The new year often weighs heavy on my soul. Pre-kids and -Grant, I was always hoping that the new year would be the year of ______ (a great boyfriend, a better job, a purposeful life, fill in the blank); post-kids, it fast forwards time, so I can suddenly picture 4th grade then 11th grade and I can't stomach my Ben, ready for bed in dino jammies and a Pull-up, learning algebra. So I try not to think about it too much.
But on Saturday, as I looked at the temperature on the Odyssey-- -2 degrees (not kidding)--I knew I had to attach some meaning to day one of 2011 if I was going to get through a workout. We were up in Granby, Colorado (you may have heard of its next door neighbor: Fraser, a.k.a. the icebox of the nation), for a weekend with my parents and sisters. Because this is the first time I've seen snow this year and because the Mt. Taylor Quad, which has two snow-centric disciplines, is about six weeks away, I had to powder it up, Arctic temps or no.
In order to minimize the chance of frostbite, I needed efficient. Which meant my first hill repeats in about, oh, two years. I breaking in my sweet new Atlas Race Snowshoes, which trade surface area for feathery weight, so breaking trail wasn't an option. I needed a path, and the best one I could find was a snowmobile track under a chairlift at Sol Vista. Forget the temps: I wasn't psyched with the openness of the trail. I didn't want to be the endurance freak who is running up the mountain while everybody else catches a ride. Then I looked up at the chairs, and they were all empty. Of course. It's below zero out here.
So I start up for the first repeat without giving myself a specific number of repeats or knowing how long each repeat will be. Read: I am granting myself permission to bail at any time.
I'm only at it--"it" being a running-like motion that probably is equal to a 16-minute-mile pace--for about a minute when I can't handle the burn in my lungs and legs. As soon as I step even with a big support pole for the lift, I start walking. I continue to hike up so I know how the hill lays out, and, within a few minutes, hit a ski path which I can't cross.
So the hill is short. I have that going for me.
I fly down, cleats underfoot, feeling invincible, then head up again. This time, I tell myself, run 10 steps past the pole. I get to the pole, pound out 10 more, then slow to a hike.
Round 3: 20 steps past the pole. O.k., I'm doing this.
Round 4 (30 steps) and 5 (40 steps) go off without a hitch. I decide 10 total repeats is good, and--guess what?--I'm halfway there! Plus, the sun is out, the sky is so blue, there is no wind, and the temp has to be above freezing by now. Really, who wouldn't be out running hill repeats on snowshoes under a chairlift on 1/1/11?
Round 6: Repeat 40 steps, but with a caveat: no dropping my hands to my knees to catch my breath between running and hiking. Enough with the drama, Dimity.
Round 7: 50 steps, which takes me to the easiest part of the hill before I slow. Maybe I could get all the way to the top?
Round 8: 60 steps, which I, who has a bit of a Rainman streak in me, parcel out as 15 on my right, 15 on my left, rinse, repeat. My feet are soaked (so much for Gore-Tex trail shoes), and icy, tiny snowballs are clustered on the socks around my ankles. I notice this when I assume my gonna-die, hands-on-knees position at the top. Apparently, somebody else noticed my drama. "Are you o.k.?" a ski patroller, flying above me, asks me as I head down.
Round 9: Getting ambitious: 75 steps. One more, and I'm done. Maybe I'll even get to the top.
Round 10: 90 steps. No top, and I can't find the will to keep going when I hit 90. I can't end my first workout of 2011 like this.
Round 11: Top! Top! Top! The 11th time in 2011, and I made it! On the way down, so thrilled, I decide I need to run, non-stop, four times total: one for each discipline of the quad (bike, run, ski, snowshoe).
Round 12: top. Two more times, really? As I run down, I notice clouds have moved in, as has a breeze. My cheeks have that freezer-burn hurt going, and the sweat I've worked up feels like it has icicle potential.
The other thing that can weigh on my soul? Thinking about a hard workout: speedwork, hill repeats, anything that goes beyond my beloved steady state. I try to think of reasons I can't do it, I fret about how much it's going to hurt, I go over the workout again and again in my head.
Then I get up--have to do it first thing, or I'd obsess myself out of it--and dive in. Sure, the burning and the pushing and the coaxing isn't exactly pleasant, but it's never as bad as I think it's going to be. And, unlike less-intimidating workouts, I'm always greeted, on the other side, with a quiet smile of pride and a hearty dose of confidence.
If I have to start a new year, not a bad way to do it.