So a couple weekends ago I geared up to run outside for my longest run to date. I was pumped, excited, anxious and ready! I had previously ran 17 miles (2 weeks prior) and I was ready to tackle my first 20 miler!
I had purchased Under Armour Cold Gear ($100 worth!), bought a hat, gloves, extra GU packs, running socks and I was ready! Why special Cold Gear you ask? Because it was going to be a bit chilly out in Indiana that Saturday morning. The low temperature was to be 25 degrees with a high of 41 in the afternoon. I grew up on a farm. I’ve gotten up at 5am to feed cattle in blizzard conditions. This felt colder. There was just a slight breeze, but at 25 degrees a 5-8 mph breeze can be biting and it was!
I ran down the trail and was doing well. I took a side route to add a couple miles early and then came back to the main trail and kept going. Starting out at 156th I was aiming to turn around at 75th street for a nice out and back. 136th and 116th whipped by. The next thing I knew I was at the tunnel near 96th street. I was tired but I was in familiar territory. I had run the same route for my 17 miler save for the extra 2.5 miles at the beginning. Then I was at 75th street again. I was ready to turn around and when I did, I came to face that little 5-8 mph breeze…and it stopped me cold, literally. The breeze had been behind me and now I felt it fully on my head and chest. I wear a camel back for water on long runs and it had been protecting me from the cold plus you all know it feels different when the wind is at your back. Not nearly as cold.
By the time I got back to 86th street I was at 12.5 miles…and 7.5 miles away from home. A knot had formed behind each of my knees and I was chilled to the bone from my own sweat. I was in bad shape. I had tried a run/walk routine for a bit from 75th to 86th street, but it wasn’t working. My hips and legs were done.
Normally I run a 10 minute mile. I was 20 minutes off the pace for the 12.5 miles I had run so far.
This is when you realize there is no shame in knowing when you’ve had enough and a 12 mile run is good enough when the temperature is still in the low 30s.
I whipped out my cell phone and called my life line! My gf was kind enough to come get me as she lives 15 minutes away. As we were talking she asked if I was feeling okay. I thought I was and realized that since turning into the wind my lips had gotten cold and I sounded like I had just come from the dentist….numb face/lips and all! I was talking funny. I stepped into the nearest super market and out of the cold. I looked a little funny walking around the store in full running gear, camel back, hat, shades & tights while the regular Saturday morning shoppers went about their business. I got a few odd looks. So I went and hung out in the power bar/health food aisle. Not surprising, no one came down that aisle for my 15 minute wait! 🙂
So I want to talk about limitations and listening to your body. I hate to admit it but that little voice in my head (we all have it) had tried to talk me out of running in 25 degree weather. I ignored it though….it was just a little cold out after all. Buck up, be a man and go run! People run in the cold all the time! You have the right gear so “just do it”! When I had passed my gym at mile marker #3 that voice had told me to finish up the remaining 17 miles inside on the treadmill. I could see the front doors of the nice warm gym! Again, I ignored the voice. I was doing okay, just a little off pace…it WAS cold so it was to be expected. When I had crossed 111th street that same voice tried compromise instead of all out orders. The suggestion came to turn around at 96th street instead of going on down to 75th. I could loop closer to my car “just in case”. A third time I ignored the voice of reason. Heck, I was just 2 miles from the turn around and I would be headed home! No worries right? Right??? I only heard from that voice one more time the whole day and that was when I limped back up to 86th street near the grocery store. “I told you so.” is all that little voice said. I hate that voice. He can be a real jerk sometimes.
I think it’s great to push and challenge yourself. I do it all the time. I regularly test my one mile best time, I’ve ran two half-marathons only two weeks apart, I’ve ran a 5K race at 7am and a half-marathon that same night at 10pm. I’m signed up to run a full marathon now and I have plans to run The Goofy Challenge in the future which will have me running a half and a full marathon on consecutive days. I’m not sure if I’ll ever want to do an ultra, but we’ll see. Challenging yourself is good.
Regardless, it’s important to train well, know your limitations, still push it a bit, but remember to listen to what your body is telling you and know the difference between an ache and a pain. Had I just looked at the evidence on my Garmin watch I would have turned around early and finished at the gym. And I WOULD have finished! By mile 7 or 8 I was 20 minutes off my regular pace and I certainly wasn’t going to pick up speed on the last half of my first 20 mile (near-zero degrees) out and back.
Now I can’t wait to get back out there, run in the cold some more with my new Under Armour (it worked great by the way) and allow my body to acclimate to the lower temperatures while still delivering a good performance! I didn’t fail, I just learned something new! This coming weekend I have a 22 mile run on Saturday and I can’t wait! Weather permitting I’ll do much of the run outside, but I’ll also be listening closely to how I feel so if I need to duck in and finish on the treadmill I can. The distance is more important than the location for these last few long runs before my first full marathon January 9th!
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