptly stop like I did after crossing the line, our body continues to think we are trying to destroy it.
With my guides beside me, I “Smiled Through Pain” down the final 200m to the finish line. At this point the story really begins. My legs, feeling as though they were small twigs holding up a large house began giving way. Then, in true drunken fashion, I began to stagger. Guide Kyle, quickly grabbed my arm before I became a falling tree. My body, still in survival mode, continued to push the blood to my legs and the cooling systems running. Because the blood was all in my legs, my blood pressure of course dropped and there was probably a lack of blood going to my brain so I began getting very lightheaded. At this point, I told the race volunteer, “I’m feeling pretty woozy.” She didn’t mess around and put me in the wheelchair. I was like that guy that just sucked in a load of helium gas and now looked like a bobble head doll. I also began to shiver violently and when the race volunteer said, “Do you need to go to the Med tent?“ I responded, “Well, I’m freezing cold and I still feel as though I may pass out so that may be a good idea.” This wasn’t my first rodeo in the Medical tent and the previous visits were for much the same conditions so I figured I would just come in, get some TLC, lay down for a bit and I would be on my way. That thinking was totally wrong and I was so far off on my assumption that I may never go back to the medical tent.
They took me into this massive tent that seemed to be the size of an indoor practice facility for the football team. I sort of flung myself onto the cot that they took me too and everything was seeming to be ok. The doctor came over to me and started asking me orientation questions. Being a physical therapist, I knew exactly what she was doing so I answered all her questions before she even asked me. She said, “You know what I’m doing don't you?” I said, “Yes, I’m a PT and I just came in here for a nap.” She replied jokingly, “this isn’t a napping station but good try.” I laughed and replied, “Well, I’m shaking like I’m having a seizure so maybe I could at least get some blankets.” They were quick with the blankets and then the nurse came over and took my blood pressure and heart rate. My blood pressure was perfect at 100/60 and heart race was 60bpm. Going by these values, you would think I was good to go. I was still shaking like a Parkinson’s patient and still was floating in my head a bit. This all changed real quick though. The doctor came over and said those famous last words, “Were going to need a rectal temperature on you.”
I shot up from the cot and responded, “Oh, I’m feeling great and all ready to go Doc. I don’t think that will be necessary.”
She didn’t want any part of that and replied, “Sorry, but its the most accurate way.” Then, her next words were even worse, “Don’t worry its not bad at all, we are very gentle. You will hardly feel it.”
I thought to myself, “I don’t care how gentle they are, there is no way that I will hardly feel an object shoved up my butt hole.”
Then, before i was given a chance to mentally prepare, they turned me on my side and followed through with their humbling procedure.
To help explain the moment more accurately, I feel as though it is only appropriate to depict the scene around me. The cots on either side of me were also occupied, one of which was some sort of middle eastern man, who was grunting and screaming from cramping all throughout his legs. He insisted that he didn’t need an IV but he was cramping like he was in rigor and his veins were so tiny and collapsed that they worked for over 30minutes to find a small enough needle and then find the vein. As they turned me on my side to humiliate me, I of course turned even closer to the screaming man grunting. As they placed me back flat on my back, I had another guy seizing up with cramps on the other side f me. I thought to myself, “What the heck am I doing here?”
I told the MD, “Hey I’m think I’m ready to go. I think I’m going to go have a beer.” She laughed and probably said to herself, “Smart A##.”
I had one major problem and that was that Kyle had left to go back to the US Development Tent where we had left our stuff before the race to get me my dry clothes and my phone. He had left over an hour ago at this point and I had no way to get ahold of him nor anyone else that could help in this situation. I was pretty much a slave of the medical tent. Ninety minutes went by and still no Kyle. At this point I thought he had maybe decided to do the marathon in reverse or maybe he went home to take a nap. I got to know the nursing staff very well. I explained to them the CDifferentwithAaron mission and of course told them that my athletic career had recently been stripped away from me by the IPC when they cut my category from the Paralympic games. At about two hours, Kyle walked into the tent empty handed. In my head I was thinking, “What the heck has he been doing for all this time?” Evidently, security wouldn’t let him back into the area. He didn’t have his bib and even though he tried play the “blind card” and even the medical emergency card, he had no luck.
The doctor discharged me from my napping station and Kyle and I were on a new mission to find our bags. When we got to the tent, all the bags were gone. We asked around at information and nobody knew where they were. Now we had a problem. Our bags were gone and even the race staff didn’t know where they had gone to.
We finally found a marathon worker with a radio and she was able to take us to the place that she thought they would be. At this point, it was nearly 2pm and I had to catch the train back to my friends place to get my luggage before heading the airport. I had finished the race at 10:15am and I was just getting done with four hours of unplanned chaos at 2:15pm. I had planned to spend time with some people from Dare2Tri, cheer on some of the runners and throw out some CDWA apparel into the crowd but this never happened and to all those people I apologize for being MIA. I could have never planned that I would be in the medical tent getting my rectal temp taken (LOL).