The Hangover Run, the Zombie Watch, the Lost Toenail, and the New Bike

Right, so: last Saturday I had probably the weirdest hangover run I’ve ever had. It was only 12 miles, but the longest hangover run – yes, this refers to a run done the morning after a night of a bit too much drinking – I’d done prior to this was 6 miles. I figured I could handle 12, especially since when my alarm went off I said to it “oh HELL no” and gave myself two more hours of sleep.

Well. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great, at first, when my head would not stop pounding (too little sleep + dehydration + exercise = hello lady!). Once I got into the first few miles, I stopped wishing for a swift death, and started enjoying the scenery around me. I’d chosen to run from a main road to an off-road that leads to a camp, and wends through the woods pretty well to do so, but is still paved. It was a clear, crisp, silent fall morning once I got out of earshot of the interstate nearby; a crystal-clear blue sky, birds twittering all around, chilly air kissing my cheeks, little springs babbling water a few feet away, the brilliant color of some of the changed leaves shining bright… AUGH. GORGEOUS. And my head was still pounding, but I had that moment where I realized I didn’t care. I had what a former professor calls her “autumnal yawp”: that strangely exuberant feeling that only a certain combination of light and color and temperature can spur that makes you want to jump in the air and explode. I only ever get it in the fall, for many reasons I won’t go into here, and I never know exactly when it will hit me, but this year it snuck up on me on that run and said “HEY HI LIFE IS AWESOME”. And so, on I went, with a spring in my step, outrunning that hangover one step at a time.

As it turned out, I had to deviate from my planned route due to construction, so I turned it into an out-and-back and had to add another mile and change when I got home. I’d randomly stopped into a coffee shop that’s on the way back to taste some coffee – they do tastings on Saturday mornings – so I thought for a hot second that it might have been bad to drink a bunch of coffee and then go run another mile, but I was so deep in my yawping that it didn’t matter. Didn’t care. I was actually sort of mad that I was only scheduled for 12 miles that day, since I felt like I could easily go 15-18 without a problem.

I should remember that feeling, when I’m at mile 24 of my marathon and want to die. 🙂

Anyway, Zombie Watch plays into this, as I had to leave it at home for this run because I thought the temperature might be a bit too chilly. See, Zombie Watch is my silly little Spongebob Squarepants digital watch that I got out of a cereal box some seven or eight years ago. As a running watch, it’s perfect because it does two things: tells me what time it is, and does not irritate my skin or fall off of me. It’s also never needed a new battery. It has, on occasion, stopped working when wet or cold or both, but has always magically started working again given enough time to dry out or warm up – usually a few hours, twelve at most.

Except for the half-marathon I talked about in my last post. That day was chilly and wet, and Zombie Watch succumbed to the elements. I set it aside until the Tuesday after the race (which was a week ago), but it still wasn’t working, which I assumed meant that it was, finally, Good and Dead. “Okay”, I thought, “this is where we have fun running without a watch and just enjoying what’s around us”. Which is what I did on Tuesday; I’ve run without a watch before by choice, so it was no big deal to do it one more time. But I kept thinking: how am I going to fix this in the long run (hahaha)? Buy another box of cereal just for the watch inside? Splurge on one of those fancy Garmin watches everyone seems to love so much? Just run watchless for the rest of my running life?

Wednesday arrived (still a week ago), and went, and Zombie Watch was still blank. Sigh. I did my 8-mile run as I’d posted about last time, watchless, and thought, “Hey, I could get used to this”. But I was still a little sad; Zombie Watch and I had been through a lot together, and I wanted it to at least live long enough to see me through my marathon.

Thursday dawned (yup, still last week), and out of sheer habit I’d put Zombie Watch in my bag before leaving for work. When I fished it out of said bag before my run, I was utterly shocked to see it display numbers. Legible, digital, time-telling numbers! Granted, they were the wrong ones, and when I clicked over to the date display, I learned that I’d fast-forwarded to December 1, but still – they were numbers. And the second hand was ticking.
Somehow, Zombie Watch had resurrected itself YET AGAIN.

I was simultaneously thrilled and vaguely terrified. On one hand, I had my old friend back! On the other hand, did this mean that the watch is imbued with some sort of evil magic that is eventually going to try to kill me in the middle of the night? (As Saint said in a text to me after I told him the news: “Keep that thing away from your head! It wants your brains!”) I shrugged off these thoughts, re-set the time and date, and set out on my Thursday 5-miler with a renewed sense of purpose. It was a fast one, too, and it felt great, which I though would set me up nicely for that Saturday’s 12-miler (the Hangover Run of above). When I woke up Saturday morning and realized the temperature was hovering around 50, I decided to leave Zombie Watch at home so as to not potentially expose it to too much cold (I was wearing gloves, but still: I’d just gotten my friend back, and didn’t want to lose it again so soon).

Zombie Watch came out with me on yesterday’s 5-miler, and while it now thinks that it’s yesterday still and is about 2.5 hours off of the actual time, the point is that it still works as a timekeeper, and – provided it’s not actually freezing outside – should, fingers crossed, be able to be there when I line up to start my marathon in (eeep) about 3 weeks.

WARNING: THE NEXT BIT IS POSSIBLY NOT SAFE FOR WORK. There aren’t pictures because I can’t bring myself to do it, so be grateful for that.

Okay, moving back to the Hangover Run. I’ve been tying my running shoes more tightly these days to prevent blisters, and by and large it’s worked pretty well. A side effect of this that I did not realize – in addition to me having cut too close to the quick when trimming before the half-marathon I ran in September – is that blood flow can get restricted in the toe box and in a sense cut off the blood supply to the toes. When something doesn’t get blood and all of the good things therein circulating to it, it dies. When this ‘something’ is a toenail, it will fall off.

When I started reading around various running fora online, nearly everyone who’s ever run any distance mentioned losing a toenail or ten at some point during their training. I had zero issues with toenails falling off through all of my training to this point; I started to feel like I wasn’t really a runner, even though I’d “achieved” the ‘you-are-a-runner-NOW!’ milestone of pooping myself while on a long run. [Sidenote: why do all of the milestones that make someone a ‘real’ runner involve gross bodily functions? Bloody nipples, poop going places it shouldn’t, bits falling off, blisters popping…] So when I cut this particular toenail too close to the quick last month, I was somewhat concerned when it started turning dark and darker colors. I left it alone, and only trimmed it the tiniest amount a couple of weeks later. But because I was the sort of kid who would, against all common sense to the contrary, take a loose tooth and wiggle it to the point of dangling in my mouth, I couldn’t resist touching the toenail to see if it would flex at all. One day, it gave a little. The next day, it gave a little more. The next day, I started to become very concerned that one day I was going to catch my foot on something (I wear flip-flops nearly year-round) and suddenly be down one toenail and in a LOT of pain. And then I thought, “what would that even LOOK like?” One toe with just… no nail on it. Huh. Weird.

Well, happily, I can now tell you that I won’t know for the near future what that does look like, because the human body is such a ridiculously good re-generator of its broken parts. Unbeknownst to me at the time, while the underneath-nail was turning dark colors and getting nasty, my body was growing an on-top nail to protect underneath-nail while it healed. Fast-forward to this past Sunday – a few days ago – and to me getting out of the shower after being at the gym. As I was drying off my feet, I felt a tug on one of my toes. “Oh no/Oh shit yes”, I thought, “this is it!” I peered down to the toe, and saw nothing unusual – except that it was clear that something flexible and nail-like was about to be dislodged from the top of that toe. I grabbed on and prepared for the pain. Sloooowly I worked it loose, but all of a sudden it just popped right off – yoink! – and wait, what? No pain? No blood? What the hell, is that a FULLY FORMED nail underneath the nail that just came off? HOLY CRAP THIS IS SO COOL.

The “new” underneath-nail is still dark in color, but I suspect that’s because I’ve still been tying my shoes too tight and have possibly permanently colored it dark red. Almost burgundy, if you look at it right, which makes me think I should just paint my toenails in the burgundy-and-gold of my beloved Redskins. (Ahem.) I’ll be tying my shoes more loosely from now on, but I clearly need to find the sweet spot between “too loose, causes blisters”, and “too tight, eats toenails”.

OKAY YOU CAN STOP READING THE GROSS STUFF NOW. Please come back, because this is exciting!

I’ve done a really good job of making short stories long in this post (and, really throughout my entire life), but I will not be doing the same for the last section of this post, which is The New Bike. I had been borrowing a friend’s bike for the past two years, but she took it back recently, and I grew increasingly despondent as the weather cooled off into Perfect Biking Weather and I started seeing people everywhere on bikes and it made me sad that I could not join them. So, I started shopping around for my very own, because, well, I have it in the budget and I really, really, REALLY miss having one. I contacted a friend who works at a bike shop, and we traded emails on the specifics of what I was looking for, and yesterday I went out to her store to see her and test-ride a bike or two.

Well.

The very first one she picked out for me I fell in love with. You know how sometimes you try on a pair of shoes and they immediately feel like you’ve owned them all your life? That was this bike for me. I couldn’t even let go of it when I was standing there talking to her about it, and about accessories and whatnots, and I kept asking if I could take it out for just one more, two more, three more little test rides. The shop was getting ready to close so I had to leave, so I told her I’d sleep on it for a night and make my decision in the morning. She nodded, and I immediately told her that if she couldn’t tell by my body language, I’d more or less already made up my mind that I was, in fact, going to go ahead and come in today (“in the morning” refers to this morning) and buy the bike. To make this very clear, I went ahead and bought a floor pump, lock, and tire lever, which she was kind enough to give to me at employee-discount prices (she’s also just GIVING me a tail light and an extra helmet that she has, which is absurdly nice of her, but that’s just who she is). She hung the bike up on the “do not sell to anyone but this person please” rack, and I bounced on home, fairly giggling at the prospect of being able to join her on a picnic ride next weekend.

It is this afternoon, rather after “in the morning” as I told her, and I am positively gleeful at the idea of leaving work in a few hours to go pick up my very own bike. Would you like to see her (yes, the bike is a ‘she’)? Here, I will give you a standard Google image (thank you to evanscycles.com):

SO PRETTY. And yes, she will be in black, and yes, OMG WHAT, she is a 2013 model. I’ve never owned the next-year-model of ANYTHING in my life, so this is pretty awesomely excellent.

If you hear any unexplained “squeeeeEEEEE!”-ing from my latitude and longitude this evening, now you know why. 🙂

This weekend I’ll be in New York celebrating the wedding of a dear friend, and trying not to get lost running 20 miles around Central Park. There are parts of my life that are fairly stressful right now, but I have a lot of good things too to balance them out, for which I am grateful. The four things mentioned in the title of this post I include among those good things – even the lost toenail! – and I feel like I’m headed towards making some pithy life-lesson statement about finding the positive in unexpected places, so I’ll stop there and instead just say: Excited. Stoked. Can’t Wait. Let’s Do This. ALL OF IT. 🙂

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