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The Hardest Mile

March 23, 2010

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but today was one of the longest runs I’ve done since the Bud Lite Challenge–all of 8 miles.

I ran 7 miles once, about a week after the race, by mistake, getting turned around on a random run and tacking on more distance than I really meant to. And then Saturday I ran 9½ with Little G at the end of one of her 20-milers as she prepares for Boston.

But this was the first time I intentionally set out to cover 8 miles by myself, in the dark, before the day started. It’s sad that this is so milestone-y because 8 miles was a pretty regular distance for me while in training for the half. Today, it felt monumental.

It started as soon as I set out–the first mile was really tough today. I’m not sure why. I’ve been walking longer to give myself more time to warm up, but I still stopped a few times during that first mile to regather my energy. My legs were complaining about the effort, even though I was going easy pace–10:15 or so.

My strategy? First, identify what’s wrong–I think I’m not hydrating enough for how the temperatures and humidity are climbing already. Secondly, I’m giving myself permission to go real easy and walk if I have to. I’m taking training really easy right now and not pushing a whole lot. But third, I’m getting out there, and I’m trying to put in the distance I planned just for discipline and consistency’s sake. Pushing through that first hard mile, when it would be easier to turn around and walk home, is the best part of my training right now–just getting back to being consistent about running, about getting up in the early morning and putting in the miles. I’ve been running long enough to know that enjoying it will come later.

I did put together a tentative schedule for the next few weeks. I didn’t plan speedwork today, though I threw in an unplanned fast-finish run and went fast the last two. But starting next week, I’ll take turns between intervals (mostly mile repeats) and a tempo run every Tuesday. And I’ll plan on sequences of 10-12-14 miles for my long run every Saturday. Following that third week I’m taking a cutback–a week of no speedwork and an easy 8 miles on Saturday. I’m hoping this easy-to-follow plan (really, it’s almost brainless in its simplicity) will help me approach 40 miles per week in a healthy way.

Here’s to the off-season–a time to build up, not to tear down.

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