The glorious view that greeted me when I turned onto Lands' End, a side road not far from my house.
The glorious view that greeted me when I turned onto Lands’ End, a side road not far from my house.

The sunshine sure made me giddy this afternoon. I’d seen the forecast this morning, saw that it would be single-digit cold (no surprise) but that the the sun would make an appearance. This cemented my decision: I’d wait a bit to log my 8-mile/4-miles-at-pace run for later in the morning, after completing some work and when the rays would be out in full force, or at the very least pushing the cotton-ball clouds to the side for awhile.

My plan worked perfectly. And even better, I was able to actually incorporate the planned speed work into the run–something that’s been tough to come by thanks to a perfect storm (ahem, vortex) of multiple work deadlines, four consecutive snow days (starting on a Friday, leading to a verrry long weekend), and the actual vortex of the polar sort that took winter running to an entirely new level. This extreme cold, as we all know, has taken place in the past couple of weeks–the very weeks that I started an ambitious marathon training plan that calls for fairly long runs a couple of times a week (in addition to the weekend’s long run), with one of these including strides or X-number of miles at race pace.

I’m in week three of this 18-week plan, and I honestly haven’t been able to do speed work while out on the snow-and-ice covered roads. I attempted some strides the past two Mondays, but my efforts to speed up were more akin to trying to battle a strong headwind. I wasn’t moving much faster–I may have even slowed down just trying to pick things up because the efforts proved exhausting. But today! Today, under the sun and on roads that were clear enough, I could do it: I eased into my run the first couple of miles, then got going around mile 2.5, pushing myself to keep up the goal race pace of low 8 minute miles for the next four miles. It was tough. My lungs and legs hadn’t been worked this hard in some time, I realized. So many of my runs of late have been nice and easy, just logging the time on the road and not worrying too much about how fast (or slow) I was going. I have just been so proud of myself for sticking with my plan, even in these crazy-cold conditions.

It felt good–very good–to go strong for those four miles. I also discovered that the tiresome neighborhood-area routes I’ve been covering for the past couple of weeks for my longer runs were just perfect for picking up the pace. These roads are generally cleared quite well by the snowplows and flat, even slightly downhill, just when I needed them to be the most.

I know I’ve got plenty of time ahead to devote to speed work. I know, too, that this time of year (and particularly with sub-zero temps) we can’t expect to go out and run strong every time. Which is why I’ll savor today’s mileage on a beautiful afternoon. It’s a boost I needed today, and something I hope helps power my next speed session.

What’s a running victory you’ve experienced lately? How has the so-called Polar Vortex affected your running?

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