A Christmas Reward

BreadThis holiday break was a gift for sore legs in more ways than one.

It is the third long break to occur during my hike.  I didn’t plan it that way.  The calendar just intervened on its own like a deus ex machine to save my bacon, or at least that part of my anatomy that is analogous to the part of the pig where we find bacon.

Maybe my trail name ought to be something like “Well Rested, Days Off or Hardly Hikes.”

Nevertheless, being home is a treat.  Let’s see, there’s hot water on demand and porcelain, the fridge doubles as an endless food bag, and best of all, the shelter is warm when I wake up no matter the outside temperature!  Central heating.  What a concept!

In contrast, there is the honey do list, regular chores, family matters, holiday shopping and far too many impatient drivers. I do live in the Washington, D.C. region where “everyone is entitled and special” after all.

Do I really have to go back out in the cold?  You bet, so start getting your head and backside ready.

Of course, I knew the facts of thru hiking life the day I returned home.  In fact, I was motivated.  I started running on the first day just to maintain my cardio fitness, but I put off the dreaded gym as long as possible.

My wife’s mother taught me to make nisu, a traditional Finnish braided holiday bread that is smothered in cherries, nuts and frosting.  We enjoy it on Christmas Eve.  This special treat takes forever to make because it has to rise three different times during the course of its preparation. http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/4168/finnish-nisu-aka-pulla.

I used to get up at 2 a.m. so that the nisu could be ready in time to unwrap presents on Christmas morning.  But, once Santa’s alias became obvious to every household member, we shifted the presents and the bread to Christmas Eve so dad could get a few extra winks.

This year, while the nisu was rising and Sisu was contemplating its stratospheric caloric richness, I  slipped in a trip to Fitness Together in Bethesda, Maryland where I train.  By doing so, I rationalized that I could discount the calories in advance.

By the time my training session was over, I knew the next day was going to hurt.  Hiking doesn’t work your body much above the waist.  Of course, that’s the part that got tortured the most.

As Christmas day opened, this hiker hobbled out of bed like a geriatric pretzel permanently bent and twisted into a shape not found in nature.  I felt like a human sacrifice.  However, a generous dose of vitamin I, some gentle stretching, and an extra hot Hollywood  (very long) shower combined to enable basic locomotion and upright posture.

The best part came later. I limbered up enough to zip off a five-mile run and topped my usual time for the course by better than a minute and a half per mile!   The exercise and weight loss gods at long last had rewarded my offerings.

In a short while, I’m going back to the gym.  Dread the thought, but will love the run to follow.

BTW, the way the weather forecast is racking up, it appears I’ll be back on the trail when the calendar flips to a new year.  Since I usually go to bed early, I won’t miss much.  I’ll just celebrate at hiker midnight rather than when the clock strikes.

The ponies of Grayson Highlands will be the scheduled highlight.  Can’t wait.

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