I realize I alluded to swarming bees last week, but it was supposed to be a metaphor.
It’s amazing how in charge you can feel when you’re amped up on steroids. I’ll get to that in a sec, but as paradoxical as it might seem, when you’re determined to make things happen for yourself, you have no choice but to feel good about it. Pharmaceuticals certainly help you realize that free will and fate aren’t always in tension. You can choose your course and find yourself with no other choice than to feel gratified by action. That might only make sense in my head.
Obviously, you can also have allergic reactions to bee stings that make you a little manic with chemically-induced thinkyness.
So I couldn’t find a babysitter for my long run last weekend and was faced with the ugly choice of 16 miles on a treadmill on Saturday or getting up at 4:45 a.m. on Friday to put in 16 miles before going to work. I went with the latter, as any sane person would. Fortunately, I was able to recruit company, or I’d have never gotten out of bed. I set my alarm the night before, choosing a ringtone called “Jack,” but I didn’t need it because I was awake all night thinking about having to get up at 4:45 to run.
Contrary to our standard 2-acts-of-whining-per-run, we allowed ourselves 3 complaints each on this one, given the distance and ungodly hour. I cashed in my complaints before I started my Garmin.The run was a slog, mostly because it took me 5 miles to wake up, and it’s effing hard to find your strong when you’re deep in a humid mist of REM. (Also, I have a lot of trouble finding my strong because I’m a parts-of-speech snob, and that phrase nags at me.)
In addition to moving like the running dead, those early miles took us through preservation land patrolled by horse flies that descended in a convoy on my back. After leaving the green zone, I decided the best way to wake up and get through the run would be to go faster, so we set our sights on 6 miles of sub-8:00 miles.
The first three of those miles went smoothly, and I settled into that faster pace like I’d shifted to a better gear. I was safely in the 7:50s. The next three miles were considerably harder. I could feel the thickness of the humidity in my lungs, under a sky that wanted to rain but just couldn’t convert. Henry describes that kind of air as “Jesus sweating on me.” I’d say that sums up this summer quite nicely.
We meant to finish the last fast mile on a track and turned onto the school driveway only to run smack into a TRACK CLOSED sign that wrecked my focus when I had to turnabout to head back to the road. I managed to hang on and ran the 6th of 6 (mile 12) around a 7:50 and stopped for a Gu and some hyperventilating before finishing the last four miles.
By mile 14, we’d run out of water and needed to pause again briefly to plea with a mechanic for a hit from the water cooler, which he begrudgingly allowed. The last couple miles were kinda cranky, made worse by undershooting the mileage so we had to run beyond the house to add an extra mile, which is just so darn miserable at mile 15.
But it was done, and I felt pretty smug to have logged 16 miles before 8 a.m. on a Friday. I took Saturday as a rest day to do gardening with Henry, knowing that I would hit 53 miles with a 10k recovery run on a Sunday a.m. treadmill. The universe had other plans for my rest day, however. After we’d been outside for an hour or so, I grabbed a fist full of weeds next to a day lily and lifted my hand to feel something pierce through the back of my glove. I shook my hand, and a bee/wasp/hornet/demon-baby flew off.
I tried not to wail because Henry was there, but it hurt like a mother. I haven’t been stung since childhood and had forgotten how it feels. I finished up the gardening and then ran my hand under cold water. By dinnertime, my hand was swelling.
By Sunday morning, my right hand was twice the size of my left, and I’d lost my wrist to the spreading inflammation. I had no knuckles, and I couldn’t make a fist, much less hold a pen. My hand itched and burned, and there was an aching feeling in my fingers.
So I went for a run. It’s not like it was my foot or anything.
I did my 10k recovery on the mill and could’ve sworn I sweated out the venom. Yes, I know. I’m stubborn and sometimes a little ditzy about things.
Henry and I had a morning round of Pokemon Olympics (i.e., playing Pokemon in front of the Olympics), and I iced my hand and popped some ibuprofen. See above re. ditziness.
After lunch, Henry asked if we could go for a bike ride, but I couldn’t grip a handle bar, not to mention manage to rig the rack on the car and the bikes on the rack with my Smurf hand. So I said I’d run next to him and tossed his bike in my trunk. Last summer, he biked so slow and short that I could basically walk next to him and he’d lose interest after a couple miles. On Sunday, I almost left in flip flops but decided I’d better wear trainers just in case he wanted to bike further.
We got to the rail trail, and he took off at 8:20 pace (7.2 mph). Okay, this wasn’t going to be a walk. I ran next to him and asked the furthest he’d biked before, and he said five miles. I said we should go 6 so we could be super proud. Then I said that would mean I’d run 59 miles in a week. So Henry wanted to go 7 miles so I could hit 60.
Okay, I wanted to go 7 miles so I could hit 60.
It was a a deal. He biked faster and faster, and I ran faster and faster. It was 1 p.m., and Jesus and all the apostles were sweating on us. We talked for almost an hour of biking, finishing at a sub-8:00 pace, and he could’ve biked more if I hadn’t told him my hand was burning. He was so proud of his PR–7 miles at 7 years old!
We decided to celebrate with a treat. However, by this point, my hand was approaching oven-mitt dimensions. I let him bike around the parking lot while I stared at my hand, wondering if maybe this would be a good time to start the Benadryl.
Next stop: Walgreens. I showed my hand to the pharmacist, and her eyes got wide. “Take this NOW.” So we went home, I took Benadryl, and then I fell asleep within 5 minutes while he watched Prisoner of Azkaban. The swelling abated slightly with one pill, but even with steady OTC dosing, my hand grew overnight. By Monday morning, it was heading into my joints, and the pain made it hard to hold the steering wheel on the way to work.
I zombied my way through a Benadryl-laced morning and after everyone decided I looked like a strung-out circus sideshow, I finally went to the doctor in the afternoon. They Rxed me some prednisone, and now I am a steroid-rich, hyper, sleepless, crazy buzzed (no pun intended) happy, happy lady. Tuesday morning, I was able to run 10 miles on the mill with 3x 2 miles at 7:13s. I felt great! Today I ran 8 fartlek miles after zero minutes of sleep last night. And I feel great! I love pharma! (Also, my hand looks and feels a lot better.)
I’m tapering off the steroids–boo hiss–but I have this awesome bag Henry made me at camp. I figure it can hold about 30 boxes of Benadryl.
So, getting back to existentialism. We used to have a magnet on our fridge when I was a kid that said “The Universe will provide.” I might make one for my fridge that says, “When Jesus sweats on you, run faster.” Sometimes the universe causes an allergic reaction. But when you can choose what you do– choose to grind out 16 miles at 5 a.m. or 7 miles with a hand on fire next to your boy on a bike–it’s action and it’s yours. And when you decide your action, you provide your own universe, and a stinger or two can’t change the feeling of that determination. Like I said way up there, when you’re determined to make things happen for yourself, you have no choice but to feel good about it.
And yes, steroids are aweome.
Common Side Effects:
False sense of well-being
Mistaken feelings of self-importance