Let me clarify: How good does it feel to bank 10 miles as training?

Before today the only times I’ve run 10 miles or longer were in races. Remember, as a half-marathoner, not yet a full marathoner, 10 miles is the marathoners’ 20 mile long run. I know when I get up to marathon training, and I do my 20 miler, I’m going to look back on “10 mile long runs” with a rueful, wistful laugh, but for now, it’s still a big deal distance for me.

To shake myself out from my post first half marathon rest period, I found a six week half marathon refresher training plan. I’m a little compulsive about needing structure. I live on lists and schedules and planners. I almost wish I’d kept all the lists I’d made throughout college and weeks of semesters of grad school – one could curate obsessive compulsion just based on my collection of to-do lists and schedules and planners. For me, lists and plans help break down seemingly big challenges into smaller, more attainable steps. Without them, life would very easily overwhelm me. In fact, it did very easily overwhelm me until I got in the habit of making lists. When it’s really bad, I have to make lists for every step of my every day (“1) brush teeth, 2) wash face, 3) straighten hair”) just to get me going and staying on track so I don’t let myself go and stay in bed all day.

So I need training plans for staying on track between races and not letting myself take so many days off that I get out of the running habit. And on top of that, for every distance I run longer than say 3-5 miles, I need a plan to break that distance down into surmountable steps. I need to break up the monotony of the long distance.

So when 10 miles were on tap for today, 2 weeks out from the Charleston Half Marathon, I made a plan to motivate myself through the run.

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I broke down every mile by warm up easy paces, sprint intervals, recovery easy paces, short walk breaks, and cool down easy pace. I don’t do this when I run outside – the scenery and just plain 9:1 run:walk intervals are enough to break up the monotony.

I didn’t even plug into anything for the first mile. It was a total warm up, getting my bearings, checking in with my body about how it felt, deciding whether I was in danger of getting kicked off the treadmill for the cardio time limit in case a wait showed up. I felt good, but the three mile warm up I’d set up for myself felt a little boring so after the first mile I plugged into the gym TV until I hit 3 miles.

That was when my sprints started, and I finally turned my music on. I switched my screen back to the image of the virtual track and when I’d hit the end of my interval sprint distance I felt like throwing my hands in the air like an Olympian. Even though in real time the walk breaks before and after my sprints even my speed back out, throwing in sprint intervals in the middle of a long treadmill run helps SO much to make me mentally feel like the run is going by faster.

By the time my 10 miles were done, the gym was 10 minutes from closing, I’d sprinted 2x 600’s, 1x 1200, and 3x 400’s, and still felt good. Oh, I was exhausted, but I was thrilled with how well I’d planned to break up the distance. I got my long run done in 1:50:20, just 58 seconds short of my 10 miler PR I set at the Army Ten Miler. Granted I’d done it on no incline, but considering I usually complete my distances slower on the treadmill out of boredom and frustration, I was pretty darn happy.

Long run done. Dinner inhaled. Shower heaven. Compression socks on. Ready to wind down Sunday night knowing I’ve already banked 23 miles toward my Run This Year goal, participate in the first #runchat of 2014, and watch some “Breaking Bad” so I can be as caught up as possible in time for the Golden Globes next week!

Feeling of accomplishment: the best medicine for seasonal affective disorder.

13 days til Charleston Half Marathon.

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