29 January 2013

what are you, nuts or somethin'? - an insight into winter running

over the past seven days, we've had mornings where it's hit -32 degrees celsius (with the windchill factor).  other mornings have been near-zero visibility because of snow streamers and gusts up to 70 kph.  and other times i've woken up to 12 cm of overnight snow accumulation, or 5-10 cm of thick, damp slush, or a flash-freeze ice rink on all the local roads.

each time i've stuck to my outdoor running schedule.

most of the people who know me ask if i'd run on any given day, knowing full well that i did but still reacting to the answer with a sense of disbelief.  

just what exactly would possess someone to run in bone-chilling, frost-biting, ice-blasting, traction-reducing, sidewalk-avoiding conditions such as those encountered in south-central ontario between december-march?

well, let me share just a few that keep me rolling out of bed before the sun comes up:

  1. the training plan - as you can see by the widget at the side of my blog, my next race is coming up in may, and i'm following a structured training plan (courtesy of the hanson brothers of east michigan) that has me out six days a week.  i'm not the kind of guy who loves to run - i'm motivated by a goal, in this case qualifying for the boston marathon.  even though i've only been running since 2010, i was just 3m15s away from making the requirement for my age group back in november at the hamilton road2hope marathon.  i strongly believe that sticking to the training plan will take me a long way to getting to 3h15m on race day in mississauga.
  2. perseverance/character - yeah, on those days that it's tough to be out there - because no one else is, or cars are honking at you, or the sleep was too short and the day before too strenuous - i feel like i'm going to look back on these winter runs as helping me through those "i should just give up" moments during the race.  if i can make it through the elements of a canadian winter, ain't nothing going to stop me over the 42.195k.
  3. core and stability development - it can be really uneven out there during the winter.  i remember running one morning with my friend trevor in snow so deep that he couldn't get his car out of the driveway to meet up at our starting point.  having to lift your legs up to waist level just to propel yourself one step forward has got to be building some kind of strength in your core.  add to that the days (like yesterday) where running in an inch or two of soft, wet snow was like trudging through the mud, and other days where the snow landscape is more like frozen tundra forcing you to adjust to a shorter, quicker stride - it all presses you to pay attention to technique and refine the machine.
  4. pride - now that doesn't sound right.  it's not pride that causes me to turn off the clock radio and lumber into the washroom with running gear in hand.  pride doesn't get me out the door - but i always return with a sense of pride (maybe better put, accomplishment) when it seems that everyone else is just rousing from sleep and i can toss my perspiration-laden running gear into the laundry pile having just completed a speedwork run or 10k @ marathon pace.  it's sick, i'm sure, but in my head i often think "and what have you done with your day so far?"
  5. stories that live on in personal running lore - all i can say is that my buddy mike and i still chuckle about the day that we were out running and passed by police cars that had shut down a road because of downed trees and powerlines from the winter storm that morning.  
i know, i'm not right in the head.  but that's my love-hate-love affair with winter running.


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