Monday 13 February 2012

Everything takes longer in the cold

Running in the cold is as much an effort of mind and patience as of strength and endurance.  If you're lucky, your legs will go at or near normal pace, but all of the little things that run smoothly on a normal day seem to be a bit more fiddly and time-consuming.  The past two weekends of running were generally in sub-freezing and windy conditions.  Nothing seemed to flow, and some of the new kit I tried really required more brainpower than I could muster in the cold.

The first properly cold run of the year started in ~-5C and got colder before it got warmer.  I struggled to get warm enough to run when I got to my first uphill (normally mostly runnable, if slowly).  My calves just wouldn't stop burning.  So, I hiked.  As I hiked, I fiddled with my pack, my Buff, my top, my mittens, etc.  Mittens?  I got some very nice fleecy mittens for Christmas from my folks, who know my hands are usually cold and that I've never found a pair of gloves that work for a cold day out hiking or standing around pre-/post-race.  Since it was well below freezing and very windy, I thought I'd give them a go on the run.  So, while I struggled to run, I found I also struggled with my pack zips, my shirt zip, my Buff, etc.  I had warm hands, but not much coordination.  In fact, when the bite-valve froze, it took me a good 2 minutes to re-route it into my top for thawing, what with the taking off the mittens, re-arrange the pack, blah, blah, blah.  Would gloves have sped me up?  No, my brain was still mostly as useful as frozen porridge.

The following day, as the ice and snow started to melt, I took Nic out for a nice jaunt up the Avon Way.  We ran along the river out of Evesham, thoroughly enjoying the (very) occasionally milky sunlight trying to brighten the snow.  I was a little more together for this one, so I had enough coordination to enjoy a good ski down the one big hill on the route.  Running on the ever-moving slush above rutted and frozen mud did keep the pace down while we tried to avoid turning ankles/knees just as Nic started to taper before her first marathon.

This Saturday was another cold one.  I hoped to get out into the hills before the sun melted all of the snow, and just managed my goal.  Again, my calves struggled to loosen up (3 miles of up does that, I guess), but felt OK after I got in a good downhill to get it together.  This time, I took my new backpack out (review to come, once I've used it a bit).  I wore gloves so I could mess about with all of the straps to my heart's content - which I did. The best bit about the new pack is the handy waterproof pocket that gives me easy camera access without fear of dropping other stuff.


Following in the footsteps of the early birds.

I never tire of this view, and it certainly scrubs up nice in the snow!

 The snow didn't disappoint, and I finished my shortish run (14 miles) feeling far too tired, but happy for the sun & snow combination. All told, I finished the week and a half of cold running fairly wiped out but happy to have been out in such challenging and beautiful conditions.

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