Friday, January 31, 2014

Having a Snowblast!

Happy Friday everyone!

There have been some disappointing winters in Michigan in recent history. This year however has definitely made up for it in grand Polar-Vortex fashion—I even saw a snownado go by the house yesterday afternoon. It's not unusual for us to get a blast of snow in late October or early November. But it doesn't usually stick around with the relentless force as it has this year.

Muskegon has had over 80" of snow and we have the potential to be hit with at least two more snow storms this week. Coupled with the snow is the frigid temps. I have to say there is a part of me that is a little delighted with the arctic blast. Back in October when I was Christmas shopping for the kids I went overboard in the underwear department and purchased each of the kids multiple sets of expedition weight long underwear AND tall, thick wool socks. The kids are getting their full-use out of these items.

RT: Sage sledding LT: Bear laughing at Sage Sledding. Photos by Aunt Lisa
They have gone sledding just about every weekend. When they aren't sledding, Bear prefers to be inside. However we can't keep Sage in the house. She's either outside shoveling—for shoveling's sake—building a shelter for the animals, making snowmen, or building a stash of snowballs to launch at an unsuspecting Mom or Dad.

Dad has also groomed our very own XC trail through the yard and around to the neighbors.

Bear XC Skiing
We've gone biking . . .

And Sage is training for a 10k (this was back on Thanksgiving, but she's been running every week since) . . .

To sum it all up, our family has been having a Snowblast this year!

Snow Shoe Running

While the kids have been making their own fun experiences, Chad and I have been hitting the trails for some quality and challenging snow shoe running. We've both signed up for RBR 25k which means we can't let what some people would call "poor conditions" hold us back from training. 

Kelly, Roxanne, and Myself getting ready to run. Photo by Roxanne
I've been able to meet friends for a couple of runs and even ventured out for solo excursions. Snow shoe running is probably my favorite of all running experiences. Mostly because I get to be out in the woods (which is also why I'm a mountain biker and not a roadie). My first snow shoe run experience was at Big Foot Snow Shoe Race in 2011. At the time I thought I had never suffered so much--of course I was an immediate fan.

Me at Bigfoot Snow Shoe Race in 2011
There is that side of me that is a bit of a masochist and finds a sick enjoyment in torturing myself. Snow shoe running is brutal. As I described it last week to my FB friends: I felt like I was running in place with 10 pound sand bags tied to each ankle for 90 minutes.

While it is challenging there is also a serene side, an escape into the wilderness and away from the cars, the lights, and the crowds. On my run yesterday I climbed to the top of a sand dune and could look out over the treetops to the ice formations on Lake Michigan. I could see all the way past where the ice broke into the blue water. It was breath-taking. Later, as I trudged along, I saw a small burrow where a rabbit must be making his home this winter. There is always so much to see and experience. 

Meanwhile my mileage is falling a bit short of my RBR 25K training plan, I'm comfortably okay with it. I run and bike and "train" in order to enjoy life and to have these amazing experiences--either finishing a race or a view from the top of a sand dune. It's not always about distance or speed. 

Clearly, it's not about speed.

(Actually, will someone please give me a kudos on this run in my Strava account? I'm feeling a little down about my pace. Thanks!)

Some quick-tips for first-time snow shoe runners:

You will get wet. The snow shoes kick up a lot of snow. Make sure to wear good running tights that will help wick away some of the moisture and dry quickly. You may also want to invest in a pair of gaiters. I have a pair of gortex trail-running shoes to help stay dry and warm.

It's a lot harder than running on the road--even a snow-covered, icy road. You may not usually carry water or GU for a 5 mile run through your neighborhood, but trail running in snowshoes is a whole 'nother beast. It requires a lot more energy. I recommend carrying extra nutrition and water for runs 5 miles or greater.

If you are carrying a water bottle in your hand (like I do) stick a toe warmer on the water bottle. Less you want your hand to freeze to it. True story.

You will be slower. Don't worry, you aren't a slower runner per se, it's just the terrain and the cumbersome snow shoes make it that much more challenging. Depending on how hilly the trails are I see anywhere from 1.5-3.5 minute pace slower than my road running pace.

It's okay to walk. Really. There might be sections with snow drifts that cause you to sink up to your thigh. Don't be a soldier. Hiking through that is challenging enough. There's sure to be trail more suitable to running just around the corner.

And have fun.