It was only a month ago that I posted “Bracing myself for winter running…again.” I was all gung ho, talking about how once I got into the swing of it, I was all “yay!” about winter running. You can dress for it. You feel hard core. It’s great for bonding with others who brave the outdoors. And so on.
But this year I just seem not to be able to do it. I mean, I did that one run back in December. And then I went to the Bahamas for three weeks. I spent the majority of my time going for leisurely walks on this beach:
Here I am strolling with my parents (“strolling” is the operative word here, nothing too exerting):
As you can see, it’s warm. And relaxing. And there’s no “bracing yourself” required for this. So after three weeks of that I came back to cold and snow. And I actually missed the worst of it, but still.
The first morning I did a short stint on the treadmill, just to get the juices flowing again. The next day, I had a run scheduled but I noticed that we were due for a brief thaw the day after. So I postponed it until the day of the thaw, and ventured out in the brief window between too cold and freezing rain. It wasn’t bad actually. If the whole winter was going to be like that I think I could handle it.
But alas, soon enough the thaw froze over and the ground just became treacherous. And then windy again. And cold. I couldn’t bring myself to run outside on Sunday morning, so instead I went again on the treadmill.
I went to the beach later in the day on Sunday with a friend to take some pictures, but this time it was a much different beach experience because Lake Erie was frozen solid. There was literally no visible surf. See:
Does it not look cold? I admire winter runners. I’ve been one myself in the past. But as long as it remains windy and icy and cold I just can’t fathom spending any length of time trying to run outdoors. Don’t get me wrong, I like being outside. Tonight I went for a walk in the snow and it was just beautiful. But this year, for running, not so much.
If you have any words for me that might help change my attitude about winter running this year, please send them my way! I want to be able to get out there again, but realistically, it looks as if I’m going to spend more time this winter on the treadmill more than I have in the past.
I resurrected this post from 2014–started but not finished. Today seems like a good time to finish it as many of us think about what we want to do activity-wise for 2018.
In our resolutions post I said I basically want to keep doing what I’m doing. It’s working for me and I’m feeling great — definitely in the best shape of my life, with the healthiest attitude about food and weight that I’ve ever had and a workout routine where I look forward to my workouts most days.
Over the years I’ve had excellent experiences with running clinics. I find them especially helpful to get me through the winter. When it’s cold and icy, it’s easy to hibernate. If you’re like me and can’t handle treadmill running for more than about 30 minutes at a stretch, then hibernating through the winter is not an option.
Enter the running clinic. My first winter running clinic was a 10K group that started in November and continued through to the spring. Having scheduled runs with a group helped me get out the door at least three times a week, whatever the weather. The camaraderie of slogging it out in a snow storm or a cold windy night makes all the difference. I have found that every group has its commiserators and its encouragers. Both offer needed support.
The year after the 10K clinic I signed up for the Around the Bay 30K training clinic. It followed marathon training more or less. That was the year of the polar vortex and I’m telling you, it was a tough commitment some days. But that clinic cemented my friendship with Julie, whom I’d originally met at the 10K clinic the year before. We have now been running friends for years and have done many an event together (including Around the Bay, both in the 30K and as a 2-person relay team.
Clinics are good for the info you get as well. Every group will have one night a week where a speaker comes to talk about shoes or nutrition or clothing and gear or injuries (prevention and treatment) and any number of other helpful topics.
Another great thing about them is that they cater to all levels. No matter what your pace, there are almost always others who run at that pace. Of course if you’re new to running you won’t start with a half marathon group. You’ll start with a learn to run group and build speed and distance from there.
Most local running shops have training clubs and clinics starting up over the next week or two. If you’re looking for a good way to get through the winter as an outdoor runner, check out the schedule and sign up.
If you’ve had a good experience with running clinics let us know. Enjoy!
Every year it seems as if, despite the inevitability of winter, the running outside in winter thing comes as a sudden shock. I had to laugh when I sat down to write this post because I did a little search of the blog for past posts on winter running. That yielded not one, not two, not three, but four posts of my own on running in winter, plus posts by Susan and Sam.
The annual winter running post idea (brilliant and original, I know!) came to me because Sunday was my first real winter run of the season. The kind with snow and wind and cold. And it wasn’t even a lot of any of them. But still, brrrrrr. Because even as a Canadian I have to acclimatize every single winter.
Once I do, it’s brilliant really. I mean, you can dress for most winter running conditions and be quite comfortable. The worst part of it is if it’s icy. But with the right gear I can handle cold and wind and even snow. It’s just a matter of getting my head in the winter game after what I think of as the perfect conditions that fall presents. And whether because of global warming or good luck, we have had extended fall conditions this year. That always lulls me into a false sense of “this is going to last forever!”
If you’re in a part of the northern hemisphere that is about to force you to get your head in the winter running game, here’s a list of all of our winter running posts in one place. Enjoy!
So I’ve been running for about five years now and mostly I’m a run-walk interval type of person. Way back in 2012 I posted about what an amazing feeling it was to run for 20 minutes in a row. I’ve come a long way since then, but haven’t aspired to do continuous running over distances. In fact, I’ve always been in awe of people who can do it.
Not only that, the jury is still out about whether some people actually cover the ground faster with run-walk intervals. The theory: the legs have a short time to recover on the walk break, thereby making it easier to maintain a good pace on the run portion. With the 10-1 run-walk intervals, you obviously spend way more time running than walking.
When I started out on the MEC 10K on Saturday, which is the race I’ve been training for since early September, I thought I would do 10 minute runs with 30 second walk breaks. But I’ve been going out pretty strong lately on my solo easy and tempo runs and haven’t really taken walk breaks. So when I passed over the mat to start the timer on Saturday, I thought, “what the heck? Why not try to go for as long as I can without a walk break?”
I’ve been pushing myself a bit harder in training lately, running up hills that I used to walk up, doing short pick-ups with the promise of a short walk or slow jog immediately after, that sort of thing.
The event couldn’t have taken place in more familiar territory. I have walked and run the path from Gibbons Park into Springbank and back more times than I can count. And could the weather possibly have been better on Saturday? The answer is no. It was a little cool to start with but I made the right call choosing a light tank and shorts. I kept it simple with sunglasses, no ballcap (which I’ve noticed I’ve been removing a lot lately), no water of my own (I’m learning to trust the water stations in an event), and my Fall running playlist (you can find it on Spotify if you want to follow–bear in mind that it works for me and there is no “theory” behind its construction other than that right now I like those songs in that order when I’m running). I had my Garmin on my belt instead of my wrist so that I wouldn’t check it; the plan was to go by feel. I just wanted the data after, not a gauge during. On my wrist I wore my Timex Ironman watch in “chrono” mode so I’d know how long I’d been out. But even that I consulted only rarely (and forgot to start it until 1 km into it anyway).
I felt super relaxed and ready to enjoy my run, challenge myself a bit, and see how my training with Linda might cash out into something I could feel good about. I didn’t have any big aspirations for a personal best, which would have meant coming in under 1:06 (I never claimed to be speedy!). And it’s because I wasn’t going for a time that I felt good about challenging myself in this other way.
As one kilometre rolled into the next, I was feeling pretty fresh. I had the race broken down into three parts: go out easy for the first 3K, go steady the next 3-4K, and then pick it up the last 3K. I mostly stuck with that strategy. I took a tiny bit of water at the 5K turnaround and the 7.5K water station. I had just one Clif Shot Block at around 4K. I am terrible at incorporating nutrition properly and also didn’t really know when and it’s hard to chew when you’re running (and I didn’t want to stop running).
I kept things moving along with a few different mantras: “fast feet” is always a good one. Also “touch, lift, touch, lift, touch, lift” is my favourite because it reminds me that all I need to do with my feet is touch and lift and touch and lift again. There is something comforting about its simplicity. I did the Linda thing and fixed my efforts on reaching the next sign, the next bench, the next whatever to keep me mentally focused instead of all over the place.
Before I knew it I had just 2K to go and I was remembering Linda telling me that there is no reason to finish a race with anything left in the tank. I mean, you’re done, right? So push a little why don’t you? I agree with this in theory but I was afraid to go really hard too soon and fizzle early, so I saved the final big push for the last kilometre. At that point, I really threw myself into it and felt incredibly awesome because I realized that no matter what I was about to finish 10K without a walk break. Not even on a hill! My last segment was at a 6:30 pace, which for me is good. I had a few moments of faster than that (even under 6:00). I was breathing hard across the finishing mat, but that’s as it should be.
I haven’t done an event alone in awhile but I didn’t feel lonely at the finish line. I milled around a bit, even met a fan of the blog and another woman (who took the picture of me in this post) who is going to blog for us about winter camping in December (hi Wendy!). I soaked in the great weather and the buzz of the finishing area, enjoyed the bananas and the bagels, and reveled in my new accomplishment.
Okay, so at 1:06:32 I didn’t beat my best 10K time. But I felt so good that I’m convinced I can get that 10K under 1:05 in fairly short order. It just means pushing a bit harder and sticking to the continuous running.
I like learning something about myself as I go. What I learned over the last little while, culminating in Saturday’s continuous 10K, is that my body doesn’t need the walk breaks. It’s my mind that tries to tell me I need them.
What’s your take on continuous versus run-walk intervals?
Sometimes I think I’m not really a runner. I took it up as part of a new year’s resolution — my friends and I decided to sign up for a 5k race and give it a shot. Two years later, I’m reading my cadence data and learning about zones, and my Strava segments are looking good.
Two years ago, the thought of running a 5k felt like a bit deal. This past year, I’ve been running our local 10k races, and the goal was to try run my first half marathon.
“Without barfing or crying!”
Melissa’s Road Race is a tradition in Banff — it takes place in late September, and offers a 5k and 10k race that wind through the town of Banff, and up towards Tunnel Mountain Drive. The half marathon — my race — goes out towards Cascade Falls, and then behind the historic Banff Springs Hotel and out to the golf course. Two laps of the golf course road takes you around Mount Rundle, and along the Bow River, and all in a very quiet, secluded area.
My girlfriends and I drove out from Calgary the night before and stayed in a b&b. After an obligatory walk to Banff Avenue for a late night snack, we turned in. There’d been a heavy snowfall warning for Banff two days before the race, but the morning was cold and clear…about 2 degrees Celsius, with fresh snow above the treeline. I had laid out my gear the night before, and I was prepared for the cooler weather: long tights with funky knee socks, a long sleeve shift, arm warmers, a wind vest, hat, buff, globes, and skull cap. A lot of clothing, but as it turned out, I was layering up and down all through the run.
We walked down for the 5k start and I saw my friends off, and then got ready for the half marathon start ten minutes later.
One of the greatest things about Melissa’s is the spirit of the race. Registration is capped at 4,500 participants by Parks Canada and the Town of Banff. The half marathon runners received a wildlife briefing — we had a short elk delay. I polished off a Clif bar while I waited, and then had the first Gu gel while I chatted with the runners around me. I was feeling pretty darn nervous, and had a good case of the ‘I don’t belong here’ frets.
I tried to start slow…I really did! The first 5k were easy…running down towards the falls, enjoying the view. I’d seeded myself at about the 7:30 mark, but I found myself passing that pace group and then evening out between the next one, so the crowd had thinned quite a bit.
The first aid station was at the 5k mark, and I walked in to have some water and walked out with the first snack — one of those pressed fruit bars from the grocery store. I’ve been trying to work out inexpensive things to take on runs, and a thirty-nine cent bar is a lot easier to swallow (ha, ha) than the more expensive performance foods and gels.
As we left the 5k station, we were running in sun. The golf course itself was screened from view — it felt more like being out on a back road or laneway, and I only caught a few glimpses of sandtraps and groomed greens. With the sun out, I was warming up…but as the course dipped down and closer to Mount Rundle, we moved into shadow and I had to layer back up. This really was a theme for the run…warm patches of meadow followed by very cool stretches in the shadow of the most glorious mountains.
I am, most definitely, a slow runner. Melissa’s is a race that attracts a lot of fast runners. At this point, there was a lot of room between me and the other runners, and as I got towards eight kilometers, the faster runners in the race were already onto their second lap.
Boy howdy, is that a weird feeling. The first speedy runners blasted by, and I had that moment: what on earth am I doing here? I’m so slow…I don’t belong here. This is awful! I clapped for the faster runners, and to my surprise, they were congratulating ME. “Good pace! Keep it up! Great run! You got this!” It was a real lift to the spirits…especially as I hit 11k and realized I still had another ten to go.
Leaving the 8k aid station, I snacked on a package of Honey Stinger gummies…and shared them with a fellow runner (also his first half marathon). Then off running again, and I kept finished that first lap of the golf course, had a bathroom break, another fruit bar, and charged out for the next lap.
This was where everything started feeling hard. I’d trained well through the summer, and I was feeling pretty confident that I had the strength to finish. Certainly the scenery was keeping the run breathtaking in all the right ways. The sharp smell of pine and the croaking of mountain ravens will stay with me for a long time, I think.
But there was something about this long stretch…I’d read about the psychology of long races, and the point where the effort becomes just as much mental and emotional as it is physical. For me, it was the ‘dig deep’ moment…I had to look inward, trust my body, and settle in for the long run still to come. The fast runners had left us all behind, and it was time to get the job done.
My 5k friends were texting encouragement to me and I was reading the messages on my Garmin…and at this point, those little buzzes were really welcome. I knew they’d be waiting for me at the finish, and those motivating messages helped so much. So did the sight of a Parks Canada ranger keeping a close eye on something off in the trees…
More snacks. More positive self talk. A few more walk breaks. My pace was feeling good, legs good, feet starting to get a little sore…but I was doing it. When I hit kilometre sixteen, I started thinking about how I only had five to go, and how it was just my evening run. Just my regular, run of the mill, after-work run through the neighbourhood. It helped to look at the distances and think about where I’d be if I was back home.
At 18k, I had my last snack — a gel I’d been saving as a ‘just in case.’ I’d been keeping up a fairly regular pace but I was suddenly very hungry and tired, and in retrospect, I probably needed one more snack than I’d packed. Fortunately the gel — the one I almost put back but left in my pocket after my friend told me to take it for emergencies — did the trick.
The run down along the falls meant a slog uphill. At the top of the hill, I saw the marker for the nineteenth kilometre, and the volunteers were cheerfully calling out that it would be level from this point on.
Home stretch! At this point, I was dodging tourists on the pathways and running past 5k and 10k runners leaving the race, but I was determined to keep going. My friends had been tracking my progress, and were waiting close to the turn point into that last little bit.
I managed to put one last burst of speed and sprinted in to the finish…I wanted to finish strong, and finish proud, and coming in as fast as I could manage was the way I wanted to do it.
I did it! At 39, I ran my first half marathon. After a year of hard work and preparation, I finished with a chip time of 2:37:45, towards the back of the pack for overall time and for my age group. I am deeply grateful to have the strength and health to do this, and as I approach 40, I’m also very grateful to have friends to share my training and run talk with, and that we celebrated this accomplishment together.
We all went up to the hot springs afterwards, and I ran into another half marathoner — one of the fast ones that lapped us. I was congratulating him on his fast run, and how much in awe I am of the people that were flying by me. But what really struck me was what he said about seeing the slower runners (and I paraphrase):
“I see all of you, and you’re just on your seventh or eighth kilometer as we’re going by on fourteen and fifteen, and I think ‘goddamn, look at them…they’re pouring their heart and soul into this, and look at them — they still have the whole race ahead of them but goddamn if they aren’t giving their all! It’s so %!@#ing amazing, because you’re just made up of grit and will and ^!$#ing determination.”
And that, friends, is exactly what you should remember the next time you think you are too old, too slow, too out of shape, too inexperienced, too amateurish, too whatever to do what you want to try to do. Grit and will and determination. You have it all.
I didn’t run far but for me this is a milestone nonetheless. It’s not that I have been entirely inactive. Although I broke my foot (a stress fracture) a year and a half ago, and it did take most of a year to heal, since the break occurred while I was running I figured that even if it healed I wouldn’t run again.
Running hadn’t been my main form of exercise for about 5 years and so I felt I could deal with that. I do CrossFit (see my earlier post on this), bike, and hike and so I thought I could let running go. I mean, I’m 66 and so I figured that there are some things that maybe I have to admit I can’t do any more. But apparently running isn’t one of them (yet).
This is what that means to me.
First, I can still come all the way back from a pretty distressing injury even if not that serious injury. I was in a boot and on crutches for 6 weeks but struggling long after that. Resilience is a good thing and so that’s reassuring.
Second, I discovered that even when injured it is worth continuing to exercise. The trainer I work with (the wonderful Brandy) figured I could still row even with my foot is a clumsy hard boot (the stationary bike and running were clearly out – oh, and no burpies either). I am grateful that she was inventive. I put the booted foot on a skateboard and rowed away. Third, feeling strong is a good way to feel – and I am not saying this just because I saw Wonder Woman yesterday.
Finally, I learned that I shouldn’t prejudge what I can and cannot do based on some idea about how old I am. Yes, I’m getting up there but it isn’t clear what that means about my capabilities and I am finding that it means different things for different people. Finding where you are in that spectrum of experiences is a process and not some pre-determined or static fact. What the limits are is something to be discovered – not told by yourself or others.
I’ve made a note to myself to watch out for mental shadows that prematurely limit my willingness to experiment. I was out riding for the first time in over a month this past weekend and I felt a little shaky. The thought crossed my mind that maybe I shouldn’t be out there giving that I was so old!
I told a friend on the phone and she said, “I know! The paper would say elderly women killed while cycling. How awful!” I laughed even though I was less worried about what the report would say after the fact then the possibility of it becoming a reality (one difference in our personalities). This is not to say that one shouldn’t be careful. I am a very careful cyclist but I am careful precisely because I want to be riding for as long as possible. And while even careful people have accidents and get injured it is not only those over 60 that have that worry.
I may not be running a lot, but that’s okay. At least I know I can run again. Watch out! Elderly runner/biker/hiker coming through!
Sharon Crasnow is a retired philosophy professor who writes on feminist philosophy of science and lives in San Diego.
I’ve been struggling lately with my exercise routine. In the last couple of years belonging to a fitness group has helped me to avoid a pit of depression, so I have been feeling perplexed that what seemed like a lifeline has now become quite a challenge. Even if I can get myself to show up, I don’t enjoy it or even enjoy having done it.
I am 65 and have been working out with a group of long distance runners for a couple of years. They are a great group of people. They have been very kind and accepting– downright encouraging. Even at my bluest, there is something amazing about high intensity workouts at 5:30 am with positive and affirming people.
But in the last few months, I have been facing motivation issues. There could be several reasons.
First, I have been dealing with a chronic and persistent pain in my left hip. I have pursued multiple diagnosis and treatment options, including orthopedics (MRI, cortisone shot), physical therapy, massage, chiropractic therapy and acupuncture. The consensus seems to be that my left hip and adjacent areas need strengthening. But in the meantime, running, walking, and yoga, and even sitting all hurt. It is easy to feel discouraged.
Second, internalized ageism has become a significant force in my mind. I am one of the oldest in my fitness group. Still quite competitive, I often feel as if I’m losing. I can’t run as fast as I used to run. I can’t run as fast as most of the younger people in the group. I haven’t yet figured out the antidote to this aspect of aging.
Third, I’ve been fighting a giant battle against oppression in the workplace. Here, I’ve had to be very deliberate in guarding against internalized sexism and ageism. I have had to consciously remember my own significance and value. I have had to repeatedly decide to quash the oppressive thinking. My vigilance has been focused on this fight.
In the middle of all of this, without awareness, negative self-talk crept into my exercise time. I found myself thinking “you are too old, you look ridiculous, you are embarrassingly slow.” And these thoughts seemed true at the time, even justified. I looked for evidence to support them. Is it any wonder that my routines became less fun, less satisfying?
I’ve had to become more vigilant about this self-talk. I can be my own coach. I can replace my own negative feedback with something more positive. I find it helps to aim for messages that are somewhat neutral while still being encouraging. My mind revolts against “you are the best” But “go Claudia” or “you can do it!” work pretty well.
I recently tried this strategy in a 10K race, with some mixed results to be honest. I had signed up to run as a member of a relay team in the 2017 Fargo Marathon. About a month before the race, we discovered that the legs of the relay were not very even. One team member would have been required to run 8.5 miles. None of the team members wanted to run that far. So we decided to switch our registrations to the 10K. Even this decision felt like a bit of cop out. Last year I had run a half-marathon at this time. While it is true that I had only been able to do so with the help of a cortisone shot, I still struggled to feel OK about running a 10K.
The night before the race I was still struggling with feeling positive about running. My husband held out the perspective for me by reminding me that not that many women my age could run a 10K. He also agreed to drive me to the race and to cheer me on. The day of the race the weather was perfect. It was cool and clear. We arrived early enough to witness the start of the race for both the marathon runners and the half marathon runners.
I had a good start and ran well. I kept my mantra forefront in my mind—“go Claudia.” Since we shared the route with either the marathon runners or the half marathon runners, there were people out cheering us on for most of the route. There was music blasting or bands playing, even though it was quite early morning. I had two young women tap me on the back as they passed me by telling me that I was doing well for someone so old. (BTW this is not a very helpful way to support an older runner.)
I finished in 1:12:09, 8th in my age group of women 65-69, 37 of us running the race. I was staffing a women’s leadership development conference that weekend and decided to wear my hoodie and medal throughout the day to force myself to celebrate my achievement.
Ageism is nasty. But it helps if I do not participate in my own oppression. This is an ongoing battle for me. I would like to be able to be my own best supporter. What strategies work for you?
Claudia Murphy is a philosopher who is semi retired but still teaching part time at Minnesota Technical and Community Colleges. She is also likes to run, bike, garden, cook and knit.