News flash: it’s winter

From xkcd

So the notorious furball Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow (per usual). And no one anywhere was surprised. Six more weeks of winter? Also not a shocker. But, there’s a run streak to maintain (69 days and going strong!), and oh, btw…

tt1

That’s right – one week left of the off-season.  And I’m trying to enjoy every last second before the plan begins, with its inherent structure and planned workouts. Only a little more playtime left.

Danielle and I have been keeping up our weekly runs, sometimes as many as three times a week, pretty much regardless of the weather – extreme cold drove us inside, but we braved the snow and messy sidewalks. Extra strength workout, right?

I had snow all over my hair.

We got so coated the other morning that her eyelashes and eyebrows were completely white and frozen, and some of my hair sticking out from under my hat apparently looked like grandpa hair. Sh*t running friends say to each other…?

The weekend before last, I was back home in Ohio to get some wedding errands done, and we got hit by a deluge of snow.

Yeah. I wouldn’t call that “runnable.”

Fortunately, a kind woman at my hometown rec center (which I haven’t belonged to in years and am of course not a resident) took mercy on me and let me pay the drop-in fee and run. I had to drive back and forth twice because I left my shoes in the front hall buuuut that’s another story… as was the person the next day who wouldn’t let me in because I wasn’t a current resident. Bummer.

I was relieved I’d been smart enough to pack gym clothes, and because of the nasty roads and back-and-forth-left-shoes-at-home oopsie, I only had time for five. I think the treadmill wasn’t calibrated well, because I ran the middle 3 miles of a 5-miler at half-marathon goal pace progressing to faster than tempo, and it felt effortless. At 2% grade. Or maybe I was just having a good day.

Last week I got an email from Kim, letting me know – in the way that runners nudge each other – that she was planning on 12 miles at North Park on Saturday. Well, of course I was going to join. I was a bit concerned about the distance – I hadn’t gotten past 10 in a while, and even that not for a couple weeks. So NF and I loaded up on delicious pancakes the night before, and I had one for breakfast with peanut butter and sliced up banana. We headed out to North Park and started just as the sky was starting to get lighter – at 7 a.m. There were plenty of runners out already, and I realized I hadn’t run the roads in North Park except for races. What a treat! Kim and I chatted the entire time and breezed through 12 miles at a quicker pace than I would have predicted.

The next day, I met up with Kelly and Kim at North Park to hit up the trails. It had warmed up the previous day so the ice was slushy but still slick, but with still a fair amount of snow in places. It was slow-going and tricky, but really beautiful, and sometimes the ridiculousness of what we were trying to navigate had us laughing. We wanted to try out a bit of the Rachel Carson, but with the narrow passages flanked by drop-offs and lots of ice, we wisely decided to bag it.

Kim contemplating how to cross the stream.
Frozen water – we have no idea how we’re going to cross, but how great is this?
Kelly and I take the opportunity for photos.

We sorta managed to get across – twice – without getting TOO wet.

Foot dunk! And I’m contemplating escape or something. (Kelly’s photo)
“Is that rock stable?” (Kelly’s photo)

Now I admit, I’m kind of a weenie when it comes to frigid river crossings and climbing up wet, icy rocks (which w also did). But did I want to look like a chump in front of my trail buddies? Hell no. So I laughed, took my time, and had a blast.

In the end, the RCT was just a bit much for the conditions. As Kelly put it, Rachel Carson is kind of a bitch. But we’ll be back!

So in five days time, training begins for my next goal race.

This will be my fourth time running the Pittsburgh half-marathon. Last year I crushed my expectations with a sub-1:50 finished, which I bettered that September at Air Force with a 1:43:56. And this year, well. There’s this whole deal:

seeded info

Gulp.

My half-marathon PR translates to a 7:56 average pace. Seven seconds away from being able to apply for (emphasis on “apply”) a seeded position at Pittsburgh. I’ve been gradually increasing my goal paces, so this should be within reach, as long as nothing goes horribly wrong. But can I make it happen this spring? Just a Short Run is at the end of March, right before the deadline for applications. It’s my last chance. It’s my only chance. I have to run 1:42:24 to qualify to apply. Just seven seconds per mile faster. Tiny. And huge.

Over the weekend, NF and I wrote our training plan – part of the snag being our wedding and subsequent honeymoon in early April – but with Just a Short Run being the week before, we scheduled a cutback for wedding week, and plan on doing a decent amount of treadmill running (at least for quality workouts) while we are on our honeymoon (in the Dominican Republic!). We’ll see what actually happens there. Either way, some miles are better than zero miles, and miles are better done together. Right?

We’re keeping a lot of elements from last year’s very successful plans: increasing distance tempo runs, mile repeats, and half-marathon pace miles during long runs. To give us more of a boost, we’re both starting the season with a much higher base than last year. I have us starting not too aggressively with a 30-mile week because we’ve been maintaining 30-35 the last month and loving it. Last year, we started with a 20-mile week (and I think I was whining because I’d been stuck in a rut of weeks in the teens) and peaked at 38. This year, we’re starting at 30 – conservatively – and peaking at 48 (also rather conservatively, given the previously mentioned wedding/honeymoon training roadblock. Love you, honey!)

But wait – if my goal for Just a Short Run is 1:42:24 – what about the Pittsburgh half itself?

Do I dare even mention it aloud? Should I tempt the running gods?

No, probably not yet.

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