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Martini Fridays: Good enough and the Garden State Parkway

Adrienne is eight weeks in to the 13.FUN challenge and pondering what makes a run good enough, in this edition of Martini Fridays.

Thanks to all y’all for being so encouraging about my current maelstrom. Life has a way of happening all at once, which I suspect each mother runner can totally identify with. Once things calm down on this end -- they always do -- it’ll be my job to pay the support forward, as all humans should do.

So some good news: last Thursday’s 10-miler was pretty darn good. The weather was perfect: cool and slightly overcast. My legs felt, well, still sort of tired, but in a way that I could work with. It was the kind of run that reminded me that I can, indeed, do this, if I can just get out of my own way.

The Boy spent the entire swim meet using my knees as ear plugs. He's not a fan of natatoriums.
The Boy spent the entire swim meet using my knees as ear plugs. He's not a fan of natatoriums.

The rest of the day was spent scrambling around arranging the next few days, which would consist of an epic swim meet for the Tween, rides to and from various points in Central New York for various combinations of people, and packing for all of the same. In between, I did my very best to remember that wading through grief makes it hard to be your best self.

And, yes, that an intentionally vague statement, triggered by some very specific events that aren’t germane to my running life, other than the obvious connection, which is that running is a great way to manage perpetually fraught relationships. It can take the edge off of your urge to stand in the backyard and shake your fist at the sky, if only because you are too exhausted to get up.

Also taking the edge off was a quickie 20th anniversary trip my beloved and I managed to work in. We’d initially planned to jaunt up to Montreal because that magical city is only 6 hours from here. Life intervened. Maybe we’ll make it by our 25th, if the Creek don’t rise, etc.

We scaled back to a perfectly lovely overnight in the Finger Lakes, where we ate amazing food at a restaurant without a kid’s menu, slept well past 6 a.m. in a bed beneath a small chandelier, and lingered over breakfast coffee.

I run for many reasons, yes. But I'd be lying if one of those reasons wasn't because running lets me eat this without guilt.
I run for many reasons, yes. But I'd be lying if one of those reasons wasn't because running lets me eat this without guilt.

I did, however, mention that I should have brought my foam roller with me because my IT band could use a good squishing. Nothing says romance like grimacing and cursing at cylinder of foam, right?

Thanks to my squirrelly schedule, this week’s mandated “fun” workout fell on Sunday. I spent the whole day returning my mom (and her randy dog) to Southern New Jersey, where she met up with her friend who would take her back to the Sunshine State. Because everyone in New Jersey thought Sunday was the best day for a trip to the Shore, the drive down took five hours. Then it was five hours back. My fun workout was clenching a steering wheel on the apocalyptic mosh pit that is the Garden State Parkway. It raised my heart rate, anyway, and my pits were damp.

Monday marked the first time in a few weeks where life feels almost calm, if you ignore that fact that my paper still isn’t written and my desk might be best organized by a small fire. I did wake up wanting to run, however, and it had a good 3.5 mile tromp up one of the big hills and down the other side. Most of the time I thought only about control. Not in the Janet Jackson -- Ms Jackson, if you’re nasty -- sense but in the larger interpersonal sense. There’s not much I can control, really. Even my hair has its own agenda.

Monday’s run wasn’t awesome but it was good enough, which is a phrase I should spend more time thinking about. To be honest, I’ve been wrestling with my runs lately, wondering if I’m doing each run perfectly. Then, of course, beating myself up when I have to turn Tuesday’s six miles with four at race pace into five miles with maybe 3 and a half at race pace because I only have an hour to give to it. Instead of congratulating myself on what I did accomplish, I can only beat myself up for what I didn’t.

My view during Tuesday's run. I'm happy the treadmill exists, mind, but resent using it.
My view during Tuesday's run. I'm happy the treadmill exists, mind, but resent using it.

Intellectually, I know that a training plan isn’t a Harry Potter-style potion formula, one where you will only get the desired result if you do it exactly as directed. Like most of real life, it’s not that clear cut. If it were, more of us would be Boston Qualifiers.

But emotionally it’s a whole different story. That one missed mile feels like doom. Why should I even bother with more training? I’ve already lost. Woe!

While I know that good enough counts with 98 percent of my being, that last 2 percent can be pretty dang loud. Does the tribe have any tips for turning the volume down?

12 responses to “Martini Fridays: Good enough and the Garden State Parkway

  1. Late Saturday, I finished my last leg of the Great River Ragnar. My total mileage was 19.5 miles and I think the great majority of those miles were uphill! I began running with a Minnesota Moms on the Run group about three years ago. In a couple weeks, I’ll turn 58. For me, it’s all good enough when I compare myself to the younger ladies I run with. Those last 4.6 miles (my first Ragnar) were hell. It was 87 degrees and I felt really alone. I walked a lot of those hills and felt like I was letting my team down, but looking back, I decided that was silly. Look at what I was about to accomplish. Keep everything in perspective and think of all that you are accomplishing Adrienne. And especially look at the example you are setting for others who wish they could do half of what you’re doing. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other with a smile on your face!

  2. Your posts always make me feel normal. My desk is begging for a small fire and me week? Yeah, it needed a run, which I finally got in yesterday (and it made a lot of things better). But you say it more eloquently and make me laugh too. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  3. See, Adrienne, I have just the opposite problem as you. I love the expression “good enough.” I love it so much that I don’t even try to do it right. Hills? I live in the flats of Georgia, so skip that part. Plan calls for negative splits? Well, I ran the first mile too fast so thats not going to happen. Race Pace? For my second marathon that only means to me “not walking”. Plan calls for 6 miles? Well, I only have time for 4 before football practice. With a full time job and 4 busy kids, I think any miles that I am able to get out and run are good enough. I’m not a professional runner. Do I have the bar set too low? Possibly. Sure, I love to PR, but finishing in the top half of my age group is good enough. If I followed the training plan religiously, how much faster could I get? But who has time to follow the training plan? Maybe someday when the kids are grown….

    P.S. Good enough also works great for housekeeping !

  4. It is hard not to beat yourself up! Keep a journal to look back at. When I look at my training from an event 6mo later, I have no idea when I missed runs or didn’t do the plan for the day exactly. It puts it in perspective.

  5. Your posts are so often the bright spot in my day and today it was just what I needed, nodding my head as I read it. I too have been beating myself up over missed miles, cutting runs short due to schedule crunch, no clean underwear for the family, dinner at 10 pm ….I could go for days. While I don’t have a cure for the guilt we seem to pile on ourselves, I do try to stand back and get perspective. As I rant, my husband often reminds me that I’m doing a lot of things right. I’m trying to take care of myself and be an example to our daughters. When I need an extra boost I look back at my exercise log, usually makes me say “Wow! Not so bad.”

  6. I must say that these posts are a favorite part of my Fridays! I wish I had wonderful words of wisdom but I am very much with you. For example, I had a tough workout today and, overall, I averaged what I needed to do. However, certain splits weren’t right on, and I am hovering on those – not the ones that were faster.

    I think it could be helpful to check your training from Pittsburgh, and see how you have grown. You might have done a shorter workout but was it longer and harder than what you did previously? Probably. And that’s worth mentioning. Hang in there!

  7. First, I live that you described your mom’s dog as “randy”. I wish that word was used more–it cracks me up!!

    When I’m worried or anxious about what I’m capable of, I try to focus on the run I’m in (or the mile or the moment). My mantra for these times is “Run the run you’re in!” Then you can think about the next one on the schedule. I allow myself to look at the bigger picture but I only allow myself to focus on one run at a time. I find that even a bad run is mostly erased by the next run and if I’m only focusing on one at a time, I can’t worry too much about any particular goal. I did what I could for today and I can’t borrow from tomorrow. Works great in theory. Works most of the time in reality.

  8. That could have been my journal I was reading this morning! I trained for a half marathon last summer/fall and I spent more time beating myself up over missed miles, etc. rather than being grateful for getting out there an running at all. So many things in my demanding life are “need to do’s” rather than “want to do’s” that it can be easy sometimes to put my running and training into the “need to do” category (with all of the associated guilt that comes from not quite getting it all done in the manner I had originally visioned). I finally figured out that half marathon training was not something I could reasonably fit into my busy schedule, but I am still running. That took away a lot of the guilt for me right off the top. But I have also heard someone say that if you approach your workouts with the attitude that you are fortunate that you “get to do” that workout today (even if it wasn’t quite as hard as you planned), then your body doesn’t react to the task as stress and you tend to feel better about it and your running overall. Your body reacts to those “have-to” tasks as stress. And we don’t need any more stress in our busy lives! Maybe take a minute before you run to express a little gratitude and see how that makes you feel afterwards.

    Love the Friday posts and your blog site! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Wow! You must have been listening to the thoughts inside my head! I try to remember that I should be kind to myself but it does not always work. Thanks for the great post!

  10. I was always very rigorous about finishing every run to the mile, not walking, etc, until training for the Pittsburgh marathon this winter. This winter was brutal, and while I loved the race, training in the winter in Maryland can be chalked up to one of the most stupid things I have ever thought to do. Quite a few of my runs ended with me saying, “I was supposed to do “x”, but I did “y” instead.” (This was not really for the major long runs, but the long-for-me-on-a-weeknight runs). I didn’t hit every pace in speed work that I would have liked to, but you know what? The race went great. No, I will never be a Boston Qualifier with that attitude, but that isn’t why I run…it is just for enjoyment.

  11. Oh my goodness!! This is soooo how my brain works too! It used to be that exact thinking that would make me give up. On exercise, on dieting, on tons of stuff. I think the realization of what is happening will help you more than you know. Whenever my brain starts to tell me that I’m not good enough, I try to think about how far I’ve come in my training and how so many other people would have just not done it at all because they couldn’t do the “whole thing”. I am sending tons of positive waves your way, and hope it helps that there are others chugging along having the same mental battles.

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