Because I raced last Sunday I had set up my schedule to do my long run on Friday - no big deal, it was a step back week of only 16 miles and we close early on Fridays, so I figured I'd at least have a couple hours of daylight to get most of the miles in. Little did I know that the first major snowstorm of the year was going to roll in on Friday...OK, no big deal, I thought, the storm is supposed to stop by around 4, so it will be pretty much over by the time I'm getting started. No problem! Ohhhh, optimism. Of course because of the weather pretty much no clients showed up to work, and we ended up closing at 11:30, which was pretty much when the snow was the worst. And what did I do? I sucked it up, and I went for my run.
If you really want to gain an understanding of just how much of a difference there is between you, the competitive runner, and other people, go out and run 16 miles in the middle of a snowstorm. The reactions of my coworkers to the fact that I was leaving the office on foot ranged from impressed to horrified to downright concerned for my safety/sanity. This is not something a normal person would do. But in my opinion, being normal is highly overrated.
About to start: What am I getting myself into?
My plan was to run about 3 miles over to the Newton Hills, do an out and back on the course, and then find my way back home to Cambridge. This was probably the best possible scenario given the weather, since the carriage road in the hills tends to be at least somewhat passable compared to unshoveled sidewalks. The trek over to the hills, however, was entirely absurd. I was literally sliding through 4-6 inches of snow on the sidewalks, trying not to slide backwards downhill or fall. At one point I almost wiped out because I stepped off the sidewalk (couldn't see where it ended). I felt like I was running approximately 10 minute mile pace. I was listening to the Oiselle "Woman Up LA" playlist on Spotify, and as I was floundering through the snow the song "Heroes" came on. The lyric "Everyday people do everyday things, but I can't be one of them" really resonated with me at that moment. I don't want to be ordinary; I want to be more than that, and doing crazy crap like this makes me feel like I'm doing my best to be extraordinary.
I finally arrived to the Newton hills and the light layer of slush/ice felt like the world's most perfect running surface compared to what I had been running through previously. I got into a pretty good groove for awhile on the way out towards the firehouse, and the turnaround came up quickly. At this point, aside from a few nasty gusts of wind that sent snow painfully flying into my eyes, I really hadn't been all that uncomfortable. I was thinking - how great! Only like 10 miles to go! No problem. The way back through Newton started to get slightly more uncomfortable. The footing was getting worse, to the point where I actually shouted "yayyyyy!" as I had to pull over to let a plow go past. I also had an experience that was rather terrifying when I was running under some trees and suddenly heard a cracking sound that sounded...not quite right. A split second later I realized what that sound meant and went sprinting off to the other side of the road, only to turn back and see a gigantic tree branch come falling right where I had been seconds earlier. I run in fairly pedestrian environments compared to some (no trails, no mountains, no wildlife encounters) and I can't say I've had a "holy shit I almost just died" experience while on a long run before, but let's just say it took a mile or so before my heart rate returned to normal, and I found myself staying well away from any large trees for the remainder of the run. I hadn't even considered the weight of the snow pulling down tree branches, but I saw several more large tree limbs on the ground and some power lines that looked dangerously close to collapsing on my way back. Scary!
Happy to still be alive at the Johnny Kelley statue
I made it up and over Heartbreak and with 5 or 6 miles to go was looking forward to just grinding out the remainder of the run and being done with it. The 3 miles I ran through Brighton, however, pretty much made me want to stop ASAP. The footing was HORRENDOUS, and where I wasn't clomping through 6 inches of snow, I was sliding back and forth on slush. I debated bagging the run at Harvard, which would give me 13 miles on the day, but by the time I got there it seemed to make more sense to just gut it out and at least get the mileage I wanted out of this ridiculous experience. The snow had been fluctuating in intensity throughout the run but it never really stopped, and the ground conditions just kept getting worse. At this point my feet were soaked, I was caked in ice, my face was bright red, and my legs were no longer interested in continuing to fight the powder for leverage to move forward. But I didn't stop. I kept moving forward until I arrived at my front door and with much relief, was able to peel off the ice covered layers and defrost in my bathtub (side note: the Craft jacket I'm wearing is absolutely INCREDIBLE - despite the fact that it was heavily snowing and my legs, head, etc were soaked, nothing seemed to get through that jacket. Amazing).
Proof of insanity.
Because my GPS has decided to bite the dust, I used my good old stopwatch to time the run and didn't have an exact distance, but I was basically expecting to have averaged something pretty slow. I was quite pleasantly surprised to have averaged 8:17 pace for the run - something tells me that includes some 7:45 miles as well as some 9:00 miles. Given the conditions, I feel like that's nothing to complain about! The fatigue from this run was a lot different than a typical long run - I didn't so much have the aching, heavy legs sensation as the fact that I was just straight up SORE. My calves, quads, and hip flexors all were decidedly unhappy about the work they'd had to put in to propel me 16 miles through a snowstorm. As for me, I was pretty happy to have put my head down and gotten it done in some tough conditions, though I had a bad feeling that my 5 mile race on Sunday was going to be impacted as a result. But that's a post for another day!