Embrace the abominable snowman deep within you!
There’s something very special about cold-weather running. When I wake up at 4:40 a.m. every day of the work week, I get into my cold-weather gear and go downstairs to check the temperature. This morning the thermometer read 20 degrees. I check the weather for myself when I let our dog, Sophie, out, making sure I’m dressing just right for the conditions. Then I down a cup of coffee and water and usually a slice of toast and put on my running jacket, hat, mittens/gloves, GPS watch, knee wrap, lights, Road ID, and other stuff before heading out the door. The first mile or so I’m usually pretty stiff and going slow. But then I loosen up and my pace increases. If it’s really cold, breathing can hurt. Sometimes my nose will go numb and my hands will get a little frigid. But there’s something so invigorating about running in the cold. I’m sure it’s the same way with cross-country skiing—an activity that I want to take up sooner or later.
A lot of people avoid the cold at all costs, staying indoors for basically the entire winter and working out in a gym unless they’re just hibernating. They’re missing out! So long as you have the right gear, running or walking outside during the winter months can be great fun. Just make sure you don’t wear cotton and don’t overdress! And if it’s icy or snowy, break out some YakTrax (which function like crampons) and burn up the road or trail! Be sure to wear a light so motorists can see you.
This week will mark my seventh consecutive week at 70+ miles as I remain in a low/moderate-mileage "holding pattern." I've found that 70 miles per week is just right for keeping in good shape and just on the threshold of very good but not excellent shape (excellent shape comes at 90 miles per week and championship shape at 100+ per week). I feel really good right now. My legs are strong and, except for some minor patella femoral pain in my left knee, all injuries from the North Coast 24-Hour are healed. My knee wrap keeps the problem at bay and eventually it'll go away. My leg turnover is back to normal. I'm strong on the trails again and have some extra kick I haven't had in a while. This past weekend I covered 13 miles on Saturday and 18.5 miles Sunday and it was easy. I'm just where I want to be.
The plan is still for me to implement some quality starting on January 1. For January, I’m going to hold the weekly mileage steady at about 70-75 and introduce tempo running and some intervals—mostly all on my treadmill as the roads this time of year (and for the next 3-4 months) are usually too icy to go really fast—as in 6:00-6:15 pace. In the spirit of what I wrote above, I’ll still do the vast majority of my running outside because that’s where it’s most enjoyable. Every month between now and June I’m going to add 10 miles per week as I build up to spring and summer races. So that would come out to 70s in January, 80s in February, 90s in March, racing in April as I plan to run the Boston Marathon, 100-110 in May, and still 100-110 in June when I plan to run the Mohican 100. I think that’s a good plan.
In my last post I feel like I didn’t adequately express how I look back on the North Coast 24-Hour, which was held on Oct. 3-4 here in Cleveland and served as the USATF 24-hour national championship. I think I came across as saying my result at the race was a disappointment and nothing more.
Me at my lowest point during the North Coast 24.
Yes, I was unhappy with the result (130.67 miles and ninth overall) and yes, I believe I underachieved that day. I think I left at least 5 and as many as 10 miles on the course and had a faulty approach to the race, focusing too much on my 100-mile split and too little on a strategy encompassing the entire 24 hours. I think in many respects I ran the first 100-110 miles by myself. After that, I was spent and really dug deep (as you can see in the photo), inspired by all the family members, fellow runners, co-workers, and other friends who were supporting me—to the tune of $2,500—in my efforts to raise money for Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.
When things got the worst for me, I thought about the kids and families at Rainbow who were going through a much more difficult time than I was enduring on the North Coast 24 course. I could step off the course and quit at any time. The kids and families at Rainbow had no such option. So I ran and did my best, and in the process I managed to use a selfish endeavor (running) to do some good in the world. The North Coast 24 was an incredible experience—one I will never forget. Every year I’m going to make an effort to support a children’s charity through my running. Running can’t be about me—it needs to also be about helping others.