Winter is here. The sun disappears by 4 o’clock, the temperatures dip below freezing, the sidewalks freeze and so does my snot and eyelashes. Just the other night, I thought about sticking heat packs down my leggings, but instead opted for multiple layers. So far my record is four top layers and three bottoms, including one toque, one balaclava and two pairs of socks. The dreariness of the season makes running workouts feel torturous some days; not all days, but some days. I can tell you that when the clock hits 4:30, it’s the end of a long work day, the sun is long gone from the sky, the mercury in the thermometer is falling and your workout calls for a two hour endurance run, a warm fire, with a warm blanket, and a warm drink sounds much more enticing. These winter days make me feel like an old, frumpy beast just lugging myself around, sometimes questioning why I’m choosing to torture myself. I have no idea why people start resolutions to better themselves in the dead of winter when it feels like you’re suffocated by 24 hour darkness and a constant chill. It’s mad to think any one of us feels inspired, motivated or charged to take on a new challenge with spunk and pizzaz, or whatever. In fact last year I didn’t run outside until February. I didn’t think people ran outside in the snow – it seemed almost preposterous. Being an island girl and growing up in a climate that consists of the rainy, rainer, less rainy and sprinkling showers seasons, I was spoiled by good running conditions all year long. Well, since moving to the interior I’ve rode and ran in almost every possible weather condition from hail to snow, rain, lightning, hurricane winds, sleet, and 40 degree heat to minus 25 degree cold. When I first started training I hated the terrain and the weather here. The winters are freeze-your-snot cold, the summers are ice-in-your-shorts scorching hot, the hills are long and steep and the winds are ferocious and constant. But I’ve built a lot of character and a bit of grit from these adventures. It is one hell of a way to start testing your mental strength and commitment, and to really see if you’re cut out for an Ironman triathlon. Instead of hating it now, I embrace it and learn to love it.
As the New Year trods on and people’s resolutions fade away, some of us will just keep trudging on, chasing our delusional dreams. Sometimes it’s the only thing that will keep you going. Here’s to many more cold, dark and lonely runs and plenty more suffer grinder fests in solitude on the spin bike.
On this morning’s ride I could feel snot flying from my nose, and as the snowflakes peppered my face with a fierceness that chilled my brain I just bore down and kept going, charging against the brutal wind, one pedal after the other. I knew my group mates were just ahead, and their presence, even as slowly disappearing dots ahead of me, prompted a voice inside my head that almost screamed to just keep going. We were on a three hour ride – the longest I’ve ever been on – and all of us were soaked, caked from head to toe in mud, and slowly losing feeling in our fingertips and toes. There were moments when my glasses were so fogged and splattered with mud that I couldn’t see more than two feet in front of me. The official start to spring was just a few days ago, but it still feels like the dead of winter. Life in Canada can be so cruel sometimes. In the back of my mind, I hoped for some hill climbs just to warm up, but almost two hours in, as I reached the bottom of the longest, steepest ascent I had ever seen, I cursed at myself.
Mid-way through my muscles were screaming at me to topple over the side of the road and succumb to defeat. I was visualizing myself literally just toppling over like a massive heap and never getting back up again. But as I looked ahead and saw my training partners bobbing along, I told myself to shut up and just kept going.
Once at the top, I wanted to jump up and down and proclaim my victory, but with all the veteran cyclists, who have no doubt climbed this hill, and others, many times before, I reached for my water bottle instead, and quietly reflected on my own personal milestone.
On the journey back, we endured a whipping wind, an assault of missile snowflakes and caking mud spray from the roaring passing vehicles. For my first group ride, it was one I will never forget.
Having training partners during these kinds of workouts are like a gift. If I woke up this morning for a solo ride and saw the snow and the wind, I probably would have curled right back up in bed. But when you conquer a training session with a group, you push yourself to do things you never thought you could do. You look at those around you and realize everyone is cold and muddy and wants nothing more than a hot bath, so instead of grumbling about it, you just keep going and you have fun doing it, even if you can’t feel your toes.
Over the past few days, our group has endured some serious harshness from Mother Nature, which has tested our mental toughness, but we’ve done it together, pushing each other along, and I can’t thank them enough. During this journey, I have come to learn that coaches and training partners are the backbone to our triathlon journey and I feel so fortunate to have a group that, since day one, has pushed me to be stronger and better, even when the only thing on our minds is hot chocolate and a warm blanket.
For a triathlete training in Canada, the month of March elicits extraordinary feelings of excitement and glee. It brings us that much closer to race season, and takes us that much further away from the cold and the snow.
For the last month, I have been watching the weather forecast like an obsessive lunatic hitting refresh every half hour of the day, hoping for clear skies and warm temperatures. I have been ticking off the days of the calendar as we get closer to the spring months. And every day I dream of warm breezes, clear roads, and not wearing three base layers, toques, snot-covered mittens, and long johns. Even on days when that little snowy cloud icon stared back at me with it’s taunting evil eye, I would wholeheartedly deny that any white stuff would materialize. If I believed it, then most certainly I could defy Mother Nature. Yet, on this horrendously snot freezing kind of winter day, snow has been puking from the sky. Consequently, Mother Nature has been laughing at me as she blankets the city with mounds and mounds of impure, mud-stained ivory flakes of hate. In this moment, I have a deep resentment towards her; a strong loathing of bitterness that spills out of my lips in the form of angry profanity.
This is meant to be the time of year when I dream of a world where my snot doesn’t freeze, I don’t slip on patches of inconspicuous ice, or otherwise become trapped on my indoor bike trainer staring at the wall for hours at a time. March is the month where I am supposed to be giddy at the thought of once again teaming up with Red Lightning for a blazing ride along the winding roads. It’s supposed to feel like the can’t-sit-still excitement of Christmas eve, but warmer and sunnier. Instead I am left to mutter my disapproval as the salt and sand trucks roam the streets littering my playground with grit. One can only imagine that I am floored with the idea of trudging through the snow to my frozen car at 5:30am for my swim workout tomorrow. Maybe, if I’m lucky enough, it will snow through the night, and I can swim through the streets. Wouldn’t that be awesome? I can almost feel the sarcasm dripping from my lips.