The Long Road to Normal

It’s been 2 years, 8 months and a few weeks since I last posted a blog. To be honest, I’d lost a lot of the passion I had for keeping up with the race reviews because it was just the same thing over and over. Granted, we had a great time doing it. Wake up early, hop on a plane, see all our friends, have dinner before the race, wake up early, finish the race, have lunch then go our separate ways. After a dozen years, it got to be routine.

Oh, how I long for routine now.

Since March of 2020, the US has been in various stages of shut down due to a global pandemic. To date, Covid-19 has infected over 125 million worldwide including 15 and a half million people and killed 287 thousand in the US. Our home state of California has 1.5 million cases and nearly 21 thousand deaths. This is just as of today and we expect to see more due to a post-Thanksgiving surge that put California ICU capacity near zero and has our county under a 10PM curfew with only essential travel allowed.

From what we know, the virus is transmitted by airborne droplets and spreads most rapidly in enclosed spaces with poor airflow. Infected people can be contagious for two days before showing symptoms and the virus can incubate for days, meaning you might have caught it from someone a week ago and you’ll never know it. Research is showing that even if patients recover, long term effects including chronic fatigue, neurological disorders (‘brain fog’) and systematic inflammation that would severely impact the ability to race. Things we took for granted like taking public transit, flying, eating indoors are now high risk activities. Getting to the races, enjoying a good meal with close friends, even standing in a corral with hundreds of people just didn’t feel like a good idea for the long term.

So what’s a marathoner to do? Fortunately for us, we have convenient access to the Alameda Creek trail. It’s 11 miles end to end with a few turn offs to get just about any distance you need for training. We had to do more planning though. Water fountains were sealed off early because it wasn’t known if the virus could be transmitted by surface contact. Portapotties were closed as park maintenance staff was laid off. I had to go back to our original Team in Training mindset, carrying water even for 5Ks. Masks aren’t mandatory, but people with good sense are wearing them. I estimate 95%+ of the people I pass on the trail are masked up or pull something over their mouth and nose as they pass.

Little things like grabbing a lunch in our local Mexican restaurant after a long workout doesn’t happen. Now it’s take out or sitting in your car or a grassy hill along the creek since we need to keep our distance from others when we aren’t wearing masks. I usually just head home, jump in the shower and grab something out of a fully stocked pandemic supplies.

At the time of this blog, we have two vaccines that have received emergency use authorization (EUA) with one more potentially on the way. Since the US government funded production of the vaccine prior to the approval there will be millions of doses distributed in the coming months. Priority goes to front line healthcare workers, patients over 85, then a list of people based on age, exposure level then essential workers. Our turn is somewhere in the 260 millionth of 350 so we think it will be April or May before our number comes up. It’s a two dose treatment so it could be June/July until we are considered immune. There are still questions about how long immunity lasts but transmission should slow with the vaccinations.

Getting back to the races? Once the first wave of lockdowns started, Rock n Roll started cancelling races with Santiago in March. That was the last live race and only the third one of the year. Races went virtual. Sign up for free, race when you can and buy a shirt or medal if you want. With the loss of revenue, it was certain that we’d be cutting back on events that were less well attended. RNR San Francisco, Atlantic City, Chicago, Dublin, Philadelphia, Montreal and Denver will not return. The rest of the schedule was postponed to 2021 with the earliest date being Nashville in April. I’m optimistically planning on San Diego in June as the first race back. San Jose would be the next race if that falls through.

As I write this, I know that most of you are going through the same thing. But just like I go back and read my previous blogs, I remember all the things we did, not just the PRs and crazy travel stunts, but more the time with friends that we’ve been deprived of by Covid. I suspect that when we get to the other end of this – whenever that may be – I’ll look back on this blog and wonder how things have changed.

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