Energy level and -16’C cold weather

Yesterday, I went for my Saturday long run with running group in training for the Chilly half marathon. I went on a 12k run and I found it was much harder then usual to complete. Afterwards, I was trying to determine why this run in particular was such a challenge and I came up with two main reasons.

We started out at 8:00 am with the sun rising above Lake Ontario. It was serene to run along the shore and see the effect of the cold on the lake. The sky was mostly clear and it was -16 degrees Celsius outside. The sun was shining bright. Suffice to say it was a very cold morning for a run. Incidentally, this is the coldest run I have taken so far. During the run I was reminded of a winter camping trip I took to Algonquin Park in similar conditions. So far I have yet to repeat that trip and wonder if the same goes for this run.

I had the opportunity to chat with a few members of my group to see how they experienced the run. The vast majority of the replies were in sync with my experience. The run felt way harder then it should have and one fellow runner even remarked that it felt more like a 20k run.

Unfortunately, I did not have a good sleep the night before. This really impacted my energy level as my body felt as if it needed more rest after a good hour long cycle-fit class two days before. It was a run that took extra focus and determination to complete. I was unable to eat breakfast the morning of the run which added to my lack of energy. Normally, before most runs I am able to feel the energy that has built up over the period of rest. This was not not my experience today.

The balaclava I wore helped temper the cold air, but I found as I started to increase my pace that I was finding it hard to breathe with the fabric in front of my face. For the duration of the run I tried to find a nice balance. I ended up switching between almost a fully covered face and stretching it below my chin so I could breathe normally. When I would feel my skin getting too cold I would cover up again and repeat this process for the duration of the run. This had a minor impact on my focus but it was clearly not the main reason for the trouble I experienced.

As my energy level was low, I decided to try to make this a good training experience. It is fairly obvious to me I will not always be able to control my energy level. On a normal run, I usually find the running mostly effortless especially when I find a good rhythm. I would not want this type of low energy level on race day and I am even more determined to make sure I properly rest before the big day. However, I was in the middle of my run and found my legs were sore and not moving the way I would have liked. Hitting the pace I usually like to run at seemed impossible.

I was reminded during the run of a few moments in the Boxing Day Snow Man 10 mile race where my energy levels wavered and I decided to push a little harder today to test my endurance. It was as if a strong wind was blowing and slowing my progress as the harder I pushed had little effect. In this case, I have to believe that the cold weather was playing a fairly significant impact in being able to run. So far I have not had any real issues with my knees during my training. However, after my run they were feeling quite sore. It was a soreness that set in while I was stretching indoors. The feeling passed fairly quickly but I was face to face with the impact the cold had on one part of my body while running outdoors.

I have to say it was a good learning opportunity to focus on my mind. I link to think it helped expand my endurance level. I hope in some small way this run helped further my ability to run during unforsceen circumstances. I only wish in the midst of these challenges I was able to reach a point of clarity. This is one of the reasons why my practice is always evolving and I look forward to many opportunities to be able to more skillfully handle the physical and mental obstacles which arise while running in the winter. Paradoxically, I am also looking forward to the coming of spring.

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