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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Running in the Snow




My daughter has a part-time job at CVS so her hours vary from week to week. I usually give her a ride to work and I’ve been structuring my workouts around her schedule. For instance on Mondays she has to be at the store by 6:45 AM, so yesterday I dropped her off and drove on to the Y for the 7 AM spin class. After spinning I did about forty minutes of stretching and weight training and was home by 9 AM.

I used to take Mondays off because I play basketball on Sunday night and in the morning my body is sore. But since I have to get up to drop her off, I’ve been doing the early morning spin and I have found that I’m less sore than if I take the day off.

Today (Tuesday) she had another early morning start. That’s not so convenient for me because I wanted to take my early morning Masters swim class and then go on to Pilates, but the swimming starts at 6 AM so I can’t go there and drop her off at work. So I made an alternative plan.

One of the disadvantages that us Midwestern triathletes have compared with our brethren in those hot dry places like Phoenix or San Diego is that we have to deal with weather. Since I’m planning to extend myself this year to a half-Ironman I know that I need to build up my running endurance. I’ve never run 12 miles at a time, let alone run it after a mile swim and 56 miles on the bike. I still consider this to be the offseason, my formal training with Craig won’t start until February 1, but I wanted to report in good shape so I need to start running longer distances.

I have several variations on my neighborhood course – the longest version is six miles. So today I planned to run that and then finish with an extra mile to push my run to seven miles for the day.

It had been low 20s when I went to bed so when I got up I dressed for sub twenty temperatures: Under Armour nylon running pants, tee shirt, cotton turtle neck, nylon shirt, and a Nike cotton hoody unlined. I should have checked the temperature because it was close to thirty and that was too many layers. Also I should have worn the Under Armour top that wicks the sweat away instead of the cotton tee. I knew better, but the cotton is so much more comfortable. When I get up out of the nice warm comfortable bed I don’t feel like having that cold synthetic stuff next to my skin.

When I walked outside to start the car I discovered it had snowed last night. Not a ton, just about four inches, but that meant I had to shovel the driveway. It’s not a big deal, snow was light and it actually probably helped me get warmed up.

I’ve been concerned that I’m slowing down quite a bit on the run. Years ago I could run six minute miles and in the last five years I’ve read a 5k at a pace that was under But since I’ve started doing the international distance triathlons, my minutes per mile has been just over eight minutes. I have plenty of endurance, but last season when I pushed myself to go faster I pulled hamstrings or strained calf muscles or faltered somehow.

I decided not to take my watch today, because conditions were bad and when I wear the watch I push myself harder. I didn’t want to take foolish chances. With the conditions as bad as they were, I just wanted to average less than nine minutes per mile. With the icy and snow (nobody seems to shovel on this route) and the traffic lights, I figured that wouldn’t be a bad pace.

I left the house at 7:30. Spent a minute or two stretching my calves and then I started off. The footing was great for the first part. There were a couple of inches of powder and I had good traction. Snow was drifting down and it was really neat out. Sort of a ghostly, quiet grey dawn. Not much traffic on my mostly north-south route. But as I turned off Lake Avenue in Wilmette and headed back south on Ridge, the conditions worsened. The sidewalk had rough ice, covered with snow and I had to slow my pace, taking little mincing strides so I didn’t sprain my ankle stepping in a hidden pothole.

My legs felt good and I know I could have run farther, but by mile five I was sweaty. I had taken off my gloves and tucked them in my pants, but with the wet snow soaking me from the outside and the perspiration soaking the layers from the inside I decided to stick with a six mile run.

I had hoped for a 54 minute run, but with the not great conditions I told myself to be satisfied with anything under an hour. I sprinted up the driveway (saving at least five seconds) and ran into the house. The time was 8:29 – I’d been gone an hour. No wait – only fifty-nine minutes. With some time to stretch, a few traffic lights that held me up and the crappy footing in places I decided it wasn’t a bad performance. I definitely could have run farther, but I wasn’t ready to run the entire course again, which is what I’ll have to do for the half-Ironman.

Weight: I only post the weight when it’s under 190. Haven’t been many postings lately. Today 189.4 pounds. I was hoping to be down to 180 by year end, but hoping hasn’t proven to be a very effective diet plan.

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