Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Embracing the cold, dark Alberta winter

This past Sunday at 2 am our beloved sun, with the help of daylight savings time, will now be setting one hour earlier. Meaning my after work runs starting at 7 pm will now be entirely in the dark, very sad indeed. Every year I struggle with this. Not only is the weather turning and snow and ice are a new challenge, but the thought of lacing up for a 40K run, all at night has become more and more difficult to stomach.

With the innovation of warmer running garments, foot wear and headlamps the only thing getting between you and the trails is motivation. But when the sun is not around, motivation is hard to come by. Even if the lack of sunlight doesn't put you off, most running races will reconvene in April/May, leaving a long time between now and then, making it very easy to slack off (for lack of a better term). So how does one stay even moderately motivated and focused through the cold Alberta winter?

Embrace the warrior within you. It's easy in the summer months to get pumped about your long mountainous runs cuz heck, the weather is warm, days are long and views are stunning. However when your running in a blizzard in the dark, it's easy to circle back and finish the run early. Look around outside. If it was easy everyone would do it and the truth is: no one's around. If it's not the cold that stops you it's the darkness; if not the darkness, it's the lonely, empty feeling of running in the middle of nowhere in a white out. There are endless reasons and excuses of why not to get out for a run in November, but there is one major reason why we all should. Not only are you getting a long run in but you're also getting in significant mental training, key to ultra training. Anyone who's ever run an ultra will tell you its 90% mental and 10% physical. Sometimes you just gotta embrace the suck.

Years ago, I was running my first ultra when an older runner took pity on me. He mentioned I had a significant disadvantage at events like this because I lacked "old man strength". He went on talking about two farmers from two different generations, both having food poisoning. The junior pouting and whining curled under the kitchen table all day while the senior was still able to complete a 14 hour work day. The only way to handle adversity is to face adversity often. Confused and annoyed I ran on and later found out the hard way that he was right.

That being said, training in the cold, dark Alberta winter can be (if you choose it to be) an opportunity. As a runner let this cold winter off season help you develop and condition your mental strength and get one step closer to finding your inner old man.

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