Cold. Snow. Weather. Repeat.

People keep asking me if I’m signing up for this year’s Hypothermic Half. This is the local half marathon series in February each year, the same where one gambles with one’s very safety and sanity by registering to run on a day that will either be (a) #coldAF or (b) literally the worst road conditions —ice, pebbled ice, oatmeal chop snow, fresh wet snow, or ankle-deep tire ruts— for a medal, a breakfast, and bragging rights for being a hard-edge CanadianMF who doesn’t let the snow and cold stop them from kicking nature’s ass.

I’m not signing up. Nature wins. I’m skipping a few years. I’ve run that, and the result has always been a great story, a good breakfast, but a miserable stretch of training, cuz, oh right, you need to winter-train for that race.

It’s been the worst this past two weeks. Worst. The winter training analogy to rolling a two, getting pwned in the tutorial level, or drawing the card with the instructions printed on it when playing high stakes poker. Why even bother weather. Worst.

It was cold. Bitter, miserable, frost-biting, asscheek-numbing, chew-the-skin-off-your-face cold.

Then the cold broke, but it snowed. Heavy, ankle-deep, cover-the-slick-ice-below snow. Six klicks through that the other night left me humbled and picking pebbled ice-wads from between my toes.

As a countermeasure, we’ve been mostly running inside. On a track. Warm. Dry. Flat. Round. And around. And around. Did I mention around, flat and boring? Another lap you say?

Weather, amIright? Do I read a bit bitter?

The solution has been cross-training. I gave myself a little rule this month. And next month. And frankly, until I feel like I want to start training-proper, so likely until late-March-ish. It’s the guilt-free run plan: I run when I run, how I run, if I run, and I don’t feel guilty… so long as I’m doing some cross-training.

We’ve been spinning. I have that Peloton app and the rec center does a gruelling session.

We’ve clocked about an hour on a rower.

The pool bekons me and I’ve been swimming laps.

The weight machines have counted a few rounds of reps. Grunt. Lift. Repeat.

And, a few round, and around, and around laps on the track.

It’s the great 2020-cross-training winter-rules guilt-free running-not-running plan.

I mean, there’s that whole spring and summer of races to think about, y’know later… but I’ll let the snow melt a bit before I get myself in a knot over that. And I’ll be sleeping in while the rest of you are out kicking nature’s ass in the Hypothermic Half this winter. And by the way I’m just fine with that.

Much Ado About the Run Crew

I’ve been contemplating the demise of my running community.

I don’t want to be overly dramatic about these things, but our corporate benefactor unceremoniously dumped us. Well, to be precise, the corporate-run running shoppe where many of us first met and trained, and which continues to act as a bit of a membership feeder for our ragtag group, has opted to put a timeline on their continued presence at their current location.

Leases. Markets. Profits. Blah, blah, blah. I can rationally respect the business decision, but it does sting a little bit that they have given virtually zero acknowledgement that our little “run club” collective is bigger than the store, and it has been for the better part of a decade. That they bring people, but we keep them coming. That they create an incentive, but we build a team and provide support. That they provide a location, but we provide a community.

Of course, some –many– folks will follow to the new location. New runners will be lured by the call of a brand new store opening. Yet for some, especially we who have put sweat and tears into building the little crew that has united us in a worldwide pursuit of achieving race goals, it has not gone unspoken that there must be something we can do to keep the group afloat, particularly how and where we are now, besides just dutifully following the store to the suburban strip-mall where corporate headquarters has deemed we now must run from and hoping things stay gelled in the same way.

Technology is only part of the answer, and maybe not the best one, but it is an answer I can throw a few handfuls of effort towards. So, last night I registered and then did my website magic wherein I laid the foundations for:

www.coffeecrew.ca

First and foremost, a searchable “hey, look at us… we’re running here” spot on the web where someone searching for “runners in edmonton” or “edmonton run clubs” might stumble across us and ask for a WTFisUp referral to some local running and race training.

Second, and because I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate Facebook, a social community that is outside of all the little chat and network apps that are creating a scattered collection of people who are struggling to communicate and plan effectively. That’s the tough slog: I get that. Another website, another group, another thing to join, but even if that part flops, the website and a few modest posts about our training might be enough to bring the 5 or more new members each year to keep us a viable group.

If nothing else, it was 12 bucks for a domain and I can hand out some email addresses if people want them.

If you are more than just a lurker, head over to www.coffeecrew.ca and sign up with an account. Set up a profile. Say something. Participate. Don’t take these fragile communities for granted.

The Commitment Equation

Commitment equals results.

Math! *mic drop

So, I signed up for a gym membership last night.

Well… let me back that up a bit.

I did some actual-factual numbers-and-money-related math and realized (ding-ding!) that calculating for the employee discount I get plus the savings from a payroll deduction credit against the pay-per-entry per-use cost of visiting the recreation center a mere four times per month, it would be better for me to just bite the bullet and sign up for an ongoing pass to the local facility.

Gym. Weights. Equipment. Track. Drop in classes. Instructors. Pool. Hot tub. Lockers. Cafe. Friends.

The math worked out, but (and I was explaining this to one of my fellow runners last night when he asked me about my decision to switch) there is another equation to consider besides just money: Commitment value.

See, buying a punch-pass is a great excuse to NOT go. Yeah, I get a discount. Yeah, I have a dozen punches on my card. But every one of those punches represents what (in my head, at least) could be a capital-W Workout. They have individual value in themselves, and I know myself: I want to find an optimal use for that value. One punch could (should… must) be a swim of a certain length, or a workout plus a run, or span a specific length of time.

If I’m smart, I set time aside and so having the time to go means I (optimally) think about my visit as I paid some bucks to be inside, so I gotta make it worthwhile.

But this quickly turns into I’ll need to pay some bucks to go inside, and I don’t have time to make it worthwhile so… maybe next time.

No commitment. No visit. No results. Fail.

In switching from a punch-card to a pass, I turn this whole calculation into, I’ve already paid a few more bucks to go inside whenever I feel like it, so any time that I go is worthwhile.

Where I might not have just gone to do some weights for twenty minutes after a run, it now seems like a no-brainer. Where I may have avoided a swim because just ten laps struck me as a waste of a punch, now: what the hell! Where I may have tried to optimize my visit by equating the value of a punch to the cost of a class, now I can go do a spin class or a yoga class and not worry about finding value beyond participation.

Results are not guaranteed, but adding commitment to that formula has gotta be a factor, right?

The Not-a-Diet On-again Off-again Roller-Coaster

Body image is a real fucker.

I observe –rightly or wrongly, but it’s what I notice– that women get it so much worse than we men. Guys are not free and clear, but the gals got it so much more rough. Because even though I’m about to write some words here about eating right and getting in shape and all that, at the end of the day the only pressure I feel is due to some residual toxic masculinity nudge to keep up as a male runner in my generally fast age category.

If I don’t look good in a dress, no one cares.

I put it this way because I don’t want some rando-hater to come wandering by in a month or six and accuse me of propping of the diet industry or to become the target of Jameela Jamil mistakenly thinking I’m pro-beauty culture and getting virally trounced in a tweet-storm for something that I’m (genuinely) against.

So, for the record: body image is a real fucker.

And I state that in alignment with this other thing: that I’m declaring the next two and a half months of my life an eat-better-get-in-shape-again phase NOT because I’m selling beauty products, but rather because I know I’ll never even make it to another marathon start line if I don’t elevate myself even higher –health-wise, anyways– than I was two years ago when I did my last one.

My plan, the one that worked last time, went something like this:

  1. Set some rules, boundaries, personal expectations.
  2. Commit to something publicly.

Simple.

So, rules boundaries and personal expectations go something like this:

From January 3 through March 18, two and a half months I’m going to follow the little diet plan that proved my friend last time I lost some weight. The (modified) NO-S diet*. No sugar, no sweets, no seconds, no soda, no sauces and smaller portions, except sometimes on days that start with S, such as Saturdays, Sundays and special days. Also, (at lunch) skip anything that isn’t salad, soup, sandwich, or steamed.

*Google it. It’s not mine.

The committing to something publicly: well… this blog is a start.

In the meantime, I’ll try not to set any bars, high or low, for body image expectations for myself or others. In the end, for me at least, it’s not about looks — it’s about feels. And getting to that start line in better shape than I am now.

2019 in Running: December

Then December arrived.

I’ve spent the last twelve days of this month reflecting on the last twelve months. This was in no small part because of something that happened as the month rolled in, namely an acceptance letter to a marathon lottery. And if or not I find myself standing at the start line of a marathon in Chicago in October of next year, no matter if I do that or run screaming in the other direction, the year 2020 will likely be defined by my effort to get there.

Marathons have a way of doing that.

On and on I go.

I’ve already written a couple posts on my thoughts about being accepted, and the effect it is likely to have on my year. I’ve started cross-training in earnest, if for no other reason than I need to train myself up to get ready for the actual marathon training. I am like as not to register for a few more races in the spring and summer to guage my fitness. And I’ve even booked a hotel, which oh-by-the-way is gonna be hella-expensive in Chicago on race weekend.

I’m going to start the new year — new decade — in a similar way to how I’ve ended this one: by scaling back my running. Over the past couple weeks I’ve actually been on a bit of a break. After running hard for eleven and a half months this year, the past two weeks as I’ve written all these posts I’ve simultaneously been hiding out. Writing rather than running. I’ve run precisely once, and that was on purpose.

A break. A reset. A re-think.

Tomorrow, January first, a couple things happen: the new year and the new decade begin with a five klick resolution run though the snowy streets of Edmonton, the gates open on at least one major training run, and my imminent return to routine means that I actually need to start thinking about something that is only a day closer but will no longer be separated by a decade of measure.