Running Conditions in February - 2014 Edition

From time to time, I use this blog as a sort of reference for my future self to come back to for a somewhat accurate reflection of how stuff went down.  In no way is that more true than my use of this blog to figure out when the hell running outside will be a pleasant experience again.  It seems that March is usually my breaking point, see proof from 2013 and examples one, two, and three from March 2012.  This year, I'm going out of my mind already.  Oh great!  Stir crazy is coming early this year. I keep looking back at my blog to figure out what I should expect for running conditions.  February is a month where it seems like things should be getting warmer and then they don't.  Also, the snow.

Sample forecast for the first week of February:

If that wasn't bad enough, this just happened.  Yes, since before New Year's Day, all of our lows have been below zero.  Awesome.

For the second week of February, Wednesday is scheduled as my long run day.  There was a moment in time when it was projected to be 30*.  Not so anymore.  But hopefully it's warm enough, and not-windy enough for a nice 9 or 10 mile trot before I freeze myself.

Wedenesday did get "warm", about 24* when I went out for a run.  I specifically avoided the lakes because wind around the lakes makes me cold in the winter.  I ran on the Greenway, chosen for it's reliable plowing and generally not being near lakes.  Although that stretch between Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun, wind was in my face on the way out and the way back in.  How is that possible?  We've hit the point of the year where 20* looks like appropriate weather for a long run.

Third week in February, things sort of got good, but there was a whole lot of snow too:

Monday (not pictured) we had about six inches that all seemed to fall at morning rush hour.  And I got to help push a stuck car up a hill.  I am not joking.  Wednesday was super warm so I went out and ran 11 miles.  Enjoy some as yet unpublished photos from that day.   And yes, February 19 and the Mississippi River is still completely and totally frozen over.

And then Thursday and Friday hit.  We had the deepest snowfall of the season (10 inches in Minneapolis).  My car got stuck a whopping 3 times and I had my first experience with a tow chain.  (There is a special place in heaven for the dude who stopped.)  And I decided the roads were too bad to go to work.  And it's cold as hell again.  How was I just running outside all week?!?  I'm officially over the winter now.

Bottom line is February is just as cold and bitter as January, with perhaps one or two good days thrown in to make us lose our sanity.   I ran outside 39 miles in the entire month.  I ran over 70 miles on the track and only one treadmill run.  Goal for March will probably be to run outside and find my way through all the puddles.  If you ask me, the first week in March looks a lot like February.


500: Running Streak Update

It's been 500 days of not missing a workout since I first started this running streak!  I sort of can't believe that, but I sort of can.  This streak has taken away a lot of my excuses for not running.  It's too cold.  It's snowing.  I'm tired.  My running buddy cancelled.  My favorite pair of shorts are dirty.  And then my brain is all "it's been 499 days in a row.  Is this so bad that you want to kill the streak over it?" and that seems to help.

For previous updates, check out when I made it six months without missing a workout, and then when I'd made it a whole year


Weekend Workouts - outside before the storm

I have noticed a direct correlation between running outside and frequency of blog posts.  I had five whole days of running outside this week, and it was heaven.  Probably not to be repeated for some time.  Sigh.

Sunday I took it easy, and had a quick one mile run around the block.  I'm fairly sure I was in regular shoes and did not fall down nor find any giant holes to step into. That becomes relevant later in the week.  Sundays are sometimes a work day and sometimes a slack day.  This Sunday had slack written all over it.

Monday I wound up going for a run after work.  I recall it being hard to motivate myself to move at all, but a run around the lake on a plowed path held much more appeal than a run around the sidewalk on un-shoveled garbage.  (Incidentally both those options held more appeal than trying to park at the gym.  I got myself together and headed down to the lake for a nice run, and wound up going 5 miles.  The best part was on the second lap of the lake when the plow guy came by and cleared up the path even more for me.  When I got home, I did a full 20 minutes of stretching which felt great as well.

Tuesday I did a seven mile run in the morning. It was quite cold in the morning, especially along the lake.  It warmed up later in the day, but 6am was still quite nippy.  Some of my neighbors are not so effective at snow removal, which becomes its own battle on runs.  As you can tell from some of the lap times.

Wednesday was the greatest day ever for running.  I did 11 miles, up one side of the river and back down the other side.  Snow was melting like crazy which resulted in puddles the size of my living room.  I found one that went all the way up to my calves.  Luckily I was very near the end of my run, or I would've been concerned about frostbite.  Wednesday I ran with a spare camera and got lots and lots of pretty pictures.  After the run, I was very intentional about stretching and got in a full 20 minute session.

Thursday marked my fifth day in a row, and also my final day this week, for running outside.  The city had what started as a sleet storm, and quickly changed into something far worse.  I strapped on my yak trax for the mile loop of the bloc around my house, and then stayed in the rest of the day.  That photo is also the last time I smiled about being outside this week, and the last time my street was properly plowed.  Sigh.  After the run, I spent some quality time with a foam roller. 

Friday I woke up early and tried to make it to the gym.  I got stuck 2 times in my parking lot, and a 3rd time trying to make it onto the main road.  That 3rd time was really spectacular and involved a Russian dude with a tow strap to finally free me.  I hadn't really checked the weather or road conditions before I left, and will now freely admit that I shouldn't have gone out at all.  That was probably one of the most dangerous things I've done since I moved here.  I can tell you also the upshot of all this was that I literally had the track to myself for most of the workout.  And that was nice too.  I ran five miles, then walked half a mile and stretched out.  When I got home, I didn't even attempt to get my car onto a side street.  I left it parked on a main road about a block away.  I was able to work from home, and was also able to document the carnage.  Minneapolis got 10 inches of snow, and the city is still struggling to get it all plowed properly.

Saturday I was still having nightmares about my car.  No joke.  I wound up sleeping in, skipping Zumba and Body Pump, and heading to the gym a bit later.  I took one look at the track and decided it was a firm "No" and headed over to a treadmill.  Also surprisingly busy for the time of day.  I ran for about 15 minutes.  Then I went to 1pm Pilates.  It was crazy packed.  You'd think a exercise class at 1pm on a Saturday wouldn't be that popular, but then we'd both be wrong.  After Pilates I walked on the track for a while and listened to Car Talk.


Wednesday Long Run: Puddles deeper than a lake!

Wednesday is my new long run day, and bonus for it being so freaking warm today. 

Plan for the run: I created a pyramid interval workout with my Endomondo App.  (The Pro and Premium versions have this feature.)  Basically it was running for longer and longer periods with a walking break.  Running intervals were .4 miles, .5, .6, .75, .8, 1.1, 1.25, 1.1, .8, .75, .6, .5, .4; and walking breaks were always .1 miles.

Weather: Started off around 10:45am around 30* and warmed up to around 40* by the time I was done.  Sunny, blue skies.  The snow piles are starting to melt, which wound up creating its own set of problems.  I did not get splashed by any drivers going through puddles, but there were some close calls, and one point where I had to stop on a hill and wait for a runner to pass the other way because of the massive ice flow melting on the sidewalk.

Route: I started at the Lock and Dam and planned to run up to the U of M Railroad bridge, then down the other side of the river and cross again at Ford Street.  Ultimately, I wound up crossing at Lake Street because the east side of the river was universally a mess.  That path was cared for by the University of Minnesota, City of Minneapolis and City of St Paul, and they don't all suck that badly, so I think we have to assume there's a weird shade/sun issue with that side of the river.  Before the run I was happy for a route that had hills.  During the run I thought I'd been a touch mad.  See miles 4 through 7 for reference.

Nutrition: I found a hand held water bottle during a shopping trip with my Pooky Bear this week and was excited to give it a go.  I also found some organic gummy chews while grocery shopping and was excited to give them a try.  I couldn't really tell a difference between those chews and Chomps other than one is carried in my grocery store.  That alone is something of a recommendation though.  Post run I had chocolate covered almonds and then a strawberry shake at Jamba Juice.

Execution: I really liked having an interval program planned, and I also liked that it was a different distance every time.  That kept me mentally engaged.  Except at the end I kind of hated that the running intervals were getting shorter.  Why am I not back at my car?  Can I be done yet?  At least I had a reason to run faster.  Not that you could tell it in the times.  The end was where I ran into a few big puddles, including that one that was calf deep.  That was truly awesome.  I found out that while my shoes may drain, smart wool socks certainly do not.

Pictures: This was certainly a better route for pictures than last time.  Also better was that I kept the camera in a pocket while I ran and mostly took it out while walking.  I wound up taking pictures for much more of the route than last time, and got a couple real gems towards the end. 

Post Run: After the run, I started to get really cold as predicted but a warm shower straightened everything out. I had a mid afternoon appointment, followed by shopping at REI. In the evening I did about 20 minutes of stretching and am now back to feeling like Gumby.