Sunday, Jan. 25, 2004
Dear Diary:

"Five minute very easy jog," my instructions said. "Then run 5K and push yourself a little. Note your time."

I don't go to my gym on the weekends normally, but the running program to train for the 10K run now demands a fourth day of running. I really should have gone in yesterday but my whole body is sore from a new weightlifting routine. I decided to give it another day to recover before I pushed it again.

My gym was blessedly quiet this morning when I began keying the numbers into the treadmill's touch pad. Only one other woman was crazy enough to leave a warm bed early on a stupidly cold Sunday morning for the impersonal confines of a gym.

I always enjoy the first ten minutes of a run. It's so easy then and for a short time I feel strong, fleet, invincible. My whole body is relaxed, breathing easy, the rhythm of my feet perfect. I don't exactly hit a wall when my heart rate crosses 145 beats a minute, but that's when it stops being comfortable and when I most strongly want to quit.

The sweating starts at 150 beats per minute or about 15 minutes in. I wish I was one of those women who just gets a beautiful sheen but oh, no, once I'm up to that level my face turns a wondrous beet red. Even my arms turn bright pink. I wish I could make it look effortless. I can't.

"Push yourself a little," it said.

A very easy jog for me is 5 miles per hour without an incline. Most running sites tell you not to increase your speed more than 15% so I took the treadmill up to 5.8 miles per hour for the run. Most runners will tell you that's pitifully slow and it is. But for me it is a stretch.

The treadmill beeps every time you push the touch pad to advance or lower speed a notch. I winced with each of those eight beeps as I felt the treadmill speed up under my feet. The odometer said I had covered .41 miles in my jog, which meant I couldn't stop running until those glowing numbers read 3.51 miles.

I don't even have to check my heart rate monitor to know when I've crossed 160 beats per minute. That's when it becomes a head game, when the mechanics of running, once automatic, have to be forced

"Push yourself a little," it said.

At the three mile mark there were light spatters of my sweat arcing across the front of the treadmill. My tee shirt was plastered to my back. I could feel the front beginning to stick as well. The knees of my leotards were wet from the sweat running down from my forehead. So not pretty.

My gym had been filling up through this. All the cardio equipment was in use. The radio was blaring. The tee vee was blaring. I hadn't cranked my CD player up high enough to drown them out and I couldn't break my rhythm to adjust it so I could psyche myself through it all with music.

Two-tenths of a mile is not very far, but two-tenths of a mile short of my goal, my heart rate broke 175 beats per minute. I have never, ever asked this of my body and it amazed me that it was possible.

My eyes burned from the sweat I couldn't mop out of them because I knew that if I broke the rhythm of my arms I was finished. Every breath was a struggle. From time to time I heard the squeal of my shoe sole scuffing along the treadmill because my stride was faltering.

When the odometer clicked over to 3.51 miles my heart rate was at 182 beats per minute. 182 beats per minute. The beeps of that treadmill's touch pad as it began to cycle down through my five minute cool down suddenly became my most favourite sound in all the world.

When I sat down with my water bottle and notebook to finish my cool down and log this run I caught sight of my reflection in one of the gym's mirrored walls. I looked terrible. Face bright red, hair completely matted to head, huge vee of sweat and oh so tasteful random sweat spatters on the front of the fugly shapeless tee-shirt I hauled on this morning.

I'd describe myself as death warmed over, but that would be a slur on corpses everywhere. I had to laugh when I considered that I pay the equivalent of $50 Canadian a month to do this to myself.

Wait. It gets worse.

My trainer's shoulder has healed and this week she's back on the 10K program, about four weeks behind me. I know for a fact that even with her layoff she's already running in the range of 6 mph, slightly faster than what I'm half killing myself to run now.

So not only am I half killing myself and paying about $600 a year to do it, I've also set myself up to be humiliated big time in June when we run this 10K race together. How is it that these things always seem like a good idea at the time?

When I rolled out of bed this morning to head for the gym, my half asleep spousal unit muttered something about how he just doesn't understand why I'm doing this.

There are times when I have to admit that it beats me, too.

--Marn

Mileage on the Marnometer: 71.1 piddling miles Ten percent there rubber duck.
Goal for 2004: 1,000 miles - 1609 kilometers

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