The Treadmill

Days 5-7:  Wednesday and Friday were boring, but I tried to kill myself via treadmill on Thursday.  The weather outside was better in terms of wind and temperature, however there were bound to be mud and slippery sections around my standard path so I opted for training indoors. This decision did not come easily, as I had to face the gym.  Given my unresolved leakage issues and my questionable running form, I was reluctant to showcase my talents in a room full of people, who at my gym happen to be facing the backsides of those on the treadmills.  I happen to own a perfectly good treadmill, however, 6 months ago it took up residence in our unfinished basement where it currently remains, disassembled, waiting patiently for a designated workout room.  Thus, as I have not done my circuit around the neighborhood since last Sunday and I was afraid of losing ground, I committed to becoming reacquainted with the beast.
     I have a love-hate relationship with the treadmill that is deep rooted and complicated. It stems from decades ago when I had to endure stress-echos on a regular basis.  These tests are a fancy combination of treadmill endurance and ultrasound imaging of the heart.  For these, I was outfitted with numerous electrodes with wires sticking out everywhere underneath a hospital gown, and I was never permitted to wear a bra, let alone the sports variety.  My protests and concerns raised over the discomfort and long term effects of the inevitable vertical displacement of my (albeit modest) chest were disregarded as irrelevant.  Usually, there was a crowd of caregivers, eager to learn from the young one with the medically exciting heart, staring either at myself or the heart monitoring machine while some lucky individual progressively increased the incline and speed at set intervals. I was instructed to not hold on too tight, which is the exact opposite of what basic instinct would inevitably make me do, and to tell them if I felt faint or could do no more.  I then quickly had to move from the inclined treadmill to a nearby stretcher, where they could finish the test with an ultrasound of my heart. The entire test never lasted long, and I could only ever nod some sort of implied meaning in their direction as I clumsily slid off the back and hobbled over for the ultrasound of my heart.  These tests were my mission impossible, with utter humiliation being my guaranteed final outcome.  At some point, my doctors thankfully abandoned this perverse test in favor of a more traditional ultrasound.  And since then, the treadmill has tried to become a friend again, assisting me in my pre- and post-surgery days. It has served a purpose for me, but I still loathe it.
     My anxiety over the looming gym and treadmill encounter made me nauseated on the way to the gym. That does not likely bode well for me on race day. Fortunately, my stomach and nerves settled once I saw that the parking lot was empty and there was only a handful of individuals in the cardio room.  I deposited my kids in childcare and took off for the restroom.  Prepared as well as could be I claimed a machine in the middle of the room, next to a woman who by my estimation was at least 7 months pregnant. She was attempting a speed walk.  If anyone there could make me look decent on a treadmill, it was her.  I felt ashamed, as I realized I was seeking out others who could perform at least as poorly as myself, in order to boost my runner’s ego.  But you could not have paid me to climb on the treadmill next to the chiseled guy at the end, who was probably running a triathlon or two later in the day before his zero fat dinner.  I started out beautifully, with my warm up proceeding without incident.  Unfortunately, it seemed the treadmill I selected did not have the belt tightened properly, so when I cranked up the pace to 5.0 mph (which from my carefully conducted internet research is the lowest “legal” running pace) my footing would slip at random times.  This felt like running on ice and kept startling me, making my arms spring to the ready in case of a stumble. So much for grace. After 15 minutes of  trying to discern whether it was me or the machine, I gave up and followed the pregnant woman’s lead and went for a potty break.  Then it hit me:  she was my continence twin!  Suddenly I felt a loving bond with this very pregnant woman who I never met.  I knew she could relate to me and my desire to have endless port-a-potties lining the 10K path, and there was no judgement being passed between us. She was my friend. Until now, the only person I knew who could empathize with me has been my 4 year old daughter.  Perhaps by some bizarre medical mishap I was pregnant too, and had received IVF instead of a hysterectomy!  I do still have an unexplained bulge in my lower abdomen that I assumed would vanish along with my uterus.  Perhaps I could just tell people I’m pregnant? I look amazing for 5 months pregnant, but as my surgery was in January I’d only be 3 months along and that’s not sounding nearly as impressive. Oh yeah, I started a blog.  Which also begs the question as to whether I’m lacking the normal cerebral filtration process which would have enabled me to keep this to myself?  Best not dwell on that…
     I snagged the treadmill in the corner opposite the triathlete, and reluctantly moved farther away from my new workout buddy.  I cannot fully explain what happened next.  I became possessed with the desire to perform like an athlete next month, and not just a leaky person.  I envisioned running not just for myself but for cardiac patients everywhere with Post-Traumatic-Stress-echo-Disorder.  I wanted to run a race and not to the bathroom.  I also wanted to outrun those other pregnant Boulderites, who are more fit at 9 months than my continence twin and I are today.  I was a treadmill stomping fiend on a mission, and I ran faster and further than I have before in my life.  Holy crap, I AM Forrest Gump! OK, not entirely true because every few minutes I still had to slow to a walk and gasp for air.  I had to cover the screen of the treadmill for the bulk of my run to retain my sanity, so truthfully I don’t really know how much was a run and how much was a walk. The miracle is that I somehow managed to finish 3 miles in just over 41 minutes, which means I averaged less than a 15 minute mile!  And everyone knows that 3 miles is almost 4 which is practically 6! And I kept my pace between 4.0 and 5.0 with an overall average pace of 4.6mph, which technically counts as “mostly” running, and is not that far off from an actual running pace.  At this rate of progress, I should be ready to run a 10K next week and I will probably win the BolderBoulder!  When I finally stopped, my face had turned a complimentary shade of tomato and my sweat was a constant stream from my forehead, but it felt amazing to be outperforming myself.

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