Pack a Shovel

“Whoa, that’s early.”

“You know that means a lot of trainer time, right?”

“Sounds more fun for spring break, not a race.”

“That’s my offseason.”


All of the above are a sampling of the responses that I would receive when discussing doing an IM in March. Despite being in Mexico, it seemed that I was in the minority of triathletes who are happy to jump on a new early season option for ironman racing. I knew it was going to be hard. I knew there were going to be many days where I would prefer to be in a build phase where I had flexibility with workouts. But after today, in just 3 words, I can just about sum up the best way to prepare for an early season goal race: Pack a Shovel.

Living in Baltimore, I’m actually very lucky in terms of winter training. With the exception of the winter of 2010, we usually have fairly mild winters (knock on wood). You can assume that 1-2 weeks will be very cold, but otherwise things are bearable and the snow is few and far between. Those 1-2 cold weeks have definitely arrived though. With it we got a sampling of snow, about an inch falling last night. In most places that get a winter, 1 inch wouldn’t phase people. Around here, it’s enough to cause early dismissals from schools, back up traffic for hours, cause people to drive negative miles per hour, and somehow it sticks around for way longer than it needs to. That means that this morning when I woke up hoping to get a long ride in, icy conditions were just dicey enough to make me not willing to go out for a solo ride.

If you know me well you know that I follow my training plans to a T — sometimes that can be my biggest fault because it allows things like unpredictable weather, work, and life stuff stress me out as I try to figure out how to make it all work. But my motto has always been that there is a way to get it done. That is how I knew that I’d be fine preparing for an early season ironman – I always figure out a way. Today was no exception.

Since I wouldn’t be riding, that meant I’d be swapping my run day in today. A double run day, actually – which gives me less leniency on when to start run #1. And run #1 was a track workout. So, I did what (in my mind) anyone would do: packed up my shoes, gloves, and shovel, and headed to the track. Again, I’m very lucky. One inch of powder snow is hardly a burden to shovel. In my head this was going to be a quick 10-15 minute task to run the shovel around the track and then be on my way. This turned out to be slightly optimistic – thirty five minutes later I finished the quarter mile!


So then, with frozen toes and fingers I started my workout.

Do I really enjoy doing absurd things like this? Was it really fun to have to do it? Of course not. But these are the days that will make me stronger. Just because a particular day or workout isn’t fun doesn’t mean that it’s not meaningful. It all goes into the vault and on race day I get to draw on it. Because you know what is fun? When a race goes well. When running the last 10k feels like a 10k and not the end of a 100 miler. And last time I checked, sticking to the plan, finding a way, and getting the work done in the days before the race was the best way to ensure you have fun on race day. So I think for the next 7 weeks I’ll continue to pack a shovel.

Published by Alyssa Godesky

Alyssa is a professional triathlete who has logged over 8,000 miles in competition of swimming, biking and running across five continents. She came to triathlon from an ultrarunning background and over the last few years has found success back on the trails: in 2018 she set the female supported Fastest Known Time (FKT) on Vermont's 273 mile Long Trail in 5 days, 2 hours and 37 minutes. In 2020 she set the women's supported FKT for climbing the 46 High Peaks in the Adirondacks in 3 days, 16 hours and 16 minutes. She is a triathlon and running coach, and also enjoys spending time guiding hikers out on the trails. Alyssa is based in Charlottesville, VA with her dog Ramona.

0 comments on “Pack a Shovel”

    1. Ha! I dont think there are indoor tracks here? Might be worth looking into, haha. I’m looking forward to getting away from this cold!

  1. A few weeks ago when we were getting non-stop rain, I had a track w/o on schedule… Drove to 4 different tracks looking for one that wasn’t locked or flooded. Finally found one, then ran my (loooong) track w/o in the midst of a high-wind advisory when roofs were blowing off houses…. Not quite the same as shoveling the snow off a track, but same mind set maybe!? Cabo is going to be awesome!!

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