Years ago, honing my trail runner vibe, I decided to embrace adverse running conditions. My first run on the Gettysburg horse trail, a six-mile wooded loop around the Gettysburg Battlefield, happened during hurricane Sandy. My work, a YWCA, closed early that day. President Obama came on TV and told businesses to act responsibly. “Don’t add needless rescues to the first responders’ docket,” he said, “get your employees home early.” I missed my workout; I needed something to do.
It might be overkill to call Sandy a hurricane. Sure, she trashed Coney Island and Rockaway Beach, but in the middle of Pennsylvania, we just got a wet and windy storm. I’m sure Susan suggested that running through the woods during a hurricane seemed unwise, but in 2012, my OCD was raging. Once I made a decision, that decision was made. I ran five-miles through ankle deep water keeping my eyes peeled for falling trees.
Since 2012, I’ve run one-hundred-degree Saturday afternoons, fifteen-degree Sunday mornings, braved negative wind chills, storms, humidity, slush, burning sand, and thigh-deep snow. The one adverse condition I shy away from is injury. I take that seriously. I let myself heal.
I’m coming off a two-year running break due to chronic Plantar Fasciitis. Actually, I’ve been “back” for over a year, but getting my mileage back has been hard. I aged during that break. At this point every run feels adverse. I have a high mileage mindset and a low mileage body. I can run ten miles, and I do, but wow, is it hard.
Today I turned fifty-seven. I used my boss’ birthday goodwill to slip out early for a run. By three-thirty I stood at the trailhead throwing my fleece in the car. I squeezed my hand through the strap of my hand-held water bottle, and I trotted off into the woods. This is where the adversity began.
It’s been a pleasant summer. There was a hot spell in July, but all during the spring and late summer we posted relatively cool temperatures. No adversity there. My problem is nutrition. Not long ago, in the middle of a run, walking up a gently sloping grade, I wondered what the hell is wrong with me. I should have been killing the run. Instead the run was killing me. My adverse situation was my diet for the day. Two donuts for breakfast; a Whopper and fries for lunch; two Pop Tarts for calories before the run. I couldn’t run because I was full of crap. Back at home, sweating streaks down my spine for the next two hours, I vowed to do better.
Today, my birthday, I treated myself to a couple of slices of Brother’s Pizza. If Gettysburg has a decent approximation of New York pizza, Brother’s is it. Soft, chewy crust, and gooey, ample cheese. It’s exactly what my doctor told me to avoid. My cholesterol has been high my entire adult life. For years, he let me slide because as a spin instructor, I got so much exercise, my HDL level (known as the ‘good’ cholesterol) was through the roof. I stopped teaching spin classes two years ago, and my HDL has crept down ever since. My last blood test raised a flag. Suddenly I need to start watching my diet.
Around one o’clock today, my coworker Wanda came in to my office with a birthday treat–a Dairy Queen Blizzard. I get a Blizzard about once a month, and I always buy the kids’ size. This always satisfies my Blizzard craving, and it’s not big enough to worry about the cholesterol. Today, Wanda got me a large. A friend once compared me to a rodent. She said if something was put in front of me, I’d eat it. Today, I guess I proved that point. I’ve never eaten a large Blizzard before and I probably won’t again. But as I snarfed that baby down, here’s what I was thinking: I’m already going running, I’ll just run a little farther.
Can the cholesterol you eat during the day turn into an immediate heart attack or stroke? This is what I pondered during my seventy-minute run. That ice cream and cheese was clogging up my veins. Every time things got difficult, a hill, a rock garden, a head wind, I got dizzy. I got breathless. My fingers tingled. Adversity! I thought about the irony of dying on a run on my birthday, and I plodded on. I concentrated on deep breaths, I drank my whole bottle of water, and I completed my run alive.
A birthday is a good day to set a resolution. I’m not a kid any more. I can’t fuel on Burger King and Dunkin Donuts, pizza and Pop Tarts. My diet is so sucky, it’s scaring me on runs. I’ll start tomorrow with oatmeal and fruit, and things will get better from there. Of course, there’s still a half a DQ cake in the freezer. Oh, and that cookout Saturday night.
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