Friday, December 15, 2017

Signs and Portents

If the start of this winter is any indication of what the rest of it will be like, it's going to be a very long few months.


December had been pretty relaxed up until last weekend - sure, I needed an extra layer here and there, but I'd run in a skirt with bare legs on the 2nd and 3rd and had seldom even reached for a jacket yet.

That definitely changed on Saturday, with snow that started just after sunset...just as I was setting out for a run.

Though it did mean I could go without a headlamp for some of it.

It was only about -4c so I still managed without a jacket, though I did have a double layer of warm, longsleeve shirts on. Sunday's temperature was about the same as I set out to explore the Lions Lake Trail around Woolwich Reservoir for the first time, but the wind was powerful and bitter.

..and the snow continued to fall.

With the dam being closed for maintenance until March (a fact I only discovered once I arrived at the closure, having hoped to run loops of the 7km trail), I ended up having to do an out-and-back from Floradale Park to the dam counter-clockwise, then another out-and-back clockwise to the closure, and then one last out-and-back covering the same ground as the first jaunt...only this time in pitch dark with even heavier snow falling.

Glad I brought my better headlamp..

While the trail isn't really technical and is quite flat, my ankles took a bit of a beating from being unable to see roots, rocks, and frozen, lumpy mud under the thick blanket of fresh snow. I'm sure my osteopath - whom I'd just seen two days prior for a treatment on my left ankle - would be delighted with me! It was definitely a return to all the most challenging parts of winter running, and I think now that's a trail I'll leave be until springtime.

I only ran on my lunch on Monday and Tuesday, but even that proved a bit dicey - it snowed heavily enough on Monday that it was difficult to see while I ran into the wind, as the big, fluffy snowflakes blew into my eyes even under the brim of my hat

Not a great way to be in Mississauga traffic.

Tuesday the snow relented, but the late-morning temperature of -4c (for which I'd brought kit to work) dropped to -7c with 50kph winds blowing streams of snow off the roofs of buildings by the time I got out for my lunch run. Windchill: -16c, for which I had definitely NOT brought kit.

The only thing that saved me from freezing solid was the bit of sunshine on my thin, black tights.

Wednesday was even colder as I ran down the trails in the dark after work, once again able to go without a headlamp between the snow and the glow.

Fortunately I mostly had a tailwind for this one, too.

Then last night was the chilliest yet at -11c with a windchill of -18c when I finally set out around 10pm.

I wasn't super happy when my eyelashes iced up and started trying to stick my eyes shut.

We've been thrust firmly and without ceremony into the days of chapped lips, windburn, too many layers, and serious concern over the state of my previously badly frostbitten appendages...all as the 12th annual 100 runs in 100 days challenge begins.

While it may seem a bit cheesy, this challenge - which I've done every year since (I believe) 2011 - really does help motivate me when winter is howling outside the door and I am despairing at the thought of leaving my cozy, warm house or office to face its wrath. Winter and spring are also the only time I am really able to manage double run days due to my schedule: I can run on my hour-long lunch (which is reduced to half an hour in summer, making it impractical), then again after we get home from work. The challenge gets me out the door for that 2nd run on tired legs, knowing that my Fridays off will mean I have a day to make up each week.

To pull it all off, more than ever I'll need to focus on finding the good in every run even as the weather turns miserable. There's almost always something beautiful - or at the very least interesting - every time I step out the door, so the goal is just to be mindful and seek the positive every day.

Like road salt that blooms into a flower on a random manhole cover.

..or a beautiful display of lights.

..or the serene beauty of Cooksville Creek in ice, snow and darkness.

I'd encourage anyone to consider signing up for the 100 runs in 100 days challenge. It's completely free, though to officially participate you need to set up a login on's forums and record your workouts in their training log. They do have Strava integration now if you balk at the minute or two that would take daily, or you can always just record your runs via your own means if you don't care about your name showing up on the leaderboard - there are no prizes other than emerging from the winter with a solid running base and perhaps a few less lingering pounds of turkey, stuffing and gingerbread 'round your middle.

Wait, that's just me, isn't it?

In any case, you don't need to feel obliged to put in the full 100 runs - any increase in your running frequency (assuming you're not already running 7 days a week and still take any appropriate rest that your body may require to stay healthy and un-injured) is almost certain to pay dividends once racing season comes 'round, and at the very least it's a great exercise in discipline.

..I'm just not sure what it might portend when this year's challenge starts on my own non-negotiable rest day.

So anyway, between tomorrow and late March, if you're looking for me...I'll be out plodding along, looking for something that makes me smile.

Sometimes it's right under my nose.


  1. Sadly I've started hitting the treadmill at the gym lately. I've lost at least a month of running each winter prior because of injuries from surprises from terrain conditions caused by snow and ice. This year I'm avoiding anything questionable.

    Have a great bunch of winter runs, and I wish your ankle well. Sadly I didn't even get out today after the thaw; I caught my wife's cold. So may you and Tank stay healthy.

    Congrats on your Outrace placing too!

    1. Thanks so much! I know that winter running isn't for everyone, and I know you've been crushing some major mileage lately. Nothing wrong with the treadmill if that's what keeps you injury free.
      Sorry to hear you've been under the weather - hope you and Violet feel better soon, and have a very merry Christmas!


Go on, have at me!