Still Running Long

running until i can't


Training Update: Week Eleven [Or: 21 miles @ 11 degrees]

You know those deep winter days when you are thankful for the sun…even though it doesn’t really warm you at all?

This is all about one run.

There are two weeks to write about, but it really comes down to one run.

As we’ve headed into late winter, our family schedule has begun to get complicated. Without going into tedious detail, there are several weekends on the calendar when I simply can’t do a long run.

The windows for running on a few of these weekends aren’t much longer than an hour, unless I go late, late at night. Which isn’t going to to happen; the roads are barely safe during the day with all the accumulated snow and ice.

So as my plan for long runs reached toward my twenty one miler, I realized that it fell on one of our no-go weekends. Which meant shifting that Saturday run to a Friday. This isn’t really an issue for work, since I work for the greatest company on the planet to work for.

But as I watched the ten day forecast in this winter of never ending snow and cold, I knew I’d be locked into whatever nature brought. Normally, if one day doesn’t look good, I can shift by a day. This way, it was Friday or bust.

When Friday first appeared on the ten day forecast, it looked decent. Cold, but decent, with highs forecast in the low 20’s. Then, as each day passed, the forecast high got lower and lower. Twenty. Then eighteen, then fifteen, then thirteen degrees. As the forecast temperature dropped, warnings of high winds started to creep in.

By the time it was Thursday, the forecast was for 14 degrees Fahrenheit with sustained winds of 15 mph and gusts to 25 mph. The one thing keeping from losing my mind even before heading out the door was the forecast for bright sunshine.


just plain cold

When I walked out the door Friday at noon, it was 9 degrees. I had resisted the temptation to put on too many layers (which, in a perverse way, can actually make you colder when running outdoors–it’s a fine line), though I switched out to a warmer hat, slipped hand warmers into my gloves, and covered my exposed face in vaseline. I filled my hydration pack and planned to drink every two minutes or so to keep it from freezing.

The preventing of my hydration from freezing was an epic failure, as the tube went solid two miles into the run.

Just about everything else was amazing.

Not that I wasn’t cold, that the story in my mind was worse than reality. In fact, the high temperature ended up being 11 degrees. It was, as my son would say, epic cold. Heading south down the east side of lake Whitehall, the wind, roaring out of the west, had nothing to impede it as it came across the lake. I felt a long way from home.

But there was something about it, too, that felt quite real, like I wasn’t separated at all from the world. The cold was perfectly present, and I was moving through it, experiencing it completely.

When I got home a little more than three hours later, my wife had a cup of hot coffee just ground and brewed. It was an amazing gift. I sipped it slowly as my face began to tingle.

Weeks Ten and Eleven: It was really all about that one run. The other thing of any note was that, on the previous weekend, I ran a 13 miler followed by a 10, a low-level try at a B2B. It felt great; I’m looking forward to a more substantial one to come.

Screenshot 2015-02-27 20.44.30

Eats & Drinks: It was tough having nothing to drink on the 21 miler, cold as it was. Other than confirming that, I stuck with Honey Stinger gels…and probably will.

Milestones: (all post-April 2011 hip surgery)

  • Highest mileage week: 47.4 miles
  • Longest single run: 21.2 miles
  • Fastest pace for a 12+ mile run: 8:36 min/mile
  • No, this wasn’t my coldest run…only my coldest/longest…

Next Week’s Targets: A low intensity week. Running when it feels good, with a long of 14 and total mileage in the thirties.


Training Update: Week Nine

Week Nine. Or, the week I broke down. No, not physically. My body is fine, taking on the miles better than I could have possibly imagined.

I ran on a treadmill.

joined a gym and ran on a treadmill.

I began the winter confident that I could run through whatever might be thrown at me. It felt like part of the adventure, braving the cold and the snow. But then it became a battle. It became an agitation. And it became downright dangerous.

For a few weeks, I had done okay by shifting a run here or there to accommodate a bad storm. I didn’t like it, because it threw me off my regular schedule. But, I thought, that’s part of it, right? Zen taught me a long time ago that there is very little (euphemism for nothing) that I am in control of, and the weather was just reaffirming that truth for me.

Yet I couldn’t quite sit with it–or run with it. During week nine, I looked at the snow piling up outside, the forecast of so much more and of below zero (fahrenheit) temperatures, and I broke down.

I wondered if I would feel somehow like less of a runner, like I had failed in some way. I managed, actually, to let go of that; it bothered me less than I had expected. I also worried that I simply wouldn’t enjoy those treadmill sessions the same way I do outdoor runs.

I could not have been more correct. It is awful.

And that’s Zen, too. Recognizing how I receive the experience, and not trying to correct that receiving. Just running in place, step after step.

Week Nine: The week began with ten miles of hills in Tuesday. We had just had some snow and so a fair amount of the ten miles was searching for bare patches on which to land my foot, but I enjoyed the day. In adding a couple of miles to my standard Tuesday hills, I added a few more hills and an extra 300 feet of vertical. I’d been waiting for this bump up in my training as I approached a new three week uptick in intensity and mileage, and was feeling like that phase was off to a good start.

Screenshot 2015-02-18 20.16.52

Wednesday was the usual five miles of recovery run, and then anxious eyes on the forecast. Thursday looked like snow, and indeed it was. This was the day I broke, signing up online for a not-quite-local-enough gym where I planned to head on Friday.

Friday came and I made the drive over. Knowing I had an 18 planned for Saturday, I did the math as I ran and knew I had to churn out about 7 on the treadmill to be on track for my weekly target. I hoped to enjoy it by listening to a little bit of music and focusing on the relative novelty of the experience. That ran out by mile three or so. So I covered the treadmill display with a towel and just kept going.

I don’t know why I find the experience so different, I said to my wife when I got home.

Well, she said, you’re just running in place.

But Saturday would be another day. I planned to head out relatively early, as I would have the kids on my own starting Saturday at noon, and 18 would take me a while. I headed out at 8:30 when the thermometer read about 9 degrees, and tackled the same 18 loop as I had two weeks before. It was a wonderful run. Even my heart rate monitor being on the fritz and giving me bad readings through the first seven miles couldn’t spoil it.

Two weeks earlier, there had been no snow on the ground. This time, there was probably three feet. I thought how remarkable it was, really, that the day before had been my first treadmill run in that span, and that here I was under a pale gray sky, breathing deep winter air.

Sunday recovery was back on the treadmill, since, well, it was snowing again and I had to run at 7:00 am to make our family schedule work. It sure didn’t compare to the outdoor 18. But tomorrow is a rest day, I thought as I put one foot in front of the other.

Eats & Drinks: I’ve really settled into Tailwind and Honey Stinger chews for the long runs. I can’t see why I would every drink anything else.

Milestones: (all post-April 2011 hip surgery)

  • Highest mileage week: 45.8 miles
  • Longest single run [tied]: 18.2 miles
  • Most elevation gain in a single run: 1,227 feet

Next Week’s Targets: Maintaining the mileage while introducing a mini back-to-back. Long runs have always been followed by a five-mile recovery run. In the next weekend, I’ll have a relative short long run on Saturday, then follow with a ten-mile recovery on Sunday.

P.S. I know I’m behind a week, but I try to write them like it was real time. Adds to the drama, you know…?

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Training Update: Week One

Week one is in the books. Week one of twenty-four towards the goal of running an ultramarathon before my next birthday.

In truth, week one wasn’t anything different than a lot of weeks that came before it. I didn’t run more days than usual, a longer long run than usual, or more total miles. In fact, it didn’t even involve any speedwork, since I was feeling a little rough on the day I had targeted for it.

Screenshot 2014-12-15 21.06.16

Week One

Really, week one was base training with a number on it. I could do a twenty or even sixteen week training progression. But then? Then I’d be waiting. 

So week one it was. Two recovery days, a medium length day, a long run (that was pretty short on the long run spectrum), and one this-was-supposed-to-be-speedwork day.

December. Just in Time.


It didn’t even turn out that well…

The thing that actually made week one remarkable was the weather. In fact, if it hadn’t been week one, I don’t know that I would have made it out for thirty-six miles.

Man, I really don’t like running in winter rain. When I was younger and running with a good friend, we used to wait for days like that, just to go out and run in it, and then tell everyone that we had. The colder and wetter, the better.

No longer. In fact, this past week, I moved my runs around just to avoid it. Tuesday, not pictured in the weather snapshot here, was even worse than the days pictured. Thirty-five degrees and rain. Heavy rain. All day. So Wednesday’s easy run moved to Monday, a usual day off, and Tuesday’s mid-length run moved to Wednesday. Even on the days I did run, it meant watching the radar and hoping for a break in the weather when I wouldn’t become soaked through in minutes. It was exhausting before I even hit the pavement.

I know I can’t fight the weather all winter. I’ll be out in it wether I like it or not. Hopefully just not for all twenty-three of the remaining weeks in my schedule.

No weather talk next week. I promise…