Dr. J on Running

30 Sugarloaf Marathon, Eustis, ME

19 May 2013

We broke the trip to Maine with an overnight stop in Andover, MA. My A4 averaged 35.5 miles per gallon on the 330-mile Pompey-to-Andover drive. A random search for food landed us at Joe Fish for an incredible dinner. After a light night sleep punctuated by yapping from next door, we took the scenic route north towards Sugarloaf.

It rained intermittently on Saturday. Packet pick-up went smoothly. I liked a lot the long-sleeve shirt. The drive from Sugarloaf to the Herbert Grand Hotel in Kingfield gave me a feel for the downhill second half of the course. The crown of the road and the broken shoulder gave me concerns.

We dined at Longfellow’s across the road from the hotel. I ate too much, counting a 10-ounce steak, a baked potato, hummus, tabouleh and bread. I retired early for a 4am wake-up. Inn-keeper Dawn had an urn of coffee ready for us. After a banana with two slices of raisin bread, Marla drove me the 1Km to bus pick-up.

A pleasant half-hour bus ride with several Marathon Maniacs took us to the start line in time to send-off the 6am early starters. We hung out in the damp cold morning, met new Maniacs, took a photo, exchanged race stories, and used repeatedly the port-a-potties. A gun went off at 7:00:00 without fanfare, without announcement, without National Anthem, without a speech. Bang, and south we went on Route 27, some 500 cold and damp runners.

Rolling hills characterized the first part of the course. According to my new Timex Run Trainer – my 3-year-old Global Trainer drowned on a rainy run last weekend - we climbed from 1,166 feet at the start to 1,582 feet at 10.5 miles, then dropped gradually to 608 feet by the finish. I settled early in a 4-and-4 breathing pattern, and shuffled along.

I met Mike, who started a road trip in Florida intent on running a marathon each week-end, working his way towards Colorado. I ran with Edward, a Fort Bragg soldier who had run Fargo ND on Saturday then Sugarloaf ME on Sunday, as part of a journey to run 9 marathons in 9 days. I chatted with Drew, on a quest to reach Maniac Titanium level by running 30 marathons in 30 states in 2013.

I aimed for 11-minute miles. I ran 5.5 miles in the first hour, and powered uphill to reach 11 miles in two hours. I ate half a Powerbar on the run. I stopped briefly at aid stations to thank the volunteers, gulped a cup each of water and Gatorade, and resumed running. I coasted downhill, and passed 18 miles in 3:11, seven minutes ahead of pace, and projected a 4:40 finish. Eighteen miles represented the farthest I had ever run without walking breaks.

On Ash Wednesday, I resolved to lower my body fat by 5 percent. I adopted a two-pronged attack of nutrition and exercise. I limited my daily food intake to 2,400 calories with four servings each of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. I took up weightlifting, push-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups and pull-ups. Three months later, I was working out up to three times a day. I had dropped from 172 to 160 pounds, and from 20 to 16 percent body fat. I built up to 70 sit-ups, 30 push-ups, 3 chin-ups and 1 pull-up.

Two weeks ago, my evening workout consisted of one good pull-up and seven bad pull-ups. For the bad pull-ups, I stood on a chair, held onto the pull-up bar, and fought gravity as it pulled down my body. The workout went without a hiccup, but I felt mild soreness in my right shoulder the morning after. I stopped all upper body workouts, yet the soreness worsened every day. Soreness turned into pain, I lost range of motion in my shoulder, and my right arm grew weaker.

Disaster struck at 18.53 miles when right shoulder pain kicked in, followed by severe cramps below my left shoulder blade. I could not tell which left muscle objected to favoring my right shoulder – the latissimus dorsi, the rhomboid major, or the longissimus thoracis. The pain grew acute, constrained my ribcage and limited my breathing. I walked to relieve the cramp, ingested four Ibuprofens, and resumed running.

The following three miles brought shorter breath, more soreness in the right shoulder, and extreme left back pain. I persisted stubbornly, and reached 22 miles in under four hours – giving back my seven-minute buffer. The situation turned dire by mile 23. Pain prevented any further running, and reduced me to a walking wounded. Fog settled in, the temperature dropped back into the forties, the humidity reached 100 percent, and a chill overtook me. I exhibited all the symptoms of a heart attack, without actually suffering one. I felt nauseous, sick, weak, cold and in pain.

A volunteer at mile 24 spotted my pitiful condition and offered to call for help. I declined help, and resumed running to get quickly away from the aid station. My condition worsened significantly in the next few minutes. I had to run to fend off hypothermia, but pain and shortness of breath forced me back into a walking crawl. I alternated agonizing runs with shivering walks all the way to Mile 26. Marla egged me on, and we ran together towards the finish line. I crossed the mat in 4:54:52, my third fastest marathon ever, and collapsed in a chair.

A slice of pizza, a hot shower, and a half-hour of horizontal immobility loosened my back cramp. I wore proudly my new Sugarloaf Marathon long-sleeve shirt and medal, and walked down the street to see grandson Isaac who gave Jeddo a gentle hug.

Dr Kamal Jabbour ran his second fastest age-graded marathon to complete his 30th marathon and 30th state at Sugarloaf Marathon. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2013 Dr Kamal Jabbour