I woke up to hoarfrost on Saturday morning.
No wind. The sun just up. The stillness. The belief that a storm was coming.
Still, I rolled back over after watching the light come over the room and seeing the trees rise like frosty skeletons against the sky, and I went back to sleep for a bit. I knew I was gambling – everyone said to expect the next snowstorm to roll in that morning.
I took the chance. Woke up later, made coffee and read for a bit. I made a quick plan with my friend Lisa to run 10 miles, and a plan with myself to run for a few miles to meet her, and a few miles after, in an effort to get in a decent long run.
And that’s what happened. I ran three snowy miles – including a trudge down 57th Street and over the bridge that included a fair amount of cursing and walking because the sidewalks weren’t cleared – and then dipped down to meet her near Cliff Avenue. We went down to the bike path and did an out and back, stopped along the bridge to take some photos because it was that beautiful.
The snow had begun to fall faster, and our tracks were covered as we headed back. We ran back up the Cliff Avenue hill and parted ways at the top. She headed home and I did another 3 miles, weaving through neighborhoods as the snow fell and fell. We didn’t end up getting more than a few inches, but it was enough, combined with the ice in my eyes and my generally bad vision, for me to struggle a bit at the end to see what was sidewalk and what wasn’t. It resulted in a few missteps and a few moments where I laughed out loud at myself.
In the end, I got in just over 16 miles in a truly awful positive split I’ll blame on the snow. When I got home, Patrick was finishing a ride on the bike trainer, and I sat on the basement stairs and dumped balls of ice out of the buff I had been wearing around my neck.
“Look at this,” I said.
“You made snow again,” he said as he finished the last bit of his virtual race.
I did. And more than that, I got in a decent run on a beautiful morning with a friend. And what that gives you when you’re training for anything is just confidence. Running isn’t hard. You can slow it down to whatever you feel like that day – or pick it up. It’s the daily commitment to it that’s the real challenge, the relentless pursuit of whatever you’re after. Just like anything – it’s saying yes. Yes, I’ll put these shoes on. Yes, I’ll make sure I don’t spend more money than I have. Yes, I’ll return this phone call and try to maintain my relationships. That’s what always stops you – it’s never the act itself. It’s every moment you have to say no, I’ll sleep in or watch television or do something else.
So on Saturday, lacing up my shoes to run in my favorite kind of winter weather felt like an accomplishment. To be able to log my longest run so far of the year felt even better.
It’s hard to stay motivated through the winter. Training for a race can help. Meeting a friend can help. I’ve been doing both of those things, and taking yoga classes all over town for cross-training, enjoying following my breath as I move through the poses as a way to quiet my mind (not easy) and also challenging myself to random “feats of strength,” as I call them.
I’ll never be really flexible. It’s getting better – that I can tell you. But one thing I love about yoga is that nobody cares. Nobody is looking at anyone else, and there are so many ways to modify what you’re doing, and every class is different and every day you’re different, so there’s no comparing me to you or even me to me. It’s as freeing as discovering trail running was to me. And while I’ve been doing it for years, something in me shifted in the past six months where I’m finding myself gravitating more and more to it. Not to replace the miles, but for some other need I can’t understand just yet.
I keep going, and falling out of tree pose on occasion. Or trying to breathe a cramp out of my foot during a class if I run too many miles before it. Sweat pouring off me in a heated, darkened studio. Or laying there in corpse pose at the end, tears rolling down my face for no reason and all the reasons.
In between, I practice poses in the living room.
“What are you doing,” Viv asked me.
“I’m trying to do this side crow, want to do it?”
“It looks easy,” she said, as she stood there. “We used to do yoga together.”
And we did. I can’t even remember what I was streaming, but we would move the furniture in the living room and lay out mats and beach towels and Viv, 7, and I and sometimes Jack, 9, would go through the virtual classes. She loved it, and we vowed to do it again.
I tried again. Tucked my arms as tight against me as I could, shifted just the littlest bit, got one toe up, then the other, held it.
“Once you get it, you’ll just have it,” a coworker had told me as she pretzeled herself into poses on our office floor one day.
I knew that was true – several years ago, Patrick and I would practice headstands nonstop after running at lunch, until we could use straight core strength to pull ourselves up without toppling over, slowly inch back down in full control. And it’s true – once your body learns it, you can’t unlearn it.
Even in other classes – the amazing Wednesday evening and occasional Saturday morning classes with Jeri Light at 605 or Woodgrain, where she teaches you how to lean into a stretch and suddenly your whole body says yes, this is what I needed, and you’re able to find that again the next time.
It’s like running – muscle memory, practice, commitment, an understanding that today won’t be like yesterday, that the left side won’t be like the right side, that you have to find something still to focus on, inside of you or inside this room.
My sister used to enter aerobics competitions in the 1980s. She was absurdly strong – she still is, the kind of former high school and college athlete who can just be amazing with a tiny bit of work. I remember watching her sit with her legs in a V in front of her, push her palms down into the ground between her legs, and just lift her entire body up, and slowly turn in circles. I don’t know what she had to engage to do that, but I’ve been in awe for nearly 30 years now.
So when I finally could hold myself in my very beginner version of side crow – I’ll be able to extend my legs one day, or do it for longer than 10 seconds soon – I set up my phone and took a photo to send to her.
Jeanette Winterson says when you love someone, you should tell them. When you admire them, you should tell them. When you’re thinking about them, you should tell them.
So I told her. And tried to remember the yoga that Viv and I used to do. And reached out to Lisa to thank her for the run. And nod to Jeri for helping me in ways she’ll never understand over the years.
Logged it all in all the places in my head and heart. Watched the snow fall.
Jacqueline Palfy is a longtime runner, reader and writer, marathoner, mom and board member of the nonprofit Sioux Falls Area Running Club. Her contributions to the 605 Running Co. blog will appear every other Tuesday. You can follow her on Twitter @runnerJPK or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Story ideas are encouraged.
What: Yoga at 605 Running Co.
When: Wednesdays at 7 p.m.
Where: At the store
Cost; $1 per class or buy a punch card
Who: Instructor Jeri Light
Level: All levels are welcome