Sunday, January 10, 2010

20 at 23

That's Miles and Degrees, respectively. 

Well, I got the 20 miler in. And it was cold. I left at daybreak, heading west into the wind over to the tiny village of Williamson. We had an inch + of light, fluffy new snow, and the state and township plows were out doing their thing. According to the forecast, the wind was to be light and significantly increase later, but already it was steady out of the west at 10-15 mph with higher gusts. Even the small amount of snow we had was enough to begin to drift. 

I wore my old Adidas Trail Response, into the soles of each I had screwed about a dozen ½” hex head screws for traction. These screws do not really assist with running in snow, just on ice. I use these shoes a handful of times each winter.  And with the temp in the low 20s, the snowplows could not clear the road down to bare pavement. The residual coating of snow did not melt off from the weak sun, and the traffic, light as it is on these rural roads, only served to polish the snow into ice. And so the studded shoes were perfect.

This was a good day for seeing wildlife. At mile 5, in a wooded area, about 5 deer crossed the road in front of me. The a couple miles later, again in a thickly wooded area, some sort of large raptor flew low over the road, close in front of me. Due to the angle I could not get a good look at the head to ascertain whether it was a hawk or an owl, but what was particularly striking was its rich, vibrant chestnut brown color. Then shortly after that, I noticed some large bird tracks in the snow, looked out across the fields where the tracks were heading, and saw the 4 wild turkeys that had just left those tracks moments before. It does pay to keep your head up while running and look around.

Now comes the crazy part, although to me it makes perfect sense. At mile 15 of the run I ran down Patton Bridge Road to the Conococheague Creek…where the bridge has not existed for some years now. It was old, badly in need of repair, and served relatively few people. So in this era of constrained public budgets it was sort of a no-brainer to simply tear the bridge down and not replace it. I knew the bridge was gone but I deliberately planned to wade the creek. The Conococheague (an old Indian name), here some 50’ wide, is a pretty decent sized creek that later flows into the Potomac River at Williamsport, the end point of the JFK 50 Miler. 

I got a stout stick for balance and headed into the water, past the old piers. Immediately it was mid-thigh deep, and I fervently hoped it would go no deeper. The current was moderate but not any hazard to crossing. The shock of the cold water was immediate, and within a few moments my legs were pretty cold, though not painful. The crossing went without incident—thankfully the depth remained at mid-thigh—and within a couple minutes I was scrambling up the far bank. That’s when I did feel cold and wasted no time breaking into a run as quickly as I could. Within a mile my shoes had drained and I was feeling much warmer, and I’d venture to say that within 3 miles I felt completely comfortable again (although I should note that my shoe laces quickly iced up and were hard to remove at the end). 

Why run thru an icy creek? I could say it was a component of my ultra training, to be familiar with cold-weather stream crossings and running in wet shoes. That part is factual, but at least as important was just to do something that people just don’t do. I knew that the crossing would not be dangerous—the creek not being real deep and the fact that I was only 5 miles from home. Kind of like the scene from Lonesome Dove where Gus (Robert Duvall) chases some bison just because he could (never mind the fact that Gus ran into a war party of Indians just over the rise!).

At any rate, arrived home tired but well satisfied with the run.

1 comment:

  1. Running through an icy creek for fun? You are a brave (or nuts) person in this weather.

    Best of luck to you Gary.

    Rick W.