Fitness at Fifty plus

Last week I was once again sailing on the beautiful Disney Dream cruise ship.  I knew that temptation – in the form of sumptuous desserts, a lavish lunch buffet and the self serve soft ice cream – would be hard to resist.  In preparation for my days at sea, I worked out for weeks.  I even joined an iron man challenge at my gym which had me biking 10 miles a day in addition to rowing and jogging!

I was thrilled to discover that my stateroom was only one flight of stairs from the well equipped on board gym.  The first day I actually made it to the gym – where I used both the bike and the treadmill.  Despite my good start, I didn’t see the inside of that gym again.  My motivation to work out was trumped by the allure of a mocha cappuccino in the Cove Cafe.

Then I heard Rachel, Cruise Director extraordinaire, announce that there would be a 5K run the morning we arrived at Castaway Cay.  I recalled those 10 miles on the bike and the 1 mile run I’d become used to doing at the gym.  I’d never run on anything but a treadmill but I was familiar with Castaway Cay.  It was a small island.  I’d biked it easily.  How much more difficult, I asked myself, could running it be?  To make sure I didn’t back out, I announced to my fellow travelers that I would be participating in the 5K run!  Luckily none of them offered to accompany me.  I was already convinced I’d be the last one to cross the finish line and didn’t want a witness to my lackluster performance.

The run was supposed to start at 9am.  I skipped the after dinner drinks and tried to get to sleep early so I could be up bright and early the next morning – with time to eat and digest breakfast before my run.  At 7am, while loading up on carbs (isn’t that what all runners do?) at Cabanas, I heard an announcement from, who else, Rachel.  The ship was going to be delayed into Castaway Cay because of an unexpected return to Nassau the previous night.  It was nearly 10 am – an hour and a half late – before we were cleared to disembark.

I had joined the throngs crowded into the stairway ready to leave at the earliest possible moment.  After a half an hour we began to move forward and gradually I began to get glimpses of the island.  When I’d scanned out I made a bee line for the 5K rendezvous.  Despite my efforts, I was the last to arrive.  Almost immediately we were off following bright red 5K signs.  We were, I realized running the bike trail – twice!

The first thing I noticed was that the late start meant that it was already pretty hot. Much hotter than it had ever been inside the gym and, unlike the treadmills, I couldn’t push a button and have cool air blowing on me.  The next thing I noticed was that running with sunglasses is difficult.  It was too sunny and bright to consider not wearing them but I’m sure I used almost as many calories pushing them back up onto the bridge of my nose as I did running.  The final difference, and this was a huge one, I couldn’t distract myself by watching Jon Stewart!

I tried to silence the competitive voice within my head.  “These others,” I rationalized, “are runners.  They probably do a 5K before coffee.  You are not a runner so don’t try to keep up!”  Normally I fast walk my mile or two on the treadmill (4.0 – 4.2) and will, only during commercial breaks, sometimes sprint at 6.0.  But I hated to fall behind so I pushed myself to try to keep up at least even if I was last.

Jogging slowly and steadily along the route I suddenly found myself passing some of the other runners – they’d already begun to slow down!  Whoo Hoo!  I wasn’t last!  That buoyed me and I kept going but soon, with sweat pouring off me, I needed to take a water break.  While stopped at one of the water dispensers along the route, I was passed by those who I had passed just a short while ago.  “What are you waiting for?  Pass them!” screeched the competitive voice.  And so it went for most of the 5K.  I’d pass them then revert to a fast walk until those I passed were passing me at which point I’d push myself to once again jog.

At the last stretch, I was behind the pair so decided I was going to really turn up the heat and actually run the last few meters.  Bad idea.  I was only steps from from the finish line when I felt certain I was about to throw up.  I was reduced to a slow walk all the while just hoping that I could find a bathroom before I was sick.  Luckily slowing down was enough to eliminate the nausea but, as I’m sure you guessed, as I was slow walking toward the finish line the couple and two other people I didn’t even know were still behind me, ran past me to a triumphant finish.

I was exhausted, soaked through with sweat and my eyes were stinging from the sun screen that was dripping into my eyes.  I swore then that I’d never run anywhere but on a treadmill ever again.  I was proud that I’d completed the run – in 45 minutes! – but there was no way I could have claimed to have enjoyed the experience.

So I couldn’t have been more surprised when waking up from a nap this afternoon I decided to head to Echo Park Lake for, are you seated?, a run!  The day was cool and overcast. I thought of the calories I’d consumed on the cruise – I had not one, not two but three desserts on the day of the 5K! – and the next thing I knew I was lacing up my tennis shoes and headed out the door.

I ran-walked the first loop around, fighting with ear buds that kept falling out of my ears and holding a heavy water bottle that I thought I’d be sipping from.  Before the second loop I ditched the ear bugs, iPod and the water bottle.  I challenged myself to run that entire loop.  I was able to run it, at a pretty good pace if I don’t say so myself, without any feelings of nausea.  I didn’t want to push my luck so I fast walked/ran the third loop.

When I got home I went onto http://www.mapmyrun.com and was able to confirm that my circuit had been just under three miles – or just under 5K.

I’m going to make the Echo Park Lake run a regular part of my Sundays!  OMG, does that make me a runner?  Who would have guessed!

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