Friday, July 29, 2011

Mother Nature, What Did I Do?

All signs pointed to a good run. My legs felt limber.  The fatigue from Tuesday's hill workout had vanished.  Two fauns grazed at the trailhead and did little more than eye me with a courteous acknowledgement as if to say, "Isn't being out in nature wonderful?"  
"Eat a sandwich, Sasquatch," the deer said.
Turns out what they were really saying was: "Stay out of the woods...and for God's sake, put a shirt on!"  If anything, I thought that might help me assimilate further.  Anyhow...

I've taken to parking about three miles away from my local track and covering those miles along the Fairfax Cross County trail as a forced warmup/cool down.  That was my plan last night, and the workout would bring me a mere 12 miles away from my 400 mile goal.

Apparently, though, I had done something to upset the balance of nature because she had most assuredly turned her creatures against me this week.

Let's put the record setting high temps and the stifling humidity aside.  This is a Virginia summer after all, and it's to be expected.  Sure, when I set out on a 7.5 mile run on Monday night, the air hung heavy from an afternoon's worth of thunderstorms, and the air was so thick (how thick was it?!), let me tell ya, the air was so thick, I could have used a machete to carve my way through.  And, "Air Quality Alert" means the "Air is ripe for a quality workout," right?

The conflict, though, really began the night before.  I slogged my way through 10 miles.  My body was wringing sweat, my hip flexors tightening, and I ached for sleep.  With just under three miles to go, I pounded way through the woods of the Big Rocky Run trail.  My mouth slightly agape both from exhaustion and to taste that thick summer air.  

Mother nature: Beautiful sunrise in the morning;
Death in the afternoon. 
Then I saw it.  The world nearly came to a stand still.  It descended from the hanging treetops...and landed perfectly between my bottom lip and gums.  The world was no longer in slow motion.

I dug my tongue into the once vacant space as though I were trying to work out a dollop of peanut butter or fig newton, and promptly spit the intruder out.  Then I spit some more.  Then I started feeling the cuts along the inside of my mouth and the tip of my tongue.  Then I started to panic. Then I started running scenarios through my head.  A spider bite? Poisonous venom now coursing through me?  I could drop dead two miles from the house.  I'd be 23 miles short of 400!

It couldn't have been in my mouth more than three seconds, yet the battle we raged was epic.  However, I'm happy to report the damage was no more than what you might sustain after eating a sandwich on toasted sourdough.

Yet, I returned to the woods the following day.  Remember the deer?  I trotted off down the path, enchanted by my surroundings.  The woods crooned with the rhythmic humming of insects, the leaves rustling as squirrels darted over the fallen leaves.  Then, nature bit me.  

Now, I've been bit by mosquitos before, a horsefly once, a bee sting once (during a race actually).  They were all uncomfortable. But this is pain I have not felt before.  

About 400m into the run, a hot, searing pain shot into the small of my back.  I arched as though electricity had just passed through my body.  Whatever it was, "it" was still there.  I plucked it from the hot spot and sent it tumbling into the woods.  

I continued on and with each step, I could feel the spot getting hotter.  Then I felt the welt rise.  Then, again, I thought I might die.  

Thereafter, each spider web I ran through (and there were many) prompted a mid-stride, full-body scan for insects.  I'm sure I looked like I was having a bad trip or was sexing myself up.  Neither could have been farther from the truth.

So, Mother Nature, I ask you, what have I done? And perhaps more importantly, what can I do to get back in your good graces?

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