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Lots of snow (and cold!) this week in northern Michigan ~ THIS is the kind of winter I remember from my childhood and that I love so much.

This week didn’t wind up being the First Week of Marathon #4 Training week I had imagined. Far from it, and let’s just say that on Monday night, after a “4-5 easy miles” according to my training plan — actually, closer to 3 miles — I wasn’t all that happy.

But somehow it all worked out better than I thought it would.

The reason for my initial disappointment: Sunday, the day after my 10K snowshoe race, I began feeling tightness in my left lower calf. I feared the worst: an achilles strain, something I’d experienced a few years back when attempting to train for my first marathon. No, no, no! I opted to take a rest day or two, a good plan anyway, I figured, after the race the day before, and see how I felt come Monday (the supposed first day of my 18-week training plan). Monday came and I felt OK. Enough that I decided to try an evening run (a little extra time of rest, right, having all day Monday taking it relatively easy). But that run I ended up cutting shorter than planned, feeling enough of a tug that I didn’t want to risk getting hurt further.

By this time, of course, I’m feeling deflated. Frustrated. All those emotions we runners feel when our mind says one thing — Go, go, go! — and our body tells us otherwise. Knowing I’m really wanting to nail this next marathon, I just couldn’t force things.

And you know what? Four days later, after truly taking a break from following my training plan, I am so happy I listened to my body. This is hard to do–to really, truly listen to our bodies! But the longer I’ve run, the more I realize the importance of taking advantage of the spot-on intuition we athletes gain about our physical health and actually do what our hearts (and bodies) are telling us — sometimes, begging us — to do.

One of the best moments this week was, after sharing my plight with my runner friend Sarah, receiving an empathetic and encouraging note from her. She’d experienced something similar at the start of her training, but she took the time to rest and was able to jump back into training two weeks later and was feeling so much better. “Fear not … all is not lost,” she told me.

I so needed to hear that. From someone who really understands.

There was more great news to come: I ended up cross-training mid-week for a magazine article I’m writing on a Michigan athlete. He happens to be a world-class cross-country skier — he is traveling to Europe next month for the world championships, just wow — and he took me out for my first skate-skiing experience. We took it nice and easy. I had a blast. Next week I’m joining him for a Bikram yoga class…

Later in the week I met up with a representative of a local running organization, to talk about possible work with her and the group. As we sat inside a cozy coffee shop on a below-zero winter day, dishing about running and how to strengthen the local running community, I felt so … happy. I’m continually reminded how energizing it is to surround yourself with passionate people–individuals who care about good health, community involvement, staying positive, moving forward in life. It grounds me and lifts me up at the same time.

Today, I continued my non-running “running” week by meeting up with a friend and talented photographer to shoot photos on the snowy, wooded trails at the Commons. She’s been wanting to build up her winter running photo inventory for some time and this week’s snowfall made for perfect conditions. We were blessed with big, fat snowflakes as I “ran” easily back and forth across a snow-covered wood-planked bridge in the middle of absolute silence and peacefulness. All you could hear was the crunch of my shoes in the snow and the snap of her camera.

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Absolutely.

Following this, I grabbed a quick cup of coffee at Higher Grounds, a favorite post-workout spot, and headed over to see Dan Zemper, my sports massage therapist–he practices Active Release Technique. For the next hour, he worked my tired, tight calf. Painful in that hurts-so-good kind of way. I’m feeling even more confident that all is just fine.

And the icing on the cake: this week I received a shipment of running clothing I’d ordered as a member of the BrooksID program. I feel so grateful to be part of this organization for another year–I truly love their clothing and shoes. It was like Christmas opening the box with two pairs of shoes (I ordered my first pair of Brooks Ghost for my marathon training, an a pair of Cascadias for trails) and a few pieces of clothing, including an aquamarine-colored thermal hoodie that’s become an instant favorite and cozy yoga pants.

This is for another post, hopefully soon, but it relates to my overall good feelings this week…food as fuel. Joe and I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives this past weekend, and it left an impression on us. Curious to know if anyone has tried this plant-based diet? How about the Paleo diet? I’m a true Midwestern girl, having grown up loving meat and potatoes. I’d like to think that I’ve been a decent eater much of my life, especially in recent years as I’ve gotten more and more into running and other endurance sports. But I know I can do better. And this documentary is making me think. Would love to hear anyone’s experience and thoughts on changing their diet and how it relates to their athletic performance.

Happy snowy running, friends!

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