Wait. I ran a marathon?

I worked out this morning. At 5:30 a.m. That means my alarm went off at 4:45 a.m. so I had time to curse the world, open my eyes, pull on some clothes and drive in the January darkness to the YMCA.

The fancy little aerobics class I attended was called Rope Burn. OK, fair enough. A little jump-roping, a little cardiovascular activity. Only 45 minutes.

Excuse me. Did I say "a little"? As if my 45-minute sweat was insignificant? I meant to say: I almost died this morning. Let's begin with what was initially wrong with the situation: the time, 5:30 a.m. The sun is still sleeping, the cats are still sleeping, it's only 2:30 a.m. in Alaska and I should still be sleeping.

But no, I was busy doing "a little" jump-roping. Fastly. Incessantly. Non-stop. And when we were done, we ran stairs. Ran. Faster. And faster. Two steps at a time. Up. And down. And then more jump-roping. Harder. It still wasn't over. The track was next. We ran around, and around. We sprinted, we ran backward. We ran with our arms above our heads (try it - not easy). We did squats, more jump-roping, more squats. It burned. I wanted to vomit. Or drink water. Or drink water then vomit. My chest tightened, my heart pounded, the sweat poured.

And then it was over. The class, not my life. Clearly. But close.

I was exhausted. More than exhausted. I had to be coaxed off the bench in the locker room. The steaming shower I took at home didn't help. My face was flushed, my calves throbbed. My stomach ached - either from over-exertion on an empty stomach, or the realization that I was O-U-T of S-H-A-P-E. Shoot.

Almost three months ago, to the day, I ran a marathon. A MARATHON. It was hard. I spent four months busting my behind to get in shape for that. And now, I've lost it.

Collective sigh.

That's a horribly depressing realization. Will I ever be able to run a significant distance again without my eyeballs popping out of my head? Will I ever look forward to an intense workout again? Will I ever feel good about my body again? Ever?

Sigh. Again.

I need a battle plan. I am determined to gain back all the "shape" I lost. All of it. I'll let you know when I figure out what that plan is. Maybe I'll nix jump-roping from the plan for now. But there is only nine months and 17 days until the 2006 Chicago Marathon. Do I dare?