“What do you think your biggest problems will be?”—My friend Bill
“My body and my general lack of speed.”—Me
Last Friday I received an email from the coach to whom I reached out. He wrote “I’ll help if I can but I’m not sure what you’re really looking for from me or what this is all about. My schedule right now is pretty busy, but if I can find some time I wouldn’t mind grabbing a beer. If not, I might be able to help over email if this is a question-answer thing.” My original email to him had been (intentionally) a little vague because I can only imagine what his reaction might have been had I come out and said, via email, “Hey man, I want to try and run a 4 minute mile. Could you come up with a training plan and possibly coach me?” Even I think it sounds crazy. I responded and I hope to speak this week. Hopefully there’ll be more to report on this soon.
I did not feel like running today. At all. It had been a long, frustrating weekend and, despite my mom’s advice to go to bed early last night, I got to bed rather late before having to get up to get my daughter on the school bus by 7:15 am and my older son to school by 7:45 for orchestra rehearsal. That is my long way of saying I was really tired and dragging during the day and by 4:30 pm, would rather have taken a nap than run. However, I recognize that I am going to have to push past pain and fatigue in order to get close to a 4 minute mile (or, now, an 8 minute mile). At this point, my journey to a 4 minute mile is a little like trying to drive to California: I have a general idea where to go and how to get there (go west, duh), but without a map or navigation app, I’d never make it. Without any sort of formal training plan or roadmap, I asked my friend Rob the runner for some advice. “Work on strength,” he said. “Try running some hills to build your strength.” Coincidentally, that’s also what Kevin Costner’s character had his runners do in the movie McFarland (which I still need to finish watching).
So when I got to the gym to run on the treadmill this evening, I decided that I would mess with the incline function of the treadmill (or as my 10 year-old calls it, the treadmeal) for the first time. On a side note, as I was walking to the car after picking my kids up, my oldest noticed that I was in shorts and a t- shirt instead of work clothes and asked if I had been running. When I answered that yes, I had run on the treadmill, my 8 year-old, who is brilliant and stubborn and a total contrarian, insisted that no, there were no treadmills in the building. It was a completely indefensible position for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that I HAD JUST RUN ON A TREADMILL. But I digress…
Anyway, I stretched and started running at a nice pace for about three minutes before I sped up and started the incline. Not having ever used the incline function before, I wasn’t sure exactly how it would work. I set it at a 2.0 incline, whatever THAT means, and kept it there for 5 minutes before increasing it to 3.0. I also had the speed set at about a 9 minute mile pace, which I was okay with because I was running uphill. I was rocking out to “Kickstart My Heart” on Spotify when all of a sudden my music stopped. Not only had my wife started using Spotify on her phone (she’s the primary account, so whenever she starts it, it gets priority and cuts out on my phone, even though everything she listens to is complete crap), but then it started that horrendous new Adele song, which I might not hate with such burning intensity if my wife hadn’t played it 8,327 times over the last three days. As I was running hard up a theoretical hill, I texted her and told her I needed Spotify. While I waited for it to be available to me again, I had nothing to listen to and didn’t want to try plugging my headphones into the video screen and finding something to watch because I saw that ending in disaster.
There were two old dudes walking slowly on the treadmills to my left, and a third guy came up to them, walking equally slowly. Since I had no music to listen to, I was able to hear their short conversation. It’s possible I misheard since I still had my earbuds in, but I’m pretty sure this was the entirety of their conversation:
Man 1 (not on treadmill): What are you old farts doing?
Man 2 (to my immediate left): Walking.
Man 3: (two treadmills over): What does it look like we’re doing? We’re doing the mambo.
Man 1: Ha, nice mambo.
Man 3: What are YOU doing?
Man 1: (waving his arm angrily) Ahhhhh! See you in the locker room.
I eventually got my music back and finished my run. I only went for about 10 minutes, but most of my mile was uphill, so I felt decent about it. As I slowed down to a walk, the man on the treadmill to my left made eye contact when I looked over his way and said “Phew, I’m tired just watching you,” which actually made me feel pretty good about the way I was running, even though he looked to be in his 70’s or 80’s and was less a reflection on my speed than on the fact that his running days are likely in the past.
No beer tonight, if for no other reason than I probably should not be having a beer every night. I’m sure running will help get rid of my gut, but there’s also no reason to make it bigger than it needs to be at the outset of my training. Another run tomorrow? Maybe.