Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hypothermic Half Marathon 2013

Everything is moving so fast
I am unlimited
Everything is moving so fast
I am unlimited

Everything is Moving So Fast, Great Lake Swimmers, 
from the album Lost Channels

Egads, what a smashing day for a run, not a  PB smashing day, but smashing nevertheless.     I gave it my all and I had nothing left when I crossed the line.  The course burned it all up and it was good... like it should.

At mile 11 my watch showed 18 minutes remained for a sub-two hour.  I turned to the young couple following me and told them we had to scoot in at an 8:45 pace if we were to see the south end of a two hour race.  One mile across open tall grass prairie with full-frontal wind and another through the bush.  We walked the big hill to conserve energy. I mumbled through frozen lips that it would be hard and then off again.

Legs pumping, heart pounding, lungs burning, face ablaze in focus, mind screaming. We rounded that last little 90 degree turn, over the log bridge, toward the line.  An arm flew up and a voice yelled.. this way Mike, I veered back on course toward the shoot (I would have missed it entirely).  A glance at the clock, a moment of disappointment.. 2 hours, 30 seconds.  

A lovely volunteer holds me steady and says good job and places a very pretty medal around my neck.  I turned to the couple following me, and apologized for not getting the the sub-two that I had promised.  They smiled, a beautiful young smile... a pretty face and a kind voice.. all bundled up, chest heaving... "that's alright" she said... "it's a PB for me" and laughed an infectious laugh.  We shook hands and parted.

Never to be seen again.

Two hour and 30 seconds of running makes for a lot of thinking.  Thoughts zoom in and out of focus.  Can't seem to sustain thought for more than several consecutive seconds. They're all scattered and vibrant with colour and texture... like an old tv with rabbit ears... signals fade in and fade out.... moments of clarity, moments of fuzz...constantly changing the channel, seeking reception, reception to my soul, to my heart, searching for vibes, none found, but I still search, hoping... I run to get out of my head and into my heart

Good thoughts of my son.. leaving for Waterloo Ontario University on a full scholarship, Department of Mathematics... pride.. intense swelling pride. I savour these thoughts and let them soak into my brain causing shivers of euphoria.  He's had a hard year so this is good for his spirit.

Thoughts of Bob about 3 minutes behind me in mukluks... how can he possibly be running 13 miles after just last week running 21 hours and tying for 7th place in the Actif Epica 130 kilometer ultra marathon?  Grit and spirit, that's Bob.. with a large side of humility.

Thoughts of times that have passed and times that await.

Thoughts of work... erase, reboot, defrag... thoughts gone!

Thoughts of running goals and commitments.  Ottawa Full Marathon, May 26, training starts tomorrow... no rest for the unsettled.

Thoughts that cause joy.

Thoughts that cause sadness.

Thoughts that cause frustration.

Thoughts that search for meaning.

Thoughts that propel and give hope.

Thoughts void of answers.

Just thoughts.

Well friends.. especially the young man who approached me at breakfast this morning and asked if I was Mike from See Mike Run and then proceed to compliment the content... I wish you light feet and clear thoughts.  You are unlimited.

It's a smashing day to be alive.


* from a Spoken Word poet whose name escapes me momentarily.  Come back for updated information.   

Sunday, February 3, 2013

How To Run in -40 and Not Die.

It's been a tad chilly in Winnipeg lately.  Only the die-hards find the beauty in running in extreme cold weather.  We're runners, not to be mistaken for joggers. Joggers have a more casual approach toward running. Perhaps they're more sane?

My record cold weather run is 10 miles in - 50 degrees Celsius with Bernie, Lori, and Jason.  We ran 5 miles outbound, stopped, and returned into the wind.  It was chilly but we were dressed properly and lived to tell the story. We four will forever have this memory and that's so special. The trick is in the layering folks, that and knowing your limits.  

I had a sexy dude lined up to model the long johns below, but his wife pulled the plug. Sorry, you'll just have to use your imagination.

In extreme cold (-35 or colder) I know I need five upper layers and 4 lower layers to stave off the frost.  Note that no layer is cotton... it's true, cotton really is rotten when it comes to running.  It retains moisture and freezes and you die.  Technical gear has come way down in price and it's available at most good sports stores.  I get most of my running gear at Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) because of the value, high quality, low prices.. love it!

My base layer is light weight MEC long-johns top and bottom.  Mine are polyester so they're not the best quality but they do the trick.  I intend to upgrade to merino wool but they're a little pricey.  I'll be looking for a sale any day now.  

The next layer is pretty crucial.  I wear two pairs of insulated undies overtop of my long johns.  The first pair is a technical briefs with an insulated layer where it matters most.  The second layer is a boxer style technical undies, again with a protective layer over the mid-section to protect the groin area.  It's important to protect this area especially if you're a young man planning a family!

Three layers on the bottom.
My second upper layer is a technical light weight MEC turtle neck that fits snugly.  It has a zillion little pockets on the inside that traps air and sheds sweat.  I like it so much I bought two.  I can wear this top for a variety of weather conditions.

Two upper layers.
The tootsies are toasty with these socks.  They're heavy weight wool sock that fit snug so they don't bunch up.  I sometime put a thin pair of socks under these but only for the coldest weather.  I love these socks and I wish I purchased 6 pair. Trouble is, I can't remember where I picked them up.
Blaze DeFeet socks... love em!
I sometimes place a trip of duct tape over my shoes to add a thin layer of protection.  I don't do this often, but it is another option to consider when planning my gear for a early morning run in -40.

Merino wool is the best.  It's light weight, warm, sheds sweat, and doesn't hold the stink like the black MEC turtle neck above. It's also fit long so it covers my rear. Speaking of rears, this is one part of the body that is almost impossible to keep warm.  If I'm going to chill, it'll always start in my rear and move to my belly.  

This will make my third upper layer.
Next up is this ugly orange brute, but it's warm and mid-weight.  It has a half front zipper so I can shed heat by zipping it down.  It fits snug and has another million or so tiny pockets on the inside that trap air.  It's a technical design so it does a pretty good job of shedding unwanted sweat.  This is my standby upper layer.  It configures to many different weather condition.  On warmer days I will use this as an outer layer with a thin inner layer.  It's very versatile and pretty affordable at MEC.
My fourth upper layer.
And finally, the fifth upper layer, a Saucony runner's jacket from City Park Runners. It's expensive, but I'm worth it, right?  Having tried on about a dozen I finally settled on this one.  It's deceivingly warm for such a light weight jacket.  It has a half-moon flap that covers the rear end but it doesn't flap in the wind like those standard nylon runner jackets.  It fits snug but not tight.  The two zippered pockets allow me to stash my gloves if I'm over heating.
My fifth upper layer.
Gloves and hats.  I have a million configurations of gloves and mitts.  In super cold I wear a light weight pair of technical gloves under a slightly heavier glove.  My hands warm up pretty quickly so I often stash the gloves in my pocket after a few miles.  I wear a balaclava and a hat.  I have two balaclavas; warm and insanely warm. The insanely warm balaclava is a wrap-around design that attaches with velcro behind the head.  It made from neoprene and has a cut-out flap for the nose and a hole for the mouth.  It's amazingly warm and I use it when the wind is straight in my face.
And finally, my Pearl Izumi winter running pants from City Park Runners.  They are absolutely the best running pants I have ever worn.  They are expensive, but worth every penny.
ooowooooooo, let's go for a run!
My Annie, she's such a sweet heart.
It's a good day to be alive. Stay warm, but for heaven's sake, get off the tread mill and get on the trails.  Tell 'em Mike sent you.

:) Mike