Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Ultimate Long Run Contemplation

As a self-employed individual who spends more time talking to his dog during the day than he does to others, I enjoy the opportunity to run with other people. In fact, I'd rather do an agonizingly slow run with a good friend and catch up than I would like to go to to the track for a speed workout by myself. Of course, the latter is purely hypothetical thinking that I would even think of doing a speed workout, let alone by myself.

Thus, when a friend invited me to join her for a 33 mile run on her birthday, I didn't hesitate to respond in the affirmative. She's training for a 50K in March. I'm training for a marathon in May. But the question is whether I go for the gold, throw out all my conventional wisdom and just see if I can actually run 33 miles. It's as daunting as the thought of running a marathon was 4 years ago as I contemplated my first.

I begin to wonder whether or not I have hit a new level in my running. Is a marathon no longer good enough? Am I no longer feeling that a marathon is a challenge? Am I looking for the brag factor that comes from running 30+ miles at one time. After all, you should see the "likes" and comments I got on Facebook after the lake run. Could I be looking for that type of self-gratification? If that is my reasoning, then I think I have issues...ok, additional issues.

If my reasoning is because i've never done a run over 27 miles than maybe it's worth looking at.

There is also a rational part of me that says "You haven't run anything greater than 26 miles since September..." But, I remind that part of myself that came up with that quip that I did rock 12 miles today on a really hilly course and I did do 10 miles on the track last Friday which should be the equivalent of a 30 mile run in terms of "wanting to die" before I finished the run. All of these are very valid points.

It also solidly reflects that I spend way too much time talking with the dog...

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Most Memorable Run

I've spent the past week working on how I could write about a run that I will remember for years to come. Have you ever had a run or race that is so memorable that you wish you could capture it and relive it again? That is what happened to me on Feb. 2. Here is how it all started.

Here's How it All Started
Just a bit cold in the middle of a frozen lake.
In my area is a large fresh water lake. As a kid growing up, the word "fresh water" was used rather loosely because a large steel mill in the area used to dumb their waste into the lake. The mill is no longer and the lake is slowly getting better. I was reading the local news when I came across as story about running across the frozen lake. I had never heard about this and was instantly intrigued. I knew that some of the lakes in the mountains in the area froze and had ice fishing, but I never thought this lake which is in the valley would freeze over. Apparently it does.

After reading the article, I was intrigued enough to start asking around among my running buddies if anyone had done it and if anyone was interested. The comments ranged from "You are crazy" to "Bring it on." A little more research led me to a few other blogs here and here that talked about their experience.
Notice how smooth our course is.

A local expert who has run on the lake many times offered some advice. After I convinced him of our desire to run and that I'd done my research on being safe he offered to come with as an unofficial tour guide.

The Plan
After a little research, I mapped a 6 mile route. Another option was 11, but I didn't think I could go that far after being out because of my toe injury. I arranged to have my son meet us on the other side of the lake and take anyone back to our starting place for those who weren't doing a round trip.

The Morning of the Run
Where two layers of ice meet.
The first of January in this area, we had temperatures that were below zero. The days leading up to our run the temperatures were close to 40 degrees. Normally, I would be jumping up and down to have temps in the 40s, but when we're talking about the difference between thick ice and thin ice, I'd rather have it cold.

We decided to meet at the lake before the came up in case it warmed up. We could be on the lake as little as possible if the temperatures got above freezing. I packed a change of clothes wrapped in plastic sacks and a length of rope.

The temperatures the morning of the run were cold. Originally the forecast called for lows in the 20s and highs in the low 30s. Instead the temperature was 9 degrees. As we were driving, the weather became more and more foggy. We arrived at the starting point with the visibility down to 100 yards. Many of us had programmed the route into our Garmins and also carried GPS on our phones. But with the visibility so poor it was going to be hard to stay on course.

This would make an awesome Runner's World photo.

Running on Ice
Running on ice was a surreal experience. It was more of a mental experience than it was a difference in feel. There was 3-4" of dry powder on top of the ice which made running hard. I had Snow Trax on my shoes, but they did little good with the snow. We ran spread out so that no one would be putting too much pressure on the ice. Within a short distance from the shore, all sounds disappeared. With the fog, it was utterly silent. It wasn't spooky silent, but rather peaceful. We stopped often to check our route, make corrections and of course–to take pictures.

At one point in the run, I felt like I was running on small rolling hills. I realized that the slight waves from the lake had frozen. It made for an interesting feeling. During the course of the run, we came across a few long cracks in the ice. They weren't wide, but they were very long.

Taken from a friend's Garmin. The length that looks like
a drunken runner is our initial course. The smooth route
back was after the fog had lifted....or we sobered up.
We were able to run a 6 mile course in a little over 7 miles. :) It was an amazing experience. Since that time, the weather has warmed up with several days above freezing. The lake is not extremely deep. The lake website says that after about mid-February extreme caution is advised when doing activities on or around the lake. It would be fun to run the lake again this season, but I think the window of opportunity has passed. What an absolute amazing experience.

This is a few of the group at the other side
of the lake.