Tag Archives: winter running

When a Run Ain’t So Fun

ANY RUNNER WILL TELL YOU that while every run is unique, a pattern will emerge over time. Most of them will be somewhere in the “okay” range – it was good, glad you did it, end of story. There will be a few glorious runs when you feel indestructible and never want to stop. And there will be a few times when the entire experience just plain sucks.

Today’s 18-miler was one of the last kind.

Yeah, sometimes it does.

Yeah, sometimes it does.

Perhaps it was due to my stupid cat who started crying for breakfast at 4:15 a.m. Or it was the cumulative effect of my increased mileage the past three weeks. Or, maybe it was just one of those days and it was going to happen regardless.

The Saturday PR group run begins at 8:00 a.m., but I’ve started doing a few miles before then so the main run isn’t quite as long. So I crawled out of bed at 6:15, fed Miss Obnoxious and her sisters, drove to the studio, and got in just under four miles before joining the group.

It's a good thing she's so damn cute.

It’s a good thing she’s so damn cute.

Those early miles were among my toughest this year so far. It was bitingly cold and I felt creaky and lethargic, with zero motivation. But as I returned to the studio, the sun came up and lifted my spirits. After some water and a bite to eat, I figured the remaining fourteen miles would be the normal, “okay” kind.

Not so much.

I did finally get warm, and starting out with a large, enthusiastic group is fun. But my body still felt leaden and I struggled to hold my standard long-run pace. For a few miles I chatted with other runners, which always helps the miles slip by. But all too soon I was by myself, far out of town, with a lot of miles to go.

Our club's not afraid of a little cold weather!

Our club’s not afraid of a little cold weather! (Photo courtesy Chuanwu Xi)

Usually at some point on a long run, I ease into a steady stride and can relax and be grateful for being out there doing something healthy and enjoyable. About halfway through I thought I was there. It was sunny and bright, I was on a comfortable dirt road, and feeling almost normal.

Then my kidneys went into overdrive. How does drinking a half-cup of water result in the need to pee out a gallon? Twice? And try as I might, I just couldn’t shake the heavy body feeling. So it was slog, slog, slog the rest of the way back.

But you know what? I did it. Not that I’d given myself much choice. The route was an out-and-back, so after pushing myself to the turnaround point, there was no shortcut. Cruel, but effective.

You know you're in trouble when you see each of these as a potential toilet.

You know you’re in trouble when you see these only as potential toilets.

And while these types of runs are miserable, they’re actually very valuable. It’s outstanding preparation for a race, when you’re giving it your all and are guaranteed to be uncomfortable. Getting through a bad run, no matter how awful it feels, toughens both body and mind for the events that really mean something to you.

It had been a while since my last bad run, so I was probably overdue. Now that it’s over, I can be properly grateful for it. And I gave my weary body some consolation, downing two pastries at Sweetwaters instead of my usual one. I think I can afford it.

Now what to do about my “recovery run” on Sunday? Part of me wants to blow it off, and the rest of me doesn’t want to think about it right now. So we’ll see. I get the feeling I’ll sneak it in, though. After all, it can hardly feel worse.

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Chilling Out, and My Vanity Solves a Mystery

This is a Running Bloggers Fitness Friday post! Click the button to see the other FF posts and join the fun.

This is a Fitness Friday post! Click to join the fun.

ONE GREAT THING ABOUT RUNNING, as most runners will tell you (like one did last night at the ice cream shop) is that it’s a great stress reliever. So on Tuesday, when an annoying assignment at work threatened to turn me into a grumpy, embittered soul, I jumped ship and went to Running Lab to try on a pair of Hoka One Ones. (This is the only kind of shoe shopping I can tolerate for more than five minutes.)

Hoka One One shoesBucking the minimalist, “barefoot running” craze of the past few years, these heavily padded but light shoes are all the rage with trail ultrarunners right now. And as trail ultras are on my schedule next year, it seemed a fitting time to give them a try. So I took them for a seven-mile break-in run. It was akin to running on a trampoline, but actually felt pretty good, and it took care of the stress. After a few more test runs I will post a full review.

Last night's runners. As you can see, we're a pretty low-stress bunch.

Last night’s group. The key to a winter night run? Many layers and high visibility.

Wednesday morning I stopped at Zingerman’s Bakehouse on my way to the office, to properly fuel up for that night’s PR Fitness run, which promised to be even colder than the night before. As I made my way back to my car with my Enough Already bagel and hot cocoa cake, a gentleman stopped me.

“Excuse me,” he said, “I saw the 26.2 sticker on your car. What does that mean?”

Okay, so this was actually after my first 50K ultra in 2012, but you can see the marathon sticker too.

I keep forgetting these stickers are there, so when people say, “Oh, you’re a runner,” I often reply, “Yes, how did you know?”.

Some longtime runners get tired of the questions non-runners have (click here for an amusing collection). But not me – I’m happy to talk running any time, and actively try to recruit others. (Misery loves company, and all that.) So I explained it meant I’d completed a marathon.

“Well, that solves the mystery,” he said.

Now, of course, I needed to hear more. He told me that in the summer of 2009, his son Michael passed away, and his ashes were placed in the garden of the St. Francis Church. Every few months Michael’s father visits the site to lay a fresh arrangement. That first November, he found a plastic stick in the ground by the site, on which was attached a “26.2” oval. He’d had no idea who’d put it there or what it meant. Now he knew.

The answer was Ray, one of Michael’s best friends, who’d taken up running again after Michael’s death. He’d trained all summer for that year’s Detroit Marathon and dedicated his race to Michael’s memory. So it appears that after finishing the marathon, Ray had placed the 26.2 oval as a tribute. Now that the mystery is solved, Michael’s father is going to call Ray and thank him for what he did.

So my little Chicago Marathon celebratory sticker wound up benefiting someone else. Perhaps a little vanity isn’t such a bad thing?

I sense an ego trip, grasshopper. 1,000 breakfalls, please.

I sense an ego trip, grasshopper. 1,000 breakfalls, please.

This is a Running Bloggers Fitness Friday post! Click the button to see the other FF posts and join the fun.

This is a Running Bloggers Fitness Friday post! Click the button to see this week’s other FF posts and join the fun.

February Colors

Feb 2013 - Gathering

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Feb 2013 - Colorful Shoes

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Feb 2013 - Run Map

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Feb 2013 - Colorful Cookies

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Feb 2013 - Running

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Feb 2013 - Snowy Car

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Feb 2013 - The Cube 2

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Feb 2013 - Pastry Peddler

How to Gear up for Winter Running

IT’S BEEN A BIT NIPPY OUTSIDE, as those of you in the Midwest may have noticed, and at under 30 degrees, my running gloves just cannot keep my hands warm. I have Brooks mittens that do the job, but I could not find them. My daughter, who also runs, dug around in her car and came up with – one of them. As a logician might say, that is necessary but not sufficient. But the Saturday morning temperature at group run was 10 degrees, so I took it along.

No time to waste - no way I want to miss out on any pie!

No time to waste – no way I want to miss out on any pie!

I wore the mitten on my left hand, with a double glove on my right. After one mile my left hand was comfortable enough, while the fingers on my right were nearly numb. Clearly better protection was needed, so it was off to Running Fit (running, naturally) to buy a new pair of mittens. At the store, someone was asking the clerk what one wears for a winter run. Unlike for summer running, answering that question is not so easy.

There’s a surprisingly large number of cold-weather clothing options these days, and like with running shoes, much depends on the particular runner. How quickly do you warm up? Are you acclimated to the cold? How far are you running? How fast will you be going? Even at the same temperature and wind conditions, people choose very different outfits. However, the basic principle is the same: dress in layers.

Winter Outfit - LighterFor example, here is what I wore today, an easy pace with the temperature around 30 degrees and not much wind. The blue shirt was next to my skin, what runners call the “base layer”, with the long sleeve on top of it. No special needs here, just two regular running shirts. Then the blue windbreaker (see below) as the jacket. Wind briefs and tights for the lower body, medium socks, hat, and gloves made up the rest. In this outfit I was actually a bit too warm and unzipped the jacket for the second half of the run.

Winter Outfit - HeavierBy contrast, this outfit was what I wore yesterday morning. Still two layers, but the base layer was long sleeve and the top shirt is a “thermal” – thicker, with a tighter weave. On top was the yellow jacket, which has an extra lining to keep out more wind and rain. (It’s also a good all-season cycling jacket.) This combination works down into the single digits for me. In fact, the red shirt is so warm that many runners in our group don’t use a jacket with it. The headgear is a balaclava, which can be worn in many configurations from hat-like to covering the entire face. Also note the thicker socks.

Cat neck wrap is an optional accessory.

Jacket choices. (Cat neck wrap is an optional accessory.)

If it’s really cold, I can double up on the tights and use the hooded red jacket, which is specifically designed for winter running. It’s surprisingly light and comfortable for how warm it keeps me – so warm, in fact, that I have to use it carefully to avoid sweating too heavily.

Everything, including the wind briefs, is a synthetic material designed to wick moisture away from the skin. As we say in the running world, “Cotton is rotten” because it retains moisture. Thus you can get soaked on the inside from sweating, which in cold weather is potentially dangerous. So if you want to try winter running, that’s great, but please don’t do it in sweatshirt and jeans. Spend a few bucks and get the right gear. It makes a huge difference.

Ah, you say, but isn’t there one piece of critical gear missing? Quite so – I haven’t mentioned the shoes. In general, I like to wear lightweight shoes most of the year. For the cold and snow, however, I use something a bit sturdier. I recently bought two new pairs, one of which has an unusual feature I’m still trying to figure out if I like. More to come.