Monthly Archives: December 2013

Snow!

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You never really think about the texture of the ground until you’re hurting from it. My first week in Iraq, the front of my shins were exhausted and excruciatingly sore from trudging across huge pads of large gravel to get anywhere.

Running in the snow is a little less intense than running on the beach (which sucks, by the way). The soft, cushiony pliability works different muscles, but it is also more forgiving on the impact.

Christina and I set out for a pre-brunch run to earn the buffalo bleu sliders I was making Sunday morning. Christina HATES cold weather running, so she was apprehensive as we breathed plumes into the frosty air on our way to the greenway.

I, on the other hand, love the winter. I thrive in the snow. All the annoyances of fogged glasses, burning fingertips, skin burned pink are nostalgic to me. I’m wobbling on fresh powder, skies carving a tentative V as the downward acceleration both terrified and excited me; I’m walking over snow drifts in my backyard when El Nino buried us to the rooftops; I’m standing in the silence as the fat flakes softly fill the night; I’m digging holes with numb fingers to give a snowman eyes. My roots are exposed in this weather–full on Scandi, thick Swede through and through.

I found that running euphoria again in the snow. I was dazzled by frosted plants, cold streams snaking through snow banks, the sun glittering off untouched patches of snow. It was beautiful and quiet in a way it only is when it snows.

And, by the time we turned around and headed back downhill, I think Christina found some enjoyment in it too.

Let it snow. Give me more. I’ll binge on all this brisk winter running until spring and summer descent to suffocate and stifle me.

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4 Degrees

In Tennessee, the coldest I ever ran was 28 degrees. And that was fricking cold.

Today, I ran in 4 degrees (with a windchill of -15 degrees). New record.

I had waffled about running when this wintry front struck. Trisha called in a rain check for run club yesterday. The temperatures were subzero, but my body was itching for the run. It had been too many days. My brain chemistry needed the calibration.

I figured how different could it be from skiing. I geared up. Two socks. Two pants. Two shirts. Parka. Scarf. Headband. Hat. Gloves. I was bundled up like a child going out to play in a blizzard.

When I started getting my GPS apps rolling and my music playing, it didn’t feel to cold. But soon my fingers began to burn. The cold began to nip harder and deeper at my exposed skin. My breath was billowing out in steam so thick it had a shadow in the sunlight.

I started out in long stride over the snow-streaked sidewalk, debating how long to run. Two loops around work? One? I knew I was not going to run my usual route down Cresterra to Powers. I didn’t want to deal with the wind and epic hill. I decided to cut that leg and make just a circle of the remaining route. I figured it would get me at least 3 miles, which could be plenty in this weather.

Once my internal heater kicked on, I didn’t even really feel the cold. I began to sweat under my many layers. I started with my scarf over my mouth. My sunglasses fogged and froze relentlessly, reminding me of the same annoyance on the side of a ski slope. With the fabric over my mouth, my face was warm, but I felt like I was suffocating. I tugged it down and only brought it up occasionally to warm my face back up. I ditched my gloves into my pocket and exposed my wrists to cool my blood. I couldn’t risk exposing any more, no matter how warm I felt.

I was able to bask in my love of winter, still appreciating returning to Colorado. I loved the sound and the feeling of neglected snow crunching under my shoes. Even at this frigid temperature, the sun remained my enemy. I still glared up at it sideways and wished it behind the billowing clouds obscuring the mountains on the horizon.

I felt like I was flying. I was taking long strides and pushing myself. (I found out when I looked at my splits that I was, in fact, crawling. I even reminded myself, “when you feel like you’re going fast, you’re lagging. Never fails.) The soles of my feet hurt; I imagine because the shoes were frozen and had to give at each impact.

As I rounded behind my building, a knot began to form over my left hip/lower back, bundling up on my sciatic nerve. It took me a few limping moments to realize it was correlated with hills. I, of course, did not stop jogging. I don’t know if it was the cold or a different stride. I felt that perhaps my body was still tender from the 14 mile over the weekend. Perhaps it was good that the weather and my running mate sidelined me for a couple extra days.

I crested the hill and dropped down back to my start, chasing my own footprints. I smiled to myself as my strides lined up to their originals every time they surfaced in the snow. At least I was maintaining pace.

I sprinted out the end of 4.5 miles and was radiating heat when I got to my car. However, my furnace turned off quickly and reminded me just how cold (and crazy) I truly am.

When I finished, I had that familiar feeling. Frostbitten flushed. Cold exertion. Like coming in from building a snowman as a child or like coming into the lodge after hard runs on the slopes.

Even though my pace was shit, even though the distance was low, it still felt like an accomplishment. It was still a new little challenge I managed to push through. And now I know: I can run even in subzero temperatures.


Half Crazy

I did it. I ran 14.5 miles this morning.

“Ran” is a fucking stretch of the word. I did not stop; I did not walk. But I wogged at the pace of a lethargic or potentially hobbled zombie turtle. My heart dropped when I saw it took me just over three hours to pass 13 miles and when I looked at my splits online. 13-14 minute miles.

However, I know this was by my own design. This was not my first time stretching distance. The plan is always sloooooooow and steady. Establish the distance once or twice in your body then run harder, push up to the normal pace.

Even at this shameful speed, 14 miles was HARD.

Trisha and I set our sluggish wog and fought against threatening floats tugging at our pace for the first 7ish mile loop. The weather was crisp; the sky was overcast; and we just plodded along babbling about the insanity in our quest at such an ungodly hour.

For this first lap, my body tried to fall into its familiar running rhythm, but I held it back. My brain knew what my body ignored–that this run would be longer and harder, that I needed to ration myself. This grew harder as we approached the turn around where we would usually complete our run. The sprint was welling in me as Trisha slipped behind me and skipped the end cap of the leg.

It took a mile or so of the second lap to calm my pace fully. By this point, Trisha had fallen behind me and eventually turned around and left me.  I was alone, floating down the trail in the silence, listening to just my shoes quietly scraping on the dirt. I tried to focus on something besides the pain blossoming in my pelvis, the way my hips joints were crying and the muscles in my ass were tightening. I tried not to count each stop and constantly analyze how much was left.

I should have packed my fucking mp3 player.

I began alternating through waves of feeling good, floating, telling myself I could do this and waves of utterly fucking dying, hating myself for trying, and being convinced my legs would fall off and I couldn’t do it. One and then the other crashing over me. Pushing me along or holding me back.

I just mentally talked myself through it, kept convincing myself to keep going, just finish it.

Left, right, breathe.
Left, right, breathe.

By 11 miles, I was over it. My body was over it.

By 13 miles, I was a ball of pain. Every footstep sent shockwaves up my bones. My newly formed blisters were burning. I just ached.

But I stumbled through. Trisha found me again and chased my clumsy steps to the finish, to 14.5 miles.

I’ve done it. Now I know I can do it. And in two months, the half marathon.

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Part of the price…