Taken only 11 days apart, I think these two photos of my ICU nurse and I, sum up this post nicely.
In a nut shell… Mission accomplished. Or as the race promoter says… We got the Chocolate!

ucsf ICU

Friend and ICU Nurse, Kimberly

No it wasn’t a marathon, not even close, but the distance wasn’t the point. It was all about seeing if I could get myself to a starting line, ANY starting line, so soon after a hospitalization. I was desperate to pull myself out of a health rut Id been trapped in for more than 4 years. Seems like every time Id finally recover from a really bad exacerbation, something else would happen and Id fall backwards even further. I was beginning to believe that this disease had finally caught up with me and crippled me for good. So when this crazy idea of doing a race popped into my head, I went with it wholeheartedly. Im sure glad I did.

Not surprisingly, I had to abandon my plans for the 15K and opted for the 5 instead. Who would’ve thunk that such a short distance race would leave me feeling all warm and fuzzy afterwards. Im glad I switched, cuz I cant even imagine the torture in store for me had I attempted the 15K without training for it. What was I thinking? Worse yet, I probably would have had to withdraw from the race, a word not found in my vocabulary.

I finished the race, but it was tough. My breathing wasn’t exactly stellar the night before to begin with, and it didn’t help matters that right out of the starting gate there was a steep incline to contend with. After that, I just couldn’t recover. I continued to struggle with my breathing the entire distance and the multiple inhaler hits just weren’t helping. Had the finish line been any further I would have keeled over. It’s too bad, because ordinarily I would have taken advantage of the many downhill portions of the course to make up for lost time. In the end though, I finished 11 minutes faster than my goal time of 1 hour.

You can clearly see me huffing and puffing while crossing the finish line.

As 5K races go, this was by far, much better than the SF marathon’s 5K ( which is the only other 5k Ive ever done). I was also pleasantly shocked to see how large this event actually was. Judging from the size of the Expo, I figured maybe a couple thousand people. Boy, I was wrong, there had to have been well over 10 thousand runners/walkers on the course. The registration fee was very reasonable, the setting was beautiful, there was tons of bling, and of course a very chocolaty finish, which is why so many people love this race. The cherry on the cake was seeing my friend and ICU nurse Kimberly, who has taken care of me many times on the ventilator, including this last time, had finished the race as well. She looked awesome in her gear!

In the future, should I be so lucky, I hope to do a much longer distance race. There’s just too much pre-race preparation/logistics involved for a person with breathing issues to do a quick 45 minute race. Heck, it took me longer to drive to the event, which I live close to, than to actually finish it. I figure if Im gonna invest the time and significant effort to do a race, Id rather it be a longer one. But given the circumstances of how this race all came about, the 5K was perfect for me. Didn’t train for it, and couldn’t even if I wanted to. I made the right decision to downgrade and didn’t put myself back in the hospital by biting off more than I could chew. Baby steps, right?

But honestly, my heart will always belong to the 1/2 and full marathons distances. The ones where you’re on the course all day, hoping to god you can finish it within the time limit without killing yourself. The ones where you have to train your ass off for months on end, hoping you wont injure something in the process. The ones that elevate you from weekend warrior status to full-on endurance athlete.

Since starting this fitness journey 15 years ago, Ive completed a total of 24 long distance foot races, including 9 full marathons and 15 halves. Not sure I’ll ever get back to that level again, but this was a good start and Im very proud of myself for making it happen.

Btw, if this is your first time here, you might be wondering why finishing, even a short 5K race, is such a big deal for me?
The fact that I participate in these kinds of foot races might even give one the impression, that life in-between the bad flares and hospitalizations is totally normal, or that my disease isn’t that severe. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have extremely severe asthma and suffer tremendously from the disease. Its only because I work extraordinarily hard at keeping my fitness level up all the time, that I can do these types of physical and lung demanding sports events.

Im very lucky to be able to function as well as I do, but again, its not just luck. If it were, there would be a lot more people with severe lung disease running marathons.

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