In just a few short days, I’ll be on a big old jet plane on my way to New Orleans to snag state #8 in my quest to run 13.1 in every state of the Union. Some cruel wench booked me on a 5:50 a.m. flight so I will likely spend my first hours in NOLA unconscious on whichever safe, flat surface I find.

Note: the wench in question is me.

I’m as ready for this race as I can be. Most of my 2019 miles have been logged on the college’s indoor track, where eight laps equals (give or take) one mile. It’s good training for the Louisiana humidity, too. The temperatures hover around Tennessee-in-June in there, even when the temps outdoors are freeze-your-nosehairs cold.

Fortunately, my magical GPS watch — aka Herr Garmin the Second — can keep track of distance and pace without me. Before the technology was up to the challenge, counting dozens of laps while in the middle of running them was a challenge that was frequently greater than my ability. Now, I can just push a button and go. We are in the future, people.

dog in snow

This is why I’ve been running inside. Corgi provided for scale.

What Garmin and other watch engineers haven’t figured out yet is how to counter the boredom of running a billion laps inside. I’m sure they are working on it. Maybe small electric shocks at randomly placed intervals? Painful, yes, but would keep you on your toes.

In some ways, I’m fortunate that the track is around the basketball court, where they have indoor practice for sprints and field events as well as (duh) basketball. The only time the track is closed is when there is a game in process, which is fair. The track also serves as one of the access points to the bleachers. 

indoor track

Basketball warm-up. My giant, sweaty head provided for scale.

But it is a hoot to watch warm-ups, especially since the teams appear to have a player who does nothing but pump out a playlist. Nothing breaks the tedium like bangin’ (as the kids say (or, at least, used to say) tunes whose lyrics you are now too unhip to understand. Sometimes, yes, it is too loud because I’m too old but it all beats running in negative temps on icy sidewalks. We all pick our poisons.

For my last two long runs, it was the poison I picked. Nothing builds mental endurance like 13 miles inside. I chased that with followed by 14 more two weeks later. I don’t know how I kept my sanity mostly intact, either. One big trick was to not even look at my watch for the first hour. After that, it’s just a matter of stubbornness and a well-honed ability to lean into tedium. Or, more likely, I did lose my sanity and failed to notice.

Speaking of, my unflappable calm has been a bit flapped for the last couple of weeks. Nothing horrible has happened. Mostly, I am surrounded by good things, like the ability to run in a distant city with some good friends. Still, after a remarkably quiet January, February is just bangin’.

Last weekend, my oldest kid and I flew to Florida to spend some time with my mom. Soon I’ll take off for the Big Easy, then come back to some firm deadlines at my actual job. Add to that a Very Large Book Project that’s due in Mid-April (which I can tell you more about when cleared to do so but it is very exciting) and the usual stressors of parenting teens and keeping food in the house and spending time with your spouse and having aging parents, it’s a lot.

two women in face masks

The Teen and I getting our beauty on in Florida.

Some mornings I wake up convinced this is the day when I drop some balls. By evening, most of the balls end up where they need to be. While this is unsustainable in the long-term, I have my fingers crossed that I can hold it together-ish until spring. Running helps — but you already knew that.

That should be the next AMR shirt: Running helps me hold it together-ish. Put me down for an XL.

Even with the running, the recent stress has caused my irrational flying anxiety to come back like a bad houseguest. You know, the one who eats all of your food, stinks up the bathroom, and never pays for pizza. Or, it dawns on me, like teenagers.

It turns out that the mental skills to run a bazillion laps in a stuffy gym are not transferable to remaining calm in a metal tube in the sky during light turbulence. Brains are weird.

Because I know that I am not the only BAMR who feels this way: what are your best tips for panic-free flying?