Monday, February 8, 2010

Blizzard Run - February 5, 2010

The snow was falling, changing the landscape into a Winter Wonderland. The weather forecast called for the heaviest snow to come later at night, so I figured it was a good time for a little mountain run. Considering that conditions could change quickly, I loaded up my pack with extra hand and body warmers, had dual and triple layers everywhere, and headed down the road. Six inches was already on the ground. In the woods, it was double that since the snow of earlier in the week had not melted. This was not going to be a fast run. After negotiating a couple of creeks and forging a new path through the woods I was ready to climb the first ridge. Pushing through the knee high snow, I felt like Sir Edmund Hillary climbing Mt. Everest. The higher I climbed, the faster and more furiously the snow fell, till I was staring at the small spot illuminated by my headlamp two feet in front of me. The trick was I didn’t know if I were on rock, tree limb, or solid ground. With each step I could sink 4 inches, or 2 feet. Traveling along at the blazing speed of 1.5 mph, I made it to the top of the ridge and began my descent down along the “seven switchbacks of Bolden Hollow.” (Not to be confused with the Seven Hills of Rome). This was great fun. I would build speed on the almost level straight away, until I hit the dreaded turn. Then I would lay on the brakes, skid, slid, grab a tree and try not to careen into the woods as I made the turn, then build speed again until the next turn. By the time I reached the bottom, it was completely dark. Now the fun began. I negotiated the creek crossing by jumping from one white spot to another (hoping that it really was a rock under there), and headed up Piney Ridge. My pace slowed to one m.p.h. I slid, fell, crawled and pushed through the snow. Finally, I was nearing the top of the ridge. In an instant the weather changed. Wind whipped the snow horizontally, blasting it into my face. I pulled the balaclava up over my nose until only my eyes peaked out. I was working my way down the side of the mountain, the snow blowing, obscuring the trail and creating drifts that were thigh high. I was thinking “Donner Pass” as I fumbled downward, knowing a misstep could be disastrous. I laughed, this was Warrior Princess stuff! Pure craziness! After negotiating a particularly rocky turn (backwards), my feet were once again on solid ground and I felt the pure joy of running with abandon down the side of the mountain. Then snow was deep enough that there was little chance of falling and even if I did, the impact would be soft. Crossing a creek, I began the final ridge before I hit the roads that would take me home. My legs were burning by the time I came out of the trail. Here, I was half way up the mountain. Why not run to the top on the road? I started out strong, running in 10-12” of snow, but soon the conditions worsened – the snow blowing directly into my face, stinging the exposed parts. After a half mile of that, I decided it was time to head down the mountain. Things were going smoothly until I hit the steep descent. Then, bam, I was on my backside. I struggled to my feet, started to move, and whop, down I went again. Eventually, I made it down to the bottom by walking in the ditch and the snow banks. On fairly level ground, I was able to run again. A fellow pulled out of his driveway and was plowing the section from his house to the main road. I followed him out, grateful for a smooth path to run on. Now it was simply follow the road home to my house. Even that was not so simple, because with the limited visibility it would have been very easy to miss the driveway. I walked into the house, covered with snow and looking like the abominable snowman. Another great “run” – 7.69 miles in 3 ½ hours! I think I’ll run on the treadmill today and watch “Into Thin Air.” (Which I did - 29 miles and 3 movies, including The Longest Run and Rocky).