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.

2019 in Running: August

On the first day of August I woke up shortly before six in the morning, laced up my sneakers, walked down towards the pond near where the swans were still dozing, and started to run. I ran up along a narrow gravel trail, over a small grassy rise, along a small road, past a two hundred year old towering monument to the Scottish hero of lore, William Wallace, down into a slumbering neighbourhood, and plodded across an eight hundred year old stone footbridge, where (as legend would have) the Scots routed the British invaders in the 1300s in a battle made famous in the film Braveheart.

We spent three weeks in Scotland (staying near Stirling) and Ireland in the month of August, and my training continued in the wee hours before everyone else in the forty-seven member travelling group had bothered to get out of bed.

Two weeks in, I skipped out on the official tour, boarded a train, then a bus, then a RyanAir flight to Dublin. The next morning I was standing in Pheonix Park in shorts and crowd of a few thousands of Irish runners getting ready to run a speedy five klick race through the misty rain.

Almost exactly one day later (after a long and convoluted adventure to find my race pickup package, some art supplies, and a cold pint of Guinness) I was standing on a street in Dublin getting ready to run the Dublin Rock’n Roll Half Marathon.

I wasn’t expecting to do too great. I mean, try travelling for over two weeks, sitting on planes and busses, and wandering up and down through tourist locations (which there are generally castles with narrow staircases leading up to vantages) and then do a race. Travel running is awesome, but expectations need to be kept low. When I pulled a three-year personal best out of my backside, in other words, I surprised even myself. It was a positive split, if I’m being completely honest, but filled with a kind of Irish spring in my step through the first eleven klicks, down cobbled roads, around castles and amazing old architecture, to the sounds of cheering crowds and loud music, it all kept be strong.

Then we hit Pheonix Park again, and the rolling hills killed me. But that’s how these things tend to go.

I returned to Canada with a neck laden with multiple bling medals and a few memories, too, and pretty much nothing else I did that month topped that weekend.