Tag Archives: winter

Chilling Out, But Still Running


Winter has Michigan firmly in its grip. The snow is falling, the wind is blowing, and we have below-zero wind chills. So my non-runner friends have begun asking (with tone assuming Yes), “So you’re done running for the winter,” and “I suppose you’re doing your running inside now?”


First Snow Run 2015-2016

I admit it’s harder to get motivated to run outside than in the non-winter months. Here I rely upon sheer habit, and having others to run with. So far it’s worked, even with my new 6:00 a.m. midweek run. The only thing crazier than my friend Hirak and I running together last Wednesday in the frigid dark was that we saw a few people running solo. Sorry, but that’s just dumb – slip and sprain your ankle at that hour, and you could be a statue by the time the ambulance arrives.

I run year-round but I consider this the “off season” when it comes to racing. This means the workouts at Body Specs are pretty brutal, but they’re meant to build strength for the spring and summer. So I cut back a bit on distances and don’t race as much.

It's as much fun as it looks.

Yes, that’s a tension strap around my shoulders. It’s as much fun as it looks.

I did sneak in the Holiday Hustle 5K on December 10. Since I was also managing our Zero Waste team for the race, I was there from setup through teardown. So my afternoon went something like this:

– Freeze my tail off for four hours
– Get warm for 20 minutes running the 5K
– Freeze my tail off for two more hours.

I think he brought the weather with him.

I think he brought the weather with him.

So you might think I would be looking forward to a nice warm interlude until the Bigfoot Snowshoe 5K in late January. Do a little training on the treadmill, or just curl up by the fireplace with hot chocolate for a few weeks. Seems only fair.

So what did I do?

Signed up for a 50K trail ultra. On January 7. In Michigan.

And I’m looking forward to it.

The Yankee Springs Winter Challenge in Middleville, MI.

The Yankee Springs Winter Challenge in Middleville, MI (photo from their page).

To the inevitable question I can offer two reasons: because 2017 is my “off the wall” year for athletic events (more to follow there) and because I’ve never done a winter ultra before. So why not?

And you know what? Yesterday morning’s run with the PR Run Club started out pretty chilly and bleak, but we had a good turnout anyway. And halfway through, the sun came out in a bright blue sky, and the snow around us lit up in brilliant white. And boy, did hot coffee taste good afterward.

That’s why I run outside in the winter.

I really must run!

     (But baby, it’s cold outside.)

Go gotta have fun!

     (But baby, it’s cold outside.)

Cold Logic: No Frills All Thrills Race Recap


(Warning: it’s based on the fact that I ran outdoors all winter, so I’m guessing that many of you will not be nodding your head in agreement.)

Oh, we're all ears, I'm sure.

Oh, we’re all ears. Enlighten us.

Okay, here goes.




(Remember, I warned you.)




Last Saturday, I ran the No Frills All Thrills 8K trail race at Huron Meadows Metropark in Brighton. I run it every year, and it lives up to its billing. No shirts, no photographer, and it’s timed by the gun – no chips on the bibs. But it supports a good cause (Girls on the Run), and whoever baked the post-race chocolate chip and red velvet cookies gets my vote for sainthood.

The metropark trails are challenging in the best of conditions, with some steep climbs and descents built into the course. This year was not the best of conditions. The snow may be gone from the roads, but the trails were still covered in several inches of the stuff, and while some of it had been tamped down, for most of the course we just had to slog through it.

Abandon all hope ye who enter here.

Abandon all hope ye who enter here.

But that’s exactly what I’ve been doing all winter – slogging through the snow. And I was wearing the Hokas, which while not exactly letting me glide along, gave me good traction and kept my feet dry. I liked my chances.

The few...the proud...the nut cases...

The few…the proud…the nut cases…

I got off to a decent start at the back of the leading pack. The trail was mainly ice for the first quarter mile, which meant stepping carefully and trying not to trip over other runners. But when we entered the woods I settled in, and began to pass people one by one as they struggled in the snow. It was hard going, like one of those bad dreams where you’re running really hard and going nowhere. But no one passed me – no one – while I continued to improve my position.

No gold shoes for age group awards this year, but  check out the mug with integrated spoon.

No gold shoes for age group awards this year, but check out the mug with integrated spoon.

I crossed the finish line pretty sure I’d done well. And the initial posted results had me in 12th place overall, out of about 120 total. Quite satisfactory, although I had to settle for second in my age group.

But the story wasn’t over. That night, I logged in to look at the final results – and I’d moved up to 9th place overall. A top 10 finish! Woohoo!

But wait, there’s more…

Tonight I went back to look up my finish time so I could update my race results widget, and saw this!

NFAT 2014 - my race result

According to the race organizer, some of the 8K runners decided to take the detour and just do the 4K – and didn’t tell anyone at the finish line. They think they have everything correct now. Too bad – they way things were going, I’d have won the race by next week!

So there you have it. I rocked out a cold, snowy race for a 6th place overall finish – my best ever – and I owe it all to this winter.

For my next trick, I will explain how the 2012 Dexter tornado led to my current PR in the 5K. Or maybe not. One twisted logic story is enough for now.

A New Year: Training and Traditions

FitnessFridayLinkup buttonFirst run of 2014: Late afternoon, 15 degrees, snowing, and four inches already on the ground. But my training goes year-round, and running on New Year’s Day is one of my personal traditions, so I layered up, strapped on my new headlamp, and went out for 4 miles and change.

Most non-runners I know are pretty amazed that I run in these conditions. But it can be very pleasant. After the first mile or so, I usually feel really energized. Two layers plus a jacket kept my core warm, and my new Hoka One Ones got me through the drifts and kept me from slipping. I’m really liking these shoes. Cold fingers, and snowflakes blowing into my eyes, were only minor annoyances.

Running in gently falling snow also gives me a sense of peace and serenity which allows my mind to unwind and defocus a bit. I can detach my thoughts from everyday stuff and just be in the moment, aware and grateful that I am healthy and fit enough to be out there.

PR Fitness - we're not just serene, we get down!

PR Fitness – we’re not just serene, we get down!

It’s good for mental discipline, too. My Aikido instructors teach that the brain gives up before the body gives out (generally just before they announce some killer breakfall sets) and as I’ve written before, running long or hard (or both) involves getting the brain out of the way. I had a splendid example of both success and failure at this just a couple of weeks ago at the Saturday morning PR Fitness run.

"Personal challenge" - it's a guy thing.

“Personal challenge” – it’s a guy thing.

I’d planned on running my assigned 13 miles at a slow, steady pace, but I started out with the faster group and decided as a personal challenge to keep up with them. It wasn’t easy but I got into the flow, and my mind was occupied with staying upright on slippery roads rather than how hard my body was working. And then, 9 miles in, I suddenly realized I hadn’t eaten any breakfast.

I’ve run up to 12 miles without eating before, but not at this pace. Conventional wisdom says I should have been fatigued and hungry, while I’d been cruising right along, feeling fine. But once I began thinking that I should be tired and hungry, I became so, and my last four miles were a struggle. I just couldn’t silence the mental reminders. So I’ve got more work to do there.

Happy New Year, everyone! Thanks for reading!

On the road to recovery.

On the road to recovery.

Fun in the Snow, and Respecting One’s Elders

Southeastern Michigan got royally dumped on last weekend, which actually led to more outdoor exercise for me, in the form of shoveling our long driveway. Three times. It’s good upper body work. If this keeps up, I’ll look like Charles Atlas in the spring. (When he was alive, I mean, not right now.)

The PR Fitness Saturday morning run went ahead as scheduled, although with snow falling and a wind chill near zero, the group was a bit smaller than usual. But I plowed along for 12 miles, fortified by hot Gatorade at the water stops. (Have I mentioned that coaches Rob and Marie are wonderful people?)

The Saturday morning group gets it done! Coach Rob is nearest to the camera.

The Saturday morning group gets it done! Coach Rob is nearest to the camera.

Then came my assignment for Monday. “Snow running is resistance training is disguise,” Marie wrote in my Training Peaks calendar. “So run with a high effort. Have fun in the snow.”

JJ was here.

JJ was here.

Oh, joy. I like resistance training about as much as I like cold showers, but I was dumb enough to say I wanted to get stronger. So off into the snow it was. And I knew just the place – a two-mile stretch of sidewalk along a business route. Some of the sidewalk had been shoveled, other parts less so, and some not at all, providing at least four inches of fresh powder to run through. Perfect interval training. And the snowplows had helpfully piled on even more on the bridge across I-94, so even with an evening temperature in the teens, I got warm very quickly.

To my surprise, the run went really well. My new Hoka One Ones provided great traction and the supersized cushioning kept their tops above the snow, so my feet stayed dry. Don’t tell my coach, but I actually did have fun. And it’s good training for next month, when I run my first-ever snowshoe race, the Bigfoot 5K in Traverse City. (More on next year’s running goals and events to come. Hint: it’s ambitious.)

Aaron birthday cakeLast weekend also marked the 60th birthday of Aaron, one of our regulars and a strong marathoner. He wasn’t too thrilled about joining his new age group, because the 60-64 year-old runners around here are at least as tough as those ten years younger (hmm…wonder whom that might include), not to mention Doug Kurtis, who at age 61 just completed his 200th marathon of 3 hours or less.

On Saturday’s run at least three of the front runners in our group were age 60 or above, Aaron among them. My 12 miles in the snow wiped me out – I mean, I was gassed – but I was pleased with my effort and that I’d stuck it out. So as I was preparing to leave, brushing the snow off my car, here comes Aaron cruising up the sidewalk. He’d done 14 miles.

On Sunday I went to a surprise birthday party his wife had organized. “I’d make some crack about you being an inspiration to me,” I told him, “but it’s actually true.”

A talented artist in our group did this drawing of Aaron. Really captures his spirit!

A talented artist in our group did this drawing of Aaron. Really captures his spirit!