Fit to the bitter end: Part Two.

Monday morning came and with it, an early spring sunshine that spilled through my blinds and across my warm bed, making it easy to hop out of it for a sunrise walk with the Hub.  Afterward my fitbit registered about five thousand steps—a decent warmup.  But it was only after getting the kids to school and the hub to work that I truly faced my rendezvous with destiny.  Leaving the dirty dishes, dirty laundry, and unmade beds that usually claim my first hours of a weekday morning, I instead put on my running gear, synced up Pandora, and ran (quite literally) out the front door.

I ran hard and I ran long, knowing that every step counted.  After my initial burst of energy I fell into a steady pace that beat it time with the cadence in my head:  must beat Ian…must beat Ian… Each heavy breath—inandout, inandout—was accompanied by a vague, mirage-like image of Ian walking on his treadmill, clicking his mouse and turning a profit while I sweated like a banshee through stop lights and construction zones.  (Not a single worker even looked, let alone whistled at me.) No matter, I told myself.  My recent spasms of exercise were not about looking hot, they were about getting steps.  (Once the Workweek Hustle was over, I could go back to looking hot.  You know.)

One thousand, two thousand, three thousand steps….then four, then five, there’s a mile…now six thousand, seven…must beat Ian, must beat Ian…keep going, keep going…you must…beat…IAN!!

This rage determination saw me through ten miles, or about 26,000 steps, of running.  Along with my morning and evening walk with the Hub, I clocked in right around 33, 600 steps for the day—enough, I felt certain, to secure my victory, at least for Monday.  But—wouldn’t you know it?—by ten 0’clock that night Mr. Treadmill had caught up.  Slowly, steadily, but surely, his miles on the treadmill matched mine on the street.  We were neck and neck, step and step, and stayed that way all week.

Every day, for the next four days, I hammered out a similar schedule:  two mile walk in the morning, ten-mile run mid-morning, five mile walk at night.  I would see the steps load up on my dashboard—whose the gladiator now?—only to watch my opponent’s rise along with them by day’s end.  What, I thought, does a girl have to do?  I couldn’t run anymore than I was; by Thursday morning, when I huffed out a slow nine miles, my legs felt like wood.  No, wood is too light.  They felt like lead.  No, lead is too heavy.  Truth was, I couldn’t feel my legs at all.  And yet somehow they still hurt.

I had to wonder:  how was my nemesis faring?  I didn’t know, because somewhere in the cosmic rules of the fitbit universe, it was written that we would neither see nor talk to one another while engaging in this stupid and immature competition.  Besides the occasional taunt on the dashboard, it was simply understood:  we had our game face on.  The closest we came to speaking that week was when my husband called his wife as “a concerned spouse” (his words.)  He left her a voicemail—we need to put a stop to this, they’re going to hurt themselves—but she never called him back.  I think she was out for blood, too.

The friends in this showdown were long gone, frenemies a sugary notion of yesterweek.  Now there was only The Enemy, and my insatiable need to destroy him. Which is why, when I opened my eyes on Friday morning—aching back, numb legs, feet throbbing with the impact of sixty miles in the last four days—I knew it was time to get serious.

But even as my physical person deteriorated, my spirit seemed to soar.  I was a fighter, I was a warrior, I was a champion!  I was Jesse Owens, I was Bruce Jenner (pre sex-change–or was it post?), I was Rocky Balboa!  Along with Nelson Mandela, I thanked whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul!  (Mandela was another of my peeps.)  I was, as my son would say, in BEAST MODE.



And so it was, with the eye of the tiger and the heart of a hero (or an opportunistic and troubled has-been, take your pick), I rose from my bed, put one foot in front of the other, and walked five miles that morning.  Then ran ten miles that afternoon.  Then walked another three that night.

And at eight p.m., I got the text:  you can keep it, Jen.  It was Ian, telling me I’d won.

Well, forgive me if I didn’t believe him.

I had until midnight, and I would use it to walk five more miles with the Hub.  The dashboard showed I was ahead, but who’s to say Ian hadn’t turned off his bluetooth only to load up a gazillion steps just before bed, pulling the same crap he’d pulled last week?  I couldn’t risk it.  Had to press on.  Had to press on.

And press on I did until 11:59 when, with blistered feet and a battered soul, I stumbled into my driveway.  I looked at my dashboard: 23.09 miles for the day.  50, 134 steps.  4, 160 calories burned.  Ian defeated.  Ian defeated.

I fell on my porch as my dog licked me desperately and my husband’s fingeres hovered over 911 on his keypad.  I waved them both off, muttering words they could not hear, shedding tears they could not understand.

“Jen, are you okay?”

I looked up and beyond him—at the glittering night sky, the celestial bodies pulling my tired limbs into their ethereal embrace—and could only shake my head.  Mandela was channeling me, and I answered him with a ragged, triumphant whisper.

“I am the master of my fate…I am the captain of my soul.”


“I am the master of my fate…I am the captain of my soul!”  My voice was parched and pasty, useless against the distracted ignorance of a non-competitor.  I shook my head and rocked back and forth, teeth chattering and head twitching.  I had won.  I had won.

“Jen?  What are you talking about?”  Resigned, I took his outstretched hand with a heavy sigh.

“Nevermind” I said.  “Ian knows.”



Fit to the bitter end.

So I haven’t posted in awhile.  I wish I could say it’s because of mothering duties, community service, or church obligations.  Heck, I wish I could say it’s because of housework.  But none of these worthy causes were (are) important enough to pull me from away from my keyboard and out of your ear.

Then what, you might ask, would?

Meet my new best friend.



I know tracking devices are all the rage now, but I resisted this new-and-improved fitbit for a long time, mainly because

a)  I’ve worn a fitbit before (the little clasp on your waistband) and eventually lost interest in it.

b)  This one would ruin my outfit.

c)  This one would ruin my outfit.

Besides these three (ish) reasons, I’ve also always prided myself on being something of a free-spirited exerciser.  Who wants to taint the euphoria of a good run with some all-knowing, all-seeing gadget counting your every step?  I run to clear my head, not pack it with more minutiae about what I did, didn’t, or should do.  You get me.

But that all changed two weeks ago when the Hub presented me with this ugly little black bracelet.  And before you call him a pig, you should know that he only gave it to me because he’d bought it for himself and then lost it.  After weeks of looking, he bought a replacement and then naturally found the original soon after.  So he asked me if I’d like to keep it.  Really, he didn’t call me fat.  (I don’t think.)  (Wait.)  (Did he?)  At any rate, I figured, what the heck?  With the big 4-0 loong behind me, it’s not like wearing this gizmo would be the the determining factor in spoiling my looks.

So I clasped it on, downloaded the app, and unwittingly said goodbye to my old life forever.  I was immediately sucked into something called the Workweek Hustle, a “friendly” weekly step competition among friends who, by week’s end, would morph into the worst kind of frenemies.  In fact, frenemies became too generous a term; these people were ruthless.  One in particular.

This particular competitor, who shall remain nameless, runs his own design business from home.  (He’s uber-talented, I’ll give him that.)  To avoid the sedentary lifestyle that comes with sitting at a computer all day, he purchased a treadmill, took off the top handrail, and replaced it with a hand-crafted computer desk thingamajig.  Consequently, this evil genius can now walk at a slow and steady pace for the full eight hours of his weekday while working; as long as he keeps his pace steady, the walking doesn’t interrupt his professional productivity.  His system is inventive, impressive, commendable even.  But it is hell for his fitbit competitors.

No matter how active one is in the early morning, late evening, or midday, one simply cannot outstep a person who’s walked steadily for eight to nine hours a day.  It’s just not feasible.  And this guy knew it.  Day after day, the rest of us watched the “dashboard” with bitterness as this man-turned-power-walker’s steps increased with each passing minute.  No matter how many steps we took outside, we were helpless to defeat him in our pathetically treadmill-less world.  He insisted that he was doing some of his running outdoors (we verified this with his wife—the honest one of the two—and in fact he was) but that offered little solace.  For every mile he ran outside he would walk five on his BigFancyTailorMadeTreadmill.  All we mortals could do was rage against the machine.

And yet despite his gross advantage, two weeks ago I almost had him beat.  For five days, I’d walked and ran and ran and walked until the spider veins on my calf had spun an actual web, culminating my effort with a ten-mile run at eight o’clock on Friday night.  I was exhausted but cautiously optimistic; according to the dashboard, I had pulled into a slight lead.  Everything depended on what would happen in the next four hours.  I was completely spent, so all I could hope was that he wouldn’t pull any last minute step shenanigans.  I sat down (oh, the pleasure of sitting!)  I panted.  I waited.  At ten o’clock—just two hours before the tallies were due and the contest closed—the phone rang.  It was my nemesis, calling—I thought—to concede.

“Wow Jen, what did you just run?  I can’t believe you pulled ahead so late…”  His voice was soft, and so raggedly sincere, I almost felt bad for him.  So in my signature blue-personalitied-middle-child fashion, I immediately tried to make him feel better.  I praised his persistence, his endurance, even his (freaking stupid) treadmill.

“It was so close,” I said, “And you know, that really is so cool that you built that treadmill.  I mean, all jokes aside, I have to give you props for it.  I really am impressed…”

“Oh, yeah, I know, I know!  Sure, yes, you’ve done a great job, but it’s really not about who wins…”  I laughed, short and loud.  “I just think it’s so great that we have this little thing to keep us motivated, don’t you?  And let me tell you, I won’t be able to keep this mileage up two weeks in a row; you’ll probably waste me next week!”

Okay.  Perhaps, in hindsight, my tone was a little condescending; I may as well have reached through the phone and patted him on the head.  But hey—I’d won!  What was the point of beating Treadmill Man if you couldn’t take a victory lap over the cellular?

I hung up the phone, opened my laptop, and sunk into a well-deserved Netflix coma.  I fell asleep quickly and woke with a smile on my face.  It was over.  I had won!  I packed up my daughter and left, at 5 am, for a volleyball tournament an hour away.  At seven my husband called me.

“Well, can you believe he won?”

“Um, what?”  Who had won what?  I had no idea what he was talking about.  Had an election transpired overnight in which I’d forgotten to vote?

“He beat you, Jen.  Didn’t you check the dashboard this morning?”

Wait.  WHAT?

“No!  No I didn’t check the dashboard, I was up at five to drive to the game!  I thought the contest was over; he called me last night to congratulate me on winning—”

“Well, what time did he call?”

“About ten.”

“Did he say he was giving you the win?”


“Are you sure?”

“Well, he called, and said I’d killed him that day, and that he was done…or, I think he said he was done…I don’t know, he sounded like he was saying I’d won!”

“But did he say:  ‘Jen, you won?'”

“Well, no.  But it was obviously implied; I told him I was done for the night and he told me ‘good job.'”

“Well, you know the contest goes til midnight.  He must have went for a long run after you went to bed.”  I grabbed the steering wheel for support as my stomach folded in half.  This couldn’t be happening, not after all I’d put my spider veins through.


As my husband went on, it all became clear:  this “friend” had called to offer a fake forfeit (he swears to this day that he made no such offer; to that I say whatev.)  He then used the last two hours of eligibility to lie to deceive cheat beat me.  He’d been so nice—humble, even—on the phone.  How could have been so gullible?

And so it was that Ian (oops, did I just tell you his name?) sold his soul to finish me off that fateful Friday night.  On Saturday morning, I flicked on my phone to find that he had, indeed, been awarded the glorious and coveted (if not exactly real) Workweek Hustle Trophy:



Beneath this image on my little screen a caption screamed, “Ian crushes it, and the crowd goes wild!”  You can imagine how I felt, reading that text all alone in my cold car with my cold heart on that dark and dreary March morning.  Oh, I felt it keenly, friends!  The agony of defeat.

Which is why, in the crux of that terrible moment, I made a decision.  I decided that following week, I had to—and I mean had to—win.  No, “win” is too limited a phrase.  I had to beat him.  I had…to beat…IAN!

I would do whatever it took.  I would walk early, I would run late.  I would turn off my bluetooth while I ran (competitors can’t see your step totals if you’re not synced), then turn it on just in time for him to witness my triumphant tallies.  I would scheme, I would plot, I would pray.  (But I wouldn’t fast.  I drew the line at fasting.)  Never in my life had I wanted to win anything as much as I wanted to win that gloriously golden (if not exactly real) trophy.

So come Monday morning, the race was on.

And with it, my Crazy.

End of Part One

(There are only two parts.)

(And then I’ll write about something else.)


Sometimes I fall down.

What I mean is:  sometimes I fall down.  Hard.  On my face.  Or my knees.  Or my bum.

I think I fall down more than I should.  I mean, the only people who fall down on a regular basis are, generally speaking, toddlers and drunks.  Even elderly persons don’t fall as much as I do because after they fall once, they usually wise up and sit themselves down for a spell.  Not me.

When I fall down, I get right back up.  I have to.  Because when I fall down I am, invariably, running down a sidewalk on a busy street with countless cars zooming by.  So in the split-second between feeling my foot catch the pavement and watching that pavement come at me with a ruthless speed, I have a decision to make.  I can:

a)  remain in my fallen position on said sidewalk, rubbing said bum in a flagrant exhibition for drivers of said cars, or

b)  stand back up as fast as I can, thus shortening the length (but not disgrace) of  said flagrant exhibition.

Because I’m not a toddler or a drunk, and therefore have no cause to be lying face down on the side of the road, I’ve no choice but to go for option b.  And so when I’m pounding the pavement down Main Street and my Addidas-clad tippy-toe begins that imminent tippy-toeing that I’ve come to know and dread, I readily accept that the next three seconds of my life will be spent soaring over several sidewalk lines (Superman style), sliding into the pavement palms-first and, depending on the speed of my run, finishing up with a tuck-and-roll move of which, I don’t mind telling you, I’m pretty proud.

Now, because I am a “runner” (loose term), I’ve always given myself something of a free pass when it comes to My Falling.  Sure, I may trip now and then when I’m out and about, but that’s only because

a)  I’m out and about!  Don’t I get some leeway just for getting off the couch?


b)  the pavement is loose and bumpy, which is not my fault and is what jumps up and grabs hold of my unsuspecting midair foot every time.  Geez.  With conditions like these, who wouldn’t fall?  (Oh wait:  everyone else.  Everyone else wouldn’t fall.)

After many a bruise-and-scratch, I’ve also decided that my inability to run around the block in a steady upright position is merely an extension of

a)  my vibrant athleticism (i.e., you can’t tame the beast)


b)  our town’s sorrily kept streets (they’re a death trap, I’m telling you.)

So when I have to walk through my front door with a hole in my spandex and a welt on my eye (again), and explain to my husband What Just Happened I can—and do—blame My Falling on My Running.  At least, I could.  Until now.

Because a few days ago, I fell down—hard, on my face, and my knees, and my bum—while crossing a parking lot.

Crossing a parking lot.  

And it gets better:  I fell down (hard/face/knees/bum) twenty feet in front of my husband and three children, thus giving them the live version of the Tuck-And-Roll which, up to this point, they’d only heard as legend.  We were leaving a truck stop on our way home from Portland, so the bonus was that three eighteen-wheelers were parked directly in front of My Fall, so three anonymous truck drivers were afforded the pleasure of watching me bite the gravel.

I’m still not sure exactly what happened, because I wasn’t running this time.  I was ever-so-lightly jogging—fast walking, really—to get out of the cold and into our car, but not enough to warrant the massive plunge that followed.  One moment I was a carefree mom beckoning my children to race me to the van, the next I was jackknifed over my—mysteriously upright and intact—32-ouncer.  (My husband said I “saved the soda” on instinct, which I would proudly claim, but this cup was full of water so I’m still not sure how it remained standing after the Great Crash.)  It was dark, but the lot was well lit, and when I looked up I saw that the trucks were warm and running which meant, of course, that they were likely occupied.  I couldn’t make out the faces of the drivers (tender mercies), but the impending noise from the brood behind was deafening.

“Mom, Mom!  Are you okay?”  (Muffled children’s laughter.)

“Hey Jen, are you alright?” (Muffled grown man’s laughter.)

“Yes, I’m fine.”  (Muffled groan.)  The crowd moved closer as I heaved myself up, then descended upon in me with an atrociously feigned concern.

“No, really, Mom, are you okay?  What happened?”  (Open laughter disguised as muffled.  They wanted me to hear it, I know they did.)

“I’m fine you guys!  I just fell.  I don’t know what happened.  There must have been a loose rock.”

“A loose rock?  Really?”  This from the pretending-not-to-be-laughing man.

“Yes, A LOOSE ROCK!  Look, there it is, right there—that’s what I tripped over!”  I reached down and picked up the pebble.  The laughing man wisely downshifted to a frown-smile.

“Oh, I see.  Yes, I’m sure that’s what made you fall.”

This nonsense continued as we made our way to the van, whereupon I plopped in the front seat while my kids kept distractedly quizzing me, hoping their lame interest would somehow guarantee them next week’s allowance.

“You sure you’re okay Mom?”  They were already cueing up Here Comes the Boom and didn’t give a flying rat’s fat if I was okay.  And I was not.  I had a scabbed knee, a bruised ego, and four family members who Didn’t Give A Rip.

“Stop asking me if I’m okay!  You know that I am and I KNOW YOU DON’T MEAN IT!  JUST STOP!”

The car fell silent for the next half hour—a blessed relief to all who were in it.  I slumped down in the passenger seat, musing over what had just taken place.  If I could fall when I was barely walking fast, who’s to say I couldn’t fall when I was barely walking slow?  Or walking at all?  With this turn of events, what was to keep me from falling out of my bed, my shower, my chair at a restaurant?

These questions plagued me while I rubbed my scab through the rapidly thinning knee of my jeans, which promised to sprout into a full-blown tear within a washing.   I moved my fingers over the injury in a slow wistful motion, like Aladdin to his lamp, waiting for a genie to appear.  And if he did show up, the first thing I’d ask for is a more coordinated lower body.

The second:  denim patches for my jeans.

And third?  A world in which wearing such patches would look cool.  (Okay, normal.)  Otherwise, these are my jeans, next time you see me.

Um, what was that I said about not being a toddler?