Sunday, November 2, 2014

Middle of Nowwhere

A year ago today,  I ran the New York Marathon. I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m bragging, as I was just one of 48,000 participants who traversed the 26.2 miles from Staten Island, to Brooklyn and Queens, then Manhattan and the Bronx.  More than 2 million
spectators lined the route, cheering all of us to the finish line in Central Park. In the end, after four hours, I finished, and felt horrible. It took me more than two hours longer than both the female and male winners.  I did finish a little ahead of Pamela Anderson, but didn’t see her on the course. She was on the Ellen show later in the week talking about her experience. She looked good with short hair.  We’re the same age, if you were wondering.  

Four years ago I ran the Las Vegas Marathon. It was my first one. The race was in December, and the weather was nearly perfect.  I had been to Vegas the previous summer on a cross-country road trip and stopped to see a college friend.  Yes, it was hot, very hot, 110 degrees in the shade. She was a rock-climbing make up artist from New Hampshire.  Having seen my recent collection of drawings and paintings featuring Barbie dolls, she thought one of her clients would love them.  I was a little overwhelmed when she mentioned it was Pamela Anderson.  Nothing came of it, but I thought it was really cool that she mentioned me to her.

I haven’t run as much this year. I got a new job and I’ve been sick.  After a heart procedure sidelined my training this summer, reoccurring upper respiratory infections this fall, along with allergies have stirred my asthma, making it almost impossible to sleep; no less run.  But, I’m stubborn and stupid. So last Sunday, 358 days since I ran the New York Marathon, and with idyllic weather for late October, my short walk turned into a jog.  About a mile from my house I had to stop. I was coughing, wheezing, and couldn’t get a full breathe of air in my swollen lungs.  Those of you, who have asthma, COPD, or some other breathing issue, know what I’m taking about. It was like breathing underwater, and despite an ongoing fantasy, I’m not a mermaid.

I took a few puffs from my rescue inhaler, turned around and began to walk home. That didn’t go very well either. After a quarter mile or so, I had to stop again. I sat on wooden rail next to a park, waiting for my breathing to return to “normal”.   After about twenty minutes, I started feeling a little better and walked some more. An hour after leaving my house, I made it home, a small victory.  It’s funny, I’ve run nearly 5,000 miles over the past five years, sometimes they’re easy and sometimes they almost kill you.

This morning, after being on Prednisone all week, and my lungs improving, I was tempted to lace up my Sauconys, but opted instead for my hiking boots. The wind was howling, and the rain was mixing with snow.  It is November after all.  After a half mile down my road I turned east onto a new trail that runs alongside the Batson River and eventually meets up with a brackish section of
Tyler Brook. You see, my castle, (which is actually a ranch built in 1968), is nestled next to hundreds of acres of conservation land and sits just a few miles from the ocean. I know; I’m spoiled.  The wet leafy walk passed through a forest of birch, oak, beech, and pine, crossing streams and stones covered with lichen and large granite boulders left behind from the Laurentide Ice Sheet 35,000 years ago.   
After about an hour and a half, I thought I had become trapped in some maze or endless loop in the woods.  I had lost all sense of direction, and everything began to look the same, like the backgrounds in cartoons.   I couldn’t be lost; I was less than mile from my house.  About ten years ago, I took an orienteering class in the woods of Western Maine. The course was an overview of how to use a compass in the woods. As we introduced ourselves, we let the group know why we were taking the course.  One person mentioned they didn’t want to die alone in the woods.  I thought of that as I passed a pleasant looking plush green and yellow bed of moss and newly fallen leaves. 

I had lost sight of the blue blazes that had guided my morning walk, so I turned back and retraced my steps.  I must have drifted off the trail somewhere.  You know, the road less traveled and all…that’s me. I eventually saw the unnatural flash of color affixed to the trunk of a birch, and returned to the loop trail I had wandered off from. With my fingers and cheeks wet and cold, I found the trail-head and walked home, content.  I hadn’t seen or heard another human the whole time.  Maybe I'll watch this year's race on TV, and possibly an episode of Baywatch.