Where Are My Friends Tonight?
I started 2022 with the intention of running a sub 2-hour half marathon. The year went by, and instead of reaching that goal, I ended up with my first DNF, a 19k that was downgraded to 5k because of "excessive flooding" on the course, a downgraded full marathon to half marathon because I was just not ready, and ultimately one of my worst times in a half ever. By the end of the year, I was feeling discouraged about running and thinking my peak running years were over.
So I went back to the basics. I have been working with a running coach for a while now. I need the extra push and accountability from someone who both believes in me, but can also challenge my boundaries in ways I wouldn't do myself. I love a good challenge (see: 30 days of yoga), but I can also be quick to phone it in so that my effort may not be exactly top notch and I'm not getting out of things all I could be. With a coach who sees your mile times and splits and efforts, there's no hiding when it's obvious you're just going through the motions. I told Shane I wanted to spend January 2023 working on my mile time - go back to learning form and really focusing on my craft. I wanted to "be faster," but refused to put a number on that. (I 100% admit that I refused to put a number on that because I was so scared that I'd pick one, and fail, and feel awful.)
Earlier this month I hurt my neck and was prescribed some muscle relaxants. Despite this, I went out for what was my fastest run probably ever (or at least in recent memory). I was, admittedly, high as a kite because I rarely take any form of pain relief (my doctor gave me the okay to run, I promise!). Once I stumbled down from that unexpected high (I stopped taking those pills within a day because I can't function that loopy), I started thinking about why I had run so fast on that particular day, when just days before I had run my normal 9-10 minute slog and not felt great about it. What was holding me back? I ran somewhere in the 8-minute mile range, sustaining it for 2 miles. I felt perfectly fine at the end and wasn't sore the next day. Certainly muscle relaxants aren't performance enhancing, so it wasn't that. The obstacle was obvious: that obnoxious inner critic that's been living inside my brain and controlling it more than I want since as long as I can remember. That jerk, who I long ago named Gretchen, was silent that day I was running on muscle relaxants. I I had to figure out how to silence her all of the time, without medicinal help.
The first thing I did was vow to myself that I would not pay any attention to my watch. That's Big Gretch's** feeding ground - seeing the numbers when they're "worse" than they're "supposed to be" fed that monster faster than an all-you-eat buffet. I'd set it at the beginning of my runs and not look at it again until I was done. To ensure no peeking at the watch, I specifically mapped out runs of the lengths I needed before hand, so as to not have any reason to check my watch during. I silenced the notifications on my text messages so I wouldn't be tempted to find out who was sending me what while I was running. Set it and forget it was my mantra.
Next, I started to take my sessions with Shane more seriously. We meet once a week on Zoom and I often would just blandly discuss what I had or hadn't done and then we'd go over whatever was the upcoming week's workout. This time, I started to ask more about what I was doing and why; where it was going to lead me. I asked how to understand the Training Peaks website we use and what "fatigue" and "form" mean in terms of it tracking it based on my performances. But the big one? I asked for help. I told Shane I believed it was all a mindset issue and asked for his own tips and tricks for what he does to overcome that cutting voice I think we've all got inside. I've already established vulnerability is hard for me; that absolutely encompasses asking for help. Despite the fact that I pay someone specifically for this purpose, I still felt ashamed to ask for help. Gretch really threw a tantrum at this one; she'd successfully convinced me for years that asking for help is weakness. What was I doing?!@ Ruining my reputation (whatever that might mean) with my coach?!
Among many tips, Shane suggested focusing on music that pumps me up and makes me want to move fast, but also may have some kind of specific meaning to me. I often listen to podcasts when I run; a great way to catch up on current events, but not necessarily the most motivating in terms of quick feet. I also started thinking about my support system; who was there for me in wanting me to both succeed at all my goals but also encompassing kindness and grace when I didn't meet them? In short, who loves and supports me unconditionally?
There's one answer to this for me that has been and always will be true: my friends. My friends are my family. I've known many of them for going on three decades now, but even the newest of the bunch are the best people on the planet. So how do I marry these things together? Friends and music? Easy answer: LCD Soundsystem's song, "All My Friends." This song could be about a lot of things, the lyrics are a bit whacky, but the refrain at the end which repeats over and over "where are my friends, tonight?" always makes me think of all my besties***, wonder where indeed they are, and send them all of my gratitude and love for their presence in my life. If there's anything that can make Gretch shutup, it's spending time with my bffs or thinking about their happiness. Obviously, this includes Megan: all of our awesome times together as well as the times we've cried, and all the unwavering support and love she brings to me even posthumously.
So when Shane asked me last week if I had a goal time for the mile time test, I decided my goal was to run that mile in exactly the amount of time "All My Friends" lasts, which is 7:41 (I actually thought it was 7:53 when I told Shane, and then when I looked it up I panicked because now my goal was suddenly 12 seconds faster). It's also got a great slowish start that amps up over time, perfect for a crescendo running goal. I was terrified that I had finally put a number on things. What if I didn't make it? What would that mean?
Luckily, I didn't have to answer that question. Readers: I ran my mile in 7:39 and Gretchen got a muzzle.
** no disrespect to Governor Whitmer, who also goes by this name, and seems to be an absolutely lovely human being.
*** I subscribe to the Mindy Kaling idea that "a best friend isn't a person, it's a tier."