Tag Archives: ice

Weight a Minute

1 Mar

This morning I realized that after a long, bitter winter, I am done with the treadmill. I actually dragged my feet into the gym and sighed wearily as I punched the buttons on the machine to get the damned thing going.

They’re great machines, treadmills, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them. I’m definitely an open road kind of girl. I like the freedom, and the sunshine (assuming there is any), and the feel of a light wind on my face. Road running makes me feel invigorated and carefree.

Treadmill running makes me feel like a lab rat doing an experiment. I can picture the men in white coats standing on the other side of a one-way mirror, observing my every move and deciding what mind-altering drugs to inject into my brain next.

I have a history of using the treadmill only in extreme circumstances. Last winter I didn’t use the treadmill at all because it was so mild, and there was very little snow. Even though it was dark, I could go running at five in the morning and not worry about ice.

I did have to worry about a chiropractic injury that had me crying like a baby for three months, but that’s another story.

This winter I’ve been making extensive use of the treadmill because the weather has been so messed up. We have spent some time in a deep, deep freeze, with temperatures going down to -30 degrees Celsius (or -22 degrees Fahrenheit). When it’s that cold out, I cannot even breathe, and despite layer upon layer of clothing, my entire body goes numb within about five minutes.

Along with the cold, there has been snow and ice. When the cold has abated, the snow and ice have remained. It has been treacherous out there, and so I have only been willing to run outside at times when I can actually see where I’m going. Without the ability to see where I’m planting my foot, I run the risk of landing on my ass while anyone who happens to be nearby points and laughs. Since I only have time to run before work when it’s still dark, this has meant a long sentence of treadmill running.

This morning, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I got onto the treadmill and decided on a hill training workout. Just fifteen minutes in, though, I’d had enough and I had to stop. It wasn’t that I was tired (I wasn’t). It wasn’t that my legs were sore (they weren’t). I was just out-and-out fed up with running on the treadmill.

Despite cutting my run short – something that did not sit well with my consciousness – I managed to make a decent workout out of the whole thing. I headed over to the weights section and pumped iron for a while.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It has been months since I did a decent weights workout, and this morning convinced me that I should reinstate it in my regular routine. I liked feeling the burn in my muscles, that sensation that allows you to visualize the cells in your muscles knitting together and getting stronger.

Regular weight training will make me a better runner.

It won’t hurt when I want to look pretty on my wedding day, either!

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Winter Trail Running

20 Feb

This morning, for the first time in weeks, I went running with my running club (it’s not my club in the sense that I own it, it’s my club in the sense that I’m a member). I have been kept away since early January by a combination of illness, kids’ hospital visits, and temperatures that would make Hell freeze over. I had been looking forward to this morning all week. I’ve missed my running buddies, and the support and companionship that comes with running in a group.

I woke up and turned on the TV to check the weather. -10 Celsius (about 14 Fahrenheit). OK, that’s cold, but it’s certainly a temperature that the runner in me can live with. According to the TV, there was a hefty wind chill, so I put on my windbreaker running pants and took along gloves, hat and lightweight running jacket that doesn’t add to warmth but is superb at blocking out the wind. I grabbed my water bottle and my post-run coffee money, and headed to the community centre.

There were three of us running today. There was Alan, a veteran marathoner who hadn’t run since November due to a nasty knee injury. There was me, who has only run intermittently for the last three months and has definitely fallen a bit out of shape. And there was Penny, who has religiously shown up for the runs every week, no matter what the weather was doing, and gone for the runs even on days when she was the only one to show up.

Alan and I both needed to take it slow as a result of being out of practice. Penny suggested a route that went along the lake and through the Rouge Valley park. It was about 7km and included a long hill – something that both Penny and I need, since we are registered for a very hilly race in early April. Alan and I agreed to the route, and off we went.

We started off well enough. The weather was perfect for running: crisp and cold, but no wind to speak of. We had a big thaw at the end of last week, so the ice on the sidewalks was almost all gone. Running along the lake, I marvelled at the scenic beauty. Not for the first time, I lamented the fact that I did not have my BlackBerry with me – I would really love to take some pictures of what I get to look at when I’m running on that trail. It is so beautiful along there that it almost makes me believe in God again.

While we were running along the lake, Alan decided to cut his run short. It was his first run after hurting his knee, and he didn’t want to push it. He took the next cutoff to the road that would take him back to the community centre, and Penny and I continued on our way.

It was lovely. The wind stayed down and the path was completely clear of ice, although we did have to dodge a couple of large trees that had blown down across the path during this weekend’s wind storm. I was running better than I had expected to. I was maintaining about 6:17 minutes per kilometre and I was feeling good.

Somewhere around the 4km mark, we left the lakeshore trail and cut into the park. And that’s where the fun really started.

Clearly the big thaw that we had on Thursday and Friday did not extend to the park. We crossed from the nice clear ice-free waterfront trail onto an uneven surface of solid ice, at least two inches thick. We gamely continued running, albeit at a slower pace, crisscrossing from one side of the path to the other in an attempt to find some traction. At one point, we had to slow all the way to a walk just to avoid landing on our asses.

We were heartened to see a lone runner bravely passing us, going the other way. At least we weren’t the only ones crazy enough to be running on a sheet of solid ice.

Finally we made it to the long, icy hill leading back up to the road. We ran up the slippery hill, with Penny several paces ahead of me. Somehow I maintained a run all the way to the top, and then the two of us paused for a moment to catch our breath. From this point it was only about a kilometre back to the community centre.

That last kilometre was all on the sidewalk. It was heavenly. Running on a clear flat surface made us appreciate just how hard our legs had had to work in order to get through 2 km of ice.

Back at the community centre, we agreed that it had been a good run. Tough, but good.

We totally deserved that post-run cup of coffee.

Tomorrow my legs and my core muscles will tell me what they think of all this.

The Good Run

9 Jan

I have been struggling with my running lately.  Not in any big way, but just enough for me to have been craving a Good Run.  I have had several enjoyable and satisfying runs lately, but a Good Run is something special.  It is one where, even if you struggle a bit at first, you suddenly realize, a couple of kilometres in, that you have found your groove.  A Good Run is not necessarily easy – in fact, the challenging nature of it is part of what makes it Good.  When you finish the run and hit the “Stop” button on your watch, you have a feeling of accomplishment.  You have done the distance you promised yourself, and you have reserves left in the tank.  You would be able to go further if you wanted to, and yet you feel that you have pushed yourself.

I have not had a Good Run for about six weeks.

Until this morning.

I drove to the community centre to see which other members of my running club were venturing out for a run in the snow.  As it turned out, there were only two of us, and the other runner is one that I can pace myself to fairly well.  Because of the snow on the ground, we agreed on seven kilometres.  We briefly contemplated a trail by the lake, but rejected that idea due to the possibility of ice.  We are two women running by ourselves in very wintery conditions: we chose to play it safe and stick to the roads.

The snow on the sidewalk made it a little difficult for us to keep our footing, and it took me about 1.5km to find my rhythm.  Once I was going though, I was going pretty well.  I resisted the temptation to outpace myself in the beginning, and although I did not make it all the way up the one and only (and very, very long and steep) hill on our route, I gave it a good shot and did pretty well.   A water break and short breather at the top, and both of us were ready to go again.  The sidewalks were a lot more slippery towards the end of the run, but I finished pretty strong.

The seven kilometres took a little more than 43 minutes.  Considering the snowy conditions we were running in, I was happy with that time.  But as with any Good Run, the time wasn’t even the point (that’s the other thing: Good Runs are not necessarily the fastest runs).  The point was that I set out with a distance in mind, and I completed that distance feeling good about it the whole way.  I felt that I had accomplished something, and maybe set myself back on track to actually follow a proper training program.

I have a little story that illustrates what a Good Run is like.  Recently – on Christmas Day, as it happens – my younger son celebrated his 5th birthday.  In honour of the occasion, I made him a cake.  The trouble was, I didn’t have any icing to put on the cake.  I dug around in the kitchen cupboards and did some research on the Internet, and came up with a recipe for icing sugar.  A couple of hours and a big giant mess in the kitchen later, I had produced an iced, decorated cake.  I had worked really hard to make it, and I had poured into it lots of love for my son.

It was not the best cake I had ever made.  The icing was not as nice as the stuff you buy in the stores, and my “Happy Birthday James” lettering was not the neatest.  But you know what?  Because of what had gone into the making of it, and because of the look on my son’s face when he saw this cake that had been made just for him, it was the best cake I ever had.

A Good Run is like that – what makes it Good is not how fast you do it or whether it is easy – what makes it Good is the heart and soul that goes into it, and the feeling of reward that you have at the end.