13 January 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

When we can motor through the dark times, it makes the normal days seem like a breeze. That this week brought its challenges makes emerging on the other side that much sweeter. No, nobody died here, no diagnoses of deadly illness, no unearthly conflagrations, or anything, but suffice to say there have been easier weeks, and Wednesday was the zenith of days we could have done without.

Overriding everything is the simple fact that it’s dark. It’s winter, even if it did push fifty degrees today. Here on the eastern edge of the time zone, the sun just doesn’t shine much, especially in the afternoon, so plan your runs carefully. It’s that annual time that I call the Sixty Day Challenge, also known as the Dark Period: January 1 till I declare virtual spring on March 1. Come on, you can make it thought sixty days of anything, right? Count off the six day chunks, another ten percent done, bang! It’ll be spring.

But during those sixty days, it’s dark, wet, sloppy, icy, dreary, cold, windy, and did I say dark? With a job that takes me places, exciting and vibrant places like Wednesday’s destination of a small town in Maine (no insult, truly lovely people to meet and hopefully not infect), well, momma always said there’d be days like this. Actually, she didn’t, but she should have. Suffice to say that I’m not a fan of being out for a run at five thirty in the morning because that’s my only chance with a long day on the road in front of me, when it’s dark, wet, sloppy, icy, dreary, cold, windy, and did I say dark? But there I was, my own little version of Zero Dark Thirty, battling through the pre-dawn blackness, just without the guns and terrorists, and on the streets of Marlborough rather than somewhere in Pakistan. (Disclosure: No, I haven’t seen the movie, so if the comparison is weak, sorry, but what else do you write about on a week like this?)

Yet even in the darkness, lights can shine. Who’d have thought that at such an awful hour I’d meet up on the road with a potential new training friend, an ultramarathoner recently moved to town, camped within a mile of home base, also out at such an unpleasant hour? You just can’t write off the dark days, because good can and will come from them. We’ll have to watch this one. Meanwhile, back to the dreariness…

Such inspirational serendipity was a good reward since not only was it dark, we, sloppy, icy, dreary, cold, windy, and did I say dark?, but to add to the joy, I was well into a bout of significantly unpleasant ill-health, being that several trillion energetic little viruses had decided to hold a swim meet in my veins. No, not the flu (yes, I had my flu shot), no, this was not all that horrible save that at some point this week I wheezed up the contents of, and possibly the structure of, pretty much both lungs. This wasn’t near-death, but neither was it fun. No amount of sit-ups at the gym can prepare your abdominal muscles for the pain induced by days of horrendous hacking. All day, all night (so sorry, dearest spouse!), and at five-thirty in the morning, on the roads, when it’s dark, wet, sloppy, icy, dreary, cold, windy, and did I say dark? Add to that the day’s exhausting excursion to Maine, and I was looking and feeling my best. The rest of the week was pretty much a wipe out.

I really can’t complain (no I’m not complaining, merely journaling, right?) It’s a benefit of the running life thing makes one relatively healthy, and as a result I don’t get sick too often. This bout just laid down a challenge: beat the little buggers, and don’t let them break you in the process. Damn the phlegm torpedoes, half steam ahead, run, albeit slowly, right through it. No chest cold, no matter how nasty, is going to break the streak now having exceeded six hundred days, right? So wheezing away, I forced out a few miles each day, and frankly, those were the best minutes of each day, the only times that really cleared my head. Take this as a reminder for the future: sick, miserable, get out there anyway if you can. It can only help, assuming it doesn’t kill you.

After several days of death trots, the invitation arrived in my inbox for a long one on Saturday with my training partner who oddly prefers the title, “Problem Child”. In this case, his choice of a nickname was appropriate, seeing as his invitation left me with a vexing problem: taking him up might be either brilliant or insane, depending on your perspective. Seeing as I’d broken the proverbial emergency glass on Friday and reached for the old leftover Hi-Test painkillers to knock down the fire in my throat, and popped one as late as five AM on Saturday, planning to bang out high double digits at noon may not have been the brightest idea. Or maybe it was?

Not being a total fool, I planned a small loop for us as a test ride, to be extended to the long loop if the cylinders fired. Five miles in at a decidedly casual pace, we decided it was working, and continued our traipse into the next town south, over many hills and more than a few dales, finishing up seventeen miles later, still on the manufacturing side of an atypical volume of unmentionable bronchial secretions, but feeling like I’d returned once again in the land of the living. Or in short, there’s nothing like a good run to cure what ails you.

A distracted week of darkness, illness, duress, and finally success, and, hey, look at that! We’re more than twenty percent through the Dark Period! How’d you like that?

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