Thursday, February 3, 2011

Two Nights of Brrrrrrrrrrrr

It's cold in Tucson, I mean really, really cold. Not just cold enough that you have to wear a jacket, although that is bad enough, but cold in the single digits (if you count windchill), cold that kills all your plants and makes water pipes burst and makes furnaces work so hard that Southwest Gas actually ran out of natural gas and a bunch of people in the foothills and the far southeast part of Tucson just don't have any gas tonight, the coldest night in Tucson in over a hundred years. THAT kind of cold.

Everyone knows I hate cold more than anything. I take it as a personal offense that it can even be this cold. This is like New Jersey cold (though thank God without the snow). And, worse, the cold arrived right smack in the middle of what was supposed to be my first full workout week where I do at least one workout every day. I could've skipped workouts because of the cold, and I was tempted to, but the other thing about this extreme cold is that the thought of working out in it made me feel extreme. (Yeah, yeah, shut up, East Coast people. I know you run uphill both ways through two feet of snow on your daily runs back there -- it's different here.) Like, if I can prove myself against the cold, I must not be wimpy, sick, out of shape, or anything other than Boston-Marathon-ready. That's what I tell myself anyway, and that's why I would not let myself skip either yesterday's workout or today's.

Yesterday's workout was my long swim -- 3600 meters. I decided to do it at the Ott Y, which meant I had a long trek across town to the east side. The Ott Y has an outdoor pool (heated, of course -- I'm not insane) and I felt like the depressing sight of the downtown Y's covered pool, and having to swim right next to the Silver Sneakers water aerobics class, would render me unable to swim even one length of the pool. I love the Ott Y and figured that it would be enough of a novelty to be swimming outside that it would keep me going through the whole 3600 meters. (3860 meters is how far you have to swim in an actual Ironman swim -- so I am almost there!)

I spent the whole day with half my mind on the lessons I was teaching and the other half on how much I didn't want to swim after work. The day got colder and colder. The air was cold, and also there was this violent wind blowing. Walking from the locker room to the pool was the coldest I can ever remember being in Tucson. There was steam rising off the pool and I jumped right in, expecting it to be warm. It was not warm. Well, maybe lukewarm, if I'm being generous. Definitely not warm enough that I wanted to stand there and bask in the warmth before starting my swim. I just wanted to get going and get it done.

A lot of people say that swimming in a cold outdoor pool is not bad once you get warmed up. I disagree; it was bad the whole time. I was consciously cold the whole time, every time I raised my arms out of the water and felt that frigid air on my skin. But I actually felt more sorry for the lifeguards. They're the ones that have to sit out there, motionless, watching my painfully slow progress up and down and up and down and up and down the lanes. For about an hour I was the only one in the pool, and I bet those lifeguards were just wishing I would either speed up or wise up and go home where it was warm. I know that if I was a lifeguard at that pool I would have been hating me, that's for sure.

I did, as always on a long swim, think about quitting somewhere around 2100 meters. But I didn't because I must, absolutely must, think of myself as being hardcore. Lately I have been such a wuss, skipping workouts right and left and blaming the Mysterious Female Troubles instead of the true culprits, my laziness and fatness, that it was crucial to my self-esteem that I stay in the damn pool the entire time. So I did. Somewhere in there I lost count of where I was, so gave myself 100 "penalty yards", the punishment I have devised for myself when I get distracted and think about something other than what I'm doing. So actually I think I swam 3700 meters, not 3600, which puts me within spitting distance of finishing the Ironman-length swim.

Getting out of the pool should have felt awesome, but really I was just 1) tired, 2) freezing, 3) in pain from goggles that are way too tight, and 4) sick and wondering to myself when will I learn that eating vast quantities of cheese before a workout is never a good idea, no matter what sport we're talking about.

Today was even colder than yesterday, and tonight's workout was a run to Reid Park. It was supposed to be seven miles. My mom got me this really nice white thermal running shirt once. It's long-sleeved and has thumb holes at the ends of the sleeves and is really warm, and I can never wear it here because even on a winter day it's too warm. But today was made for this shirt! I wore that shirt plus a long-sleeved cotton race shirt over it, plus a gaiter for my neck, plus a headband to go over my ears, plus heavy wool socks. I started out wearing a pair of running pants over a pair of running tights, but then when I took the dogs for a walk I decided really the tights by themselves would be fine, so I ditched the pants and just wore the tights.

This run was... miserable. In every way. My stomach hurt, I felt like I couldn't breathe because the air was so cold, my eyes were tearing, my nose was running, my neck was itching under the gaiter, my mouth hurt where I had the root canal two days ago, I had to pee, I was too hot with two shirts on and too cold when I rolled the sleeves of the cotton shirt up, my feet hurt, my calves hurt, et cetera, et cetera. By the end of Mile One I wanted to quit. Or cry, or maybe both. But instead I just walked for a short distance and pulled myself together and told myself I did not have to run fast, but I did have to run. So I managed to run the rest of the way. I felt like I was going at a horrendously slow pace, like maybe 11:00 miles, but when I looked at my watch I saw that I actually averaged 9:00 pace, which is slow for what I used to be but not bad considering how lousy I felt and that the run was uphill and I had to jog up to red lights waiting for them to change.

I have now survived two days of workouts in sub-freezing temperatures and am pretty proud of myself, but two days is enough. I sure hope the weather forecast calling for the 70's by Sunday is accurate. This New Jersey weather needs to get out of town!

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