Thursday, November 13, 2014

Jess Goes Running: Snowflakes and Layers

The alarm went off at 4:48 a.m. and I hit the snooze button.  I always allow myself to snooze--just once--even though lately I have taken to getting up before the second alarm sounds.  Today was no exception to that and I got up with bleary eyes and a long yawn, moving carefully around the bed, quietly across the hardwood floor, so as to not wake up my sleeping husband--but he was up anyway, just briefly, as I opened the door to leave the bedroom.  "Go Jess!" he murmured, rolling over onto his other side.  I smiled in spite of my sleepiness.

Next came the layers.  You see, though I have been running for almost three years, I have a history of being a, shall we say, "fair weather runner."  Don't get me wrong, I love running in chilly weather, but flat out COLD is another story.  Winter is another story.  There's something kind of daunting about running in snow and ice and freezing-and-below temperatures.  And so, when winter-like weather arrives, my running tends to suffer.  

There's something different about this year, though...  This year, I want to keep running.  I think it's a comfort zone thing.  There are plenty of people who run safely through the winter all season long, and with the right gear and preparation, it's totally doable.  If I can challenge myself to keep up with the running--which also includes running on the treadmill when I need/have to, which I need to be better about even though I'm not the biggest fan of it--I will be stronger and faster, I will grow as a runner and as a person, and that is a beautiful thing.  

Luckily, I have encouragement in the form of my husband, and in the running group I joined (A special shout out to the ladies of Best Foot Forward in Oak Park!  You make getting up at 5 a.m. so worth it!  Hopefully after the crazy holiday season I can make it out to more than just one run a week.)  Anyway, last night, after dinner, I came up with a carefully curated collection of layers, one that I hoped would be perfect for keeping warm.

(Yes, those leggings are quite blue, and fleece lined!)

Hair in braids, hat on, shoes laced up, and I was out the door by 5:10.  I let the car warm up for a few moments before putting it in reverse, taking note of the fact that it was 25 degrees and, also, snowing.  So not only was I getting up before 5 on my day off to go run, I was doing it in sub-freezing, snowy weather.  

This is what I pondered while I drove down North Avenue to OP, a combination of both incredibly proud of myself and also slightly dumbfounded, too.  Because even though I am so, so happy that I became a runner, and I wouldn't trade it for anything, sometimes I still don't recognize the girl in the mirror--the girl in the fleece lined, bright blue leggings and Chicago Half Marathon tech shirt.  She and I are still getting to know one another, but I'm learning a lot from her.  She makes me enjoy those snowflakes, even when I can't believe I'm out there, running in it.

By 5:30, I was parked near the train tracks and getting out of my car to meet a few Early Birds for the 5:35 extra mile.  There were three of us, and though I was probably 2 minutes slower than the other ladies, I was still happy to be out there.  The layers were perfect--in fact, I was wearing my jacket over the running fleece, and I was maybe even a bit too warm.  I was keeping a good pace and feeling motivated by the cold.  About halfway through, though, my lungs started to feel slightly on fire.  Though I had a scarf, it wasn't doing much to warm up the air.  I'd run in 30-35 degree weather, but 25 degrees was feeling pretty different to me.

Because of this, I decided to walk instead of run the 3 miles to North Avenue and back.  I walked and chatted with a few fellow runners as the sun came up, enjoying the snow flurries and wishing it was just slightly warmer.  I know that the more you run in cold weather, the better acclimated your lungs become to the chill.  Afterwards, when we all met back at the coffee shop, the other ladies gave me some suggestions of what kind of gear to get and where to get it.  It was great to chat with them for a few minutes in the warmth of the coffee shop on the corner before all parting ways to start our day.  It continued to snow on and off during my drive home, and though it hadn't quite gone the way I planned, I had gotten out there in the cold, in the snow, and 

I thought the run/walk on my way back home.  Ultimately, I wished that I had been able to run the 3 miles, instead of walking 2, but I was, and am, proud that I went out at all.  There are times where running is much of a mental and emotional battle than a physical one, and this was definitely the case for me.  Not to mention the fact that I was going completely out of my comfort zone.  Now that I have gone for a cold weather run, and actually found it quite pleasant, I am looking forward to getting more experience.  

I went to Sports Authority on my way home from a good friend's house this afternoon and picked up a neck gaiter with a microfleece liner and a variety of ways to wear it--it will hopefully help to keep me warm and heat up that chilly winter air!  I took it easy for the rest of the afternoon, taking a short nap and making breakfast for dinner (eggs, bacon, and pancakes, so good).  Tomorrow is my Sunday, and I'm hoping for a redo on the run that only partially happened this morning... a little later on in the morning, when it's light out...  and try out my layers and winter gear.  Maybe it will be snowing; I'm almost hoping for it.  Bring it on, Winter, I'm ready for you!

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