I am sure that I am not the only one that gets up in the morning over the Winter, opens the window for five seconds and instantly utters one simple, primally fueled phrase: f#ck it's cold! Accompanying that phrase is an autonomic response where your body shudders for a second and unconsciously returns to bed forcibly repeating through every nerve in your body that, "there is NO WAY in hell we are running in this sh&t!" That is the very moment when the mental side of Winter training begins and it is the most difficult one to overcome.
Last weekend I got to experience the full gamut of the mental onslaught that runners go through running in the frigid temperatures of the Northeast. While I was walking the dogs Saturday morning, before the sun had even crept over the horizon line, I just kept thinking, "ya know, a rest day would be a good idea right about now. So what if there isn't one scheduled for a couple of days. What could it hurt?" But, I knew that my biggest handicap thus far in my training has been consistency, thanks to illness, etc. so I really, really couldn't afford to take the day off.
Then I thought, "15-miles is really far and it gets dark early here, maybe I could do like eight and call it a day?" But, I had been silly and watched the news and knew that snow was coming and there was no way that I would be running that far in the Burbs with 8-10 inches of snow due to fall overnight and into the following morning.
With all the facts there and the day starting to get away from me, I set a timetable and wrapped my head around doing my 15-miler at 2:30 pm, which according to weather.com was going to be the warmest time of day, a balmy 23-degrees, but with the windchill more like 12-degrees. At 2 pm I geared up: tights, sleeveless, long sleeve Underarmour cold gear, hat, gloves, water bottle fuel belt and my marathon windbreaker. Once I suited up I stretched in the warmth of the house, took the dogs out one more time before I left and then stepped to the edge of the driveway to hammer it out.
Literally 400 meters down the street, the only thing I could think was, "I am an Idiot!" That first mile was absolute torture, not from a muscle standpoint, but just adjusting to the wind and the temperature of the air on my legs. Back and forth my mind flip flopped about whether I would be able to handle the full 15 or if I would cut it short. In the end, I kept my head, my body heated up and the run was really good.
The cold crisp air kept the roads clear and the scenery along the way was outstanding. At one point I passed a small pond where the local kids were skating with their parents and as I went by they said, "Look at that guy running, he's crazy. I bet he wishes he was skating instead?" Little did those kids know that I can't skate at all and am a complete embarrassment when on the ice. I probably would've have ended up crashing into the whole lot of them causing carnage and mass hysteria!
As I hit mile 11 or so, I all of a sudden had a nice second wind and busted out a 6:40 mile, which completely threw me for a loop. I looked at my watch and began talking to myself out loud, reminding myself that I wanted to be disciplined and not veer from the plan. I toned it down, got back into rhythm and kept it going.
All in all, it was an awesome long run that I would have been remiss if I had allowed my head to cave and keep me home. This is the kind of mental test that teaches you how to "hit the wall" and smash right through it! By forcing yourself to make the efforts that your mind tells you aren't such great ideas and persevering you can achieve something amazing. There is no greater feeling than to go out and complete one of these runs that people think you are nuts for doing and then talk to those same people afterwards and say, "I did my whole training run in some cold, raw conditions, what did you do today?"
I am sure that this is NOT the last time this Winter training season that I will be battling nature and my own head, so stay tuned as the battle for the supremacy of Speedy Sasquatch continues!