Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Winter Running? Seriously?

Now, you might be thinking, “Hmmm, she hasn’t posted here for some time, perhaps after that 10K and with the encroaching winter, Amber traded her pink running shirt for a Wii remote?” 

But if you’re thinking that, you would be miles (at least 200 miles!) away from correct!

My totally stellar, uber-running pal Erin has been tracking her miles since about July and will hit at least 200 this year. Since many of my miles have been with her and we started in Mayish, I’m there, too. Wow.

After the mind-bogglingly hilly 10K (6.2 miles), Erin and I took to running shorter distances a little faster, especially as the weather got chillier and the days got shorter. I invested in some black running pants (which I think make me look sleek, did I mention I’ve lost a little weight over the last few months?), a pink jacket, and a couple long-sleeve running shirts. Oh, and a hat and neck gaiter which has been essential. This prepping for winter running was slightly daunting since I haven’t done it before, but with friends’ help, I acquired Minnesota-winter-appropriate gear. I set aside my pink running shirt for my pink running jacket!

Now about winter running. During September and October, I often feared what I would do when winter came. I had no desire to get a treadmill or go to a gym. Being outside is an integral part of my exercise. Would I lose everything I gained and gain back everything I lost over the summer and fall? I made a deal with myself: one day a week. Just aim for one day every week during the winter. No need to go out on the below zero or blizzard days. If I sat on my bum for the rest of the week and ran just that one day, I would be thrilled. So far, I’ve ran every week.

I owe so much to Erin. We are a well-matched pair, taking turns setting the pace and initiating days/times/locations for running. I surely would not be planning for a half-marathon next year if it weren’t for Erin. Or have integrated running into my life. Or lost a little weight. Or gotten faster. Or fallen completely in love with running outside. Thanks doesn’t even come close.

On November 13, Erin and I ran the 5 Mile Diva Dash in Centerville, MN. Anybody remember the weather that weekend? Yep, it was that big, gigantic, wet, blowing blizzard! But we were signed up, along with another friend, Charlotte, so we set out early for the mildly treacherous drive. Hundreds of women showed up to run in the slushy snow for MOCA (Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance). Temps were in the upper 20’s, it was windy and snowing, and most of us were covered head to toe (except for that one girl in shorts! Yikes!)

Even before the race started, my feet were soaked and cold. Nothing to do, but run. I would warm up, if I just kept running. The human body is a heat machine when it’s moving. I’m constantly stunned at how toasty I get even on the 12 degree days.

When the buzzer sounded, off we ran, a clump of chilly, snow-splattered women skittering through inches of sloppy snow. My glasses fogged right up and I was very thankful for the zipper pockets in my jacket. And I was thankful to be near-sighted since this race was all about one foot in front of the other and not falling on my tookus in the snow.

About a mile into the race, I was warm, even my wet feet, and I was in a groove, physically and mentally. I had signed up for the race to have a November race and the get manicures and massages, which totally didn’t happen (too cold, too many people). But I had also signed up because it benefitted the ovarian cancer alliance. Several weeks before the race, I learned that Astrid Slungaard has passed away over the summer from a years-long battle with ovarian cancer. I’d had one writing class with her and remembered her clearly. Her writing was as elegant and engrossing as she was. She had short, beautiful silver hair and a warm voice. When the class ended, I made a note to keep an eye out for her memoir in the years to come. I don’t know if she finished her book. I do know that she had a loving family and was also a runner. So I ran thinking of her. Her generous spirit gazing on this beautiful race through the snow-coated trees. I thought of how she would relish this day and turn it into a vivid essay. As I followed in the footsteps of the runners before me, I thought of myself too. My writing. My running. My family. I have so much to do yet. I hoped dearly that this running would help me along the way.

The snow sloshed under my footfalls. I tasted salty sweat and snow on my lips. Soon I was at the four-mile mark. Only one to go. I ran steady and strong, my legs incapable of going any faster or slower. I finished with my fastest pace yet. And that kinda sealed the deal with winter running. If Erin and I could run in that snowstorm, we could run all winter long.

Ready to run the Diva Dash!
 So, I am indeed one of those crazy running people I used to drive by on cold days and think, “OMG, they are crazy!” Now I want to honk my horn and cheer for those crazy-cool people! It’s no where near as hard as I thought it would be. Sure the first mile or so sucks, but then I warm up and I think “OMG, I’m outside in this cold, cold air and all my digits are warm!” And it’s fabulous because my digits have never, NEVER been warm in the winter. Not even indoors. I was a chronically cold-digited person and now I’m not. That’s crazy to me.

After these winter runs, the high is incredible. I remember again what it feels like to be an athlete. My body all in sync. My feet and legs and lungs doing what I ask them to do. My mind centered, the seemingly inevitable winter mean reds held back for several more days. No matter what I’ve been dealing with, life feels doable after a run. Not necessarily easy, but doable. In conclusion, winter running rocks.

In a few days, on January 1, 2011, Mike and I and Erin will run the 5K Polar Dash along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. We’re kicking 2011 off with a bang! I can’t wait!

Happy New Year to Family and Friends and anyone else who happens upon this blog!

An Afterword for 2010: In no particular order, the top ten best stuff from the last year! (It’s that time of year for making lists, ya know!)

*Married 10 years! Celebrated with trip to LA!
*Started running! Ran races! Still running!
*Amy turned 4 and started her second year of preschool! (Kindergarten next year…Egads!)
*Alex started 1st grade and turned 7!
*Both Amy and Alex grew like weeds!
*Road trip to Black Hills and Badlands with kids!
*Joined Eden Prairie Women of Today! (
*Lots of time with family and friends!
*Writing, writing, writing!
*New Year’s Eve party! Woo Hoo! Hello 2011!


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Love the picture:) You rock!

Amber said...

I love your honks, Sue Ellen! Wait...does that sound weird?? I mean, I love that you honk at us. But not in a creepy way like ogling men do. In a cheery way, like "Woo Hoo, Sister!". Your honking is such a boost on those frigid days. Huh? Oh, whatever! I love your honks, Sue Ellen!! :-)

Toby's Mom said...

Yay Amber! I'm happy you discovered the joys of winter running! BTW, after 15 yrs of winter running, I just discovered Yaktrax. Had no idea what I was missing--spectacular falls apparently don't need to be part of winter running. Who knew?

Amber said...

I got Yaktrax for Xmas! Very cool, best for that hard-packed snow/ice we've had, but not good for clear sidewalks (I almost bite the dust when I went over a clear spot.)

BTW Toby's Mom, you influenced me to give winter running a try. Thanks!

kate hopper said...

Yay! I'm so happy for you and proud of you! I hope I'm all healed up by spring so I can run again. Fingers crossed!