Monday, Feb. 06, 2006
Dear Diary:

On those stupidly cold mornings when I bundle up in 47 layers of clothing and trudge � mile down the hill to my car in our garage on the main road, I fantasized about what it would be like to have my very own gym at home.

Imagine � no commute, no need to share machines, no one playing music that gets on my very last nerve. I could just roll out of bed, throw on any old thing and go to my very own private gym. It seemed like nirvana.

I got a taste of having my own private gym while I was in Vancouver because Freddie's condo complex had a gym.

All the time I was in Vancouver my stupid body insisted on keeping Eastern Standard Time, so my eyes would pop open no later than 6:30 ayem Vancouver time. Every stinkin' morning.

Although I wanted to just pound on Freddie's bedroom door and yell, "Are you awake yet?" I assumed that such behaviour might be considered a bit gauche. To pass the time until the guys woke up, I trundled downstairs for a couple of hours in the condo gym.

Every morning there I was, completely alone in a very well equipped utterly pristine gym. No annoying music. No jostling for the treadmill. Just me. Half an hour in to my first workout I realized that if I had my very own private gym I would never use it because it would be just too lonely.

Friday was my first day back at the tiny Vermont gym where I normally workout. I had a "Norm" moment when I walked in the door--the posse of my peers, middle-aged women of dubious fitness, yelled out my name from the cardio section and asked where the heck I'd been.

I've never thought about this part of it, about how I've come to know the people who show up at the gym on the same time and days I do. I haven't appreciated how their presence strips a lot of tedium from the time I spend running or tossing around heavy bits of metal.

While I'm doing concentration curls Laurette and I tell each other stories about our cats. Tricep dips race by as Denise and I laugh over the foibles of our husbands. Billy is recovering nicely from his heart surgery and we chat companionably from adjoining treadmills as I cool down from my run. His progress gives me hope for my brother-in-law.

Joel talks about how his daughter has just closed on her first home, a fixer upper. While he waits for me to finish my last set of squats so he can have the squat cage, he glories in planning and pitching in with the renovations. As I finish the last of my moves on the leg press, Glen does his calf raises in the Smith machine and we talk about how his new home-baked bread business is taking off.

The two hour workout that used to just crawwwwwwwwwl along in Vancouver whips by in Vermont because it's social.

Except for the running. My quest to become the best mediocre runner I can possibly be has hit a speed bump. A 150 pound speed bump. Me.

As my three loyal readers might recall, just before Christmas Santa and I gave blood. The nurse recommended that I not push myself too hard for a week to give my body time to recuperate. Then our reno was launched and then it was Christmas and then �

Somewhere in all the chaos I lost the ability to mentally hunker down and grit my teeth through the inevitable discomfort and low grade pain that comes with building speed and stamina. I've kept moving, but in a treading water sort of way. I haven't been throwing myself against the wall as I need to if I hope to make gains.

Marn, Warrior Princess has been replaced by Wimpzilla. It's sad, really. Right now I can hide behind a cold that's left me with a voice that makes Bea Arthur sound like Reese Witherspoon. Charming, eh? I've promised myself that when I kick the pestilence I'm going into a throw down with the treadmill.

If you're of the betting persuasion, put your money on the treadmill.

My rotator cuff shoulder injury is finally healed. I tried my first pull-up in months on Friday. Remember how I used to hang off the pull-up bars like a dead mackerel and the guys used to mock me mercilessly? I'm back to being Marn the Mackerel.

It is so very hard not to be bitter.

So yep, not only do I have to give myself a mental smack down and toughen up considerably if I hope to run a 10K faster this year than I did last year, I also have to start rebuilding all my back strength from scratch.

In about three months I'll be starting hostapalooza, planting the enormous bank we created last fall in front of our home with approximately 2,281 hosta plants, give or take a thousand or so. Right after that will come a summer spent building a dry laid stone wall in front of that hill.

For every foot of height in the wall, I have to leave an equal sized base of rubble rock for drainage and stability behind the wall. Since my wall will be four feet high for a lot of its length, that means that not only do I have to construct the wall, I have to move and place four cubic feet of rubble rock behind the wall for every foot of wall I raise.

I will be slinging a lot of rock this summer.

I turn 55 in May and I can feel that the years left to me to take on such an enormous physical challenge are dwindling. I discussed the wall project with my trainer on Friday and she's going to develop workouts for the next three months to get me in special shape for this.

I will need a very powerful core (abs and back) for stability while I move and twist with the rocks. Thighs o' steel are a must, since I need to be doing most of this lifting with my legs if I hope to come out of this wall without a major back injury. My arms and shoulders need to be strong, but they're probably strong enough now.

When it goes right, there's nothing quite as exhilarating as building a rock wall. There's the whole creating order out of chaos thing, watching a random pile of stones turn into a poem in rock. When I'm on my game I can rummaging through a huge pile of oddly shaped stones and almost instinctively find the One Perfect Rock for each increment of my wall.

It is amazingly silent where I live. Occasionally I will hear the odd rumble from a heavy truck on the highway across the valley, or the whistle of a train, but most of the sounds I hear come from birds or the soft thock thock thock of rocks being dropped into place. The mind can go on interesting journeys when everything is going right.

Then there are those days when the stone just won't speak to me and every rock I try to place refuses to settle in. The black flies manage to worm their way through protective clothes and gnaw huge holes out of me. I misjudge the weight of a rock, forget to lift with my legs, and I feel my back scream in resentment.

Sweaty, tired, sore, bug bitten and very little progress to show for a punishing day's labour. Been there, done that and fully expect it to happen again this summer.

Can hardly wait.


Mileage on the Marnometer: 157.63 miles. 10 per cent rubber duckDuckage! There was a time I ate my stress. Now I burn it off in motion.

Goal for 2005: 1,250 miles - 2000 kilometers

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