There is something calming about watching the clouds cruise through the sky, feeling the cool air fill my lungs and gliding slowly through a city where everyone else seems rushed. Running outside has always been the time and place where I made peace with whatever is on my mind and wipe the slate clean for the rest of the day. It’s my version of tabular rasa, my sanctuary, my happy place.
So what happens when you’re a runner in Boston during the worst winter in nearly 100 years? You slowly start to lose your marbles, crack, go coo-coo-ca-choo- that’s what.
Only 6 out of my last 19 runs during the past three weeks have been outside. I’ve been trying to fight it, but it’s happening: I’m slowly starting to crack. My outdoor runs this week reminded me that running is more than just a physical test of my fitness, rather it is my emotional outlet and release. Without my daily outdoor run I am simply not myself. The treadmill makes me feel contained and trapped, like a hamster on a wheel. I spend the rest of the day feeling unaccomplished, frustrated and am even a little snippy. Like I said- NOT myself.
For the sake of my training and my sanity- I need spring to come, pronto.
With roads barely wide enough to fit two cars, my outdoor running is currently limited to about 2 days a week: my weekday off (when I can drive 45 min away to a place with wider streets/fewer cars) and early Saturday or Sunday mornings (fewer cars on road). Yuck. Due to these limitations I’ve been trying to change it up when I have been indoors: some days I am on the treadmill, while others I run around the indoor 200 m track at the YMCA for a specific length of time. Both the treadmill and track have their limitations: the track is flat and has tight turns that cause undue stress on the hips/IT band/knees over time (overuse injuries), and the treadmill forces you to run at a consistent pace (IMO: unnatural for the legs to maintain the exact same turnover and can also lead to overuse injuries/muscle strain). As a result, I have been trying to do something different every day.
The Emotional Long Run
When the opportunity presented itself to run outside on Saturday morning I took it! After two weeks of indoor long runs I was extremely nervous to go it alone on this long run. For the first time in a long time a large part of me wished I had company, someone to pass the time with.
The early miles of my long run were filled with narrow roads, high winds and lots and lots of doubt. Would I make it? Have I lost my hill strength from running indoors? Will cars see my in my bright yellow jacket- will they get out of my way? Running on narrow roads around town was definitely dangerous and I wouldn’t recommend it to others. There were even times I had to dart into driveways to avoid oncoming traffic and swerve around front-end loaders removing snow and placing it into dump trucks.
The first eight miles of the run were mentally tough. Random negative thoughts filled my mind… I hate winter training… if you ever ran 18 miles on a treadmill then you wouldn’t be giving me a dirty look right now…that wind is so GD cold…… my body aches… please car, don’t hit me, please don’t hit me… what if I can’t make it the whole 18 miles… why am I doing this… what if, what if, what if… I have’t felt so much doubt, so much negativity during a run in along time. It’s as if I had to purge myself of all the tension built up from the previous indoor runs. Pushing onward in the face of self-doubt, 8 feet of snow and brutally cold temps represents the core of winter marathon training in New England.
Regardless of my negative self talk, I pushed onward. I kept my Garmin 220 cued to display the heart rate screen where I aimed to run a zone 1 heart rate for the first 8 miles (a base effort that typically hovers around 7:50 pace). Somewhere between mile 8 and 10 I gave my mind and body over to the run. I stopped worrying and I simply started running: left foot, right foot, repeat. My brain shut off and I lost myself in the peaceful nature of the open road. I felt strong again, and happy, so blissfully happy. This is what I have been searching for all week- all winter really. With each successive mile I pushed until I couldn’t push anymore and by the end I had I ran my fastest training run to date: 18 miles at a 7:30 pace.
I needed this run. The calm of the open road. The reassurance that I could still go it alone. The faster training pace.
I’m me again… calm, relaxed, easy-going… for a few days at least…
This past week I logged 64 miles (26 outdoor, 25 on treadmill and 13 on indoor track with 8 laps to a mile).
Monday- 5.5 miles @ 7:35 base pace on indoor track @ YMCA ; 35 min quick lift/core
Tuesday- 8 miles @ 7:44 base pace OUTSIDE! in yaktraks (see this post for run review); 1/2 mi swim
Wednesday- 8 miles @ 7:30 base pace on indoor track @ YMCA
Thursday- 12 miles @ 7:35 pace (tempo workout on treadmill: 3 x 2.5 mile repeats @ 6:58 pace for sets 1/2 and 6:53 for 3rd set)
Friday- 7 miles @ 9:30 recovery pace on treadmill
Saturday- 18 miles @ 7:30 pace OUTSIDE! (yay!)
Sunday– 5.5 miles @ 10:00 recovery pace on treadmill
Total: 64 miles