Sunday, December 2, 2012

My Own Hypothermic Half

34k.  That was what was supposed to happen today.  Longest long run.  One of two 34k runs in December.  

Last night, my plan to meet up with Team Goofy kinda fell apart as two of the members were really sick and pretty sure they were going to end up walking it.  I decided that, rather than leaving hubby without a vehicle for most of the day, I could maybe run from our house into Calgary and then he could pick me up.

The weather forecast said it would be -5C-ish.   Not bad.  Practically a heatwave in December. 

MapMyRun told me that if I took a certain route from my house - 34k would bring me EXACTLY to my mother in laws condo.  That sealed it.  I would leave at 7am.  Take a low-traffic township road and arrive in McKenzie Towne around noon.   Even hubby agreed to it, and he is pretty hesitant about me running on highways. 

So, this morning, I got up bright and early and because a kiddo woke up early I didn't end up leaving until around a quarter to eight.   The thermometer in our yard said -6C but the Weather Network said -12C.  So, I dressed roughly the same as I had for yesterdays race in that temperature.

I also had a whole arsenal of stuff with me.  A hydration pack to hold all of my water and to carry any thing I might need to shed (if only I'd had foresight to pack extra clothes in it), gloves/mitts, headlamp, garmin, RoadID, iPod.  I also had my ifitness hydration belt to hold nuun and my iphone.

I even brought Goofy along for the ride...

I looked like an ultramarathoner by the time I was suited up.

And off I went.  A couple of blocks later, I paused for a moment.  I was feeling really cold running into the wind, but I ended up shrugging it off because I was going to be running the opposite direction.  With the wind to my back, I'd be warmer.   I'd certainly run in much colder conditions dressed the way I currently was.  I should be fine.

Soon, I was on hwy 797, heading south, and all was going well.  I was warming up and feeling good.

Past Boulder Creek and on to my turn - Township road 232.

It was actually plowed and quiet.   I ran along, just enjoying the beauty.  The photos hardly capture it.  Everything was coated in thick hoarfrost and the peace was astounding.  I watched the birds and just enjoyed my wintery run.  I found myself looking forward to the rest of it.

At around 8k, I could see something in a field ahead that looked like a horse bucking all over the place.  Then, the closer I got, I started to fear it was a coyote.   With not all of the fields being fenced - it made me nervous to be out there.  Then I saw them all...5 or 6 coyotes.  Playing all friskily in the field.  This is blurry and far away, but here is the one I have named Bucky...

I was hesitating between running full-tilt and walking cautiously.  The coyotes had spotted me and were hunkering down on a hill to keep a wary eye on me.

But soon I was past.   Unfortunately, it was around this time that I realized my hydration pack and my nuun had frozen solid.  Not really a big deal yet.  I don't drink as much in the cold and I was still feeling pretty good.

I ran into another lone coyote about  a kilometer later.  Not nearly as nerve wracking though.

A 10k, I crossed over hwy 791and was on the pavement that would take me the rest of the way.  Traffic started to pick up and I started to get cold.  Really cold.  Bone numbingly cold.  I started to text hubby about making a rescue pitstop with some water and a jacket and handwarmers...he assured me he would bring it all.

Then I warmed up again - just like that.   I felt good again.   So I kept going.  I alternated between being that frighteningly cold and then feeling pleasantly warm again.  Walking or running didn't make a difference.

But I was pretty uncomfortable.  I started cursing hubby for taking so long (blaming lollygagging children there - he had trouble getting everyone out of the house).

Frozen eyelashes
I spent time with my hands under my arms to warm them and then using my warmed hands to thaw my face a bit.  It felt like I had a brick of ice banging against my back.  I almost shed my hydration pack but I still needed the fuel I had stored in there. I was trying hard not to cry because the tears would have frozen straight away.

At one point a man in a pickup truck pulled over and commented to me "I thought you were some sort of spaceman coming down to get us all dressed in that get-up!"  To which I responded "Nope - just a stupid marathoner, sir".  I can only imagine what I must have looked like to the farmers on the road...all headlamp and backpack and misery written all over my face.

and soon, I reached the city limits.   The face says it all.

And, shortly after, I reached Shepard.  Still no sign of hubby and I had FORTUNATELY beaten a long freight train

And then crossed over 84th Street. This was where I realized something I had forgotten about while planning my route.

Stony Trail construction.  MUD.  Missing road shoulder.  Constant traffic in both directions.   Wind whipping around me the entire time.  Constant stopping to stay safe from cars trucks.

And then Hubby finally arrived. By this point, I was almost feeling like I had re-run my first leg of the k100.  He tried to get me into the car in the middle of the construction, but I waved him ahead to a parking lot.   He captured the final steps in my fateful run.

I got into the car, hoping to heat my seat on our heated seats while I pulled on my jacket and ditched the ice pack.   I started to shake uncontrollably.  I talked about the mud and construction and Hubby asked if maybe he could drive me past it and through the industrial park and then I could make up the 4k I would miss by darting into Fish creek for a couple of kilometers instead of fighting through traffic on no sidewalks.  Eager to stay on the heated seats until I was warm, I agreed.   Turned out, it wasn't far before I would have been on sidewalks again, but I was shivering and chattering so badly that I told him to just take me to 24th Street and I would stick to the new plan.

When we pulled into the parking lot there - I was going to head into McD's to use the washroom before heading out again...but I was shaking so badly that I couldn't get out of the car.   My lips were blue and I could barely move.

I made the decision to call it.  The run was over.  I had fallen short of 34k by 13k.   21k done.  and I was it was my own hypothermic half.

We got me a coffee and took me to my MILs place to have a hot shower and warm up.

It took me over an hour to stop shivering and chattering, but I eventually did.

So, what did I learn from all of this? The biggie is that the clothes I wear in a certain temperature at Eau Claire shouldn't be the clothes I wear running cross country. I think it goes without saying that I should have worn an extra shirt...and brought handwarmers.  Both would have been easy to shed into my pack if I didn't need them.  I also should have investigated ways to keep my water from freezing.  I should have learned that one on remembrance day when my bottles froze solid.   I will be figuring that out ASAP.  Who knows - maybe just a few drops of vodka could have saved the day by being in my water.

I've run through two and a half winters and I have learned alot...but I guess I still have a few more things to learn.  

I didn't bother making up the last 13k today.  I am really exhausted and my upper body is quite sore from the pack.   I am just going to let it go and, if the weather is nicer next week, I will replace that 22k with a 34k instead.   Run in the city.

The Garmin Geekery:


  1. Wow, great accomplishment in those conditions!

    Does your water fit under your jacket? For Mount Kilimanjaro we put our water under our jackets with the hoses running through our sleeves. On the coldest day, though, we had water bottles in our inside side pockets rather than hydration packs on our backs, to keep them warmer under our arms.

    1. My pack isn't a low profile one - it is more like a daypack. I think I am going to invest in one that fits a little closer to the body so I could tuck it under my clothes. Or maybe santa will bring me one....

  2. Yikes!! How are you feeling this morning?

    1. I was pretty achey (still am) running 10k with a brick of ice slamming into your back will do that...but otherwise I feel fine. I know I was smart to call it when I did...but I still would have liked to have been able to finish.

  3. It sounds like you definitely made the right decision to cut your run short. Health is always more important than getting the mileage in. My friend Kelly and I are planning on running 3:15 to 3:30 on Saturday if you would like some company! We'll probably be running about an 8:00 kilometer.

    1. I'll let you know, Leanna. I may try to make up my 34k if it is nice. BUT I could definitely go for having company for 3 of the 5 hours. Where do you guys usually run out of?

  4. While I realize your body needs to run those miles, I am honestly of the opinion that much of the long run is more about building mental strength then leg. I'd say you built a heck of a lot of mental strength! And, good call on ending it when you did. Not worth causing harm just to finish a run.

    1. I think you're right, is all mental strength that got built yesterday. I will likely try to 34k again next weekend so I can mentally conquer that hurdle in this training cycle. I've done a I want to run a strong one. :)

  5. I cannot imagine running where it is so cold your water freezes! You are a rockstar!

    1. In Alberta, we call that November through March :P I saw a great trick today for stopping the bottles from freezing up - tip them upside down in your belt. then the bottoms freeze before the nozzles...

    2. I think we arent getting winter here in Texas. I wore shorts the past weekend it was so warm:(

  6. I'm with Lisa, cannot imagine it being so cold. It was 60 at 6:00 this morning in California! How are you going to stand running in sunny Orlando? ;-)

  7. That sounds just plan awful! Coyotes, frozen water, frozen eyelashes! Good for you for knowing when to quit.

    I laughed at your comment to the driver though-- crazy marathoner!

  8. Brr, posts about your runs always make me feel like I'm about to freeze. Never again will I complain about the weather here!


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