Sunday, February 27, 2011

Snowy conditions -- I'm just not Inuit

All of the above
 Today's run (Stillwell Woods): 3.2 miles

It's probably an urban legend that the Inuit's Aleut language has dozens of words for snow. If they do then I think I've run in every kind today.  I've been on vacation for the last week and have either run or cross-trained every day since Friday the 18th. I had every excuse to rest today, my last day of vacation, but I thought that another run at Stillwell might be a better way to close things out. The rains and warm weather have done a great job clearing the roads where I live and I'd hoped that would also be the case when I arrived at Stillwell this morning. 

Despite the ubiquity of green across the lawns in my neighborhood, Stillwell's athletic fields were still covered by a thick blanket of white snow. I didn't know the conditions of the interior trails but I suspected (correctly) that the big field past the trail head would be runnable. Once I'd parked I made my way over sheet ice onto the main trail that was covered a foot deep in grainy-icy snow rutted by footprints and tire marks. I began to run on that, taking pains to maintain balance. It was like snowshoeing without snowshoes. After a few hundred feet I took a right onto a trail that looked partially clear and followed it, doing the best I could to avoid the slippery patches of packed snow and ice.

I took the trail to a point where I reached a steep hill that I managed to scale with the momentum from my approach. I knew that I was just south of the big field and followed a snow covered trail until I reached the opening. Once I broke free from the snow (and about 20 feet of sheet ice) I followed the trail around the field. The wind from the north was stiff which somewhat offset the easier effort from running on hard-packed dirt. As I rounded a corner I encountered a couple of mountain bikers who told me that the eastern side trails were still pretty rough. I elected to stay on the field loop and finished after completing a few more circuits. The toughest part of the run was at the end when I took a wooded trail back to the start that had snow, ice, slush, rocks, roots and mud and I finished by gingerly stepping over a sheet of ice formed by runoff from the trail head's snowbanks.

I'll take a rest day tomorrow and will appreciate it fully. Over the last seven days I've run 20 miles and elliptical'd another 6. I would have liked to have done a few longer runs during my time off but it was a trade-off between frequency and distance. I'm hoping next weekend's conditions will be more favorable for a higher mileage effort or two. As for today, I like variety but not when it comes to running in snow.

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