It was day seven in a row of over a hundred degree weather here in sunny Nebraska. Why did the midwest have to get the ass-end of every single season? Last Winter we got enough snow to make Omaha look like the Yukon Territory. They say Spring is nice, but I wouldn’t know because the second I step outside my sinuses swell up to the size of baseballs. And don’t even get me started on Fall. We get approximately ten days of the most beautiful overcast weather you’ve ever seen, then the temperature drops like a cartoon anvil. And as for summer...well, like I said, that day was day seven in a row of over a hundred degree weather, the worst heat wave I’d seen in my lifetime.
That day also happened to be day one hundred in a row of me running at least two miles. As soon as my spring allergies began to subside, I decided it was time to get in shape. The road that made a complete circle around my apartment complex measured to be about half a mile, so every single day at exactly 4:00PM, I took four laps around the property. Why every single day, you ask? Aren’t you supposed to give yourself forty-eight hours to heal in between exercise sessions? Well that’s what they say, and believe me, the first few weeks were brutal, before my body adjusted. But I am a creature of habit, and if I took one day off, one day would inevitably become two, and two would become the whole week, and next thing you know, the ground would be covered in brown leaves before I’ve even made a dent in my summer body. So I went every single day, and I managed to go a hundred straight days before that heat wave knocked me off my feet.
My clothes were drenched immediately, and the sun was so bright in my eyes I could barely see. Luckily, I’d run that circle so many times I could do it blind-folded. The air felt like moss coating my lungs, but by the seventh hundred degree run, I was used to it. My body knew it only had to tolerate it for twenty-five minutes or so. If you stay focused on the goal, the senses begin to fade into the background.
Why was I running at 4:00PM? Why not go out at dawn, or wait until evening? Well, like I said, I’m a creature of habit. I wake up every morning at 6:00AM and do a simple yoga routine, then at 6:30 I meditate. I’ve got a whole mind-body-and-spirit kinda thing goin. 7:00 is breakfast, and at 7:30 on the dot I start to write. Yea, I’m a writer, I guess. Nothing published yet, but hey, what else am I gonna do during a pandemic, other than exercise? The universe had offered me the perfect opportunity to get in shape and follow my dreams. Anyway, I write from 7:30 until 11:30, then it’s lunch break until 12:00, then writing again from 12:00-4:00. Then, as I’ve said, 4:00PM is running time. With stretching before and after, that usually takes about thirty minutes. 4:30 is shower time and 5:00 is dinner. After dinner, I do another short meditation session, and the rest of the evening is relaxation. I watch TV from 5:30 until 8:00, and then it’s two hours of reading before bed at 10:00.
That’s my routine, and I don’t like to break it. Yea, I suppose I probably could shuffle a few things around, but why should I? I have my day set exactly the way I like it and I’m not going to change just because Mother Nature gets sadistic sometimes.
In other words, screw Mother Nature.
My headband was saturated, and sweat was beginning to run into my eyes. I did my best to wipe it away but I’m pretty sure my arms only added moisture to my forehead, instead of removing it. Just keep running, I told myself. Only fifteen minutes or so to go.
I considered swapping yoga with running, but then I would need to shower in the morning too, and I wouldn’t start writing until 8:00. If I started half an hour late, it would throw me off completely. It sounds stupid, but knowing I have thirty minutes less before lunch just makes me wonder what the point is, and I end up doom-scrolling through social media for three and a half hours. And I can’t skip the morning meditation, because that’s what unlocks my creativity. Also, when I miss a meditation session my anxiety goes through the roof.
I could do it at sundown, but there’s one big problem with that strategy: TV time usually consists of a few alcoholic beverages. Yea, I drink pretty much every night. So what? I work really hard, and maintaining a schedule as rigid as mine is stressful. Breaking the schedule is stressful too, as I’ve mentioned, but it’s a different kind of stress. Stress that’s harder to manage. The usual stress is easy to handle, as long as I have something to take the edge off at the end of the day. I used to drink a lot of beer, but I switched to whiskey because beer has a lot of carbs. Whiskey has calories too, but they say alcohol doesn’t make you gain weight as long as you don’t binge eat while you drink, and I never eat a single thing after supper. But I digress. My point is, try running two miles with three or four shots of whiskey in you. You’re gonna have a bad time.
Okay, I’ll be honest. I kind of like the heat. There’s something about pushing through a workout in the absolute worst conditions that just makes me feel more alive. After all, what can you really know about yourself if you’ve never pushed your body to the limit? It wasn’t just about maintaining my routine. I had to know that I could handle anything Mother Nature could throw at me. I wasn’t going to let her win.
I was in the home stretch when everything changed. Lap three had gone by in a flash, and I felt like I was slipping out of time. I dragged my arm across my forehead again, expecting it to be slick but instead it was sticky, like velcro. The sudden friction made me realize my head was throbbing, and when I looked down at my arm, it was red and dry. I had stopped sweating. Before I could process what this all meant, my stomach clenched up as if squeezed by an invisible fist, and all feeling left my legs. I had just enough presence of mind to steer my fall toward the grass instead of the pavement, for which I would later be grateful. I have no earthly idea how long I sat there on the lawn dry heaving, before my head hit the ground and the world faded out.
I came to in the emergency room. A neighbor had seen my collapse and called 911. The doctors told me I had suffered heat stroke, most likely brought on by the combination of the temperature, dehydration, and strenuous activity. No duh. I didn’t mention my drinking habit, but I knew it was partially to blame. They said I was lucky enough to fall into some shade, which helped cool my body and hold off serious organ damage. But all the same, I went home with a hefty bill and a thoroughly bruised ego. I guess a hundred days was enough. Time for a new routine.
Mother Nature, you win this round.