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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How to resist lying down & taking a nap on the infield when the last thing you want to do is finish the workout

I just signed up for a 4k…this Friday, against college runners, on a gnarly XC course. Which of course means this week’s workout was horrendous.

Ok, so it doesn’t look horrendous on paper – I hit all my goal splits and ran all the reps and even paced it consistently. However, everything from the warmup to the last step of the cool down was eerily reminiscent of the chapter revision work from earlier in the day. Everything felt tedious, miserable, and I just wanted to take a BREAK!!! However, I had made it through the writing at work and, gosh durn it, I was determined to save myself the mental weight of an unfinished workout during a race week. How did I make it through?

1) I broke everything down into itty bitty chunks: Making it through four 200’s is somehow way easier than focusing on the entire half-mile repeat. Just focusing on hitting each split and staying in the “now” saved me from collapsing into a little whimpering puddle on the side of the track. I knew I was really having a rough day when a 300 m repeat seemed so daunting that I ended up mentally breaking it down into 100’s…

2) My mantra became “Just finish the next rep.” If you lie to yourself you can occasionally convince your brain that you will definitely, really let yourself stop after that next repeat. And then the trick is to just jog into the recovery and keep right on jogging til you find yourself on the starting line agin telling yourself the same tricky little fib.

3) I focused on any good details that I noticed. My arms felt relaxed, I wasn’t actually getting winded til the last 50 m of each repeat, and 200 m recoveries mean I can do an out and back on the straightaway! I’m not really sure why this is so exciting – I guess going the wrong way on the track fulfills my little rebellious streak ha ha 😉 Anyhow, even these little positive boosts counteracted the temptation to focus on the smokey air, the heat, the tight muscles, etc. 

I stuck with it and actually managed to (sort of) enjoy the last repeat! Woohoo! And now I only have one little shakeout run left before I get to run my first XC race in 3 years!!!

Any runners out there have some good strategies for surviving tough workouts?

Thank goodness for track workouts!

Reasons why I needed yesterday’s track workout:

  • I needed to spend ~5000 meters emptying my mind of all the crazy, pointless worrying that has crept in lately and instead think about nothing other than what my next split needed to be and how to strive with every stride to reach that goal.
  • I needed to get a little physical suffering in.  You can’t focus on anxiety about job searches, thesis writing, and relationships ripping at the seams when you are trying to figure out whether or not you’ll make it through the next repeat without barfing.  Yup, good times.
  • I needed the reminder that taking care of myself isn’t optional.  I can try to live on no sleep, too much coffee, and a nice diet of stress hormones…but running demands sleep, proper hydration, and a few deep breaths.

For one glorious hour I was just a runner, a 5’4″ assembly of laboring muscles strapped to a watch, a pair of legs pounding the sun-baked track.

 

Tuesday at the (sunny, warm, & glorious) track

Fish & I resumed the good ol’ track tuesday schedule today 🙂  

The workout was 2x (3×300 m hills w/ walk down R into 3×300 on the track w/ 100m jog R).  5k pace on the hills, 5k – 10 seconds/mile on the track.  Temps in the high 70’s and minimal wind meant Fish & I could focus on pushing the pace and running strong – perfect day to do some speed work!  Everything felt great and it was AMAZING to push it over the red line on the hills and then get some turnover going and stride down into sub-5 pace territory on the 300’s (definitely not running my 5k’s at 5:10 pace but I couldn’t help it, I was having way too much fun!)

Summer evening workouts rock – how else would anyone want to end a long day of work than by getting outside and flying around the oval through dappled twilight and the placid evening air?

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It’s been incredibly rainy lately, in true Spring fashion.  This has been excellent for thesis writing – I’ve gotten just over  11,000 words down on paper and have absolutely no desire to distract myself by prancing around outside in the frigid May showers.

The sudden turn in the weather has been less conducive to running.  Tuesday’s track workout turned into a bit of a battle for survival.  Fish & I had a tougher workout planned (2×800 @ 5k pace – 10 seconds/mile [200m jog recovery], 2×600 at the same[same recovery], 2×300 at mile race pace [100 m recovery]) + about 800m worth of strides sprinkled throughout) and we were both keeping an eye on the sky since there had been thunderstorms predicted.  However, it was about 60 degrees and looked pretty decent when we started.

By the time we got to the 2nd 600 the temperature had plunged into the 40’s and it was raining so hard that we both abandoned our long sleeves since they were more water than shirt at that point.  The track was flooded and we spent each lap squinting and dodging each other’s foot-splash.

The battle for survival started when we finally got back to the car & I realized my hands were too frozen to grip the key.  Yay for Raynaud’s 😛  I finally figured out a nice (and ridiculous looking) two-handed substitute for the usual single-handed pinch-grip for turning the key and we rejoiced in the fact that we were not going to be forced to suffer the indignity of dying of hypothermia right outside a nice warm car.  We survived, got to feel tough, and even managed to hit some of our splits!

Allright, enough reminiscing about the week’s runs – I have a thesis to write!  And lots of hot coffee to drink…just thinking about that workout makes me shiver!

Windy laps

Today’s track workout (again courtesy of the marvelous MountainMan) was a rude re-introduction to longer intervals.  The workout itself was actually pretty short, but MM had thrown in some longer race pace stuff and both Fish and I were a little nervous.  The workout was 2 laps of SSJC (stride straights, jog curves) into 1200m at 5k pace (so 96’s for now – that’s 20 flat pace for a 5k), then 2 more laps of SSJC into 300 m at current mile pace (so around 6 flat pace), 100m jog R, and lastly 800m at 5k pace (3:12).  

I was able to hold the paces with a bit of suffering and Fish finished just a little off on the long stuff but totally smoked our 300. Wheee!  I do think I may have a bit of an advantage in the wind – Fish weighs a good 20 lbs less than me and half the time I’m afraid I’ll look over my shoulder to see her flying off through the air like a little, runner-girl shaped kite!  My muscular frame on the other hand is in no danger of getting wafted away on the breeze 😉 

Perhaps the best (and least expected!) part of the whole workout was that we ran into one of my former teammates who is coaching throws at a nearby high school.  She happened to be at the track giving some private throws lessons and totally made my day when she walked by as Fish and I were doing strides – the look of surprised recognition as I sprinted by waving and grinning was priceless 🙂  And the brief chat with her after the 1200 gave us a little extended recovery…for which Fish and I were both *extremely* grateful.  

All in all I’d say the workout was a success – first longer reps out of the way and we held pretty steady in spite of the wind.

 

On the non-running front life is chilling out a bit.  I’m done TAing (minus a marathon grading session with my fellow TA’s at the end of the week), have been taking a little break from finite element simulations while waiting for software tokens to free up (woohoo, time to actually *think* (and write!)), and have been enjoying watching everyone else madly cram for finals as I saunter lazily to and from the lab 😉  

Friday night 200’s

After a long day of TAing & research, I got to join my awesome-sauce gal Fish for a trip out to the fancy-schmancy 400m indoor track.  We arrived without incident, paid, walked in to the labyrinth of locker rooms, and promptly proceeded to wander aimlessly around until a helpful track center employee took pity on us and showed us the correct staircase to take.  To be fair, the track doubles as a speed-skating oval and a hockey rink, so there are several staircases that lead to vast expanses of ice rather than mondo.  And Fish & I are both just a leeeeetle navigationally lacking.

Anyhow, we finally found the correct set of stairs and set out on a brief warmup.  It was pretty sweet watching the skaters zoom by and the rink had some awesome music going, which was extremely helpful in drowning out our labored breathing once the workout began.  We had planned to do 4×200, 4×400, 4×200, but ended up dropping down to 10×200 with 200m jog recovery since Fish took a couple weeks off around Christmastime.  I thought it’d be a breeze – 200’s, decent recovery, and the pace was only supposed to be 46’s.  In college I could’ve done that in my sleep.  

I am really, really glad Fish convinced me to cut it down and stick to 200’s.  We did manage to average 46’s, but they felt soooo fast!  We were both a little freaked out when we looked down at our watches after the 1st 200 and saw 47’s – we both felt like we’d been hauling!  Luckily some middle school girls decided to taunt us with the very *original & creative* chant of “Run Forrest, run!” and the annoyance was enough to drive us to some quicker 200’s through the rest of the workout.

Overall it was a humbling workout – I am not in nearly the shape I thought I was in.  However, I’m one step closer to being in shape and excited to put in some more painful bouts on the track!  Gotta love that burn, even when it brings me down a notch 😉

Any fun (short) workout suggestions?  And does anyone have tips for dealing with obnoxious middle-schoolers???