Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

After an unseasonably mild summer, suprisingly frigid October, and wonderfully warm November, it's finally winter in beautiful Minneapolis. As the daylight has been leaving us earlier and earlier every day, I have been leaving work earlier and earlier every day to fit in a few miles when I can easily be seen by traffic.

Yesterday's run proved to be a challenge. I awoke to a fresh coat of powder on the sidewalk, and concluded it to be a perfect day to bake Christmas cookies rather than lace up and head out for a run. But after eating one too many "imperfect" cookies, I decided to finally pound the pavement mid-afternoon while the flakes were still falling -- if not to just get away from the delicious raw cookie dough I also kept nibbling at. I turned off the oven, tied up my grubby shoes (for running in rain and snow), and layered my face and hands in black reflective gear so I could be seen against the bright white. Much to my chagrin, not only did a look like a bandit, I picked potentially the worse sidewalk to traverse. The snowplows had pushed all the snow from the road onto the pedestrian path and I was basically running in a knee-high bank of slush and dirt. My feet and calves were soaked and filthy, I was lifting my legs so high I looked like I was maneuvering through an obstacle course, and I was barely moving faster than a brisk walk.
If anyone thought I was a robber, I definitely was not making a quick -- or clean -- getaway.

My average splits for this 2.65mi route: 7:51, 8:09 (all uphill), 4:38
My splits yesterday: 8:54, 9:28, 6:26

But what a difference a day makes! Because I didn't want to run in rush-hour traffic -- and I certainly didn't want to run that unplowed loop again -- I headed out on the Midtown Greenway after work for a car-free run. I ran into three bikers and four walkers on this normally populated path. Although no one returned my greeting when I acknowledged them braving the elements, I still got a feeling of camaraderie when our eyes meet through our icicle-coated eyelashes.

My 3.16mi course splits: 8:14, 8:18, 8:19, 1:06

That consistency is more what I'm used to, even though I am trying to run cautiously as the Greenway is still snow-packed with very slick spots of hard-to-detect ice.

With the Winter Solstice, I welcome the few extra minutes to run in the daylight every day, but I also welcome a few more feet of future snow that I challenge myself to tread through. It's going to be a hard winter for serious outdoor running, but I'm determined that the extra precaution of slowing down to run on ice will bring me better form come spring.

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