Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway...

I wish I could say this were true, but by the time I was a senior in high school I knew I needed to head south.  After many cold and snowy soccer games in Michigan I had no desire to stick around for 4 more years.  I was stubborn and rarely wore long sleeves under my jersey, never wore tights, and would only occasionally wear gloves.  In August of 2005 I was leaving a beautiful Michigan summer for the hot and humid shores of Beautiful Eagle Creek in Statesboro, Georgia.

Practice Fields on Eagle Creek
I quickly adjusted to the heat and humidity.  I wore jeans to the first day of class as a freshman -- I was sweating before I got halfway to class -- I don't think I wore jeans to class for the next four years.  What used to seem warm for a winter game or practice would soon become what I thought was 'freezing'.  I was hopeful there would be no more training sessions with snowmen as spectators.

It didn't snow once while I was in Statesboro.  The temperatures were mild in the winter and the coldest days we had to deal with while in season were during our away games in Boone, North Carolina.  I never once needed long sleeves, gloves or a headband during game day.  The only white stuff on your uniform after a game was the salt that you had sweated out on it.  Most days were sunny and gorgeous.  

The truth was...I hated the cold.  I'm not sure I really knew it at the time, I just knew I performed better when it wasn't cold.  Any training session we had in the cold I'd cough and have trouble breathing - but since this only happened a few times per year, if that, I just blamed it on coming down with a cold.  Since leaving Statesboro for Washington DC, I've had my fair share of snowdays and cold weather.   I've also had the opportunity to use a treadmill or indoor bike trainer in any instance when I don't want to brave the cold or snow.  There were plenty of times when DC was snow covered and the sun was shining that I put on my running shoes and took in the sights.  I didn't pay attention to heart rate, pace, or any piece of data for that matter.  I simply enjoyed the run and took photo ops when I wanted to.


This year has been my first year of training while consistently using my heart rate monitor and Garmin.  I've watched myself become a faster more efficient runner.  I've learned about heart training methods and the purpose behind them.  I recently had a couple great training cycles and races at Ironman Lake Placid and IM 70.3 Augusta, but when it came time to start a short training cycle to wrap the season up with a 1/2 marathon it appeared everything was gone.  I could barely make it a mile without wheezing and coughing.  My pace across all my zones dropped...and it would continuously drop as I brought my heart rate up throughout a run.  I gave myself a couple weeks, looked at everything I was doing outside of training and couldn't pinpoint a thing...other than cold weather.  I'd have a couple great midweek runs when I ran after work - while the sun was shining and the temps were hitting the 50s and 60s, but anything early in the morning or in the cold and windy weather was brutal.  I quickly enlisted the help of my doctor, ruled out some more serious possibilities, and moved forward with the most likely explanation -- exercise induced asthma (exacerbated by cold air)'ve got to be kidding me...

As nice as it would be to pick up and head to sunny Florida or Arizona, I'm loving life in DC.  So I'm figuring out why my body freaks out in the cold.  I've got some solutions and ideas that I've tried out this past week and I'm actually now looking forward the TCS Annapolis 1/2 Marathon next Saturday.   In some ways running with lungs that were shutting down in the cold was kind of like training at altitude.  The thought of running horribly slow, while coughing and wheezing my way through 13.1 miles had me considering sherpa duties for a few days (and hoping I wouldn't be confined to the treadmill for the majority of my first training block in 2015).

Here's to one more 2015 race and the fast approaching off-season!

The best part of life is not just surviving, but thriving with passion and compassion and
humor and style and generosity and kindness. - Maya Angelou


  1. You and I have the opposite problem, Holli! While I also can't stand the bitter cold temps like last year's Arctic Vortex, I run much better when the temperature dips below 60. I think 40-50 is my sweet (sweat) spot. But if you can figure out how to get your body to run in the cold, maybe I can finally figure out how to run above 80. Fingers crossed.

  2. Great to see you taking a positive from a negative and finding a way to move forward!

  3. This is Abby... yep. Totally. "exercise induced asthma (exacerbated by cold air)" is the story of my life. I almost couldn't breathe by the end of a cold race this year. No shame! It is what it is and we are who we are!