An old Oar on an Erg
By Larry Fogelberg
An ergometer is a wicked machine.
With its little display, it’s a fiend.
You drop down on the seat,
Then strap in your feet,
And reluctantly grasp the bar.
Do you really want to do
All you’d thought through,
Be it intervals or just a long haul?
With a grimace you take the first stroke.
The display jumps to life.
A few more strokes,
And you’ve reached your pace,
But the display tells to do more:
That poor time for five hundred meters?
That short distance in thirty minutes?
Did you really intend to punish yourself
For so long – no worse, more kilometers!
Still not the first minute is shown.
The next stroke comes with a groan.
The numbers look better,
The second minute seems shorter,
But the thought of so many more!
Are you such an ambitious old oar?
The first kilometer is almost done.
Were you really going to sprint
At the start of each one?
Not this one yet, old man,
The second one you can.
Your eyes wander left and right.
Are the others sharing your plight?
Not those young men at a racing stroke,
Do they notice you’re such a slowpoke?
Eyes front and center, the display is showing
– confounded thing – you really are slowing:
The rating down, time longer, “km” shorter.
You strain on the bar; they get back in order.
You risk another sidelong glance –
At that girl, not a third of your years.
How can she keep pace with those men?
She’s much stronger than she appears.
You shouldn’t have looked, the display reveals,
And the end of the second kilometer is nearing.
You get back on pace, now pleased how it feels.
When you see 2000, your stroke goes searing.
It still isn’t that of those young folk in training,
And it slips a little before you count twenty,
But you did it, your sprint, no muscles complaining.
More strokes the next time? No, that was plenty.
You stare at the display, back at your old rate,
Watching the meters add up. You sprint again,
When 3000 appears, accepting it as your fate.
Four and five – third, fourth sprints remain.
You manage them both, pleased that they weren’t slack,
And test yourself again, when 6000 appears.
Five sprints, you old codger, your legs, arms and back
Still could, but better than those of your peers?
The half-hour’s distance was also not bad.
A little pleased with yourself, you old lad,
You paddle the rest of the last kilometer.
But what about that goal of doing still more?
It was just an idea that you had before
You chose to include the sprints.