The Pursuit of Fitness

In the pursuit of being a better climber, I convinced myself that rowing was what I needed. Saturday my Concept 2 rower was finally available for pick-up, so I went, picked it up, set it up in the basement, and had a couple small rows while getting ready for dinner. Not much, just sort of played around, set up the computer, played around to see how it felt.

So then, I mention to a good friend, who we’ll call ‘Dave’ that I got a rower. So Dave casually says, in only the way that a close friend can…. “You should see what your 2K time is. Mine’s pretty good.”

So I think…challenge accepted. Well, keep care of myself. I’m a climber. I should do OK. Let’s see what I can do.

Sunday afternoon, I plop down on the rower, set it for a 2K time, and hammer off. And I’m pulling and thinking that this really isn’t so hard. I’m holding a sub-1:50/500M time, and I’m, you know, feeling muscley and stuff. You know. Manly. Grrr. I need a tattoo of a flaming otter skull with crossed oars underneath. Grrr. I take a moment to look at my arms, flex a little. Nice. That’s the biz right there.

I pass the 1K mark, and my heart is going. Light sweat. Ooo. This is tricky. An I notice that my time has slowed a little. Closed to a 2:00/500….. Arms are starting to feel it a bit. And my legs? WTF is with that. They’re like getting tired. But no matter. I’m cool. I’m half way there. I’ve got LOADS in the tank. Just push on through. This ain’t so bad. And speed up a little there bro, you’re falling behind your imaginary mark of manliness!

Passing the 1,200 mark. What? Only 200m? That felt longer than 200m. Is this thing broken? Only 200M? It must be broken, I’m taking it back. God my legs hurt. And my arms. I’m surprised to find my biceps are sort of tingly, or something. I note this and think “this is probably good for me”.

Passing 1,500. Come on. You’re nearly there….WTF? My time is now 2:05/500? That can’t be. I’m pulling just as hard. I know I am. I think I can hear my heartbeat, but I’m OK. I know I am. I’m fit and stuff. I’m good at things. Speed back up. Stop being a pussy. And breath. For the love of god, is there no air in the basement? I wonder if the furnace is on or something.

1,600. Air. I need air.

1,800. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE???? I’ve been going for HOURS and it’s like time has stopped.

1,850. I’m trying to call to my wife for help. She’s in the living room. I can hear her breathing. However my mouth is only occupied by trying to hoover as much air as possible into my now-sandpaper throat as my lungs are starting to revolt against this brutal intrusion of oxygen exchange. I almost don’t notice the lungs due to the agony in the legs. I think I’ve broken something. My delusional brain is trying to imaging what it looks like inside my quads right now. I have visions of Dante’s nightmares. I think that’s snot on my chin. There’s a weird humming in my ears. I can’t see.

1,875. Make. It. Stop. I’m at war with myself. The level of hate and the level of pain are in constant conflict. Do I hate myself for doing this, or for wanting to quit? Or for the fact that my time is now looking like 2:20/500M? Or do I hate Dave? His face now hovers in front of my eyes, laughing at me. I try to punch him, but forget I’m rowing. I miss.

1,900 What is happening? My body. Ruined. My life. Ruined. Why hath thou forsaken me God?

1,950. I don’t remember passing 1,950. There’s a fuzzy black-spot in my memory, during which I either passed out, or have blocked the memory of having my arms detach from the glenohumeral joint.

2K. The noise of the beep shakes me awake and the handle goes rocketing from my hands and ricochets off the flywheel. I try to stand up, and instead fall onto the floor. The snot and vomit and tears mix onto the rug. I make a note to clean that spot. My heart feels like a 40-inch sub in a 1980 civic, rattling the rust from the body. Why can I not get enough air. A bizarre instinct takes over, and I know that there is cooler air in the garden. No decision is made, no conscious thought. I just find myself starfished in the snow in my front lawn in shorts and a t-shirt, with the neighbors dog sniffing my head. I want to push it away, but my arms aren’t responding to commands. My wife is in the doorway saying something, her words drowned by the heartbeat in my ears.

After a while, I half shuffle, half crawl back into the house, while a neighbor is asking if I need an ambulance. I mumble terrible things at him. My voice sounds hollow and hoarse. I wonder how bad I look. My wife makes some comment about my eyes looking wrong and crazy. I ignore her.

I go downstairs, and look and the time. 8:04. I’m pretty happy with that. I think – I really flogged it. That’ll show Dave.

So, prideful, I text Dave, with my triumphant time, thinking that, well, damn, he’s GOTTA be impressed with that. I’ve never rowed before, and there’s no human alive that could have suffered like I just did. I wonder if that’s, like, an Olympic best or something. I better check online to see if I should line up some sponsors.

And I get a text back.

It reads. “6:32”.

For sale. Concept 2 rower. Barely used. Cheap.