Let's hear it for nature's Vitamin D ~ Happiness is sunshine on a winter day

You live in northern Michigan long enough and you get used to piles of snow, bone-chilling temps and gray-smudged skies that once February hits really start to wear on you. I mean really wear on you. You don’t want to complain (there’s snowshoeing! skiing! sledding! microbrew fest-ing!), but we do–just a little. The days feel long and cold and monotonous at times. (Maybe a tad more so when you’re training for a marathon and running outside so much?) But that’s winter in the Midwest. We’re hardy, strong people. We can take it.

And enduring this kind of weather just makes us appreciate all the more those spectacular mornings when golden ribbons of sunlight push the clouds aside, as if to say Get the heck outta my way, it’s my turn already. You know those kinds of wintry days, when the dreary landscape transforms into something bright and cheerful and promising. Even dirty snow takes on a more appealing hue.

We had several sunshine-y mornings this week, and what a difference it made for my mood as I ran. Two runs that stirred my soul: Wednesday’s 7-miler and Thursday’s 4-miler.

First: we had an unexpected snow day Wednesday and then I had an unexpected break when my mother-in-law offered to watch my kids. This gave me time to work AND squeeze in a run, which was bumped up to 7 miles from 6 miles the week prior. Surprise #3: Lisa wanted me to experience a “run all the way home with the wind at my back” and, when I mentioned I didn’t have a driver to help with this, she offered to do it.

Which is how I found myself feeling a bit like I was dropped in the middle of nowhere, having to run 7 miles to get back to my place. Driving further and further away from my neighborhood, I couldn’t help thinking, even though I knew the area well, Really? We’re not at 7 miles yet?

The wind didn’t end up being entirely at my back – I’d have had to been dropped off in Lake Michigan directly north of our house to achieve this – but I really liked the idea that I was running a route in a way I normally don’t. Powered by the sun, my run also was helped just after the halfway point, when I reached Lisa’s house and she greeted me at the end of her driveway with a cup of hot tea. (Cooled down with a bit of snow, it tasted great and felt so good on my throat)

Here’s a picture of a cool sign I saw on this run, about three miles from home.  

 

I opted for 'This Way' this time

Second: Thursday’s weather proved better yet, with no wind and lots of sun. You could almost believe spring was around the corner. I ran a familiar in-town route, along a tree-lined, 2-mile-long dead-end street that is tough going out but rewards your work with a perfect downhill the way back. The sun on my face felt amazing.

But like the blah days that come with each winter, so do not-so-good runs. And I had one of those this weekend. Planned for 11, scratched out 10.7. I know these runs happen, we all have them, but it got me down nonetheless when my heart, head and body just weren’t in it the way I would have liked (the gray, damp skies and sleeting snow didn’t help, I’m sure). I stewed for a short time, whined to both my husband and coach just a tiny bit, but then put on my big girl pants, took a hot shower and treated myself to a day of absolute nothingness with my family. While our kids played downstairs, Joe and I watched The Pat Tillman Story (heartbreakingly sad but so good) and later, all together, we cheered during the Secretariat (amazing, inspiring story).

And somehow I’m in week 8 of training already!

This week: 35-38 miles total planned, including a long run Sunday of 11-12 miles.

Principle 8: Runs in excess of 1 hour require supplemental energy

Goal: Determine which source of gel you can use on long runs

And, in case you’re wondering, 41 days until spring…

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