Ever So Much More Than Twenty

At the risk of sounding like a Buzzfeed listicle, the signs that I’m no longer in my early- or even mid-20s are frightfully abundant.

  • I get excited when people cancel plans so I can be in bed by 9:30 p.m.
  • Those rare nights I do stay out late drinking (also known as weddings), I stick to white wine and my hangovers still last two days.
  • I spend exponentially more on work and workout clothes than going out clothes.
  • I’m up at 7 a.m. on Saturday mornings, whether there’s a long run on my calendar or not, because my body and the sun have apparently made some kind of cruel friends-for-life pact.
  • I voluntarily add things like flax seed to my morning smoothies.
  • I drink morning smoothies.
    (And they're green.)
    (And they’re green.)

    One more sign my body isn’t as young and hardy as it used to be? For three years and counting, it wasn’t until my 18-mile long run that my immune system finally gave up and saddled me with my first fall cold of the marathon season. (Proof in 2012 and proof in 2013. Not sure if I wrote about it in 2014, but I know it to be true.)

    This year, it only took 17 miles. That’s it, folks. The end is nigh.

    While moderate running and exercise are great defenses against cold and flu season, as soon as I start logging [very] long runs in the final weeks of pre-taper training, my body simply gives up the will to live. An hour of running is fine, but run for three straight hours as the marathon approaches and like clockwork my throat goes raw, my sinuses fill and boyfriend finds any excuse he can to move to the downstairs couch. In other words, I catch a nasty mid-September cold.

    And it’s not just me. According to this Runner’s World article, “long, slow runs (90 minutes or more) use slow-twitch muscle fibers, which feed on simple sugars, the same fuel as the immune system,” said Michael Ross, M.D., medical director of The Performance Lab in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. “It sets up a resource battle between the exercising muscles and the immune system, with the immune system losing out,” he told the magazine.

    While that’s always been the case — long runs inhibit your ability to ward off colds — it only used to happen for me at 18 miles, not 17. To me, that shortened timeline is a sign that my body is just a little less willing to cooperate this time around than in past marathon training cycles. It’s a sign I’m getting older and less resilient.  It’s a sign that my last marathon of my 20s should maybe be my last marathon of my life.

    Or maybe it’s just a sign I took an international fight last week with a lot of coughing passengers. That’s the price you pay to spend a week lounging beachside here:

    Photo credit: Ben
    Photo cred: Ben

    Either way, it’s a soup and tea and dialed back training week for me as I wait for this rhinovirus to work its way out of my blood stream. Guess that means I’ll be doing the one thing 29-year-olds hate most: Going to bed at 9 p.m. tonight as I work toward recovery. Darn.

    How is your immune system holding up as your fall race comes into focus?


3 thoughts on “Ever So Much More Than Twenty

  1. Speedy, I wept — WEPT — to learn that you were limited to 17 miles of rhino-virus free, immune-happy running on that last outing. It reminded me of an old Paul Harvey monologue, about an aged yoga/martial arts master who, from youth until well into his 90s, was able to do 50 pushups on one — count ’em, one — finger. “But”, lamented Paul, “at last this brave and wise warrior was forced, as in the end all of us must be, to recognize the brevity of youth, the ineluctable ravages of time, and to surrender. No longer is he the man he once was. No longer will he ever be the man he once was. It is over, all over. Now this once-great master must do his 50 pushups using — two fingers. Paul Harvey…………………GOOD DAY!” (Strange how I miss that guy.) Anyway, lest I digress, you’ll get past this. Soon you’ll do 18 before the next sniffle, 19 before the next cough, 20 before the next sneeze — and I’ll be over my current injury before my podiatrist and my physical therapist can get together to resolve whether it’s plantar fasciitis or a re-location of my earlier post-tib tendonitis. That’s what running does for ya. — Vaughan

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