Treadmills < outdoor runs

As much as the bitter cold, whipping winds and treacherous ice of winter running suck, the treadmill still makes me want to gouge out my eyeballs in sheer boredom.

I just can’t do it. I tried valiantly on Thursday, when the temperature was around -20, but I only made it 5 km before I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was listening to podcasts, running in shorts and a tank (such a weird feeling) and trying to distract myself with people-watching, but it was still. so. mind-numbingly. boring. Any tips on how to get through a treadmill run??? The longest I have ever done is 10km and I’m still not sure how I did that.

After 5km I jumped off, pulled on my sweats and drove back to my apartment. I changed into my outdoor running gear and ran a cold but blissful 8km outside to round out my run. There’s just something about being able to run past things and have that changing atmosphere, incline and decline and wind at your back (or more likely, blowing in your face). Sometimes when I think about it, I feel like a hamster or gerbil in my daily life – I do the same things every day, I run around (literally on my runs, and more figuratively around work, doing errands, hanging out with friends, driving, etc.) but I always end up in the same place where I started the day – at home, in my bed, ready to start it all up again tomorrow like a cog in a machine. Running on a treadmill takes that feeling of running around on a wheel and never really progressing or moving forward in life and multiplies it by a million. So I think that’s the biggest reason why I hate it so much. I want to at least feel like I’m moving forward.

So that was Thursday. Friday was cross-training (Jillian Michaels’ yoga with my mom, sweaty but fun to do with someone else I can commiserate with!) and then today I woke up to about 2.5 feet of snow we got overnight, with the good ol’ flurries coming down and snowplows and snowblowers out in full force.

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On the running schedule? 9.5km fast today and 14.5km slow long run tomorrow. Hah. Yeah, there was no way anything fast would be happening.

I got bundled up though (wore my new swishy-material loose running pants over my tights*) and headed out. It actually ended up being a pretty fun run! The streets were pretty good and since everything was closed because of the storm, there wasn’t a lot of traffic to worry about. Running in snow is a lot like running in sand – it’s tough, but man, it feels good on your shins and joints. Especially running downhill! I ran a nice slow 5’41/km pace and ended up doing 12km just in case tomorrow’s weather is worse and I can’t do 14.5. Does anyone else “bank” their runs like this?

I think – I hope – I’ve turned a corner in my attitude on winter running. As a fairly raging Type A personality, I tend to stress over…everything, especially things I can’t control. Like the weather. A big part of my lack of motivation over training for Boston that I felt in the fall stemmed from increasing dread of winter running. I remembered all too well the panic I’d feel waking up in the morning to some brand-new weather condition that had developed over night, and freaking out about how I’d manage whatever run was on my training schedule.

But now I’m trying to look at weather as just one more factor in my training. Like a speed or interval or endurance run, a “weather run” will test my capabilities (both mental and physical) and help make me a stronger, better runner. They won’t be my fastest, longest runs, but they’ll toughen me up and help prepare me for Boston in other ways than working on my pace or distance. I’m giving myself permission to relax a bit more with winter training and to have faith that this too shall pass. Spring WILL come (right???) and hopefully I’ll have a few weeks at the end (before tapering starts, please?) to get in some great, kick-ass fast/long runs.

*Swishy pants (yes, that is their proper name, ha!) are the BEST. I picked up a pair from Sport Chek yesterday to layer over tights and they were great at blocking out the wind. When I got back home I had to slide them halfway off to get to my keys and I realized just how much protection and warmth they had given me during the run. Definitely recommend them for those extra-cold days! Also, has anyone tried running in ski goggles? I’ve been wearing my sunglasses but the last few runs they’ve been getting fogged up from my breathing and basically blinding me, so I have to take them off (but then get blinded by snowflakes driving into my face). Would non-fog ski goggles help? Would I just look even more insane? Do I care at this point? (No, I’ve accepted I will be the crazy running girl probably my whole life)

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can this be the worst run of 2014 for me, please?

Almost a year ago today (Jan. 20, 2013) I ran the Hypothermic Half-marathon in St. John’s, Newfoundland (my recap of the race can be found here). I thought THAT was cold!

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Cold enough that my awesome snowflake medal snapped off! 😦 thank goodness for dads and superglue

Today was INSANE. I ran 21.1 km into gale-force winds (slight exaggeration, but the wind was whipping along at 60-90km/hour and there was a wind warning in effect that I only found out about after I collapsed on my couch and turned my computer on, of course) that hit me straight in the face no matter what direction I turned.

At one point I even tried running backwards until I realized I was doing an 8’30/km pace, which meant it would take me even longer to get home, so I stopped doing that pretty quickly!

At another point I even screamed into the howling wind, “You have GOT to be kidding me!” I’m not sure who I was talking to (God? Mother Nature? Myself?) but when no response came back besides more wind and snow in my face, I sucked it up and saved my energy by just thinking really angry thoughts!

At 14.5 km, a guy pulled over in his truck and offered me a ride, but I had less than 7km to go, plus I was afraid he’d turn out to be a serial killer so I thanked him, gave him the most awkward thumbs-up ever because of my frozen fingers, and hunched back into the wind.

It was seriously one of the worst runs of my LIFE. At least that’s what I was telling myself when I finally made it back and staggered into my apartment. I couldn’t feel my face. When I looked in the mirror my skin was all red and splotchy and looked like one of those paintings made up of a billion tiny dots. There were also weird white patches on my face and my eyes wouldn’t stop watering. Running – such an attractive pastime.

“Worst run ever!” I kept thinking, and then I realized I should rephrase that in a more positive way. WORST implies it was really bad and that I didn’t get anything from it. Actually, it was one of my HARDEST runs ever, and that fills me with more of a sense of accomplishment than “worst”. Semantics, maybe, but I’m in the business of words so these things mean a lot to me…

It was one of my hardest runs. I really had to dig in there and not give up, and trust me, I wanted to pretty much every step of the way. My time didn’t matter. Pace didn’t matter. Negative splits? IDGAF. All I wanted was to get home from this Antarctica hell I was in, surrounded by white and completely alone except for the odd car. It was really scary and isolating at times, although there was the odd moment of exhilaration when I was like, “yeah! I am ONE with nature, y’all!” (I think that was at the beginning of my delusional phase, approximately kilometers 13 – 18, before I downward spiraled into despair).

Anyway, I’m hoping this was the hardest run of the year for me, but since it’s only January I’m not so sure. But hard runs make us better runners, right? Considering how tough this one was for me, Boston should be a breeze – a nice, light breeze, please. I’ve had enough wind to last me a long time!

Negative splits, negative six (degrees)

Getting out the door is the hardest part of running for me, especially in the winter. Actually, the hardest part may be standing around in the freezing cold waiting for the satellites to link up on my watch so I can start running…

I swear, sometimes it takes 20 minutes, sometimes I’ll turn my watch on and it gets a signal instantly. It doesn’t seem to matter how charged the battery is, how overcast the sky is…I can’t figure it out!

Today thankfully my watch decided to cooperate and kicked in just as I finished up my stretching. I save the static stretching for after the run and do a quick series of dynamic stretches before to warm up my arms, core and hip flexors.

I’m back on the weekend marathon schedule, which calls for a fast run Saturdays (between 8-13km) followed with a long run Sundays (19-32km as the season progresses). The method behind the madness is that it will get your legs used to running long distances when they’re already exhausted. Trust me when I say this works haha…eventually, your body does get used to it but the first few weeks are brutal. I’m not exactly looking forward to tomorrow’s long run BUT I’m going to trick myself into feeling pumped. Training for something is so much more mental than physical, huh?

Anyway, I’m happy with today’s run – I ended up going a little longer because, like I mentioned earlier, I want to end all my runs with a fast burst of speed up hill as preparation for the infamous Heartbreak Hill. So I did 7 miles (12 km) instead of 6 with…(mostly) negative splits!

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My slowest mile was a loop around the ball diamond that was covered in snow, so I had to forge my own path through. I fantasized I was running through thick beach sand! 🙂 That’s what it felt like anyway. I was frustrated to have such a slow mile right in the middle but when I looked at the map of my route’s terrain it made sense. Best part are those negative splits for mile 5,6 and 7 and ending with my fastest mile. Speedwork is NOT my strength at all and it’s something I want to work on.

I also noticed I felt really strong throughout the run – no stiff/sore arms (like my previous run, on Thursday, when my arms felt like a ton of bricks!) or upset stomach or cramps. I felt like I could run forever! I think a big part was just being really well-rested from the night before and getting a solid 9 hours of sleep for the first time in the last few days. I also stayed away from fruits/veggies last night with my bedtime snack (that makes me sound like a 9 year old) and stuck with the classic peanut butter and bread times a million. Pre-run fueling is a tricky science and it’s so individual, but I’ve realized through trial and error that fruit and certain kinds of vegetables like carrots don’t sit well with me too soon before I run. And NOOO dairy! Lots of carbs (my fave) and a bit of fat seem to work best!

When I got home I stretched, foam rolled and did some core work. Now I’ve got to tackle a stack of stories for work. I know this blog has become VERY running-focused lately but I guess that’s the reality right now as my life shifts into Boston training. It helps to have a log of sorts where I can write about my runs and track my progress, mistakes, etc.

That being said, I have a few journalism-specific ideas floating around in my head that I want to get out, so I’ll try to balance the running with the reporting a bit more on here.

What’s your strength when it comes to running – distance or speed?

Favourite thing to eat before running? Anything that doesn’t work for you?

Hardest part about the run – finding the motivation to get out the door or the actual, you know, running part?

Smug Runner Syndrome

As the proud owner of this:

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I officially belong to the Smug Runner club.

BUT…in my defense, because I’m aware of my smugness that makes it slightly more acceptable, right?

You need to read this hilarious article, but here’s my favourite line: “Let me be the first to offer my hearty congratulations (to marathoners). I’d even offer to give them a pat on the back—once they’re done doing it themselves.”

Yep. Pretty much.

Smug Runner Syndrome (henceforth known as SRS) isn’t just an illness that befalls marathoners. Any runner can become a smug runner, or at least veer towards smug tendencies. I think it’s because running can lend itself to a sense of superiority – this feeling of, “Well, I just ran x amount of miles this morning while everyone else was sleeping. Go me!” Obviously, this isn’t a great mindset to adopt. Because while you were running, some other person may have been getting their three kids under the age of six ready for the day, or they were just getting home from an overnight shift at a factory, or even if they were still sleeping because they’re exhausted – who cares?!? Running doesn’t make you a better person than anyone else.

But I still fall into SRS occasionally. Usually after one of those epic runs where everything goes really, really well and you’re on that runner’s high and you just love the world and everyone in it including yourself – I hit a longer distance or I manage to get in a tough speed workout before work. I have this urge to shout out my distance from a balcony or hire a plane to write out my time in the sky or something (just kidding about that first one).

It’s obnoxious, let’s be honest. Because really, who else cares besides me? I’m lucky that my parents humour me and are actually very, very supportive of my running. When I was training last year for Gettysburg, they seemed genuinely happy to hear about my occasional updates, although I really tried to save my “guess what I just ran?” for the runs I was really, really excited about.

The thing is, it’s normal and awesome to be excited and proud about new accomplishments you hit while running. But it’s a very thin line before you cross into Smug Runner Territory, and that’s when you need to watch out.

Recently I ran with a group of runners and I was reminded of why I sometimes can’t stand my own breed. There were way too many comments like:

– “Since going gluten-free and dairy-free and giving up all alcohol, my wife and I have become much faster runners.”

– “No way, paleo is what works best.”

– “I’m just going to do a few extra miles after you guys turn around.”

– “Oh, you did a half-Ironman?” “No, just a half-marathon.” “Oh.”

– “My goal is to do the Norseman, the toughest Ironman in the world, before I’m 50. At the end all you get is a toque. It’s so much more rewarding than a medal.”

Okay, I think you get the idea. I’m sure SRS exists in plenty of sports and other hobbies too, but I also think there’s something about the mentality that makes a person become a long distance runner that also brings out this sanctimonious, ascetic streak.

Running can be a very selfish pursuit, especially endurance running and racing. Out of necessity, you become very inward-focused. That can be a good thing. You’re in tune with your body, both mentally and physically, in a way you never were before. You’re often very healthy (maybe TOO healthy). You become very disciplined (maybe TOO disciplined). It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you’re better than other people, and of trying to one-up other runners, of being the most intense, the most hardcore of the pack.

Here is how I (try to) combat SRS when I notice it creeping up in me:

– ask myself, “WHO CARES?” Besides myself and maybe two or three other people I know who love me and will therefore humour me, the answer is NO ONE. So don’t write some humble-braggy post on Facebook like, “Nothing like a good 10-miler before 8 a.m. to start the day off right! :)” That’s awful. Just no. It drives me insane when I see “friends” on social media feel the need to update everyone on how many miles they just did. Like I said above, sometimes I really, really want to tell people about a run but when I ask myself, “who else cares besides me?” 99% of the time I talk myself out of sharing.

– focus on something else I do that isn’t running. I love running but I don’t want it to become my entire life. There are other things I love too and I want to be a well-rounded person.

– try something new that I’m not good at. Right now, this is painting. I really love painting and being creative but the images I have in my mind are much harder to translate into actual, physical images on paper or canvas! It’s frustrating, but it is very humbling (um, every time I see a “masterpiece” I’ve tried to create I’m reminded of this!) and it definitely kills the smug.

– tell myself that there is nothing surprising or particularly awesome about me running. A) there are TONS of better runners out there than me so I’m nothing special and B) I’m in my twenties, am luckily injury-free, have no partner/children, and very few responsibilities beyond working and making loan payments SO of course I have time to run my little heart out. It’s not like I’m a single mom with five kids and three jobs and I’m still knocking out 50 miles a week. Jeesh.

Okay, so those are my tips for combating SRS, of which I definitely have a mild case. Anyone else out there with SRS? How do you fight it (or do you just buy more 26.2 stickers and embrace the smug)?

Running on clouds

I always get to a point where I realize I’m in desperate need of new shoes. Usually I notice some pain in my shins while running and then I think back to when I bought my last pair…whoops. Another good visual sign is when I can tell what colour socks I’m wearing because my pinky toe is showing through (for some reason my baby toe always pokes through the fabric; either shoes are made too narrow at the toes or my feet are just really wide)! And of course the tread test: flip your shoes over and if it’s smooth on the bottom, you know you’ve worn them down.

I try not to feel guilty about buying new running shoes because they are SO important for safe training. Sure, running is *theoretically* a cheap sport (ha!), but you really can’t skimp on good shoes. I don’t replace mine as often as I probably should, but oh well. 2-3 pairs a year seems to work for me for now.

Today I did a quick 6 km (at 4:15/km pace…this is fast for me; I hate shorter distances and will always choose distance over speed!) before the rain started. It’s eerily mild out today – I don’t trust it. I’m trying to end all my runs by running as fast as I can uphill (I live at the top of a hill, so coordinating that is the easy part – the tough part is the running fast haha). I’m hoping this will somewhat prepare me for the legendary Heartbreak Hill at Boston, and also just be good training!

Then this afternoon I drove to the nearest Running Room, which is an hour away in Hamilton. A nice rainy day for a drive, I didn’t mind it at all. It was nice to get out of the county and drive around a city, actually. And the Running Room is always a fun time. I chatted with the guy who was working, and he printed me off a map of the Around the Bay 30k road race I’m doing in March – he’s doing it too and has done it many times in the past so he gave me some tips and told me all about the different elevations. Looks like there’s a series of rolling hills that kick in around kilometre 17 and last until kilometre 26, but then you’ve got a slight decline for the last four km – nice!

Anyway, here are the new beauties I got:

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Early birthday present to myself!

They’re the Asics GT2000 – my tried and true. The last two pairs I’ve gone through have been this same model – they carried me 26.2 miles in Gettysburg and countless miles before and since. I love them! I tried a few other brands, including Brooks and Saucony (another fave) but in the end I decided not to mess with a good thing. They’re super supportive (I need a stability shoe + my orthotics…woo for sounding like an 82-year-old!) and have great cushioning. They also have really fun colours – this time I went with bluefish/electric melon. I think they’ll add some cheer to my feet when I’m trawling through slush and snow!

How to run during a polar vortex

Wise answer: don’t.

I took the past two days off any activity whatsoever, thanks to this polar vortex thing that’s going on. I even drove to work both days (I live about a kilometre from the newsroom so I always walk)! Rest days are important (something I’ve learned the hard way in past years – injuries are NOT worth it!) and although I freely admit to the odd moment of insanity in my running career, I’m pretty happy to say that as I get older, I realize when a run would just be stupid and reckless. So I stayed off the roads and was happy with that decision!

But by today, I was starting to go stir crazy. My legs just wanted to move, you know? Usually on Wednesdays I’m able to squeeze a swim in at the pool, but today was just not happening. Late Tuesday nights, early Wednesday mornings, and a packed afternoon of interviews meant that by 6 p.m. tonight, I was feeling like one big ball of stress. I needed to do something!

So I talked myself into doing two of my least favourite things…nighttime running in the COLD. Double whammy! I’m a total a.m. runner – I like to head out about 20-30 minutes after waking up. That way by the time I’m actually awake awake, I’m usually a couple kilometres into the run! I also prefer to run on an empty stomach so early morning makes sense. By the end of the day, I’m too tired, too hungry, too not in the mood at all to run! Add in some -25 weather, treacherously slippery and dimly lit country roads and it’s not the best recipe for running.

But like I said, my legs were dying to move and I was feeling antsy and stressed. I’m really nervous these abnormally cold temperatures are going to stick around all winter, which will make training for Boston a little dicey, to say the least. I wanted to go out for a run tonight I guess just to make sure I could still do something for Boston. I’m not following a strict training plan yet (I’m starting Jan. 22) but I thought a run tonight would be a great mental and physical test. Gotta get those tough practice runs in now, you know? I’m a firm believer that it’s the crappy runs where you’re feeling tired, sluggish, cold, slow, etc. that actually make you a stronger, better and ultimately faster runner and racer.

Plus it was only -9 (woo hoo!) with hardly any wind – score!

This is what I wore:

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Ninja Katie

To wit: four layers of shirts (dri-fit, tech fabric short-sleeved T, long-sleeved tech fabric half-zip, fleece half-zip, wind and water-resistent jacket); two pairs of pants (sweat-wicking double-layer tights and looser tech fabric pants); one pair of knee-length athletic socks; two pairs of gloves; one headband; one head cover that can be pulled up to your nose; and the hood of my running jacket pulled up. Whew! I actually ended up breaking a sweat under all those layers, and was pleasantly toasty throughout the run.

My jacket, gloves and bottom cuff of my pants are reflective, so that was great, but I would like to either get some kind of headlight or light I can strap to my arm for traffic. The roads weren’t too bad and cars were driving slow and carefully, but there was still quite a bit of traffic. I tried to stick to residential streets instead of country roads, and ran mostly on the side of the road in the soft snow rather than the unplowed, icy sidewalks.

I ended up doing 12.7 km at a 5″20/km pace – resulting in my watch flashing me a weak “Good effort” at the end. Screw you, Nike! I am quite happy with 12+ km in the cold snow and at night! So I told myself, “Fantastic job!” instead and then changed into this for stretching and foam rolling:

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Boston in April has got to have better weather than what we’re going through now, right???

A positively balmy run

Today was my first long run of 2014 – a nice 21.7 kilometre route that involved lots of backtracking (I was originally just planning on running a 16-k route, but had to take advantage of the -1 degree weather!), snow and slush!

Since it’s supposed to drop to -22 by Tuesday, I’m feeling pretty happy I squeezed in a longer run today. I tried to duplicate a strategy my training plan had last year, where I’d run a mid-distance at a fairly fast pace on Saturday followed by a long run on Sunday. It gets your legs used to running while already tired, and it’s awesome except it actually really sucks. But…it works!

So I did a 10k yesterday and then slogged through today’s run. What made this Sunday Runday different than usual (besides the fact that my face didn’t completely freeze off and I actually broke a sweat under my four layers of shirts) were two things:

a) Rocking the baseball look

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Embarrassing, I know. I distinctly remember going for a run with my dad and brother once and in addition to my dad wearing a POLO shirt to run in (who does that?!?), my brother tucked his pants into his socks just like I’m doing in the above photo. Cringe. I said something obnoxious at the time like, “You guys are going to ruin my street cred!”

What can I say? I got my tights on today and then went to find a pair of socks, saw my compression socks and decided I wanted to wear them, but then was too lazy to take off my tights to put the socks on. So I just pulled them on over and told myself I looked cool. Riiiiight.

b) I listened to podcasts the whole way!

I’ve never listened to podcasts while running, even though I listen to them while doing pretty much everything else. I’m obsessed with NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour right now, and since I have about 100 episodes downloaded on my phone, I just tucked the phone in one of my sports bras and was set. I think I made it through about 3 episodes – it was marvelous. I definitely noticed I was running slower than usual, so I think listening to podcasts rather than fast-paced music may have had something to do with it (although the slush didn’t help and of course, neither did me just generally not being used to long run + longer run). I’d still pick music for speed/tempo workouts, but for a long run where the emphasis is on distance, podcasts were perfect. I loved just being able to tune out (well, mostly – still gotta keep an eye out for trucks and deer and random guard dogs on farms on these country roads!).

Okay, I’m off to shower and then do some foam rolling! My brother got me the gift of my dreams for Christmas this year – a foam roller. Yeah, I realize that admission either made you do a massive eye roll OR it made you nod along enthusiastically. Maybe both. I’ve had a few humbling epiphanies lately about what I like to call SRS – Smug Runner Syndrome, so watch out for an upcoming post on that. Gushing about foam rollers probably/definitely falls under the category of SRS.