Mentally, I was prepared to run outside. It was the first real snowfall of the year around here and about six inches were dumped and blown my corner of Buffalo. The temperature was only going to be in the teens at best but the absence of wind made the morning crisp and pretty. The cold temperatures didn’t bother me but one thing did — the condition of my route.
While the snow plows did a fine job of clearing streets for travel, the street condition for running was dicey. It was sloshy and icy. My route of choice doesn’t have terribly wide shoulders. In fact most of the time I run on the sidewalk and the sidewalk, well, wasn’t constantly passable. If only I had purchased a pair of YakTrax like I’ve intended to for some time. The contraption goes over your sneakers and gives you more traction on iffy terrain. Damn my procrastination! Plus my work schedule for Sunday required me to get my run in early, not being able to wait for the sun in the afternoon or travel to a different, safer route, for my long run. This meant one thing — heading to the treadmill.
While I normally run without an iPod while outside, the treadmill begs for an iPod. Especially for long runs. So I scanned my iTunes library and threw songs into a playlist that called to me in a way. Songs which had fun memories for me from high school or college or junior high. I threw in songs that were newer to me that made me smile and got me moving. It was one big happy dance mix that I put on shuffle. And truly only I could have a workout music mix that puts a poignant song from Our Lady Peace before an dance tune from the Backstreet Boys before a little Hollaback Girl form from Gwen Stefani.
My run was supposed to be about 14 miles but this was going to be more mental than physical and I knew if I hit 20K , or 12.4 miles, I would be satisfied with my work for the day. I took it in 5K increments. I rank for 3.1 miles on the treadmill, bumped down my speed and took a walk break to get a shot block and a sip of water. I started on the second 5K segment. My plan to start at an easy jog and with each song increase my speed, then start all over with the next 5K. Sounds simple enough, but I was struggling. I started having weird sensations in my left foot. I was fighting the boredom of the treadmill, even with my stellar music mix.
After 7.4 miles I took a quick bathroom break. I had five miles left. I needed to finish but I needed a new plan. OK. So, new plan. I did an easy jog for a quarter mile than increased the pace quickly and worked hard for the next three quarters of a mile. Repeat. Five times. By the time I hit the fifth mile I was feeling pretty strong and the miles were flying by. It’s not quite the run-walk system like those devised by Jeff Galloway. It was my own system developed on the fly, out of a need to finish my workout. I was the axiom “necessity is the mother of invention.” I’m not sure I want to re-invent the interval wheel, but there’s some satisfaction in knowing I can figure out to get through it. In fact there’s cause of celebration. The run wasn’t easy and smooth. It was difficult and rough. But I did it. I found a way to get it done even when circumstances, external and internal, seemed to be providing challenges. And on race day that will mean as much, if not more, than the runs where I felt strong and confident.