I was fretting all week about my long run this weekend as soon as I heard the weekend forecast. To get in another long run for the upcoming Run for Regis 50K in just two weeks, I'd have to run in sub 20 degree temperatures and God knows how much snow. I don't mind the cold so much, but I worry constantly about getting my feet wet during stream crossings and setting off attacks of my Raynaud's disease--a mostly annoying condition that's not going to kill me, but if not managed wisely, could cost me a couple of toes and complicate my running life--wouldn't do a dang thing for my love life, either, sans a few toes.
Sure enough, I looked out my townhouse living room window at a spectacular Mr. Moon with billows of clouds, like plumes of smoke, billowing by on twenty two mile an hour winds. Weather.com called for a high of 16 degrees with the wind making it feel like 1 degree. I've run a few short races in temps like this, but never a long trail run. I thought about pussing out on the run altogether, but other than the frigid cold, it was a perfect day to get in a long trail run since I have two days of narcoleptic reading and inertia to sandwich on either side of this hard cold day of effort. It's also my last lazy weekend before I officially start full-time at the work cave. My divorce is merely a month away and my soon to be ex will finally be an ex and I'll be Ms. Sensationally Red.
I dug out full winter regalia: three top layers, two bottom layer, two pairs of SmartWool socks, toe warmer mini pad things and then my Holy Trail shoes and flip top wool mittens to finish it off. The new Smart Wool I got for Christmas, inadvertently from my soon to be ex. He bought me a pair of baggy wind pants which didn't do a thing for my bum, like two crab apples lost in a snow drift, so I exchanged the pants for a pair of mega thick Smart Wool socks. I was worried about the three quarter inch rip I have in the canvas of my 5 year old Mizuno trail shoes. I'm reluctantly going to retire them after the Regis race when I get my running club points for all the slave newsletter labor I do for them. It's my yearly paycheck and I'm cashing it in for a new pair of Mizuno's, but until then, the Holy Trail shoes need to get me through two more mega long runs. I called Bob to ask him if he had any duct tape to use on the hole. He didn't, so I'd have to make do.
I shot up a prayer that the two stream crossing we planned today would be at least partially frozen and the rocks, covered with snow and not ice, so I could avoid getting my feet wet and running miles on end with Frankenstein blocks of frozen feet. Bob and I planned to meet with Kurt and a few others at Pine Lane at 7 AM, we'd run to Boston Store by 8 AM and meet up with Wild Bill's group and continue north to Oakgrove. Bob had some time constraints today, so we decided we'd probably turn around at Snowville and call it a day at 18 miles.
Kurt and a guy I didn't know very well, Mike, but a familar face in the greater Akron/Cleveland trail running scene, showed up in the snow-covered moonlit parking lot of Pine Lane. Mike offered me his trail running light, but weak batteries cast an anemic glow not quite worth the hassle, but I appreciated the offer. We couldn't see crap, so we ran the trails like a blind man reads braille--by feel and familiarity, and shuffled the snow-covered ruts of Pine Lane till it was light enough to see. The first dreaded stream crossing was just a half mile out; it was starting to freeze, in places, but in others, swirls of water gurgled over snow covered rocks. Mike was brave--he started crossing what appeared to be a fairly well frozen section, when Mike fell through the water up to mid-thigh, at least, simultaneous with Kurt asking the question, "Uh...Mike how much do you weigh?" Apparently, too much. He took the plunge fairly well. This would have ended my run had it happened to me. I was able to get across without getting my feet wet with Bob crossing first and chivalrously extending a hand and guiding me on the best bets for footing. Mike and Bob led the rest of this section up front with me next and Kurt bringing up the rear. I thought that was so nice of him since I knew he could pass my butt whenever he wanted to. However, as we were running up to Boston Store, the unmistakable loping Yeti-like gait of Wild Bill and his group could be seen already departing Boston Store, precisely at 8, since the man conducts his group runs like train station schedules. Kurt went on and joined the group, ditching me, Bob and Mike that needed a few minutes to use the bathrooms.
So far, my feet were still dry--the snow, while 6 inches deep on my deck, translated to only an inch or two on the surface of the forest floor, and was so cold and dry, it was taking longer than usual to penetrate the disintegrating skin of my ailing Holy Trail shoes. Mike ran ahead and left Bob and I to shuffle along north on the Buckeye Trail toward Snowville. Some sections of the trail were so beautiful with the snow covering the Pines it took my breath away. Other sections literally took our breath away like the exposed ridges on the outskirts of the forest, exposing Bob and I for the redheads we are with our beat red faces that will be surely chapped to heck on Monday.
In some areas the snow drifted beyond a few inches and was difficult to run through. By the time we reached Boston Store on the return trip, my Mizuno's were soaked and my feet were starting to get cold, but if we didn't stop for long, I could keep a full fledged attack at bay and finish this run without damage. Pine Lane was a bit messier on the return trek with runners and cross-country skiers mucking up the snow. By the time we reached Pine Lane near the end, a well meaning hiker or runner, had laid out a few sturdy flat logs for navigating the crossing. Bob said, "It's the little things that count!" And surely, they are. I thought about Debi many times on this run. I really miss her and am sad that this very stream crossing tripped her up weeks ago severely breaking her wrist. I hope she can run some portion of the Regis race. I wasn't going to run this race at all if it weren't for Debi buying my entry for my birthday last October. It's truly a gift I cherish since it's given me so many wonderful runs to help me get through such a challenging time in my life. Thank you Debi!! Bob and I miss running with you so much!