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Hitting the Winter Running Wall

brick wall with snowI’ve had a draft post in the queue for a while now called, “Why Winter Is a Great Time for Marathon Training.” But you know what? I’m starting to question whether it is so great after all.

I have well and truly hit a wall with my winter training. Last winter I ran through the polar vortex.  I felt totally badass. But I was only training for 10K last winter. The longest run of the clinic was only 13K.

Marathon training isn’t like that.  Our long runs were at 13K way back in November. The climbed up, adding a kilometre here, two there, until we were (and are) routinely doing between 19K and 26K on Sundays.  Wednesday nights we do a short course but the bulk of it is hill repeats. Thursdays is always a 6K, and that sounds manageable, right?

That’s what I thought. But then two things happened. First, I was humbled by knee and hip pain, brought on by a tight IT band. That’s why I’ve renewed my commitment to Chi Running.  I say “humbled” because everyone says it’s when you jump from half marathon to marathon training that the injuries set in. Some people even think you can’t possibly do marathons regularly without experiencing pain and injury.  I balked at that.

I’m not one to stick with something that’s going to hurt me. So I’m focusing on technique and form to see if I can address some of the alignment issues that are at the root of this pain.

But the second thing that happened was this relentless winter.  I went from feeling badass at the beginning for running in snow. Footing can be tricky, and that’s not a great thing for me when I’m trying to maintain proper alignment, but I was doing it.  We’re not in Boston like Catherine and Rachel. We’ve had snow, but nothing out of the ordinary. But the COLD.

For weeks now it’s been super cold, at least -10C most days, and often with a windchill of between -25 and -35C. Today it’s -37C with the windchill. I know some people are skeptical about what the whole wind chill thing actually means. But I can tell you this much: when you’re out there running and there’s a frigid wind, your thighs burn, your face hurts, and it’s nearly impossible to keep your hands warm.

In regular winter weather, I almost always end up removing my gloves before the half way point of my run. But this year, I keep them on, I pull the sleeve of my thickest winter running top over my hands and then tuck them up into my windproof jacket. And it’s still brutal.

I had a week of respite in Miami and then the Bahamas. I had a beautiful 5K, no knee pain, along the boardwalk in South Beach.

When we got home on the weekend I was stoked to go running with Anita on Sunday. We had a one-day reprieve with temperatures climbing up to -5C in the afternoon. But I had to stay home and wait for our delayed luggage to get delivered (they gave me a SIX HOUR window!) and by the time it arrived so had my friends who were coming over to watch the Oscars.

And then the temperatures plummeted over night.  Back to -37C with the windchill and an extreme cold weather warning.

I’ve made a commitment to myself to do all of the clinic runs this week: Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday.  But I’m not excited about that. Between the worry about the knee pain and the worry about freezing, it’s just not as fun as I like it to be.

I could take it inside, but those long runs especially are a tough slog on the treadmill at the gym.

So that’s the wall.  Very much looking forward to spring!

21 thoughts on “Hitting the Winter Running Wall

  1. You are much tougher than I am! I’ve chickened out of running with windchill in the -30’s like we’ve had latelyy. You’re absolutely right, when you’re moving at a fast pace outside, windchill is a HUGE factor. I feel really lucky that when I’ve had to train for Around the Bay, it’s happened to coincide with milder Ontario winters.

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  2. Wow, I’m very in awe that you’ve been running outside all through this awful winter. I’ve been running mostly on the treadmill (and was actually thinking about writing a post for you guys about treadmill running!). Great work. I hope the cold lets up soon.

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  3. I’m wondering whether my fellow prairie dwellers might be a good resource for tricks for running in the cold (?). The weather you’re describing is fairly usual here in Saskatchewan, and (I suspect largely due to the flat terrain!) there seem to be a lot of winter outdoor runners/marathoner trainers (I am not one of them, I’m afraid, and Southern Ontario childhoods probably make me more like to side with you on the weather!!). But given the temps — and, let’s be honest, the view that snow clearing is not *really* a necessary public good! — prairie runners might have all kinds of good gear, etc., solutions. Just a thought…

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    1. Dry pavement is such a blessing,even if it’s cold outside! You can dress for cold to a point, and I’m sure your California weather falls well within the range (even when “cold”). But it’s all relative! Thanks for the compliment!

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  4. Oh god, I can’t even imagine how cold that is. Like, I think the coldest I’ve ever been was the NYE I spent in Quebec City, but while it was below 0 there was no wind and thus no wind chill. Oh, and plus, I wasn’t outside running in it.

    The knee thing would be frustrating enough but couple that with the cold and I’d probably not want to run ever again. I’m impressed that you’re sticking with it.

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    1. Thanks. I’m sticking it out because I have a 30K on March 29th! But Quebec City is COLD. We used to go there a lot in December when I was a kid and it was always freezing.

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  5. Wow, that does sound brutal. I should add that although I try to enjoy some of the things that only winter can bring, I MUCH prefer the summer (and spring and fall), and can’t wait not to have to worry about being cold all the time again! Good luck!

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    1. It was okay in December when we just had to put on some warm clothes. And it’s different if you’re snowboarding or skiing, so the snow is welcome. But the combo of snowy/icy sidewalks and windchills in the minus 20-30 range is really demoralizing. Thanks!

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  6. Winter running is so hard! I told myself that I wasn’t going to do it this year, but then I signed up for my first Marathon! It was snowing when I woke up today, so I just ran 8 miles on a indoor track. I am very dizzy to say the least.

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  7. I am right there with you! So sick of the stupid-cold. I can’t make myself do more than 45-60min on the dreadmill. And I’m only half-marathon training. Here’s to spring. This winter has to end soon. You go, girl!

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