Winter is here!


Last week it was 4 degrees above and snowing. I decided to go for a long run.

After taking several weeks off due to my tendon injury at Lean Horse Hundred in August, I have been relieved to finally be able to run distances greater than 10 miles.

We humans are strange creatures, aren't we?

We worry about that which hasn't yet happened and which may never happen- all while at the same time forgetting to be grateful for that which we do have. We never appreciate what we have until it is lost.

I started out in a snow at four degrees above- but the temps rapidly dropped to below zero.

I meet many fair weather runners who tell me they never go out when it is cold. Now, I admit that I would much prefer a warm sunny spring or autumn day to a below-zero frigid winter run.

However, with running, just as with life in general, we cannot expect to have an endless season of perfect weather. Storms and bad weather are part of life. I think of the less pleasant days as allowing me to more appreciate the beautiful days when the they do come.

Plus, I've found that I'm as much of a procrastinator as anyone. Humans are naturally lazy- it's in our genes. I'm no different.

It is always easy to find an excuse to not run:

  • "It's too cold!"
  • "It's too hot!"
  • "It's too early!"
  • "It's too late!"
  • "It's snowing!"
  • "It's raining!"
  • "I'm too tired!"
  • "I'm too busy!"
  • "I don't have time!"

And so on and so forth….

If began making excuses to not run, well quite honestly then I'd never run. So I run in all kinds of weather, no excuses! The sole exception being during an active thunderstorm when I may be in danger of being struck by lightning.

I may be insane but Im not stupid!

Some kinds of weather I definitely prefer over others. However, I am not going to let less that perfect conditions keep me inside.

Ultrarunning is all about perserverance.

By perserverance, I'm not only talking about keeping going and not giving up mile after mile during an actual race. I'm also talking about getting out and doing a training in a December blizzard at 4AM before going in to work- even when it would be easier to turn off the alarm and stay in bed a few more hours snuggled warm next to your spouse.

I love where we live.

The Black Hills of South Dakota are a well kept secret. We live on gravel roads south of Rapid City, a couple of miles east of Custer State Park.

I have miles and miles of gravel/dirt roads and trails to run on literally right off my doorstep.

Although I have enjoyed running anywhere, it is much nicer to run where there is beautiful scenery.

It makes the miles float on by. Every training run to becomes an adventure to look forward to instead of a chore to complete.

I decided to keep going after my usual mile 5 turnaround.

Instead I went out 9 miles. I stopped for a moment to eat some gel blocks and put on an extra layer.

In the distance, one could usually see Mt. Rushmore. On a clear day, the views from this overlook are exceptional. Today, however, Mt. Rushmore has completely disappeared in the clouds and snow.

I hadn't stopped for too long before I started to feel chilled.

"Get moving along!" I thought, "you need to warm up!"

For safety during winter runs, I carry a backpack filled with extra clothing, two space blackets, firemaking gear, and extra food. On today's run I was on the road and help was only a cell phone call away. However, when running trails in the mountains in the winter you need to be prepared to stay out overnight, in case of a broken bone or twisted ankle. Even less than an hour outside in cold weather without being adequately prepared could be fatal from hypothermia.

We ultrarunners may be tough, but we're not invincible.

Running in the snow with a 20 lb pack is not the most fun thing to do.  However, once spring returns and I'm able to run with just a light fanny pack, it makes those runs seem all that much easier.

On the return trip I saw several whitetail and mule deer, a few wild turkeys, melanistic phase red tail hawk (much darker coloration than normal) and a great horned owl. 

A fox barked at me.What blood curdling little critters they can be! I saw he (or she) scurrying off in the meadow.

Then I heard what was a cross between a "Snort!" and a "Wuff!"

It was a donkey.

He (or she) was none-too-thrilled to see me out running on the road through the trees. Those long-ears are very observant. Many times while out packing in the mountains, our mules would be the first to sense other humans or wildlife, much sooner than we did. They were always aware of others even before our horses or dogs.

Donkey, more curious than afraid, walked over towards me. Two more"snort-wuff's!" and I was past. The horses in the same pasture with donkey, appeared bored. They stared at me blankly.  

Silly long ears!

Darkness fell across the land. I put my headlamp on.

During my entire run, I was passed by only three vehicles. Two of them actually turned out to be the same one, a rancher going on an out and back trip in his pickup truck to water and check on his stock.

I felt a hunger pang and opened my bottle of Chocolate Boost. Now Boost is not what I would usually consider very appetizing. However, when you're at mile 15 and feel hungry it provides needed calories to keep you going.

Indeed, when Boost has frozen thick from the cold, like some kind of milkshake, I'd even call it "delicious," in its own sort of way.

The temperatures dropped further and icicles formed on my beard.

I first grew my beard when back in Wisconsin. I do not think it is my imagination or in my head: facial hair really does take the bite out of the cold winter wind.

I felt something bouncing back and forth on my chin.  It was a frozen snot-dangler! 

When running in cold weather, your nose runs. A quick wipe on the sleeve or a "turn-and-blow" usually does the trick.

This little guy, however, decide to freeze just as he came out of my nose and stayed around to hang on for a ride. I tried to run all the way home with him still attached so I could proudly show him to my 9 year old son.

However, ice quickly built up on him from my breath. He finally fell off after about three miles.

Oh well, at least I have this photo to remember him by. I know this is disgusting. It's more than any of you want to know; nevertheless, I've documented it so I'll never ever forget it- that little frozen snot-dangler of mine.

Finally, I made it home!

After running the last several miles in the dark, our log cabin seemed bright and warm and cozy. I caught the scent of wood smoke from our woodstove. Much of our heat is from trees that we harvest on our own land. There is nothing like the scent of wood smoke to let you know the hearth is warm and all is well in your little log cabin in the pines.

I looked at my GPS: 18.2 miles!  What a great run!

I went inside. Jeanne and Nathan remarked at the icicles in frozen beard as it quickly melted in the warmth.

Yes, winter is here!

This-coming weekend it will be sunny and in the mid-40s. I can't wait to do another long run! How far will I go? It all depends how I feel.

Good luck and run well through the New Year!

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2 responses

  1. Glad the running is back on track. Brrr…but I'd of joined ya.

    December 20, 2009 at 6:57 pm

  2. I'm sure you would have joined me… of course, you would have gotten cold waitin' up for me the slow poke.

    December 20, 2009 at 10:29 pm

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