Running Hard...Literally

TAGS: running hard, hannah johnson, cardio

So, last week Matt and I bought a wholesale car sight unseen from a dealer friend of ours. It sounded like it would be hard not to make money on it for what we were paying, and we buy several cars from this guy a month, so what the hey? Today I decided to drive a car we were delivering over to a dealership nearby, then walk a few blocks and pick up our car to drive back, saving time and gas and money. What an awesome plan that was! In theory, I'm a genius. In reality, well...

So we get our car that we paid practically nothing for (I call these either "flea market" or "tax season" cars, depending on the time of year.) Invest a couple thousand, sell it within a week and make $500-800, and on to the next. We generally have five or so of these cars on hand at any given time. It turns a handsome profit with little money invested. Another plus (which is also a downside, depending on your point of view) is that if the thing blows up, you haven't lost real money. I mean, it's all real money, but you get the point.

Anywho, we're just getting started on the 20-something mile journey back home when the air goes out. Dang. No big deal, but it would definitely bring more money had the AC worked. Small cringe. I see the bold eyebrows of my man knit together. Oh, well, it's not like we're hours from home or anything. Besides, I've been hot before. My first truck never had air. We start making jokes about what a turd the car is and morale begins to rise again.

It's here that Matt starts a "what if" convo. I love those. Love them, love them, LOVE them. It gives me a chance to pick the big brain inside that handsome skull of the one I love. And the oober cool part is that he doesn't know I'm doing it. He thinks we're just talking. And we are, but I'm also learning and analyzing and secretly beaming with pride over the wonderful person I'm marrying. Most of the time, anyway.

The conversation begins like this: "What if this were your only car? Like, what if this was all I had to drive and I came to pick you up in it on our first date?"

"Umm...so, was I in the car before the AC went out, or did it go out after I got in and we were rolling like it did now?"

"I don't know, Hannah. I guess it was out before we went on our date."

"Oh. Well, now remember when you met me I always straightened my hair. If the AC didn't work it would make my hair kink up and look horrendous. Then you wouldn't think I was pretty. So, no, I probably would've offered to drive."

Stunned silence.

"So, if my car hadn't had AC you wouldn't have dated me?"

"That's not what I said. I said I would've offered to drive."

"But that really just means you were ashamed of my car."

"Uh, no it does not. Referring back to my earlier statement, it means I was ashamed of my hair."

"But you would be embarrassed to ride in it with me."

"Stop saying that! You of all people should know I'm not a material person. Yes, I would've ridden in it with you - after my hair made a good impression on our first date."

"OK, so what if the car had air? It's still a beater. Would you ride if you thought it was my only car?"

"Yes. Wait a minute. I know it had air, but was the check engine light on on our first date like it is now?"

More silence. Hard stare at the dash indicator light panel. At this point his eyebrows can NOT get knitted any more tightly. I notice sweat dripping from the steering wheel.

"No, the light was not on on our first date. It was also not on when we left the dealership."

Uh oh.

AC off, check engine light on. We are approximately ten miles from home, we're already scalding hot, and we have no water.

"For the amount of money we got in this thing I could take it to the crusher and not lose any sleep. Just roll on and see how close to home it'll get us."

We creep along a few more miles. I'm getting very nervous; we're close enough to home but so very far away! If we can just get home...

The car is cutting off at every intersection now. Not overheating, which is good; I'm thinking it's a fuel injector issue, because the fuel is cutting out unless you keep giving it gas. I'm praying out loud. Apparently the poor car was praying to die harder than I was praying for it to live, because coming up to one of the busiest intersections in town it sputtered and gasped and gave up the Carfax Ghost. One owner, my hiney...

Nothing we tried worked. Oil was good, coolant was good, plenty of gas. Battery is strong. It's firing, but somehow it's just not getting fuel. Cause of death: unknown.

I look around and shield my eyes from the heat, doing my best Pamela Anderson Baywatch scan of the horizon, hoping that someone who knows us will stop to help. No such luck. We call friends and neighbors, all busy. The longer we stay here the harder it will be to move the car, because traffic is already starting to snarl around us as we sit dead in the front of the line at the intersection.

I know exactly where we are. We're 4.7 miles from home. The reason I know this (Oh, how the past comes back to throw your youth in your old wrinkly face) is because in college, I used to get a friend of mine to drop me off here at this very intersection so I could run back to our apartment, which just happens to be a couple blocks from my home now. Oh, I remember the days when the miles flew by...

I didn't do cardio this morning. I was hot and tired, having driven all the way from Fredericksburg, VA, this morning and unloaded and loaded in the heat all afternoon, but not exhausted. Maybe I had enough Tiger Blood in me to be a hero.

I decided to run home, get my truck and come back to get Matt. One of us had to stay with the car. That was what I was told, anyway. Of course, Chuck Norris was riding in the backseat with us (Chuck would NEVER complain about the heat) and gallantly offered to run alongside me. I offered to pay him to run get me some Aquafina, but no such luck. Sigh. I did a few halfhearted quad stretches and some funky dynamic warm-ups before setting my teeth and trying to be realistic.

Here's the facts: I ain't got it like I used to have it. I'm in decent cardio shape, but I do not run. I mean, under no circumstances. Sure, I max effort sprint for a few seconds at a time, but it's not like I could do that on and off for five miles. I also need to get home as fast as possible, because if the police get to Matt before I do they'll call a tow and we'll end up shelling out big bucks. Thank my Jesus I'm at least wearing tennis shoes instead of sandals, but they're super old and have no cushion left whatsoever. I'm also wearing jean shorts with a sewn-in cuff at the bottom, which is known to us big-thigh people as a Chafer Cuff. Not to mention I don't have on a sports bra. Oh, of all days...

I grab my cell phone and take my single truck key off my keyring (I don't need any extra baggage on this trip) and coolly look over my shoulder at Matt, who is wishing me farewell with adoring eyes. I wink at him. "Give me at LEAST 45 minutes before you call to check on me. If the police come tell them you've already called someone. If I die, tell everyone I kicked it doing what I loved. Kind of." I took off to the sounds of him laughing.

Mile 1
I start out my trek with loose arms and long strides. I feel good; I've got a pretty strong adrenaline surge going and I'm breathing in counts of seven like I used to in track. Four slow deep counts in; three hard counts out per breath and it really seems to be coming back to me. I knocked the first mile out in less than eight minutes, which is pretty much the speed I used to consistently run. I feel fantastic.

Mile 3
I'm not breathing in counts anymore. I lost my rhythm and wasn't able to get it back because I needed air too freekin' bad. It's here that I started thinking I had made a very grave mistake. Not only does Booby need help, but now Doofus the would-be rescuer needs it too. The absolute and utter shame of having to call a ride or get a cab or thumb home makes me come up with a desperate plan.
I will Fartlek the rest of the way home. I know I can do it.

For those of you who aren't runners, Fartlekking is a Swedish word that's used to describe an intense program of sprinting, running, jogging and walking, not necessarily in that order. It's also an INCREDIBLE way to increase your running distance if you're into that. A sample would be to sprint as hard as you can til you can't anymore. Instead of resting, when you come out of the sprint you fall into an incredibly fast, very hip-py power walk, making sure to take long strides and "breathe tall." As soon as you feel recovered, you run at your next-hardest pace under a sprint as long as you can, falling back into your power walk to recover. You repeat the cycle with the jog, then fall back into the power walk yet again. Keep repeating until you're done with the run and I guarantee you'll be surprised at how much ground you can cover. The key is that you never stop distance striding.

Mile 4-And Something

I can literally see the corner of my street in the distance. Every stitch of clothing I have on is sopping wet and flapping loudly. I've swiped at sweat running into my eyes several times, and I can only imagine what my makeup looks like. My shins are on fire, even though I've been running on the grass beside the sidewalk for most of the way. I keep having semi-delusional thoughts like There's no way it used to be this far. It isn't possible to move an intersection...is it?" Every cell of my body is angry...at me.

I reach my truck and speed back to Matt, guzzling down two 1/2 liter bottles of hot water from the floorboard that taste better than that misty mountain spring on the Deer Park commercials. I knew I had one more in the cooler on the back of the truck left over from my trip this morning, but I was saving it for Booby. Sweet, huh?

So, I have to pass Matt and turn around to maneuver into his lane, and traffic is worse than the mall on tax-free weekend. Delivering up north so much has me pretty conditioned, though, so it takes a lot to rattle me. I nonchalantly park my truck in the turning lane so I can load the car, and a woman immediately pulls behind me and starts honking and screaming. I don't want to misconstrue the situation here; I had to get out of the truck anyway. The thing was, I think she thought I was getting out because of her, because when I jumped out of the truck with my raccoon-eyed bad attitude sneer, sopping wet clothes and blazing red chafe marked great big legs (oh, I mean my legs are blistered, ya'll) she literally backed up and OVER the median to get out of the lane and go around.

Matt looked at me kind of like he'd never seen me before. It's funny now, because I think he was at that very moment fully realizing that my journey had not been as easy for me as I'd initially made him think. His mouth worked a few times before anything came out. "Gene Simmons called. He wants you to head up the KISS fan club."

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