Suck It Up
Two weeks ago, I officially started training for the Rock N Roll USA half marathon. I hesitate to use the word “train” too seriously at this point, since my training schedule currently has me running just under ten miles a week. Right now I’m more in the “mentally easing into training” phase, getting used to the idea of running at least every other day and preparing to get back into long slow distance runs (LSDs) on the weekends.
Another thing I need to get used to? Running outside. In the cold. And I need to get used to it fast.
It occurred to me yesterday morning that I’ve barely run outside at all in the last two months. I’ve gone on walks in my neighborhood, and I’ve run on the treadmill, but I’ve run very, very few miles on pavement since September.
Part of this is just sheer laziness (running outside is HARD. There are HILLS. They are unavoidable. And there is no moving belt pushing you along. Or magazines to read while trudging away. Etc). The other part is my crazy aversion to cold weather (it’s under 60 degrees? And you want me to exercise outside? Yeah, ok).
Then I woke up yesterday morning and was hit with a crystal clear realization: I cannot actually expect to train for a half marathon indoors, on a treadmill. If I do, I am almost certainly setting myself up for a sad, sad race day.
So I did what I knew I had to do: I sucked it up. I laced up my shoes, strapped on my Garmin, plugged in my iPod, and set off for five steady miles at the park down the street. I was woefully under prepared for the cold morning (I really, really need to invest in cold weather running gear. Fleece gloves aren’t going to cut it), but off I went. As expected, it was hard. The hills were hard, running against the wind was hard, blahblahwhinecomplainexcusesexcuses. My inner conversation was psychotic and a wee bit bipolar:
Mile 1: I feel awesome! My legs are so loose! Look at how beautiful the lake is! I am strong and powerful and amazing!
Mile 2: I hate hills. I hate the cold. I need a tissue. Fleece gloves suck.
Mile 3: When I reach this point in the half marathon, I’ll still have ten miles to go. Why am I voluntarily doing this? I’m an idiot.
Mile 4: I feel awesome! I am strong and powerful and amazing!
Mile 5: Praise Jesus, this is the last one. I can’t even fathom the point in my training where five miles is my mid-week “easy” run.
Ahh, the ups and downs of long runs. You think this is bad? Wait until I’m running eight or ten miles. It gets way, way better with time.
The one good thing about the run was that it gave me time to strategize for the months of training ahead. Here’s the brief, simple list I came up with to get myself back in half marathon shape—even during the dead of winter:
- Invest in some cold weather gear. I’m not talking anything fancy, but some proper gloves, running tights, and a jacket should do the trick. If I’m going to get some mileage in outdoors in the middle of January, I want to be as comfortable and prepared as possible.
- Commit to running a set number of miles outside every week. I don’t expect to run all of my mileage outdoors, not only because I’m a wimp, but also because it might not be feasible (with snow, ice, etc.) As long as I get in a solid percentage of my runs on pavement, I’ll feel ok.
- Make treadmill runs count. If I’m going to be putting miles on the treadmill, I want them to be worthwhile. This can mean speedwork (which is way easier on a treadmill) or even making sure to run on an incline. Treadmills will almost always be easier than outdoor running, but they can be useful when used strategically.
- Get myself mentally prepared for the months ahead. The mental block was my biggest issue in my first half marathon training, and I want to avoid that at all costs this time. By the time the race rolls around, I don’t want to hate running like I did at the last race. It’s fine to be a little bit sick of it or to crave variety, but I don’t want to resent it or dread my runs. I’m hoping that expecting the intensity of those last two months of training will make them a bit easier.
So that’s where I stand: ready to jump back into this headfirst and kick some half marathon ass. In the cold. Booyah.
Any cold weather running advice for me? I can use all the tips I can get!