Spring Cleaning

Like clockwork, I tend to get sick once in the fall and once in the spring, just as the seasons are changing. In the fall, it’s an apropos, grim entrance into the cold, lonely winter. I don’t really mind it much; it’s a bookend on the halcyon days of summer and autumn. It’s probably time to curl up on the couch anyway, what’s the difference if I’ve got a runny nose?

Conversely, getting sick at the onset of spring really drives me crazy. The weather is finally turning and I can run in shorts again. I usually get a few glorious runs in and then BAM – sick. It’s like a final kick in the ass from Old Man Winter on my way out the winter door.

Now, when I say “sick” I don’t mean third-world, near death, sleeping away the days in bed with dengue fever “sick.” I usually get a little fever and an irritating cold – sick enough to be miserable, but with enough energy left over to complain incessantly to Mrs. B. For the last few years though, just as I’d seem to be getting better, I’d get a terrible sinus infection. After a week of blowing fluorescent yellow murk out of my nose and suffering through several atmospheres of pressure behind my face, it would start to dissipate, but not before royally screwing up my training.

Last spring, during a particularly horrible infection, my wife brought home a Neti Pot. For those of you who don’t know, a Neti Pot is a sinus-cleaning device. It looks like a cross between Aladdin’s lamp and a wooden shoe, and you use it to deliver a saline solution into your sinuses.

It takes a tremendous leap of faith the first time you pour a little bucket of warm salt water into your nose. Initially, it’s not unlike a surfing mishap and at best is a bad day at the beach. You get the anxious adrenaline rush of cheating death, but unlike something like bungee jumping or sky-diving, there’s no promise of exhilaration or euphoria. Just drippy nostrils. There’s no immediate relief, so you find yourself blowing your nose over the kitchen sink with the taste of brine in your throat wondering if you even did it right. You’ll feel self conscious and a little cheated, like Allen Funt is going to stroll over and tell you that you’re on Candid Camera.

I’m not sure it did much for me the first time I used it. I was already well into an infection and the garbage in my sinuses was already deeply entrenched. For whatever reason, I tried it again this past fall just as I was beginning to get my semi-annual cold. This time, the cold wasn’t as bad, didn’t last as long and didn’t conclude with a crushing sinus infection.

Last week, when I felt my spring cold coming on, I did it again with the same success. Coincidence? Maybe. Depending on how much time you want to waste on Google, you can find all sorts of explanations for the treatment, ranging from mildly scientific to utter nonsense. The fact that it was for sale at CVS was enough justification for me. Plus, I’m always eager to try a new way to gently drown myself.

In any event, it seems to do something. I mention it because, as runners, we tend to value uninterrupted breathing. If you’re prone to this kind of stuff and don’t mind a little water boarding, you might want to give it a shot.