Sunday, February 14, 2010

Jogging in the Snow

Thanks, Rick, for pointing this tidbit out: "There's snow on the ground in all 50 states." I had 17 miles to run yesterday, and every option I clicked off sounded less desirable than the first. All the trail systems were snow covered, and I was tired of my hilly lake roads and I've had enough miles on the treadmill. So, I took a risk, and drove out to Longview Lake, planning on a central entrance at Shelter House 11, going for three segments, 6 miles south, 6 miles north and 5 miles whichever way I wanted to repeat.

My plans came to a screeching halt when all the gates were locked and barred. "Hmmph," I thought, "This place must be run by picnickers, not runners." I'd chosen Longview as it has the unique attribute of a decent trail system that is all paved (read: not mushy / muddy, as I knew every other option would be). I drove up to the north end, and found I could park and start at that entrance. Which meant I'd need to run the same segment three times out and back, ah well.

I hadn't gone far before I realized it wasn't going to be my day. Within a half mile, I had to tread over a long stretch of icy, slippery snow. Plus, my energy level didn't seem to be where I wanted it. By two and a half miles, I realized it was a bit breezier than I expected and had a few more inclines than I recalled, and the snow patches were becoming more and more frequent. I seriously considered turning around and attempting the run tomorrow. Somewhere else. Any other day. I wanted to give up.

As I reached the three mile mark, it was apparent by the snow tracks that fewer people had made it this far south (would require a total of six miles to return to their cars at the far north end), and I knew if I turned around at this point, I probably wasn't going to complete the run. So, I pressed on, and the snowy patches increased and the previous footsteps decreased and I was going farther and farther from my car. By the time I'd passed four and a half miles, I found I was actually feeling better; I seemed to have found fuel, but the slipping and sliding was an ongoing consideration. While I've complained about the poor condition of the cracked and broken asphalt trail here before, it's hard to whine about that when you can't even see it beneath the slushy, slippery white stuff. I was constantly sliding, losing my footing and trying not to fall.

As I crossed over mile five, I knew that at least if I turned around here, I'd only have seven to go when I returned to my car for refreshments. And that's what I should have done. But, six miles out and back sounded so much better, I'd only have five total left to do. By this point, no one had hit the trail, and with the additional tree covering, I was now completely running in undisturbed, crunchy snow about 3-4" deep. "Jogging in the snow," I pondered. Pleased to have had my gaiters on, as it largely prevented snow from working its way into my shoes. The good news was--I wasn't slipping anymore. The bad news--this was wearing me out. I almost turned around at five and a half miles (which would have left me six more to complete upon return to the car), but pressed on. I finished the six out and back.

As I turned around, I realized how thirsty I was, and how this was going to be a long trek back to the car. My two miles of "jogging in the snow" were 9:30 and 9:33, respectively. Although slow, they were quite draining--and required more work than the faster miles. I didn't really care too much about my pace on the way back, but decided to kick it in as best I could for the last mile back to the car. It netted me something the 8:10s, I didn't quite grab the number and my laps failed at that point on the Garmin. Not bad, but I did lightly twist my ankle booking it over the ice at one point.

Twelve miles down, I drained an entire Gatorade bottle on the spot I was so thirsty. I really didn't feel like the remaining five. Maybe I should just get in the car and finish it on the treadmill. Then I realized how ridiculous that sounded. I pressed on, talking myself through various multiples of the distance I had remaining. Although my laps weren't working on the Garmin, the time I had remaining for the five miles indicated I'd managed about an 8:15 pace for these miles. I finished in exactly 2:30, start to finish, which was truly amazing for the conditions. It wasn't that fast, but definitely the kind of run that will build strength and stability for future runs to come.

This morning, I am feeling fine--nothing hurts. But last night, my ankles were pretty tired.


  1. Also build confidence going forward in addition to the strength and stability.

    I was thinking of doing a post on where running in snow ceases to be "running" and becomes a type of cross-training because one's stride is sufficiently altered by the conditions. This came up with a friend's post of yesterday. I think he was on the other side, i.e., more cross-training, while you ended up doing a tough, tough run with great benefits of de facto supplemental training.

    As for me, running in the snow is no longer in the cards. I can't take the risk of slipping and falling. Fortunately, I live where there are plenty of quiet streets that are well-plowed so that a day after we had over a foot of snow I had no problems finding place to run right from my door.


  2. Joe, Thanks for the comments. My run was on the outer edge of what I shouldn't have done (looking back, I realize it was not the safest idea). I'm with your friend--I was definitely slipping and twisting my ankles despite the granny pace anyway. But in the truest sense of consequentialism, the ends justify the means I suppose.

    Even though I felt super-slow, I am telling myself that I will reap the rewards from toughing it out in about 3-4 weeks. The effort level to complete this run isn't really reflected in my average pace (just as your friend noted also). --Alex