Sunday, December 19, 2010

Out in the Cold....With A Cold

I probably did it to myself by mentioning colds in my last post.

Because sure enough, on Thursday night, just twelve hours after a great tempo run where I felt like I was flying and a bootcamp class where I felt strong as Superman, I began to experience the tickle in my throat that begins every cold I catch. By Friday night, after a scheduled off day and trying to take it easy, I had the full-on snots, the kind that wake you at 1 a.m. and have you tempted to drink Nyquil straight out of the bottle, despite its hideous taste and poisonous cocktail of ingredients, just because there's a chance it might help you breathe and clear your muffled ears (the blocked ears are the worst part of a cold for me).

I am what my dad used to call a "bad sick person." Very fortunate to have enjoyed ringing good health most of my life, I'm sent into a depressed funk by what more stoic folks might term a little sniffle. I sulk on the couch under a blanket and wonder aloud and to myself if I will ever get better. OK, maybe since I've had the kids I've gotten a bit more stiff-upper-lip about it (I've had to; they're sick a lot more than I am)...but the necessary rest and time-biding that even a little cold entail have me tapping my foot impatiently from that first scratchiness to the final sneezes and the healing of my upper lip, chapped from Kleenex too vigorously applied.

My running quest has added fuel to this fire of impatience. A missed workout is no longer just a missed workout. It's a setback that in my pessimistic sick-girl musings might mean a delay of a month or more in the achievement of my dream. I used to run shorter or not at all when I got a cold. But no more. Despite my husband's raised eyebrows, on Saturday I put on my shoes, jacket and tights (it's finally gotten wintery here) and solidered on with my scheduled nine-miler.

The pace dictated by my program for this run was half-marathon pace plus 20 seconds a mile (in other words, 9:03 per mile). I wasn't sure that would be happening, but I figured nine miles at whatever I had in me would be better than nothing. Sure enough, I started out slowly. My Garmin at the end of mile one showed 9:18, and that was downhill. The second flat mile came in at 9:16.

Around that time, though, things started to look up. I found myself running behind a girl I'll call Jen, who is the girlfriend of one of my husband's former grad school colleagues and a "real runner," by which I mean she sometimes wins things. She didn't recognize me, but I had seen her cross in front of me when my trail merged into hers. Somewhere into that third mile I realized she wasn't ditching me as fast as I'd expected her to. I didn't catch her, and eventually I turned in a different direction, but the confidence boost of having stuck with her lingered.

Though the course was gradually uphill for a while after that, I started to feel much better, both in terms of my speed and in terms of my cold. My nose was running profusely, of course, and my gloves and jacket sleeve were disgusting by the time I was done...but I became aware that this was clearing my head both literally and figuratively. I even had it in me to tackle a steep couple of hills at the end without slowing down too much. When all was said and done, I averaged 8:53 a mile for the nine, ten seconds *faster* than prescribed.

So now I know I can run with a cold, and I was able to establish some things I did right both ahead of and after the outing: 1) Eat something (I had steel-cut oats with a banana on top) 2) Drink lots, even more than usual, and don't forget the water bottle as I had done on the previous week's 10-miler 3) Expect a long warm-up and 4) Take a nap later (fortunately the kids cooperated on this one!).

Not only did the run go well from a training perspective, it turned what might have been a draggy day into one where I could enjoy getting our Christmas tree and trimming it with two eager four-year-olds and, later, wrapping gifts and writing Christmas cards with my husband. I also slept much better than I had the night Nyquil required!

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you're all healthy and with family and friends.

Side note: I have embedded my Garmin data for Saturday's run below, in case anyone out there is interested in more details, including the pace for each mile and an elevation map. This course was largely on the Bolder Boulder race course, for anyone who might be thinking of running that race at some point!


  1. I have been running with a cold since November (it keeps coming and going) and at this point I am just throwing up my hands and saying, this is the new me. At least until spring. I have been finding for the most part though that I suffer much the next day if I have run very hard.

    Thanks for the garmin details. Am resolved to find a race to train for next year, but the theme being "lazy man's trainin g schedule. " I just can't do hard runs all the time, I have to trick myself into improving, like I've been doing over this past year.

  2. Yeah, that was me last winter. I pretty much had a cold the whole time, and if I didn't have a cold, one or both of the kids or Dan did, meaning the sleep was just less than ideal. I'm pretty sure that's why my Bolder Boulder time was so much slower than the year before. I think you're wise to keep it realistic. And when I had toddlers Alex's age, there was no way I was going to focus on training. I was lucky to run races at all.