Welcome to the cold arctic tundra. How I survived training in Michigan winters before is beyond my comprehension. Don’t get me wrong, I am as giddy as a school kid with the first flurry in December. However, when the winter months drag on and the sun only pops out a few times a month your mind wonders why exactly you chose to train for a spring race. This is definitely a change from my life this same time last year…
In February of 2011 I had settled myself into the little community of Hout Bay in Cape Town, South Africa. I had also stumbled upon a wonderful running community and was in the process of training for my first ultra marathon I was talked into 3 weeks before race day (yes, I realize how crazy that sounds). Instead of battling single digit wind chills and tiptoeing black ice I was worrying about the frequent sandstorms that popped up around the bay, hoping baboons or puff adders wouldn’t pop out during training runs, and trying not to get sun burnt even after it seemed like the sun had gone down.
Right now I am dutifully pounding the pavement/ice with intent of being in race form for the Riverbank Run 25k in May. As I ponder the hilarity that “Waka Waka” keeps popping up on my play list as I’m trudging through snowbanks, I am also reminded of all the other years I endured the bitter cold and how sweet the reward was. Every mile put in now is money in the bank, tough miles for the reserve at the end of the race when I am hurting and needing just a bit more strength. Plus, winter gives you lots of chances to put ingenuity to work. You learn, for instance how hot chocolate can replace Gatorade as post workout beverage of choice and you discover how incredibly ski goggles work as eye and face protection from the windchill (even if this causes some raise eyebrows from the snowmobilers that you share the trails with). And in the midst of your struggle, you are rewarded with a spectacularly beautiful midwinter day. As the sun sets the snow glittering, you can’t help but feel the extra spring in your step as your body gratefully absorbs the warmth.
Looking back, I wouldn’t mind some more of that African sun now, or perhaps a run minus the threat of an icy slide disaster. But as Michigan runners know, if you can make it through winter, the rest of your training will be cake. Besides, once you get past all the obstacles keeping you from the great outdoors, the reaction you get as you sprint by commuters bundled with puffy coats in your spandex and compression gear is incredibly entertaining.