As we approach the conclusion of yet another spectacular fall racing season (the Kleinerman 10K on Sunday will be the last race for me in 2010), I am once again faced with a clean slate on my running calendar with no defined scheduled workouts for a month and asking myself the same question that I've heard from numerous running friends for the past week and a half "What are you planning for this offseason? What's your general approach to winter running? Will you be resting and recovering or training hard and racing?"
To be honest, I'm fairly new at this cold weather running game. As recently as a few years ago, I had always equated the finish line of the NYC Marathon as a metaphorical ending to the running and racing year. I'd do a few miles here or there, but once the temperatures began consistently dipping into the 30s, I'd retire the running shoes, lace up the snowboarding boots and hit the slopes instead. For the first 2 years of running, I don't think I've ever managed more than 50 miles a month during the winter. Then in fall of 2007, I did something stupid and qualified for Boston, which meant that my "No winter running" policy would soon have to be modified. To compound my mistake, I fractured my collarbone on a non-contact freak snowboarding accident in early 2008, scarring my tenacity and audacity on the slopes for life. So running during winter for me only started in earnest in early 2009. That year, in preparing for Boston, I was still training mostly indoors on a treadmill, and hitting the roads only when absolutely necessary for long runs in the cold. My accumulated mileage that winter was minimally adequate for marathon training. It resulted in a painful hammy cramp at mile 20, mere steps before Heartbreak Hill. Last winter, I corrected my mistake and got out more than I did before to do long and short runs in the park. Unfortunately, I got sick on race week and never got to run my target spring marathon. So it was impossible to tell whether my training and hard work during the winter actually benefited me. What it did though, was forced me to become more aware of and learn to treat my own overuse injuries, since I was essentially running nonstop for the better part of two years.
So this brings me to this winter. It is a little daunting to think about, because it's already cold and windy and it isn't even the official start of the season for another 3 weeks! Nevertheless, I think this winter will be a productive one in terms of running. For the first time since I don't know when, maybe forever, I will spend the next month or longer in logging miles with no intervals, no speed, and no pressure of racing. It will strictly be a period of rest, recovery, yet maintaining a stronger aerobic base on which more race specific workouts can be built upon at a later date. I will not be racing (except for possibly the Manhattan Half at the end of January as a benchmark). Rather, I'll be running with friends, family and others who I don't get to run with ordinarily because they don't run my pace. For this base building phase however, I will openly and gladly make exceptions. Most importantly, I plan to have fun when I'm out in the cold and snow. I want to enjoy my time on the roads, even if it's slow. I know the speed, like the birds, will return in the spring. I'm not worried. Let's together get through this bitter winter first.
Now that you've heard mine, what's your winter running story? Will you be or not be seen running when it's cold? Let me know so I can look out for you. We can commiserate together...