Saturday, January 22, 2011

Feelin' the (COLD) burn

It’s Saturday. Noon. I’m sitting on the couch and all I can think is: I don’t want to get up. For a very, very long time. I’d actually like to go to sleep; unfortunately, a 90min ballet class lingers in the distance and I’m afraid that if I succumbed to my tiredness, I might not make it.

However, I can take comfort in the fact that my week of running is done. 91 miles, 6 days. Although it’s tough getting in all those miles in less than a week, I am beginning to cherish my days off in an increasingly reverent manner. It’s my chance to get 55+ hours of recovery that I know my body needs, so in that sense it’s worth it. This past week was my third consecutive week at 90-ish miles (87.5, 89.5, 91) and my first week where I’ve felt some longer-term fatigue. That being said, it also encompassed my longest run yet (32km) and two meaty workouts, so it is probably a combination of accumulated mileage and increased quality of runs that is setting in. Not to mention the blasphemous weather that is this January. It snowed sporadically through the week, making my ‘easy’ runs on Wednesday and Friday much harder efforts than I would have liked.

I learned quite a bit about wintertime running this week. I learned on Wednesday that I prefer running through thick snow than on sheets of ice. I learned on Friday that I prefer running on cleared roads and dodging cars in my ninja-like fashion than running on sidewalks with uneven footing. I learned today that I prefer running in -20C and succumbing to frostbite than trudging through fresh snow. So at least I can decide if I really need to suffer through a 12-mile treadmill run on any given day in a fairly systematic manner: EXTREME COLD > RISKING LIFE ON CLEARED STREETS INSTEAD OF SNOWY SIDEWALKS > FRESH SNOW > ICE. I draw the treadmill line between fresh snow and ice. I’ve come to learn that if there is a CHANCE that I will fall, then I will (apparently I am NOT the graceful ballerina I thought myself to be), and to be frank, I risk broken limbs falling on ice, so I figure that’s something I should take seriously. I also basically start to walk, or slide, over anything that looks like ice, making a 90min run easily take 120min. This wasted time and effort, combined with the possibility of career-ending injury, makes for a treadmill run in my books.

On Monday night I retreated to the treadmill for a hill workout. I had done a big treadmill workout two days earlier (45’ progressive warm-up followed by 3x15’ @ 10.0mph [3:43/km]/10.2mph [3:39/km]/10.5mph [3:33/km]) so my legs were still feeling a bit tired. It was both the longest set of intervals and fastest pace I had ever done on the treadmill and though it felt very comfortable at the time, my legs were pretty dead afterwards. I promised myself I’d take it easier on Monday, but not surprisingly I worked harder than I wanted, doing 4 sets of: [30s fat/90s 3.5% incline/90s 4.0% incline/30s flat] all at 9-9.3mph, followed by some more 90s hill sprints and a 5min flat tempo. By the end of the workout my quads were burning pretty bad, and I cursed myself for going so hard. (But of course I was secretly satisfied.)

On Tuesday I thought for a moment that winter was coming to a joyous, glorious end. The temperature swung from -25 with wind chill to +3-4 and all the snow started to melt. My easy run was for once easy. I suppose the good thing about running through snow is that it makes running on cleared paths feel like a breeze. However, by nighttime the temperature dipped again and I woke up on Wednesday in a winter iceland, literally having to walk across Queen’s Park because it had turned into a pretty awesome skating rink. My 12 mile loop that once took me 90min to do took me 1:45 or something ridiculous, so I swore to myself that next time I would have the good sense to turn around and hit the TM.

Luckily, all of our Thursday morning long runs have turned out to be relatively snow and ice-free. Of course, since I can’t seem to do any kind of run without some added handicap or challenge, we have started these runs at 5:15AM because SOME PEOPLE (you know who you are!) have to be at work by 8:30AM. This has proved to handicap me in ways I would not have anticipated. Take last Thursday, for example, when I met Val half-asleep at my building and spent the first 10 minutes of our run trying to figure out why I felt so ‘off’. It finally dawned on me that I had completely forgotten to put on any kind of undergarments, top or bottom, which I impulsively blurted out loud, causing Val to burst into hysterical, cackling laughter (I seem to have this effect on her)...before she eventually proceeded to tell me that this story would in no way remain confidential. How thoughtful! Fortunately for me, I was able to continue along quite happily and without much discomfort. I am not sure if I am happy or sad about this, but on the day I would say I was quite grateful.

This week was much more successful as I managed to fully dress myself before heading out (note how high my standards have gotten these days). I also ran 2k longer for a total of 2hrs40min (20-ish miles), and picked up the pace in the last 45min to somewhere south of 5:00/km, which in this weather seems to be something to be proud of. I doubled that day, making my daily total about 24 miles, the last 4 of which I ran with Nic, in what seemed like a spastic adventure race through snow and icy paths in Forest Hill. I’m not sure why she chose to zig-zag all over the place, but all I could do was follow her blindly and trust that we would emerge somewhere close to home. Thankfully we did, though I still awoke on Friday morning with two very tired legs (it was the 4 miles obviously that did it...).

I capped off the week with a 3k/1k/2k/1k workout in the cemetery this morning. Even though the footing still wasn’t great, it went fairly well as we were able to get in a hard effort and run sub-4:00/km, which we haven’t been able to do there in a while [11:30/3:35/7:40(long?)/3:45(?)]. My legs were burning by the end, making me crave my Sunday rest even more. I know that it’s normal I feel this way considering all the mileage I’ve been doing, but I am still contemplating moving up my down week, so that I would have a bit of a break after this week, which is supposed to hover around 95 miles. If you do not hear from me in seven days, you can safely assume that I have succumbed to a mileage-induced coma and am unable to wake up.


  1. Sounds like your weeks are easily 100 milers in summer weather. Keep pounding it out, Jane.

  2. just re-read this post in an attempt to psych myself up for my run in -17 deg C (NB: my "run" today being reduced to just 6 km to work and then 6 km home sigh....) thanks as always for the inspiration.