Expections vs Reality in the Maritimes

We naively expected sunshine and beautiful oceanside running trails for our few days in Halifax, Moncton and PEI, but given the time of year we perhaps had set our sights too high. We got some sunshine, but the wind, the snow, the ice, and the rain storms made for some miserable conditions on this particular weekend. We did get out for a couple runs but the hotel treadmills got their share of use too.

This must be an amazing place to spend time outdoors. The fresh ocean air, ocean views, and rustic trails along the coast would be amazing.

We got to see the sights but mostly from the car windows because we couldn’t stand being outside very long in the cold.

I ran this morning from the hotel along a trail by the highway, and once in Polly’s Cove (near the famed Peggy’s Cove lighthouse). I got the Polly’s Cove recommendation from someone’s blog and we definitely enjoyed ourselves, but it was much too short. We would have gone longer but the trail petered out after 1 km and we didn’t really know where we were going after that. It looked like it went right down to the water and then along the water but we didn’t want to venture that far off the main trail.

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There were a lot of locals out running this morning in the cold. Those must be very hardy runners. If you were one of them, be proud of yourself for sticking it out.

We missed one of the local races because we were already booked on Sunday morning by the time we found out about the race. It looked like it could have been a good one. It was a 25km relay called the Moose Run near Halifax. My two daughters and I would have teamed up. As it was, it was a miserable rainy morning and I’m not sure we had brought the right running clothes for it.

Next time I come here, I will have to try harder to make sure it is a little closer to summer.

Checking Out Maritime Running

I’ve never been to the Maritime’s before and I am looking forward to the running. Even though it is not the best season to visit, running is the best way to see the sights.

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This is from Google but I am sure it won't be this nice at this time of year
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Google again. This is what they show the tourists to entice them. We will see what March looks like.

I have a bunch of work stuff to do first, and I do have my family along, but I think I can squeeze in some trails on the 3 days after the conference.

I’ve googled a little and found a few running groups and where they run. Although I won’t be able to join them, I have some hints on where to find the trails.

Wish me luck finding some good running routes.

Sun and Ice

After a long weekend of standing on my feet exhibiting at a conference, I was able to get out alone in the woods to be by myself in the quiet and go for a run.

It was a recovery run. Recovery from a weekend of talking, socializing, and people-time.

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Nature, trees, trails. I love the therapy it provides.

And being a Monday afternoon when everyone else was at work or school, I got the place mostly to myself.

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It looks like soft snow, but disappointingly it really is crusty packed ice that is great at twisting ankles. 

 

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The sand over the ice should have made it less slippery, except in the places where I couldn’t tell where the sand stopped and the ice started

Now I need to go to work, even though it is still sunny. And then I need to go on another run.

 

Foiled by a blizzard

It’s super cold and windy out there this morning! A blizzard has descended and my outdoor running plan for this morning has been foiled.

I am on a business trip and I evidently didn’t bring all the right winter running stuff. I thought I was ready for Winnipeg winter running, but not quite.

I gave it a shot but didn’t last 5 minutes before turning around.

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I still have the option of a treadmill run but now that I have had a big breakfast I might just be skipping the run. I could try again this evening. But oh yeah, it’s Superbowl Sunday. And I have a feeling my running priorities might be lower this afternoon.

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Uninspiring, but got’er done

Some runs just aren’t inspiring. They don’t fire you up. You don’t get that kick during or after the run. Some runs are just runs.

But unless you do the uninspiring ones, you won’t appreciate the truly great runs.

Take yesterday. Yesterday was a bit of a drudgery. I ran in a new area in the city so I thought it would be interesting. But 3/4 of it ended up being along sidewalks in cookie-cutter subdivisions. The part that was in a linear park was way too icy to be much fun. I had hoped to stay on this trail much longer but it was taking too much concentration to stay on my feet so back to the sidewalk I went.

And then the battery in my earbuds died. My own thoughts are not that boring but it was unexpected and worse still I was in the middle of a good audiobook.

So I’m trying to turn that run around in my head. There were some really good parts:

  • Daylight running – Winter running doesn’t offer a lot of it except on weekends. And it was a Sunday afternoon.
  • Sun – Yeah for sun! It definitely improves my mood
  • I got my distance in. I was aiming for 15 km and, hit 15.5 km on a looped run in a unfamiliar area without having to do too much guessing

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Sure, it was uninspiring, but I got it done and it really wasn’t that bad. It could have been a blizzard. And the next time I run on the mountain trails, I am sure going to appreciate it all that much more.

Just show up with your shoes tied

And bring some dessert to share.

Our local running club puts on a cross-country series through the winter and we always get some doozy races. Today was 8 km in a city park with rolling hills but a bunch of side slope and a lot of ice. We even had a 5m long section where it was glare ice on a slope. At least today we had no wind and the temperatures were bearable. Not every race is this comfortable.

They are very casual races with maybe 70-90 runners of all abilities and ages.

One of the best parts is the soup lunch after and the dessert potluck. There is always lots of variety of soup and large tables of desserts. This is probably the main reason people keep coming back to these races. No prizes, no medals. Just bragging rights and dessert.

It is a great community of runners who love to put themselves out there in the snow, ice, blizzards, and whatever else comes our way between October and March in wintry Canada.

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Racing in the winter requires a special kind of crazy.

Check out the Calgary RoadRunners club here 

Out and back, then back and out

Tonight I ran downstream along the river, returned home, then ran upstream along the river. Why downstream first? I have no idea. But it seemed right. Sunset views all the way both downstream and upstream. Perfect timing.

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I got home early from work so I was able to run mostly before dark. That doesn’t happen very often these days. But I will take it when I can get it. It was a whole lot better than yesterday when I ran near downtown on the sidewalks with the eerie streetlights in a strange area.

So today was 6 km + 6 km with a 2 minute break in the middle.

My weekly mileage is hopefully going to slowly creep up for the next few months in anticipation of another big spring and summer of running.

Happy trails.

Saturday morning trails

Saturday mornings are meant for runs. Even better if I can get out on a trail. We did 5km on a new trail this morning on some new snow. Couldn’t ask for a better start to a day.

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For the first time in a long time one of my daughters was not sleeping in, so we went for a run together. We were staying overnight at a retreat center and needed a reprieve from the meetings the day before and the meetings this morning. A run was the right cure.

We were probably the first and only ones out on the trails which wound down to a frozen creek, beside the creek for a while and back up a steep trail to finish up in sort of a loop.

We saw one deer but were expecting more. The local family of moose was unfortunately also not around.

It was just us, some conversation and the trail. Perfect.

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The Crafty Northern Sidewalk Snake

One of the lesser known dangers of winter running in Canada is the crafty Northern Sidewalk Snake. For those who are unfamiliar with this native of Canada these snakes are usually only seen in the few coldest winter months. They can be coloured bright yellow, orange, and sometimes red. They like to stretch themselves across sidewalks late at night. If they are noticed in time a vigilant pedestrian will cautiously move around or step over quietly.  Those not paying attention have been known to panic as they sidestep the snake trying not to disturb it or to trip over it. Those not careful can easily injure themselves in the sudden movements and can potentially harm this mostly dormant species. Angry pedestrians have been known to fight back by assaulting these passive creatures.

Urban legend holds that the snakes can perceive a runner approaching and will often jump imperceptively fast up to 12 inches straight up, purposely tripping the runner. Many a runner will attest to being assaulted by these creatures. Hospitals are inundated at this time of year by snake-induced injuries.

With the temperatures hovering around -5 C to -10 C there are only a few out, but when the temperatures drop much below that they seem to come out in hordes stretching themselves along the sidewalks. Inexplicably, their numbers multiply exponentially as the evenings stretch to nighttime, and by morning most have disappeared again.

So if you are a runner, run earlier in the evening when there are fewer out. Watch for especially dark areas, where the most active, seemingly vengeful snakes lie. One preventative measure to being surprised by these terrors is to wear headlamps in the dark winter evenings to eliminate the shadows. Of course, the best precaution is vigilance.

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Some homeowners, have resorted to providing alternate crossing locations so the snakes can cross without interfering with passers-by. These crossings are often located above the pedestrians head level which can be unnerving but is a safe alternative. Many snakes lives have been saved from irrate pedestratians by installing these contraptions. Also, many a runner has been kept free from injury by these ingenious devices.

 

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This snake is still working his way across the sidewalk crossing contraption.

 

 

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This deluxe model swivels out of the way during the warmer months

 

All experienced runners in Canada know to respect the sidewalk snake. Be aware, be safe.

PS If you don’t live in a climate where you’ve ever heard of a car block heater, you’ve probably never heard of these sidewalk snakes. But they do exist, and they’re nasty.

Racing in the Depths of Winter

Racing in the depths of winter is not for the faint of heart. You need stuff, you need other crazy people to race, and you need guts.

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You Need Stuff:

  • Gloves – you head out the door with thin gloves but pack thick ones just in case. At the start line you wish you had not left the thick ones in the car. At the 1 km mark you can’t feel your fingers. Good thing you don’t need fingers to run. After bunching your fingers up inside your gloves at the 5 km mark the feeling starts coming back. At the 7 km mark you have removed the gloves and are carrying them. The crowd (ok, there’s no crowd except for maybe five frozen spouses) thinks you’re crazy for running with exposed skin. Good thing these races tend to be short – our local winter running series are about 8 km.
  • Toque – you know “toque” – that knitted cap your grandmother gave you last Christmas. Usually the toque is too warm but with no toque you are sure to get frozen ears. Toque on – Toque off – Toque on – Toque off. Craziness ensues.
  • Thermo layer – Need a thermo layer for both your top half and your bottom half. Bonus if the thermo layer has odour reducing qualities (definite necessity if you don’t want to be washing every single run).
  • Parka (just for the start line). A wind resistant winter running jacket underneath.
  • Socks – 2 pairs. Depending on how high the snow is and how long your tights are you are probably going to need longer socks than you thought.
  • Shoes – not just your cool summer shoes. If these aren’t semi-air tight and hopefully water / melted snow tight you’ll have wet feet. And wet feet are cold. Cold feet are not fun.
  • Face mask – to keep that nose and chin from getting numb. Face masks end up being about the grossest things hanging around a winter runners racing stuff. Just think frozen saliva, sweat and snot. Yup, never borrow another runner’s face mask.
  • Tech – NOPE – Don’t even bother with a phone / camera  / GPS watch – The battery will freeze up on you and you will just be frustrated. Plus your gloves are likely not touch-friendly.

You Need Other Crazy People to Race

  • Sometimes other crazy runner people are the hardest people to find in the depths of winter. Most runners are either curled up on the couch for a few months, or are on a treadmill. But crazy people are drawn to each other, I’m sure. The few that there are seem to all show up at these crazy events. Great place to find winter running partners after the race.

You Need Guts

  • Runners have guts.

Oh and don’t forget hot chocolate. You always need something to help warm up after.

Don’t let winter scare you off. Just be prepared.