Winter running – February highlights a few days early

Winter running is ROUGH. There’s snow and ice everywhere, it’s dark all the time, the trails are all closed or snowed over, and cold viruses are abundant. I’ve been struggling to stay motivated, and to avoid injury on the bumpy, slippery winter streets. Podcasts and the promise of post-run hot cocoa (and warming my hands up on poor MountainMan’s furnace-like stomach) have been lifesavers on the more miserable days.

However, in spite of the regular bouts of wishing I was somewhere tropical and my generally poor attitude I’ve actually managed to get in a very solid month of training just by shoving myself out the door on a regular basis. So far my average weekly mileage is the highest it’s been since right after undergrad, and I’m getting in some road/track workouts that are promising for the upcoming racing season. All these frozen runs may actually be worthwhile!

Some highlights from the month:

1.Calf massages from MountainMan – my calves have been reacting to speed work by turning into whiney balls of ouch, and MM has been very generous with the calf torture. I’m a lucky gal! I think he may just get a kick out of watching me squirm…

2.    This workout-sunset combo: the workout was very grumpy and snot-rocket-puncuated but did involve some magical sub-6:00 pace 400’s! My legs are gradually remembering what ‘fast’ feels like and it’s cool to feel the neuromuscular changes.

3.  The mountain climb race, even though it was much more grueling than expected. It’s amazing what some fun post-run time with friends and amazing post-run brunch can do to cheer one up! I think I may have convinced MM to take advantage of his speed-hiking skills to climb his way to a men’s win next year…

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So much pain face :-O I look like I’m doing a painful-scream duet with my calves.

4. The moment I discovered that the local high school track was plowed off. Look at that gorgeously un-icy speed work surface ❤img_9274

5. New (garishly bright) shoes! I’m going to be so sad when the ‘obnoxiously bright’ running shoe trend ends…img_9358

What have everyone else’s February running highlights been? Any fun strategies for dealing with the late-winter struggles?

Mountain runners – a whole different animal

This week I thought it’d be a lovely idea to spend $30 to wake up at 5am on Sunday and run 2.5 straight up some ridiculously steep slopes that less idiotic people enjoy skiing DOWN. It was an informative experience, to say the least…

Shortly after the starter yelled “go!” at 7am I discovered that mountain running is actually better described as mountain speed-hiking. 200m in I followed the lead of the experienced-looking woman in front of me and switched from a slogging run to a brisk hike in order to keep my heart from full-on exploding. I didn’t manage another step of running until the last 400m, which were, blessedly, downhill. 

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The hiking gait kept my breathing under control, but unfortunately my glutes and calves were horribly unprepared for the constant strain of pushing uphill in slick snow, and I lost about a dozen places and most of my dignity over the arduous 2-mile, 2,300 foot-gain climb. I watched helplessly as masters-division mountain runners, several snowshoers, and even skiers footing heavy, skin-bedecked skis scooted past me as I wobbled up the incline. The final (extremely steep!) uphill 50m found me crawling on all fours, legs no longer willing to work without assistance. 

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An encouraging friend running next to me and a flock of cowbell ringing spectators provided the boost I needed to push over the final ridge, and then it was (thankfully!) downhill to the finish. I grimaced with the sudden shock of pounding on my destroyered leg muscles, but managed to fall foot-to-foot to a  somewhat speedy finish, trying desperately not to face plant. I was happy to finish right with my friend, a tough ultra runner, and was even happier to flop into the snow to cheer in his wife and the rest of our group of friends. 

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After the post race breakfast and prizes I reflected on what I learned:

  • Mountain runners are TOUGH. The race was in honor of one of the local USA mountain-running team founders, and was designed as a test of mountain running grit. It managed to make a 2.5 mile hike into one of the most challenging activities I’ve ever done, and I’m even more in awe now of athletes who choose mountain running as their competition of choice. 
  • My aerobic system is coming along fine from my solid running training this winter. My muscular strength/endurance, not so much. Basically, I learned in a very painful way that I should be lifting instead of being a slacker. Oops…

In short, this race was a great, painful reminder of my weaknesses. Here’s to actually working on my leg strength and managing my next race without resorting to crawling on all fours!