Sunday, February 20, 2011

A close call with the cold at -26C

For any northern triathletes or runners, you know what running in the cold is like.  The extra gear you wear for warmth, the snow and ice on the running surface, and sometimes the sheer cold temperatures slow you down probably more than you think - at least that is the excuse I am using about my 15km run yesterday.

I have to admit, I stayed out too long yesterday, though I didn't realize it until I got back to the warmth of the house.  It was a close call.  I skied most of the day, from 9:15 to around 2pm and the high winds and -14 temperatures made the 'real' temperature -26 with the wind chill.  I survived the day on the hill and headed out with my runners and gear at 2:30 for the one way trip home.

As I left the mountain and rounded the lake, it was a whiteout as the high winds picked up the snow of the frozen surface and scattered it through the air with abandon.  I usually see walkers out and about but yesterday - no one, despite the high volume of tourists for the Ontario long weekend.

Once I settled into my long run pace, I began to feel good about my clothes and temperature - I was neither hot nor cold, which was perfect.  Doesn't stop me from sweating though - no matter what, I'll break a sweat while running.

Through Tremblant village, I got nailed by the wind again around Lac Mercier and the falling snow was starting to accumulate on any surface sheltered from the wind.  There is a x-country / multi use path that runs near the lake and as my sidewalk along the road ran out, I opted to give it a shot instead of continuing down the road when the speed limit changes from 50 km/h to 80 km/h.

The surface was fantastic for running - or skiing, for that matter - and while the snow surface slowed my pace, it didn't bother me one bet.  I wasn't 'feeling it' this run anyway so it didn't matter - soon after the start of the run, my goal shifted from time/pace to just time.  I was running 6:20/km at this point.  The multi use path was great as it was sheltered from the wind and empty of obstacles and people.  I liked it so much, I did the 2 km stretch 3 times back and forth.  This was my second mistake!

I began to get cold from sweating and being wet - my layered gear is meant to wick away the wetness, but still, there are limits.  I know it was working as frost began to buildup on the outside of my softshell jacket on my chest.  Surely my hat had turned white at this point too, but I didn't dare take it off to check.

The last kilometer was the worst as my legs tightened up and I lost any power to climb the remaining hills home.  My pace slowed to 7:30.  I got really hungry and pulled an emergency bar from my pocket to help refuel.  The last climb, a relatively substantial one on our street, was the toughest - around 12 degrees and 200m in length.  I didn't walk it, but I was sure close to it.  I knew I had to keep going and get inside.

Once home, it was 4pm and the dogs were begging me to take them out.  Are you kidding me?  My temperature was 95.6 degrees and I needed to warm up.  I was hoping the batteries in the thermometer were failing as that is pretty cold.

At about 4:20 as I was about to head out in full snow gear with the dogs, my wife came home, thankfully, so she got the honor of walking the hounds!

I ran a hot bath and noticed my fingers had turned completely white - I mean like paper white.  Apparently it is something called Raynaud's Syndrown where the veins in your fingers spasm and constrict, shutting off effective bloodflow.  It is triggered by stress, or in my more obvious case, the cold.  I had to force blood from my hands into my fingers under warm water until some colour returned.  Thankfully it didn't hurt - it just tingled.

What a tough day...I'll have to be more careful next time.  The scary thing is that I didn't think I was cold until that last km.  Obviously I was cold long before that but it just didn't register.  Disaster averted!

Weekly totals:
Swim - 3 hours
Bike - 0
Run - 15km
* An insanely busy work week and resulting lack of sleep robbed me of my training.  I'll try not to let that happen again!!


  1. wow crazy run! I'm glad you pulled through - thats crazy about your hands! I always carry a package of chemical hand warms. I can either tuck em' in my shoes or in my hands in an emergecy. 'just in case' kind of thing.

  2. Thanks John - you are so right! Lesson learned for next time.