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The Loop

Not the weekend I had planned.



How time flies when you're having fun. Or not.

Can't blame my current state on a lack of motivation. Even without a race to train for, there's nothing I like more than taking long, hard runs in perfect fall weather. And there's been some beautiful fall weather around here lately.

I'm what would be considered "recovered" from my bout with Covid-19 late last spring. Mild symptoms, relatively speaking. Headaches, fatigue and shortness of breath. Six weeks from start to finish, more or less.

That's when I started trying to run again, anyway. I did a couple of test runs in May but they were dismal failures. About mid-June I began a slow rebuild. A couple of miles at a time, anywhere from 9 to 10 minute pace. Took me a month to feel like I was struggling from being out of shape instead of not being able to breathe. Decided I would hazard a try at 5 miles. That went OK.

In August, I started to add a little here and there, maxing out at 6 mile weekdays and 10 milers a couple of Saturdays. Sometime in there I tweaked my left quad at the end of a good run. Slowed everything down but kept the mileage. That turned out to be not a great idea, because a week later I started having significant pain in the right knee. Not like the meniscus trouble I had on the left. This seemed like stress from an old basketball injury that became a tendinosis. Hasn't bothered me in over 10 years, but here it was.

On the trip to Idaho to drop off T-Rex for school, I did some decent running in the altitude, but a couple of days after a 10 miler I went out for 8 and it turned into a major slog-fest, and the knee was almost screaming.

Three weeks completely off running.

Here I am, 6 weeks later, running pretty consistently, but every run is a struggle. 4 miles at a time (6 on Saturday). Paces are OK, in the mid-8s per mile, but I feel terrible. HR according to Garmin averages 150-160, but it doesn't feel right. The knee is OK, although I still feel that, especially at the beginning for a half to a mile. There's no joy. I did try a half mile yesterday hard and did it in 3:46 (7:35mm). Don't know that I was hoping for anything faster, so I guess that's OK. Do I just need a little speed work?

Even if I could find a marathon to run, I don't see myself building up enough to go that far.

Anyway, we went to UT last weekend. Our best friends' daughter got married and despite Covid, we couldn't miss it. Daisy had a heart defect when she was born, and aside from being our best friends, Mrs. Dave was instrumental in getting her diagnosed and getting the emergency open heart surgery she needed when she was a couple of weeks old. We had to be at her wedding. That was on a Friday and we spent Saturday catching up with some other good friends in the area.

Saturday night we were having a chill evening with my sister and brother-in-law. We'd already checked in for our flight home the next day. It was getting late and we were saying our goodnights when my phone rang. It's T-Rex.

"Dad, my Check Engine light is flashing." That light's been on for a year because of a vacuum leak in the system from a bad gas cap that's been replaced but the light hasn't been reset. Anyways, it's always on. Now it's flashing. "Now my oil light is on. Now all the lights are on! Dad, what do I do?"

"Pull over. Stop the car. Now. Where are you?"

I tried to get her to tell me if the engine was even running and she couldn't. I tried to explain what the tachometer was and how she could tell, but I wasn't getting through. Too much panic. At least she wasn't alone. I could call my brother and he could make a rescue. But she has class Monday morning and not many options for getting there without her little green Civic. One disaster at a time. They (she was driving with 3 friends home from a haunted farm house) were 10 miles out of nowhere Idaho, in a snow storm.

Just then a good Samaritan knocked on her window. He got on the phone with me and explained that he was driving by and stopped to see if they were OK. He promised to try to get them going and failing that would drive them to the apartment. I could arrange a tow the next day. Disaster #1 handled.

Then I looked ahead to Disaster #2: getting the car repaired or replaced. Cosmo is 12 years old, has 160K miles and has started to have a few issues. Cruise control is spotty, the A/C pulley grinds under load at slow speeds, one of the belts squeaks at start-up no matter how tight I get it. Any repair that costs us more than a few hundred dollars will be more than Blue Book. If it was home, we'd probably donate it.

Good Samaritan calls me back a few minutes later. He can't get it started, but has figured out that my dear, sweet, naïve daughter, concerned that she was running low on gas had stopped at a station and filled her tank ... with diesel fuel. I'd heard of people doing this before, but didn't remember what that meant. Does this ruin the engine and/or the fuel system? Are we talking about several hundred dollars in repair costs? Disaster #2 is looming large.

I hang up the phone and we discuss the various options. On the plus side, T-Rex and her friends are safe. Axe murders wandering the roads in search of college students broken down on the highway to dismember are the stuff of bad movies and in reality are pretty rare. They'll be home in a few minutes. I have two brothers in the area who, while not ASE certified mechanics, have some skill with wrenches. If they have time and it's not a major problem, they can probably help in the long run. However, she does need to get 30 miles down the road on Monday and there's nothing open in small-town Idaho on Sunday, so no one will look at it until Monday. She's stuck, and with her anxiety, there's small chance of her managing this well. Dad needs to be there.

It would be one thing if I was home in Michigan, but I'm just a few hours away. If we see a worse case and the car has be be replaced, I'll need to be there anyway. So I borrow my sister's extra car and drive up the next morning. It's cold, near zero the closer I get to Rexburg. About the only good news is that the snow was an isolated blast in the area and was more wind than accumulating piles of the white stuff. The roads are clear for the most part. Fine for driving, but lousy for trying to fix a car not inside a garage.

I meet the tow truck at the spot where they left Cosmo the night before, only about 8 miles from my brother's house as well as a shop that was recommended to us by some other friends who live in the area. Did I mention it was cold? So I follow the tow truck to the shop, give him an extra few bucks for coming out on a frigid Sunday morning, then go to T-Rex's house to check on her. She's OK, but on the edge worrying about getting to school the next day. I promise her (again) that I'll be there to drive her and that I'll make sure she has transportation set before I leave on Wednesday morning, whether that's a repaired Cosmo or a rental or a new (used) car. I say this will more confidence than I feel, because I still don't know exactly what my plan is.

At my brother's house, he refreshes my memory of what running diesel fuel through a gasoline engine system means. And it's not much. The opposite - gasoline in a diesel - is a major deal probably requiring engine replacement. But diesel in a gas car just needs to be drained and replaced with gas, maybe cleaning or replacing the sparks plugs depending on how long it's run before the car stops. He's done that work before in his driveway. But it's 4 degrees and he has no garage. No thank you. I'll pay the shop. Just in case, I peruse autotrader.com, cars.com and a couple of other sites, seeing what old Civics are available in SE Idaho. Not much it turns out, so that little worry bead stays in my head. Maybe I go to UT and drive one back. Maybe I fly home and bring Abby (since I'm only driving about once a week since March) out for her, then get a new one for me sometime later. Time to figure that out later.

Monday morning I do the class shuttle, then talk to the shop. No issue with draining the tank and getting the car on the road again, but they won't be able to get to it until that afternoon. Assuming no other issues crop up, it should be ready to roll that afternoon or sometime Tuesday. I'm not 100% happy with the indefinite timeline, but OK. Her aunt can drive her on Wednesday if there's a delay.

So I hang out with my dad while she's at class. Who knows how many more visits I'll have with him - he's 88 in December. We drive over to get his truck washed, look at a new lift chair for his living room. It's almost painful to watch him trying to get out of a chair nowadays. He shows me a few things on the computer that he's been working on, some of them he showed me the last time I was there.

When I stop in at the shop on my way back to my brother's house, they say they've started draining the system and don't see any issues with it being ready to go on Tuesday. It shouldn't cost more than the hourly rate - probably in the $200 range. Not as cheap as family labor, but it's still windy and about 15 degrees, so it seems a fair price to me.

Tuesday I spend with my sister-in-law and get a feel for how the less conflicted view the current election. I heard some hand-wringing, some distaste, some acceptance of fiction as nonfiction, some standing on a few serious but important issues - some that I agree with her, some that I don't. The sort of sane and reasonable political discussion that doesn't happen on the internet.

Went to phlebotomy class with T-Rex on Tuesday, hoping for the call that Cosmo was alive and ready to be driven home, and prepping my arms for the girl to practice sticking needles into people. They called right before class started, so we could pick him up after class. She did great on my right arm - didn't even feel the poke - but failed on the left when she accidentally pulled it out before getting the sample.

Packed my stuff up after that, stopped to see Dad one more time on the way south, where he had me walk around the block with him and his new walker, then reset the magnification on his TV because it wasn't right with the new Dish network box. That put me about an hour behind schedule getting back on the road. Stayed that night with my niece and her husband in Mantua (pronounced "MAN-u-way"), outside Brigham City, and drove the last 90 minutes to return my sister's car in the morning. From there I took the train to the airport and spent the day in two airports and two airplanes, getting home at 8:00 pm.

Pretty tired yesterday. Changing two time zones didn't help, but despite not setting my alarm for work, I woke up only an hour later than planned but just in time for the meeting I had at 8 AM, attending it in my pj's (not that anyone could tell).

Got out for that last 4 miler with a half mile hard. I'm hoping it was the week of travel, poor food and time zone magic that made it as hard as all the others have been lately. Maybe I'll be back to normal soon.


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I'm in the same boat re running. It seems like all runs feel harder and are slower than they should be. Knocks the joy out of it.

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2 hours ago, BANGLE said:

I'm in the same boat re running. It seems like all runs feel harder and are slower than they should be. Knocks the joy out of it.

I want to say it's covid leftovers, but August wasn't going too bad until the knee took me out.

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Lots of stuff going on. Hopefully the running comes back around soon. (Probably just in time for it to be super cold). Did you talk to a doctor post-COVID? Some people are ending up with heart/lung problems, even though they seem generally fine. Of course right now it's probably going to be really difficult to get appointments for anything.

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