Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday cheer from the threshold of Hell

Happy holidays! I hope that any and all readers had a very merry Christmas. Mine was very nice, spent with both my family and the support staff's family. I actually found some neat presents for my parents this year, and I was happy to be able to surprise them. For example, my poor dad is used to getting bbq spatulas and coffee makers, so he was very surprised to get kayak accessories instead. It made me so happy to see that he was happy with it!

I also received some great fitness gifts, for which I really have to thank my family and support staff. The first I opened up was Wii Fit from my parents. "Pretty cool," I thought. Then I tried it out, and it's much more than just "pretty cool." The yoga and strength training sections are like workout videos, except that the platform senses your motions and center of gravity and it tells you how to readjust your positioning for the proper movement. Very, very, very cool. I'll be working on flexibility and strengthening my core for better posture with this.

My parents also got me a calf-stretcher, which is very useful for me, since my calves are always tight. It gives an even better range of motion than standing on a stair-step. I definitely recommend one if you have trouble with tight calves.Then there was the support staff's gift: a bike trainer - a stand that you prop the back wheel on that provides resistance so you can ride indoors as a stationary bike. I had been wanting one of these for a long time because I want to even out my running and biking, and now it's hooked up to my old Diamondback just waiting for me to ride! I've already done about 40 minutes of cycling on it, even though I haven't moved it to its permanent spot by the treadmill. The support staff will probably help me with that when he comes over to help install a speedometer to go with it.

I made use of all of these fitness gifts this week, so I didn't feel too badly about slacking off with my already minimal runs. I ended up only doing one mile all of last week. I've been reading about running, though, in Once a Runner by John L. Parker, Jr. I like this book, although my running intensity has never been anything like the competitive collegiate track atmosphere that it describes. The book points out that recreational runners don't truly understand the mindset and training of a competitive miler, which actually made me feel slightly offended. In fact, I thought to myself, "Ok, Quentin Cassidy (the protagonist) may run over 100 miles a week and be existing in a state of perpetual exhaustion, but he's never known the pain of running with menstrual cramps."

Famous last words.

Was I trying to jinx myself? (This is where I come to the part of my post in which I describe how I decended to the threshold of Hell this weekend.) It seems that I did jinx myself. I was getting ready Sunday to go into Manhattan to see the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center with my cousin, her husband, and my sister, when I started to feel some cramps. I prepared myself somewhat in case the inevitable came around, and began on my merry way. I drove an hour to my cousin's house, which is about 25 miles from New York, and we took a bus into the city from there. The bus ride should have taken about an hour, but it was a beautiful day, and everyone else and their cousin also decided to go to the city, so the ride took 2 hours. During the course of this (bumpy stop-and-go) ride, the inevitable did come around. I was uncomfotable with cramps, but I figured that it was no big deal and I could handle it. Until we pulled into the Port Authority and took the escalator down into crowded stuffiness and I knew that I was going to throw up.

Maybe it was just that time of the month, maybe it was the bus ride, maybe it was not eating anything for several hours beforehand, maybe it was a lot of things, but when I found myself running along the New York sidewalks to keep up with the group while stripping off winter gear because I was desparately hot and realizing, on top of that, that the cramps were so bad that even standing upright and extending each leg to walk was unbearable, I think I had Quentin Cassidy topped. And then, when I threw up in a trash can on the sidewalk in the middle of New York City, I was truly at the threshold of Hell.

But I returned, and I can try to use the memory of it to help me with my running. Mainly, I have never, ever, felt such pain or had such an overwhelming sense of misery than I did leaning over the trash can knowing that I was a 2-hour, motion-sick-filled bus ride from my cousin's house and an hour's drive home from there. It was far worse than any of the cramps I've had while running, so maybe I'll remember and be hardened in future runs. Of course, I hope never to experience that feeling again, but maybe I'll remember that I did, indeed, return in one piece. In fact, I actually ended the night by drinking eggnog and eating cookies. Ah, to be well again!

Thank God for health and happiness, for so many new fitness opportunities, for my cousin and her husband, for my very supportive support staff, and for a merry Christmas this year (notwithstanding the whole Hell incident)!

I'm feeling much better and had a great 1.5 mile run on the treadmill this morning. I warmed up by walking and doing a few minutes on the bike, and I felt pretty good. Much better than I did last Tuesday when I only did a mile. Here's to more good training days this holiday week!

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