Tuesday, Aug. 02, 2005
Dear Diary:

I should not be allowed to watch sporting competitions without adult supervision.

The world aquatic championships were held recently in Montreal and they've been all over Canadian tee vee as a result. This past weekend I listened to some commentators talk about the kind of training that goes into turning out a competitive swimmer. One of them mentioned that some Canadian swimmers get in the pool and swim hard enough to keep their heart beat in the 180 bpm range for an hour.

An hour. This, apparently, helps them build the kind of insane stamina that allows them to power through water at world record speeds.

I know what 180 bpm feels like because I spend the last two minutes of my 32 minute runs up there. It's very uncomfortable because on top of the physical pain of having pushed your body to move far longer than it wants to, I feel as if I'm not getting quite enough air. It pretty much breaks my will to live.

But here's the deal: runners need stamina. More than anything I want to make myself into a runner. You'll notice I did not append the adjectives "excellent" or even "good" there. I just want to be able to run to the best of my ability.

So of course when I hit the gym on Monday I had to see just how long I could keep my heart in the 180 bpm range. I strapped on my heart rate monitor, powered up the treadmill and 39 minutes later I had my answer: 4 minutes and 32 seconds.

I have seen the insanely competitive runners at my gym get off a treadmill or elliptical machine and announce to the world, "Oh, man, I think I'm gonna hurl." I have now added that precious moment to my own life experience. I cannot begin to grok how anyone has the grit to punish their body that hard for an hour.

There's one important thing I want to stress to my three loyal readers who I know occasionally try what I try. You'll notice the figure of 39 minutes. I ran for 34 minutes and then I was very, very careful to take my heart rate back down to a low rate before I got off the treadmill. I spent five, count 'em five minutes cooling down by slowing down the treadmill to 4 mph when I was done running and dropping it an additional 0.4 mph at 45 second intervals.

You never, ever abruptly stop moving when you've pushed your heart to these extremes. You have to slow your heart rate down gradually or even a young person could have a heart attack or stroke. Someone my age could spontaneously combust. No. Really. I mean it. I think we can all agree that bursting into flames is really not a good look.

My gym buddy, Paul, has decided to join me in training for next year's Milk Run. He broke his nose a few years ago playing soccer and his commitment to the project is so great that the end of this month he's getting his nose re-broken and reset so he can breathe properly.

He can already run a six minute mile without being able to breathe properly out of his left nostril. He's 6'2" and not quite 30 years old so I know that about 10 minutes after his nose heals his basic running speed will be my sprint speed, something I can only keep up for 20, 30 seconds at a shot.

Just thinking about that makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and gently rock my body for oh, say, the rest of my life.

When I was done yesterday's run I was Marn, lobster woman. Even my arms and legs were red. My tee shirt was totally soaked and I had to change to the spare I keep in my locker. I could have used a new leotard, too, truth be told.

Paul wandered over to see how I'd done and I beamed that I'd squeezed another quarter mile out at the new speed I'm running because of the 180 bpm challenge. "Sweet," he said. That new speed, of course, is only 6.5 mph or 9 minute 13 second miles. Paul can already cover at least one mile a third faster than I can. A third faster.

It will be great having someone to run with this winter. There is nothing lonelier than trying to push myself for those final painful ten minutes of each run. Knowing that someone else is trying as hard will be a great motivator.

I just won't look over at his stats.

As we were tossing around the iron together after my run, Paul remarked that he thought it was cool that I could still do squats and deadlifts at my normal weights after running so hard. I was on the runner's high, of course, so I was feeling pretty much invincible and I did a little showing off. Marn-Ra Warrior Princess.

I won't tell him that yesterday afternoon Marn-Ra Warrior Princess had to stop everything she was doing and take a half hour afternoon nap because she was suddenly too freakin' tired to even type.

Let's just keep that nap our little secret, eh?


Mileage on the Marnometer: 778.82 miles. 10 per cent rubber duck10 per cent rubber duck10 per cent rubber duck10 per cent rubber duckhalf way smooch Half way there. Oh, man, please let this be over

Goal for 2005: 1,250 miles - 2000 kilometers

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