“Damn!” I muttered, squinting through the steam to see how bad the cut was.
It was ten days before my first half marathon. Blood oozed right where the top of my running shoe hits the back of my heel, and I panicked. Would shaving my legs be the thing that ruined my race after training for over three months through one of the coldest winters in Virginia history?
Just a couple of weeks earlier, my Vienna/Oakton Moms Run This Town (MRTT) buddies and I had met before sunrise, headlamps and reflector belts illuminating the dark path before us as we navigated a seven-mile route dotted with snow and ice patches.
At least that run was relatively warm — somewhere in the low 20’s (Fahrenheit). It was only 14 degrees a week prior to that when my friend Chrissie and I did our six-mile training run. We probably would have canceled had we known how cold it was, but I forgot to look at the temperature before leaving the house and once we were at the trail, we figured, “Well, why not?”
Even though my body stayed warm enough running in below freezing temperatures (the right gear makes all the difference), water bottles freeze and GPS watches and phone apps stop working. Minor inconveniences when you’re in the company of friends.
We did draw the line in conditions of freezing rain, snow showers, or wind chills below zero. But running on treadmills is torture if you love being outdoors and are fueled by girlfriend chatter.
And speaking of girlfriend chatter, it’s truly the secret ingredient to limit-busting transformation…
If you had told me six months ago that I would voluntarily run in 14-degree weather (or even run a half marathon, for that matter), I would have laughed in your face.
But my MRTT girlfriends are always several paces ahead of me, showing me what’s possible and ready to answer any question, calm any fear.
Here are just a few of the questions I posted on the MRTT private Facebook page over the course of my training:
Martha: “Who runs in freezing rain? Seems like the treadmill is a smarter choice for me tomorrow. Trying not to feel wimpy.”
MRTT: Experienced marathoners reassured me that they, too, choose the treadmill over ice. Knowing when to be smart is another level of discipline and determination. (Before I started running, I had no idea that even more mental toughness is needed to run distance on a treadmill — the longest I’ve ever lasted is five miles.)
Martha: “Anybody have recommendations for underwear that doesn’t ride up your butt?”
MRTT: This question tagged on nicely to another post debating the pros and cons of running commando.
Martha: “Worried that my period might start on or around race day. It’s not only the hassle, it’s also the fatigue that comes from the hormone impact. How do you crazy marathon ladies deal with this?”
MRTT: My question elicited 96 comments but only three “likes”. And for any men who might be reading this, a boatload of research explains why menstrual hormones make it a lot more difficult to power through a run. So stop talking about “running like a girl,” unless you’re referring to strength and not weakness.
Martha (one week from race day): “OK, so my anxiety about potentially getting my period on race day has been replaced by anxiety that I may have a minor hamstring pull after my cardio dance class yesterday. Should I skip my run this weekend?”
MRTT: YES. Trust the training. As one wise MRTT member said, “That last training run won’t impact your race, but an injured hamstring will.” Comments like this helped me to let go of my worry.
Bringing in the big guns…
Probably the best example I can give of the power of my running girlfriends happened two weeks ago on our longest training run. About eight of us were navigating a 12-mile route (the longest run several in the group–including myself–had ever done).
We ran along roadsides since most of the sidewalks were still covered in snow and ice, as was the bike path we usually use for training. Somewhere at about mile 9, my friend Melanie slipped a piece of paper to our experienced marathoner friend Teresa as a thank you for her leadership. How’s this for creative inspiration?
Before training for this race, my longest run had been the Army 10-Miler last October. Having completed 12.1 miles in that last long training run, I only have one more to tack on at the D.C. Rock and Roll Half Marathon tomorrow (yes, TOMORROW).
I can do this. Even though my period may indeed start on race day and even though the weather forecast is for rain the entire day and temperatures in the 40’s.
At least that shaving cut has healed.
Wish me luck on Saturday, March 14th! And if you have any rainy race day advice or training stories of your own, please share them in the comments. I need all the help I can get!
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Note: I had intended to write this post framing it in mindfulness terms — how my mindfulness and meditation practice helped me to accept what came my way during the course of difficult training conditions. Inspiration turned this into a slightly different piece. Another part of mindfulness, however, is recognizing the effect different people have on you. Positive people carry positive energy that benefits all of us. There’s no better example of this than my MRTT girlfriends. Stay tuned for more on how mindfulness techniques powered my training efforts in next week’s post!