The snowless December streak has finally ended, but along with the snow we now have severely cold temps and hard running surfaces to contend with.
Our Saturday Morning Run started two hours later than usual, for two reasons: 1. To give us time to sleep in on New Year’s Day, and 2. To let the world warm up to a manageable temp before we tried to run. Friday evening’s hour-by-hour forecast called for -6 degree temps at 7:00 AM Saturday, with things warming into the mid-teens by late morning. We were hoping to miss some of the “brutal cold” and run in the “merely cold” temperatures.
Six brave souls gathered at the Bobolink parking lot Saturday morning. We sat in our cars until the last moment, putting on every piece of cold weather gear we needed in order to be safe in the freezing air. I wore fleecy running tights underneath sweat pants, Smartwool socks, a wicking t-shirt underneath a long-sleeve wicking shirt that was topped by my running jacket, a face mask, Smartwool hat and thick running gloves. I was covered head to toe in multiple layers and felt sure that I would be protected from the cold air and wind chill.
The temperature wasn’t nearly as bad as the forecasters had predicted. It was a balmy 9 degrees at 7:00 AM, and about 12 degrees when we started running at 9:00. The trees provided a great windbreak at the start of the run and after a few minutes I could feel the sweat start to prickle against my torso. “Uh-oh”, I thought, “I might be overdressed.” I decided to suspend my assessment of my clothing choices until we hit the backside of the Bobolink, where the wind might be hiding.
Crossing underneath South Boulder Road to the south side of the trail is always exciting. You never know what the inside of the tunnel will hold. As we started through the semi-darkness Marcia saw birds flap out the entrance, and we slowed to let our eyes adjust. Miraculously, there wasn’t any ice or snow, and we had clear sailing.
I was warm now and pulled the facemask off my nose and mouth and let it rest underneath my chin. My cheeks weren’t too cold and the intake of air into my nostrils didn’t burn, which told me that I wouldn’t hurt my bronchials by allowing the sub-freezing air to enter the warm crevices of my body. Sweet!
But the snow… oh, the snow. It was trampled in places, except not what you could comfortably call “packed”. Our shoes sank an inch or so into the powder, creating a drag that was startlingly akin to sand. After a few miles of running I felt a slight stiffening of my right glute and hamstring. They’ve been the bane of my running since the marathon, and I’m loathe to admit that they still are tweaked. I haven’t had the “fresh legs” feeling in so many months I’ve actually stopped hoping for it. I’m running on muscles that are still tight and still have several huge knots that are interrupting steady blood flow.
Adriana and Elizabeth turned around at the two-mile point. They would meet us at coffee.
Four of us continued to the gate, the magic turn-around place. We stuck firmly together, as there was no going any faster in the snow that held our feet for a moment too long. I always look forward to winter running but the first real snow of the season is a stark reminder that running in snow is a full-body workout; I don’t get as far as fast, and I work a lot harder every time. No wonder I’m in great shape in the Spring!
Surprisingly, there were a few other insane runners out on the trail. Even more surprising, two of them weren’t wearing hats. Maybe it’s the “Mom” in me, but honestly people, when it’s 10 degrees out, don’t you know that you lose a ton of heat through your head? Do yourself a favor and WEAR A HAT!!!
This one guy we saw on the backside of the trail was moving along at a really good clip. I was immediately envious of his gait. His quick legs and high knees made running look effortless. Sigh. My aching glute was keeping my leg lower to the ground, and thus it was harder for me to move my feet quickly out of the fresh pow-pow. I probably would have done better to cross-country ski this section.
A glance at the Garmin told me what I already suspected; we were moving at a steady 10-minute pace, almost 90 seconds slower than usual. And there was no way we could go any faster. I wished I wore my heart-rate monitor to get some readings on winter running in order to track exertion levels during different seasons.
I had originally thought I would extend the 6.6 mile run to at least 8 miles, possibly 10. After 5 miles I realized that I had had enough of the run; my body was tired. No need to push any further, especially since I was planning on a long run the next day.
We pulled into the parking lot and Elizabeth hopped out of Adriana’s car; I still had her key in my pocket! Whoops! Luckily she wasn’t standing in the cold waiting for me, but was warm in Adriana’s car, chatting. We paused to take a quick picture with Sarah’s camera, then quickly jumped into our respective cars and started peeling layers.
Off went my Smartwool hat and the face mask. Both were soaked with sweat. My gloves were wet and my jacket felt damp too. My hair was wet against my scalp, but when I pulled it out of the ponytail holder the top layer was still dry. Amazing!
We all headed to Ozo’s Coffee Shop on 55th and Baseline for a warm drink. Adriana was smart and brought a warm, dry jacket to wear after running so that she wouldn’t be cold. Once inside I shed the wet jacket and enjoyed my mocha for a little while, but started to get uncomfortable when my body temperature dropped and the wet clothes got cold. By the time I arrived home I was shivering in my two layers of shirts and pants. It was hard to peel the wet clothes from my clammy body, but I managed it well and rewarded myself with a long, hot, blissful shower.
Happy New Year!