At the end of January 2021, I moved out of Rochester and back to Central New York, leaving behind some great friends and the routes I had grown to love: the Durand Eastman arboretum, the scenic shores of Lake Ontario, the River Trail from the port in Charlotte up to Lake Avenue, the canal trail from Perinton to Pittsford. No more training around Mount Hope cemetery with Drew and the Rochester Running Company folks, or around Josh Park at the back of the Hudson Avenue Wegmans with Kelly and her group. No more running with the iRundequoit crew. Routines and habits that grounded and stabilized me in the end all disappeared in just a handful of days.
Not for the first time in my life, it was time to begin again.
The huge life change took a toll on my body once again as you would expect. Here’s the funny thing, though. It didn’t happen right away.
I adapted to running in Cazenovia, my newly adopted home, fairly quickly. Runs weren’t fast, but they were getting the job done. I began my love/hate relationship with the hills of Madison County.
With no races in sight, however, I lacked the motivation and structure to improve. My runs lacked consistency, and I struggled to get to a self-imposed 20-mile-week goal.
Then the downward spiral began. By the time summer came around, I really started to struggle. I would crap out 3-4 miles into a run as my heart BPM rose to uncomfortably high levels. That would then get into my head for the next run, and my performance would suffer accordingly.
Summer turned into fall. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. But one thing was keeping me going: due to the pandemic, The Boilermaker organizers had rescheduled the race for October 10. Throughout August and September, I kept plugging away hoping for a breakthrough. I was only averaging about 10-15 miles a week, but I kept telling myself that the meager mileage added to a little race-day adrenaline would be enough to get me round and earn that traditional, well-deserved, post-race Saranac.
A freak bout of vertigo, which began the day before the Tour de Teddi ride around Keuka Lake on September 11 put an end to that. I managed to complete the ride with minimal trouble, but for several weeks after, every time I got on my feet, I felt like I was drunk. Running was impossible until the first week in October, and by then, it was too late for me to toe the line on Culver Ave. The bad running-stress-worse running feedback loop was in full effect once again.
The cycle eventually broke in a way that defied explanation. I managed to get up to about 15 miles a week for the remainder of October, so early in November, I attempted to run around Cazenovia Lake, a 15K run that had been a goal of mine ever since I arrived in the village.
The run seemed doomed from the outset. BPMs rose early, and I had to walk three times within the first couple of miles. But sheer bloody mindedness kicked in. I was going to make it round no matter how long it was going to take. By the time I made the turn onto North Lake, I found a groove. Slowly and joylessly, I carried on — West Lake onto Route 96 and up the hill, then downhill to Route 20, closing the circle in front of the High School. It had taken me 1:36 to make the loop — a sedate pace of 10:23. But this was one of those runs where the watch meant nothing. I had completed my longest run of the year, and I felt like I had wrestled a demon to the ground.
Again, as has been the story all along, I didn’t feel the health benefits from the run immediately. But the psychological boost was enormous. Twenty-mile weeks rapidly became the norm. Finally, at the beginning of the December, fasting blood sugar levels plummeted, seemingly overnight, like a flu when the fever breaks.
It’s not over yet, of course. A 7.2 A1C at the beginning of March was disappointing, despite the fact that fasting BGs since the beginning of the year had been pointing toward a much lower figure. But like the Caz Lake run, sometimes the numbers don’t tell the whole story. My running is different. My body is different. Everything is different.
It was time to put it all to the test.