Thursday, December 4, 2014

Winter is for running

I know, I'm a freak, many of my running friends pretty much quit for the winter or retreat to the gym. But winter is when I run.

Don't get me wrong, I am not a huge fan of wearing spikes, discovering that the park is full of ankle-deep snow, battling howling winds, and bundling up in a million layers. I do like running in the summer, but I just don't do it more than a couple of times a week. Sometimes only once! Why? Because there's so much else to do! Hike, bike, kayak, swim!

So winter it is, though it seems crazy. The trails are mostly too snowy, though you can sometimes hit the sweet spot when enough people have packed them down with snowshoes.  Most trails you can't get to at all anymore, since the roads aren't plowed.You can't run fast. Throw those PRs out the window! The trails are too steep in the best of times. Add in a lot of ice, a few avalanche chutes, and some streams to cross, and you are lucky to do a ten minute mile. But who cares?  I just like to run.

Most of the time. I've been running for decades, and sometimes it is a chore to haul myself out there again. Every direction is uphill (really, it is) and there aren't a ton of choices. The Hill of Death route, with the Icy Road of Fear, the Lake Road of Desperate Wind, the Zen of the Rocky Moraine, the Route by Brian's House that Involves a Highway And Possibly Cows Being Moved, the Haunted Ex Roller Skating Mansion Run, and the Park of Many of the Same Short Loops While Trying to Avoid Dogwalkers for the Tenth Time.

Sound appealing? Actually, it can be. There's times when it's about ten degrees and the snow sparkles like little diamonds, catching the low-angled sun. I can check on the lake ice status, to see if skating is a possibility. The other night a fox ran across my path, barking. I check in with the horses by the park. I look for avalanches on Mount Joseph.

The Route Where You Can See A Single Farmhouse for Miles

I used to run with people. Julie, Brian and Ken were my marathon training partners, and we battled it out in the horizontal rain and wind for our long runs, stashing Gatorade and snacks along the road prior to our departure (this was before the days of comfy running vests). Ken and I ran dangerously along the fish hatchery road, avoiding fresh bear scat and singing loudly. On the fire crew I ran with other people all the time. I still recall torturing Jim when he asked how much farther we had to go. "Oh, a half mile," I lied, when it was a lot closer. Sorry, Jim!

 I kind of miss the social aspect, but I like running by myself now. Especially in winter, when it's a challenge to find somewhere not too icy and not too snowy. I have to be opportunistic about when I run, scheduling it around conference calls and meetings, so I tend to dart out the door when I see a window. I'm sure that people wonder if I work at all, because I am out there at all different times.

Occasionally I have to give up and run on the mill, but this is a last resort. There are only two at my small gym, and they are often occupied by the walker crowd. I feel guilty hogging one, and you can't watch TV (it's mounted above your head and you might crash). I don't listen to music when I run because I didn't start out that way and I don't want to be dependent on it. Besides, the cords. The disappointment of getting a Nora Jones song when you need a good rendition of "Swamp Buggy Bad Ass" (look it up if you want. But I warn you, look up "clean version"). So, no music. You can watch people going in and out of the bank across the street but that is about it.  I just am riveted by the display....56 mi. .57 mi. .58...No. No. No. (I recently saw a blog post by a woman who wears red lipstick when she runs at the gym. Um...)

Running isn't my first love anymore, but I still have a friendly relationship with it, so I'll keep putting on winter tights from 1990, wool zip T, jacket, mittens, hat, shoes that have holes in them (must replace), spikes and an optimistic attitude. If I start feeling surly about the whole winter running scene, I'll remember the Winter of Knee Surgery, where I was forbidden to run for three months, and then I started back running for two minutes, walking for five. I'm just glad I can run. Bring it, winter!

Do you run more in the winter? What are your challenges? Give me a lead on good warm running tights!





13 comments:

  1. Speech clinic hallways! Dreaded Kawbawgam! Snirt, slush, ice. Running in the winter is challenging....glad you can keep going.

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  2. The speech clinic hallways were a low I hope will never return. #Obsession.

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    1. They were, weren't they? Some giggles, though, along with incredulous stares

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  3. Swamp Buggy Bad Ass! Danni Coffman gave me a mix of songs to listen to when I first started running back in 2010, and it included that song. I don't think I've heard it or thought about it since, but it is indeed an excellent song for motivating through sideways snow.

    I really do miss winter running. There's that element of excitement in it. But one aspect of winter training that runners often don't think about is being prepared with extra clothing, lights, etc. One incident while I was living in Missoula still resonates. I was out for an 8-mile run on a flat gravel road through Rattlesnake Canyon, after work in November. It was 10 degrees but there was no snow or ice on the road. I still managed to stumble and sprain my ankle so badly I could barely walk, and had to hobble out nearly four miles soaked in sweat and wearing my thin running outfit. By the time I got back to my car I was shivering so badly that I was scared. There was no cell reception in that canyon and it was late in the evening, so if I had succumbed to hypothermia before I could get out, no one would have found me until morning. I still think about the incident in reference to winter running. You can get away with limited gear because you're working so hard, but it pays to be prepared anyway.

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    1. That's a cautionary tale and I have been in situations (not that dire) where I have definitely wondered if I had enough stuff with me (I didn't). I think we tend to be more cavalier because we "know" we can run 4 miles in a half hour or whatever (well, slower than that probably nowadays. Depends on if wolves are chasing me).

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    2. Rattlesnake Canyon is a great place to run! It would be nice if there were cell reception though, especially when you see a sketchy person who probably really isn't, but you're by yourself so you're not sure.

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  4. One of my best runs I did on a ski vacation in Steamboat, CO. The temperature was 12 degrees and the clouds had dumped 6 inches of new snow overnight. Pure magic!

    But when it does happen to snow here in the lowlands of Portland, I break out my cross country skis. Because if there's snow on ground, I'd rather be skiing. :)

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    1. Same here, Linda! But I usually have to travel to a road the locals have not driven on and ruined!

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  5. Can't run in the winter, my lungs freeze, my toes turn blue, my fingers turn white, and I would surely slip and fall. Hate running on mills, but I resort to them with a towel over the display and both ear buds in. It is the only time I can hear my music in both ears while I'm running. Our mills look over the pool, if you're lucky you can watch the lone guy in his speedo swimming. Wish my lungs could handle the cold. How do you do it without freezing your lungs?

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  6. I don't know, my lungs do just fine. Maybe it's from growing up in a really cold place? I like watching people swim, I can critique their technique! Not sure about speedos though.

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  7. Ah yes, your lungs are conditioned for the cold. Speedos can be distracting.

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  8. The temperature here doesn't change much, but learning to stay warm in the cold rain is definitely a challenge. Pouring rain at 45 degrees has left me colder than most of the runs I did in real winter. I have yet to find a raincoat that breathes well enough to keep me dry but still lets heat and sweat out. Also, there's the chafing. Body Glide and a baseball hat have been my winter lifesavers.

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    1. Oh that is just like my southe at alaska days. I eventually gave up on raincoats and just got wet. Which made me cold at work since there were no showers! You're right, that is an especially cold combo.

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