Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Which to quit - running, smoking, drinking, or sex

There have been a few things in my life that I like more than sex. Of course I'm speaking of over the past few years, not when I was between the ages of 13 and 25 (when I might have given up breathing air in exchange for sex). But as I have aged, to be frank, if given the option, I would have given up sex for drinking, a cigarette with my coffee in the a.m., and running. Luckily, I never had to make that choice. I have, however, had to prioritize doing the things I love to do. For simplicity, I'll repeat them in no particular order - sex, drinking, running, and smoking.

I have always suffered from cold weather and exercise related asthma. I do run with an inhaler when it is cold outside. Over the years, I have been to the doctor many times to have breathing tests done. My doctor has told me repeatedly that he can't tell that I ever smoked a day in my life - something that, over the years, I attribute to daily biking, tennis, or running. However all that changed for me over the past few weeks. Several blogs ago, I wrote about running the Subtropolis race. During the race (a 10k that was run indoors) I had an asthma attack. I finished the race in a good time, but I was a bit concerned about the episode. Then, a week ago Sunday I returned from an 11 mile run through the country. The weather had been good, and the pace had been somewhere in the 7.5 min/mi range - not too taxing. I stepped inside my house after the run and had another mild attack. That got me thinking that maybe smoking was taking a toll on my running. So I quit.

I have never been a really heavy smoker. For the past several years I've smoked 5-6 cigs a day. If they were healthy, though, I'd have chain smoked, because I like smoking that much. Days without cigarettes were always a lot like those anti-smoking commercials where the poor schlub who is trying to quit can't even dress himself. If I didn't have coffee and a nic stick first thing, I couldn't get going.

But I love to run. Apparently, more than I like to smoke. So I quit. And it has been shockingly easy. Yes, I get a couple of strong urges to suck American Spirit tobacco smoke into my lungs a few times a day. But the urges go away after a short while. And then I think of other things to do. I chew a few pieces of nicotine gum, and that helps as well.

I had no plan for quitting when I did, but the timing worked to my advantage. Last week I had to attend a trade show in Anaheim, CA, and that meant staying at a hotel. Most hotels I stay at are completely non-smoking. Also, the industry in which I work certainly frowns on use of tobacco products for anything other than sacred ceremonies. So, even though trade shows can be stressful, the living situation for the first seven days of my new smoke-free life was optimum.

So now, one of my 4 favorite things to do has been eliminated. I still have the other three, with only one done to excess (umm...that would be running - guys c'mon).

OK, since I haven't done it in the past, let's talk about running in Anaheim. If you thought Kansas was flat (which it isn't), or Florida was flat (which it is), you ain't seen flat till you've been to Anaheim. The landscape around Disney and the convention center is like a massive parking lot. It is heavily trafficked, but super flat and fast if you can get across the intersections or around the mid-western corn-fed family that walks five abreast at a snail's pace along the wide sidewalks (which are in perfect condition). While I took a couple of runs in other directions, my regular run was a 3.5 mi course around and through the Disney property. The first time I did it, it was a bit disconcerting, because it crossed two freeway entrances, several major intersections, and some large hotel lots. It also crossed the 5 (Interstate 5) on bridges twice - which, while a bit disorienting, was kinda cool, because you could see massive flows of traffic below your feet. The early a.m. brought out a bunch of runners of all abilities. I love places like Austin for just that reason - you see a lot of other runners. I wouldn't have guessed that Anaheim would've had the second largest amount of people I've seen out and about on early morning runs. And, while I'd never list it as a good place to go for a run, Anaheim was a good place to be if you wanted to be out on the crazy flat pavement with a lot of other runners. True, most are very likely from elsewhere, but they still count as Anaheimians (Anaheimites?!?) in my own private running census.

So, I got back to Kansas (still not smoking) and popped out for a 7.5 miler yesterday. No issues with asthma, traffic, or people walking 5 abreast on the sidewalks. Life is good.

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