Wednesday, April 01, 2009

12 Minutes

I don’t look like a runner. Short and with a slight pot belly, I look more like a sit com next door neighbor or the guy from purchasing than anything else. It is part of the reason that for the past year my friends have been setting me up with women older than I am as opposed to 10 years younger which my brother gets or seven years which is what my dad married. My friends mean well and describe the setups as “close to my age” in the same sort of way that the Titanic came “close” to missing the iceberg.

Over the weekend the guy at the store, Sports Authority, didn’t really believe me either. A little early for a friends birthday in Fremont, I went to the store to waste a few minutes and headed over to the treadmill department to check out the merchandize. After about twelve minutes a super skinny sales clerk came over and asked if I needed any help.

I mentioned that most of the machines only go up to 10 miles an hour and I was wondering if he had anything faster.

He looked at me with that disdain that is reserved for the rabbit in the Trix commercial or the that French have for Americans everywhere. “Silly, pudgy forty year old” I could see him think before saying, “you don’t really need more than 10 miles an hour.”

But I did.

I have been doing speed work practices the last two weeks and was feeling good about myself until my brother (the same one who just dumped a gorgeous Princeton doctor because at six years younger than him she was too old for him) mentioned that when he was on varsity soccer they had to break 12 minutes for a two mile time trial. I would have to shave about ten seconds to pull that off but needed a treadmill that does 10.1 miles an hour ~ 5:56 minute miles.

My gym has that machine. It is on the lower of the two floors, the one that has the yoga equipment and the zen fountain. The upper floor has the weights, the mirrors, and the attitude. The lower floor folk look they want to apologize for being there. My machine was the second from the right.

I headed down there for my twelve sweaty minutes, a title that I think would also work for a porn film or the out takes from the Watergate tapes.

Speed is one of the first things to go. It is brutal because it can be measured; you know what you did last week or last year and more often than not you won’t live up to that younger version of yourself. As we age we get athletic cunning, the ability to pick our spots. Marathons are about consistent training and then during the race seeing what the day gives you. Something will inevitably go wrong, but the test of a good runner is how he adjusts. To a large extent it is more important to have a marathon race strategy than a time goal. If the day isn’t there you need to learn to be happy with the results.

There is nothing brilliant about speed work. You just set the dial to 10.1 and suffer. Normally I have rambling thoughts as I exercise but as I pounded away on the otherwise quiet yoga floor I only had two. For the first three minutes the thought was that this was really fast and for the last nine it was that I should really quit.

Neither of the two women who were working with the 5 pound dumbbells looked over when I raised my hands at the finish. There were no cheers, no victory medal. no race t-shirt (which I really could have used given the sweaty mess I was at the end).

Some of the best moments are the quiet victories that you have for yourself, but after posting the victory status on Facebook a bunch of friends wrote back in congratulations. It meant the world to me.

So many of them are teetering on their forties and trying to live up to their expectations as reality dashes our better expectations.

Managing your friends expectations is a tricky, art and I do need to be careful about not casually hurting mine anymore than I was hurt when somebody set me up with a friend who was pregnant with her dead boyfriend’s child. I need to learn to forgive a little since after all she was rather close to not being pregnant.

Still there is something great about sharing an achievement even if it is not posting how my single status is changed or a photo that makes me look thinner than I am. I do know that not looking like a runner doesn’t mean I shouldn’t run. We need our little victories, our times when we beat the clock just once more. Twelve sweaty minutes doesn’t counteract 40 years of living or 25 years of trying to find a soul mate, but for a brief time on the yoga floor I was young again even if the only thoughts I had was how fast this goes and how much it hurts.