Archive for February 1, 2012

I knew that Tuesday morning’s 16-mile training run was going to post some challenges.

It was going to be just a handful of days after the Texas Half Marathon and after a pair of Monday flights that took me from sunny, warm Austin, TX to Buffalo, NY.  Running on the road traveling is rarely “easy” – there is always some kind of challenge when you have to leave your familiar routes behind – but normally the length is not as far as 16 miles.

I found a 7.2 mile long trail to run along Ellicot Creek, starting at the UB campus in Amherst, NY out to Tonawanda and back.  With an approximately 1 mile run to the trail head and 1 mile return trip the mileage should work out just about perfectly.

The forecast called for 38 degree temperatures with just a touch of wind blowing – so all in all the conditions were going to be favorable – it was just a matter of getting up early enough to get the run in before a day of meetings.  Something we do routinely back home in Austin.

The challenge came the way of snowfall over the weekend, and the fact that the “trail” was not something that would be plowed.  I knew that it was going to be snow-covered, but what I didn’t know fully was just how rutted the trail would be and how difficult it was going to be to navigate all of the footprints that had been etched into the snowy surface, then frozen over as the temperature rose, only to freeze again overnight.

Ellicot Creek Trail

As I left the icy parking lot and took my first strides onto the trail after a mile long warm-up, I could tell this run was going to be one of the more challenging I have ever experienced.  Not used to running in the snow my stride was shortened as I tried to lift my legs a bit higher on my toe-off to clear the 5 inches or so of soft powder.

My headlamp was able to illuminate the way fairly well as I was able to follow the narrow pair of cross-country ski tracks just to the right of the trail.  But dodging each frozen footstep proved to be challenging as I lost my stride and balance continuously stride after stride, mile after mile.

As I approached the end of mile 8 and got prepared to turn around to head back to the start of the trail head I crunched through some ice and stepped into ankle-deep frozen water to my ankles.  Ugh.

I had more than an hour left of running and was now going to be battling cold, wet feet as well as the snow and rutted trail.

My mind quickly shifted to one of my favorite quotes about training and racing.

“Somewhere out there a runner is training while you are not.  When you race him, he will beat you.”

I took solace in the fact that on this day.  I was that runner.

I was the one pushing through the elements at 5:00 a.m. in conditions that would have forced many onto the hotel treadmill, or the scheduled 16-miler would have been cut short.

I pushed back to the hotel and finished my snowy 16 mile run in 2 hours, 11 minutes and 50 seconds.

16 snowy miles at 8:13 pace, when the effort felt much more like 7:15 to 7:30.

These are the runs that toughen the mind, the body and the spirit of the marathoner.

Those 16 miles were not the prettiest that I will run during this training cycle that leads to the starting line of the Boston Marathon on April 16th, but they very well my be my proudest.

With little fanfare I stepped into the warmth of the Marriott hotel in Amherst and walked past the morning hotel staff and on to the elevators.  Not one of them glanced in my direction or had any idea where I had just been.

Too bad.  They missed their chance to see a soon to be sub 3-hour marathoner coming in from a training run.  As of this morning I have no doubt that is exactly where we are headed on April 16th.

No doubt at all.