It sort of sounds like a country, doesn’t it? Anaerobia.
Where are you from?
I’m from Anaerobia.
When I was in college, Anaerobia was where my cross country teammates and I lived… at least for three and a half months of each year. Anaerobia: population thirteen (give or take); highest elevation: Hell Loop (ten miles of hills from… well, hell); lowest elevation: River Loops (one mile of muck and mud, set on repeat until our coach told us we were done). Anaerobia was our country- it was where we lived, ate, and breathed from August through November.
Since those days, Anaerobia, to me, is less a country and more a state… that is, a state of being. It is not for the meek. It is not pretty, and it is not graceful. It neither smells nice nor sounds nice. Once you cross the border into Anaerobia, you count the moments until you can leave. I paid a visit to Anaerobia this morning.
It started with winning my internal struggle to get out of bed. I was encouraged by the knowledge that our continued unseasonably warm winter would render my running jacket and headband unnecessary. I began my run slowly, to warm up my legs and loosen the stiff Achilles tendon I have been babying for the last several weeks. Even in just a long-sleeved shirt and tights, I was overdressed. I brought my iPod along for accountability, slightly annoyed that I had to carry it in my hand because my lack of attire also meant fewer pockets, but I’d be a fool for even considering complaining about a 45-degree morning in January.
As the third song on my playlist came to a close, I took a deep breath and gradually began to quicken my step. My warm-up was over, and it was time to make my way over to Anaerobia. I picked up the pace until it was comfortably hard- difficult enough that conversation was next to impossible, yet easy enough that I could maintain the pace for the duration of a song and even squeak out a “good morning” to fellow runners on the trail. I held on to my pace, through the last strum of the guitar, and relaxed into recovery mode. One song. Then it was back to turning over my feet, this time faster and harder than before, head down, focused on maintaining the pace. I was almost there.
Another song to recover, then back at it again. My gloves in hand because it had gotten downright hot and my eyes fixated straight ahead, I could barely exhale a “hey” to the guy running toward me. My breath was punctuated by audible grunts that sounded neither smooth nor ladylike, but I didn’t care. I had arrived in Anaerobia, and all I could think about was when I could leave. I stayed for a few minutes, until the song on my playlist ended. I soaked up every second of my recovery, shaking out my arms, letting my legs move at their own pace, and enjoying the melody in my ear.
I ran back and forth between Recovery and Anaerobia a couple more times, each visit harder and more taxing than the last. As my penultimate recovery song began to fade, my heart rate back down and my legs ready to go, I prepared my psyche for my final visit to Anaerobia. I cringed when the next song began because I knew it was more than five minutes long. This is why you don’t set the playlist to shuffle. Then I heard the same voice that had tugged me out of bed an hour earlier: You got this.
I sped up, set my body to cruise control, and back to Anaerobia I went. I focused on my breath, ignoring the sounds that escaped from my throat. I cursed the incline that suddenly felt like Mount Kilimanjaro as I rounded the north side of the lake.
Can’t. Chris. Martin. Sing. Any. Faster?
Finally, it was over. I was out. Only this time, I had run clear through Anaerobia, into the land of Dry Heaveia. I stopped for a moment to, ahem, collect myself. I thought of my high school track coach: If you don’t feel like throwing up after an interval workout, you didn’t run hard enough! I suppose he would have approved of my effort this morning. The thought made me smile and carried me through my gentle cool-down back home.
Thank you for reading!