This week the weather forced me back indoors on Monday. As my nose continues to behave allergically to running, I boldly stole an entire box of tissues from the women’s locker room and headed upstairs to the indoor track. I looked for a ledge to stash my supply of nose wipes, and to my delight I discovered I am not alone in my sinus control problem. There were 2 other boxes of tissues already stashed above the fire extinguisher (the natural destination for nasal emergencies). Reassured that others shared in my nasal misery, I added my box to the collection and pranced off in the designated direction for the day.
I’ve taken to running with tissues in my hands. I hold two at a time, and it improves my confidence and decreases time lost to tissue retrieval. Mock me if you must. I am at peace and I have proof I am not alone. I managed to run 2 miles around the track, then to shake it up a bit, I claimed a treadmill for another 2 miles. After speaking to my sister Kristiann the other day, I learned it’s legal to spread the indoor monotony around. That’s how she trains for her half marathons: a little bit here, a little more there: it’s all good. I’m not sure why this never occurred to me before. Brilliantly working my way around the gym, dispersing my tissues and residual energy from machine to machine and room to room seems like guaranteed entertainment for everyone!
My gym had a recent overhaul of all their treadmills, and I quickly observed that the toggle bar to increase or decrease speed had been replaced by two miniature arrow buttons on the center of the handlebar. When my gym was investigating upgrades last year, they asked me to demo several different machines. Actually, they asked everyone, but I prefer to think they observed my obstinate perseverance with the treadmill over the last year and had a special interest in my opinion. Just go with it. I recall carefully filling out their questionnaires detailing my opinions of several new brands up for consideration. My thorough notes spilled over into the margins about the travesty that would be had if the toggle bar were not there. When attempting to adjust my speed, because I am as of yet unaccustomed to speed in general, the toggle bar feature has always been my lifeline. It was the sole comforting feature on the treadmill: the knowledge that my hand must do nothing more than to land on top of it and generally fall downward to effectively slow down. Sure, there’s an emergency stop, but after a year of trying to run, I no longer want to use it. None of the fast runners use it. They don’t even see it and probably have long forgotten its purpose (“Oh, isn’t that the fire alarm?”). I don’t think I’ve ever even seen anyone other than myself use it. It’s the button of shame. A big, blaring red button of incompetence. Even if I were immune to emergency button shaming, I don’t want to have to use it every 2 minutes while I’m merely trying to resume a slower pace. To have the toggle bar speed control feature replaced with two minuscule buttons that require fine motor dexterity while ambling recklessly at breakneck-for-me speed is unnatural and downright vindictive. None of the treadmills I sampled had my beloved toggle bar, and not one of the new treadmills at my gym retained the gross motor speed control feature. It was a disheartening discovery. Still, I needed to increase my mileage for the day so I climbed on an open machine anyway. I stuffed my cup holders full of tissues and managed to run an additional 2 miles. I jogged the first (which means I did a lot of walking and shuffling) and lapsed into speed intervals for the second. The girl next to me was engaged in a decent run at 6.8 mph and she looked remarkably comfortable. I decided to try out her speed. To my surprise, I lasted a full minute before I willed my suddenly larger-than-life hand to slam down on the handlebar. I prayed it would magically only hit the tiny decelerate button and somehow not result in further acceleration. My luck held, and it took me several minutes to feel ready for 6.8 again. I continued to carry out intervals in this manner throughout my 4th mile. The girl beside me pretended not to notice, but I could feel her smile at my attempt to mimic her pace. She knew exactly what I was doing. What I really needed was for her to be an ally and offer to work my speed controls. Then, I might be able to simply manage a head nod or gasp in her direction, signaling my intent to resume a more conventional pace. She wasn’t really using her arms and her upper body was barely moving, so she likely would not have even noticed. She could have easily managed to operate her own treadmill and both machines on either side of her, while maintaining her pace and pleasantly joking about the weather and how exhilarating treadmills can be. They should require some form of mentorship program for experienced athletes to assist in the technical support of treadmill operation for the less capable. Rest assured, this program would eagerly be supported by the elderly (at least a few of them–it is Boulder, after all), the running inept, the visually impaired, and those rendered visually impaired by their running ineptitude after a certain speed, myself included.
Despite my difficulty operating the speed control, my 6.8 intervals were actually a huge achievement. Last year I could only summon the strength for 6.0 mph for about 30 seconds, so I was happy to discover some measurable improvement. I also discovered that sprinting as such (…and I don’t want to hear that 6.8 is not really a sprint) requires the usage of other, deeper muscles in my butt and thighs that my training thus far has not required. I’m not altogether positive I am genetically equipped with these muscles at all, and if I am they are likely either malformed or exceedingly underdeveloped, buried deeply and wasted away under decades of Christmas cookies. I left the gym drenched in sweat, but didn’t stop there. I trekked off to my Boulder gym venue equipped with the indoor pool and swam my mile. Two gyms in 1 day is a new record for me. All in all, 4 miles done and 1 mile swim. Not exceptionally fast in any of it, but I’m just getting started!