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?

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Running goals for before the snow falls (and maybe a little after…)

Fall has arrived and the hills are currently shimmering with golden leaves. Although the scenery is glorious to run through or glad past on my drive to and from work, I know that it signals that only a couple few weeks of warm weather remain. With the arrival of October the leaves will brown and fall, and the currently glowing aspen groves and grass-covered hills will fade to gray, and then rapidly turn white with snow*.

Since the good running weather and Fall racing season are winding down I wanted to take stock of where I am and what my remaining goals are for the season.

So far, Fall is starting off well. I just hit another strong week and had the endurance to enjoy my longest run since November 2014 (14 miles, woohoo!). I’ve enjoyed a wonderful summer of racing and have gone from a fitness level where my legs could barely hold 7:mid pace for 5k to being able to hold 6:mid for the same distance. I have had a few setbacks, but have been healthy enough to enjoy many workouts, races, and exploratory runs over the local trails.

Moving forward, I have two main goals:

  1. Break 20 minutes in the 5k. I haven’t done this since Fall 2014 and would LOVE to break that barrier again. However, if I have strong races in my last few XC 5k/6k’s and don’t hit this mark (or the equivalent for 6k) I won’t be devastated. Cross-country is a whole different beast than track or road 5ks since terrain can make times for the same effort hugely variable.
  2. Break my half-marathon PR! My current best of 1:41:49 was set with stronger training, but on trails with some massive hills and plenty of mud. I’m planning to race in Moab at the end of October with a friend and am hoping that the drop in elevation and the mild road course will allow me to push under 1:40. I’ve added a few half marathon workouts to my training plan (from the Kara Goucher plan here) and have hit a few long runs of 12-14 miles to hopefully get some endurance and appropriate pacing into my legs for the attempt. We’ll see what happens – either way it’s a great excuse to spend some time enjoying the red rocks and warmer weather of Moab and to get a chance to visit and run with a good friend.

Ok, now that I have some goals I just need the snow to hold off a few weeks longer so I can keep racing and training! Everyone please hold off on your snow dances until November 😉 Please share your fun/exciting Fall goals in the comments, I would love to see how everyone else is handling the last bit of Fall training/racing before the arrival of winter…

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*This may sound like an exaggerated timeline, but it legitimately snowed yesterday here. I live in the land of winter 😐

Snowy roads

Winter weather is here to stay – the weekend brought several inches of snow and the forecast is predicting a steady parade of freezing days to come.  Perfect days for cuddling with my overheating laptop while drinking entire pots of coffee and wearing my *super stylish* sweatpants.  Much less perfect for the running – I’m not a fan of the combination of numb feet, treacherous ice patches, and the necessity to fumble for my watch buttons through 1 or 2 layers of gloves.

However, I am remembering why I do occasionally absolutely love winter running:

1)  You get to feel all hardcore and beastly.  When people look at you in horror as you come in from the ice storm/blizzard/-10 degree windchill conditions, take it as a compliment.  And then head to the nearest sink ASAP to scrub that giant glob of frozen snot/spit/sweat off your face.

2)  Running at night? No problem!  Snow is about 500% more reflective than asphalt.  This means you can actually see where you’re going at 5 freaking pm when it’s somehow already pitch black out.  Yay!

3)  Running in snow is a killer workout.  Have you ever tried running in 2 feet of snow?  It’s probably the most efficient method ever for maxing out your heart rate.  A nice side benefit is that you have a nice soft surface to collapse onto when your legs give out from exhaustion.  

4)  Hot chocolate >>>> gatorade.  

5)  Running tights.  If it were socially appropriate to wear running tights all day, every day I would probably wear nothing else.  Luckily running pants are a little more flattering/modest and equally comfy – just got these ones from Oiselle and they made my run yesterday in the blustery, cloudy pre-snow-storm conditions much more survivable.  

6)  Christmas lights!  My junior year my most memorable run came during finals week.  I was in the midst of a miserable cold and had spent all day avoiding the 8-miler on my schedule by studying for my calc III exam while gradually burying myself in a pitiful layer of used tissues.  I finally emerged around dark, strapped on my YakTrax and headed out the door to get the dang run in.  I was halfway down some neighborhood street when the lights began to flip on.  Suddenly the entire street was lit with twinkling christmas lights.  I spent the rest of my run cheerfully winding my way through the glow of the colored bulbs and completely forgot about my sniffly nose and looming math exam.  

See, it’s not all bad!  Now the challenge is just to remember all the lovely parts in the middle of the next appendage-freezing, shiver-filled run… 

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