Ron Marinucci April Column
by Ron Marinucci, Apr. 1, 2018
Provided by RMDC
Usually, winter is a favorite running season for me. I love the beautiful snow, the easy slogging that winter running dictates, etc. The cold has rarely bothered me. Folks who don’t run also don’t understand that. I never get cold while I run.
With full credit to Will Shakespeare and John Steinbeck, this has been the “Winter of our discontent.” I’m pretty sure I thought and wrote this last year or the year before. The last several winters have not been kind to me, but for somewhat different reasons. I’m guessing, too, that others are in the same boat.
I think I am safe in writing “our discontent” since it appears a lot of folks have struggled with me this year. My running buddy Bob, in early March, said, “I think this has been the worst winter of running I can remember.” He cited “the ice still on our lake,” a full month after it had disappeared a year ago. But he also mentioned the cold, the alternating warm and sub-zero days, and, of course, “the potholes!”
Yes, this winter has been a challenge, in many ways, for me. I’ve struggled a bit with a sciatic nerve/piriformis injury. I contracted it around Thanksgiving and, while it hasn’t been completely debilitating, it has lingered. I’d never experienced that pain before and sometimes it was quite substantial. It took a while, a little rest, a change in my weight lifting routine, and stretching and strengthening exercises to make the aches tolerable. And my new-found yoga has helped a lot, too. By mid-March, fingers crossed, I think the pains have subsided. But it took about four months!
From the end of February through three weeks or so, I contracted what others have told me is “The Michigan Crud.” My doctor called it a virus. In some moments, I’ve called it much worse! It’s left me weak and hacking and hacking and hacking…… Like the piriformis and sciatica problem, the “crud” has slowly, incrementally improved, not fast enough for me, though. I’ve thought back and think this might well have been only the second time in my life—ever!—that I’ve gone to a doctor for an illness, not an injury, but an illness. I hesitated, but Michael and Karen insisted, probably because the hacking
was disrupting their lives, too. Bob also noted, with this “crud,” “I think this is the first time you’ve ever missed a Sunday of running.” He might have been right.
I cut back drastically on my running, but did walk quite a bit and managed to keep up with my three or four days a week of yoga. I often felt too fatigued to run much or far. My legs were too wobbly to run, although walking was OK. The few times I managed to get out to walk with Carrie, she suggested a mask or scarf to cover my mouth to avoid the colder air and at least minimize the incessant hacking. It worked, somewhat.
In a way, this has been newly charted running waters for me. I wondered about starting up again, with my normal routines, after the down time or at least the cut back. And, yes, I was really a bit worried, apparently needlessly.
Would I be able to run again? I wondered. Like before? I know it was silly, thinking like that. I had just taken off a few weeks. But, deep down, it nagged at me. My first real run came one evening, a three-mile route with Carrie. We ran about two of the miles, more on her initiative than mine. Rather, she ran two miles and I tried to catch her. But run I did. Buoyed, but still hesitant, the next morning I ran about half of my normal Thursday course. It went well enough that Friday I did the same, running and walking about half time each.
I rested on Saturday, not at all unusual for me, but important I think to recover and avoid becoming run-down and a relapse. Then the last Sunday in March, Bob was glad to finally run, not walk, a bit with me. My goal had been to run on April 1. I went about two-thirds or more of my usual eight miles and felt fine. At the end of March I am now running again, not like before, but also no longer wondering how my return might go.
Some of my running partners have also had some difficulties, curtailing my runs with them. Michael, my blind buddy, has had some health issues, although our plan is to start up again in the spring.
He’s excited, already targeting a late summer or early fall 10K. Carrie, with a new teaching assignment in a new school, has been bogged down with work. Instead of our usual four or five runs a week, often we get out there only once or twice. Fortunately, Bob has remained healthy, although he was out of town for a couple of weeks. It was good of him to tolerate my walking.
The weather surely hasn’t cooperated. I don’t remember explicitly this winter being any harsher than years past. But the facts and figures don’t lie. We’ve had some of the snowiest months on record, considerably higher than average. And I think the Detroit area broke a record for the most consecutive days when the high temperatures didn’t reach 20 degrees. Again, usually the snow and cold are not bothersome, at least they weren’t.
The snow has come in bunches. Michael, my grandson, has cherished each of his five or six snow days. Normally I enjoy running in the freshly-fallen snow, especially on the trails. But for whatever reasons, this year has been an exception. Running has been more difficult.
I don’t know why, but the shoulders of the roads haven’t been cleared as they usually are. I try to avoid the busier streets in peak driving times. Running or walking on the back roads and subdivision streets hasn’t been easy either. It’s not just that the snow has been packed down or iced over. It seems, instead of a nice powder through which to run or walk, the snow has been churned up, making for bad footing. It is much more difficult to negotiate.
This winter I ran in some of the coldest temperatures I’ve encountered. One morning it was 11 degrees—below zero. That approached my low record of 15 below, experienced Up North a couple of years ago. Again, running in the cold per se isn’t bothersome. The big problem has been getting out the door. In the single-digit and below-zero temperatures, I usually will put on as many as four or five layers of clothes. I never timed it, but it seems to take forever, well, at least ten or fifteen minutes, just to get
dressed! (And with all those layers comes extra laundry time.) Besides, neither Michael nor Carrie are fans of extreme cold-weather running.
Oddly, mixed in with some of the very cold temperatures were several consecutive days of 40 and even 50 degrees. These came in late January and early February. And there was some rain. It was pick your poison for a while. The shoulders of the road were deeply rutted. Care had to be taken to avoid turning/twisting ankles. But running on the back roads or subdivision streets was often met with glare ice. And the trails have often been off-limits due to ice. I haven’t fallen yet, but came close more than once, slipping a lot despite being extra cautious. And there are Bob’s ubiquitous “potholes,” not to mention the often more perilous cracks in the pavement.
So, I am looking forward to my spring running, more so than usual. I can shed some of those layers of clothes. I won’t have to worry about the ice or ruts in the roads. The illness and injury will be behind me.
The winter of 2017-18 might be one I will remember, but likely not too fondly.