Winter running on the Ralston Creek Trail
I knew it would come sooner or later. Actually, it appeared a couple of weeks ago… briefly. I’m talking about snow. Really? It can’t be winter already? The leaves just started to change colors and fall from the trees. Now there are leaves and snow on the ground. Halloween decorations in the yard are covered with snow. My kids are bundled up in those puffy jackets that make them look like mini marshmallows. Below freezing temperatures that only increase by a few degrees during the day.
Yet, people around here tell me that this is not the end of fall. All of this beautiful snow could melt in a day and the temperatures might return to a balmy 70 degrees by next week. The weather around here is more unpredictable than it ever was in Jacksonville. I decided not to wait around to find out what would happen. I decided just to go ahead and go on the run that I had already planned a few days earlier. Why should I let snow and freezing temperatures stop me now? I mean, what will I do in January when this stuff sticks around permanently?
Thankfully I had already purchased my running pants that were rated for below 40 degrees. I must say that good winter running clothes should be put on the same pedestal as a good pair of running shoes. You really can’t afford to go skimpy when it comes to running in freezing temperatures. What if you hurt your knee and have to walk home? You are bound to catch hypothermia if you don’t have the proper gear.
I woke up this morning to a lot of snow. I knew it was coming, but the scene outside was still a surprise. I pondered my crazy plan to go running outside. Hmmm, I could just put on regular workout clothes and go to the gym. Did I really need to go outside? Yes, I had to go outside. I only run on the treadmill when I have to (or when I don’t want to push a 60 pound jogging stroller).
I put on my running clothes: my new pants, a fleece-lined running shirt, a fleece, rain jacket, gloves, hat and a pair of thin wool socks. I didn’t really care if I was overdoing it because I knew that if I got hot then I could also take off a layer. That would be better than freezing my rear off. I was a bit worried about my toes, but I was surprised to find out that the warmer socks still allowed my already big feet to fit in my shoes. Then I started thinking about traction. Knowing my luck, I would crash and burn if I hit a patch of ice on the sidewalk. I couldn’t really do anything about that so I just told myself I would start off slow.
And then I was off! Yep, it didn’t take long for my face to feel like it would fall off. I thought about the face mask that I probably should have brought. Dang it, my toes were good, but my face and my fingers were not happy. I wasn’t even sure how far I was going to run, but I told myself that I would at least do 3 miles so I could get acclimated to this winter running stuff.
After 2 miles, I was feeling pretty darn good considering the temperature and the snow falling from the sky. I was starting to warm up. Actually, my core was getting a bit too toasty. I considered taking off my fleece, but the thought of wind hitting my sweaty shirt didn’t sound so appealing so I just opted to be a bit toasty. My extremities could have used a little extra warmth, but it wasn’t as bad as that first mile.
As I coasted along in mile 3, I finally took the time to take in the scene around me. Snow covered trees, a slow-moving creek and hills of white. I couldn’t help thinking about how beautiful it was. At that moment, I felt really lucky. Not only was it a scenic run, but it was a quiet one. There wasn’t a soul in sight, unless you count the frisky squirrels or the bantering geese. (And what the heck are geese still doing here? Shouldn’t they be heading south?). Every now and then I saw a person walking a dog. And there was one runner. That’s it, just one. I shouted “at least I am not the only crazy one” before I noticed he was wearing headphones. So, that must have been why he gave me a weird look.
I was running a straight route. That only meant that I would have to turn around at some point and come back. Doing an out-and-back kind of forces you to run farther. You are feeling good those first few miles and you don’t really think about needing to turn around. “I got this” you say… until you realize you have run 5 miles. Okay, I guess I am running 10 miles today. I have no choice but to turn around and run 5 more miles. Honestly, it’s been a few months since I have run that far. It felt pretty good up until mile 9. Yes, I was almost there, but there was a hill. Damn those hills!
After I reached my car I couldn’t help but think about food. Yet, that is nothing new. I can talk about food at mile 24 while my friends are thinking about throwing up.
Today I think I showed winter who is boss. I’m not going to run inside on the treadmill while staring longingly out the window. Screw that. Cycling, though, is a different story. Can you just picture me cruising along at 18 mph and hitting a patch of ice? That’s just a bit too scary.