Boston is just 5 weeks away and I have reached the moment of a 1000 questions: How much more mileage can I push myself into? Why am I so slow today? Is this a real ache or is it a figment of my imagination? Is this cold really gone? How much longer? The list is truly endless.
If there is one item that is more important in my training than any other, it’s the long run. Now this may not be true for everyone, but for me it is. I need the psychological confidence that I can handle long distance week after week. Two weeks ago, when I found myself on meds for a sinus infection that I seemed to have been fighting for weeks, I refused to skip my long run. Instead, I took one day off while waiting for meds to kick in, then plowed through 15 miles after work the next day. Last week, I worked 2-3 miles around the Chilly Half-marathon. Week by week, like all marathon trainees, I keep adding a bit more to my long run.
Despite this, I found the thought of running 16 miles yesterday overwhelming. For whatever reason, the first milestone past 15 miles was becoming a mental obstacle. I was also completely on my own, again, and the temperatures dropped a lot in the past week. But I knew that I had to, absolutely had to, get it done.
So I headed out at 8:00 a.m. in my New Balance 1080’s. Four miles later, I stopped by the house, as planned, and changed into my new 1080’s, my marathon shoes which I am just breaking in. Six miles later, I decided to continue to run further away from home before turning around so that I wouldn’t have to run past my house to reach the 16 miles that I was aiming for.
And it worked. By the time I got home, I logged 16.2 miles. The best part of this was my last four miles were 15 seconds/mile faster – planned – and I wasn’t feeling exhausted. Even this morning, 24 hours later, I found the dreaded recovery run fairly easy to do.
I wasn’t confident when I left my house, but I got back feeling great – mentally and physically strong. Yesterday told me that I am where I need to be with my training and I will be ready for Boston 2017.
One of the things I love about living in Canada is being able to truly experience all four seasons – until we get into the coldest days of the winter. Then, life as a runner isn’t all that great. Some days it means sliding, not running, along sloppy snow/slush-covered roads; others entail running straight into a biting wind that hurts your face; and, then, there are the days that it is so cold that you don’t just see your breath, but your lungs can also feel the thickness of the air while you run. Fortunately, we haven’t had too many of these days but, when we do, everyone complains.
Over the years, I’ve learned how to layer for the different types of winter weather that we can get; what we can’t double or triple, though, are our socks. It is so important to wear the perfect pair. Like summer socks, I want something that is comfortable, blister-free and, if possible, a more anatomical fit. In the winter, I want all of the above and warmth. This season, I finally found the perfect sock.
During the break, I went to the Running Room to replace what has been my go-to winter sock: double-layered and blister-free. I pulled them off the rack, only to put them back. They didn’t feel right. The quality wasn’t there any more. Clearly, it was time to make a change.
I scanned the walls and noticed Feetures brand, a product that I have seen quite a bit in sporting goods stores. I hadn’t heard anything about their socks, but I was pulled towards the packaging. “No blisters” and “merino” on the winter running socks had my immediate attention; “lifetime guarantee” kept it. These weren’t cheap, though. In fact, they were about $10 over my budget. But these socks wooed me. They were a soft wool, had a L/R foot anatomical fit, and made promises that most long distance runners would succumb to. These seemed to be the right socks. Lured by their cushioning, warmth and promise to keep me blister-free, I bought them. All I needed was another cold snap so that I could try them out.
Within days, Mother Nature dropped the temperatures for us. Since purchasing my Feetures, I have worn them three times and they have not disappointed my feet. The fit is great and my toes have not felt cold at all, which is unusual for me. Yesterday, I ran in them for 21K in a windchill that gave us -20C temperatures and the Feetures winter running socks did everything they claimed they would and more; they made me want another pair.
***These opinions are solely my own. This blog post is not endorsed or sponsored by Feetures.
One day, while having a conversation with a gentleman, he questioned, “You run in the winter? Don’t your lungs freeze?”
I shook my head and explained that it is okay to run in the winter. “You just dress for it, that’s all.” I left out what I wanted to tell him – that I have asthma.
For years, I wasn’t able to run in the winter because of my asthma. I’d go out and, within 20 minutes, my chest would start to tighten. Every time I stopped (because, living in the city, you have no choice but to stop at a traffic light), my chest would tighten and I’d start to cough. Often, I’d be wheezing. Yes, it was a struggle. I hated it. And I started to hate winter running. So for a few months each year, I would turn to cross-training indoors (but not the dreaded treadmill).
Fast forward to life after pregnancy. Both of my boys were born in the late fall and, like many new mamas, there were days when I just needed to get out. We lived in Toronto, where I could escape to the gym and park my babe at its child care for an hour. When we moved to Oakville, I became a home workout warrior; all of my fitness started and ended in my basement. This was fine until after I delivered my second child. I needed to physically leave the house. However, it was winter – and I couldn’t run in the winter. My lungs wouldn’t let me – until I woke up one morning and said, “That’s it. I’m going for a run.”
“Are you sure?” my husband asked.
“Yes! I have my puffer. I’ll take my time. I’ll only be gone for 20 minutes.” I pulled on my winter running gear that had been sitting in the closet for years and headed out the door. “I can do this,” I told myself. “I’ll be fine.”
And I was. My run was slower but I didn’t care. I was outside and running. I got back home feeling exhilarated and powerful. “I can do this! It’s time to take asthma by its horns and show it who’s in charge!”
For that and the next winter, I taught myself to run with asthma. I had to run a slower and longer warm up – to open up my lungs – in the same way that I have to warm up before a race. I learned to use my inhaler properly: one puff while getting dressed and another (about 10 minutes later) before I head out the door. Thanks to Running Skirts sub-zero skirts, I could comfortably carry my puffer in my side pocket (puffers in tights’ pockets just don’t work) in case I “got into trouble”. My running partners got use to my heavier winter breathing, the constant running nose and snot-covered gloves. Over those years, I built my winter running distance from 20 minutes to 30K. I was the boss of my asthma.
Last winter, due to my fall and broken jaw, I was forced off all exercise for weeks. This meant I escaped the woes of winter running and all of the laundry that came with it. I thought I was lucky but I was dreading the shock of readjusting to cold weather running. This past week was the first week of truly cold temperatures that southern Ontario runners have had to deal with this winter and I knew it was going to be a shock to my system. For the past few days, friends have posted pictures of themselves running with frozen beards, frozen eyelashes and steam circling their heads. Me? I wasn’t ready to face that kind of running yet and stayed on my windtrainer in the comfort of my warm basement. I was wimping out.
Until yesterday. Temperatures were climbing and now closer to -20C. I was ready. On came my layers and out I went. Within 10 minutes, I was quickly reminded that I have asthma. Yes, I used my puffer and, yes, I took my time warming up. But I could feel my chest tightening, resulting in that same feeling that I had many, many winters ago. “Wow, the air really is a lot thicker when it’s cold like this,” I thought. And I remembered that conversation many years ago. “You run in the winter? Don’t your lungs freeze?”
No, my lungs don’t freeze. But I have to be careful. I have to dress for it, that’s all. I have to use my puffer and I have to do a long warm-up before I run the way I want to. Yesterday, that is exactly what I did and guess what. I got home feeling exhilarated. Once again, I took asthma by its horns.