Stroller Coaster Training

Week 5:  On Saturday I dusted off the cobwebs from our jogging stroller and took my daughter out for a short jog. I agreed to bring her on the stipulation that she remain in the stroller for an entire loop on our community trail. Our stroller is the Cadillac of the breed. It is a dual seater with enough storage in the back for carrying a whole suitcase full of tissues and it doubles as a bike trailer. The design of this enormous device has nothing aerodynamic about it, except its wheels which glide almost effortlessly when propelled. I securely fastened my daughter with both a harness seat belt and a lap belt, which at the time seemed a tad excessive given my less than breakneck speed. My daughter, on the other hand, had no confusion about my running skills and came prepared for an all day excursion. She brought along a backpack which she had previously loaded with a snack, a sticker book, 4 pages of stickers, a mermaid, 2 stuffed animals, a lift-the-flap book, and a tiara. I took advantage of the stroller’s storage space for an extra jacket, my supply of tissues, and my cell phone which I had planned to use to track my times. We were fully stocked and prepared for a barrage of mishaps, except for the 2 flat tires that immediately derailed us as we attempted our departure from the garage. I tried to resuscitate them with our bicycle pump. This ought to have been easy if our pump were not really a trick pump that is impossible to secure onto tires and only designed to make you think it can be attached. I was forced to wait for my flat tire, bike pump proficient husband to come home to our rescue. As he explained after the fact, it is outfitted with a nozzle that emits air when the lever is released, and it fastens to the tire when the lever is depressed. That is to say, it works opposite every other bike pump nozzle known to mankind. Confirmation of what I already knew:  it was the pump’s fault, not mine.
     Finally free from flats, we reloaded and took off. I activated the app on my phone to track my route and times. The first mile was harder than usual. The nearby terrain I had previously considered relatively flat was inarguably uphill. There is nothing quite like pushing a stroller to confirm an incline. I found that by alternating hands on the stroller every 4-5 steps, I could manage to nudge it along ahead of me without over fatiguing my upper body. It did not take me long to regret that I have never excelled at packing lightly. My daughter appears to have inherited that trait. I contemplated tossing non-essential items to the wayside, but I am generally opposed to littering and the heaviest item on board was still endearing on most days. I was forced to stop 3 times. Twice to retrieve and make use of tissues, and once because I realized I could speed walk faster and with less exertion than the nearly stationary jogging pace I was engaged in. My daughter was of no help. She quickly forgot the terms agreed to at the onset of our outing and began pleading to be set free to roam about and do the various exercise stations situated every few feet along the trail. I realized then the true rationale behind the dual seat belts and was happy to have her securely restrained within the confines of the stroller. She went for my Achilles and asked if there might be a shortcut that we could perhaps take to get home faster. She tried to convey ignorance, though she knew perfectly well that there was a shortcut, and that this shortcut traversed beside the community playground. She begged for a shortcut. Without hesitation my body joined the chorus, elated that she put into words what it was unable to verbalize. My mind was the only dissenter in the crowd. As it was difficult to speak and I could not cope with further lack of support, I made it known that any further requests would result in cessation of all future playground excursions and the immediate loss of one mermaid. Defeated, my daughter withdrew to the relative imprisonment of her solitary cell, and although sighs of disappointment remained intentionally audible, there were no further requests made and I was able to focus on the task at hand.
     By that point, I had rounded the corner and was enjoying a slightly downward slope and found I was able to use the stroller to help pull me along. Sometimes chasing the stroller and at other times making use of its momentum, I completed the remainder of my route which was the entire 2nd mile. A whole mile without stopping! Hallelujah! I would have loved to check my times despite my 3 early stops, but apparently the stroller ride is so smooth that movement is undetectable to my app and it turned off shortly after the 1st mile. Though I lacked documented times to corroborate my effort, I was overjoyed to finally last through a full mile, and confident that I could have done even better without having to push the stroller. I had high hopes for Sunday.
     I was forced to head out early Sunday morning to fit my run in as our day was already packed with other activities. This was my first ever morning run and I quickly found the air to be significantly colder at that time of day. It did not take long before I regretted leaving my swim goggles at home. I had to stop before the end of the street again because the flood in my eyes had reduced my visibility to the 4 feet directly in front of me. Against my better judgement, I decided to persevere like normal runners do. I came nowhere close to Saturday’s performance and my visual impairment persisted the entire loop. At one point while I tended to my eyes, I ran into an overgrown forsythia bush that had dangerously sprawled over into the right half of the trail. Oh, I had noticed it before, but I cannot be expected to remember the exact whereabouts of every shrub and tree in need of a trimming when I am overwhelmed by a constant deluge obscuring my sight and swirling about my face. I also lost the functioning of my fingers by the halfway point thanks to the colder temperature causing me to recklessly fly through entire wads of tissues that I was unable to separate with my clubbed appendages. Once again I depleted what should have been an ample supply before reaching the end of the trail. I came home exasperated and wished I could take back the day and resume the pleasant aftertaste of yesterday.
     I am beginning to realize I might not be considered a “low maintenance” runner. I need a warm 70-75 degree day, without any form of precipitation, void of wind (slight breeze permissible), and slightly overcast but not too cloudy or too sunny. Internally, I need to be healthy, comfortable, not too hot or too cold, not hungry or too full, well rested, energetic, and I need to have leakage from my eyes, nose, and elsewhere contained and at a minimal rate of production. I admit this may be an incomplete subset and there may be other variables which I have yet to have the pleasure of discovery. My ability to run appears directly proportionate to the degree to which each of these conditions satisfies my body’s requirements. I figure that race day nerves might be able to compensate for 2 or 3 of these factors but that still leaves a lot to happenstance. I’m hoping the celestial bodies align and that perfect conditions within my body and on the course prevail on race day.
     Training so far has had its ups and downs. I would have preferred a slow and steady acquisition of skill and speed, but that is out of my control. I can only brush (and wipe) myself off and try again. Tomorrow is another day and I still have the better part of 3 weeks to train.  Like Don Quixote I may be chasing the impossible dream but after every setback my inner optimist somehow resurfaces and I prepare to attack the next run with a renewed sense of bravery and perseverance. Onward Sancho! My windmill awaits!

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