Friday, March 18, 2011


nem•e•sis |ˈneməsis|
noun ( pl. -ses |-ˌsēz|) (usu. one's nemesis)
the inescapable or implacable agent of someone's or something's downfall

A few years ago I had a membership at a gym in an office building down the block from my house. I chose that gym because it was close and each machine had it's own television screen. I quickly learned not to get there too late in the mornings because the only elliptical machines left would be the squeaky ones with their TVs stuck on Fox News. My favorite machine was on the far end of the room. I don't know why it was my favorite, it just was. It was her favorite too.

For all I knew, she she knitted mittens for eskimo orphans and baked cookies for her cherubic grandchildren who each thought they had the bestest grandma in the whole wide world. I didn't care. In the gym we were rivals. I called her "Nemesis".

We never spoke, we only exchanged acknowledging glances when entering the gym. If she got to my machine before I did, I was in a fowl mood the rest of the day. When I got there first, I felt victorious. (Enjoy your Sean Hannity, you old bat!) I started setting my alarm earlier and earlier. I think she did too. Toward the end we would both be waiting at 6am for the gym doors to open.

Then one day the gym went 24-hours, putting no limit on the escalation of our cold war. I realized how silly that would be, but acknowledged how my rivalry with Nemesis (which was probably all in my head) pushed me in a way I probably wouldn't have pushed myself. After this shift, whenever I ran into Nemesis in the gym we'd smile and nod hello. I imagined the respect was mutual.

These past few weeks I've been trying to get back into running. It's been a while since I ran regularly and I want to take advantage of the nicer weather and the momentum provided by Lent. The past few years I'd run an occasional 5K or 10K race, but without properly training for it I'd be slow and miserable and usually in pain for several days afterward. As I'm starting to get some races and events lined up this Spring and Summer, I want to do it right this year and be prepared.

I'm recognizing some familiar hurdles that have always affected my running. My toenails bleed. (Just on my left foot, how odd is that?) My feet start tingling around mile 2 and are numb by mile 3. They feel like wooden stumps when I go any further. Then there's the hill. It's my own fault for picking that route, but because it's familiar to me and exactly 5K, it's a good measure of my current conditioning. Which right now is not very good.

This hill starts just after mile 2 and over the next half mile climbs almost 150 feet. It always kicks my ass but I know that once I reach the peak I'm home free. As I started the hill last night, I realized this was my new Nemesis. Around half way up, I conceded defeat. This time. As I walked up the rest of the hill, I felt more determined then ever to conquer Nemesis.

Out of imagined mutual respect, Nemesis offered me this Spring consolation prize. I realized this wasn't such a bad place to take it slow.

Piedmont Avenue (aka "Nemesis") in bloom, March 17, 2011.


  1. Sometimes it's good to have a nemesis-- unless it's like an evil cloned version of yourself.

  2. Oh, I have one of those too.

  3. toes bleeding, feet tingling, feet numb... OMG your penis is having a heart attack...