Stepping outside, into the sunshine, my mood quickly changed. My steps felt light and swift.
It’s a change from what I’ve experienced lately. In the past few weeks, I’ve struggled with my runs: my muscles subjected to the constant pounding and the torque of odd angles of the indoor track. Don’t get me wrong, though. Without a track, during one of the most brutal winters in memory, my workouts and running routine would have become nearly nonexistent.
This winter is the first where I’ve really missed the companionship of close friends to brave the elements. Fellow runners willing to brave blizzards and brutal cold together, in part just to say we’ve done something others can’t or won’t try. It seems I reached my own breaking point this year, opting instead to run indoors every time.
But it’s been good for me. During the final 13 weeks of 2013, I eclipsed 40 miles or more each week. Early in 2014, I dialed back on the miles as the constant pounding of the hard track left me needing a break.
Just one day back in the warm sunshine of the Arizona desert valley has buoyed my running prospects. Tomorrow, I will go to the San Tan Scramble, another of the desert trail races in the of the mountains that I’m accustomed to doing during the winter months.
This race, though, brings back a chance for redemption. It was in this event, two years ago, in which I severely injured my ankle after rolling it on a loose rock along the trail. It was a surprise I finished that race with an injury that dogged me for nearly five months.
I’m not as light on my feet this time around. I don’t expect a fast time. But my cardiovascular fitness is terrific. This scramble for redemption is part of my journey to the New York City Marathon next November. As part of my training, I don’t taper for these trail races – choosing to “run through” events. Race times don’t mean much in the mountains, at least not for the average runner. Instead, I focus on training principles and the body’s systems.
Each time I run one of these desert races, I carry home the momentum and motivation to push myself to get to the gym. Those trips to the gym, in the dark of the morning or cold exhaustion of the evening, will pay dividends in the spring. It’s the work done in winter, or the off-season, that paves the way for success at the races in May and June.