I gave blood last Tuesday. While I’m not completely incapable of giving blood, as I’ve never passed out or gotten dizzy, I am a relatively small (5’3″) woman. So, being a pint short causes me to be groggy and a little out of breath on the stairs for a few days.
Since I’ve also gotten pretty fat this winter, I decided to use that Tuesday as a landmark date for getting back into shape. There are probably no real health benefits to working out after giving blood. My body is already producing a lot of erythropoietin to compensate for the loss of RBCs, so I highly doubt that intensive exercise after giving blood will have the same effect as altitude training, in which you are stimulating EPO/RBC production by stressing your body with low-oxygen conditions. What I mean is, there is probably a “cap” on your body’s rate of EPO production.
With this in mind, I decided to use this period to do what I call “Suffer Training” and “You’re Fat Reminder’s”, which provide purely psychological benefits. This is when you put yourself in a bit of pain to a) get used to the feeling, and b) remind yourself that it would hurt a lot less if you didn’t stress-eat all those cheesecakes last month.
I gave blood on Tuesday. To kick-start my return to caring about my body, I jogged/walked 2.5 miles in Washington Park on Thursday. Then I got my ass kicked by my sister on a run to Haymarket in Boston on Saturday. I ran/walked the 3-mile Normanskill-Delaware bridge route on Sunday. And on Tuesday, I went on a 5.75-mile road/trail run with Brett, my roommate.
He was also trying to get back in shape after the winter, so he casually threw out an invitation. I accepted with a vague idea that we were going to do 4-ish miles. The Normanskill farm-golf course loop that we did was pretty fantastic. Roads, no cars, dirt, steeeep uphills, crisp weather, the rising sun, the first hints of spring. Probably one of my favorite runs in this area. I didn’t realize how long this was until I mapped it out afterwards. I am a cyclist, not a runner. The most I’ve done in one sitting is 6 miles, and this is when I’m in pretty good shape. So this run was not only very fun, but also a confidence booster. I tend to smoke myself psychologically sometimes.
So now that I’m officially interested in running again, I played around with MapMyRide this week and came up with a route that went east on the Albany County Rail Trail, crossed a few closed bridges, went up Old South Pearl St, and returned via McCarthy Ave– around 5.8 miles. I decided to tackle this at 6pm on Friday afternoon, with one hour of daylight left. I made my way down Normanskill, past the small white church to the old Rockefeller Rd bridge. I accessed the rail trail via the steep dirt/gravel path. Going west takes you into Delmar, while going east takes you towards the Hudson. Both trails are unpaved and rough. (Another reason I’m motivated to explore the east trail is that I’ve heard that graptolites can be found on the Normans Kill.)
The east trail started as dirt but quickly turned into chunky railroad gravel. Running this was not terribly fun or great for my shoes. After about a mile, I reached the old railroad bridge that crossed the Normans Kill. It was in worse condition than I expected from the map. The bridge had metal beams about a foot wide spanning the river. There were wooden planks 1 ft wide and 5-6 ft long in various stages of decomposition that were laid across the beams. The foot of the bridge was missing planks, resulting in a five-foot gap with the river 100 feet below. I really wanted to finish the trail, and I thought, well, I made it this far already– I’ll just cross this bridge and this will be the last time I do this route.
I grabbed some vines and put one foot after the other on the metal beams until I made my way to the first wooden plank. I soon realized that there were these gaps between the planks. They weren’t wide enough for me to fall through– if I slipped, my butt would get stuck and save me from plummeting to my death– but it were still unnerving. To make matters worse, some of the planks had rotted. I got down and half-squatted, half crawled across the bridge, stepping on the planks where they were supported by the metal beam underneath. There was no rail. I made my way across, and the stupidity of what I was doing hit me. Holy shit. No one knows where I am. I haven’t told anyone I’m going running. This is an old railroad trail in the middle of nowhere. The sun is going down in 30 minutes. I am walking on rotting wood 100 feet above cold and who-knows-how-shallow water. I was halfway across when I noticed that there was a good five-foot section of bridge missing just up ahead. If I had a shittier week and were feeling reckless, I would have said, “well, what the hell”. Instead, I said, “nope”, turned around while suppressing feelings of panic, and crawled back.
Okay, I am a little scared of heights. Was this potentially very dangerous? Yes. Was I scared for my life? Yes. Was I actually in any danger? Probably not. A seasoned rock climber or mountain biker would probably skip across the bridge in no time. To paraphrase what a world-famous free solo rock climber (was it Alex Honnold?) once said, if you feel an adrenaline rush, then something has gone terribly wrong.
To the right of the foot of the bridge was a deer trail into the woods. It looked like there might be another way to cross the river. I trampled my way through branches and brambles (ouch) and came across a stream. I got my shoes wet and muddy. I realized that there was a wider section of river that the bridge went over, and that this was just a stream that had diverged from the main body. I felt a second wave of stupidity wash over me. I got back to the stony rail trail with waterlogged shoes and cuts from the brambles and retraced my route back.
As I reached the foot of the Rockefeller Rd bridge, I noticed that someone had placed a pair of shoes in the middle of the road. Placed, not thrown from a car. Placed with purpose. They were black Nike Freeruns with lime green interiors. They were exactly like the ones my running roommate owns. And they were burned. What the fuck. This is a scene straight out of Deliverance. As a weak, tired, short female alone in the middle of nowhere with ten minutes to sunset, I was a little creeped out.
I made it home without incident.
And that was the craziest thing I’ve done in a while.