I discovered something this week on the treadmill. God, the treadmill is just the worst. The absolute worst. That's not the discovery. Calling that a discovery is like saying Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas. What I'm saying is: the Vikings were somehow involved in the manufacturing of a crude treadmill prototype. Had to be, the savages.
Anyhoo, lets get going. Here's your Spotify playlist.
Terrible Canyons Of Static, Godspeed You! Black Emperor
So, that Discovery. It is basically this: the long instrumental songs are pretty awesome for outdoor running and possibly the worst thing ever for running on a treadmill. I cannot put into words-strung-together-until-they-form-a-paragraph-long-needlessly-hyphenated-run-on sentence just how miserable a long, voiceless song is while running on the treadmill.
I was so happy with the way my outdoor Godspeed session went last week that I upped the ante. I listened to the first side of Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven, which is about 45-minutes long, on another outdoor run and it was beautiful. Since everything moves while you run outside it's almost like a music video. Things are happening and passing you by and you feel a sense of accomplishment with each step because you are literally progressing. You don't actually think these thoughts as you run, but your mind takes note of them and the music fills the space that would otherwise be a flood of how much time has passed? What's my pace? 10 minutes? That means 20 minutes before I'm done. If I pick up the pace a bit it will be done that much quicker. Oh shit, cramping up. How many miles left?
Gathering Storm, Godspeed You! Black Emperor
And here's where running is a real bastard: if you weren't listening to music you would be wondering all of those things to the point where it distracts you from even subconsciously appreciating that you are making progress and that tenths of a mile are ticking away. So not only are you basically watching a pot boil water, you're fucking running.
So the long instrumentals really work best because you're not interrupted while being vaguely aware of the passage of time and distance as you run outside. Regular-length songs are fine, too, but again you have that reawakening every three minutes or so. It makes it more difficult to zone out and easier to obsess over your progress.
Weirdly, this dynamic is flipped on the treadmill. I tried listening to this entire Explosions In The Sky album on the treadmill for my long run (4 miles) this week and it was, avoiding hyperbole, the single worst thing to ever happen to me. There were, simultaneously, a million things going on and no inherent feeling of making progress. It's the difference between being immersed in a book and flipping through the pages to see when the chapter finally ends.
First Breath After Coma, Explosions In The Sky
All I could do was alternate between watching people and forcing myself to stare at a spot on the wall until I became a zombie running on a treadmill. The result was me running on the treadmill looking like I thought someone was after me, looking all over the place every 30 seconds. I stepped on the treadmill and pressed play and immediately thought: Christ, I have to do this for four miles. That thought never left me and I think it was partly because I had this slow build music going the whole time.
When the crescendo finally peaked, it was great. But those moments were rare, it's kind of the whole point of music like that. I wasn't going anywhere. I didn't have trees entering into my line of sight, gradually approach and then leaving. I just had that fucking lady who thought she was younger and better-looking than she actually was walking in front of me for 30 minutes. So I audibled. I switched my music mid-run.
The Only Moment We Were Alone, Explosions In The Sky
I went straight for the pop punk and it served its purpose. Those little intervals almost serve as mental trees. A song starting is the first tree appearing in the horizon, as it goes on it gets closer until it passes you when the next song starts.
Even though it was painful, this was a helpful discovery. Eggs and omelets, I suppose. Instrumentals are great for outdoor running and just the worst on a treadmill. But still, fuck the treadmill. I love Explosions In The Sky and that asshole made me resent something I truly enjoy and now I feel guilty about it. Diabolical. This is straight up psychological warfare with an ostensibly inanimate object. And you will always lose. It's like you're in the trenches in some bombed-out town in France, taking heavy fire and your younger, sweeter buddy eats it because you weren't looking. You return home a broken man to weep in the arms of his widow, mournfully brush back his son's messy hair. I could have done more. I could have done more.
Six Days At The Bottom Of The Ocean, Explosions In The Sky
But life goes on; it must. I can still enjoy EITS on the trails and, also, now I'm kind of curious about classical music. I bet running to, like, the William Tell Overture would be awesome. Can't you just see yourself bounding over felled trees—and you would definitely call them "felled" if you were listening to classical music—and shit? Or Flight of the Bumble Bee, or fucking Carmina Burana: O Fortuna. Oh god, I want to run to O Fortuna. OK, this is happening next week. It is either going to be incredible or I will find another way to make running the worst. Place your bets.
As long as we're chatting about discoveries, I had another, less-helpful realization this week. I've touched on this before, but it's really starting to hit me how much more difficult training for this half-marathon is going to be than the first one. I only just did four miles and all I could think about were two things: how much running I had left to do that specific moment, and how much running I had left to do each successive week.
Memorial, Explosions In The Sky
Like, I now know what it means to run 13.1 miles. Before it was just an abstraction; a goal and an idea. Ignorance is not quite bliss, but it's better than knowing you're going to be running for an hour-and-a-half and everything that entails. The bloody nips. The chafing. The sweating-so-much-you-actually-can't-sweat-anymore. Seriously, the blood pours out of your nipples and then you have to shower. These are all things I previously experienced and chronicled to which, now, I have voluntarily subjected myself to all over again.
Patient: Hey doc, it hurts when I go like this [awkwardly bends arm.]
Doc: Stop doing that.
Patient: OK! [walks out, awkwardly bends arm, writes 2,000 words about it and whatever terrible music he also listens to].
Doc: [Goes to bank, swims in gold coins, yells at idiot Helicopter chauffeur].
Your Hand In Mine, Explosions In The Sky
The good thing about this go-round is that the race is well before winter so aside from the random rainy day, I can get most of my running done outside and off the treadmill. This is good, but naturally presents its own obstacle. When I was getting down to the last few long runs I was doing several loops around my neighborhood. That is, I was running the same three-mile stretch three or four times in a row. It was almost like being on the treadmill but on a larger scale.
Now, obviously, I am not a dog wearing an electric collar hooked up to an invisible fence. I can run wherever the hell I want and no one is forcing me to run the same loop four times. But above all else, I am a pussy and a creature of habit. These two traits have conspired against me my entire life and they have not stopped when it comes to running. Even though, by the very act of running, I seemingly conquered those foes, I have learned all too well that I only conquered Habit and Pussy because they allowed it to be so. They are playing the long game and if it helps to make me think I've won, then that's what they'll do.
Degausser, Brand New
So, I have an inherent fear of doing new things, including running in places I have never run before. I also know the topography of my neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods well enough to appreciate that if I were to stray too far, I would wind up running hills so high that watched-pot might actually boil. So I keep to my neighborhood where I know it is hilly, but not that hilly and also I know the hills. And I know what you'll say; if I know that the hills are there, then that means I've been in those other areas of the surrounding neighborhood so why should I be concerned about running there? Unfortunately you've forgotten the deceitful Pussy and Habit. They are devious and prey on the weak.
I think I have to confront them at some point, though. Either I die spectacularly in heretofore un-run areas by me, or I die a slow, painful death one three-mile loop at a time. A true hero would go out in a blaze of glory, no? And avenge the death of his friend, EITS. He would choose certain, honorable death at the hands of his enemy over an indirect murder-by-cowardice.
At the very least it'll be nice to switch up the view when I'm running 10+ miles.
Minno, Hot Water Music
Things are happening quickly now. Next week I'll be running five miles and six the next. In three weeks I'll be at the halfway mark and oh, crap. I feel as I always feel: wildly overconfident and completely full of shit. You'd think one thought would inform the other but that requires further introspection and self awareness than I care to be capable of. So I trudge on, looking forward to the goal. Getting wasted on wine and overstuffed on exotic foods minutes after running 13.1 miles. Even now, I know that will never happen; I'm going to want to curl up and die, but it'll be something to shoot for.