Winter, trails, soda mile

I see some variation of this picture posted on Facebook on a regular basis, and it always makes me smile because it’s so not the case for me.  First of all, if summer body implies swimsuit body, that hasn’t happened yet.  Mostly, though, it’s because to me this suggests having to make yourself go out in the winter to earn that summer body.  Though I’m no fan of cold weather, over the past couple of years winter has been my busy season.  Despite being off all summer long (more likely, because of being off all summer long), I don’t spend nearly the time outside that I do in winter.  Usually by March I’m in pretty good shape, only to blow it through the summer and be back at square one come October.

I’m hoping to change that cycle this year, but for now I’m in the middle of reversing the damage done by my summer of sloth…and having a blast doing it.  I love running in winter.  I love that non-runners think it’s so hardcore to run in the cold when, in actually it’s so comfortable once you’re warmed up.  I love the fact that when the temperatures are below freezing overnight you’re pretty much guaranteed ridable trails if you get up early.  So far, winter has been really good to me:

Dec. 22: Ran at Lost Valley with Chuck, Patrick, and Val.  I woke up thinking it was probably a bad idea since my hip wasn’t feeling great and planning to turn back early.  Instead, I got in 9.5 pretty great miles, followed by 3 that hurt.  Not smart, but totally worth it because Val and Patrick suggested some stretches that have really helped my hip.

Dec. 23: Rode mountain bikes at SIUE with Patrick.  First time riding singletrack since the Berryman in September, and it felt good.  Even though it’s just our local trails and nothing technical, I was happy to feel comfortable on them since most mountain bike rides are marked by heavy doses of fear and anxiety.

Dec. 26: Rode mountain bikes at SIUE with Kristy, my sister-in-law.  We’d started out mountain biking together but were interrupted by my sweet niece’s conception.  This was the first time we’d been able to hit our local trails together, and I was really impressed by (and a little jealous of) how well she did.  I’m pretty sure that, with any kind of more regular riding, she’ll be riding circles around me.

Jan 1: Patrick and I met Chuck and Val for 8.3 snowy miles at the Lewis & Clack trails. I always remember running in the snow as being fun, which it is, and forget the fact that it’s harder.  Even so, I had so much fun and felt good.  It was one of those runs where you still feel strong at the end. I love those.

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Snowy trails
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Hey, there’s me!
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Post-run group shot.

Jan. 5: Double header! 

First, Luke came to town to support our friend Lindsay’s family in a “Soda mile” benefit.  Lindsay’s son Christopher, who went all through grade school with my Daniel, was recently diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and his friends from the high school track team organized this fundraiser for them (she has a blog where you can learn more about Christopher’s journey).  I’d never heard of a soda mile, so if you haven’t either, here’s how it works:

Drink a can of soda.

Run 1/4 mile.

Drink a can of soda.

Run 1/4 mile.

Drink a can of soda.

Run 1/4 mile.

Drink a can of soda.

Run 1/4 mile.

Puking is optional, but keeping it off the track is mandatory.  Sounds fun, right?  Of course not, and while I’m typically up for all kinds of craziness, running a race that practically forces you to vomit isn’t the right kind of craziness.  I was all set to go, donate, and spectate…and then Luke decided to come.  If he was driving 2.5 hours to do this silly race, I pretty much had to do it, too.

To make it worth Luke’s while to drive so far, we planned to run local trails afterwards.  This complicated the soda mile even further.  If you’re running a race where puking is involved, the last thing you want to do is eat much that morning.  If you’re running trails afterwards, you need to have some fuel in your body.  What to do?  I guess the smart answer is get up early and eat something; instead I slept in and grabbed my typical almonds and coffee on the way.  Because that would be fun to throw up? I don’t know exactly what my thinking was there…

luke soda mile
Putting that soda away

Luke was in the first heat and chugged his first soda before the rest of the field and was the first one past the start line.  Very impressive.  He made it through all of his sodas and all of his laps without puking, giving me hope for my own mile.  Other racers weren’t so lucky. There were a lot of fast high school runners and recent alumni who paid for their speed by vomiting, often more than once, on the infield.  Even so, the fastest guy finished in 7-something, which includes his time drinking soda and puking.

I’d been worried about running after drinking, but the hardest part ended up being just drinking the soda.  The task was compounded by Luke’s camera right in my face and the taunts of my friends. 

“Very un-Virtuslike”.

I eventually managed to drink most of the first can and then set off on my lap.  I didn’t feel like I was running that hard, but by the time I reached the straightaway on the other side I was already miserable, more from the running than the soda.  I kept pushing, though, because I didn’t want to be the last person on the track.  By the time I got to my second soda I was thinking how embarrassing it would be to have to walk in a mile race.  I might have downed half of the second soda before tossing it to the side.  Luke and Patrick were unimpressed with my poor chugging skills.

Kate soda mile
And here’s what I thought of their constructive criticism.

Despite some serious burping, the second lap actually felt pretty good.  I drank part of my last two sodas, ran my last two laps, never puked, and finished in 10-something.  Not too speedy, but I was pleasantly surprised since I hadn’t warmed up and had spend at least part of that 10 minutes drinking.  It made me wonder what I could do if I was trying to run a fast mile.

Sara soda mile
Not sure what was going on here, but this picture makes me laugh.
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Russ coming in for another soda.
Jim soda mile
Jim putting down another one.

Sara and Russ were in the third heat and did great.  None of us got sick, and none of us won any prizes for speed, but most importantly the benefit raised a lot of money toward’s Christopher’s medical expenses.  Great event.

After the soda mile, Patrick and I took Luke on a guided tour of some of our trails.  I ate half a clif bar on the way, but either that just wasn’t enough food or it just wasn’t my day (probably a combination) because I was really dragging.  I was glad Patrick was along to lead the way and considering going back to my car early so I didn’t hold the guys back.

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Running in the Big Woods

I’m glad I stuck it out, because even if my running mojo never kicked in, I had a great time running and talking with the guys.  The trails are all located on the campus of our local university, so there were all kinds of fun diversions…like playing with trail artifacts…

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Lifting a cable left over from when the campus hosted the Mississippi River Festival

 And taking in the art on the campus…

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So fitting in light of my “Kage” nickname. 🙂
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Making like I’m on the Titanic, but I like how it kind of looks like I’m flying free.
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Future failure?

All in all, winter has been good to me so far, and my upcoming weekends are filled with even more fun.  Next Saturday is ROCK Racing’s SHITR (SHivering Icy Trail Run), a 13-mile nighttime trail race.  The following weekend is MLK2, the second annual group trail ride on the Berryman Trail.  We’ll see if last year’s magic can be recreated or, better, improved upon. 🙂

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4 Responses to Winter, trails, soda mile

  1. Now that sounds like an awesome string of holiday training adventures!
    I just read a book, “Arctic Glass,” by Jill Homer, and thought of you. She is this badass mountain biker/ice biker who lived in Alaska. This book is a compilation of race/ride reports and I was amazed by her. And very cold. 🙂

  2. Marcia says:

    10 something sounds pretty darn fast to me with all that soda chugging. Yikes! Looks like a ton of fun though!

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