Arctic Winter Running – a magic experience (259K to go):

sunset over Ilulissat Icefiord, Greenland

Sunset run along the Ilulissat Icefiord, Greenland

Words sometimes fail to describe just home magic winter running in Greenland can be.

The last weeks has been a brutal and very beautiful reminder of winter having arrived in full and with that the time to do a write up on what winter running means when living in the arctic. Where many turn their focus to the indoor arena with treadmills and the like, others dress up and embrace the wonderful experience winter running can be (an experience we share in silence with the Nordic skiers).

99K have passed since my last update and 75K has been real winter running, with temperatures ranging from -6C to -22,5C, with chill factors down well below -30C.

Conditions have been a mix of paved roads covered in hard packed snow or ice, to off trail run on raw rock sections, with a varying ice cover and a snow from hard packed to soft and powdery, the latter can be a very tricky if combined with ice 🙂

My normal winter running will include hard packed snow, soft snow, ice, Nordic skiing trails and in the early season rock sections and the occasional path of paved road.

Gorgeous and amazing if you are prepared – tough, cold and unforgiving if you are not.

The approach to running during winter is important, especially if you live in regions where you get cold weather.

The perhaps most important thing to remember when running in arctic winter conditions is to ease into them, run through summer and autumn into winter. It makes the transition a lot more pleasant. Jumping head first into winter running in -20C with a 10K race pace run is a recipe for disaster.

Run duration generally varies from 30 minutes to 3 hours or so, starting out with shorter runs and then working my way into the long ones as my body readjust to the conditions

As temperatures get very low you need to start considering to minimise speed work and focus on a more relaxed pace. Especially as temperatures dip into the -20C range, I do not have the links to the studies at hand, but as temperature goes below -16C or so, the risk of doing permanent “frostbite” damage to your lungs increase, thus it makes sense to not tax your body too hard, it already working overtime heating up the cold air you breathe

I tend to do a mix good mix of distances during winter, both shorter and longer runs, but with a focus on shorter runs early in the season and then build up mileage as my body readjust to the changed conditions.

I like to mix in a variety of surfaces too, Nordic ski trails are great to break up the monotony of the hard packed snow or ice on the streets and venturing off trail will put in a healthy dose of quad killing in the soft and deeper snow.

Make your winter about fun and exploration and less about speed and a whole new chapter of running will be before you.

The next two posts will be on footwear and clothing respectively, so stay tuned 🙂

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Speedworks and a snap… (358K to go):

Frozen - Kingittorsuaq Mountain - Nuuk, Greenland

Frozen – Kingittorsuaq Mountain – Nuuk, Greenland

Speedwork is something I have nearly avoided doing while conditioning my leg, feet and soles to running either completely barefoot or with a barefoot style in ultra minimal shoes.

However being in Copenhagen with no hills and flat trails I needed something to do while running and it all started out one late evening after arriving in Copenhagen.

I had a massive time difference to cope with and at midnight my body felt like anything but sleeping.

Thus I strapped on my running clothes a pair of seeyas and set out into the night and the rain.

I had nothing particular in mind, but as I ran the pace was just going up and up and before I knew of it, I was back at a 4:30 average.

Six kilometres later I arrived home and realised that maybe I was ready to run at sub 5 minute averages again.

The run felt amazing and with a great flow and a running style that seemed to have been compact and solid. Just great 🙂

A few days later weather was a bit iffy again, but I really needed a run and felt like testing my style at speed again. I decided on a 10K and settled on a 4:30 average pace, pretty close to my old half marathon PR pace. It just turned out to be one of those perfect runs, even though I quickly realised that I was not half marathon ready yet, at least not in that pace. But the 10K went very smoothly. I had to work it all the way not only maintaining acceptable form, but also to maintain a constant pace.

What it made me realise though, was that running barefoot has advantages at speed too and it felt great just to run hard for more than just a single kilometre or two here and there.

A few days later in the Netherlands, I decided to spend a rainy evening running along the canals. In retrospect I probably should have stayed at home though.

Admittedly I skipped the usual warm up exercises and the first two kilometres was amazing. I ran effortless at a very fast pace, heart rate was surprisingly calm and the running style under tight control.

A gentle slope came up and I open up a little more and… SNAP!

A sharp pain shot through my calf as I could feel the muscle being pulled… The 3 K home was a hobble and very sorry looking excuse for running:(

So I relearned an old lesson; do you warm up before running, otherwise you may end up injured. A pulled calf is no fun and it cost me two weeks without running.

Almost there - Kingittorsuaq Mountain - Nuuk, Greenland

Almost there – Kingittorsuaq Mountain – Nuuk, Greenland

The two weeks were not a total loss though, as they did include a gorgeous hike to the peak of Deer Prong Mountain outside Nuuk.

A gorgeous hike that is well worth it for anyone, but also one of the last chances to go there before winter and darkness sets in.

I completed the hike in an old pair of vivo neo trail, that even survived having cramp on mounted, but let it be said that for cramp on work real boots are probably the way to go.

And I will bring big boot for those sections in the future.

It was amazing to be back in the mountains under alpine conditions though, while not suited for minimalism, it will always have a place in my heart.

An 8K test run at a very leisurely pace has been run too and I can now slowly ease into easy runs again so it is not all bad 🙂