Ah, January, my least favorite of the months. The holidays are over, the days are dark, the weather is cold and wet, the mundane routine is back, and summer is far, far away. I kicked the year off in Boston with a chilly out-and-back run with Glenn on the Boston Marathon course–a little preview of what’s to come in April–but then with a travel day back to Portland followed by the first Monday of the year, motivation to run was nonexistent.
By the time Tuesday rolled around, I had already exhausted my planned “off” day for the week and had to give myself a little pep talk. Okay Liz, all you have to do is run. Just run. A runner I admire, and I’m totally blanking on who it was now, recently posted something along the lines of, “The future you accomplishing your goals is a result of the current you doing the work.” I’m positive they worded that way better than me, but the sentiment is there. [Edit- the exact quote, as pointed out from my friend Lynn, was from Collier Lawrence: “There is a version of you right now, a couple years older and a couple years wiser. You’re their power. You, right now, is what gets them where they are.”] Whether I do my seven mile easy run on a Tuesday isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it’s the principle of how well I’m setting myself up to reach those long term goals–which I care very deeply about!
So I ran, and it was super blah. I ran trails in Forest Park, where it was cold, rainy, muddy, and a little frozen in some places. My legs felt stiff and sluggish, and it was probably the longest I’d taken to run seven miles in a while. Wednesday I ran again and it went a tad better. I made up a new route using some side trails to get a good bang for my buck with elevation gain over a short distance.
Thursday I did the same route again, and while I felt very unmotivated to start, I was surprised by how zippy I felt going up and down the hills. Something clicked, like my legs had finally accepted that “we’re doing this.” It was a particularly windy day and I had a magical little moment traversing the ridge line on Dogwood Trail. It suddenly didn’t feel like just another mundane day, and I didn’t feel the weight of the to-dos waiting for me back home. Even though I was running in an urban park, the close-by city of Portland ceased to exist. It was nothing but trees, wind, dirt, the sound of my breath, and just feeling very in tune with what was around me. It was sort of like a “The hills are alive!” moment. I must have been exuding some kind of energy, because every time I encountered someone else on the trail (and that day I saw mostly women out there!) I got a “Go girl!” or “Wow, you’re flying!”
Friday I met up with my friend KT and we did the same route again. We chatted and caught up on how our holidays went, and the actual run part felt more like an afterthought. I was pleasantly surprised that it ended up being my quickest run of the week.
My longest run of the week assigned by Coach K was a 16 miler, which I did yesterday. After spending a season training for a 100K, on paper 16 miles didn’t seem like a very big deal. I was wrong. I got through the run, but not without feeling tired, stiff, sore, achey, cold, hungry, and spent by the end. For all of my experience, I couldn’t believe my rookie move of being so unprepared to spend nearly three hours on my feet.
Summarizing this little glimpse into a week of winter training brings out to me just how unglamorous, and sometimes just mundane or even forgettable doing the work in the offseason can be. There were some special moments like my ridge line moment, and having a great run with a friend, but a lot of it is just cold, wet, and muddy winter running. I like to think of it sort of as putting money in the bank that I’ll cash out on later this year. It comes back to that David Horton quote in my Hellgate recap, “Pay me now, or pay me later.” Keep putting in the work. Your future self will thank you.
Thanks for reading. If this resonated with you in some way, please consider buying me a coffee! Another great way to support is by sharing this with a friend or family member that might enjoy it too.
This was originally published January 9th, 2022 in the Mercury on the Run newsletter, which you can subscribe to here.
‘Til next week! ~Mercury