The last time I wrote about the joys of winter running and racing was almost a year ago, after completing a frigid 10k race in London.

This morning’s early morning long run in Central Park reminded me of winter’s true meaning. That day in London last year wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t 23 degrees (16 with wind chill), windy and snowing. My eyelashes weren’t frozen together. I didn’t have icicle brows. I wasn’t freaking out and getting ready to call it a day because my hands were so painfully freezing.

❄ Welcome to New York City in January! ❄

Or, as a friend said to me, “You’re in NYC, babe. Nothing’s easy. Welcome back!” Ha!

I know, I know – NYC certainly isn’t the coldest place in North America! Many of you are probably rolling your eyes and telling me to go to Minneapolis, Montreal, Chicago or wherever else. I’m not sure if you’ve read the book Just a Little Run Around the World by Rosie Swale Pope (it’s awesome – very inspirational), but having read that, and knowing that many of you probably ran in FAR worse conditions today, makes me feel slightly ashamed to be bitching about today’s weather. But what can I do? It’s in my California blood – more than a decade of winters hasn’t eliminated the fact that I’m a total wimp in the cold. But I’m not a quitter, which is why I wouldn’t let the weather beat me down today!

I had made plans to meet a friend in Central park at 7:30am this morning. I wasn’t too excited about the early time, given I still haven’t managed to switch to EST, but I figured it would be nice to get the run out of the way. I always feel so pleased with myself when it’s only 9:30 or 10am and I’ve already finished a tough, long weekend workout. Also, it would help me get on an earlier schedule for classes, which begin on Monday!

Everyone always says that having a running or exercise partner helps you stick to your goals – it’s so true! Had I not made running plans, I definitely would not have gotten up at 6:45am, even if it hadn’t been snowing. Had I seen the view below out of my window (which I took at 7am, right after it started to snow), I may not have done my long run at all, especially since I still haven’t created a NYC half training plan for myself yet (schedules help keep me motivated). However, someone would soon be waiting for me out in that weather, so I bundled up, made an “I really don’t want to go outside” face and forced myself out the door.

  

I wish I had brought my camera – Central Park was completely white and very pretty, at least from what I could see through my frozen eyelashes! My last run in Central Park was a wonderful 10 miler on a sunny, crisp morning the day before the NYC marathon. What a transformation!

I met my friend at the 59th street entrance and we planned to do two complete laps of the park, which would total around 12.2M. I also jogged to and from the subway stations, adding an extra 1.35M or so (it was WAY too cold to walk). The Manhattan Half Marathon (which had been turned into a fun run, for safety reasons) started 30 minutes behind us, so it was relatively quiet in the park at first but there were quite a few runners out and about by mile 4 or 5. I was pretty impressed by the number of runners who showed up, and even more the volunteers for the race! The race photographers took some photos of us (will try to track them down) and various people kept asking us if we were doing the half marathon. Nope, we’re even crazier, I responded. We’re just here.

It was cold but I felt okay during the first lap. I’ll take fresh snow over slush or ice any day. I had slightly more trouble chatting than usual at a 9:30-10min/mile pace, due to the freezing air and of course the two hills, and the weather was far worse than I had expected it to be, but I was hanging in there. I was wearing my 2XU tights, warm socks, a sports bra, tshirt, lightweight long sleeve shirt, thicker high-necked long sleeve shirt, lightweight water/wind resistant jacket, winter hat, baseball cap, lightweight gloves and hand warmers in the gloves. My core was fine, but my legs, hands and face were not. The warmers didn’t seem to be warming up quite enough (they did later on, so next time I’ll open them up well before I begin running) and my water bottle was tough to hold because I couldn’t hold it while making a fist, to warm up my unbearably freezing finger tips.

My hands reached danger zone as we were about to begin our second lap. Mentally, I was losing it – if my hands are cold (and I’m talking EXTREME pain in my fingers), I really struggle, even if the rest of me is fine. I simply couldn’t get warm. The rest of my body started to hurt. I tried holding the bottle under my arm but that made me run awkwardly. My friend encouraged me to stop but I wanted to at least go another mile or two – I’m stubborn and wanted to at least reach 8M – so she kindly carried my bottle for me as I desperately tried to warm up.

Just as I was getting ready to throw in the towel, we ran into a mutual friend, who had run part of the Manhattan Half course and was about to head home. The distraction of seeing and chatting with her – as well as inheriting her set of hand warmers, which were far toastier than mine – snapped me out of my dark place. Suddenly, my inner temperature spiked and I was raring to finish the second lap! I had come all the way there, why turn back now?! And so we continued. My legs started to ache and my pace slowed a bit in those last few miles, but I slowly recovered feeling in my fingers, returned to my chatty, happy runner self and most importantly, I finished! My Garmin didn’t work during the first lap (it was that cold), but based on my friend’s timing and the park mileage, we ran an average of 9:50 – 9:55min/mile. I was very pleased.

Mental toughness needs to be trained like anything else, and I think it’s safe to say that this one was one of the more challenging runs I’ve done in quite some time. Obviously you should never risk injury, but if it’s something you believe you can safely push through, go for it.

A big part of my discomfort was due to my gear fail. I’m sure my body simply hasn’t yet adjusted to the below freezing temperatures after so many months in California, and I need to give it a couple more weeks to do so. However, I also am lacking a few crucial items, namely thicker running tights and warmer gloves (perhaps ones that I can layer over the thin pair I wore today). I didn’t become a regular runner until I moved to London, and although I ran in some pretty horrendous rainy and snowy weather, I don’t think it ever got down to extreme temperatures. I discovered this new REI in Soho (their first NYC store) the other day, so I guess I have a good excuse now to check it out! If you have any suggestions as I shop for gloves or tights, at REI or elsewhere, please let me know!

By the time I finally made it back home, I was frozen again. My hands were back in the danger zone, and, as luck would have it, the front door to my building wouldn’t open. There’s a lock box (before a second door with a key) which is finicky on the best of days, and the cold somehow made it refuse to open. Thankfully, the guys in my local deli helped me and I was back in my apartment soon enough. Phew! I immediately made myself a cup of hot tea and took a post-run I can’t believe I just ran for two hours in that weather photo. I kept those hand warmers in my hands for the rest of the morning and afternoon – they stayed warm for so long!

  

Speaking of teas, I want to share one of my favorite kinds of herbal teas at the moment! Aside from my usual peppermint (which I have every night after dinner), I love Good Earth Sweet & Spicy tea. It’s amazing – no honey or sugar necessary! Really gets you nice and warm. I just finished a huge cup of it to get me all toasty before bedtime.

After a LONG hot shower, I made myself a delicious brunch: a huge mug of Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company coffee and a spinach, tomato, garlic and feta omelet (Trader Joe’s “Pastures of Eden” sheep’s milk feta is AMAZING – in eggs, salad, wherever) with a small fruit salad on the side. YUM. It was right up there with the previous day’s breakfast – a twist on Bircher muesli, made with 1/3 cup oats, 1/3 skim milk, 1/3 cup plain nonfat greek yogurt, and cinnamon, agave, blueberries, dried cranberries and almonds to taste (stir together and let sit in the fridge for at least 30min, or overnight, and serve cold). I love breakfast!

  

After I finished eating, the plan was to not move for the rest of the day…but as many of you know, relaxation isn’t my strong suit! Instead, I proceeded to clean my apartment, do two huge loads of laundry and pick up my textbooks, so I can get a head start on my reading tomorrow before classes begin. I know, I’m such a nerd. I even bought an insulated purple lunchbox and reusable ice cubes (both made by Thermos), which I plan to bring to class on days I can’t eat at home to save money and ensure I eat nutritious, homemade meals! I tested it out on Friday in between my various orientation sessions – I LOVE it! Less messy and more environmentally friendly than my usual plastic bag. Here’s my colorful salad including edamame hummus (another TJ favorite), cheese, fruit and nuts.

  

One thing I didn’t do was a post-run stretch – I may regret that tomorrow (oops) – but I did squeeze in some TV and vegging on the couch. Getting to bed way too late as I often do (the noise is still making it tough to sleep, but it’s getting slightly better), but all in all, a productive Saturday! I definitely earned my rest day tomorrow…that makes two full rest days this week! My body is craving it, especially since I have a big week ahead – at last, my first week of grad school!! Stay tuned…

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