Saturday, September 11th – Friday, September 17th ……I cannot say that I woke up Saturday morning, because I hardly slept Friday night. I tossed and turned. 20 miles. The entire length of the West Side Highway (now called the Joe DiMaggio Parkway – and ya gotta love that because Joe D. was the definition of a paisan: a smooth, navy-blue suit-wearin’ friend of Ol’ Blue Eyes. Joe D. was so darn smooth that he dated Marilyn Monroe BEFORE JFK did. You do us proud, Mr. DiMaggio…now if you could only do something about the insane traffic between 42nd Street and Chelsea Piers along your namesake roadway, this rather rambunctious rabble-rouser would be most grateful…) from Battery Park to the George Washington Bridge. All I wanted to do was complete the run at a nice steady pace and get the heck home in one piece. But Friday’s brief run gave me cause for concern.
My alarm went off at exactly 5am, the music of Van Halen blurting out from my small speaker in my Iphone (that’s right, lab rats: my alarm is Everybody Wants Some by Van Halen. So go ahead and have fun with that little tidbit of ridiculously trivial information – who knew I was a closet egomanic???). I was wide awake before Diamond Dave could screech out a syllable, planted my feet on the floor, and felt the all-too-familiar discomfort in my foot that signaled a long day ahead. I quickly showered and changed, threw my stuff into a backpack and headed out the door to catch a train to Cadman Plaza at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge (on the Brooklyn side of the river). 5:45am was way too early to be deep in thought – yet there I was on the #1 train heading downtown, already nervous about today’s trial. The Tool really burned the midnight oil and came up with a hum-dinger for, of all days, 9/11. I have enough on my mind this day of the year – all New Yorkers do for that matter. Today’s run would make me pass right by Ground Zero – and passing that solemn real estate always does a number on me.
The Tool fired off a few warning shots nice and early, letting me know that he was present and accounted for on today’s field of battle. He began by reminding me that walking down the stairs of a subway station wasn’t supposed to hurt. Then, as I got up to exit the train in Brooklyn, he gladly reminded me that “if you can’t walk to the team’s meeting spot without discomfort….how the hell are you going to log 20 miles??? This should be fun to witness”. As I began to stretch, he fired yet another warning shot across the bow: “wow – you really cannot stretch your calf muscle without wincing, can you? This was a bad move, running with the team today.” The Tool must have been practicing, because he was hitting the target early and often today.
I began the 20 miler with a group of teammates running at a 10-11 per mile pace. I figured that if I could hold it together until I hit the 79th Street Boat Basin along the Joe DiMaggio Parkway I could cowboy the hell up and finish. As we plodded along the wooden running path that runs down the center of the bridge (and FYI: any tourist reading this blog should make a mental note to walk along this bridge for a bit – it’s cool), the mental battle between my soldiers of self-confidence and the horde led by The Tool was joined.
The Tool: “Dude…Battery Park….and only 3 miles in to this run. Already the heel is barking at you. You won’t be able to hold this pace. 10:15 per mile is too fast feeling like this.”
Me: “Non rompere mi cuglioni” (That’s Italian for DON’T BREAK MY BALLS) I was already abandoning my clever array of retorts and dialing up the blunt commentary. Not a good sign.
The Tool: “Hey – Ground Zero. Told you that you’d regret running past here. And you’re only 4 miles in.”
Ooops. He pissed me off with that one.
Me: “Oh really? OK….I’ll show you who’s in control here….”
…and with that, I found a spring in my step that wasn’t there prior to passing Ground Zero. There’s something about that sacred ground that, on the few occasions where I have run past it, makes me feel like I cannot slow down or shut down anywhere near it. I have no idea why I feel like that – but I do. I lost a few friends that day – guys who ran in while everyone else ran out. Courage. I guess that’s what it is. Courage. I don’t feel the hatred anymore. I just remember the courage. The Tool miscalculated here and he pissed me off. But as I made my way past mile 5 and closed in on Chelsea Piers along the Joe DiMaggio Parkway, I could hear him quietly laughing. He knew I was expending more energy than I should have this early in the game. And the little rat bastard was right. By mile 10, my soldiers of self-confidence could no longer hold the line. The horde of self-doubt had broken through. And with that, the pain overcame my ability to think. Every step hurt. I began landing on the pad of my left foot – not the heel. Anything to maintain positive momentum. By mile 14, my ankle, knee and heel were killing me.
I saw the lime green shirts in front of me. I wanted to stay with them. And yet I knew that, if I did hobble along further, I would only make this worse. I turned around and headed back to our finishing spot at 72nd Street prematurely. The Tool planted his flag firmly in the soil of my self confidence. My negative nemesis claimed victory once again. I clocked in 18 miles all-told. The last 3 with a mixture of jogging and walking. I was miserable waddling home. I needed to heal….both physically and mentally.
I decided to take the entire week off. Heal the foot. Heal the knee. Reevaluate my mental conditioning. Develop a more iron-clad battle plan. This was my Pearl Harbor. This was my personal 9/11. The Tool wants to declare war on my ability to achieve my goals? Well then I’ll bring the battle to him.
“Man imposes his own limitations, don’t set any” – Anthony Bailey