Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Colder Than Ever

Your comments have been rather unanimous this time and believe it or not, on Saturday I had my mouse pointer hovering over the "Buy" button for a pair of Yaktrax, but then figured that the cold spell would be over by the time they arrived and they would just end up gathering dust in some corner.

Despite feeling a bit tired immediately after Sunday’s run, I soon forgot about it and went on with the rest of my day. Imagine my horror when I caught sight of my right knee in the evening and noticed that it was swollen again! I really had no desire to go through the same pain again as last time and immediately started treating it with ice, put on my compression sleeve and elevated it high on the sofa, which added rest to the equation because that’s where I remained for the rest of the day.

While I was absolutely dismayed with the state of my knee, it helped to understand it better, though it’s a bit early to detect a pattern after only two occurrences. Running on a slippery surface seems to add some extra stress that sends it over the edge. I never fell, I never twisted or bumped it, just the additional strain of slightly slipping at toe-off seems to be a bit too much.

Following plummeting temperatures the road was in rather desperate state on Monday and with the worried about my knee it seemed sensible to stay at home. However, after waking much too early and staring at the ceiling for far too long I decided to try something. I put on my rarely used off-road shoes to see if they made a difference. I followed the Caragh Lake road for one mile in one direction, decided that the surface was getting worse with each step, turned around, ran home, did the same for a mile into the other direction, decided it was not worth the risk and turned around for good. Just over 4 miles left me slightly wiser and still with an intact knee, but they had been enough for the heel of the left shoe to cut into my Achilles so much that it bled.

I kept applying the treatment and by Tuesday evening I could not make out any difference between the knees, briefly wondering if I had just imagined it all. I decided it was worth taking a risk as long as my knee was wrapped up tightly and set off towards Killorglin. The Caragh Lake roads was once more in a rather desperate state, so when I reached town I decided to change the route and ran back via the main road, which happens to be the only treated and therefore ice-free surface anywhere. At this time of the year and this time in the morning, traffic was very sparse, which made this less of a problem than it may sound – there were no more than 5 cars going the same direction I was taking, and it wasn’t exactly busy the other way either.

I had set off under a brilliant clear sky with a bright Full Moon and I was hoping to get a prime view of the eclipse. This started out well, by the time I was halfway through my run a quarter of the moon had slipped into the Earth’s shadow, but at that stage the big clouds appeared and that was the end of the spectacle, the rest was just a very dark morning. But the run went well, for the first time in almost a week I felt healthy and managed a good pace without pushing the effort. The surface of the main road was perfectly ice free and I thought I had finally cracked the conditions.

That believe lasted until about 10 o'clock that morning when a look outside the office window revealed that it was snowing, and hard at that. It kept going for about 6 hours and by then the roads were once more covered in a big blanket of snow, including the main road. My hope that the snow would provide some traction was dashed – if there was some traction it was neglible.

This morning I started running alongside the lake but soon changed my mind and took a junction that would leave me over a hill onto the main road towards Glenbeigh. As it turned out, not even the main road had been treated but the cars had carved out two channels per lane into the surface and there was sufficient traction in those to keep running uninhabited. The traffic was sparse again and I even had the almost full moon for company and light. Once I passed Glenbeigh it was apparent that there had been a lot less traffic and the road surface became trickier but that was quite close to my turnaround point anyway. On the way back home a colleague passed me on his way to the early shift and later told me that his car thermometer read -9C (15F) when he saw me running. That's my reputation as the office fool sealed for another year. The weather station confirms that temperature reading, though I was surprised, I did not feel that cold. But I seemed to find it hard to relax, the effort was always a notch higher than normal; maybe I was subconsciously running a bit harder just to keep warm. The pace/HR relationship has been all over the place the last few days, but I put that down to the conditions entirely. It's hard enough to keep the training going at the moment. If there is any justice in the universe, I just have to get a good marathon in return.
20 Dec
4.1 miles, 31:23, 7:39 pace, HR 152
21 Dec
12 miles, 1:29:29, 7:27 pace, HR 145
22 Dec
10.75 miles, 1:20:43, 7:30 pace, HR 150


  1. Well, -9C is certainly cold with your humidity in Ireland. Here in Canada that might be considered balmy, but I find -15C to be my running limit (many here in Calgary run in much, much colder temperatures than that). But it is a "dry" cold and we have cleared bicycle paths to run on. Be careful out there and Merry Christmans!

  2. I think the Yaktracks would be a good investment, the crazy cold snap looks to be here for some time to come :[