Staying motivated when you don’t have a finish line

I started plugging in my car a week ago. It wasn’t even December. It’s not even officially winter for three weeks. It’s not fair. This is what it means to be a Winnipeger.

I’ve already read a handful of articles predicting what the weather is going to be like this winter. I think many Winnipegers (including myself) labour under the cozy delusion that this winter isn’t going to be as bad as last winter. It’s pretty hard to get worse than last winter. Whatever helps us sleep in the subzero, frigid night I suppose.

Personally, I find myself still recovering from last years brutal winter. The side effect? I have absolutely no desire to run outside. Whatsover.

I know, I know, I’m a wimp. A sham even, as I sit here discrediting my own blog. Allow me to explain.

I’m not exactly the best role model when it comes to running. My routine mainly consists of two things: training for a marathon full force, or hardly running at all. To combat that, I try to compete in a race at least once a year. When I’m really feeling it I do a half marathon, when I’m not I’ll do a fun run. I haven’t decided on my next challenge and therefore I’m struggling to find the motivation to even hit the treadmill, never mind run outdoors.

In this apathetic phase, I am turning to the advice that I have once given others, but forgotten for myself.

1. Motivate in the way that’s best for you

2. Baby steps

Totally simple, yet easy to forget.

For me, I’m not motivated by having a workout buddy. I am motivated by signing up for a class with a starting point and end point. I am not motivated by sharing my progress (kms, weight loss) with others. I am motivated by giving myself accountability like announcing a challenge on this blog.

For me, the best way to combine what motivates me with starting small—baby steps— is to finally decide on my next challenge. So I have decided that my next running goal is to run the 26th Annual Brita Resolution Run in Winnipeg. If you haven’t gathered, it happens on New Year’s Day every year, no matter how cold the weather may be. For me, this is the perfect ‘fun’ run to start off the New Year.

Check out info on the run here:

http://www.events.runningroom.com/site/?raceId=5951

What motivates you? How to you keep a regular routine? No matter how cold it is outside, motivating your mind can be the biggest challenge in winter running.

For more advice on motivation, check out this article on www.lifehack.org:

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/thirteen-tricks-to-motivate-yourself.html

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How Cold Is Too Cold??

Winnipeg Willow the groundhog didn’t see her shadow this Groundhog Day, but so far it’s not looking good for an early spring.

According to http://globalnews.ca:                                                                                                                 

“The coldest February since 1979 is ending with all of the province except the Churchill region under Environment Canada wind chill warnings. Dangerous wind chills of -45 to -50 are expected across southern Manitoba, the federal weather agency said. In northern Manitoba, the wind chill could drop as low as -55.”

HAVEN’T WE SUFFERED ENOUGH???

Well first I’d like to say that I am extremely thankful that when I ran the Hypothermic Half marathon last weekend it was only -16. If I woke up race day to -50 degree winds, I really don’t know if I could do it.

I’ve written before about how to protect yourself from the bitter cold (view post). But at some point you really have to know when it’s just too dangerous to run outside. In the winter I run in small circuits near my house so that I’m never far from safety. But if you enjoy something more scenic or the beauty and challenge of trails, it can be very dangerous to run when the weather gets too cold. Imagine twisting an ankle or realizing you’re underdressed miles away from home.

An article by Kelly O’Mara on http://running.competitor.com says:

“Research suggests that as long as it’s warmer than -18 degrees, it’s not too cold to work out — as long as you take the appropriate precautions.”

O’Mara explains that running in weather any colder than -18 puts runners at high risk of frostbite. But -18? That’s a few degrees away from wearing only windbreakers and shoveling the walk in shorts up in Winnipeg. Ok, I’m exaggerating a little.

Everyone is different and every city is different. As a born-and-raised Winnipeger, I’m comfortable running outdoors up to about -30, though I don’t enjoy it.

At what point do you stay inside? I am interested to see how Winnipegers and non-Winnipegers differ.   

What goes on at a winter marathon?

Finally the Hypothermic Half Marathon is complete and I’m very excited to share my experience with you! With so many winter runners in one place at one time, I learned so much just on the day of my marathon.

How did I do? Well I finished and I am ecstatic about that. It was the slowest time I’ve clocked to date on a half marathon, but that was the least of my worries for this race. I didn’t even wear a watch. I am proud of myself for pushing myself to try something new. And perhaps the only thing harder than running the 13 miles on the -16 plus wind-chill day was weekly long runs in weather even worse than that as I trained. It is not an easy task and merely completing it feels great.

So what’s a winter marathon like anyhow? Well it ain’t no run in the park (ha). You know that feeling you get at a race as people start to gather at the starting line, they wait for the gun shot, and Chariots of Fire or some other comparable classic is blasted and hoards of runners slowly funnel through the arch of the start? Well none of that happened because we were obviously hiding indoors trying to avoid the cold weather until the last possible second. I froze my fingers trying to take a few pictures before the race. That was comforting given I was wearing gloves at the time. Not.

Just minutes before we were ushered to the starting line, we were gathered indoors, zipping up our battle gear and lathering our faces with Vaseline. I was fumbling around with my iPod trying to find where the cord should fit between my many layers of clothes. A woman standing next to me saw me wrap my iPod in a Kleenex before I put it in my pocket. I do this so it won’t freeze from being damp; it works occasionally. She pulled a toe warmer out of her pocket and offered it to me, you know the disposable ones that heat up your boots for hours? It stuck right to the back of my iPod and kept it running the whole race. I thanked her kindly as she showed me that they came two in a pack and attached one to her own mp3 player. What a great tip!

Another cool tip which I caught on camera was that many of the runners were Duct taping their shoes before the race. I shouldn’t have been so surprised, we’re Canadian eh? Well the reason I’ve never written about taping your shoes is because I’ve never really had a problem with cold feet. Even my runners with mesh keep my feet warm, so it’s not something I ever considered. But after running the race it appeared that there were more people taping their shoes than there were people wearing grips so I guess this is the real deal. I will likely follow up on this topic in a future blog post. But I can tell you now that as I ran through the snow, I was dodging fallen Duct tape wads every odd pace. I wonder how well it works if it doesn’t appear to stay on.

I really didn’t face any major challenges during the race that were winter related. Sure, the water at the water stations was a bit frozen. And, yes, it was a dread wearing as much clothes as I was. But overall, the biggest challenge I had was simply keeping focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Near mile 11 I got to the point where I was jogging so slow that I was spending more energy bouncing up and down than I was moving forward. My power walking was more efficient at this point, so I took some breaks. My iPod playlist ran out so I wound up listening to an old running playlist and found myself running to a variety of seasonal hits such as Summer Nights by Rascall Flatts. I was so cold at this point that the irony irritated me. But I pressed on.

The finish line in this particular race was anti-climactic. I had no idea when it was coming, as it was hidden around a bend in thick trees. I knew I was close, but that last mile feels like a marathon in itself, so it’s hard to judge. Anyway, I slowly turned a corner and poof, there was the finish line. I didn’t even have time to pick up speed and pretend I was running that fast the whole way for the cheering spectators. I’m a firm believer in a strong finish. But nevertheless, I was greeted at the finish line with high fives from volunteers and a shiny medal placed on my neck. For me, that’s what this was all about and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Now that I mention that, a HUGE shout out to all the volunteers who handed out water and marshaled us in the right direction. The only thing worse than running around in the cold is just standing there for hours as three waves of runners passed through. You couldn’t see me smiling at you through my balaclava when you cheered for me, but I sure do appreciate all who helped out.

Finally, I was very impressed with the hot brunch served after the race. I stuffed myself with french toast, hot chocolate, bacon, sausages, and dozens of fresh breads and salads. This was a lovely treat and much more appropriate than a post-race Popsicle after such a cold morning.

Despite this wonderful experience, I can’t say at this point that I’m keen on running this race next year. However, I am so thrilled that I am in the shape I’m in now so that I carry on my training for a spring run or two.

Thank you to everyone who followed my journey, your support encouraged me push through and I am ever grateful. You rock!

What goes through your mind during a race?

Tomorrow is my big winter race—the Hypothermic Half at Fort Whyte Alive! I’ve run in handful of races before, but never in the winter. I’m wondering how tomorrow’s experience will be different. Based on previous races, this is how my half marathons usually pan out. Do you see any similarities with your own experiences?

Sara’s thought process per Kilometre:

1 – Okay, feeling good.
2 – Am I tired already? This can’t be good.
3 – Yep, I’m already out of breath.
4 – Great, I have to pee.
5 – Alright, finding my stride.
6 – Would it be acceptable to walk yet?
7 – One third done. Really? Only a third??
8 – Think happy thoughts. This really isn’t so bad.
9 – I’m almost at 10 kilometres!
10 – Just about half done! You know, 10 kilometres is just the perfect amount. I’d love to stop now.
11 – Well at least my feet don’t hurt yet.
12 – Okay my feet hurt a bit now.
13 – I haven’t seen a water stand in freaking forever… oh there’s one up ahead!
14 – My playlist sucks.
15 – Someone’s handing out Freezies! Thank you!
16 – I am officially dying.
17 – I don’t care, I’m walking.
18 – Hmm the faster I run, the faster I’ll be able to finish this nightmare. Let’s see if I can muster up a second wind.
19 – Well that was short lived. Run a bit, walk a bit, run a bit, walk a bit.
20 – Home stretch! I’m never running again!
21 – Whoever marked this course is a dirty liar because this last kilometre is sooo not a kilometre. I give up. Fine, I’ll keep going.
Finish – Thank you very much I’m fabulous and so very athletic. Now where’s the snacks and why are they so far away??