Winter running: isn’t it fun?

Apparently I should have added to my Christmas list “a Sunday long run that is not shot through with cold air and colder water falling from the sky”. Mind you, I’ve only had two of these runs since the 25th, but after this last one I’m starting to wonder if there’s not some Mother-Nature-fueled conspiracy to give me hypothermia. If the third time’s a charm this weekend, I’ll know there’s definitely something suspicious afoot!

Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely LOVE winter running. I do, I really, really do. I love the shock of cold air to the face and lungs, I love not feeling like I’m sweating half to death on a 5-mile run, I love being able to actually push myself on pace runs because it doesn’t feel like I’m going to die if I go any faster. I love the crunch of frozen grass under my feet and seeing the stars before dawn and, usually, feeling like I have the world to myself because I usually run before sunrise when very few people are out doing much of anything, much less running. I also don’t mind running in the rain, to an extent- it has to be warm enough (say, above 50F), and I’d prefer if it didn’t come at me sideways because even a ballcap doesn’t keep it off my glasses then, but more often than not, rain won’t keep me from running outside.

However, 20F-degree temperatures plus steady rain (sometimes sleet), driving at times, with a nasty headwind? Bleargh. For 13-14 miles, no, it’s not the most fun that I’ve ever had, though it’s still not enough to make me consider taking it indoors for a day. [There is a point at which I will do that, and I’ll get to that in a moment.] Even when I come back completely soaked and with red, splotchy skin from head to toe, when I’m shivering as I cool down and start peeling my wet gear off, when Saint shakes his head and says “Sometimes I question why you do what you do”, I still wouldn’t trade it for a c0uple of hours indoors. Why is that? (I do hate treadmills with a fiery passion, but still…) What am I trying to prove? (Nothing, but it doesn’t help that I hear comments from people like the two young men I passed while running in a veritable monsoon last weekend who shook their heads at me and said, as I passed, “damn, you are a serious trooper”…) Am I sure I’m trying to prove nothing? I don’t know.  I just know that I really, really hate running indoors, now that I’m so used to running in pretty much any conditions, no matter how crappy. After all, I read somewhere once that “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just soft people”, and with the right amount of layering and preparation, I feel like that’s generally true.

However. While I do not live in the northern part of the United States, you may have heard that it’s supposed to be a bit… frigid for most everyone not in Miami or Hawaii or Death Valley later today and tomorrow. In my neck of the woods, they’re talking about wind chills overnight of -10 to -20. This, I think, is finally the point where I say “enough!” and take it inside: I’m only supposed to run 3 miles tomorrow, and that’s barely enough time for me to begin to feel warm in normal winter temperatures, so I will be hitting ye olde treadmille for the first time in ages.

Do me a favor, please, and think good thoughts for the pipes in my house so that they do not freeze and burst. We have perpetual plumbing issues, and it would really NOT be the nicest beginning to 2014 to have to deal with that this week. Thank you. 🙂

Other assorted running things: I ran with a group for the first time in (again) ages on Saturday, when it was 10F at 8am and we all decided we were nuts for being outside at that time and temperature, but it was a gorgeous sunny morning and our spirits were high and we were more amused than annoyed by the completely frozen water at the water stops. (This is a group that meets for training runs for the local 10-miler held at the end of March, and they posted on Facebook Friday evening: “Looking for some company? Come join us tomorrow morning!”) I’m more of a lone wolf when I run, but I’ve enjoyed running with friends and, a couple of times before, with groups, so I thought it would be nice to get out of my comfort zone for once and maybe meet some new people. I went with the long-run group that was doing a 10k, and tacked on a couple of track laps to get to my 7 miles, and while we went out too fast, we slowed it down a bit in the last half and finished in what was a very good time for me, in high spirits still all around. It was a lot of fun, with good camaraderie, and I learned that I need to improve my hill running, because I was constantly getting left behind on the uphill stretches and having to do too much work to catch up on the downhill stretches. So, I need to do better at maintaining my effort up hills, to balance out my effort when going down them. I may sneak in a couple more runs with the group throughout the winter if I’m in town, since I enjoyed it quite a bit – and I say “if” because ski season is nigh upon us and it is time to start thinking good powdery thoughts. This also brings up the question of how in the hell I am going to maintain my marathon training if I plan to go away for a ski weekend, because there isn’t much in the way of safe places to run for 10-16 miles where we ski (think narrow 2-lane roads in the woods that aren’t usually well-maintained), and I can’t just not do my weekend runs, so I think my solution has to be that I just run 5 days straight in the week and ski on the weekends and hope to God I don’t get injured or overtrain myself.

I don’t always do the smart thing, dear reader. It’s okay: I won’t complain about the consequences, since I know what I’m getting myself into. Mostly. 🙂

Speaking of safety, and another situation in which I don’t always do the smart thing, I read this post and was pretty well shocked into silence, but it didn’t even occur to me to think about it again while planning my long Sunday run that would take me on a trail that goes through a local, wooded, frequently-used public park that I’ve run countless times, usually early in the morning but never while it’s still dark. No, I didn’t think of that girl until I was turning off the main road to get to the trail, which was the point at which I realized that due to the crappy weather, I was likely to be completely alone on that trail. Usually I’m fine with this, but – even though it was 9:30 in the morning – I felt uneasy suddenly, which was definitely not helped by the silhouette I immediately encountered under the overpass I came to within 10 seconds of stepping onto the trail who looked like was holding a rifle. As I got closer I realized the silhouette just happened to be standing in front of a discarded tree trunk that had a branch sticking up that was approximately the same size and shape as a rifle, and I also realized that it was likely just someone walking and taking refuge from the rain for a little, but I didn’t want to get close enough to look or ask, so I went on my way, albeit keeping an ear open to my rear, just in case.

I did in fact encounter only one other person on the trail, who was walking alone and talking on her phone, but I felt oddly uneasy throughout, mostly because of the lack of people, I think, but also because – despite my great caution – I slipped and fell on some ice, and while I didn’t hurt myself, it did occur to me that if I’d fallen and really hurt myself, how on earth would I get out, or get in touch with someone to come get me? I don’t always do the smart thing: I never take my phone with me, I almost never tell anyone where I’m going, I don’t carry any methods of self-defense except sometimes a car/house key wedged between my fingers on a key ring. To my credit, I never use earphones, I wear bright/reflective clothing, and I use a headlamp if it’s dark. If I’m with Saint, I’ll tell him when I leave that I expect to be back at X time, and that Y time is the time he should start to worry if I’m still gone, and I always leave a map of my route up on my computer if he gets concerned or curious. But, still: there are times I wonder, running as a woman alone, whether I’m setting myself up for something bad, or if I’m being overly paranoid and should just continue on as I have been. (And then I read this and I think, hmmm, that’s exactly along the trail I was on yesterday, isn’t that fun?)

Anyway, well, for now, that’s it. I’m thinking warm thoughts for everyone north of here, and safe thoughts for everyone everywhere.

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2 Responses to Winter running: isn’t it fun?

  1. sarahdudek80 says:

    Good thoughts for the pipes. Just saw the real feel here is -34!

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