There Is No Try by Mark Stone

December 2011. As always, a music-related aside:

Dear Google Music:

Let me explain to you the meaning of "shuffle all" as it pertains to playlists:

  • Do not play the same song twice unless you are repeating an already completely played playlist;
  • Do not play the same artist in two consecutive tracks unless you have no other alternatives;
  • Do not play tracks from the same album consecutively unless you have no other alternatives.
This is an algorithm so mind-numbingly simple that even I could code it. If you're really struggling to figure it out, ping me and I'll happily help out. Because right now your "shuffle" code really sucks.

Ok. On to running: my workout week revolves around 7 minutes and 45 seconds of hell.

Several of my friends are surprised that I spend as much of my training time on the treadmill as I do. This time of year, when the weather is at its dreariest in the Pacific Northwest, I may spend three of my four workout days each week on the treadmill. My friends consider this boring, an activity that strips away all the most satisfying parts of running. And I do understand their perspective. Even if I'm confronting snow or cold rain, I look forward to the long trail run I do on Saturdays as the high point of my workout week.

But I've learned to respect the treadmill's unique advantages, and I draw satisfaction from what I accomplish on the treadmill.

With trail running, you can have a goal time in mind for a certain distance, and try for it. Maybe you hit your goal, maybe you don't. But with the treadmill...

... Do or do not. There is no try. You set the treadmill for the pace you want to maintain, and then you surrender yourself to the relentless consistency of the machine.

Currently I'm trying to improve my speed to where I can do 5 miles in 40 minutes. I could run that pace comfortably when I was young, but it has been 22 years and 2 back surgeries since I could put in that kind of time. I've made some trail run attempts at it, with my best effort being 40 minutes and 42 seconds. Now I am subjecting myself to the harsh mistress of the treadmill.

The process is dreadfully simple. I do a one mile warm-up at about 6.5 miles per hour, and then I set the treadmill to 7.5 miles per hour, which is the 8 minutes / mile pace. I keep this up for a while, until I feel like I'm reaching my limit, and then... then I go faster. Then begins my 7 minutes and 45 seconds of hell.

I take a quarter mile in which I gradually increase from 7.5 to 8 miles per hour. Then I maintain 8 MPH for a quarter mile. Then I take a quarter mile to gradually ease back down from 8 MPH to 7.5 MPH. Then -- this is always the hardest part -- I put in one more quarter mile at 7.5 MPH. Then at last I go into my cool down run.

If I can maintain that brutal 7:45 mile, and put enough miles in front of it at the 7.5 MPH pace, then I will hit my goal. Its simple math, of mechanical simplicity. When I started this routine, I did 2 miles at 7.5 MPH, followed by the 7:45 mile. Every couple of weeks I increase that distance. Now I'm up to 3 1/4 miles at 7.5 MPH followed by the 7:45 mile. Some time around February or March I will hit my goal.

I dread this run every week. When I get ready to start that kick mile I always feel doubt. Mentally, I find it easier to tackle the hour and ten minutes of effort to do my 8 mile run on Saturdays than it is to tackle that 7:45 mile. And yet the treadmill gives me a peculiar kind of confidence as well. Once I have the settings entered in, the treadmill sets the pace, whether I'm ready or not. All I have to do is keep my legs moving to keep up. I surrender to the moment, and somehow that makes it all possible.

Do. Or do not. There is no try.

Add / view comments.