Yesterday morning as I pondered the eight miles I was about to tackle, it hit me: eight is my new normal. As my training is increasing, obviously so is my mileage, and more and more eight milers are sneaking onto my training calendar as easy runs. I remember when I got to the point last fall that I was doing a mid-week long(er) run that started to hover around eight miles, namely because it was a Big Deal, and while it still feels on the longer side, it’s not stopping the presses with quite as much urgency. Slowly I have become used to running longer more often, which has also come with another new phenomenon: legitimate zoning out. I’ve always run with music, but I would frequently hit those days where it seemed like nothing good would come onto my music mix. But lately? I barely even notice my music. It’s been just a little whisper in the background as I’ve entered some state of running zen. I’m almost tempted to try running without it. Almost. Let’s not be rash.
Then this morning something totally crazy happened: I did an eleven mile progression run on a Thursday morning, i.e. not Sunday, not my designated long run day. Eleven miles, like a boss, before work. I was out the door at 5:45 AM, which meant I only hit snooze once and then shimmied out of bed to get the party started. I had a four mile warm up before I started working my pace down, and this made the run seem much shorter. When I started the progression miles I had sort of forgotten that I had already run four miles, so it was more like a six mile run with a mile cool down, instead of a full on long run. It’s all about the mental tricks, right? Break something big into small chunks and it feels less daunting.
It’s interesting how your perspective shifts, though I suppose it’s hard to see progress when you’re chipping away at it daily until you stop to reflect on where you were, say, a year ago. Would I have been intimidated by this run last year? You bet, though I didn’t exactly think it would be a cakewalk today either. As it turns out, a year ago I had run that 8 mile midweek push (thanks, Garmin). A year ago I had a hellacious commute and did those 8 miles after work, which might have actually been as difficult as those 11 miles this morning. Please excuse my nostalgic moment of pride in reflecting back to this point in time where after a 90 minute drive home I got my ass out the door for 8 miles in July. I am beyond lucky to now be working closer to home, and to have more time to dedicate to training, and, well, life in general.
Another little tidbit about my current training, these days I’ve also been ending a handful of my weekly easy runs with strides, and while they didn’t seem like much to get excited about when I first started tossing them in, I have started to really look forward to them, dare I say crave them. There’s something about opening up my speed and just letting it rip that feels fun in that playful, playground-like way, the way you’d run down a grassy hill or after someone you’re trying to tag. Sure, sure, there are plenty of physical benefits to incorporating these bursts into your running, but for me it’s the mental play that has been the best.
I’m not going to lie, after racing on Monday, complete with the necessary early wake-up call, plus this morning’s hard effort, I’m ecstatic that tomorrow is my day off and that I’ll be sleeping in. This chair is feeling pretty darn good right now too. If only I had one of those foot massaging thingys I’d be totally set, like never moving again set.