I was a skinny little girl. My best friend’s mom used to say that one day I would blow away in a strong gust of wind. I think I took those words to heart.
Everyone has their own personal running nemeses. High heat and humidity come to mind, both of which I struggle with. For me, though, nothing is worse than running against a strong wind, especially when it’s cold.
It’s getting to be that time of year when the wind makes its reappearance. My first two marathons are still my toughest races, mostly because of high winds in each race, with the second even windier than the first. Probably because of those two races, strong wind is my least favorite weather to run in. Winter temperatures make it even worse.
Two of my runs this week were “winded out” because of strong, gusty winds and cool temperatures. No guilt; I just didn’t feel like fighting 35+ mph gusts on those two days. I did get in three quality runs, though, so I’ll call it a step-back week and pick up the mileage this week.
MON: Yoga – 40:00 – Woke up with a slightly sore lower back (probably from a small fall on the trail yesterday), so I did some back bends, then hip openers to help stretch out the sore quads. 88 degrees today!
TUE: Rest Day – Heard the wind howling all night long, bringing in a cold front and plunging temperatures. Even Liz didn’t want to run in that wind, so it was easy to convince her to bail on our morning run. We attended a luncheon together and standing in the cold wind afterwards at valet parking got rid of all my guilt at not running. The wind continued into the evening, and I was having dinner with a friend anyway, so an unplanned rest day took place. This only means I will have to try and make up the miles later in the week.
WED: Hill Run – 8 mi, Power Yoga – 20:00 – Liz and I packed in as many hills as we possibly could on our run today. As usual, I dreaded the run and wound up loving it in the end. Liz and I had a great conversation on our run, and it reminds me that I’ve made some truly amazing friends through running. Power yoga in the late afternoon wore me out.
THU: Tempo Run – 6 mi – Yoga – 20:00 – After yesterday’s hill run, I don’t know how we did it but Liz and I picked up some serious speed today. We ran fartleks in between what we thought was an “easy” pace, and couldn’t believe some of the splits we pulled off. Liz loves sprinting, especially at the end of a run (I don’t), but our fast fartleks felt exhilarating. It was a great workout, and I could barely keep my eyes open later in the evening.
FRI: Rest Day – I thought about doing a few miles in the neighborhood in the afternoon, but after a hill run followed by a tempo run, and two scheduled long runs this weekend, I decided against it. Somehow I got busy later in the day and never got around to yoga either.
SAT: Long Run – 12 mi, Yoga – 20:00 – What a warm, humid, windy run. I guess I should be thankful that the wind kept us cool, but it was mostly just plain irritating. After morning runs these past few weeks in the 30’s and 40’s, starting with a temperature of 61 degrees was a shock to the system. It certainly kept our pace slower than usual, and there were some hills in the end, but I managed to have a great run.
SUN: Rest Day – Another trail run rained out. I enjoyed sleeping in on a Sunday morning, but could hear the wind blowing and gusting outside. I had planned on running in the afternoon but felt absolutely zero desire to battle the wind. I took a rest day instead and will make up the miles next week.
Stats for WEEK 9: Run – 26 miles, Yoga – 1:40:00
Saturday’s 18 miler reminded me of something I had forgotten, something that, for me, is the hardest part of running a marathon. Worse than bad weather, worse than being sick, and worse than the blister from hell, is trying to keep running when everyone else is walking. Saturday’s long run reminded me of how much I continue to struggle with this huge mental obstacle.
Our route took us onto the race course of a new half marathon in town. We ran four separate segments, three of which put us right in the middle of the back of the pack walkers. Other than confusing some of the police officers when we veered on and off the course, no one took much notice of us.
There was one segment, however, where I was very much aware of the walkers.
There is a hill around mile 14 of our route that always gets my attention. On this particular day I was feeling pretty tired by the time I got to the hill, and was dismayed to see that it was part of the race course–and everyone was walking up the hill. My goal on that hill is always to not stop, to keep going if it kills me, and I knew it would be tough to block out all the people walking if I was going to make it to the top.
And I did. I put my head down, didn’t look at anyone, and kept going all the way up and beyond to our next water stop. I have to say, though, it was incredibly hard to dig that deep and make it happen. And the strange thing was, I wasn’t worried about that hill at all until I saw all the people walking. There was something about seeing everyone walking that made my brain go into panic mode and doubt that I could make it to the top without walking myself. Running up that hill on Saturday was definitely the hardest part of those 18 miles.
My first two marathons were both extremely windy, warm, and humid. There were lots of walkers, especially the last six miles. I did better in the first marathon than the second one, mainly because I didn’t know any better. The second marathon was only four months after the first, and I hadn’t had enough time to forget how tough it was. When the second marathon rolled around with even worse weather conditions than the first, my heart wasn’t in it. I wasn’t ready for a repeat performance in battling the elements.
Because of the strong headwind and 45 mph wind gusts the entire second half of the race, by mile 21 almost everyone was walking. A strong headwind takes so much out of you, and it was all everyone could do just to push against the wind and make it to the finish line. Michael waited around mile 23 to run me to the finish line, and kept telling me that my pace was still good, trying to convince me I had enough energy and strength left to keep running, but I couldn’t swim against the tide of walkers.
I’ve always known that the mental side of running those last six miles is what I most need to work on, and ignoring the walkers is a part of that. The same thing happened to me in Death Valley. When I’m tired, and see others walking around me, my legs instantly feel 50 lbs heavier and my brain becomes a whining mess.
The only thing that seems to work is to keep my head down, ignore everyone around me, and just keep going.
Stats: 18 miles @ 9:35 pace
It seems this is the year to have a great marathon. Last year was the opposite. At least that was the case for me and my friends. I ran my first marathon last December in Dallas. I trained for 23 weeks, even pacing a group with the local running club, and I was more than prepared to have a good race. Perhaps I was overconfident, but I was truly hoping to come in under four hours and qualify for Boston right off the bat. That, however, was not the case. All the hours of training meant nothing against the weather. On race morning, we got hit with a temperature of 64 degrees at the start, 80% humidity, and winds from the south at 30 mph. At the 13 mile mark, once you came around White Rock Lake, the wind hit you full force in the face and was unrelenting. At mile 19 I was toast—and that’s where the hills begin. It’s also where I began walking. Up to that point I had managed to keep an 8:45 pace, but I had nothing left at mile 19. I finished in 4:16, which is respectable for a first marathon, especially considering how much I walked the last 7 miles, but I knew I could’ve done better and was disappointed in myself.
My second marathon in April of this year was even worse. After my experience at White Rock, I had no real desire to run another marathon. I was committed, however, to pacing another group to get them ready for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. My heart was just not in it. Race day was even worse than White Rock, with a starting temperature of 72 degrees, humidity at 78%, and wind gusts up to 45 mph. We were all completely disheartened walking to the start line. I actually walked a little at mile 10, and considered calling Michael to come get me. When we got to the lake just after the halfway point, and turned south, the wind hit us full force, and it was like running in a wind tunnel. I decided at that point that this was a race to just finish, and nothing more. The last few miles were up a long, gradual incline, directly into those 45 mph winds, and up to 90% of the runners were walking. It was a horrible experience. I cried at mile 23, and I cried at the finish line.
I seriously considered never running another marathon. What was the point, I thought, if it’s not even fun? The mere mention of OKC still makes me shake my head. I knew there had to be a good marathon experience out there for me, so my friends and I entered the lottery for the St. George Marathon. At least if the weather was bad I would still get to run through my favorite part of the country. There is no place in America that I feel more at peace than in the desert. Also, I wasn’t so focused on my finishing time as I was on having an enjoyable marathon experience. I knew I needed to have fun in this marathon.
What a difference the weather can make. The temperature at the start was 39 degrees with no wind, and I finished in 3:56:39. I finally had my Boston qualifier. Other friends have done even better in their marathons. Number one reason why: the weather. You can train diligently and do everything right, but come race day you are at the mercy of the weather every time.
But was it really the weather that made all the difference, or was it my attitude? I’m not sure. I know that I run better in cold, wind-free temperatures, but I’m starting to think that maybe deciding to enjoy the marathon, regardless of my performance, was what really made the difference. Perhaps battling the elements only makes us stronger as runners, but at some point you have to be willing to let go of your dreams of the “perfect” marathon and accept things as they are.
As difficult as those last three miles in St. George were, I can honestly say that I enjoyed everything about that race. I cannot say the same about White Rock or OKC, and I think it’s mainly because of the mental states I brought to the races. I was equally well-trained for all three races, but making the mental decision to have fun and enjoy myself, while still staying focused on finishing strong, made all the difference.