Posts Tagged by winter running
|March 20, 2013||Posted by Lauren under Marathon Training, Running|
Like many runners, I have a love/hate relationship with hills — meaning I love when a nice gradual downhill helps push me along to a fast pace…and hate when those climbs slow me down and leave my chest heaving.
When I moved to Vermont and realized that hills were going to become a part of my everyday running reality whether I liked it or not, I kind of learned to embrace them. I’ll even go so far as to say that after awhile I grew to prefer rolling runs to flat land. Case in point, during last August’s Hood to Coast relay, my least favorite (and slowest!) leg was also my flattest.
But then the holidays happened and this endless winter descended upon us and my love for hills slowly faded away. I don’t really know why or how it happened, but somewhere along the way I completely lost my hill running motivation. It’s impossible to avoid all hills around here (unless you run inside every day), but I quickly figured out how to steer clear of the worst ones. All winter long I finagled my routes — sticking with the slow, gradual climbs and the nice flat treadmill. When you live in a town with approximately 4 roads and only one of them feels flat for any significant stretch of time, running gets boring pretty darn fast.
Not only did my runs grow stale and boring, but my “hill terrors” haven’t exactly been helping my training. Because there’s also a tiny little problem of that marathon I signed up to run in May. It’s not flat.
So last week, after giving myself approximately 2,000,000 pep talks, I finally got pumped up enough to tackle one of the hilliest out-and-back routes around. A route that starts off with a steep climb and continues going up for over a mile. A route that doesn’t have a single stretch of completely flat road but is instead a constant roller coaster of ups and downs. A route that I used to be strong enough to do tempo runs on last fall but I’ve been avoiding like the plague ever since 2013 began.
I strapped on my Garmin to record the data but told myself that I wasn’t allowed to even peek at my splits until the turn around point (which just so happens to be at the base of a very long climb). Then I turned on my most motivational playlist, took a deep breath…and off I went.
I’m not going to lie — it sucked. That first climb, the one that I have to get myself all psyched up to even attempt, was worse than I remembered. And it wasn’t like it got easier after that. Every single incline seemed to have grown steeper and longer in my absence…while the declines were too few and far between. I felt like I was crawling. I couldn’t even pick up much speed on the downhill sections. My legs were so tired that even convincing them to increase their turnover on the declines seemed like too much effort.
It may not look like much according to this chart, but I swear they feel harder in person…
Hills in elevation chart are larger than they appear
Turns out that when you avoid all major hills for over 3 months, you lose a whole lot of your hill-running fitness. Pretty deep and insightful observation, right?
But even though the run left me wondering how I ever managed to get in quality workouts over this course just a few months ago, it wasn’t all bad. Because there’s a moment on this particular run when you reach the top of the very last climb and the world opens up. You see rolling farmland on your right and mountains ahead and you know that it is quite literally all downhill from here. A moment when every single climb you tackled becomes worth it — for the view, for the fact that you get to cruise down to the finish over a mile away, for the pride you feel knowing that you survived the roller coaster. It was at that moment when I finally remembered why I loved that running route so very much. And where I resolved to start embracing the hilly runs again.
To keep good on my promise, I headed out on Saturday to tackle another hill that I’ve been working hard to avoid. Remember how I said this run was my favorite route for runs that are under 12 miles? Well, that’s because around mile 6 the road takes a very steep, long drop down for almost 2 miles — which means if I head out that way, I need to turn around and run back up the awful thing. That long, winding climb is the very definition of “soul crushing.” The only thing I can do when I’m running up it is focus on getting through one turn at a time, promising myself that I’ll walk once I make it through that particular section. I haven’t actually walked yet (though my pace may suggest otherwise!), but I’m still awaiting the day when I can run up that hill like it’s nothing. I’m not really expecting that day to ever come…
No the road doesn’t end there. It just drops sharply downward.
But I am going to keep climbing. This post serves as my promise (or my source of public shaming if I don’t follow through). For the rest of my training, I’m going to be tackling these hills at least once a week (probably more). Hills make you stronger, they make you faster, and they give you confidence. If I can tackle these hills in training then surely I can tackle the hills on race day. And I will be a better runner for it.
|March 18, 2013||Posted by Lauren under LifeontheRun|
The snow is melting, the rivers are thawing, and puddles of mud are forming everywhere I look.
Spring is finally coming.
Or at least that’s what they tell me. The current temperature and winter storm warming in Vermont sort of suggests otherwise…
But I’ve got to believe that change is in the air. And I am slowly making my way out of the internet hibernation I’ve been hiding in these past couple of weeks. When I posted about going to Florida, I didn’t actually mean for that to signify that I was leaving the entire internets behind for awhile. But truthfully, sometimes a break from it all feels really good. The best thing about having a blog that’s only a hobby is that there’s never any real pressure to post. So I just kept waiting until I actually had the urge to write something. Which just so happens to be today (aren’t you all lucky?)
Whenever there’s been any sort of significant break, it feels kind of weird to jump right back in with some post about whatever running rambles are in my head at the moment. So instead, here’s a brief update about what I’ve been up to. You know, all those things that only my family and I actually care about, but I take time to blog about anyway…
I spent a week getting a glimpse at life as a stay-at-home Mom. Parts of it were incredibly fun, but other parts…not so much (you know, like dealing with home renovation fiascoes in my sister’s new house for two days and being stuck at home while things are getting installed). And it gave me an even greater respect for mothers who somehow manage to work out regularly on top of getting a bunch of real tasks accomplished in one day. It’s amazing how fast a day can pass with a baby and you’ve got nothing to show for it.
One of the best parts about my time with my niece? A relaxing 10.5 mile run we took together. Well…I did the running while she took a good hard nap.
I love my sister’s Bob stroller, but it’s not easy to run pushing another person…even a mini-one! (Yes, I realize this is not news to anyone.) I have never been more thankful to run along completely flat roads (the wind in FL, however, is a completely different story!). And despite how tough/awkward the run felt at times, I actually really loved the company. It was kind of fun knowing I had someone along for the ride.
We introduced Leah to the joy that is self-serve Frozen Yogurt. She loved it…clearly
I somehow managed to get tendinitis in my elbow…or, you know, that tendon that connects your tricep to your elbow. As a result of this super fun injury, I spent over a week with an arm so swollen that I couldn’t even bend it enough to brush my own teeth.
How does a runner managed to injure her arm? Well…I don’t really want to talk about it. Okay, fine. I was stupid and stubborn. My sister somehow persuaded me to join her for a CrossFit class and I have way too much pride to give up on a workout that I know is probably just a little too much for the girl who begrudgingly lifts only twice a week. So yeah, CrossFit’s no joke. And you should probably take some legit introductory courses first. My sister just completed an 8-week CrossFit challenge and is seriously in the best shape of her life. It’s impressive. But I think I’ll stick to running for now.
One more picture because she’s just so stinkin’ cute…
Not only does this kid recognize herself in the iPhone camera, but she also knows how to take selfies. At 6 months old. Babies amaze me.
Speaking of which…running lately has had its ups and downs. Do you ever have a week when your legs just feel flat and your paces seem off? And no matter what you do, every run just seems way more difficult than it should be? Well, that was me this last week. Slow running, failed speed workouts, and lots of frustration. I’m trying not to get discouraged and just chalk it up to an “off” week. At least we had a few days of warmer temperatures and awesome running weather thrown in there amongst the wind and cold. Today marks the start of a new week, which means a chance to start fresh.
On a related note, I’m no longer running for Saucony. It’s not something I really want to go into at the moment, but I feel like in the interest of full disclosure, I should let you all know. Ultimately, it’s a good thing. I love Saucony products (and stand by my claim that the Mirage3s are the greatest shoes ever created), but this does give me a little more freedom in what I talk about on HOtR. In all honesty there are a lot of great running companies out there doing some really cool things. I’ve been sort of silently watching this past year as small companies like Oiselle have taken the social media/female running world by storm, creating a community of athletes that really seem to support each other. It’s cool to see that kind of thing between companies and their runners.
But I will miss wearing this uniform…
Winter in Vermont has kicked my butt. Figuratively, literally, physically, emotionally…and other kind of “ly” you can think of. I’m from New England. I’m used to snow and cold and ice and wind. But what I’m not used to is all of those things plus dreariness and isolation. To say that this past winter has been harder than expected would be an understatement.
HOWEVER – I survived (or am surviving. It’s not really over yet). And although I’m generations away from ever being considered a true Vermonter, surviving a winter here earns me some points in my Vermont cred, right? Maybe?
Plus, despite the difficulty of winter time, I have loved every single chance we’ve had to go skiing. I feel really lucky that I’ve gotten to ski more this past winter than I have in my entire adult life combined. And I’ll freely admit that this has taken a toll on my marathon training. I’ve sacrificed runs and fresh legs for another day on the slopes. I know full well that I could’ve worked harder this winter and that I willingly chose not to. But honestly – I don’t regret it in the least. It’s just where I am in life, I guess. Sometimes you want to put everything else on the sidelines for the sake of training and the pursuit of a goal. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But other times, for whatever reason, it’s just not worth it. Skiing has really been the only thing that has gotten me through the cold dreary months up here. And the only thing I’ll miss once all the snow finally melts.
That being said, the season is coming to a close. And race season has officially begun. Hearing about everyone’s early spring races, watching runners I know and the women I coach improve by leaps and bounds, seeing the hard work so many have put in over these past few months finally pay off — well, that’s enough to give me the racing bug again. The itch to race is stronger than it’s been all year. And I hope to find myself on a starting line in the (very) near future.
|February 26, 2013||Posted by Lauren under LifeontheRun|
I haven’t quite been myself lately. Maybe you can tell from my posts (or lack thereof), maybe not. But truth be told, these past few weeks have been tough ones personally. It’s nothing major or life-altering…just a few personal and health issues that have been weighing me down.
It makes me feel a little bit like a broken record, and I hate it. These issues alone wouldn’t even be so bad, but unfortunately they’ve been exacerbated by a flare up of foot pain that is eerily similar to the injury that forced me to skip Hyannis last year. The one that signified the beginning of the end of my spring marathon training….only in the opposite foot. I’ve been doing whatever I can to avoid a repeat of last year’s training disaster, which means the past two weeks of running have been a wash. Running has always been my most effective stress reliever. So when I’m not running and under a lot of stress, well…let’s just say you should consider yourself lucky that you’re not married to me.
Anyway all of this crap swirling around has made me more hesitant to get on the internet. I’m a big advocate of not blogging when you have nothing to say, and so I’ve stepped back a bit. Especially because I just don’t feel comfortable blogging about any of this stuff. Not yet, anyway. It’s kind of funny, I guess — when it comes to my running life, I’ll tell you anything. I have no problem talking about the awful runs. Runs I cry through or workouts I can’t complete. And I certainly don’t hesitate admitting when certain embarrassing things happen during races. But when it comes to life outside of all that? Well — there’s a reason I’m a running blogger and not a lifestyle one.
When I wrote my post about failing better last month, I never truly expected that I would end up going back to it so much. Repeating that phrase over and over like my new mantra. Didn’t expect that my promise to change how I react to situations outside of my control would be so hard to keep. That I would need to remind myself again and again that what matters most is how I react to my circumstances. And whether I allow setbacks and challenges to destroy me…or I use them to make me stronger. I’m not proud to admit that I’ve gone through a period over the past couple of weeks when I crumpled in the face of the hurdles instead of leaping over them.
My point in all of this vague rambling (and I promise, I do have a point) is to say that things finally seem to be on the upswing. Or, at least, my attitude toward them is. One can only have a pity party for so long, you know. And then you start to annoy even yourself.
So instead of being frustrated and stressed that I essentially missed two important weeks of training for Vermont City, I’m choosing to start fresh. Wipe the slate clean. Look forward instead of back. I’m not going to let this setback derail my entire spring. I don’t love the fact that I missed quality runs and will have to adjust my training plan. It’s not ideal that I’m behind in my build up of mileage and long runs. But I can’t change any of that now. The only thing I can do is keep pressing forward with the time that I do have. Keep working harder to make each workout and run count. And start taking better care of my body — allowing myself time to recover, eating right, rolling, icing, and all that other annoying but oh-so necessary prevention stuff that can so easily fall by the wayside.
And to help with this fresh start, I’m getting away. I am very lucky to have had a (very!) last minute, spontaneous opportunity to travel to Florida. After only 15 minutes of searching and securing some ridiculously cheap flights, I booked the trip. I’m trading snowy cold Vermont for palm trees and 80 degrees. And I’m spending the week with the newest (and by far the cutest!) member of #teamwatermelon.
Rocking her new green Saucony Jazz sneakers – an essential in every baby’s wardrobe (and yeah, I wanted her to match her most favorite* aunt!) *I am currently awaiting confirmation that I am, indeed her favorite. But I’m sure her other 4 aunts won’t mind me claiming the title…
They might be just a little big on her at the moment….
I don’t think it’s possible to stay stressed in the presence of this cutie.
Plus, I’m counting on my new teammate to keep me motivated as I attempt to dive back into hard training. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the pain in my foot stays away for good.
My sister and her husband recently bought their first house and are already knee deep in home renovation projects. She has warned me of the likelihood that I’ll be put to work this week, but I’m strangely excited about this. I can’t think of anything more therapeutic than warm air, sunshine, baby time, and a little home renovation.
Plus, despite all the benefits of winter running, I’m more than a little excited to run in shorts and a tank top again. Maybe by the time I come back, all the snow will be melted and spring will have returned to the North. Yeah, I know, wishful thinking. But at least we’ll be one week closer.
|February 14, 2013||Posted by Lauren under Running|
I feel like the general tone of many of my running posts lately has been rather negative. I’ve been talking about failure, struggling with training, hating on winter, etc etc etc. At this point, you might be starting to wonder where my joy for running has gone…and why I even stick with this crazy sport.
I try to keep this place as real as possible. I never sugarcoat my life or my training, because, well…what’s the point of that? And since I don’t write every day, it’s less interesting for me to put up a post about how I had another great easy run than to actually reflect on things that I’m experiencing or struggling with in terms of training. And the truth is, at the beginning of training there are often more struggles than anything else.
But I also understand that if that’s the only glimpse into my life you have, you may start to wonder where the passion has gone. While I admit that I haven’t yet reached that “turnaround” point where things start to come naturally, I still look forward to lacing up my shoes most of the time. And I honestly can’t even imagine how I’d get through the winter if I didn’t have running to keep me sane.
So with that being said, I figured it was time to show a little love for winter running. Because even though it’s cold and the days are short (but slowly getting longer!) and even though motivation can often be hard to come by, running during the winter isn’t all bad. In fact, if I’m honest with myself, there are actually a lot of advantages to running during this cold season.
No pressure to beat the heat. If you don’t want to drown in sweat during a run in the middle of summer, there’s usually a very short window in which you can run. Miss that window and you’re basically resigning yourself to running through hell. Which also means…
No need for early morning wake ups on long run days. Sure, I suppose sometimes this is still necessary if you have a lot going on. But in general I find winter weekend mornings so much more relaxing. I can sleep in and take my time getting out the door. Especially since the procrastination usually works to my advantage — pushing back your run by just a few hours can make all the difference in terms of temperature.
Afternoon runs are the way to go. I’ve made my general dislike for morning runs pretty clear…several times. I run in the morning out of necessity — to avoid the heat, if I can’t run any other time of day, etc. I understand why so many of you love running in the morning and it all makes perfect sense to me…in theory, anyway. But despite my best intentions, I think I’ll always be an afternoon/evening runner at heart. And the winter is one time when running in the afternoon is unequivocally better. Sure, that run may hang over your head all day, but that’s a small price to pay for running in warmer weather, especially now that the sun sets a little later. Case in point: this morning the temperature in my town was 20 degrees. It’s expected to be 40 and sunny later this afternoon. Three guesses as to which conditions I prefer.
Running clothes have more pockets, which means more places to stash stuff. Yes, I prefer running in shorts over tights any day of the week (though when I do resign myself to wearing tights, chances are I’m in these. Most comfortable pair I own, plus I love the zipper at the ankles). And yes, running is the one aspect of my life where I prefer to wear as little clothing as possible. But sometimes that means storage is a bit of an issue. When you’re wearing a sports bra-type top and little bitty shorts, there aren’t many places to stash your gear/gels/etc. Long sleeve running shirts and coats generally have more pockets available, which makes carrying things on the run much easier.
I also appreciate bright colors on dreary days – I wear this jacket on the majority of my runs these days
Less need for hydration. During the heat of the summer, I usually carry water on runs that are an hour or more (there are no public fountains near me). On really hot days, I will take hydration with me on short runs too. But in the winter I can go a lot longer without needing water. Plus, if I get thirsty on a run, I can always reach over and just grab a handful of snow! Okay…kidding on that one. But my point is, I can easily make it into the double digits without hydration, and often go up to 2 hours without it. Obviously this is personal preference and not necessarily something a professional would recommend, but I hate carrying water and appreciate that I can go further without it when the temperatures are lower.
Less sweat. Which means that’s it’s much more acceptable to re-wear running clothes before washing. Or, you know, easier to get away with not showering after a run.
No humidity. Humidity ruins more runs than heat alone. I hate that feeling of swimming through a run, of being weighed down by the heaviness of the air. It slows me down and often makes me question my fitness. All summer long, I yearn for that first crisp fall day when the humidity breaks and I suddenly feel like I have wings on my feet. I love that I never have that problem during the winter. Sure, sometimes my legs go numb in the cold which obviously doesn’t make for a speedy run. But in general, less humidity means faster running. And that’s something I can get on board with!
Post-run showers are the best thing in the world. Especially on long run days. Is there anything better than the heat of a shower after being outside in the cold for over an hour? I admit to often using that as motivation to get myself moving (whatever works, right?). Related: running in the cold also makes my old house feel warmer. We keep our heat fairly low in an (often futile) effort to keep the heating bill from getting out of control. The only time the house feels truly toasty is when I first come in after a run. It’s a luxurious feeling.
So winter – I will accept that you are good for my running. And that sometimes I even enjoy you. Plus, each time that I brave your cold, I am stronger for it. But…that still doesn’t mean I’m not excited for spring.
|February 12, 2013||Posted by Lauren under Running|
February may be the shortest month on the calendar, but for me it’s always the one that drags on the longest. The holidays are long over, I’ve been cold for as long as I can remember, there’s snow everywhere, and I’m starting to forget what the sun even feels like.
This is the time of year when everything just seems to stand still — every day is as cold as the one before and I start to doubt that the world will ever come alive again. That I will ever feel warm again.
If there were such a thing as the “dog days of winter,” February would be it in my book.
I don’t really know what I was thinking when I told myself I would escape the winter doldrums by moving to Vermont. I hated winter in the city — the slush, the limited places to walk/run, the piles of snow with nowhere to go, the feeling of being trapped. In Vermont, at least, I have the great outdoors to keep me busy during this time. Whether I’m skiing or hiking through knee deep snow, I love being outside in fresh powder.
But that doesn’t change the fact that winter in Vermont is harsher than winter in Rhode Island. I may love every single day that I get out on the slopes, but I can’t exactly ski every day of the week. And as beautiful as the snow can be, I’m starting to long for warmer temperatures. For the growth and renewal that is spring.
Lately I’ve been struggling with a case of the winter blues. Nothing especially serious (I know many individuals struggle with SAD during the winter months), but days when I feel down and completely lacking in energy for seemingly no reason. Days when all I want to do is sit on the couch in my sweats, eat carbs, and wallow. It’s these days when running is the absolute last thing that I feel like doing — and these days when I actually need the run most.
Yesterday was one of those down days. I was so tired that I had convinced myself I needed an extra day of complete and total rest. I figured I was better off wallowing in my own misery and inability to stay motivated than getting out the door and struggling through a slow jog.
You’d think I’d be smart enough by now to realize the stupidity of this logic. I’ve been running for years. I know that the best runs can happen on days when you least expect it. And I know that running can often give you the energy that you’ve been unable to find all day. I don’t really agree with the phrase “You never regret a workout” (because there have been workouts that I have regretted very much…but this is a post for another day…), but I do fully support the notion that running is a mood enhancer. And when it comes to needing a boost, running is my Mood Enhancing Drug of choice.
Fortunately I have a husband who knows this about me, and who has become an expert at giving me the tough love I need, when I need it most. In an act of what I’m sure was self-preservation (grumpy, no-run LB is not the most fun person to be around), he practically shoved me out the door yesterday afternoon, telling me not to return until I had gone for a run.
And what do you know — not only was I able to get in a pretty decent progression run, but I also had a surge of energy that resulted in a really great strength training session afterward. It sounds so cliche, but my mood started improving after just a few minutes on that treadmill. With each step, a little more of the stress of the day melted away. By the time I started lifting, I forgot that I had spent the entire day combating exhaustion.
In a strange way, winter has also led to a greater appreciation for strength training. I don’t particularly enjoy spending time in the weight room. I’m a cardio junkie who would rather spend hours running than just a few minutes with the free weights. I resign myself to strength training only because I know it’s good for me. But in the winter, not only is it easier to motivate myself to lift after runs when I’m already at the gym (vs the summer when I’m running outdoors all the time), I’ve also been surprised by the mood enhancing benefits that lifting can provide.
When I run, my thoughts move faster than my legs. This is usually a good thing. Running gives me time to reflect, process, dream, and plan for the future. But sometimes I just need to get out of my own head. Lifting can do that for me. When I’m lifting, my thoughts don’t wander. My sole focus is on the exercise; my one thought the current number of reps I’ve completed. For someone who is a chronic over-analyzer, having something that completely quiets my racing mind can be sort of heavenly. I’m not really sure why I never appreciated this fact about lifting before.
I returned home after my workout feeling renewed. That extra energy even carried over into this morning, when I woke up after only 6.5 hours of sleep feeling completely refreshed. It sounds so cheesy to say that running is always the mood-booster that I need, but it’s true. I don’t know how something so physically demanding can leave you with extra energy, but I have to say I’m very thankful.
I can’t talk about this without thinking of Elle Woods…
I just need to remind myself of this the next time I’m struggling. There’s a big difference between actually needing extra recovery time and simply feeling too lazy to work out. I’m all about taking time off if I physically need it, as long as I make sure I’m not just letting the winter doldrums drag me down.
In the meantime, I’ll admit that I’ve started a countdown to March 1st. 17 more days. Pretty sure I can make it.