Trail time

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As we say in our family, “It ain’t a trail run unless you’re muddy and bloody.” Today’s run delivered both and more…

Still feeling the lingering effects of a ridiculous sinus cold that set in a couple of weeks ago, I headed out on today’s run with no agenda. No set number of miles to complete. No time goals to hit. No anything other than just being outside on this glorious February day. I hopped in my car and headed south, not really even sure of my destination. I ultimately settled on the park that grounds my soul. Every. Single. Time.

The space of time between the snow melt and the new buds of spring gives opportunity to explore new trails, ones far less traveled than the paths that I usually traverse. Trails that are not visible during the overgrowth of summer, had now become visible and invited me in. Sites unseen, I opted out of running for the remainder of my time and instead settled on a fast hike as to enjoy the woods through a new lens. The eagles were soaring and the geese were gathering, honking loudly overhead as I eventually traveled back to the big river in the park.

No time in the woods is ever wasted but some runs are just a little more special than others. Today it wasn’t about the mileage or my mile-per-minute pace, but instead about so much more. I left the park with a grateful heart and a peaceful spirit, in awe of the gift of nature.

Five reasons to love running outside during a Minnesota winter. . .

*****WARNING*****WARNING*****WARNING*****

(This post is nothing but a desperate attempt at positivity.) 
 

It’s November 10. Two days ago I s-h-a-t-t-e-r-e-d my 5k personal best and I am currently 169 days into a runstreak. I am desperately trying not to let this early winter storm–that has arrived in FULL FORCE–dampen my running spirits.  Now, when I am running better than I ever have, is not the time for winter to settle in. Why, Mother Nature? Why?

I rolled out of bed around 9:00 a.m. (As luck would have it, I had decided last week to schedule today off work.) I immediately peeked out the window. I could see through my curtains that the ground was white but I was intensely hoping that the weather predictions had been wrong.

UGH, even worse than I imagined.

So many inches already on the ground! I knew if I was going to get a run in I would have to do it now–or I’d likely succumb to the negative thoughts (it’s cold, it’s snowy, it’s slippery, you don’t need to run etc.) that were already creeping into my head. I’d soon cave to the negativity and then head on over to the neighbors who had graciously offered up their treadmill.

But, I refuse to succumb to the drone of the treadmill.

Well , at least this early in the season. Not just because I don’t like the dreadmill treadmill, but because my mental health requires that I get outside and run. Running outside soothes my soul like few other things do.

Not really seeing much of a choice in the matter, I bundled up and headed outside for my first winter run of the 2014-15 season. Alas, woe is me.

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Beauty of a look , I know. And yes, the white behind me is blowing snow.
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While these shoes work perfectly for winter running, I already miss my regular shoes.

I set foot into the snow and surprisingly my legs (albeit reluctantly) settled into a running form of sorts. I made it out of the yard without falling and headed down the road on some tire tracks. The snow was deeper than I thought and it was blowing hard enough that the visibility was less than two blocks. The snow stung my eyes and I ran the first block with them mostly closed. I’m sure I was a sight.

About a quarter mile in, I was already wringing wet with sweat. I had definitely overdressed.

About a half mile in, my calf muscles were screaming at me. “This is not normal! Why are we trying to run through this white stuff?”

At my turn around, my lungs were definitely more taxed than normal. I had forgotten how cold temperature affects breathing. By this time, the negative self-talk was beginning in full force. “Why are you running in a snowstorm? This is dumb. You are dumb. Go home. Head back to the gym.” And on it went, eventually progressing to a full-on whinefest in my head.

I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the things that I hated about winter running. Breathing is hard. My mile-per-minute pace slows significantly. Runs are usually shorter. I can never get down how many layers I need to stay comfortable. Shoe choices are limited. Running on the trails I love so dearly is nearly impossible.  And I slow down. (Oops, did I already mention that?)

Apparently though, I began to settle into the run because as I got closer to home, I made the decision to run a little farther (despite my crap attitude) than I had originally planned. I had realized that it was going to be one helluva long winter if I was going to be grumbling miserably already. I thought back to last winter. What were some of the things that I actually liked about winter runs? Was there anything?

Amazingly, I discovered,  there were a few things I actually loved about winter running.

5.  Winter running clothes are pretty cute (and black running tights, which I wear all the time, make my legs look rather toned.)

4.  Winter cross-training activities are a blast. Snowshoeing anyone?

3.  Running while it is lightly snowing is incredibly peaceful and beautiful.

2. Moonlight runs on a calm winter’s night are some of the most soul-soothing runs,      EVER.

1. Running outside in Minnesota in the winter is just plain, BADASS.

 And who doesn’t want to be badass?

What about you?

Winter running, love it or leave it?