What Would Sheri Do?

In the past week, my cat has pooped on the carpet next to my treadmill four times. He weighs in at a clinically obese 18 pounds and is 3 years old, putting him in Freud’s anal phase of development, but I don’t think Milo is manifesting any inner distress about physical fitness. Sometimes a cat is just a cat.

What I think is that Milo knows where I’ve been spending a lot of my time and is trying to bond with me. By defecating. We might have some attachment issues.

I’ve been running on the treadmill more than I’d like lately, a byproduct of my work and parenting schedule. I absolutely refuse to accept that I can’t train if there isn’t another adult at home, so I’m creatively cramming treadmill time when I’m neither working nor Henrying.

The other day I ran a double, 5 miles in the morning and another 4 after I tucked Henry in bed. I told him I’d be getting on the mill after bedtime, and of course, he came down twice to say he couldn’t sleep if I was running. I told him 8 years ago, I couldn’t sleep while he did plyo drills in my uterus and suggested he close his door if it was noisy. When I finished and went back upstairs, he’d closed every door in the house. But, hey, he was asleep so all was good.

Sunday, I got up to run 10 miles on the mill before he woke up. I left him a little note to say I was running downstairs, and right after I turned over the 10th mile, he staggered into the room and said, “You didn’t need to leave a note. I could hear you thumping.” Then we ate pancakes and bacon.

That 10-miler was mind-numbing, even though I watched Glee on my iPad–without injury or incident, I should add. In the category of first-world problems, a double-digit run on the treadmill is a unique kind of hell, as you know. Only reading a phone book while jumping rope might be similar. The furthest I’ve ever run on the mill is 18.5 miles, with 15 miles at marathon pace, and I was in a fugue state of delusion by the time I finished.

But sometimes the treadmill is our only option and the training plan says what it say and the run won’t run itself. These days, the treadmill is becoming more and more my only option. It’s the new normal, even though I want to be on the track or the road. But life is beautiful, and I’ll take the mill as the tax on living it. It feels very much like a monk sitting in meditation for hours of discomfort; it builds character and mental power to tread that mill.

I picked CIM for my next marathon, in part because it’s in December, so I can build my base back from 40 miles/week to 60 and get enough time for sharpening my stamina at pace. I know I can train on the mill for shorter stuff, but I’m nervous about doing high mileage tempo runs and more 18-20 milers on that machine.

Then I read about Sheri Piers, who I watched cross the finish at Boston as the first American woman. She trained for Boston entirely on her treadmill in the dark hours of the morning before her 3 kids got up… and then she went to her full-time job as a nurse practitioner. She did her speed work, her tempos, and even long runs on that machine of evil. She is my patron saint of mother runners.

So now I have a new marathon mantra for training, when I don’t want to get up in the dark, clean the cat poop from the carpet, and hear that treadmill groan its way to pace: What Would Sheri Do?

In case that doesn’t yank me from my cozy bed at 4:45 a.m., I’m in the process of sprucing up my home gym. In addition to cat proofing it (i.e., closing the door) and adding a life-size cutout of Sheri with a “Suck it up” speech bubble, I want to put a mirror in front of the treadmill and wallpaper behind me with the landscape of the CIM course on a 50-degree cloudy day with the 3:35 pace group. When they say visualization helps performance, that’s what they mean, right?

This weekend I’m racing the Run to Remember half-marathon without much of a goal (or all that much training, to be honest), other than redeeming my appalling half-marathon in February and setting a baseline for marathon training. It would be nice if my 5k PR a few weeks ago meant good things for Sunday’s run. But really, I’ll be so happy to be off the rat wheel and on the road that I might run slowly just to luxuriate in an outdoor run with, you know, other people, air, and a conspicuous absence of cats. I’ll let you know how it goes. I might still be on the course on Monday…

6 responses

  1. I love my treadmill, always have. Trained for my marathons on it (and I’m way slower than you are so it was more time on those long runs :) It’s allowed me to run through shift work, living in the South and the North, bad weather, and gives me far less of an out than if I had to get dressed and go outside (where it’s not always safe to be alone at hours I run). It allows my mind to wander. I need to get better at running outside to improve my racing, but I suspect I’ll always love my treadmill. (my DH OTOH can’t stand treadmills AT ALL) Where was the article on Sheri, I’d love to read it. Remember Christine (last name?) who was trying for Olympic marathon team but lived in Alaska and did almost all her runs on the mill?

  2. The Run to Remember was my first ever Half Marathon… beautiful and flat course. I’ll hope for cool weather for you. I’ve heard great things about CIM, too. Tread that mill! You do what you have to!

  3. The treadmill is my reality – and has been for a long time! Especially since going back to work last August. Training for Philly often meant coming home, hanging with the kids, homework, dinner, bedtime for kids and then running on the t-mill…repeat as needed!

    Good luck running tomorrow. I love Run to Remember – ran it a couple of years ago. 7:00am start should give you a bit of a break from the heat.

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