My favorite length for a long run is eight miles. At a nice comfy pace, I typically hit my endorphin-high around mile six, and feel pleasantly spent by the time we finish. But, with the You Go Girl! half marathon roughly six weeks away, it’s time to inch our way out of that comfort zone. Last year Amy and I ran the entire race with only a very brief walk break (brief because, as it turned out, walking was more painful than just continuing at a slow jog when we got to mile 12), and we both wanted to collapse as soon as we got home. Carrie, in true dynamo style, stuck with us for approximately two miles and then finished the race in just over two hours. This year, Amy and I want to run the entire race without WANTING to stop and walk. Essentially, we want to finish 13.1 miles and feel as good as we do after our usual Saturday morning eight miler.
So 10 is the new 8. Or, that’s what we’re telling ourselves.
Our legs and minds and rear ends do not agree.
Monday evening, Amy and I set out from my house to map a five mile course we could double on Saturday. There are some pretty wicked hills around my neighborhood, which always feels like an awesome accomplishment, when you’re only running five miles. I run with my iPhone strapped to my arm and my Runkeeper app chiming in every five minutes to tell us our distance, pace, and how many scoops of ice cream we have earned immdiately upon arrival back home. So, when we cruised up my driveway and checked our progress at the end of the run, we were happy to see we’d completed 5.4 miles. Perfect! We could double that on Saturday! So what if we had to run the Shaw Road hill twice when doing it once nearly kills us! We could totally do it!
Flash forward, Saturday morning at 7:30. I had power-hydrated like a mother all day Friday, basically drinking my weight in water and Nuun, because, um, heat? Here in Washington? Where the hell did that come from? PNW runners are, as a general rule, the vampires of the running community. We run with overcast skies, drizzle, and cool temperatures so frequently throughout the year, it’s almost foreign to pair a tank top and sunglasses with our running shoes. I AM NOT KNOCKING THE NICE WEATHER, DON’T GET ME WRONG. It’s just that my intestines prefer the cool temps we have 11 months of the year. My system responds to running in temps above 65 in ways most unpleasant, and while I will spare you the gory details, let’s just say that the summer running season of 2011 was all about learning (the hard way) the importance of hydration and nutrition so as to not spend two hours running in the morning and the remaining 22 hours of the day running to the toilet.
So it was warm. We were cruising along in formation, as always. Carrie and Dash (Amy’s yellow lab and our fourth running parner) led the way and Amy and I trailed a few steps behind. Things were out of whack from the start. Carrie woke up with a rogue cramp on the top of her left foot; Amy wasn’t feeling great and had skipped her morning coffee. I was fried after dropping Zoey off early with her dad (always an interesting experience). We typically have most of the world’s problems solved by about mile three, but today we were unusually quiet. And mentally, Amy and I were in hey-we’re-nearly-done! mode as we finished the first lap of Round One, since we had run this course a few nights ago and apparently our minds keyed in to the fact that we stopped the madness pretty much as soon as we neared my street. Carrie, who always treats the first few miles as a warm up and can really kick it in to warp speed later in a long run, pulled away from us around mile seven. (Honestly. If she wasn’t such a doll, we would just want to kill her.) Amy and I were starting to droop. It wasn’t pretty.
I hate that point in a run where it becomes all mental. Perhaps this is why I love the eight mile length, because that distance, for me, is so rarely a mental struggle. I can push my achy knees and control my body, but I have such a hard time controlling my mind, especially when it is groaning ‘ohhhh, for the love of God, WILL YOU JUST STOP’.
When we finally…FINALLY…walked (don’t ask) up my driveway, I hit Stop on my Runkeeper screen, expecting to look down and see that we had logged nearly 11 miles.
So the 9.7 that greeted me made me most unhappy.
I could justify feeling worn out and ready to quit after pushing myself into the almost-eleven range. I could NOT justify feeling achy and really, REALLY ready for a shower if we ran less than what we did last Saturday.
I know, logically, that it doesn’t truly matter all that much. The three of us all have several half marathons under our belts so it isn’t like we’re afraid we can’t go the distance. But it is so much harder to train for a mental goal of finishing and feeling a certain way than it is to merely log the miles and know you can drag yourself across the finish line, no matter what physical state that might be in (crawling is not outside the realm of possibility).
I’m going to keep telling myself that 10 is the new 8. Because right now, my mind can not fathom my overall goal of making 13.1 the new 8.