Get ready, it's almost here...

Last night, as I took my first deep breaths of frigid air at the start of my run, it hit me just how cold it is outside. And how, even though I’m a lover of cooler temps for running, this. is. it. Our Indian summer has finally given way to winter-like weather (no major snowstorms … yet) and we’ve got four, maybe five more months of this ahead.

No matter how many northern Michigan winters I’ve endured, that first true blast of north wind startles me a bit. I like winter just fine, I’m not one to complain about snow and cold, I’m really all about snow-shoeing and skiing and getting cozy by the fire. Still, the season change is jarring.

Alright, whine over. And these enough already words were exactly what I told myself during last evening’s four miles through my (extremely dark) neighborhood streets. OK, one more whine: must it be pitch-black at 5:04 p.m.?

Maybe it’s the weather, or maybe it’s just my head messing with me, but lately I’ve been questioning my motivation. It’s not that I don’t have any — far from it, it would seem, if you consider the two half marathons, 25k trail run and 15k Chicago race I’ve taken on since Labor Day. And I’ve been pretty pleased with how I’ve run these races. But this is where my mind starts with the game-playing: OK, Heather, if you’re so motivated, why are you not feeling it more often during your regular runs? Why is that one flippin’ steep trail hill still so, so challenging? And why, oh why, for the life of you can’t you get out of bed for early-morning runs?

So I ruminate over this with my girlfriends, including Jen, a kick-ass runner who traveled to Chicago with me recently to run the Hot Chocolate 15k. “How’s your eating lately?” she asks. “Pretty decent,” I say, though part of me wonders if my “moderation is key” mantra should really include potato chips and french onion dip, or cheese and crackers and wine (the latter assortment which is my ultimate favorite late-night snack). Cue the reel in my head that tells me to stop eating junk altogether and start eating only lean meats, fruits and veggies. And all that other healthy stuff that I swear I’m going to start eating right now when I come across “The Runner’s Palate” and other such pieces in Runner’s World and Women’s Health.

Heading into the colder, darker months, I worry about this, my MIA running mojo. I’ve got big plans after all — marathon in 2011! — and the last thing I want to do is succumb to the Oh, it’s the holidays, take it easy line of thinking. I know myself well enough that keeping up with running during this crazy-busy time is especially important.

During last night’s run, around the time my tired lungs suggested I take a short-cut to get home sooner, I willed my body to keep going. I wanted to feel good about the run, only my second one of the week, so I reminded myself of the rewards that were waiting:

1.)  The new issue of O magazine, which I’d crack open while…

2.)  enjoying a quiet dinner of already-prepared tortellini (I’d made dinner for my family prior to heading out, meaning by the time I got home they’d have moved onto homework and PlayStation3 and I’d get additional moments of blessed silence) … and a glass of 2009 Malbec, followed by …

3.)a very long, hot shower.

Other motivators I’m counting on this season: running with friends as much as I can; signing on early for the Bayshore Marathon (or Half, haven’t yet decided…); knowing I might, just might, get lucky in the NYC Marathon lottery; treating myself to some much-needed new winter running clothing, including new shoes!; and trying a couple of local winter races.

Maybe I need a virtual kick-in-the-pants, too? Go ahead, tell me to Just Run. While you’re at it, do tell your state of motivation these days – good, bad, non-existent? What keeps you going strong throughout the colder months?

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