Two days after my half marathon I opted to go for a Tuesday evening run. The Kid was skipping her class because a track meet overlapped. The crew was meeting for some icy tempo training. I was feeling a bit leaden in the legs, but I figured that was probably more of a reason to get out than to stay in. Six klicks later I’m limping. Not my legs: I’ve got a nagging pain in the arch of my foot. Hopefully just a temporary aggravation of some tendon or muscle, but I’m noting it here in case it hobbles me for anything longer than a couple days! Gah.
I’ll sum it up. I had barely slept. My stomach was hosting a butterfly convention. And I couldn’t eat more than a few bites of my breakfast.
Couple the fact that I haven’t run a half marathon in seven months with the bitter truth of an ambient outdoor temperature of minus twenty degrees, and I was second — third — ten times guessing my decision to tackle the Hypothermic Half Marathon this past weekend.
I mean, ultimately it turned out okay.
It was brutally cold, but I managed to over-dress.
The icy roads were not my friend, but I didn’t slip much and never fell, just mostly trudged along on the slick and slided a bit with each step and because of that lost a good 10 – 15% of my energy to the lack of traction.
The company helped. It’s tough to speak much when your face is alternatingly wrapped up in fabric or frozen and numb, but I ran a chunk with Leon and then a chunk with Linda and then another chunk with Leon. Jenn was on medal duties. Ron was guarding the buffet. And I crossed paths with a dozen other people –from past running pals, to Strava followers who I only know online, to the Premier herself who passed me at the start and never looked back — all who helped keep the slushy thoughts from freezing solid into my brain.
In the end it wasn’t my fastest race –far from it, actually– but I’m feeling pretty warmly about how this chilly adventure turned out overall… and I think it’s inspired me to sign up for a few more halfs this coming year.
It’s been three weeks since I wrote about my first big running goal of the year: one hundred klicks (minimum) in 25 consecutive days, and I’ve had to explain myself so many times now (IRL) that there’s been moments –between the insane cold, blistered toes, and dead-leg days– that I’ve seriously had to pep-talk myself out the door for my daily run.
The speech goes a little something like this.
“It’s kinda stupid, I know, but it seems to work for me…”
“Once every couple of years, when I’ve found that my training has derailed, I’ve found that I can kinda, sorta, supercharge it… y’know… kick it back into high gear… by doing this run-every-day thing.”
You’re going to injure yourself.
“Well, maybe. I’m being super-careful. And it’s not like I’m running insane amounts. We’re talking four klicks every day as a minimum.”
“No rests. No days off, at least. And every time I’ve done this, correlation or causation, whatever, I don’t really know, it’s not scientific, but I’ve run some of my best races. My PR half marathon? That was five days after I finished a run-every-day twenty-one day stint in April one year. It was 2015 I think.”
I still don’t know…
“I’m not recommending it. It… just works for me. Or it has. And I’m doing it again. Now. It’s like day…”
Actually, I have just last night finished 21 consecutive days and hit the 125 klick mark. For those not blessed with the powers of mental calculation, that’s averaging nearly six klicks per day, a little more than my minimum.
Nine of those runs have been on my “forced four” route, a little loop around my neighbourhood that klicks out at 4.15 total, and has little opportunity for stretching it. I do this as a kind of enforcement run: four klicks, but JUST four klicks.
Three of those runs have been on an indoor track. I’ve picked a terrible season to to daily runs, with the last ten days averaging in the minus twenty-five degree range (not counting windchill, which has brought us close to minus forty a few times.) I spent the bucks and went to the track rather than running through a thirty centimeters of fresh snow.
Four of those runs have been at least 33% trail runs. By that, I mean running to and then running through winter single track. And by winter single track I mean narrow, rolling, rough, branches-in-your-face trail with enough snow to bury your feet to your ankles, don’t trip because you’ll vanish until spring kinda runs.
And three of those runs have been cranked out in times and places when better judgement would have suggested not running was the better option, in those moments when pedestrian safety, let alone recreational running was obviously not considered in any part of the neighbourhood planning effort. But opportunity is sometimes fleeting.
Technically, I need to run four more consecutive days to meet my goal. As my counting didn’t quite pan out to my advantage, it looks more like that will be five days (because I’m not going to skip my Sunday run club — day 26?
— just when the weather looks to be turning in our favour!)
Either way, I’m feeling good about my race in… uh… eleven days. And the forecast is looking okay, too.
It’s almost embarrassing (but not quite) to admit that as a runner I’ve never had a black toe.
I only say embarrassing, because like any rite of passage, pushing yourself hard enough on a race or just a run to crush and/or bruise a digit to the point where your toenail turns a lovely shade of purplish-black is a mark of semi-crazy honour.
Or so I understand it.
Everyone seems to brag about their black toes. I’ve heard of races being named after black toes. Run clubs calling themselves the black toe runners. Or just look up the hashtag on your favourite social network.
My winter runners, the shoes with the Vibram rubber treads that are almost as good as spikes, have manifested some little toe pokes. That is, I’ve run so much in them that on the top of each toebox, a centimeter-wide hole has appeared where the thousands of impacts have broken through the mesh.
Because of this and because I’ve been running through fresh snow, the tips of the inside of my shoes have been filling up with bits of loose snow, slowly but surely. After a few klicks this is no big deal: remove, shake out, replace, run on…
But we got a little lost in the wilderness yesterday and my toes filled up with snow… which melted into ice pellets… which filled up around my toes… which was cold, numb-inducing, and (because I wasn’t going to take off my shoes in the wilderness and do the shake out) ultimately caused an impact injury to the middle digit on my right foot.
Thus… my first black toe.
The picture (and I know I could probably use a pedicure or something) was taken a few hours after the injury, but it has since overnight added some additional ugly colour… and some extra pain. Which leads to my next quandary: It’s lunchtime and sometime before I go to bed tonight I need to squeeze in a four klick run… in the snow… with a really sore toe.
I took the GoPro along on our winter running adventure this morning, trying my best to keep it from freezing solid and only succeeding in keeping the lens free and clear of frost for the first hour or so. After that, the cold and brisk air got the better of the little camera … but while the battery lasted we got some fun footage:
Sadly, where I shouted in goofy pain at the 2:30ish mark was me falling flat on my ass as we sprinted down the hill, a fall that hurt a little at the time but has left me pretty sore a few hours later.
Finally we seem to have come upon some winter.
It’s been a weird sort of year for weather. Maybe that’s just my anecdotal bias, but it’s nearly the end of January as I write this and we just finally — FINALLY — have accumulated enough of the white stuff to dig our cross country skis from the basement and wax them up for the first time this season. The kid was back into it like a riding a bike, of course. At one point we thought she’d bailed as we turned back and she wasn’t following us, but no… she’d found her own route and was heading us off from a different direction.
Not that a mid-winter blizzard is all fun and games. I’ve been struggling through my efforts to get in a daily run against the brutal conditions. Oh, galloping through fresh snow is great — for the first five minutes. The air is crisp and the wind hasn’t been too bad, but trying to find footing in fifteen centimeters of fresh powder on an uneven sidewalk in the dark while you’re squinting against the cold… that’s a whole new level of crazy.
On Sunday morning, despite the freaking cold and even more fresh snow, I peer-pressure-caved into a crazy (probably literally) trail run in the river valley. It started off mildly sane with just the cold and the trail against us, but soon devolved into an ankle deep, is-this-actually-a-trail run through the woods. My shoes built up so much snow inside them that I ended up numbing and then causing some impact damage to the point of black toenail syndrome and a really sore digit. But the photos turned out great.
Having just barely warmed up I joined the party at the K&D house where we’d had a plan in place to tackle some serious sledding. So the hill wasn’t quite as epic as one might imagine, but the kids had a blast racing through the fresh powder despite the bitter cold.
Usually Sundays are reserved for group runs, but due to … circumstances … I ended up running on my own.
Had I been following my typical wimp-out strategy of late I might have pushed through a 8 (possibly 10) klick run, patted myself on the back for getting out and running despite my various barriers, and fell asleep on the couch.
Instead, I’ve committed to doing some serious training in prep for that darned half marathon I signed up for next month. So I found myself nudging myself onward at obvious turn-back points, negotiating both sides of the mental barrier, and ultimately tricking myself past a point of no return … or more appropriately, a point of no point in turning back so you’d better just push on.
I captured a lengthy bit of video which I’ve posted onto YouTube as an unedited “Let’s Run” that you’re welcome to watch … or not … I’d lean towards not if I were you. It’s pretty long. Kinda like a fourteen klick run.
One month from today I need to run a half marathon.
If my life had a narrator, the voice-over would come in here and gravely state something about “letting the weight of that fact sink in as he sat starring blankly at the calendar, knowing in his heart that while reaching that summit was not a insurmountable task, the climb there would be long and full of pain.”
I was thinking about my last half marathon. In July, after attending a family funeral, fueling on egg salad sandwiches, coping with a heat wave and frankly not putting a high priority on a successful run because of any of those factors, I ran one of my worst races. Big deal. Bigger things to worry about, and the world continues to turn round and round.
Then I was thinking about a very different half marathon. A couple years ago I ran a greuling race through the river valley, up and down a couple major hills, and dealing with a slightly chilly ambient April morning temperature. And that was my PB. The difference was not much in those few days prior to the race — I mean, maybe I was in a better emotional state — but also that I did a weird little training regimen: I ran for twenty-one days in a row.
Three weeks. Four klicks per day minimum. Rain, shine, snow, or lacking in appropriately available time. I just got it done.
Which, of course brings me to today: One month from today I need to run a half marathon.
And I keep sitting here thinking about the fact that I need some nudge to get me back into my old habits, regular training, a solid building towards some goal.
So Goal 2018.1 … Run 25 consecutive days, minimum 4km per day, starting today. 100km minimum before my race (with a few days to rest!) and some longer runs tossed in there for good measure. Go.
photo credit to the 2018 Resolution Run crew.
So much for the grand resolutions. This photo was posted on the race website yesterday, me slogging it out through the first few minutes of the January first five klick Resolution Run in the first bitterly cold hours of 2018.
It was about -23 in this photo, not counting the windchill. I’m wearing 4 upper layers, 2 bottom layers, winter socks, double gloves, and you can almost count the variety of head wraps likes rings on a tree old enough to know better than to be outside in this weather.
The rest of the year has had it’s moments of slightly better temperatures, but the bulk of this year so far has been a wool-socks-in-bed kinda climate. The kinda weather that makes you want to curl up on the couch and play video games for an uninterrupted six hours. The kinda weather that hurts your bones just thinking about the weather. The kinda weather that prompts one to write a blog post about the weather because every post everywhere on all the socials are full of people talking about the weather.
And yet I’ve managed to log nearly a marathons-worth of distance on the year so far, most of it with numb toes.
Peer pressure? Resolution guilt? Good ol’Canadian stick-it-to-the-cold-ness? Whatever it is, if I could bottle it, serve it warm with a marshmallow on top, it would be worth a lot of something.
Running. Bowing. Drawing.
It’s that time of year again when, as the tick of the calendar approaches the final few boxes, the last clean-slate row of days hung on your wall under a photo of a puppy or whatever weird art you chose in your boxing day frenzy to buy a discounted wall chronometer AFTER they went on sale but BEFORE they get too picked over, its that time of year to consider the next one.
And as this wet fart of a year draws to a close, it is time to not only time to consider next year’s calendar, it’s time to consider what your goals will be, what you resolve to do, how many klicks you want to run or books you intend to read or kilograms you intend to shed.
I can’t help you much beyond all these free words of general encouragement I publish… aaaaaaaaaand of course my annual gift to all my running friends: a fresh, blank copy of the spreadsheet (updated for 2018, of course) that I personally use to track all my runs, plan my races, and set my running goals.
It’s a small thing, intended for casual runners who get out a few times per week, but it’s always a pain to set up your own, so… enjoy. Use. Share. Whatever.
I’ve been using versions of this same sheet for almost a decade now, and I think I’ve fine-tuned it for most of the basic variables you need to quickly and effectively keep track of what you’ve run and what you need to run. It’s not going to allow you to share on social media and get kudos or gold stars or whatever else motivates you to get out on the trails, but it will let you privately record your efforts and motivate you to manage your recreational hobby.
To do ONCE:
1. Make Your Copy (should be automatic)
2. Open Your Copy in Google Drive
3. Select your unit (km -v- miles) from the pull down
4. Change the 2018 GOAL # in the appropriate field
To do DAILY:
5. Run = Track Time & Distance
6. Record your distance in column E
7. Record your hours in column F
8. Record your minutes in column G
9. Record your seconds in column H
10. Repeat 5 through 9 daily for best results!
Share and enjoy… and happy running in 2018!
So, while I’m writing ex post facto, it is actually because of these events (and the anticipatory anxiety leading up them) that I didn’t actually get a chance to write a proper post for December 20 and am going to pre-date this one to land on this day, detailing some events that started late in the evening and proceeded well through the night and into the wee hours of the next morning.
23:10 Wherein between (a) not quite realizing the net-positive change in time that I’ll gain traveling in the middle of the night as opposed to rush hour and (b) wanting a good parking spot, I leave the warmth of my house much too early and arrive at the Old Timers Cabin parking lot in about 12 minutes, a trip that would in daylight traffic take a solid twenty to twenty-five. I’m wearing my running kit, obviously.
23:40 Due the cold and the fact I’m wearing light running gear in sub-zero temperatures, I decide that standing beside Leon’s at-capacity two-seater truck for much longer is going to make me hypothermic, so I retreat to my own vehicle and its residual warmth to await the start.
23:52 I get bored sitting in my rapidly-cooling truck alone and decide that the hundred-and-fifty-so other runners, some adorned in holiday costumes and literal decorations, will probably provide enough group warmth to get me through the pre-run wait.
23:59 Announcements flutter through the midnight air, a verbal course map and some warnings about the ice on the route struggle to be heard above the din. We’re anxious and jumping up and down to keep warm.
00:03 We start running. Two hundred midnight loons start the long trudge up the ice-covered Scona hill walking path, headlamp beams bobbing in the frosty air. I’d describe more, but a run is a run, no matter when or where or how you do it. The details fog with the blur of that gentle accent to optimal performance state.
00:08 My body reminds me why I don’t run distance in the middle of the night and that it would rather be at home in bed.
00:18 In stark contrast to the rational inclinations of my daytime mind, I celebrate the darkest night of the year and the winter solstice by drinking a shot of something warm and tingly and spiced from a glass attached to a cross country ski with three other sweaty men in the dimly lit shadows of some trees (where for legal reasons I’m convinced was private property.)
00:19 We reach the turn-around point. The last time I was at roughly this point of the earth I was running the opposite direction on Canada Day and staring down the last 5 klicks of a very different sort of run.
00:41 After tackling the obstacle of running while descending an extremely icy hill in the dark after midnight (I think that was a rule in a horror movie of some kind) we stop our watches and tackle the obstacle of walking while descending an extremely icy hill in the dark after midnight towards the inviting glow of a bonfire and festive treats.
00:48 Much photos are taken, but not by me because my phone only has 18% battery left and the lens fogged up.
01:10 Still shivering, having waited a fair length of time and cold-shocked that single (hour old) ounce of alcohol from my system, and now with the heat full-up and heated seats cranked to max, I pull out of the Old Timers Cabin parking lot and start the drive towards home.