By Dylan Hernandez
As of Friday, May 4th, at 9:20:55.13 PM, my 2018 track season has come to an end. It has ended, thankfully, by choice and not by any other externality I am habituated to, namely injury. My dual Achilles rupture* in April 2015 (Spring, junior year) at the end of the Lumberjack workout not only shaped my running years to come, but was also serendipitously documented by Dan Russo’s GoPro operated by Abby on a bike, and can be found within the depths of YouTube given enough sifting. There is no one moment where I could tell my Achilles were going down the can, but as I tried to cooldown, it was unmistakable. The following seasons, years were wrought with running injuries of various identities and anatomical locations stemming from those ruptures. I can only blame myself, as I still tried to run Hopkins-Loyola, Widener, and the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in the following weeks after the injury because I refused to believe I was finally injured after 6 years of avoiding it, and while in the shape of my life, to boot. I have re-ruptured each Achilles one other time since, both times in early 2017.
*Although Achilles ruptures are usually thought of as complete tears, mine were a collection of simultaneously occurring minor tears in the main tendons combined with larger tears in the sheaths of the tendons, causing the interstitial tendon fluid to leak and cause major swelling.
Dues Ex Machina
Fast forward through the on-off cyclical hell that was recurring injury and we arrive somewhere along the Madison County Transit Nature Trail in Edwardsville, Illinois the day after Christmas, 2017 (record scratch, freeze frame – “yup, that’s me”). It’s 20 something degrees and a light flurry is dusting the Great Plains a soft white this quiet, still winter afternoon. I am home for winter break at my parent’s home on a low-effort morning-after-christmas-dinner burnoff run, hobbling along because my left Achilles had not loosened up since NIRCA nats, where it became not just stiff, but painful and inflamed due to the race. I had struggled with my Achilles all season, so I can’t say I was surprised, but I wanted to help out the GRC team as much as I could while I was there. The inflammation waded over time, but the stiffness was something I was slowly trying to work through via combination of days off and days on jogging 2-3 miles as well as biking. As I ran along, there came a slight hill in the path. I usually tried to keep my heel on the ground for uphills to avoid stressing my Achilles, but, for some reason, I decided to go up on my toes this time around. Halfway up the hill, my left Achilles gave out. It felt as if it were a strand of cooked spaghetti that was pulled apart via tensile force, snapping in half. I stopped immediately. I hopped off that foot and was terrified of putting it back down. “That’s it. I’m a goner,” I thought, while saying completely different words out loud, “my running career is over” … but I then noticed there was no pain. I realized, while it felt like it snapped, there was somehow, just somehow, no pain. I put my foot down gingerly, stood, walked, and then started to run again. Faster. And Faster. The pain and stiffness had gone and stiff scar tissue had likely torn, thus marking the rebirth of my Achilles and my running career, albeit with cautious optimism. I was confused what caused this, but knew for sure it felt like I had new feet. A week passed of running with no pain or stiffness and I made the decision: it was time to begin The Process.
Hoya Saxa and Other Arbitrary Mantras
“Roger Bannister usually could only train during his 30 minute lunch break, so why can’t I? I won’t go sub four, but maybe sub something…”
– Me, to myself, looking at my Spring class schedule in January.
I had goals. I was healthy. I was motivated. To reach those goals, training could not be an afterthought. If there was no time to run, I made time. I didn’t know how long I would be healthy, so I made it a priority to make the most out of it, to make my athletics an ironic principle component of my final semester in academia. I had never been particularly fast, but this was my chance to try to be through all the barriers from years past that had once prevented me from doing so. What rocks those were. Hoya Saxa1.
I once remarked on my Running2Win log that classes were something I snuck in between runs and not the contrary. Regardless of that dismissive-of-academics comment, I was still a full on tryhard with school. I had achieved a lifetime high GPA the previous semester and was determined to build on it. This meant long hours studying and working on projects where, despite being paired with other Georgetown graduate level students, I was still the only one who could be bothered to do any of the work (and I, sadly and very literally, mean any). This added up and detracted from sleep time, if anything else. I skipped a handsome handful of after class happy hours to speed walk home, change, and get out the door as soon as possible so I could get back home, shower, eat, and study. Running was a priority, but academics also had to be a priority, much to my chagrin.
“Oh, sorry, I’m going to go run, first” became a common response. So common, in fact, that my classmates began referring to my only answer for leaving group study sessions of running then eating as “Dylan Things.” The many students from India were particularly perplexed by it, as I gleaned that recreational exercise, much less distance running, was not popular back home.
“We’re getting lunch before our six hour lab, want to come with?”
“Nope, sorry, going to squeeze in a run. Thanks, though.”
“Oh, I see… classic Dylan Things, then?”
“Alright, see you in lab at noon, then.”
I looked at my watch. 10:15AM. I planned the sequence as I headed towards the door to the lecture hall: 15 minutes to walk home, change, quick stretch, and get out the door. A hair and a half under 60 minutes for my 10.2 mile medium steady route. 15 minutes to shower and not forget my lab coat. 3 minutes to make the PB&J I’ll eat on the walk to lab. 8 minute walk to my building. 2 minutes to get to the lab, put up my backpack, and throw on my lab coat. At the bench 1 minute before noon. Roger Bannister usually could only train during his lunch break, so why can’t I?
Crossing the T’s and Dotting the Lower Case J’s
The training plan I followed was an adaptation of my spring 2016 UMD Club Running 5k training plan adjusted for my own goals and abilities. Since I knew I would have to give this my all if I wanted decent results, I spent significant amounts of time tinkering this plan, such as adding one rep here and adding 15s there to the rep rests and taking 5x1000m and changing it to hills and a 1k cut down. As the season progressed, I modified the plan based on how I felt and what I thought I was increasingly (or sometimes, decreasingly) capable of. This lead to a hyper-specific training schedule with the t’s crossed and the lower case j’s dotted on every line2.
There are likely some familiar blocks – such as medium steadies on Wednesdays and Tuesday/Friday workouts – and some new elements such as a more refined taper (4/15 onward). This being a personal plan meant that I could track my actual weekly mileage on the side as well as average my weekly mileage before tapering, giving myself an easy at-a-glance analysis of my season as I progressed. The overarching technical goal of this training plan was simple: stay relaxed. I am proud to say I stuck to this goal for the majority of the season with exception of the latter half of April due to outside stressors. From a developmental standpoint, I believe staying relaxed on runs and workouts was the primary underlining achievement of this season. GRC had workouts Monday/Thursday with long runs on Saturday and my class and internship schedule was just such that I could only make some Fridays, so I decided to stick to my own training plan yet compete with the club. Regardless, dropping in on practices here and there with them was always a highlight and I am grateful for those times, especially after being able to consistently train with them last semester.
The Up and Ups
There were several key workouts that served as significant, not only due to the quality of the run, but because of the confidence they gave me.
- 1/26 – 5 mile tempo that served as my unofficial new 8k PR (from 26:54 at NIRCA regionals at Princeton, Fall 2015 to 26:44 en route on the Mt. Vernon trail). From my R2W log: “26:53 for 5 miles, 26:44 ish at 8k. 5:29, :28, :26, :18, :16. I don’t know, man, I just felt good.” Nothing serves up some fresh confidence like negative splitting like that after only 3 weeks of training.
- 2/14 – 10.08 mile medium steady in 57:18 (5:41/mi). From R2W: “don’t get me wrong, I fucked up this med-stead. Maybe it’s no workouts for the past 6 days, but I hit 5:35 uphill with a 5:5x effort.” The day after a 17.7 mile double I drop the hottest “medium steady” of 2018. Beat my 2017 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler time by a minute and a half on this run which I took excessively hard for way too little reason aside from feeling good.
- 2/20 – 14.3mi OTD easy/hill repeat double. This showed me how much effort in a day my legs could take and still go on to feel comfortable in a medium steady the next day.
- 3/4 – 16.1mi weekly long run in 1:37:02 (5:57/mi). From R2W: “Lots on the mind today. Just let the legs do what they wanted.” And what they wanted was to split 1:17:30 for the last half marathon portion of the run, finishing with four mid/low 5:4x’s. No long run has ever felt that good. I felt like butter sliding across the hot pan that was the C&O Canal Towpath. Most other long runs averaged 6:10/mi or slightly faster for the month of Feb, but not sub 6:05 until that day.
- 3/6 – 10×2/2 farlek on treadmill with 1.0 incline. “on” sections @ 5min pace. The incline is what got me here and it was a struggle at Yates Fieldhouse with this one, but the tired yet satisfied feeling I ended the workout with told me it was good work.
- 3/30 – The Lumberjack. It was hard work. No Achilles ruptures to be found, just a good old fashioned hard effort with a 62 second last 400.
- 4/16 – 11x320m relays with GRC. Hit 47s/48s 300m splits en route to each 320m rep. After some disappointing workouts due to lack of sleep, it felt good to stride out again.
The Down but Not Outs
If one were to make a graph over time of the maintenance of my quality of life outside of training during the season, it would look like the silhouetted profile of a rusted serrated knife. I was only in a one year program, though, and this was just one season, so although I am complaining thoroughly in this post, I usually just had a grin-and-bear-it attitude as the season actually progressed. My advice to anyone reading this fine bit of 2AM intro and retrospection is to not do that. Take rest days both mental and physical if you feel as though you need it and remember to drink water.
Anyway, I ensured to make note of the nadirs in addition to the zeniths as they came along, both minor and major:
- Week of 1/14: Some R&R at a cabin in Virginia meant sleeping in past the time I would run before a hike, reducing mileage for the week. Who am I kidding, though, I wasn’t going to run before that hike anyway.
- Week of 1/28: No Thursday run. From my R2W log: “no run yesterday. woke up and achilles was slightly stiff and didn’t care to mess with that despite my training grind lately.” While I considered my Achilles healed to some extent, there still occurred ephemeral moments of vulnerability that encouraged caution. Typically, my solution to these moments was to just…. Stop. And stop I did, even if just for a day.
Per my former boss’ 102 year old grandmother, when asked how she manage to live so long: “When I felt good, I did whatever the hell I wanted. When I felt bad, I didn’t do a damn thing.”
- Week of 2/4: Registration for Happy Valley Invitational 3k unfortunately botched by race coordinator, an equal parts frustrating but thankful event as my Achilles was again showing timid yet noticeable signs of restlessness. From R2W: “Registration botched for Happy Valley. Couldn’t run. Took today as an achilles health day as it has become a bit sore in the mornings.” I think, season wise, this was a fortunate coincidence.
- Week of 2/18: Visited my girlfriend at the time in Philadelphia on Saturday. To do that, I had to drive 4 hours through traffic to Philly after doing my 10% weekly mileage med-stead Friday workout. Going immediately from a workout to sitting for so long was not a good look for my Achilles. It would have been my only Sunday-Saturday 80 mile week of the season (there were three 80+ mile 7-day totals, though), but the rest of the week was of exceptional quality, especially that Tuesday where I doubled with an easy run/1min hill repeat workout that set me at 14.3mi OTD. That day, workout was a mental bolster for me, as I started to understand just how much effort my legs can take in a day.
- Weeks of 3/4/18 and 3/11: 4 state challenge. Didn’t regret doing it with Charlie and Ramiz. Did regret doing it mid-season. Apart from voluntarily disrupting my sleep schedule, it left the bottoms of my feet on/off sore for the remainder of the season. Some runs I would even say they were painful, likely due to hiking in six year old worn out hiking boots. From R2W: “extreme lack of sleep due to 4 state/school and internships projects affected recent runs. took off to catch up on sleep” Go to class between runs all wanted, but I couldn’t ignore class, lack of sleep, or a recent break up which all contributed to record stress levels affecting my training. Motivational running posters may tell you otherwise, but sometimes it’s near impossible completely separate the stressors of real life from the freedom of running. Regardless, adhering to The Process was a key factor in maintaining a level head during that time, no matter how much The Process itself was affected.
Finally, there was my asthma. My asthma strays from reacting to the likes of peanuts in favor of twitterpation with mile repeats and similar workouts. I was unable to do even one of three miler workout attempts without my asthma being a dominant or terminal factor in the quality of the workout. Of the 27 workouts I attempted this season (not including long runs and med-steads), I completed 21 entirely on the first try, where 23 were completed including next-day restarts. Of the 4 I did not complete, asthma was the terminating factor in 2 of them. Lack of sleep affected the quality of 4 workouts and was cause for not finishing 1 workout included in that 4. Both lack of sleep and asthma combined affected the quality of 6 out of 23 completed workouts. So, over a fourth of the workouts for this season were adversely affected by factors unrelated to my training itself. All workouts affected by lack of sleep were in April, the month where most of my exams and all of my projects and presentations were due. Not good, man, but it’s still the best season I’ve ever put forth with that considered.
The One (and Two) and Done
The One: Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run
This was the primary focus of my season. My long con was to run a fast enough time to submit for elite entry into the San Francisco marathon, which I planned to use to qualify for Boston 2019. Elite entry meant free entry. Avoiding paying $280 to run a Boston qualifier? Yeah, I could go for that. After emailing the SF marathon organizers they told me they would consider a 10 mile time equivalent if it were fast enough, though they did not tell me just how fast it had to be. My mental bet was sub 55 or 54 given the 2:40 marathon elite standard on their website, but I did not know for sure. I had not put forth a race effort since November, so I figured I could go barely sub 54, though, on paper, I could probably hit low 53. I have always struggled to translate my training into races, so I knew I all I could do was leave it all on the cherry pink tinted streets of DC and hope for the mercy of the race organizers.
Most asthma and sleep deprivation related season complications had yet to hit by the time Charlie, Cerruzi, and I took an Uber drove downtown peering through frosted windshield to the race staging grounds, so I was fresh and ready to race. The 30 degree temps with 15mph winds were put to the back of my mind as I headed to the front of the Yellow corral, jogging in place as I watched the elites (Centro, Derrick, Jablonski, Puskedra, to name a few) stride out just ahead of me. I took a deep breath as the horn went off and I was effortlessly floating along with the chase pack in about the same breath. I was already behind my goal pace of 5:20 after I slipped by the first mile in 5:26. I tried to make a small adjustment for this and hit mile 2 in 5:15, then mile 3 in 5:10. I don’t think that hurt me in terms of the whole race too much, but it was absolutely much faster than I wanted. Adjustments after that had me floating around the low 5:20s for the next 5k or so, and the next 5 miles were sprinkled with a couple 5:1x’s. A nice surge in motivation also came at mile 5 (26:57) when a wild Patrick Hanley suddenly appeared to cheer me on: “Yes, Dylan! Let’s go! Go get him! Come on!” Thanks, Pat.
I focused on sticking with a small pack of 5-6 I was with nearly the entire race before we strung out the last two miles, including someone with a blue and yellow singlet and someone with a GRC singlet and a white cap whom I was neck and neck with since mile 3. The last two miles were pretty dang windy and I had nobody around me to hide behind (a good and a bad thing as I was in the general front of the race). I think I could have cut 5 seconds off mile 10 if I realized I was slouching over and losing form sooner rather than just near the end, but that’s likely my biggest gripe about the race, which is good. 1200m from the finish I surged to gain a definitive lead on the white cap guy I’d been with all race, losing audio track of his breathing behind me for the first time in the race. 800m out I could only see two far out in front of me and a third about 20m ahead of me – the guy in the blue and yellow. I glued my eyes to his back, trying to accelerate to catch him, when about 400m from the finish he simply stopped in his tracks and puked. I couldn’t make out what it was he ate the night before, but an educated guess was pasta. Poor dude. The two who were chasing me were left in the dust over the last half mile due to what I could only imagine was my track speed, and, upon seeing 53:50 on the timer as I rounded the curve, I sprinted with all I had left on home.
I quickly decelerated and put my hands to my knees after crossing the finish line somewhat dramatically with a bit of a yell. I panted for a moment then began to walk forward with my head down, exhausted. I see three pairs of feet ahead of me, so I stick out my hand without looking up much and said, “good race.” I received a firm handshake in return and I looked up as Matt Centrowitz told me, “You too, man.” I was too tired to react to that, so I shook Luke Puskedra and Chris Kwiatkowski’s (Centro’s training partner) hands and joked to Centro that I would knock him on PUBG someday. He laughed and said, “We’ll see about that” as I walked away aimlessly, still catching my breath. I’d later learn I finished right with Michael Wardian, the many time national 50 km champion, otherwise known as the white cap GRC guy I ran with all race. He actually gave a talk at the packet pickup expo the day before, so clearly someone must agree he’s a big deal (no sarcasm). I beat him by almost 10 seconds in the finish cam video; however, the results say his gun and net time were 1 second faster than me. Not sure how that makes sense, but I’m still blown away to know that me, some grad student running between exams, was able to race alongside such an accomplished runner at any distance. I’m happy with how I performed that day and I’m especially happy to say that the San Francisco Marathon race organizers accepted my time of 53:55 as elite entry worthy, punching my free ticket to a chance at a Boston qualifying performance in late July.
1 mile: 5:26
2 mile – 10:42
5k – 16:42 ish
5 mile – 26:57
10k – 33:29
9 mile – 48:31
Finish – 53:55
Overall pace: 5:23/mi
A big thanks to Pat for running to the race from CP and being there to cheer me on at miles 5 and 9.8 ish, and Luanne, Dolf, and Danny for all making the trek out to support all of us running. Additonally, a big shout out to Chris, Erin, Esther, Eric, Charlie, and Andrew for all showing their grit in running this race as well.
And Two: Kehoe Twilight Invitational 5k
“Adding enough 5-fluorouracil master mix solution to obtain a 500µM concentration in the wells of the bottom row of a 96-well round-bottom plate filled with fibrosarcoma spheroids has what effect on the spheroid’s cytotoxic activity? Additionally, calculate how much 5-fluorouracil is needed to obtain this concentration in the wells.”
“I don’t care,” I remember thinking to myself during this question on my first final of finals week: 3D Cell Culture and Drug Discovery.
“I don’t know and I don’t care.”
I looked at the clock at the front of the room – it was 3:45pm. I was halfway through an exam I was taking for a class I registered for long ago, before I decided I didn’t want to be a lab scientist after all which was after the add/drop period had already passed. That day, particularly, my lack of enthusiasm for the class was not helped by the fact I had to start warming up for my race at the Kehoe Twilight Invitational in a bit over four hours. By question 27 I was more concerned about not forgetting to pack my spikes than I was about concentrations of a metalloprotease inhibitor. Alas, I cleared my thoughts, admitted to myself I did, in fact, know how to answer the question, and re-focused on the task at hand:
“It takes 1µL 5-fluorouracil to reach a well concentration of 500µM which all but completely halts cytotoxic activity of fibrosarcoma spheroids.”
Another 13 questions about a tediously complex yet admittedly interesting subject and I yote out the classroom without even double checking if my bubbles on the Scan Tron sheet were neat and tidy3. It was time to grab a quick bite then hop in my car to drive to College Park.
A storm was brewing in the distance and half of me desperately wanted it to hold off until after the race whereas the other half would not have minded too much if it canceled the race. The weeks following Cherry Blossom and leading up to Kehoe served as the antithesis to my nearly flawless taper (in my opinion, of course) for Cherry blossom, as my legs always seemed to be heavy and my feet always seemed to be sore. I believe the foot soreness I adopted from the 4 state challenge was exacerbated by the race. The intermittent pain was not enough to halt running, but it was enough to make it unpleasant from time to time. I tried to do 16x400m the Tuesday following Cherry Blossom, a rookie mistake. I felt great the day after the race and did a normal 7.5 mile easy run at 6:25/mi because I hardly felt sore from the race, so I decided to continue with a workout on Tuesday. After 4x400m and a 200 in 27 seconds for prosperity, I called the workout and opted to restart the next day. The next day, Wednesday, I finished 14x400m, but was not happy with it. I felt physically incapable of going faster than 66 or 67 seconds per rep, with my final rep being a fairly strained 64. My legs did not cooperate ever since, and my running of the Crystal City “5k” a week and a half later was marred by heavy legs and a heavier asthma hit, so much so that I opted to leave the ordeal out of my definition of “races” I ran this season4.
I felt eerily alright during the mid-downpour warmup around the mall. We had a good crew for this race and in our deliberations on pacing, it was evident a chunk of us would be pacing off each other. First mile expectations ranged from 4:50 to 5 flat, but we all planned to not get too excited off the gun.
I finished my strides as I noticed some Pacers/Georgetown Running Company lads reading the “GRC” on my chest, possibly wondering if I was just a teammate they hadn’t met yet. My spikes felt firm on my feet and I felt ready to go. After a two command start and the gun, we were off.
The pack cruised through some thicc puddles to a 73 second first lap and almost immediately I could tell the pack was beginning to string out slightly. Second lap in 74 and it was me with a group of UMD Club Running chaps and a squad of GRC runners just ahead of us. We worked together through the first mile as a unit: 4:58. I remember telling everyone my goal was 4:50-4:55, but, knowing how I had felt for the past month, 4:58 sounded like a pretty good start to me. I felt labored but relaxed. My breathing was deep and I knew I had to accelerate to keep pace. I surged at about 1800m to catch the group of 3 GRC runners, passing two of them. From then until the 4800, my position was held, passing the 3200m en route in 10:04. I knew a GRC guy was right behind me the whole race, but I knew that I would lose to him in the final lap as my legs were refusing to accelerate any further. I was feeling what I had felt for the past month. My legs and going any faster were like kids kicking and screaming because they didn’t want to go to soccer practice. I was fading despite keeping a tempo. My goal went from 15:30 to just sub 16 real fast as I bent my head down to surge with 300m to go. I felt as if I went no faster than I had the previous three laps, and my kick down the final 100m must have looked like I thought it was lap 5 and not 12.5, but crossing that line was a gargantuan relief nonetheless; a refuge from the exhaustion, the pains, and the toil of a hard-fought season.
I looked behind me to see Danny finish as I caught my breath, and I glanced to the scoreboard to see “Dylan Hernandez- 15:55.13” just as it came up. I put my arms up in both relief and happiness, but only for what I did that day. In terms of the season, I did not do what I was capable of. In terms of May 4th at 9:05pm, though, I did my best, and that is the best I could ask for. It may not be by much, but I am a member of the 15 club now and it feels good to be there after years of being shackled to the 16s by injury.
As of Friday, May 4th, at 9:20:55.13 PM, my 2018 track season has come to an end. It has ended, thankfully, by choice. Not only by a choice to race no further and rest, but also by a choice to not regret anything about it. I knew this was my last collegiate season, my unexpected second and final shot to represent a university. I knew there were thus risks to take with training, such as making it so ambitious that remaining uninjured would be a stroll along a knife’s edge and that it would be a possible detriment to the very thing I was so thankful to represent. These risks, however, were risks worth taking. Training as if it were for a half marathon for 4 months and then as if it were for a 1500 for 1 month was the about-face I chose to perform in order to run both a 10 miler and 5k I was proud of, nodding to Lydiard along the way. I didn’t run the 5k I thought I was ultimately capable of, but I still met my goals. I met the goals I thought so carefully to set realistically. I met my goals I would have scoffed at myself reaching at any one point in the past four years.
The Process paid off. All it asked for was trust and that was all I had to give.
The national mall, the C&O Canal Towpath, the Capital Crescent trail, the Mt. Vernon Trail, the Custis trail, Rock Creek Park, Ohio Drive, Arlington National Cemetary, Foxhall, Glover Park, MacArthur Blvd, and so many more to choose from every single day for my routes. I have never before lived in such an aerobic haven. I am incredibly thankful to have the opportunity to explore Georgetown, NOVA, and D.C. via running and I realize my classmates did not have the same vantage point of our area that I had because of it. I feel as if running made my experience here at Georgetown more visceral and I’m glad I was healthy enough to do it. Up next is Livermore, CA for the summer, and it’s got some big route-shoes to fill.
I always wrote “AYF” – as you feel — on areas of my training plans where I wanted the athlete to do whatever they were comfortable with that day instead of subscribing to, say, an easy day or medium steady. It conveyed that, sometimes, it is important to follow your gut in the process of moving forward. I receive my M.S. in Biotechnology in three days and after that, I am truly an unattached runner. After that, it will be time to continue my running career as I feel.
I feel ready for more.
1 Hoya Saxa: “οἵα saxa,” translated from Greek as “what rocks,” referring to the stone wall surrounding Georgetown’s campus and the stalwart defense of its athletics teams at the time the phrase was adopted
2 Wayne’s World reference
3 I got a 72% on this final. Fortunately, so did everybody else. Curves are a wonderful thing, especially for a class that ended up being minimally relevant to my career goals
4 The “5k” was more like 3.27 miles by multiple watches and two online mapping tools – 16:27 over the distances translated roughly into a 15:48, but I don’t think I trust the final distance or that conversion (splits: 4:58, 4:56, 5:26 aka hello asthma). Credits to Andrew Lent and Rylan Flint for not only serendipitously racing this with me, but for doing significantly better than me