Sunday, September 25, 2011

In which I run 8 miles

When I printed out my 10K training plan in June, my eyes scanned the list of training runs and stopped when they hit Sunday, September 25.

Long Run: 8 mi.

Oh, boy. Actually, "boy" wasn't what I thought, but you get the gist.

If I'm training for a 6.2-mile run, why does the training plan include an 8-mile run?

Well, I found out this morning. If you can run 8 miles, all of a sudden 6.2 doesn't seem that daunting.

This run has been in the back of my head since. And the closer it got, the more I heard it, 8 miles. You've got 8 miles coming up.

Hell, even toeing the line for a race last week I thought, This time next week, 8 miles.

However, I refused to psych myself out. I can run 6, 8 isn't that much more. Any time I felt anxious about it, I'd tell myself, It's 4 miles out and 4 miles back. That's all.

I got up this morning and had my usual pre-workout snack: a Luna bar. I read the newspaper and since it was Sunday I had more time to lounge around than normal. Then I realized it was more stalling than lounging, so I put on my magic pants (which deserve and will get their own post soon - Edit: And here is that post!) and headed off to the bike path to begin my run.

Since I'd be going 2 more miles than I ever have before, I decided to keep the course relatively flat and easy. It was 67 and overcast when I started running. Not bad. Humidity was 80%, not good.

The first 4 miles went well and I stopped for a couple of minutes to drink water and eat a package of Jelly Belly Sport Beans. This was the first run in which I felt like I would need water and a snack to keep my energy up (I usually don't run with water).

I'm not a fan of gel-based running fuel, but I am a big fan of Jelly Bellies. The Sport Beans were OK, they had a weird aftertaste that I assume was the "sport" part. But they did the job as I didn't faint or bonk.

During the back half of the run the sun came out, the temperature rose and the humidity stayed the same, so it was a lot grittier than the first 4 miles.

When I hit 6.2 miles I thought, "If this were the race, I'd be done right now..."

It wasn't until the last half-mile that I felt tired, and I suspect that was mostly mental. I did a lot of self-pep-talking at the end: You got this. Almost there. Your legs feel great, it's all in your head.

And I really think it was. My legs did indeed feel good, which surprised me. After my first 5-mile run my knees were a little sore afterward. After my first 6-miler, my quads were pretty stiff. But, surprisingly, after 8 miles everything felt A-OK. When I came home, I did ice my knees as a precaution, but that was more preventative rather than a treatment. Yay, Arctic Ease.

Regardless, soon that half mile was over and I was back at the car, toweling off and blasting the AC. Total running time was 1:39, not bad. In I really didn't care about pace, I just wanted to get through it without injury and, mission accomplished.

In Weight Watchers speak that translates into 19(!) Activity Points. I get 29 Points a day, so that's line another two-thirds of a day in food. But I won't even eat half. When I'm in losing mode, I have a deal where I eat 1 AP for every mile run. Still, that's 8 APs I get to enjoy today, which is like another nice meal.

I have one more long run, next Sunday, also 8 miles. Then, one week later it's race day.

This is all rather amazing to me. If you told me at the beginning of this year, "In September, you'll be able to run 8 miles," I would have had a hard time believing it. I could barely run for 30 seconds.

If you told me the same thing in June, I'd have responded, "I can barely run 3."

But now, after a summer of smart, gradual, healthy training, I really can run 8 miles.

I've always had a delicate relationship with running. I hated the actual act, but I loved the results. And I love running races. But the actual getting up and getting out of it, the everyday 3-, 4-milers, I could do without.

But, what do you know, I think I actually like those now. I'm better, (slightly) faster and stronger than I've ever been, and those early morning runs are kinda-sorta fun. I never identified with people said they liked running because it was their time to be alone with their thoughts and away from their troubles.

Yet I get it now. It may be dark, humid, hot, cold, windy or smelly (think garbage cans), but it is my time. I have no responsibilities other than listening to my favorite music and getting back to the car (or house) without injury.

And as a person who by default has her own needs set last on the priority list, that is a luxury in itself. Even if it is sweaty.

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