It seems like every marathon training cycle there is a run that stands out above all others.

A run where after the first few strides I know that this is going to be a tough one.  But for whatever reason instead of shrinking from it or changing my expectations for that workout I secretly enjoy it.

Whether it is a tough hill run, a 20-mile plus long run, a cold day or an unusually hot one – the run becomes more than just a square to cross off on my training schedule.  The entire training period becomes about that “one run”.

Today was that day.

When I put together this training plan for Austin more than 5 months ago, February 9th was an unsuspecting entry.

6.2 Mile Run – 7:15 pace

A run that I have executed literally close to a thousand times before.

But 11 days from the starting line of the Austin Marathon, somebody upstairs had a little surprise for me and decided to change the degree of difficulty just a bit to keep things interesting. 

I knew that rain was falling as the alarm clock sprung to life at 5:00 a.m. as I could hear it hitting the windows in the bedroom.  I had already laid out my running cap last night as the forecast was calling for rain.  No big deal I thought.

The temperature display on my weather station read 44 degrees.  So I hopped into my running shorts, a long sleeve running shirt, light gloves and was ready to roll.  I fired up the headlamp and blazed out the front door falling quickly into 7:15 min./mile effort.

I had just read the final chapter of Again to Carthage before leaving the house and was full of marathoner pride.  After this one, just 6 runs remain out of the 95 training runs on the road to Austin. 

Only 26 training miles would be left ironically, before I raced the 26.2 miles at Austin on February 20th.

As I turned right onto Lisa Anne Drive less than 3/10 of a mile from my home it hit me like a ton of bricks.


Not a gentle breeze or a rustling movement of air.  But a sustained wind that had to be blowing more than 20 miles an hour.

I caught myself smiling briefly as I made the 7/10 of a mile climb to the top of the hill marking the first mile of my run and thought:

“So, it’s going to be like this today ….”

I picked my way to the top of the hill and made a left turn into the Water’s Edge neighborhood and was hit by an even stronger wind gust.

My shirt was whipping behind me and even though I was now headed downhill to the lowest part of my course I felt like I was standing still.

The wind was getting stronger and the temperature was definitely falling.  All I could think about was how I wished I had worn my tights.

Mile three led me onto the trail system and I splashed out onto the crushed granite of the Brushy Creek Trail.  Cold standing water hit my toes and I knew that this was going to be a cold one.

I had opted for my lightweight running gloves as they did not soak up a lot of water like my heavier pairs, but I was soon regretting this decision also.  I pulled my fingers in from the ends of my gloves and balled my fists up to help them share my body heat.  My fingers started to warm up slightly, but they were by no means “toasty”.

As I reached the top of the hill that leads up and over the dam I knew that I was going to be coming back out from the shelter of the trees.  I would be more than 50 feet above the lake below and back in the wind.

Boom, it hit me right in the chest and blew cold rain into my eyes as I made the turn.  8/10 of a mile straight into the wind and then I would be able to make the wide turn to head back towards home.

I scattered 7 deer as I came off of the dam, two large bucks and 5 doe.  Normally they are still in the middle of the park at this time of morning and I can only see their eyes lit up from my headlamp, but with the changing weather, they too were not quite sure what to make of the conditions.

Once I made the last turn it was just a little over 2 miles back to the house.  I could feel the wind helping me along, wanting to lengthen my stride and start churning my legs faster and faster.

On any other morning I would have let them go.  Dropped the hammer a bit and turned some miles in the 6:40’s.

But with 11 days to go before race day and firmly in the middle of my taper, that was not only unnecessary, it would be reckless and foolish.

I tapped the breaks a bit and just locked into my cruising pace.

The last two miles were wet, cold, windy and tough.

I cherished both of them.  None of this is supposed to be easy I thought.  This is exactly the type of run I needed.  I needed to be reminded that there are going to be difficult stretches on February 20th.  I will need to stay in the moment, run the mile that I am on and not start to feel sorry for myself or fixate on anything negative.  Not worry about how far I have traveled to that point or how much farther I have to go. 

When the time comes I will simply have to “Cowboy Up”.

By the time I had returned the temperature had dropped more than 12 degrees in just 45 minutes.  The front of my shirt and the fingers of my gloves were frozen stiff with ice.

I hit the driveway at the end of 10 Kilometers in 44:52 – 7:14 min./mile pace.

Just :01 seconds per mile off of goal.

We’re ready.

Some of the trail we brought home with us on Wednesday

  1. onelittlejill says:

    Wow- 44 degree would feel like heaven to the 18 we had today! But I hear you on the wind…it has been insane here too!

    As for that run- I am glad you had an unsuspectedly tough run. If at any time during Austin you feel like you aren’t tough, you will remember this run today! And you will remember the great fight of Dom. And you will fight. Harder than ever. And you will succeed!

  2. Jodi Higgins says:

    Joe- you are totally “the runner my coach warned me about”!! Great job getting it done out there in that mess!! Can you warm up the weather and get rid of the rain before the 20th..pretty please!?!? And by the way you have major calf muscles!!

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