It's been a few weeks since the arrival of COVID-19 (AKA Coronavirus) to the Colorado, and yet it appears that my hands have already aged a decade or two.
I can see cracks on my knuckles as I write these words.
While I didn't rush out and stock up months worth of anti-bacterial soap, rice, and toilet paper, I have been aggressively washing my hands a few times more than usual, which is already above average, hence the dry-hands, and my entire house smells of bleach.
It's ironic is some ways, that it seems like the country has caught up to my germaphobic ways.
Likewise, I'll joke that I was living the homebody-introvert lifestyle, and avoiding hugs and handshakes long before it became trendy.
But I only do so in order to find light in dark times, because sometimes it feels like we have to find something to smile or laugh about - being optimistic in the most unwelcoming of times is a bullet-proof vest of sorts. It's having a larger perspective on things, and it can get you through just about anything, which probably explains my affinity for satire.
I'll admit, however, that it has indeed been an on-going challenge to remain optimistic with all of the recent pandemonium swirling around the country, and the world.
Thursday I found myself at the grocery store to stock up on the essentials, and I couldn't help but notice that everyone's cart was nearly full with hand-sanitizer, non-perishable items and toilet paper. Meanwhile, I'm over here filling up with coffee, rice, and bags of Haribo gummy bears.
And then like dominos, the world of sports ceased to spin for a few hours. The NBA, MLS, MLB, and NCAA (just about every organization with an acronym) suspended their seasons moving forward.
Things were getting real.
For moment I had hope, but I knew where this was going - I think we all did.
I went about my morning, stocking away my coffee and placing a bag of gummy bears in the refrigerator.
And then the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) released their statement: the 2020 track and field season would be suspended until April 6.
Now it was real. Very, very real.
For a moment my chapped hands weren't dried to the bone anymore - an anxiety-induced cold-sweat overtook me, and I knew I had to report on this bombshell.
After pumping out the bad news on the site and all over social media I took a breather to soak in what this exactly meant moving forward.
No track and field meets for four weeks. No Rapids games. A perfect excuse for opting out of any social gatherings.
And then the tsunami of emotion hit.
After sifting through various instagram responses to my post about the suspended season, my heart dropped.
The high school track and field world found out halfway through the day that, despite being excited about the upcoming season - which was days away - it now was all in question.
Add that seniors in their final few months of high school track and field had to find out that nearly half of the season had been suspended.
That age-old "one more time on the line" saying might've just lost its spice.
"RIP Senior season" was a common response in various forms of lettering and words.
Editor's Note: Shoutout to Dylan Schubert for the most hauntingly funny response: "I'd feel more exposed to the virus at a Walmart than a track meet."
Nearly 80 meets - about four weeks worth of the season - erased. Disappeared. Gone.
I couldn't help but think of how I would react if my senior track and field season had been suspended. I would've been devastated, as I am now.
It's hard not to feel robbed of the experience of high school track and field.
Spaghetti dinners the night before big invitationals. Bus rides to meets before the sun rose from the east. Laughs and conversations with teammates - No Ryan, Weezer's "Blue Album" is way better than the "Green Album." Butterflies swirling anxiously in your stomach while spiking up before heading to the start line, Final call for the boy's 1,600! Impromptu karaoke to Queen's "We Are The Champions" following a team victory.
I can honestly say that high school track and field was perhaps some of my more memorable times - times I would never trade back.
Reading through the responses was nearly as difficult as the latest news.
As a journalist, and storyteller, I've always found meaning or purpose in the Pearl Jam lyrics from "Wishlist" - "I wish I was a messenger and all the news was good."
But just after noon on Thursday, there was no good news coming from MileSplit Colorado about the season ahead.
I even cringed while typing out "BREAKING: Track and Field Season Suspended Until Early April."
I knew how many people would heart-broken, because I shared their aches and pains. As excited as Colorado athletes were to toe the line this outdoor season, so was I to cover it all.
While athletes train their bodies, journalist and storytellers train their minds.
Rather than line up my spikes and lay out my uniform the night before a meet, I line up my camera equipment and scan over entry lists.
From an athletes perspective, I totally understand the frustration. You train all winter, or for seniors, up to three-and-a-half years for one final season.
And now the fate of that season is uncertain, like the third season of Atlanta.
Watching videos from pre-NCAAs where athletes who were hours if not days away from spiking up to race for a national title only to be told the meet was cancelled was heart-breaking.
You think of all the miles, all the sacrifice, all the work.
Like training for the Boston Marathon only for it to be postponed until the Fall - oh wait...
But in times like these, with something like this - something so, rare, it's important to think "We" not "Me."
Because we're all in this together, but separately, about six-feet apart.
If anything, it's times like these that force us to be more empathetic - we must think beyond ourselves.
While I'd like to think my immune system could handle - and beat - the Coronavirus, I'd hate to think about the possibility of passing it along to someone who may have an immune system unable to handle it.
I can think of five family members off the top of my head that would be highly susceptible to the coronavirus.
That's not a risk I'm willing to take.
Earlier this week - before the sports world crashed like the stock market - I even had my own social distancing plan - before there was such a phrase - in place for the weekend worth of meets I planned to cover.
I figured if anything, the coronavirus gave me every excuse to sport a wide-brimmed hat with hoodie over it, big sunglasses, and that I could lean heavily into a very progressive fly-on-the-wall existence at track meets.
While I at times do get overly-excited at big performances and can't help but high-five someone for their efforts, I knew I'd have to maintain a reserved, if not physically-distant take on how I go about covering meets.
But given the severity of what this has all come to, I understand - and agree - with CHSAA's recent decision to suspend the season until April 6.
And - I keep saying "in times like these" (and can't write those words without finishing off the Foo Fighter's lyric: "It's times like these you learn to live again, It's times like these you give and give again, It's times like these you learn to love again, It's times like these time and time again" - it's important to keep a wide-eye on reality.
We have to look long-term - not just one or two weeks down the road, but months.
The sooner this gets contained and we as a society can catch up, the sooner normal life can resume.
Prior to CHSAA's ruling I feared that the longer we wait the more this would spread, which would only delay the inevitable - a suspended season, if not seasonS.
Right now there is still hope that we'll all gather at JeffCo Stadium in that third week in May for the Colorado State Championships to watch the best track and field in the state.
There's still hope for a cross country season next fall.
Editor's Note: If you're looking for an inspirational read that has themes of training hard for awhile with the uncertainty about when your next race is, I recommend John L. Parker's "Once A Runner" - it's a favorite of mine over the winter months when it seems like all grind.
While this definitely isn't easy for anyone, it's what's right in the long-term.
As any athlete knows - you put in the work for later. You sacrifice now, for later.
I'm pretty sure many athletes had that mantra over the winter assuming "later" was "now," but there's something else in store for us all.
And I'll admit that I'm riding the same waves as most of all of you - sometimes I'm optimistic, other times I'm quite the pessimist.
But there's no use in negativity, not now. It goes nowhere.
Right now we've got to get somewhere. We've got to be focused on solutions.
Until wide-spread testing becomes available, all we can do is wash our hands, bleach everything, and be the coolest introvert ever. Hey, perhaps even make a Tik-Tok video of your cleaning routine, put it on instagram, and tag MileSplit Colorado.
While we head into an abyss of sorts, stay motivated, be safe, have hope, and above all, remember we're all in this together, but separately, about six-feet a part, of course.