Monday, February 15, 2010

Not such a great Valentine's Day gift

After more than three decades of marriage, I should know by now that Husband No. 1 does not always follow the rules when it comes to gift-giving. So even though we'd agreed not to exchange gifts for Valentine’s Day, it wasn't a total shock to see the white envelope on the kitchen table.

I should note here that the classic example of these rules violations occurred the year we agreed not to spend over $25 on each other for Christmas. Since this was early in our marraige, $25 could still purchase some decent presents with a little bargain-hunting. But it surely wasnt enough for a rolltop desk and an emerald ring, which is what he gave me along with 25 envelopes. Each contained an accounting of money saved by not engaging in specific activities – such as “I saved $25 by not taking you bowling, renting shoes or buying pizza and beer” – to equal his spending. Clever and yet clearly a violation, although a memorable one.

So you can understand my growing apprehension as I opened my Valentine’s Day card. When I saw the $25 and map inside, it turned into full-blown panic. The $25, he explained, was the entry fee for the Great Bay 5K Race on Oct. 23 and the map showed the race course, which he said we should drive after brunch at a restaurant at Great Bay Marina (following the Great Bay theme, he noted).

Have I mentioned that I've been considering making running a 5K my 2010 fun goal? An odd choice, to be sure, for someone who hasn’t run anywhere since she was 8 years old and far different from my 2009 fun goals of meeting author Dennis Lehane and a moose in the wild. Having Husband No. 1 give me the race map meant I might actually have to do this.

I'm beginning to fear that eight months may not be enough time to get ready to run 3.1 miles. A co-worker sent me a “Couch to Course” training program that's supposed to take just nine weeks to get you to that point, but the first week called for three days of alternating 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes. Along with taxing my limited math abilities to figure out when I should walk and when I should jog, I felt like I was going to collapse after the first two minutes. So now I’m in training to begin training – I’ve progressed from running one minute and walking 10 to walking three, but the idea of running 3.1 miles EVER in my lifetime is beginning to seem like an impossible goal. Husband No. 1 terms it an “achievable fantasy,” but last year’s Great Bay 5K winner did it in 15 minutes and 25 seconds. I doubt I could drive it that fast.

So perhaps it’s a good thing that we spent the $25 race fee on brunch before checking out the course. Nonetheless, I was feeling fairly confident until I saw the route. Husband No. 1 tried to reassure me by pointing out it was fairly level and the one hill had a lovely name – Orchard Hill, which he pointed out was not the same as “Torture Hill.” I began to hyperventilate. “I can’t do this – my chest hurts,” I whined.

“But we’re still in the car,” he said, looking somewhat astonished.

Then he told me running a 5K could earn me top billing in our annual holiday letter. “I’ll take your picture in the T-shirt before the race just in case… ” he said, his voice trailing off. Then he saw my reaction. “So your hair will still look good,” he quickly added.

Swept up by this limited enthusiasm, I said, “Well, maybe you should take my picture now in my running gear so we’d have a 'before picture.' Wait, I don’t have any running gear. What the hell IS running gear?”

The conversation deteriorated from there. “What if it rains on race day?” I asked. He grimaced. “I guess you better train in the rain.” “What if it’s really hot?” “I guess you’ll have to train all summer.”

“This gift sucks,” I grumbled.

Then it struck me. Husband No. 1 is a mystery writer. He kills people on the pages for fun. This could all be part of a sinister plot. “Maybe I’ll have a heart attack because you planned this all along. When they're putting me in the ambulance, I’ll be pointing the finger at you,” I yelled. "It will ruin Valentine's Day for you forever."

“I think you may need an attitude adjustment about all this,” he replied.

When I related this tale to No. 1 son, who happens to be making a brief appearance in his home state this week, at first he just stared at me. “You’re going to run a 5K on Oct. 23?” he finally said. “Will you be done by Halloween?”

I glared at him. Then he said, “Are there any hotels along the route? Maybe you can run it in stages like Lance Armstrong does in the Tour de France. You could run a mile a day, call it the Tour de Great Bay and even get bracelets made up, you know like Livestrong.”

“You mean more like Live Long Enough to Finish the Race?”

"Exactly," he said. "What are you going to do about your glasses, by the way?"

"Wear them, of course."

"But you'll be sweating so much that you might have trouble keeping them on," my husband interjected.

"I'm going to sweat?" I said. Both of them looked astonished.

Maybe I need to rethink this.


Anonymous said...

It takes a brave man to give a gift like that on Valentine's Day!

MaxWriter said...

What a great story. You can do it, Pat! Maybe I should try to do it with you. I ran Boston Marathon in 1998 (slowly, oh so slowly) but don't run at all any more. Send me the program?

Pat Remick said...

Marathon? Very impressive. Here's the link (i've also gone back and inserted it into the blog)

Paula Butturini said...

this blog, AND gift, is zee best!

Shari Donnermeyer said...

I find the gift very romantic! :)

Pat Remick said...

That's the kind of thing a runner would say, Shari! :)

Jane Shouse said...

Personally I think Husband No. 1 is a trouble maker. Trade him in for a REAL couch potato so you can be happy!

Diane said...

OOPS, I thought I already sent you one. I have not laughed that hard in a long time. I could literally hear you and Frank discussing "the gift" and then when JD entered it was a typical family donversation...You can do it Pat. Go for it!

Fred said...

This is so funny, you go girl !!!
I will be behind you all the way, IN A CAR !!!!!!!!!!!! JoAnne

Jessica said...

Hilarious Pat. I downloaded that couch to 5k workout plan probably 5 months ago. Its posted on my bulletin board next to my desk. Sadly it is now covered by other more important papers. But if you can do it, I can too right? hmmm Now if it would only stay warm enough.