What to Do When Weather Ruins Your Workouts

The storm about to hit the Bay Area, according to the weather people.
The storm about to hit the Bay Area, according to the weather people.


#Stormaggedon is coming. Tomorrow.

Since this is the biggest storm we’ve had in five years — ignoring the fact that we’ve mostly been in a drought for the last two years — people are freaking out a little bit. If it’s as bad as they’re saying, then we could get four to six inches of rain, 20 to 30 mph winds, mudslides, flooding, power outages, and worse. (It is not clear yet what “worse” is.) We’ll probably get some of that, but it’s hard to believe we’ll get all of that as bad as people think, since people seem to think this is The Big One, the one that’s going to wipe us out — and I always sort of felt like The Big One probably wouldn’t come with enough warning for every store in Marin to sell out of sandbags.

But, when the weather gets bad, it can throw training up in the air. Yes, you don’t want to bail at the first sign of a drizzle. And, we’ve all done that, been the person sitting inside arguing with ourselves that ‘I dunno, it looks like it might be cold out.’ But, I’d also argue that athlete-people too frequently try to tough it out, thinking that it’ll toughen them up. It might. Or, it could slowly wear them down and break them.

Besides the last two years, every winter I’ve trained in the Bay Area has involved a lot of riding in the rain. Because of this, I go out of my way to not ride in the rain. I will get enough toughening up on accident or when it can’t be avoided. I do NOT deliberately bike in the rain. When we were at training camp back in the spring and everyone wanted to ride, even though it was raining, I was like, “Nope, sorry, I get rained on too much to ride in the rain in Arizona.” Seriously. No.

While biking in bad weather is incredibly terrible — risks include hypothermia, possible major injury, or death — running isn’t that bad. (I mean it’s not enjoyable, but it’s do-able.) I’ve run in some pretty insane rain. However, that wasn’t always a great idea actually. In retrospect. Sometimes, you really should know when to not be stupid.

Tomorrow, I am trying to not be stupid.

#Stormaggedon has already prompted school closures. (I know. Weird.) The usual flood spots are barricaded, hopefully. People have bought out all the bottled water and flashlight batteries. Most of the gyms are closed for the morning. Social events are cancelled. Everyone is just going to batten down the hatches and sit inside, apparently. Given that, it seemed like a bad idea to get in my hard run in the midst of a mini-hurricane.

That’s why you’ve got to get creative and be flexible with your training sometimes. This is one of the best things about being your own coach. If you trust yourself, then you’re probably the person who knows best what you can and should do.

So, today, I did my hard run workout, even though my legs weren’t exactly ready for a hard run after massively underestimating on Monday how long it would take me to run to meet Steve and having to go full-out for 20 minutes to make it. But, I had to do the hard run today, so oh well.

The only problem is I was going to swim tomorrow (since I’d already be wet), but now all the pools are closed — even the indoor ones. Guess I’ll take it easy tomorrow with some yoga at home, wait and see if it stops raining by Friday to ride, and figure it all out as I go.

Here’s what I do when I’m trying to figure out my training in bad weather:

  • Evaluate how bad it really is.
  • Do not start a ride in actual rain, if it can not be avoided.
  • Re-arrange your schedule as best as possible to get your rides in before or after the storming.
  • Stop being so rigid. Good rule for life too.
  • Try not to do hard workouts in crazy weather; it’s just not going to go well.
  • Know that any workouts in the rain or snow or a storm are going to take more out of you. It simply is more stressful.
  • Dress appropriately. That especially means gloves. (I know, duh. But, some of the worst rides I’ve ever had were because I was stupidly under-dressed and refused to go back for more clothes.)
  • If things get bad bad — like you need to help with flood control, pitch in at neighbors’ house, or clean up the streets — then do that! Training is still just training.

Do you train in the crazy bad weather?

Race Report: Couples Relay

The Couples Relay is a fun, small relay (duh) where one woman runs two miles and then hands off to her male partner, who runs two miles. I’ve been in charge of it for the last three years and this year Steve and I finally actually ran it. I’m pretty sure he was only convinced to run it after talking shit about trying to beat Pete and Ilyce, but then Ilyce got the flu and we still ended up running it.

It rained a lot this weekend and, since we’re in the middle of a drought, no one was totally prepared for it. If you don’t live in Northern California, then let me give you an idea of what it was like from Thursday to yesterday night. It was like this:

You’re going to get soaking wet. Why not run a race?

I was really stressed about this for some reason. Even though the race is about 100-150 people usually and was even fewer this year because of the rain, I was still totally anxious. Two miles just sounded infinitely worse than both one mile (which would be done by the time it started to hurt) and a 5K (which would be slower and not as painful). The women went first, so I started with a few high school girls and a bunch of fast women.

For a mile, it was no problem. I tucked in right behind the four high school kids and it didn’t feel easy but it didn’t feel hard either. Every time I started to fall back or it started to suck they’d slow down or I’d bridge back up or it’d pass. We ran straight through puddles and my Garmin said we hit the first mile in 5:58, so I was pretty much ready to call it then. There was no way I was going to do better than that.

Then, on the second lap — each lap was one mile-ish, another woman caught up to me and passed me and I all of a sudden remembered there were other people in the race behind me too. She went by me and passed a couple of the high school girls, who were slowing down. I followed, but slipped farther behind her. And, then, for two or three minutes, it sucked. A lot. The woman who went by me and the front high school girl were battling it out and pulling away. I was dying. It hurt so bad. Actually, I have no recollection of the pain; it’s interesting how those things are wiped from our memory. I remember that it did hurt, but not the hurt itself. I was in the middle of the longest two mile in history. And, then a (fast) 50-year-old woman caught me.

I told myself Steve was going to give me hella shit if I got beat by this many people before I handed off to him, so I forced myself to go with her. We were almost done by then, trying to pump my arms and plow through the increasingly heavier rain. The GPS said we hit the second mile in 6:07. And, then there were still seven more seconds before I reached the hand-off. WTF, race director, get it together.

Steve held our position and we finished in fourth, behind two high school teams and one adult team. And, then, everyone got awards, because we always have awesome prizes for the Couples Relay and then we spent another two hours picking everything up after the race. And, this is what our house looks like because all the wet clothes and shoes are drying everywhere and the rains have taken over:


But, still, totally worth it to run two almost six minute miles. I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to do that. And, since I am the race director for the Couples Relay, I give the entire race an A+ for effort.

Running in the Rain: Sucks or Is Awesome?

Yesterday, I wrote on twitter:

twitter - rain

This prompted a whole debate among the triathletes/runners/cyclists. I was surprised so many people came to the defense of rain. Though, in my defense, none of those people live in the Pacific Northwest.

rain - debate

So, apparently, my hatred of rain is not universal. But, hear me out: it sucks.

Sure, sure, splashing around in the warm rain is fun, like being a kid and playing in broken fire hydrants. (Oh, what, you guys didn’t do that? Welcome to growing up in Chicago.) And, a short run in the rain can be ok — again, in a sort of ‘aren’t I crazy’ way. But.

But, real rain, rain that you can’t wear the right kind of clothes and make go away, sucks. Anything longer than an hour sucks. Anything colder than 60 degrees in the rain sucks. Anything where there are multiple days of rain sucks. Anything where you can’t get dry and warm immediately after sucks. Don’t believe me? Come sleep on my futon and I will give you a crash course in how to get hypothermia while training in California.

Once, my junior year of college, it rained for 28 days straight. And, I don’t even live in Seattle. I don’t think I had a dry pair of shoes left by the second week. If that’s fun, then we have very different ideas of a good time.

Yesterday, I ran a bit over 12 miles plus drills, with lots of 6:40 pace stuff, in the not particularly warm rain. Every seam in my shirt and shorts rubbed my skin raw. I was wearing gloves – thank god – but my hands were still so frozen after I got home that I knocked over a cup and spilled water all over the table. AND, the thing is: it wasn’t that bad, because it wasn’t that cold or that heavy a downpour or that long a storm.

So, no, I don’t think running in the rain is fun. Don’t even get me started on biking in the rain.

For a long time, I’ve been pretty convinced that really it’s the people who don’t go out in it who think it’s great. The same tools who say things like: “Don’t you love rainy days when you can curl up in front of a fireplace.” No. No, I do not enjoy contributing to air pollution after attempting to actually go outside as opposed to driving from my home to my office and back to my home.

But, that’s not totally fair. Because, as the twitter debate demonstrates, there are plenty of very fast and very fit people who enjoy rainy workouts (though, again, I suspect only to a degree). So, instead, for a while, I suspected that the whole running or riding or swimming or Crossfitting — yes, I’ve unfortunately done that too — in the rain thing was really just an effort to toughen up, to make it more extreme. There is certainly a widespread belief out there that if your workouts are crazy or hard or tough enough, then you’ll be better prepared. There have even been some [often Eastern European] pros who have argued that when it’s hailing and pouring, that’s exactly when you should head out on your bike, in order to harden up.

Let me suggest, though: You don’t need to go out searching for the crazy; it’ll find you.

I know this to be true. Enough stupid hard things happen that I don’t need to go look for them. Enough bad decisions will be made on accident that I don’t need to make them on purpose. Enough days I am miserable that I don’t need to try and make myself miserable.

(And, that’s probably good advice for life too — college students slumming through Southeast Asia, I’m looking at you.)

Maybe I’m wrong, obviously. There’s certainly workouts one does simply to prove to oneself that they can be done. But, that’s a dangerous game. And, maybe, running in the rain is really just fun for some people. I even think it’s fun-ish some of the time. Maybe (probably) I just need a better attitude. But, a better attitude isn’t going to happen while I’m doing my drowned rat imitation.

Does running in the rain suck?

Running in a San Francisco storm? Don’t go to the Golden Gate Bridge

forecastToday was a storm, like a real actual storm. 30 mph winds, torrential rain, flooding in some places, sideways water, and all that stuff. Given those conditions, would you go for a run? And, if you did, would you go to a spot known around-the-world for rain and wind?

I had a 9-10 mile run on the books and Ilyce wanted to meet by the Golden Gate Bridge, so I figured how bad could it be.

When it’s raining that hard, there’s not much point in donning all your cute running clothes. They won’t make a difference. Usually, if it’s pouring, I’ll run in just a sports bra and gloves, so at least I’ll have fewer soaking wet clothes to drag around with me. That would have been a totally fine idea today except that the needling rain coming sideways was pretty painful.

It also would have been a totally fine idea except when we sort of got a little lost.

We were running this loop through the Headlands, with the wind whipping around the ridges and the rain making it impossible to see, but it was mostly fine on the trails. Exposed, shitty, cold, but fine. Then, we turned onto another ridge trail to finish out the loop and couldn’t go on. We were high up above the water and the wind blowing in from the ocean has probably been buffeting the side of this hill for centuries. But, with it all worked into a cyclone, we were suddenly blown into the rocks. Neither of us could move. I grabbed the side of the cliff face, waiting for it to die down. What if it changed direction? It could blow us right over the edge.

But, it never died down (and, thankfully, never changed direction). We picked our way back the direction we had come. And, from there had to improvise.

Improvisation involved a road called Cloud View Trail – with a handful of $2 million houses inaccessible to all but the hardy, lost runner, through an area called Hurricane Gulch, over a couple bushes, onto a trail at the top of rocks marked off by cables to make sure you didn’t get blown away, and down stairs that dropped you over the freeway and back to the Golden Gate Bridge. It wasn’t a great workout (or experience), but it was certainly an adventure.

And, no, I don’t have pictures, what with the running and the clinging to rocks and getting soaking wet.

On the plus side, I have now discovered a new trail that is probably very full of views of clouds when it’s not a mild hurricane.