Cold as ice

What a week.

I returned to work Tuesday to an ice-cold classroom–the heater had been off for almost two weeks, and when I flipped the switch to warm things up, nothing happened.

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Yeah, it was not quite 40* in my classroom the first day back.

It had been in the 20s overnight and didn’t make it above freezing during the day. I had a ton of work to do to get ready for the new semester (plus I found out at the last minute I was co-presenting at a training session the next day) but working in my classrom was impossible–my hands were so cold I couldn’t type, with or without gloves. I spent most of the day in an office in the main building, since they had heat.

It started drizzling on my way home–which immediately froze on my windshield and on the streets. Even driving with my car’s heated seats on high, I didn’t completely thaw out before bundling up to run with my group. They were meeting at a middle school 1.1 miles from my house, so instead of driving (on roads that were rapidly becoming treacherous) I ran over there, getting my “warmup” out of the way. But when I arrived my coach said that the track was frozen and the workout was canceled. I ran back home and called 2.2 miles good.

IMG_9146[1]Wednesday got a little warmer, but overnight it dropped into the teens. By the time the kids came back Thursday morning, the indoor temp had risen just above 40*. I found out a few things–only the fourteen classrooms in my wing were affected when something broke over winter break. I was told they were waiting on a part and we could be without heat “for some time.”

Y’all, this is Texas. We are not used to temperatures that don’t climb above freezing during the day, and most of us don’t have heavy-duty winter coats. Hell, some kids don’t even have long pants. I actually own a big parka, but it was impossible to move around, between desks and rows of kids, while wearing it. So we were all cold, all day.

After my track workout Thursday night (Yasso 800s, modified to 400s for half-marathoners–with the warmup and cooldown I ran a total of five miles) I again couldn’t get warm on the way home, even with heated seats. I took a hot shower and huddled under my covers with a heating pad.

Fortunately most of my kids only have one class in this wing of the school, but 8th-graders had at least three. Still, word got out to parents and they started calling. Magically, a contractor appeared with promises to fix it or provide space heaters. Friday morning, neither had happened, but after lunch an enormous climate control system appeared in all fourteen classrooms in this building.

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The thing sounds like a jet engine and could provide the backdrop for a photo shoot that requires a model to appear windblown. And I’m not sure it actually raised the temperature in the room–big classes and warmer outdoor temps had already helped improve things–but the good news is that it also has an air conditioner, which we might need next week. Because Texas.

Friday night I was so tired I’m pretty sure I fell asleep by 9:00. Which was fine because I had to be up at 6:30 to make a second attempt at 12 miles, after last week’s debacle.

It was overcast and about 40 as we set off. I was running with my BRFs–one has the Houston Marathon next weekend, and the other two will be running 3M with ahead of me in two weeks. I tried to stick with them, but after two miles or so, I had fallen behind. My legs still felt fatigued from Thursday night’s workout, so I was slow and had to take some walk breaks.

It’s funny. My overall pace wasn’t significantly better than last Saturday–about a minute per mile faster–but the whole thing certainly sucked less. While my legs were tired before the halfway point, my overall physical state (and my mental outlook, for that matter) felt better. But I was slow slow slow. I pushed myself to run mile 12 about ten seconds faster than HMGP for 3M. And I did it, but I am not overcome with confidence or anything. I know race day is different, and I won’t do a track workout two days before the race, but yikes–it’s gonna have to be a lot different for me to get anywhere near the finishing time I’m hoping for.

At any rate, I think this week has disproven my earlier statement that it can’t be too cold for me to run well. I mean, my paces were okay and I enjoyed not overheating, but yes, there’s such a thing as too cold for comfort, especially after being cold all day too. And that line cearly is the freezing mark. Especially when that’s the indoor temperature.

 

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Cold weather is my (running) jam

This time last year I was battling a hamstring injury that didn’t really feel 100% until the end of January. I was able to run on it a little, but I missed a lot of Austin’s best running weather.

This year, I’m healthy and LOVING the colder temperatures. Yeah, it was 39 and windy when I left for my 12-miler last Saturday. And a bunch of people bailed on last night’s workout because of the weather–40 and drizzling–but I didn’t even wear a jacket. This time of year I usually wear capris and one top layer, plus gloves. I’ve only busted out full-length tights twice this year–that run in the snow a few weeks ago, and last night. For someone who hates being cold in regular life (it’s 68* in my house right now and I’ve got fleece jammies, a blanket, coffee, and a warm dog) I relish the cold when it’s time to run.

Case in point: this week.

I didn’t run on Sunday–road trip to my mom’s house, then a stop at the Zilker Tree–but we had a quiet Christmas at home on Monday, so mid-afternoon (in itself a luxury I don’t have when it’s hot) I decided I needed to offset the cookies. I also wanted to play with my new Apple Air Pods! My usual Monday run is a three-miler, so that was the plan in the back of my mind when I started. I didn’t look at my watch–I just ran, improvising the route as I went along. It was maybe 50* and overcast, and I was comfortable in a short-sleeved shirt.

When it’s hot, I give myself a few breaks to cool down at various intervals. I have mental waypoints on my routes–an intersection, park, parking lot, whatever, and I can convince myself just to make it to the next one. This can be four or five times on a four-mile run, depending on conditions. But this day, I stopped at two different parks for water and that was it. Not only was the rest of my run continuous, my pace was way faster than I was expecting. Yeah, I knew I was working hard, but I felt strong. My three-mile run turned into four miles, and my last mile was my fastest.

Tuesday night’s workout looked tough before factoring the weather–a 1.5 mile warmup, 1.5 miles of fartlek, 1.5 miles at half-marathon goal pace, and 1.5-mile cooldown. All of it was over some pretty tough hills in the cold drizzle.

With the holiday and the weather, turnout was on the low side. A few folks from the morning group joined us (can’t say I blame them for not wanting to do the 5:30am thing the morning after Christmas) but even then I think we numbered fewer than 10.

The purpose of the workout is to tire your muscles with the (hilly) fartleks, then run HMGP on fatigued legs, much like the way it will feel at the end of a half-marathon. I don’t know that I quite held HMGP the whole way back, but Strava gave me PR badges for SIX segments (which usually only happens when I run a new route–not somewhere I’ve been running for five years) so I think I did okay.

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I wore my long tights (the lighter pair, not the fleece-lined ones), a long-sleeved shirt, plus an ear-covering headband and gloves. For a moment I second-guessed myself on the jacket when I walked outside into the drizzle. But I left it, which was the right call–I didn’t need it.

I say that cold weather is my running jam and it can’t be too cold for me to enjoy running in it, but what I really mean is Austin-cold. That typically means 40s-50s, although I ran my best half-marathon when it was right around 32*. Austin doesn’t usually drop below freezing for very long, and certainly the 20s are rare. But the New Year’s Day Black-Eyed Pea Run will challenge my “it can’t be too cold for me” declaration: currently the forecasted overnight low is 26* and Monday’s weather icon includes a snowflake.

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That’s almost 25* colder than last night–something tells me I’m gonna need the jacket this time. Plus the fleece-lined tights, maybe an extra shirt, more than one pair of socks, and some kind of wrap to cover my face. I don’t think I’ve run in subfreezing temps more than a handful of times, but now that I’m healthy (and 3M will be here before I know it) I’m not going to miss an opportunity just because it’s cold.

Which is a hilarious sentence coming from the girl who wore a windbreaker on a London “summer” day and who thinks anything below 70* is cold.

Unless I’m running.

The weather sucks and I don’t care

Because I get to run!

Tuesday it was 40-something and drizzling, but instead of complaining I found an older pair of shoes and ran 3.25 miles. Fortunately I mostly avoided the puddles, and the one time I misjudged and drenched my whole right foot, I had maybe .1 left to go.

Thursday it was 30-something and windy. But I didn’t care. I grabbed my gloves and a windbreaker and ran just over three miles. This one was a little harder since the route had quite a few hilly sections. Not big hills, but enough to out some extra strain on my calf.

Tomorrow I’m bringing out the big guns: I’m going to increase my distance to FOUR miles instead of three.

Six weeks ago, a four-mile Saturday run sounded ridiculous. Who gets out of bed just to run four miles? Well, after my involuntary hiatus, four sounds glorious. It could rain, snow, sleet, or hail and you’ll still find me out there.

Someday, after this injury train has chugged off into the sunset, I am sure I will forget this feeling of post-injury euphoria. But for now, the weather sucks and I don’t care.

I almost forgot to write a title for this post.

I’ve been a scatterbrain this week.

When I met my training group Tuesday, I realized I had forgotten my Garmin. On Thursday, I left my blinky smiley face and my ankle light on the kitchen table. So last night, I set out everything I’d need for 12 miles in the cold this morning. And when I got to Rogue, I couldn’t find my flip belt or my backup Spibelt.

I’d worn two shirts, figuring that’d be comfortable given the temperature. But once I realized I only had the tiny pocket on the back of my running tights for my phone, inhaler, gels, etc. I had to regroup. I had a windbreaker with pockets, but that would be too warm with two shirts, so I took off the base layer shirt and stuffed everything in my jacket pockets. Except my chapstick–I forgot that, which I realized about a half-mile into the run. Ugh!

The first mile we ran directly into the wind. My left ear started to hurt. At the first water stop, one off the coaches was handing out tissues, and my running partner shared her lip balm. We turned into the neighborhood where houses blocked the wind for a mile or so, which helped my ear. We wound around residential streets, up and down hills, then eventually reached one of the main roads. The wind had changed direction, and we ran into it for the next two miles.

At the six-mile mark, my friend and I split up. She has a half-marathon next weekend and only wanted to run ten today, while I had committed to 12. It was difficult not to turn around with her, but I knew I’d be annoyed with myself if I bailed on the longer distance.

I turned on my ESPN podcasts and got caught up on the week in college football as I plodded along. This neighborhood has its own airstrip, and I watched a small plane take off. But I didn’t see many people out and about in the cold. A dog and a horse, yes. An occasional runner. But judging from the fireplace smells, I think most people were tucked inside their cozy homes. And when I reached the main road again, guess what? Ran right into the wind. Quite the contrast to the cozy-home thing.

Finally, I finished 12 miles–the first time I’ve run more than ten since the Austin Half Marathon in February. Other than stopping for water, and once to answer a phone call from home, I ran the whole thing. Even without my friend to keep me honest! I’m good at chasing her, but on my own I’ve occasionally succumbed to walk breaks. Not this time though! And more good news: the last couple of ten-mile runs, I’ve felt soreness in my hips and quads as early as five miles, and I’m aching by the end of the run. Today, even with the cold temperatures, I got to mile eight or nine before I noticed some minor soreness. Yeah, I was cold and I was dragging a bit at the end, but I felt pretty good.

What felt better? My car’s heated seats on the drive home.

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I’m pretty sure I made it home with all of my accessories and gear, so maybe my bout with forgetfulness is over.

Second Annual Icecrack of Dawn Run

Last February, when I brought my National Junior Honor Society students to Washington, D.C., we stayed in a hotel near J’s house. So one morning she met me in the lobby and we ran exactly 5K before the sun came up. We called it our Asscrack of Dawn run.

This year, NJHS stayed at the same hotel and we therefore arranged the Asscrack of Dawn Run II, which I desperately needed. The tour company schedules our meals at food courts and all-you-can-eat buffets: great for the 14-year olds but not ideal for older people with slower metabolisms. I will pay dearly for four days of large portions, restaurant food, and a steady supply of coffee.

So our run is almost perfect–a relaxed 5K with my friend, a brief respite from chaperone responsibilities, and a bit of exercise to offset whatever the hell it was I just ate. The drawback, of course, is the time. Breakfast is at 7 and we are on the tour bus by 7:45 every day, which means in order to run, I had to set the alarm–three days into a trip where I’m lucky to sleep for six hours each night–for 5:15 A.M. Not only that, the area is somewhat hilly and I’d only run once since the Austin half, so I wasn’t exactly in peak form. Neither was J though–since the Army Ten-Miler, she’s been rehabbing an Achilles injury and this was only her second foray back into running. But none of that mattered because I needed this run–and time with my friend–both physically and emotionally.

I met J in the lobby at 5:30 and we headed out.

A few days earlier, the DC area had been covered in about a foot of snow. This morning, though, the temperature hovered just above freezing and most of the snow had melted. We both wore our Army Ten-Miler shirts, tights, and gloves, and except when the occasional frigid gust of wind stung my cheeks, I felt comfortable.

I found myself breathing heavily at first, which made me wonder just how quickly a person can lose fitness while taking a few days off after a strenuous distance race. But I got it under control and fell into step behind J. We chatted, laughed, and dodged road construction and slushy snow remnants. We passed her house and and looked for lights to indicate whether her family had awakened yet. She pointed out the coffee shop I visit when I stay at her house. We looked in the gym windows and felt superiority pride for braving the cold. We cracked up at an inside joke. It was just what I needed.

Before long, we arrived back at my hotel. I went to stop my Garmin and realized it had never actually started, even though I remember pressing the button to start it when we began. J assured me it was exactly a 5K. I wasn’t concerned with the specific distance though–I just like having each run’s data and map recorded in My Garmin. But as it turns out, the distance would be significant.

Inside the hotel lobby, J produced two medals from her pocket. The front side said “Victory” and the back was engraved:

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They wouldn’t let her engrave “Asscrack of Dawn” so she had to improvise.

You know what this means, right? Not only did we get medals for our little 5K, we also each won our age groups!

I love this medal. I love that this early-morning run, before the city wakes up, is important to both of us. And I love the time I got to spend with her in the middle of a whirlwind trip.

I’ll need to run a lot more than 3.1 miles to atone for my culinary sins these past four days. A couple of pounds is temporary though. My Icecrack of Dawn medal is forever.

Icepocalypse 3.0

Last night around 8:30 PM, with no precipitation in sight or on weather radar, the Austin school district canceled classes for today. That’s right, this year we have lost THREE days because of the weather, plus had two delayed starts.

But the crazy thing about this one? School officials didn’t even wait for freezing rain to fall. Or even form in the atmosphere. Or think about forming in the atmosphere. Even though the weather forecasters gave it just a 20% chance, calling it “very light accumulation not even detected by the computer model,” that was enough for widespread cancellation. Because as soon as AISD canceled, every other district fell  like dominoes. My Facebook news feed was full of people making a “WTF?” face–it seemed too early to make that call.

This morning I woke up to… nothing. No ice, no rain. Yeah, it was 25*, but my street was clear and the television traffic reports showed no problems anywhere in the metro area. The weather guy said, “There really isn’t a lot happening out there, except some ice on windshields in Blanco County.” Which is about an hour southwest of here. So I built a fire in the fireplace and settled down with a second cup of coffee.

After a while, I got to thinking. I am supposed to run six miles tomorrow morning, but we have plans this evening that might make waking up at 6:15 tomorrow morning a bit of a challenge. Fridays are normally rest days, but what if I ran my six miles today, then slept in and took a rest day tomorrow? I let the idea swirl around in my head for a while, and then decided to brave the cold and get it done today.

When I left the house, it was 26* and dry. I had on two layers plus gloves, a scarf, and a hat. That first step out the door made my eyes water and my cheeks freeze, but nothing was falling from the sky to make it worse.

It’s funny to run through a community that’s supposedly closed down due to bad weather. Lots of cars were out and about (I mean, really, there wasn’t ANY ice!) but as I passed a couple of schools, the emptiness of the parking lots reminded me that we were supposed to be paralyzed by ice and trapped in our homes.

This school usually has an enrollment of 2500 students. Today, zero.

I encountered a few intrepid folks walking dogs, but for the most part there weren’t many people on foot out there. A police car had a truck pulled over, an ambulance sat outside an apartment complex, and at one point I heard sirens a few blocks away. But overall, it was quiet.

On the way back I noticed a light, fine mist starting to fall. It was almost undetectable–I’m certain it wasn’t enough for drivers to notice on their windshields, let alone cause trouble on the roadways. Gah. We will have yet another school makeup day tacked on to the end of the year–for nothing. Yeah, it’s cold, but even though cold is somewhat alien to us, we don’t close schools because of it.

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Calling it a Wintry Mix was reaching a bit, I think.

I ended up running 6.5 miles, and I’m glad I got that done today so I can sleep in tomorrow. I never really warmed up, but it didn’t feel miserably cold either. I certainly appreciated the warm fireplace and hot shower when I got home, though!

Now, if this weather could get its act together, that’d be great. I live in the south for a reason—this weather is not it.

Did you get out and run today? What were the conditions like?

Fourteen

“Climate is what we expect. Weather is what we get.” –Mark Twain

As late as Friday night, the weather forecast for Saturday morning predicted drizzle and temps in the 60s. But when I woke up, it was 43 and pouring. Perfect weather for 14 miles, yes?

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This is a lie–it never got above about 45.

Based on the forecast I had originally planned to wear short sleeves, but what I saw out my back door made me change into a long sleeved shirt, and at the last minute I grabbed the Columbia jacket I’d bought back in May when it looked like rain at the Cleveland half. I tossed my phone into a ziplock bag and headed out.

The route starts through a residential neighborhood, then turns onto a wide concrete path that runs alongside a major highway. Somewhere around mile five, as I ran into a 45-degree headwind, I asked myself why the hell I signed up for yet another half marathon. Even with my jacket, I was cold, and I had so far yet to go. I regretted the capris and wished I’d worn my warmer tights. The exposed skin of my shins had turned a rosy pink from the cold.

It seemed to take forever to get to the seven-mile turnaround. Long stretches on busy roads led me to make bargains with myself–things like “run to that stoplight, then rest while waiting for the crossing signal.” This strategy afforded me few walking breaks, though, since I think I encountered only four stoplights along the three-mile stretch of road.

Finally I reached seven miles at an intersection with a convenience store on the corner. Their “Fresh Tacos!” sign taunted me–I wanted nothing more than to stop for a taco. But I settled for a watermelon Gu Chomp and started the return trip.

I thought perhaps the most interesting thing I’d encounter was the cattle drive mural under the highway.

Only in Texas

Only in Texas

But I was wrong. As I took this picture, I noticed the drizzle turning to real raindrops. And in the two minutes it took the light to change and give me a Walk signal, the raindrops got bigger and more numerous. I dropped my headphones into a ziplock and stuck it in my jacket pocket, checked that my phone was sealed in another ziplock, pulled up the hood on my jacket, and crossed at the light. By the time I hit the path, it had become a downpour. Thunder and lightning cracked in the not-so distance. For a while, as I ran up the path along the highway, I was the tallest thing around, which made me kind of nervous about the lightning. But I did the only thing I could–kept going.

They say if you don’t like the weather in Texas, wait a minute and it will change. No such luck this morning. For the next four miles, I ran through sheets of rain and the resulting ankle-deep rivers of runoff. My shoes and socks were completely saturated, and I saw no point in jumping over puddles. Did I mention it was still about 45 degrees and windy?

As I approached 12 miles, a car pulled alongside and asked if I wanted a ride back to Rogue. Damn, that was tempting. It took massive willpower to say, “Thanks, but I’m okay.” A couple of minutes later, another Rogue stopped with the same offer, and again it was tempting. I was touched that folks were looking out for us and appreciated the gesture, but I was determined to finish under my own power.

And eventually, I did, although it took me forever. My shoes squished, my gloves dripped water all over Rogue’s floor, and my entire lower half was soaked. My jacket had done a decent job repelling the worst of the rain, but my shirt was damp. One of the coaches offered me a t-shirt from their freebie pile, which I accepted gratefully. After some foam rolling and general defrosting, I activated the heated seats in my car and headed home.

On this run, I burned more than 1500 calories. So for the rest of the day, I think I will sit by the fireplace and work on correcting that deficit. So far I’ve had coffee, a breakfast taco, and three pieces of pizza. Naturally, now that I’m done, the sun is coming out and things are warming up, but I’m going to enjoy the first day of my winter break on the couch.

Did you #JFR today?

How do you recover from a long run?

What’s your favorite post-run food?