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running in the cold

Triathlon Training in the Winter

This photo is not of Phoenix, but it can get pretty cold here in the winter. Photo by NOAA Photo Library (Creative Commons License).

It’s 201 days until Ironman Mont Tremblant 2021, just over seven months until race day. There are very few valid excuses for not doing a workout, and “It’s cold” is not one of them. Suck it up, Buttercup. Triathlon training means training in the cold.

My triathlon coach, David Roher, has recommendations for when his athletes can switch from wearing shorts to tights. When I’m doing a long workout, I dress based on the temperature it’s expected to be at the end of the workout. Actually, I like feeling a bit cold when I start my workout. It helps me notice when my body warms up during the workout, and there is less risk of overheating.

Swimming in the Cold

I train at an outdoor pool. Thankfully, it’s heated. They say that the pool thermostat is set for 82 degrees. What’s not heated is the area outside the facility’s door where I wait for the place to open while standing in flip flops.

The most uncomfortable part of winter swimming is the few minutes after I’ve stripped off my sweats and I’m sitting on the edge on the pool putting on my swim cap and googles before getting into the water. That ground is cold against my butt.

A few weeks ago, the heater was on the fritz over the weekend, and when I arrived to swim on Monday morning, the water was only 72 degrees. That was chilly, but still nothing compared to how cold it’s likely going to be in Lake Tremblant on race. The race is expected to be “wetsuit legal” and “booties legal.”

Biking in the Cold

Cycling outside in the winter is when I notice the cold the most. When you ride, you generate your own wind, and then there is also a headwind for half my ride. I also prefer to ride at sunrise (the coldest part of the day), and get my workout done early in the day. The path where I ride has a lot of shadows, and so it takes a while for the ground and surrounding area to warm up.

Coach David’s recommendation is to wear tights if the temperature is below 50 degrees. I’ve been riding up to three hours at a time, and in the cold, that means cycling tights, a long-sleeve shirt, cycling gloves (with full fingers), and heavy socks. Unlike sneakers, the tops of cycling shoes are open. Before I switched to heavy socks, my toes got so cold on these early morning rides, sometimes I couldn’t feel them.  

Running in the Cold

Coach David’s recommendation is to wear shorts until the temperature drops below 40 degrees. I recently modified this rule to allow tights if the weather report says it feels like it’s below 40 degrees. (I live in the desert for a reason. I’m not a fan of being cold.)

Right now, my run workouts are less than five miles each, so even when it’s cold, I’m not outside for very long. It was a different story a few years ago when I was training for a marathon in January.

I have access to treadmills, but I don’t like running on them. It’s so boring. I call them they human hamster wheel. I much rather run outside, even when it’s cold, windy, or raining. The same is true when it’s hot and humid in the summer.

Vampire Running

It’s been about three months since my last post about running, and I’m about a month away from the 2018 Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon. Training with Coach David has been going well. He still has me running three days a week: two 10Ks and a long run these days. Thankfully I’ve graduated from short sprints and 5Ks with negative splits. Coach David says I’ll curse he name sometime during my training, but I just don’t see myself cursing the person who’s trying to help me.

This is what I look like after running 20 miles. Look at that hair!

Last week, I coined the phrase, “vampire running.” I really enjoy finishing my run and getting home before sunrise. (Yes, I wear a snazzy reflective belt so cars can see me.) The world is so peaceful then. I rarely see other runners out with me – usually just the Uber self-driving cars, a handful of delivery trucks, and people who have to be at work before 7am. It’s nice to start the day running under the last few stars.

David’s been working with me on maintaining a steady pace during my runs. I’ll admit I don’t always care about pace, like last Tuesday when I woke up super angry and I just felt like hauling ass. Looking back, I can’t tell you why I was angry (maybe PMS) but I was spitting nails. I ran 6.6 miles with an average 9:04/mile pace.

Two days later, I was ready to be more even-keeled. I switched out my fast-paced running music for podcasts and ran the same 6.6 miles at 9:39/mile average. Looking at my data on Strava, I wouldn’t call it a steady pace, but it was less chaotic than the first run of the week.

Real conversation I had with Coach David last week

Last Saturday was my first 20-mile run of this training cycle. Even though David’s steadily increased the lengths of my long runs over the last 3 months, I was still nervous for this distance. And since I’m a vampire runner, I set my alarm for 3am so I could be out pounding pavement by 4:30am. (I have to feed and walk Rosie dog and get a peanut butter bagel with banana and a coffee in my system before my long run.)

Running during that quiet window when the night owls have gone to bed and the early risers aren’t up and out yet is wonderful. It helped me find my zone and I kept my most even pace to date. I chose I route that faced west for the first half, so I could maximize my enjoyment of the darkness, and faced east for the run home. I got to see the first light peaking over the horizon and then I watched the sunrise during my last few miles home. It was glorious. I finished in substantially less pain than I anticipated with an average pace of 10:31/mile.

One thing that’s changed since September is the temperature. Autumn finally arrived a few weeks ago and it’s actually chilly in the morning now. I had to ask Coach David about if/when I should switch to long pants and sleeves. (On race day, the expected starting temperature is around 45 degrees with an expected high of 65 degrees.) He said the magic number for that is 40, though he follows a different rule for himself.

Marathon Training Week 14 Recap: Getting Back in the Saddle

14 by Steve Bowbrick from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

14 by Steve Bowbrick from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

For those of you who have been following along, my marathon training program for Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona 2015 has not been going to plan. So far there has been chest pain and night sweats, medical testing, finding out I have 2 holes in my heart, 2 new medications, and walking my mile for the last 3 weeks. Many of my teammates have suggested that Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona 2015 isn’t my race, but it looks like my race might be salvageable.

Last week had a disappointing start. I tried to walk 5 miles on Tuesday but I was so tired and weak that I could only manage 3. I didn’t even bother trying to walk the 9 miles on my marathon training program on Wednesday.

Thursday morning had me back in my cardiologist’s office for my test results. That’s when I found out that I have 2 holes between my atriums and he put me on a low-dose beta blocker and referred me to another cardiac specialist to determine if having atrial septal defect is causing my problems. He also said I could run again. I managed to run/walk 5 miles on the treadmill that evening in just under an hour.

I was scheduled to run 14 miles on Saturday and my plan was to run on the treadmill at my complex again so I wouldn’t be far from home if it got too hard to I started having chest pain. To my dismay, both treadmills were not working. (What are my HOA fees paying for again?) I opted to do my miles on the elliptical in 2 sets of 7 miles. My toes were numb and my legs were a little wobbly by the end but otherwise it was fine. I finished in just under 2 hours. My pulse never felt like it was getting excessively high.

I’ve become such a wimp about the cold. Earlier in my training I was off cross training on my bike at sunrise, but now it’s chilly in the morning. It was sunny and warm by the afternoon but unfortunately I had other obligations then. (I should probably adjust my schedule when I can if I want to work out outside.) Instead I hit the gym at my condo again and did 7 miles on the elliptical.

Next week, I’m scheduled to do 2 5-mile runs, a 10-mile run, and a 20-mile run. My plan is to run/walk all of them in the real world, but I’m considering finding some type of loop for the 20-mile run so I won’t risk getting into trouble and being 10 miles from home.

Totals for the week:
Running/Walking/Elliptical: 29 miles
Biking: 2 miles