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. 

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