Saturday, Jan. 10, 2004
Dear Diary:

When it gets this stupidly cold around here people have the choice of two possible greetings:

Cold enough for ya?

How'd yer car start?

It's too freakin' cold here to be witty, people.

Lisa said it was 33 below when she opened the gym at 5:30 Friday morning. I myself waited until it was a balmy -26C (15 below F) before I drove down for my workout.

Temperatures this cold do weird things to everyday objects. My parka is made out of some special polyester blend and normally it feels like cloth, but about 10 minutes outside and it started to make this very odd crinkling paper sound every time I moved. The foam that makes up the seats in the Marnmobile was rock hard and didn't soften until the car heater and my own appreciable BTU's (buttal thermal units) had warmed it up.

When I got to the U.S. border and stated the purpose of my trip there was a pause and then the border guard said, "Lady, are you NUTS? You went out in this weather to go to the GYM?"

They'd even closed the local schools, which is how I finally got to meet Peggy, The Beast.

At my gym the highest accolade you can get is to be called a beast. Beasts are the people who don't come out of the cardio section until there is a huge V of sweat down the front of their tee shirts. Beasts are the people who throw around the serious iron in the weight lifting section, veins swelling, foreheads beaded in sweat from the exertion.

Being a beast is about more than being strong. Being a beast is about taking it to the limit, facing your body down. I've only heard one woman given that reverential title at my gym. I had been dying to see her ever since.

When I walked into the gym Friday and saw a smallish woman absolutely running on the Stairmaster, a light spray of sweat in an arc on the mirrors close behind her shoulders, I had my suspicions I was in the presence of beastliness. When I casually eyeballed her settings as I passed and saw the level she was at and how long she'd been doing it, I realized this had to be Peggy.

Just her Stairmaster numbers alone made me want to drop to my knees and genuflect, right there and then.

I did my warm-up stretches and got on the treadmill for Friday's intervals which looked like this: 17 minute jog, three minute walk, 15 minute jog, three minute walk, 10 minute jog, three minute walk. I managed to do over half of it at the 5 per cent incline and didn't have to back down to zero incline until my final 5 minutes. Covered just a hair under 4 miles in 51 minutes, a big whack of it running uphill. I was pretty proud but even you know what? In the world of running, that's piddling.

The good thing was, though, that it made me look like a beast because it made me sweat like nobody's business. Marn, Chihuahua in Rottweiler's clothing.

When I moved into the free weights where she was, we had an obvious topic of conversation--she knew intervals when she saw them, and is training for the same 10K race I'm training for. She won that race last year for my age group (40+). She ran it in 47 minutes and some change. It took me 51 minutes to run/walk 4 miles. She can run the whole 6+ miles of this race in under 48 minutes.

Fine.

Oh, and she's training for a marathon after that. Her ninth marathon. You know, when she's not being a full time teacher. And mother of two young children. And writing her doctoral thesis because, you know, she might have a few microseconds each day when she's not actually doing anything.

Fine.

The worst part? She was funny and self-deprecating. Much as I wanted to dislike this woman, I ended up really liking her. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

The best part? She's made me realize that if I just organized myself a little better, I could be fitting a big plenty more into my life, too.

Food for thought, eh?

--Marn

Mileage on the Marnometer: 22.15 piddling miles
Goal for 2004: 1,000 miles - 1609 kilometers

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