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“IF YOU EVER WANT TO SEE WHO THE TRUE RUNNERS ARE, TAKE A PEEK OUTSIDE DURING MOTHER NATURE’S NEXT HISSY FIT.”

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I found this quote on when searching for images under the query:  Running in the Cold. 

If I could have found the image associated with this cool quote, I’d have given credit and a link, but it’s completely AWOL on the net.  Boo!  But I liked the quote enough to share, and I sure wish I could claim it as an original!  Best link-ish thing I could find for it, (COOL QUOTE CREDIT HERE), in case you want to hunt it down.

So I love this quote because I seriously LOVE me some cold, messy weather running.

My friend Suzanne and I promised each other we would both go out on a five or six-mile run early Sunday morning.  We live in different towns, but we’re going to report in to each other.  Kind of like a long-distance running buddy.  Then we discussed the temperature:

Suzanne:  It’s supposed to be, like, thirty-four degrees tomorrow morning.  Ugh.  Wonder how late I can get out there so it’s warmer…

Me:  YES!  I LOVE running in the cold!  Wonder how early I can get out there so it’s colder…

Suzanne:  (looking at me with a mixture of alarm and disgust)  You’re a FREAK.

Me:  I know.  It’s great.

I can’t wait to get out there Sunday morning. 

I just checked weather.com and supposed to be 38 degrees when I start my run. 

38 degrees.  Farenheit.

I. So. Can’t. Wait. 

Prediction:  Awesome.  I’ll update you later, assuming I survive.  😉

[Update:  Awesome run!  5 miles!  I was SO happy to be out there in running in the cold.  Felt GREAT!  Weather was 44 degrees and I was wearing my stay-warm running gear.  No gloves, though.  Not cold enough for that.  Get out there and run while it’s beautiful, everybody!]

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So this is the shirt I SHOULDA bought during my last VA Beach Rock N Roll Half Marathon.  And it’s also the shirt I SHOULDA worn at my race this last Sunday. 

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The company is One More Mile Running and I get absolutely NOTHING if you buy something from them.  (Come to think of it, I should talk to those guys about some kind of finders’ fee–but I digress.)

I love the hilarious shirts this company makes.  Going to an expo for me is like going to Vegas is for some people.  I give myself a certain (small) amount of money that I know I will throw away on super-fun running gear on the (likely) chance that I will have a great time while wearing said gear in the future.  Actually, in this light, the odds are far better than Vegas, but again…I digress.

So I did NOT buy the shirt but I did INDEED have the experience the shirt indicates at a race this past Sunday at one of my local running club’s signature events. 

Explanation:

Each year our awesome local running club, the Kennekuk Road and Trail Runners, hosts an event called the Wild Wild Wilderness Run.  Runners from all over the midwest descend upon our lovely little hamlet to challenge themselves on the Wilderness Trail. 

See, the thing is, the Wild Wild Wilderness Trail Run includes at least one portion of trail that is not really a trail for human beings.  True, some deer and squirrel may have ventured up the side of that beast, but humans…not so much.

And the OTHER thing is, THIS year I knew that beast was coming.  I ran the stinking trail last year.  And I heard from my friend–let’s just call her Ami (because that’s her name)–that the run was SO much easier when you knew what to expect.  Just so you know: she totally lied.  (A different experience, but NOT easier!  Still love you though, Ami.)

So now in the interest of Truth, Justice and the American Trail-Running Way,  if you’re EVER considering the Wild Wild Wilderness Trail Run, you should know THIS is TRULY what to expect: 

7.55 miles (or 7.45 miles, depending on the race year) of some of the most beautiful trail in the region.  Including: 

3.5 initial miles of relatively bumpy, grassy trail, in and out of the woods.  Wear your deet during tick season.  Basically an enjoyable but moderately challenging run.  Followed by…

4 miles of hell on earth.  A mountain fit for certain animals, but definitely not people.  Creeks to leap over.  A slippery bridge to run across.  Hills, hills and more hills.  A “stairway” built into the side of a nearly-vertical hillside just before mile seven–that conveniently had its STEPS removed this year–where you are basically sliding up a rooted-mud-hill.

Essential Aside Advice:  Try to strategically select the people who are running in front of you and behind you as you face these natural obstacles.  Sliding down a mud-hill onto the head of the helpful, but completely unsuspecting, gentleman behind beneath you as you lose your footing on one of these obstacles is not the most polite way to make new friends.  Even if he does promise that he won’t let you fall down the hill.  As you are practically sitting on his head.  *sigh*  Well, after hitting solid ground, at least there’s plenty of motivation to pick up the pace and get outta there as fast as you can after that little getting-to-know-you adventure. 

And back to the shirt.  See, while the front-half of the shirt would have been me on Sunday, the back-half of the shirt would be me TODAY.  After my rugged adventure.  While trying to walk or move quickly.  Thank goodness for my friend, Ibuprofen. 

And regarding the WWW Run.  Would I do it again next year, even after all of the muddy drama?  OF COURSE!  Maybe even several times next year.  Because, come to think of it, it wasn’t really that tough after all.  Yeah, in fact, it was more like awesome.  Kinda like childbirth is awesome the farther you get away from it. 

I’ll be there.  Probably with a cool new shirt.  And definitely with a strategy that calls for me making new friends in more lady-like ways than sitting on some poor stranger’s head.

 P.S.  As proof that I should have known better and for the entertainment of the historians among you:  Here’s the post about a couple of last year’s trail runs:  Trail Runs Before I Knew Better 

 

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I hate thinking about how long it’s been since I’ve sat down to write here.  Even now, I feel like I’m sitting down with a long, lost friend.  It’s great to be back.  Thanks for missing me.  I’ve missed you, too.

You know this.  Moms-Who-Run wear many hats.  You can wear lots of them at once.  But not all of them.  Still, it’s easy to forget that your head is only so big and only so many hats will fit up there.

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Then, when Life lifes you, as mine has this past year, you realize what’s most important.  And those are the hats you wear.  And those are the things you do. 

So it was that as a Mother-Runner-Daughter-Wife-Writer-Teacher-Reader-Student-Knitter-Saleswoman-Public Speaker-Trainer-Cheerleader-Chauffer-Cleaning Committee Member-Moving Crew Member-Chief Laundress-Referee-Wound Treater-Hug Giver-God Lover-and Glue that Holds It All Together for My Family, with the application of enough pressure, heartache and disaster, some of these hats had to be taken off and thrown onto the pile with the dirty laundry for awhile.   

If you asked my daughters, they’d tell you exactly what I need:  “You need to run.  And you need coffee.  After God and us, of course.  And your running is good for all of us, Mom.  Seriously.  Same with the coffee.”

So what does Mom-Who-Runs do?

When Mom-Who-Runs is faced with financial disaster, she runs. 

When Mom-Who-Runs is faced with heartbreak, she runs.

When Mom-Who-Runs is faced with the loss of a home, a friend, a dream, she runs.

When Mom-Who-Runs realizes she can no longer write, knit, dance, play, because there truly is no longer time for these luxuries, she runs.

When Mom-Who-Runs is faced with ending her kids’ homeschool experience and putting her kids back in traditional school in order to get a job and help her family survive, she runs. 

When Mom-Who-Runs has a husband in intensive care, she runs.

When Mom-Who-Runs hears her own mother and number one support system has been diagnosed with stage three cancer, she runs.

When Mom-Who-Runs switches roles and cares for the mother who’s sacrificed so much caring for her all these years, she runs.

When Mom-Who-Runs gets to pack and move an entire household with her own hands and the help of her two cherubs and a few very loving friends who come through when it counts, she runs.

When Mom-Who-Runs gets to choke back her own sorrow while she wipes the tears from her daughters’ eyes as they say goodbye to the only home they’ve ever known, she runs.

When Mom-Who-Runs turns into a puddle (finally breaking down under the pressure) just because someone has been nice to her, she runs.

When Mom-Who-Runs is surprised by her own medical diagnosis, shares it with her boss, and is fired coincidentally the next day, she runs. 

And she runs.  And she runs.  And she runs.

And she loves her children and her God with a love that is fierce.

And she runs.

And if she doesn’t run, then you know that something is wrong.  And if you love her, you move heaven and earth to get her back on the road or the trail or the treadmill again.

Because the running will bring her back.

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During the time I’ve been away, I’ve run a full marathon, two half-marathons, an ultra and several 5Ks and trail races.  I’ve logged hundreds of miles.  I really haven’t gotten any faster or skinnier. 

But thanks to the running and my kids and the prayers of my family and friends, I am BACK.  Along with my Writer Hat.  And I think we might just stay awhile. 

 

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I started running in the very warm weather.  At the time, the key training issues for me were strategic hydration and forcing myself to haul my body out of bed to run at the crack of dawn to beat the morning heat.  I remember wondering vaguely about how I was going to handle running in the elements, but secretly considering the thought that icky weather would be my excuse to avoid running. 

Then I met Dotty.  Yes, the same Dotty that filled my mind with visions of the Virginia Beach Half Marathon and enticed me to register for the 26.2 with Donna Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer.  That one.  When I found out she had been a distance runner for many years, I asked her about how she handled rain, wind and snow.  She shocked me with her response.  As I recall, it went something like this:

I run every day it’s on my training schedule and I always run outside.  The only reason I would not run outside would be if there was lightning. 

Two or three seasons full of running excuses, blown to smithereens in about 20 seconds of conversation!  And yet how awesome was that?  With snow on the ground even?  Yep.  Even when it’s really, really cold?  Yes.  Pouring rain?  As long as there’s no lightning.  How on earth do you do that?  Just have the right gear and go. 

Wow.

So, I figured this was probably a gold standard for outdoor runners and, since I hate the treadmill, I immediately adopted this as my standard too. 

Now, you may recall that in our neck of the woods we have had a really, really rainy Fall.  In fact, as of today, there are still crops in fields locally that have not been able to be harvested because the ground is too wet.  It has been one rainy season!  Interestingly, I have not had one run cancelled due to lightning.  I’ve watched for it, but all this rain has produced almost zero lightning.  So on I ran. 

Then in the late Fall, the weather began to do something famous for our area of the Midwest.   It started to get COLD.  The shorts and cropped running pants had done just fine so far, but what now?  I’d already learned that the wicking material did wonders to stop the chub rub.  What to do about those frozen legs? 

Enter Coach Shelly:

Me:  What kind of gear am I going to need for the winter?  I don’t plan on dealing with that stinking treadmill unless I absolutely have to and I’m afraid I’ll lose my mind cooped up inside the gym all winter.

Shelly:  There are some things you’ll want, for sure. 

Friend [Anonymous friend, we’ll just call her Chris for this post, offering her thoughts]:  Hey, I like the treadmill and the gym.  Could do without that creepy gym guy, however.

Me:  I think all gyms must have a creepy gym guy.

[Random conversation about gyms, creeps, and other Very Important Girl Talk that ensues when girlfriends are having important conversation about things like Gear.]

Me:  What were we talking about?  Oh yeah, what gear do I need to avoid the gym this winter and still keep training?

Shelly:  You’ll need a long sleeve wicking shirt made for cold weather, something for your head, gloves, and you’ll want some compression pants.

Me:  Compression pants?  Are ya kidding?  Like those skin-tight things that real runners wear?

Image Credit  (and before you ask, NO these are NOT my legs…Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.  No.)

Shelly:  [cheerily] Yes, those are the ones.

Me:  Um…No Way.  There is No Way I am putting this behind into something like that and running around my hometown terrifying innocent bystanders.  There could be an accident or something.  I would have to slither through the streets under cover of darkness.  I simply Couldn’t Do It. 

Shelly:  I know, they look terrible, but they work wonderfully and they are absolutely worth it.  They will allow you to run in very cold temperatures and there is zero chub rub with these things.

Me:  That is because they are SKIN TIGHT!

Shelly:  If you really had to, you would wear a pair of shorts over them.  Either way, it is something you really should consider. 

Me:  No.

Chris:  No.

Shelly:  Well, it’s up to you.  Maybe you’ll change your mind later.

I can tell you that I struggled against the compression pants for weeks and weeks.   Finally, I took the plunge and bought a pair of the hideous things.  I put off wearing them for a long, long time.  Always able to find a way to run when it was a little warmer. 

Then I found myself in 30 degree weather the morning of the Indianapolis 5K (yet another race that Chris had talked me into!) and there was no getting around the compression pants.  I pulled the suckers on and, grateful that I’d remembered to bring the little black shorts to yank on over the top, to protect the unsuspecting public, I ran my first race in the compression pants. 

And to my complete surprise, I had my Very Best Time Ever for a 5K.  The pants kept me warm without overheating.  And they didn’t rub or twist or bunch around.  These things were great! 

They still looked hideous, mind you.  But they were great! 

Since then, the hideous compression pants have become like an old friend.  They accompany me on most of my runs, especially when the temperature is under 40 degrees.  They’ve been on long runs and short runs, uphill and downhill, on the street and on the trail. 

If I get the nerve, I’ll find and post a picture of the Indy 5K compression pants maiden voyage here.   But it ain’t pretty.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

And I find myself, again surprised and saying:  Shelly, you were right!

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Nope, this isn’t a picture of the rain that’s been falling and falling and falling and falling in my hometown for days.  But it could have been.

And nope, I never ran on this particular road on this particular day in these particular conditions.  But I would have, if I’d had the opportunity. 

Used to be, the gray, rainy, windy, cold conditions of late Fall and early Spring, really got to me.  And not in a good way.  At one time, I even considered the possibility that I might have that sunlight deficiency syndrome–whatever it’s called.  I would be moody, crabby, blue. 

This year has been different.  This year I have encountered the Running Transformation.  True, the body hasn’t been entirely very transformed, but my attitude is getting quite the overhaul.  Here (in part) is how:

I discovered that I really love to run in the rain.  The colder and wetter and windier and messier, the better, really.  I think it’s absolutely awesome and my attitude, coupled with the endorphins that flow during and after a decent run, have caused me to have a Pavlovian response to a rainy weather forecast.  I actually feel better when I know it’s going to rain and I can get out and run in it.

I know, it’s Just. Not. Right.  But I can’t help myself.  I love it.

Partly, I think it helps that I’ve got a few pieces of couldn’t-run-in-the-cold-and-rain-without-them running gear that have made a humongous difference in the enjoyment department.  For instance, the right shoes and socks have kept my feet cozy dry in downpours and while running through puddle-laden streets.  (I promise I’ll do posts on my very useful gear pieces separately.  And soon.  Don’t give up on me…I’m just random like this.)

Also, I think it’s kinda cool to feel cozy, warm and dry, even when the cold rain is splashing on my face.  I love the contradiction.  Plus, it’s perfectly fine for me to have people think I’m a little crazy.  I rather enjoy it. 

Then there’s the idea that I hate being told what to do.  When the weather guy tells us how cold and rainy it’s going to be and the darling little anchor sitting near him becomes all sad and says in her sweet little voice, “Brrr…No fun…Bring your umbrella and bundle up…Stay inside if you can,” I think, “How stupid.  They can’t tell me what to do and how to feel about this weather!”  Yet, this was the first year I actually had a viable alternative to rainy-day-misery.

When I run in the rain, I feel like with every step I take, I’m crushing all that negativity and with every swing of my arm, I punch that doom-and-gloom attitude right in the nose.  When it’s cold, I am awake, alert, and alive–and I often don’t even need that second pot of coffee.  When it’s windy and messy and muddy and sloppy, the challenge is invigorating and (dare I say it?) fun.

And my times are actually better in the rain.  Not that my times matter (like, AT ALL), since my running times still put me well behind most runners, albeit ahead of the walkers.  Still, the contradiction thing keeps sparking my interest–lots of runners have slower times in the rain.  Once again, I am the opposite of normal.

Anyway, just wanted you to know that as we all deal with the downpours together, there’s somebody out here really, really happy about the weather.  If you really hate the weather, I promise to do my best to enjoy it for you!  No need to thank me. 

And just think.  Soon, I get to try my feet at snow! 

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seasons[1]

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In years past, I looked up from my mad racing about pace (not running, just racing around) and noticed that the gorgeous splash of fall color was gone and the trees were bare. 

What happened?  How had I missed it? 

I also missed much of the beauty of the heavy snow covering the tree branches, not to mention the big, huge, sloppy snowflakes that looked like a kindergartener could have painted them with white paint and a big, wide paintbrush.  The magnolia trees lost their pink buds before I could really appreciate them.  Summers flew by. 

This year has been different.  And in the past few weeks, I actually realized that I was seeing what I’d been missing for many years.

A runner sees the splash of sunshine that travels across the red and orange-trimmed trees and bounces of the lake in a sliver on an otherwise cloudy day.  A runner has the chance to run on a blanket of golden leaves and under trees still heavy-laden with their yellow fall bounty, like running through an autumn cloud.  A runner appreciates the difference in the landscape and how far you can actually see through the trees when their summer garments have fallen. 

I hadn’t even noticed what I’d been missing. 

It’s only been in the past few weeks, when my runs have finally become more than avoiding collapsing, that I’ve been able to relax enough to take in the beauty of the world around me.  I find myself each day looking forward to seeing, hearing and even smelling the adventures in store for me that day. 

And I’ve found myself grateful, so grateful, for the privilege of putting one foot in front of the other, in a body that can move itself forward, with a mind and will that can choose to continue to get out there each day, and with a spirit that can offer up a prayer of faith and appreciation and celebration for the blessings that God has given me, with a whispered, “Wow.  Look at God.”

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