Never too early…

…for race mentality.

Today’s “stressor” workout was a couple miles of warmup, then 30:00 minutes of hill running (and only hills, no flats), and a couple mile cool down. This is not an overwhelmingly tough workout and I wouldn’t have thought twice about doing it on any normal day, but if you life in the midwest you know today was not normal. Or maybe it was. It’s winter after all. Today we were dumped on with 5 – 6 inches of snow, causing me to spend half my work day shoveling paths for the school kids to get in and out of the building. It fell about an inch an hour and as soon as I had cleared a path from the outside buildings to the inside I’d turn around to find my path relatively covered up again with fresh snowfall. This went on all day.

So when it was going to be time to do the workout I knew I was going to be facing some problematic footing, yet I was looking forward to it. I consider it one of my positive attributes, that is, an appreciation of nature in all its forms and the ability to embrace adversity, not simply to overcome it, but to also swim deeply in all the values it affords us…or at least what I choose to derive from it. So when I left the house to drive with Michelle and Noah to my starting point (they were going sledding) I didn’t curse the slick roads, slow drivers or piles of snow. Actually, I couldn’t wait to get out of the car and be IN it all.

Oh, and this also gave me an opportunity to put some more miles on my Salomon Speedcross shoes, which are accented with the most aggressive tread I’ve ever had on a running shoe short of x-country spikes. And let me tell you, those sole lugs were like claws in that snow. I didn’t just keep traction, I FELT them grab the snow and push me forward. It was a joy to run in those shoes. Can you believe with a sales line like that I’m still not sponsored by them?

Michelle dropped me off in a parking lot and before she had even begun to pull away I was bounding up the Monon trail for my warm up run before heading over to a 2k figure 8 loop of hills in a nearby neighborhood. Getting to the neighborhood wasn’t that much of a problem and, fortunately, the roads had yet to be plowed, save for a couple independent pick up trucks pushing away the freshly fallen powder to reveal packed snow and patches of ice (thanks guys!).

I started up the first hill of what would be 4 loops on this route and started thinking about why I love to run so much in this type of weather. Honestly, there are lots of reasons. I love the look of a blanketed white ground cover, exposing no part of darkened asphalt. I love the snow gently falling to the already accumulated pillow of white. I love the soft footfalls. I love the reserved pace it forces upon a world that moves at breakneck speed. And then, I also love the opportunity it gives me to overcome its inherent obstacles to my movement. When most roll back over in bed and swear at a day of straining and struggling with a seldom used shovel, I get the chance to continue my routine and enjoy the new challenge, the new pace. Snow and I don’t hate each other. We’re like brothers in a wrestling match, playfully trying to keep the other down, in a positive spirit of cooperation and accomplishment. We often come to a stalemate before going our separate ways.

Then there is something a little more personal, a little more racing oriented. Although such a snowfall shoots down most runners training plans, or at least forces them inside to wait in lines for the dreadmill, I’m still out there. Mentally, that goes a long way. Just as important as building up the physical strength to run fast at long distances, the mental strength that goes along with the effort is just as important, maybe even more so. So there I am running up a long, steep hill and I think to myself, “This is going to be invaluable on the start line at my next big race.” And it’s true.

When I step to any start line I have one mantra I always want to be able to say, “You put in the work. Now all you have to do is run.” That’s all I can hope for. The race is essentially already run, not always at the finish line, but everything leading up to the start. Being able to say “I put in the work” gives one the confidence to run at a level once before not thought possible, to overcome the struggle, to push past the weak voices that whisper, “Ease up. It’s too hard. You can’t keep this up.” If I step to the line of an important race that is going to take a serious amount of effort, the ability to think back to so many redlined workouts, to so many runs in wind and rain, to so many exhausting long runs, and to runs in the  most absurd of conditions, conditions that keep 95% of most runners on the couch, then I’m a huge step ahead of my competition. Because I guarantee there are faster people on that line, but they might be saying to themselves, “Damn, I hope I’m ready for this. I shouldn’t have skipped those workouts. I shouldn’t have passed on those long runs. I shouldn’t have wussed out when it snowed for a week straight.” For, even if they are physically faster than myself, if they don’t have the mental strength to push through when things get hard, when they don’t have the awareness of overcoming those adverse experiences to draw on, at some point they will fade. Or if you put the pressure on at the right moment, they’ll break.

In racing, nothing is guaranteed, but the effort requires filling one’s reserves with every weapon possible, from physical strength and stamina, to the mental strength that comes only from running as hard as possible in 6 inches of snow, blowing wind, and icy footing. At least now I’ve left behind a few more “I should have’s” and created one more “I put in the work” for the next start line to come.

Get out there everybody, you won’t regret it.



15 minutes of warmup
32+ minutes of hill running on a figure 8 2k loop
15 minutes of cool down

Core workout at home (will have to give more details on these some time)


Fischerspooner  Pandora station
All Shall Perish – Awaken the Dreamers


6 responses to “Never too early…

  1. YEP, snow running is great. Having lived in Fargo and Duluth, I am used to it, and its sweet to have the roads/trails mostly to yourself. Today: 5 mile tempo run in the slush, got douched with slop by a couple of campus buses head to toe…I didn’t care and pressed on….
    keep it up!
    ps. my new Brooks Launch shoes say “fuel the fire” on the bottom!

  2. haha, too late, i got soft in Florida! but I remember when I used to wear a sock on my johnson to keep it warm while winter running in Fargo. Freeze that baby once and you’ll never do it again. the thaw out process is agonizing :((((((((((((((((
    get in some great miles this week buddy and dont slip on that ice!

    • Hahaha…you know, now that you mention it, I don’t think I ever froze the nether regions, but I do rememember some excruciatingly painful showers last winter. Maybe your problem is that you were wearing a sock….you gotta wear more than just a sock! hope all is good!

  3. Where is this route? Sounds like it could be useful.

    • Chris, it’s a surprising hilly pocket where you wouldn’t expect it. If you are going North on College (past 62nd street), pass over the bridge that spans the river (next to the art center), and at the bottom of that bridge take a left into that neighborhood. About 2 blocks up you’ll hit the hills. We run a figure 8 loop that ends up being 2 kilometers. We usually do some sort of interval workout on those hills. Good luck!

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