It was quite a good day in Spartan Shape-Up Land, I would say... My Saturday morning began real early with some mandatory over time at work, so I figured I better capitalize on this early start to the day. Around noontime, finishing work, I found myself about a half hour away from my usual stomping grounds; Since it was a day for a Long Run, I thought I'd take advantage of some new scenery to bust out the prescribed 6.5 miles for today.
I found myself at the Stowe Recreation Path, in Stowe, Vt. I have to say, although it is a paved bike path, Stowe has done a great job of keeping it really scenic - it never feels like you're running on a bike path. The path is rolling - no huge, major hills, but enough inclines (particularly up and over the large quantity of ridiculously scenic bridges that crisscross the river for the whole path) to get to working a little harder periodically. I have traversed this path walking and biking many, many times, but have never braved it in the winter.
As I pulled into the parking lot, I had a sudden twinge of regret. I saw that the path was covered in snow. Uh oh. What to do?! I had at least 6.5 miles to cover today. I was dressed for the weather... but the snow covered path...?? I went back and forth for a minute and ultimately decided that I needed to at least give it a go. Maybe the path would be all packed down, and it wouldn't matter. Maybe I should just STFU and get out there... the added difficulty would be good for leg conditioning, or something, right?
Yes. I was psyching myself up for it. You see, BlogLand, in case you haven't noticed, I am a perpetual doubter of my abilities. I have lingering Fat Chick Syndrome that is pretty sure I just can't do those things. Intellectually I think I can, but then FCS kicks in a little bit and I wonder if I'm conditioned enough, or if I'm being over-ambitious, or ... and the list goes on. I must constantly remind myself that I'm not that person anymore, that I can do things I never thought I could, and that I intend to keep pushing the limits. Sometimes, for me, the key is to have someone outside my own head that can confidently affirm that I can do something. My poor GT must field this silliness all the time; I was pretty sure I'd never be able to run a whole 5K. Yeah, look what happened there. I'd never be able to stick to "No Bread".. yep, check check! More recently, I was pretty sure I'd never be able to complete a Spartan Race without dying - I got an excellent verbal bitch slap for that. Having someone who's opinion you trust and value, to keep you from getting in your own way, may be the most important training tool I've found. It is true, though... each and every time you prove your inner Fat Chick wrong, she stays a little quieter the next time.
So, I strapped on my shiny new Camelbak (Woo! My Favorite Christmas present!), and set out. I decided this was going to be a good time to bring a little hydration, as I find myself - anytime I'm running at least 5 miles - getting thirsty. As I set off, I assessed the terrain I was running on... 3ish inches of slightly packed snow. That, for those that are unfamiliar, is like running on the beach, in the slightly packed area near the water. It means that it feels solid - ISH, but that it shifts with every step you take.
The going was slow. I decided I was just not going to be able to worry about my pace (the focus was distance, anyway), because it was just impossible to go any faster. I had to keep my strides a bit shorter to stay sure-footed, and just couldn't cover the same sort of ground, due to the sink-in-slip factor. Plus, I'll tell ya, BlogLand, it was particularly tiring.
|Stowe Rec Path|
This was the scenic vista I had, while running today. Yes, I TOTALLY planned for that snowflake to fall artistically onto my camera lens, blurring the whole left side of my picture. Yes.
It was a decent day, for winter, though. As you can see, the sky was grey and really heavy with some looming snow (it started spitting some sort of rainy/snow thing, toward the end of my run), and it was pretty warm - around 32 degrees, I would say.
Mile 1 was a little rough - just getting the body warmed up was tricky. I started to feel a little doomed, as my calves started cramping initially, due to the snow, but I elected to push through. (The pain of a calf cramp will not kill me...) Luckily, they seemed to warm up out of that. Worse case scenario, I'd have to walk a little bit, right?
Mile 2 and 3 went by pretty uneventfully... got in the groove and figured out a pace and strategy that worked well. It was at this point I made a happy (?) mistake. In my head, I needed to run 6.5 miles... so, clearly I needed to run more than 3 miles out. 3.5 miles, then, it is! I'm not sure why my brain didn't comprehend distances less than a half mile and make that adjustment, but it made perfect sense at the time. So, on and on I trotted, until I stopped to tie my shoe and take a picture at mile 3.6.
I was definitely feeling the exertion at this point, but my legs felt like they still were good to go (particularly after having a 20 second shoe-tying break!), and I was breathing well... so, back at it.
Somewhere around mile 4.5-5, I realized the error of my math. 3.6 x 2 is not 6.5 miles. It's over 7 miles. I was still running, but I died a little inside. I've never run that distance before, I was getting tired from running on the awkward terrain, and holy crap, SEVEN MILES?!
... but what choice did I have? It was an out and back run, and I wasn't back at the car yet... sooo... might as well keep running. Plus, realistically, it's only like 1 mile beyond what I've run in the past... how bad could that be?
It was REAL ROUGH. As I completed mile 6, I was at a familiar stretch of the trail and knew I didn't have too far to go... but it seemed like forever at the slow, arduous pace. And I was HUNGRY. Really Hungry. Lesson learned for next time: Water was a big bonus... any runs over 5-6 miles, I must also bring snack. I think with the extra exertion for the cold and the sinking terrain, my body must've been using some extra energy. I was pretty sure I could've eaten an entire cow, at that point. I think if I had had some fuel around mile 4, the last part of my trek would've been a bit easier. Mile 7 sucked. But I was pushing through it on will and principle alone. How much more awesome would it be to say I had run SEVEN miles, rather than 6 and change? What an excellent new conquest that would be.
Left, Right, Left Right... breathe... breathe... just keep moving... short strides, keep moving.... Left Right... breathe....
That's pretty much the only thing going through my head for the last stretch.
Ultimately, my run came out to be 1:31:09 hours, and 7.12 miles. Don't calculate the pace there... It's pretty ugly. haha... (12:48 min/mi). However, I think it's really irrelevant. I think the mileage is the key piece here.
Successfully Long Run Day! Eee!
Having said that, I also have to give some credit to some excellent new gear I acquired. Dear Under Armour Cold Gear Compression Tights. I LOVE YOU, so much. I got you on sale for $45 and that made you even better. These tights have a great stay-in-place wide waistband, as well as a super-soft, but warm inside. Where I've been having issues with the outsides of my legs getting chilled in these long runs, there was none of that today, in my UA gear. My legs weren't anywhere near cold, even when it started with the wet-snow coming down. I was dry, comfortable, and totally satisfied with this purchase. I would not feel bad even paying full price for these things. There will definitely be more of these in my future, and I'm thinking I may have to check out the rest of the ColdGear line, if I'm going to keep up this running-in-VT-in-the-winter thing.
With that, I think I'm off to bed, BlogLand. Today really took it out of me, and tomorrow morning (thankfully, not until 9am!!) is Crossfit. Also (yikes, Sunday!), depending on how CF goes, It should also be a bit of a regular (4 mi) recovery run, tomorrow. One thing at a time.
(Note to self: Pay more attention to eating appropriately, tomorrow!)
I'll leave you with this, Friends:
What have you done recently that you never thought you could do? (If your answer is "nothing..." then get out there and try... that's how it all begins...)