Okay, all suspense aside, this will be my last blog post. I've given it a LOT of thought and for a variety of reasons I think it's the right time to wind the blog down .
Rather than continuing to blog about myself, I'm going to take a "back seat" and my plan is to read and comment on others blogs and keep connected with all my blog found friends through twitter.
For any that have contributed to the Training Payne Party Fund and feel they didn't get their monies worth, or want the beer and cigar back that they bought me, drop me an email. My customer service staff will be glad to handle your full or partial refund. Just like Wal-mart, no questions asked.
Or, if you've always wanted to donate to the Training Payne Party Fund and buy me a beer and or cigar, or give more, now's your chance.
Now, from this point on, pack a breakfast, lunch and dinner, this post is a long one. You may need all week to read it in chunks and get through the videos.
If your not interested in my NYC Marathon race report and just want to know about my long promised P.F.G. (Previous Fat Guy) Story , you can scroll all the way to the bottom.
I started this blog November 12, 2007 as Alice, Reid and I drove to Philadelphia for the marathon. It was my final event of the year after losing 50 lbs earlier in the summer doing triathlons and running races. My goal was to finish under 4 hours and I did a 3:58:44.
Fast forward three years and it's now Nov 8th, 2010 and Alice and I travelled to NYC for the marathon. So many wonderful things have happened over the last three years. My life has literally transformed, and the beauty is I can always look back those 1034 blog posts and relive every minute of it.
I've also experienced so much in those three years that I can always draw strength from it. No one can take away what I've accomplished and when I hit future road blocks I know "nothing's impossible".
With that said, on to the good stuff. In short, this visit in New York City for the marathon was the BEST time I've ever had in New York City. Which means a lot. I used to go there for business, with some pleasure trips in between all the time.
We drove to and flew out of Buffalo Friday afternoon. Other than a huge Customs line up at the border and making it to the airport "just in time", the flight was uneventful.
This was the first time I ever used Priceline.com to "bid for" and book a hotel. We lucked out and I'm going to use them all the time from now on. We got the Millennium beside the United Nations. Of all the NYC hotels I've ever stayed in, this room was the best.
They put us on the 36th floor, two floors from the top. The view was spectacular with unobstructed views of the East River, the Williamburg Bridge, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Tower and the City landscape.
The first thing we did after checking into our hotel was head to the Jacob Javits center to pick up my race kit. When we got there it was 6:30 pm and registration was to close at 7 pm.
It was the perfect time to go, it wasn't overly busy and we "flew through". I spoke to others that went earlier in the day and they said there was LONG line-ups and it was slow moving.
Until I showed up at the registration and expo, I didn't have a good understanding of "how large and prestigious" the NYC marathon is. Immediately, you first notice it is one "huge" logistical event.
I've got to say, the minute I walked into the Jacob Javits center to register, I felt out of place. Everywhere were runners and here I am a triathlete and I felt I was "crashing" their event. If it was just a regular marathon that you didn't have to qualify for, I may have felt differently, even though I earn the right to be there.
I started as a runner. I run all the time as part of my training. I enjoy running. With that said, I don't look at myself as a runner. Triathletes even look different runners. Most of the people that I could tell run often were "slight or skinny" in build and even their "heads" looked thin and some had that "skeletor" and even somewhat "unhealthy" look.
I don't want to make this part of the post sound like triathletes are superior to runners. I don't believe that. My point is just to illustrate the differences I felt between a major running event and an Ironman.
The major difference I noticed at the event expo when people were buying race imprinted clothing, was the energy. Runners are somewhat friendly, yet stay to themselves. Many were shopping alone. It's not as "family oriented" and as electric as an Ironman expo.
Before the start of the race, as I was waiting in my bib coloured village, I hung out with the wife of a multiple Ironman finisher. She's a runner and has even run a 3:10 marathon. She has also been to three Ironmans and agreed 100% with my assessment of the atmosphere differences between Ironmans and marathons. She also said that if she could get over her fear of biking, she'd love to start doing triathlons.
During the registration process I had some questions and I'm not sure if they were volunteers or paid help, but everyone was very knowledgeable and helpful. Another difference with the NYC Marathon that I've never seen with any others is "the amount of rules".
I guess with all the people and incredible logistics required to get everyone to the start line, they have strict rules about when and where you need to be. If you mess-up, you are out of luck and will not race. It makes sense, the race is the largest marathon in the world and this year I heard they had 48,000 runners and had over 125,000 people apply to get in. It has an economic impact of $250 millions to New York.
The selection and design creativity of clothing at the expo was a little disappointing. Very standard running specific training wear. Unlike the Ironman which has lots of very cool stuff. Alice and I each got a top, but it was more of a "we really should get a piece of clothing with the NYC Marathon logo on it" as opposed to "wow, this is cool, I gotta have it".
Again, with all that said, it was still a very good expo. The one thing I noticed "throughout" the event was the amount of "non-English" speaking people. It really added to the "International flavour and scope of the event". A few times throughout the event I went to ask someone something and they didn't speak English.
Once we dropped my registration and clothing stuff off at the hotel it was around 8 pm and that is when the fun really began. Earlier in the day, just before I had a couple of beers at the airport, I made a "line of scrimmage" decision, "to care more about having fun than performing well at the race".
My thoughts were the NYC marathon is "a victory lap". Although qualifying for Boston would be cool, it wasn't a priority. Even when I qualified for NYC, I didn't know it until afterward. It was never even a goal and I only registered for it to experience what others had said is a great marathon.
Before we got to New York, I was a little concerned about our hotel location, we were on 44th street and 1st avenue. Being somewhat on the"fringe" of the City, I thought we would have to do a lot of walking to get to any fun places. I was WRONG!!! DEAD WRONG!!!
When Alice and I go to New York, we like to go with no plans. We're not theatre people and the best times we've had in New York is when we just walk around and stop at places in a serendipitous fashion.
Our first stop was to carbo-load at a nice Italian restaurant. The service was great in the beginning and dropped off a little at the end. I don't think they are used to replacing Amstel Lights so quickly.
Our next stop was just around the block at Muldoon's Irish Pub. It was too much fun. Alice and I eventually saddled up to the bar and started talking with the young bartender Shane, he was direct from Ireland.
The drinks keep pouring and eventually I asked Shane if he had four friends that wanted to help me with my "beer marathon". Twenty six beers in twenty six miles. I don't think he could believe I was having so many beers only two sleeps before the marathon and wanted me to come back the following night. He was going to bring some friends to party with us.
Before the end of the night I gave Shane one of my new "Live Yourself to Death" business cards, he loved it. I then asked a Black Guy who came in the bar with his 17 year old son if he could help me out with four friends for my "beer marathon" aspirations. He couldn't and before I left our conversation I gave him an "LYTD" business card.
Eventually Shane's shift ended and we decided to leave. Along the way, we opened the door of another bar, looked in, it was full of rugged looking barfly's and stunk like mold. We stepped three feet inside, turned around and left.
On the street corner we bumped into a guy named Joe Baldwin and a group of girls that were part of some performing group from Chicago. By this time, Alice and I had each probably set an all time PB on the party level scale, we were feeling NO pain.
We asked the group if they wanted to join us as we were moving on to our next adventure. Unfortunately, they couldn't. I think it was something about having to get back to Chicago. Before we left, I gave Joe one of my "LYTD" cards and he gave me one of his.
Our next stop was just one block around the next corner at "The Perfect Pint". In one word, it was "AWESOME". It's the BEST pub I've EVER been too. It was late and there was maybe 20 people left in the bar and it was still rocking. The music was blaring and the energy was fantastic. There was young and old alike partying. Very New York crowd.
I knew we were at the perfect place when I asked for an Amstel and they asked if I wanted a bottle or "draught". I thought, "WOW!!! Amstel on draught? That's unheard of, yes please!"They brought me my beer in the most beautiful Amstel glass I've ever seen. It was a footed pilsner glass and with a gold rim.
Immediately after I had my first beer I hid the glass in my inside jacket pocket. After I finished the second beer I too put that glass in my other inside pocket. There was "no way" I was leaving this bar without those glasses.
When the young Irish bartender brought me my third beer, I showed him the glasses hidden in my jacket and told him I was leaving with these and he wasn't stopping me. He laughed and gave me the thumbs up. He was smart, it only works to his advantage when I leave, he knows he's probably going to get a nice tip, which he did.
I can't express how great the Perfect Pint was, it easily topped Muldoon's, which wasn't easy. Even the food was awesome. We ordered a late night snack of Buffalo wings and fries. The wings were easily the best I've ever had. They were huge and tasty.
We ended up leaving at around 4 am and the bar was still going. I guess the Perfect Pint doesn't close until the last person decides to leave and we weren't the last. You gotta love New York.
I tend to always have a good time where ever I go, but this night was special. It was "too much fun".
The next morning I woke up just before noon and saw my two beautiful looking Amstel glasses staring at me. Whenever I look at those glasses, I'll never forget "the best night we've ever had in New York".
Surprisingly, I didn't feel too bad when I woke up. We decided to walk down to Times Square and then over to Central Park to find a rendezvous point for after the race. I was given great advice by Chris Baker that trying to find your loved ones is near impossible after the race. The crowds are insane.
Along the way we saw the shooting of a movie, someone said it was called "Man on a Ledge" and it was literally a man stories up on a ledge with an airbag below. We were hoping we'd get to see him jump. It was really cool to watch how they were filming it with the different cameras coming off the building.
After a mediocre lunch that they gave me for free because it was poorly cooked, we walked to Central Park. I made one bad mistake, I wore my street shoes. Up until now I've been wearing "flip flops" and my feet weren't yet adjusted to my shoes. My right baby toe started rubbing and I could feel a blister coming on. Not good when you have a marathon to run the next day.
We scoped out the park and the finish line. Along the way we saw a women wearing an Ironman Kentucky finishers jacket and having "major fun" with her friends under the 26 mile marker. At first she was taking a photo carrying her friend on her back and then for some reason a few of them were lying on the ground posing for more pictures. All I remember was the laughter and people walking by and wondering what these crazy women were doing. Typical crazy Ironman spirit.
Rather than walk, we cabbed it back to the hotel and had a blissful Saturday afternoon 3-hour plus nap. At one point I woke up and there was a documentary about the history of the NYC marathon and it's founder Fred Lebow .
Watching it really helped me get into the marathon spirit. The story was fascinating and knowing the background really added to knowing the significance of the event. It added to the overall experience.
We woke up and it was dark outside, it was dinner time. We eventually ended up at "Sparks Steakhouse" and went for a big piece of "cow".
Earlier this week, during an ART treatment, as I was lying on my back, the doctor lifted my leg in the air and caused a small rip in my two to three year old jeans. The ones Alice hates because they are so old. As I was getting ready for dinner, I bent down to put on my shoes and "rip", the jeans had a tear at least 6 inches long.
I was already bloated and have gained probably 5 - 7 lbs since Kona from less training, more food and more partying. The ripped jeans made me feel so fat. Not to mention uncomfortable. As I walked, people behind me could see my underwear, especially as we walked to our table at Sparks.
The food was okay, I was hoping for more, especially when the bill is over $200. On the way out of the restaurant, I covered my "butt" with my jacket. On the way to the hotel we just happened upon a Jean store that was near closing. The guy helping us was great and before I knew it I was in a new pair of, albeit tight, Jeans and felt like a new man.
We stopped at the liquor store and picked up some pre-race snacks. I didn't want to drink too much before the race, so I settled for a 6-pack of Amstel and 4 little bottles of "Molley's" Irish Cream. I rarely drink liquor and I don't know why, but I had the "urge" for some.
For the rest of the night, we hung out in the hotel room watching TV, relaxing and drinking cocktails. I finished my alcoholic "hydration fluids" and we got to bed around 11 pm. I was so concerned about getting up on time as not to miss the bus to Staten Island that I had a poor sleep.
I was in the first wave of three and my group started at 9:40 am. I was on the bus at 5:15 am and at the race site just before 6 am. For the next 3 hours and 40 minutes I had to wait until the race start, and it was cold outside, about 38 F.
There was some people that were prepared for the wait and cold. They brought sleeping bags, pillows and even cardboard to lie down on. The organizers had big white tents set up and virtually every inch of space on the ground had people lying down and sleeping.
I tried the sleeping thing, it didn't work for me. Even though I had a few layers on, it was still too cold. I eventually found an area to stand and then sit in and started talking to the people around me. I really enjoyed talking and getting to know the people around me, it made the time pass easier.
One guy I was speaking to had done 7 marathons. He just turned 50 years old and this was going to be his last marathon. Another guy was doing his first and he was looking forward to going to " Peter Luger Steak House " to celebrate on Monday.
The final person in our group was a women Ironman from San Francisco who had just done the San Francisco marathon a few weeks ago and had run Boston in 2005. Her self-proclaimed biggest claim to fame was being an extra in "The Bachelor" with Chris O'Donnell . She was one of the running brides who almost caught him as he ran away.
Eventually it was time to take off the warm clothes. There was 70 UPS trucks lined up by bib numbers that were transport the morning and post race clothing to the finish line. The race was a point to point. Again, the rules were "strict" and I pushed my way to the truck just to get my clothes into the truck before the time deadline.
I was going to put all my warm-up clothes in the bag and decided not to, it was too cold to part with my black long sleeve "Suck it Up" shirt. Even though I know I'd have to take it off just before the gun went off and discard it, never to see it again, it was a trade off I was prepared to make. I figured I could always order another one with "Suck it Up" on the front and "Live Yourself to Death" on the back.
The process was to put your pre-and-post bag in the trucks by 8:10 am and then we had to get into our corrals and wait for the 9:40 start. Luckily along the way, I was able to get a green garbage bag that I wore over my shirt. Even then I was still cold.
As we got to the start line for the final 30-minute wait, people were discarding there clothes for charity. I discarded mine and the 31-year old Ironman's wife I hung out with until the start did the same. In less than 5 minutes we decided to pick up someone else's clothes and wear them, it was too cold not to. I lucked out and found a blanket.
I had NO IDEA the New York City marathon had so much waiting time. I didn't even know it had three waves starting at 9:40 and then every 30 minutes thereafter. I didn't even really read the athletes information until late last week and assumed the race was going to start like most at 7 am and booked my return flights accordingly.
Based on thinking it was a 7 am race start, I originally booked our return flight for 2:35 pm. While I was waiting for the race to start, I called Jet Blue and changed our flight for 4:59 pm and even that was going to be tight to make.
At least I knew I was hydrated, I probably took 4 pees before the race started. I had to go so bad 30 seconds before the gun went off, I peed between two buses that were set up to be one of the corral walls. The officials were trying to keep people from peeing and at one point I got chased from a bush, pre-pee, with an official with a camera phone taking photo's of guys that were peeing and their race numbers. Those must have been some funny shots, with their wieners hanging out below their race number. I escaped in the nick of time.
I can't tell you how much I wanted this race to start so I could just start running to warm-up. The gun eventually went off and it was less conjestion than I thought it would be. There was three start lines and each runs a different route, eventually blending together at the 4-mile mark.
Almost immediately we ran over the Venrazzano-Narrows Bridge into Brooklyn. Our group was on the second level in the shade and with the wind blowing across the bridge, it was tough to warm up. The bridge is over a mile long and I was so looking forward to getting off it and into the sunshine. The one upside of the day was it was sunny with a blue sky.
From the beginning I felt good and was running well. It was hard to know my pace, being on the second level of the bridge knocked out my GPS. When I emerged from the bridge I reset my Garmin and was running around a 7:17 per mile pace. It felt comfortable, although my heart rate was around 155-160 for most of the running portion of the race. About 10 bpm than I would have liked.
When I went for my pee before the start, I lost sight of the girl I'd been talking to for almost two hours, I think her name was Christina. She was shooting for a 3:20 and I eventually caught up to her and passed her around the 5-mile mark.
Around the two mile mark of the marathon, the crowds grew large and were amazing. For about 80 - 90% of the race they lined the streets and were two to three or more people deep. It was crazy. Over the entire course there must have been a million or more people. I was listening to music on my iPhone and even at the highest level, for most of the race couldn't hear the songs that were playing due to the crowd noise and bands playing along the way.
Never in a million years did I imagine the size and never-ending line of the crowds. That alone was worth the experience of running the NYC Marathon. In a way I wished I was better trained and not so mentally burnt out from doing 4-Ironmans this year so I could have enjoyed and taken in the sights and sounds more.
For the most part, mentally, I just wanted the race to be over. I was running well and passed the halfway point at 1:40:09 and figured I was running perfect to finish just under 3:30 and qualify for Boston. Then around mile 16 the lower part of my outer right knee ligament started to hurt slightly.
I slowed down to an 8:00 minute per mile pace. For a "split second" I wanted to stop and quit, I didn't want to injure myself and then had flash-backs to my DNF in China and remember vowing I'd never quit a race without medical personnel taking me off the course.
I kept going as best I could. Eventually by mile 19 I was done, my knee was bothering me more, and with almost a month off of intense training since Kona, my ligaments and joints had obviously weaked.
Rather than get down on myself, I justified it. Since Kona I'd only run 8-times for a total of 98.49 kms with my longest run being 22.20 kms. I'd also been suffering with a buttocks / hip injury. Only a week and a half ago, it was so bad I almost pulled out of the race. I felt no disgrace in finishing slower than I hoped.
Justifyably, my body wasn't prepared to run a marathon and I was a little upset I didn't see that beforehand. Again, for a "split second" I thought I should have "withdrawn last week and done it next year when I was ready". Then I snapped myself out of it.
I said to myself, "What? It was worth coming to New York if for nothing else but the AWESOME time Alice and I had together. That alone I wouldn't want to trade for the world. Now snap out of it and no matter what, you're going to finish this race and get that medal. No regrets".
For the next 7-miles I walked. My knee wasn't in pain when I walked. Every once in a while I'd try to run, but after about 100 - 200 yards my knee would hurt and I'd stop. I rationalized it by saying, "you're an Ironman and this race means NOTHING. You had an outstanding year, qualified and finished Kona and you have "nothing" left to prove. This race is just your victory lap".
Walking the New York Marathon is not easy. Other than the Hasidic Jew section of Brooklyn and bridges, the roads are lined with people cheering. When we ran through the Hasidic Jew area, I didn't see one person cheer or clap and it seemed they were more "pissed off" they couldn't walk from one side of the street to the other.
If there is a group of people that look or dress more ugly than the Hasidic Jews, I've never seen them. As I was running through the area, all the men and women wore the same clothes, down to the panty hose on woman. They were the kind of panty hose my great grandmother use to wear, more like a leotard. I can't imagine the clothing stores needing much of a fashion selection, other than size.
I decided to walk more in the center of the road away from the crowds. I wanted to be in my own little world and was somewhat embarrassed that I was walking, especially when your very noticable wearing a captains hat.
The pleasant part was when I was walking near crowds they were very supportive and non-judgemental. Instead of saying, "come-on pick it up you can do it", they were cheering, "your in the home stretch, you're almost there", especially in Harlem.
It was really cool to "walk" through Harlem. Although the crowds weren't as large, they had great cheering spirit. It was a lot nicer looking community than I thought it would be and the people seemed nice, many were video taping the race.
I was lucky enough to get video interviewed before the race. My Captains hat drew the attention of a videographer hired for the the post-race video and he interviewed me for a few minutes. It will be interesting to see if I get on the post-race DVD. That would be cool.
The one thing about Harlem, is they have the greatest music and bands playing. Not to take away from Brooklyn, but Harlem's music has "soul". Once I started walking, I figured I better make the best of it and capture the sights and sounds on my iPhone with photo's and video. One women in Harlem was singing so good, I had to stop and capture her on video.
With 6 miles to go there was many other people walking, which makes it easier, you don't stand out as much. I was hoping that maybe I'd meet someone and we could talk our way to the finish. That was a no go. Most seemed to be in their "hurt locker" or "didn't speak English".
Other than the balls of my feet hurting from walking, mentally I felt a 7 on 10. In a perverse way I was curious to see what a 7 mile walk was going to feel like. I'm not trained to walk. I'd much rather run than walk any day, it's easier.
I think I was walking at around a 13:00 minute mile pace and doing the finish line math. At one point I thought to push the knee and finish sub 4-hours and then thought, "Why?" what difference is 10 or 20 minutes going to make in the grand scheme of things other than risking longer term injury and recovery. So I walked, and "every once in a while" would try to run until the pain started, which came in shorter intervals each time.
With two miles to go, I became verclement. I thought "Victory Lap", er walk, and started thinking of the last three years of my journey. I had flashbacks to that first race in Milton when my wetsuit was too tight and I finished 549 - 613 and how far I've come since then. Then I started thinking of my P.F.G Story and the last 10 years of my journey and I really became verclement.
Never in a million years did I think the last three years would have been as specatular as they've been. During that period of time not only did I exceed any triathlon dream goals I had, but my personal being transformed.
For a long-time, I've been wanting to get "choked up" and have a "good sniffle" as I was finishing one of my Ironmans. I had experienced that once when I finished my first Ironman in 1987 and have "pined" for it ever since.
As I thought back to my story and where I've been and what I accomplished, I started to get that tingly feeling and although I didn't cry, I welled up. It was the moment I've been waiting for and savoured the flavour. Had the crowds not lined the course, I probably would have shed a tear or two.
I finished the race and ran the last 200 meters. I was proud of finishing, especially having to walk so far. I forgot to mention that one of my motivations was knowing that Simon didn't quit this year and walked much of Ironman China and Kentucky. I was inspired by his "finish at all costs" attitude, no matter how bad he felt or how much it hurt. I was determined to do the same.
I'm very proud that I finished. Walking is far from easy, both physically and mentally. The other thing is Marathons are tough. Weirdly, I find them tougher than an Ironman and the people that run marathons are not to be "snubbed" as inferior by Ironman.
Marathoners may be different and not as "crazy" or "obsessive compulsive" as Ironman, but none the less, it is a huge accomplishment to finish a marathon. The common bond between Marathons and Ironmans is the level of pain and suffering.
The New York City marathon is actually longer than 26.2 miles. If you factor in the walking to get your gear and get out of the park it's more like 29 - 30 miles. The race ends around 62 street and I had to walk up to 85 th street just to get out of the park and then back track down Central Park West to find Alice around 70th Street then walk some more to TRY and find a cab to the airport.
We couldn't get a cab, but did get a pedi-cab who cycled us about 20 blocks to find one. The worst part of the pedi-cab ride was the discust I had afterwards when he told me the ride was $100. He said the rates went up because of the marathon.
I argued the sign had lower rates and he didn't tell us the cost before hand. He said, "you didn't ask". I was too tired to ague and had to get to the airport in 40 minutes in order to catch our flight. We settled at $70 and he wouldn't take a credit card, his machine apparently didn't work. It's guys like that that put a "black eye" on New York.
I was so discusted I couldn't speak. We scrounged up $50 and then he said he'll accept Canadian for the balance. I gave him $20 and then he said that wasn't enough. I argued that the exhange is essentially at par and he insisted it wasn't. Again, I was too tired, pissed off and in a rush to argue and gave him the last $4 american I had.
Thinking back now and after missing our flight anyways, I so wished I would have said "NO". I wished I would have told him to call a cop and lets discuss this with him and let him decide how much I should pay. To put it in perspecitve, our cab ride to JFK Airport was only $45. Oh how I wished I could get a redo with that "scumbag".
We managed to get a cab and I changed inside as we drove to the airport, which wasn't easy with sore and tired legs and very little room. Along the way, traffic was bad and making our 4:59 pm flight was going to be tight.
It was close, we would have made our flight had it not been for the Jet Blue phone agent who screwed up the flight change I called in while I waited for the marathon to start. It took the counter agent 20 minutes to sort it out and by that time our plane had left. We were lucky enough to get the last two seats on the flight leaving 90 minutes later, which ended up being delayed another 90 minutes for an engine mechanical problem.
The good news is the engine worked properly and we arrived safely and "sailed through the border", it was the first time I've never had to wait for a car in front of us. When I got home, it was straight to bed to rest my legs and catch up on sleep.
All and all, New York and the marathon was great. I wouldn't trade it for the world. It was truly my victory lap and the end of one chapter in my life and the beginning of another. The "Training Payne" journey has been awesome in so many respects.
I've mentioned in the past that after Kona I was going to tell my P.F.G Story and what motivated me to get back into shape. As promised, here it is.
My P.F.G (Previous Fat Guy) Story
Writing this story was not easy. I waffled back and forth about sharing it since pre and post Kona, it's very personal. The deciding factor that pushed me to write about it, was thinking that it might give hope and inspiration to someone who needs it.
So here it is...
Cutting right to the chase, on December 13th, 2000 I was admitted into the hospital after a manic-episode where I thought I had "the formula to peace and happiness on Earth". I was diagnoised as bipolar and spend the next 6-days under observation.
I didn't believe I was bipolar and after a good night sleep I felt "like my normal self" and even continued to do business on the phone the next day, talking to employees and customers from a hospital ward communal hall phone.
The doctors tried to convince me I was "text book bipolar" and I didn't believe them. I felt I was on to something big and my symptoms was just my personality. I opted NOT to take the medication they prescribed. Under doctors orders and the law behind the hospital I had to stay in observation for 6-days against my will.
The next five and a half years my life was a "living hell". No one knew it, other than Alice. I kept it well hidden and functioned professionally and in public like I always did. The hospitalization experience had "shaken my confidence to the core".
I had never been "insecure" ever in my life and here I was "a shell of my former self". The lack of confidence and insecurity also caused "extreme paranoia". If Alice left the house, I would wonder where she was going and if she had a boyfriend. It was bad and completely unreasonable. I didn't feel worthy.
Prior to my hospitalization, that summer I'd gotten back in reasonable shape and ran a 3:45 marathon. By Christmas, after the hospitalization, I was a basket case and mentally "started feeling trapped and in a prison in my mind".
I was still working hard career wise and no one at work or family other than Alice knew the extent to which I was feeling. By-enlarge I kept up a strong front and acted as I always had, but inside I was dying.
I continued to travel and the business climate got tougher and in my mental state it just added to the stress I was feeling. I stopped exercising and started drinking more, especially on weekends. It was my form of escape. My life was a daily struggle. At home I was irritable, demanding, depressed, manic, insecure, extremely self-centered and not what I would consider a good father or husband. Those were very "dark" days.
The following year an opportunity to buy a business in Toronto presented itself, and we bought it. Shortly thereafter, the business climate got worse than anticipated. Technology was changing our industry dramatically and I started travelling and living in Toronto from Monday to Friday to help replace lost business and course a new direction.
This added to the stress, and living at a distance caused an even greater disconnect with respect to Alice and the kids. Even getting sales was tougher than ever and I started to gain weight, eventually reaching 227 lbs when the "infamous" Cuba vacation beach shot was taken as I was lying on a lawn chair with my shirt off in all my glory.
The downside to bipolar is the depression, the upside is the mania. New and exciting challenges and opportunities have always been fun for me until they became "mundane". In 2004, I hit an all time low and I needed a change, which precipited the move of my family to Toronto, which at the time was against Alice's will.
I felt I needed to be part of my family, the travel back and forth was tough, I had lost all perspective, I wasn't mentally stable and felt the family moving to Toronto would solve all those problems. It helped, for a while.
Fast forward to July 2005, I was fat, which is NOT a good thing in the cosmopolitan City of Toronto where fat is a sign of weakness, which added to my lack of self-image and confidence.
Eventually, it all came to a head on Sunday August 7th, 2005 when Alice's sisters came to visit. That night we were all partying and after her sisters went to bed, I was extremely drunk and depressed. I had thought of suicide many times in the past as a way of "stopping the pain" but never acted on it. That night, in my druken state I was committed to "stop the pain" and kill myself.
Alice knew what was going on and even though in the past she knew I felt suicidal and it was getting old, she knew it was serious this time. My plan was to run into traffic on the very busy QEW highway not far from our house. Alice fought to keep me from leaving the house and laid on top of me all night to make sure I didn't leave.
The next morning, for the first time ever, Alice said, "I think you may in fact be bipolar and we can't live like this anymore, you need help". For the first time ever, I agreed and immediately got on the phone to the Canadian Mental Illness Association for help.
Normally it takes months to have a phychiartist to see you, but because I was diagnosed with bipolar in the past and never treated with drugs, I qualified for "the first eposide program" at St. Joesph's hospital and got "red carpet" treatment. Finding someone like me for their research study, someone who has never taken medication, is like trying to find a "needle in the haystack". I was in for an assessment and treatment within days.
I had all but given up on thinking the years of mental torture I was feeling would get better. It started when I was around 14 years old. I'm not sure if it was genetic and or induced from something traumatic I may have experienced growing up. Alice thinks it may be the later.
Regardless of the cause, all I know is meeting Alice at the age of 16 was a life saver. Had I not, I doubt I'd be alive today. Even at 15 years old I ran away from home and got caught at the border trying to make it to the United States. I could only imagine what would have happened to my life had I ended up making it to California as a bipolar runaway.
I was depressed and manic as an adolescent and although I coped with it over the years, it got worse as I got older. The only thing that could keep me balanced was my love for Alice and her gentle and loving nature in dealing with me.
After that crazy night in August, I finally got help and was 100% committed to getting better. If I didn't get better, I didn't want to live. They recommended medication, which after great relucance I took. My fear was I was going to end up like the guys in the movie, "One Flew Over the Cooko's Nest". After they said I could stop if I didn't like it or it changed my personality to the "zommie" I feared, I could go off it. I had nothing to lose.
I also picked up a lot of books about bipolar. Truthfully, I really didn't know that much about it and immersed myself in learning and understanding what I needed to do to live a healthy, productive and happy life. Again, I was committed 100% to getting better, life was unbearable otherwise.
A day or two after I started taking the medication, the change seemed near immediate. I felt like I had when I was 14 years old. My mind slowed down and everything smelt and tasted better. My irriatablity and paranoia was gone. I remember going to a Blue Jays game and actually being able to watch the game and enjoy it without the distraction of my mind racing. I'll never forget that day at the ball park.
In the beginning, the doctor and nurse who treated me through the research program saw me a couple days a week, then weekly and then monthly. Whatever I needed, they gave. We talked through a lot of issues and feelings. They also had me do a lot of cognative and medical testing, which even included MRI's. St. Joe's is known as one of the premier Canadian Hospitals to deal with mental health issues, I couldn't be in better hands. I was getting World Class treatment.
I made quick progress and lucked out from day one in finding a drug and dosage that worked for me. Other people will go years experimenting to find a drug that works for them. It's not uncommon that a person will find a drug and dosage that works for them today and for some reason, over time, it just stops working.
I was also committed to "getting well". For four years I kept a daily record of how I felt, how much I slept, how much I drank, how much I exercised, the level of any anxiety, depression and mania and even how much I weighed or vitamins and dosages I took. I used a chart I found on the Internet and never missed a day of filling it in.
During every visit to the hospital I would review it with my dedicated nurse. She often said she wished all her patients would do the same. Taking drugs is only one part of the equation, I also wanted to learn about myself and what would trigger a mental imbalance, recording my emotions daily and reviewing them helped me do that, along with professional advice.
I also recorded everything because a side effect of bipolar is poor memory and I didn't want to give intuitive answers. I needed to have factual data that would allow me to recognize trends. Which I did, some of my triggers are seasonal. My nurse said I was unusual, as I'm a high functioning bipolar person.
I'm not alone in that respect, there is many high-functioning people who are bipolar like Ben Stiller, Jim Carrey, Ted Turner, Winston Churchill and Abe Lincoln to name just a handful. The more I learnt about bipolar, I found that many successful people were bipolar and it's not unmanageable and can even be a gift in certain respects.
It wasn't easy, but within a year I was mentally stable and ready to take the next step. I was still very unhappy about my health and weight problems. I felt self-conscouis about being fat. Whenever I spoke to my advisor nurse, I'd tell her I hate being fat and inside I knew I was an Ironman.
By May 2007, after 18 months of treatment and complaining and feeling self-conscious, I was ready to tackle my health and weight issues. I figured the best I'd ever felt was when I was between the ages of 19 - 24 years old. Those were the years I quit drinking and got into triathlons and exercised regularly.
I found after getting treatment and learning about bipolar that the "best kept secret" is regular exercise can help balance the brain chemistry in bipolar people. No wonder I felt a little better during those younger Ironman years. I even found that the more I exercised, the less I needed medication and had them reduce my dosage.
The days from November 12, 2007 until present were blog documented daily. I started training in May, 2007 and lost 50 lbs and by the end of my first year, had completed a half-Ironman and capped it off with the Philadelphia marathon. That's were my daily posts began.
In the process, I got my life back. I felt whole again. I feel like the real me is the person I now see in the mirror. My security and self-confidence returned, stronger and with more balance. I also found my patience improved. It was something I hadn't felt since I was a young kid.
The help from St. Joes and getting back into triathlons and the love of Alice saved my life. The research program ended prematurely after four years of me being in it, I think they lost funding or access to qualified patients. My nurse couldn't believe the progress I'd made and she called me their "star patient".
Even though I was stable for close to three years by that point, I did and I didn't want to cut the cord with the hospital. I was afraid to mess with success and I didn't want to go back to my old-self. Although I didn't want to be reminded that I was bipolar everytime I showed up.
They said everything will be alright, they'd be there if I needed them and felt my personality wouldn't allow me to go back to my old self or not be goal driven. They were right and I found that to be true in the end.
What bothered me in the beginning was feeling I had an mental illness and classifying myself as bipolar, as if I wasn't a "whole person". Now I don't even think about it. I consider being bipolar similar to that of being a diabetic, it's just something you have to deal with. It's not you, it's your brain chemistry and there's effective ways to manage it.
I don't want to make bipolar sound bad or like a death sentence. It's not. There is many things that are awesome about being bipolar. The creativity and insight into concepts and self can be amazing.
Complex abstract concepts, multi-tasking, along with being visionary and tackling things with high energy come natural to me. Over the years I've found my mind has the ability to process and deal with things quicker than most, which is good and bad. I feel most comfortable in dealing with the unknown and adverse situations. Bipolar people, when not depressed can also be among the most fun people to hang out with.
Many may ask "why do I drink so much beer". The reality is "I love the mania I get when I party". The negative mental effect is the immense "anxiety" I feel the following day. One major reason I train is because it allows me to still be myself and balance out any lifestyle induced mania or depression, which isn't necessarily alcohol induced.
Training has helped me learn how to cognatively cope with being bipolar and recognize what is bipolar thought and behaviour, and what's not. When you train regularly you have plenty of time to think or not. It's very Zen.
I've learnt a lot about myself during those long training sessions and the spirit that lives deep inside. Also, like everyone else, keeping the weight down keeps me self-confident and feeling better about myself.
That is why I can never stop doing triathlons or training. I never want to go back to those very dark days. Days when I wouldn't even attend Christmas dinner or family functions at Alice's or my parents house because I didn't have the energy to be around people. She'd take the kids and I'd stay home "vegging" on the couch watching TV and getting fat.
To be "my true-self", continuing to train is a must, whether I race or not. I have a little extra motivation than most to keep my training up, but doesn't make it easier to put in the miles. I still have to grind it out like everyone else.
So that's my P.F.G. Story. Joining the club and becoming an Ironman helped make me whole again. In fact, I'd say better than whole. I now better know my strengths, my weaknesses and the person within.
I guess that's one reason I wear Ironman clothing and have three Ironman tattoos on my body. To me it's a reminder of the lifestyle that I need to continue to follow for me to be mentally healthy and happy. I can't treat it like a fad. It also reminds me of who I am and what I'm capable of, even as someone who's bipolar. No limitations.
With all that said, life is a constant journey and nothing can be taken for granted. If I lose focus or stop doing what "got me here", I could easily slip back to my former-self. Knowing what needs to be done and making it a priority is half the battle. Committing to keep it up is the other half.
All good things come to an end, and this is that time. Although I'm relucant to stop blogging, in my heart I feel it's the right thing to do. My plan is to build on the past three years and focus my attention on an expanded direction that I wouldn't feel comfortable publicly blogging about.
With that said, I don't plan on going anywhere. I still plan on staying connected and supportive and motivated by the many wonderful people I've met along the "Training Payne" Journey and will stay connected through their blogs, twitter and through racing and training together. This is just a page turner move, not a book finisher.
New York City Marathon - 4:25:18
I've posted five videos today.
-The first is bipolar related..
-The second is from last year, December 7, 2009 and was the day I officially introduced my Journey to Kona, little did I know at the time it wasn't going to happen as expected. (I found it funny to watch with hindsight).
- The third is the result of all my hard work and my Kona finishing video.
-The fourth and last is my most watched video with over 30,000 views. It's my "Triathlon Song - Motivation to Get in Shape". It is the one that I think is the most motivating to pre-P.F.G's and shows it can be done. It still motivates me when I watch it, or need to watch it