Sunday, October 25, 2009

Character Building by Location

Usually around this time of year, I'm either training for a marathon at similar latitudes or looking at rest and downtime going into the winter months. Last year proved that a late November marathon isn't the best choice of a race, as I stood at the Philadelphia Marathon start bundled up to my eyeballs hoping the temperature would climb above 25 degrees F that day. Besides finishing my first marathon in years on a great course in a beautiful city, nothing about that race was what I would call "fun." But, as we like to say, it builds character. (Cold weather seems to be my theme lately.)

This year finds me facing another weather obstacle -- the opposite of last year. My final race of the triathlon season -- a half-Ironman (70.3) -- takes place in Clearwater, Florida. Most northerners might look forward to Florida in November. I'm dreading it. All summer, Cleveland-area temperatures have been downright cool. The past several weeks have seen lots of rain and cold even for fall. In September and October, I've done most of my long rides on the trainer -- another character-builder. (If I could get over my fear of danger on the roads, riding in the rain might produce a similar level of mental toughness.)

Contrary to the past, my biggest fear now is the run. When I train in the heat, I run well in heat, and I've done neither of those this season. Actually, my run leg in triathlons has been the biggest disaster this year. So with only a few weeks of training left, and temperatures in the 30s and 40s, Jim has been on my case to don multiple layers while running to simulate hotter temperatures. I know it works for some, but I just get soaking wet and THEN I get cold. I'll keep toughing it out, though. I've even taken several hard runs inside to the treadmill (more character-building? you bet). The only encouraging thing is I've finally begun to feel strong and fast on my feet again. It almost makes me want to run a winter marathon. But, first, there's a half-Ironman to get through. Maybe I need to approach it differently, like imagining it as a tropical vacation. With a swim. And a 56-mile bike ride. And maybe throw in a half-marathon, just because I love to run.

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