On Friday night, January 10th and into Saturday morning I woke up every hour from about 11pm until 4:15am. All in anticipation of getting up for my first organized run of the year, Team Ortho’s Polar Dash in Chicago.
Yes JANUARY the 11th, 2014, with the wind chill the temperature as a lovely 22 degrees. I hate being cold. Yet I also know that once they blow the horn to start a race I’ll start warming up, even sweating at that temperature, so I have to be careful not to overdress just to stay warm at the Starting line.
The weather leading up to race day had been horrendous. The week started out with temps below zero and with the wind-chill it was supposed to feel like 50 below. I did not venture out that day; I stayed home like a whimpering puppy, who didn’t want to step outside to pee. I spent the day in my jammies, stocking cap and jacket, while my son spent the day shirtless. Yes I hate being cold.
Back in November I made a decision. I set a goal to run at LEAST one organized race EVERY month of 2014. In November that seemed like a really good idea, but as January approached I started worrying about the weather. I don’t believe it’s too often these big city races get canceled and if it did get canceled I did not have a backup plan to get my January race in.
A couple of weeks before the Chicago race, Team Ortho sponsored this Polar Dash in Minneapolis. The temps were -6 degrees.
As much as I was worrying about the weather on my race day, I was excited to get started on this goal. I had picked up my race packet in December. Included in that packet was my Bib number, a crazy penguin hat AND an awesome blue and gray fleece jacket that read across the back Polar Dash Finisher. Finisher! Yes that’s what I had to earn. I couldn’t just put it on and wear it around. I had to earn it and the only way to earn it, was to step way out of my comfort zone, stand outside in thin runner’s clothing and wait for the sound of that horn for the start of the race. I must admit I was very disappointed at the Start line to hear them yell GO, instead of the blast of the horn I wanted to hear. But off I went, I had to run this race and cross that finish line, only then could I wear that lovely jacket.
I’ve only been running for about 4 years now. I’ll be 54 in April. I’ve had my ups and downs of health issues and knew I would never be a great runner. I never seem to improve in speed; I stay right there between about 38 minutes and 46 minutes. Every January comes around and I let my brain tell me it’s too cold to go run and I spend March through November working back into what I call my decent running. Then comes the cold again, and I start that silly process all over again, because I’m a wimp in cold weather.
All that changed for me this year, mentally. Someone threw out a treadmill. I spotted it while driving home from the store. The timing was perfect for me. My husband was home, awake and had clothes on. He also had a vehicle big enough to get it into and I made him drive over with me to pick it up. Dang it was heavy. But I was determined to get in home and into my house. He worked on it for several days, we bought a new runner for it and it is now proudly on display in my little living room, and I am happy to report it is not being used as a clothes hanger. I have no more excuses to quit running in January.
So off I went with one new friend, Carolyna who doesn’t mind driving in Chicago and two women I’ve never met before wearing our crazy penguin hats to run a race in Chicago through snow, snow banks, mud, and water puddles the size of small ponds from the rain the day before. We had to jump over or run through small bushes off the regular path because it was impassable at one point. I felt like I was back at Warrior Dash on an obstacle course. Only difference was it would have been blazing hot at Warrior Dash! Yet my ego was soaring because I had the bright idea to spray my running shoes with water repellant and my feet were dry, while everyone else’s shoes were wet before we even started.
We ran on the bike path, it was cold and wet, but what a sight as we ran along Lake Michigan. I kept reminding myself to look at the scenery and not my feet or the faster runners coming back towards me, having already made the turn around. When I get tired I tend to put my head down, I remind myself over and over to watch the journey! My hands were cold, because I had left my gloves in the car, my neck was cold because I couldn’t figure out how to keep the hood up on my jacket, but here I was in down town Chicago, in January, running along the lake. It was beautiful. I had looked up and saw the word PEACE in lights on one of the buildings as we had driven in to park the car and as I ran I WAS at PEACE. This was step one in accomplishing my goal. This first step on this journey was the hardest step for me, stepping out into the cold and running. As I approached the turnaround I knew there was no reason I wouldn’t finish this race running. I had given myself permission to walk if I had too, but I was so excited to be doing this race there was no need to walk. As I came into that last 400 yards I was cocky, I saw the runners ahead of me skirting along the edge of a puddle I had run through going out. My feet were still dry I just knew I did not have to stop to join the “prissies” over at the edge, all in a line, trying to keep their feet dry. I had run through this once, I could run through it again……….AHHHHHHHH that’s COLD! Water repellant shoes do not stay dry when one steps in a puddle that is deep enough to come up and over one’s shoe. I have lousy depth perception when I don’t wear my glasses.
So I finished this race, I ran those last yards with soaking, cold feet, up a little incline (I hate inclines), my legs felt like 50 lb weights now. There is always something so mentally taxing those last yards to the finish line for me. It seems almost to get farther away instead of closer; it’s the longest part of the race for me sometimes. Seeing that Finish Line and wondering when I’ll get there. But so far I have always made it, and then all the pain stops, my heart and ego are soaring once again as I work my way through the ones who have stopped dead in their tracks, I get the added bonus of a Finisher’s medal this time and proudly place it over my head. I’ve done it, I ran the race, I crossed the Finish line, now where’s the Hot chocolate? Tomorrow I’ll wear that Finisher’s Jacket proudly for all my friends to see. I crossed the finish!