It's Sunday morning at about 6:45am on February 12th. It's pitch black out. My hands are getting colder with each passing minute. The instant I breathe the steam freezes on my glasses, forcing me to remove them. I'm not completely blind without my glasses, but now with the frost slowly building a bridge between my eye lids, I can barely see 5 feet in front of me.
me: "Hey Ryan! Let me know if any cars are coming at us, I can't see anything. "
Ryan: "ok, no problem"
I look over at Ryan and he's got so much ice on his eyelids and eyebrows that I'm pretty sure he can't see any better than I can but his confidence is inspiring.
We were closing in on the one third mark of our remote 35km loop. It was a bit of a poorly selected route given the temperature, but there was nothing we could do now, we were committed. It was -31C, or colder at this point, we weren't even an hour in, and I was beginning to feel my lower intestine complaining. I shared my situation with Ryan and I believe he sympathized with a "that sux" type comment and even pointed out that there would be a bathroom at the Grant Harvey center, probably another 10 miles out. At this point I assumed he was chuckling inside, because in his position that's what I would do. It's just such an absurd scenario that it's funny. Two guys in spandex, in -31C, in the middle of nowhere, before the crack of dawn, with nothing to help us but the little momentum we'd built up in the past hour. Even though there was no possible way I was going to stop to do the unthinkable, nature was calling, I knew it, and now Ryan knew it. "Going" in the woods under normal circumstances is not ideal, but doable if needed. Today, it is just not an option for too many reasons. Nonetheless, that doesn't stop me from scanning past the 4 foot snowbanks looking for an area with sufficient tree density and some form of snow compaction between the road the woods(e.g. snowmobile trail, etc). None of this helps of course but certainly serves to distract myself from the fact that my hands, feet and face were about to fall off while I performed the worlds longest sprint to the bathroom.
A moment later, and every 5 minutes for the next hour, this is our conversation:
me: "Hey Ryan!"
me: "I'm not having fun"
Until...finally, around 7:45am. The sun had officially come up, and something changed. As I recall, we were climbing the hill on Wilsey rd, just nearly getting to Leons as we headed towards the Grant Harvey arena (aka. the target bathroom) and Ryan decides he can't take the silence, or my whining, and tries to strike up a conversation to distract us from the suck factor of this run.
Ryan: "Tell me about your best racing moment."
Me (slurring with my frozen jaw): "hmmm, let me think. "
I didn't really feel like chatting, but it does get me thinking and so I decide to indulge. We both took turns sharing a few of our favorite race memories and time starts to pass very quickly, as if we are in some strange time warp. All of a sudden I can see the GH arena. Hallelujah, we made it. This little oasis arrived just in time, physically and mentally. We take a few minutes to warm up before getting on our way, finally feeling warm, happy and comfortable. Unfortunately, that only lasted a few minutes before we started getting cold again, but the rest of the run, an easy 8k, was mostly enjoyable as we continued to share fond memories of warmer runs.
That is a summary of what was probably one of the worst/hardest training sessions I've had so far this year. I truly believe those are the runs that mentally prepare me to tackle my hardest races. The runs where everything clicks and I hit PBs, those are great days for sure, and are necessary for my ego. But as we prepare ourselves to race, to truly and honestly test ourselves and our limits, we must ensure we've sufficiently built up our grit through these types of efforts. It isn't easy, nor is it always fun, but it's what makes us better runners and better people.
This year, Boston is the first race in my calendar with Run Rabbit Run 100 in September, being my main event for the year. As my season progresses, I'll share on this blog, tidbits about my training, nutrition, racing tactics, etc. Suggestions for topics are always welcome of course.