Friday, Apr. 14, 2006
Dear Diary:

On a good day, on a day when it's feeling magnanimous, pneumonia amuses itself by throwing you up against the wall and smashing your head against the nearest hard surface, all the while yelling, "Ya think yer tough, punk? Ya think yer tough?"

On a not so good day pneumonia beats you to death with its fists, dismembers you and puts your head in a bowling ball satchel. It doesn't do this to discretely hide your body. No, the satchel is simply a convenient way to carry around your head so pneumonia can show off your mangled remains to its friends.

You want to avoid the pneumonia.

Thanks to some amazingly expensive antibiotics, I'm through the other side of the pneumonia now. I tire easily, I'm stupidly weak, but the chest ripping coughing spasms, the unholy congestion, the rivers o' phlegm are all behind me now.

I would utter a cheerful huzzah about all that, but huzzahs take energy.

When I began the antibiotics, my doctor cautioned me that it would take me at least a month to get completely back on my feet. He said the smartest thing I could do for myself was to take it easy for a month to give my lungs time to heal properly.

So of course on Monday I immediately restarted my running program because holey moley I've been running all winter to keep myself in peak shape for the Milk Run in June which is, uh, TEN MINUTES FROM NOW AND OMIGAWD WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?????

I managed to squeak out a mile at a pitifully slow pace before I had to quit and just sit down, my head in my hands. Which would not have stopped me from trying again on Wednesday because, hey, I can completely ignore the advice of a trained medical professional because My Doctor Is Not The Boss Of Me.

Tuesday I got a wake-up call. At lunch with my buddies Eddie and Sue, Sue told me about her two bouts of pneumonia, about how she followed doctor's orders for the first one and came through fine. The second one, she did not take it easy for a month. Now her lungs are permanently scarred and if she exerts herself hard she collapses into coughing fits.

Oh man.

It's one thing for a guy in a white coat with a stethoscope in the pocket to mutter warnings. It's another thing to have the consequences of ignoring those warnings become flesh.

So I've completely backed down. I still go to the gym, but I walk for half an hour and that's all the cardio I do. Where I once threw around 25 or 30 pound dumbbells, I'm now sticking to eight pound dumbbells.

When I feel tired I quit.

It is killing me. Killing me.

I like to charge into my workouts, challenge my body, rip out that extra rep. I love the burn, the moment when your muscles are just quivering because you have almost nothing left and yet, somehow, you find just enough to move the metal that final time. It's quite a buzz.

Yep, pushing against exhaustion is how I've always made my gains. But now I realize that if I push myself into exhaustion right now I may hurt myself forever. So I'm teaching myself restraint. It's sullen restraint, but restraint it is.

Hostapalooza, my big hill planting project, could erupt at any moment. The weather is warming up, and the hostas could decide to wake up any time in the next two weeks. My daughter has volunteered her services. Normally I would have wiped a little tear of gratitude from my eyes and waved her off. This year I realize I just can't do it on my own, so she's been conscripted to help.

It's an odd feeling, having roles reversed like this. I mean, for most of her life it has been the spousal unit and I helping our daughter. It's an odd sensation, knowing that from time to time we may need her help.

The earliest I can start running again is the beginning of the second week in May. That would give me less than a month to get from 0 to 10K. While I know my body will hold on to a lot of its fitness, I'm not sure I will have the wherewithal to get myself strong enough to run the Milk Run this year.

But I'm going to try.

Today at the end of my workout I was alone in the gym. With no prying eyes, I went over to the pull-up station, grabbed the handles, and pulled. I have been afraid to try a pull up. It would have been just too humiliating to flounder off those handles like a half dead mackerel.

To my delight, I was able to get my chin up over the bar. I couldn't repeat it, but just knowing that I still have enough power to beat down gravity even once cheered me immensely.

If you had asked me last month what I planned for April, I would have told you that this would be the month where I'd start running outside and ramping up from 5K to 10K. I would have pointed out the on-line running sites, the charts, the programs I have been tweaking all winter long.

Instead, I will be lucky if I can walk for more than half an hour and not need a nap.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that May will be better.


Mileage on the Marnometer: 324.97 miles. 10 per cent rubber duck10 per cent rubber duck
Oh, man, don't be looking for this to budge for about a week. Ouch.

Goal for 2005: 1,250 miles - 2000 kilometers

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