I knew this day would come, sooner or later. The two runs I had completed earlier this week, were around zero Celsius and the weather forecast for the weekend was cold, very cold. It's 6.30am on Sunday morning and I'm looking through frosted glass at the outside thermometer. The red mercury line is at -22C, and I later find out its -26C with the wind chill. Time for my first winter run. I feel I've forgotten what to wear for this temperature despite all my previous experiences.
In 2010, during my Marathon Quest 250, I ran five days a week through an Alberta winter. The coldest day was -41C. Today, I throw on everything just in case, two toques, thick neck warmer, merino wool long sleeve shirt, long sleeve tech shirt, wind jacket and Boston 2004 running jacket. On my legs, merino wool long johns and winter running tights. On my feet, Smart wool socks and a new pair of Salomon Gortex trail shoes. On my hands, a pair of wool gloves and a huge pair of insulated mitts. I hate cold hands.
I give Sue a kiss goodbye, open the front door and get hit by the first wave of cold, crisp air. It's a beautiful morning and the sun is just coming up. Before I start my run I jog down to the post box. I'm sending off my application and registration cheque for the Yukon Ultra Marathon on January 30th 2014. It's a fairly thick envelope and I'm not sure of the postage. I've stuck three Superman stamps on it and hope for the best. Surely The Man of Steel will make sure it arrives.
I head back to the house and my start point. Today, I plan to go out for a couple of hours and I'm well prepared. I have my fuel belt with four, eight ounce bottles of water, containing my Carbo Pro for fuel. Each bottle is good for half an hour and has 150 calories mixed in. On my fuel belt I also have a pouch with electrolytes, a camera, and a cell phone.
I switch on my Garmin 310XT GPS. 200 kms above planet earth three satellites triangulate my position. I'm locked in. I hit the start button and, as I cover the first 100 metres, the information starts to appear. Time, pace, heart rate, elevation. My route takes me over the railway lines and up to the 1A highway. I cross the road and head along a familiar route, Horse Creek Road. I don't listen to music and love the rhythmic crunch, crunch of the trail shoes on the snow. I'm toasty in my winter gear, the only place I'm cold is two spots on my cheeks, which are numb.
I run nine minutes and walk one. During the walk I take a drink. After 30 minutes the water turns to slush as I finish the first bottle. Ten minutes later I try to take a drink from the second bottle. Trouble, it's turned into an ice cube. All three bottles are like hockey pucks. Maybe Sue can knit little booties for them to keep them warm.
I've been steadily climbing and in the distance I watch the mist roll over the huge expanse of the Rocky Mountains. The peaks stretch as far as the eyes can see all topped off with white icing. I take out my camera to get a photo of this vista. I switch it on and the screen reads "Battery Exhausted". I know it was charged and I can only think that the cold has done a number on it. At 57 minutes 27 seconds I hit 8 kilometers. My Garmin tells me I've climbed 400 feet and it's time to head home. The sun has been at my back and now it's blazing into my eyes.
The first thing I spot is the glitter. In the rays of the sun the super fine ice / snow mist dances in the air. Flashes of colour sparkle and disappear. But there's always more. The snow in the ditch is sparkling. A car drives by and I'm caught in a vortex of mist and colour. I spot animal tracks, rabbit, fox, deer and dog. I'm not sure which are which other than the rabbit.
Blog continues below the slideshow
At 1 hour 06 minutes 12seconds (10.2 kms) I have to answer the call of nature. Tricky in the cold. I have to be quick. Also, this is cowboy country so I watch out for barbed wire and electric fences. The road sweeps down and swings towards Cochrane. I get into a smooth rhythm, running down this gentle slope. I cross the 1A and arrive at the finish. 1 hour 52 minutes and 26 seconds (16.01 kms) from when I started. I switch off my Garmin and the satellites can now go back to more important things.
The payoff for this morning's effort is a hot tub, cup of tea and toast and marmalade. Plus one of the most amazing feelings you can get when you go running on a winters day.