_We were flying down the slopes —we had been skiing for the past 7 days and it was our last afternoon on the mountains. Gabriel had already zoomed ahead of us while Isabela and I were descending in synchronized parallel zigzags. We were on a steep slope, a black diamond, it was windy so that the snow had iced hard as rock.
I awoke to the annoyance of the emergency room lights. On the slopes, I had lost control and hit my neck on the ice, lost consciousness for a few minutes, and awakened not knowing where I was. My eyes were open, yet I was completely lost. Later, Gabriel, our son, told me that I was speaking incoherences and did not know that we were in Spain for a family holiday.
At the clinic, there was nothing they could do. After resting for about an hour, I was let go, but before I left, the doctor advised me to be alert for any new symptoms.
Our family was all packed and ready to go. We got in the car and drove for 3 hours to Zaragoza. I had had a concussion before, and I thought to myself “not a big deal, I’ll be ok.”
Little did I know…
After the impact had begun to settle on my body, the effects began to show. I couldn’t keep my head raised because of the neck impact. The movement of my left pupil was lost, so my balance was in shambles. I always had speech issues, but this time not even my kids were able to understand me. Until that time, I never knew what a migraine felt like; the headaches became a constant thing and at night were so strong that I had to hide in the darkness.
I couldn’t focus, recall events or express myself; a sharp-constant pain in my neck and forehead would constantly hang on me. Running, which was my go-to training, was impossible, and at night I began hiding from people. In the darkness I drank plenty of wine to put myself to sleep. Depressed and with an extra 20 pounds, I became a disaster.
Progressively, with the help of my wife and many specialists -speech, physical, and others- I began to improve. But not enough until Dr Fotuhi, a neurologist, took over my case. When he began to treat me, my brain capacity was at 40%, and I left with over 90%. Dr Fotuhi said, “Your capacity might be better than when you were in your 20s.”
Without hurrying, Nesrin and I began walking every day, then slowly that walk became a leisurely jog. At the same time, I stopped drinking completely which gave me the strength to get involved with yoga through our daughter Daniela. Gradually, my jogging became stronger, until the point that 2 weeks ago I was able to finish, but barely, a 17 mile run.
I thought to myself, “I’m ready for the marathon.” I had been aiming at the Marine Corps Marathon, a yearly event that occurs during the fall in the DC area. “How difficult could it be to finish a 26.2 mile run?” Piece of cake.
I knew that registration was way overdue —it opens at the beginning of March and it only takes a few hours to close. I posted a message on their official FB page anyway, looking for a bib transfer, yearning ironically that someone might have gotten “injured” and wouldn’t be able to run. It took a couple of days for someone to respond. Tom was not happy, but had to give up his space because of an injury :(
After my first long run, I was exhausted, and it took me a week to recuperate; that was a week before the race. On Monday, I decided to do a fast 8 mile run and that was it. My marathon training was finished, and for the remaining days I focused on doing yoga, working on my core, and stretching my little legs.
_At 6:30 am on Sunday, me and another 10,000 people were walking towards the starting line. We were all covered with make-shift garbage bags ponchos; it was pouring rain. By 7:55 we were out; I had been running all my life, and two weeks before I was able to finish a 17 mile run, so I had set in my mind that I could finish this race in under 4 hours.
I stayed next to a pace setter that was aiming for four hours. At the 12th mile, I was feeling strong, partnered with a gentleman from Costa Rica who was committed to finishing the marathon under 4. By the 16th mile I began to feel the effects of the lack of training and by the 18th mile I was truly feeling it, but I was determined to finish under 4. By the time I reached the 22nd mile, my legs said to me, “What are you doing, you haven't prepared for this?” My Vastus Lateralis and Medialis began to cramp —I was having painful contractions of my thighs. I had to slow down, and at that moment I saw my partner leaving me behind.
This point of the race is when your mind begins to play games; this is the moment that you say to yourself, “What am I doing here,” the moment that you think about quitting. But this is when you need to switch your mind set: “I only have 4 miles to the end, this is what I run every morning with Nesrin, this is what I do before breakfast,” and you manage to get a burst of energy. By the 24th mile my legs said “that’s it;” now my calfs began to cramp, and truly for a moment I was paralized, but pushed myself to keep going at a fast walking pace that became a slow-motion jog. I was not planning to quit. By the time I managed to arrive at the finish line, the only thing that kept my legs moving was the momentum of my arms, swinging like a pendulum. .
Crossing the finish line, I was wiped-out, feeling like a wet, wounded animal. To my surprise I found Nesrin, Daniela and Isabela waiting for me, proud of what I had accomplished. At that moment, I felt like a wet, wounded Superman :)