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 🙂

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 🙂

Barefoot in Greenland (388K to go)

Nuuk, Greenland and barefoot running is maybe not the two things that are most commonly related, while I have been doing it for nearly a year now, then the fact that we have hit autumn and temperatures generally stay between 0°C and 5°C really have made a massive difference in people’s perception of it.

On the first of two 7,5K barefooters I have done this round I had people stopping in cars in surprise, driving along side me taking pictures, htey would later post them on facebook telling they saw this nuts guy running barefooted, attracting comments like “Weirdo” and other stuff. Something a kind friend made me aware of as I did not know the posters personally.

I can understand that it is maybe not super common, but that the reaction all the sudden is this strong was a bit of a surprise, especially as I have done it quite a few times before.

my (admittedly ugly) bare feet :)

my (admittedly ugly) bare feet 🙂

On the first run temperature was just below 5°C and It was great to be able to get full feedback from my feet. Perfect for a session with a lot of focus on up and downhill technique, my bare feet giving excellent feedback on my style and especially on keeping it together as intensity sent my heart rate into the 85-95% zone uphill.

The temperature was not really an issue as 5°C is in a zone where once you are a couple of hundred meters into the run, they warm up enough to keep skin soft and mellow and feedback at optimal levels.

Save for afore mentioned, to me, a little strong reactions a great run.

A few days later we had a gorgeous and sunny day and with the promise of a heavy storm coming in I decided to make good use of the later afternoon rays of sunlight and go for another barefoot run.

While the thermometer said 3°C, then the pavement felt surprisingly cold, 500 meters into the run I got an explanation. Several large puddles on the pavement were frozen solid, in other words I had chosen a cold day to run barefooted.

Aside from cold feet and the fact that I had a longish section of about 1,5K where there was a massive amount of finely crunched rocks strewn all over the pavement. Not necessarily a problem, but these fine pieces of rock were razor sharp and quite the foot massage to run.

1,5K home is more or less one continuous uphill section and I felt like flying home, pace, cadence some of the newly drilled in technique and general running style all came together.

Back home I did a carful inspection of my feet and confirmed what I felt, no serious damage from the section with the razor sharp tiny rocks, save for 10 tine rocks that I easily removed with a small tweezer. They had not penetrated the skin, but were sharp enough to find purchase in the outer layer of skin.

Temperature was in the range where I start to consider wearing shoes, not because you cannot run barefooted in sub 0°C temperatures, but I see no reason for it, the risk of injury due to my feet being slightly sedated by the cold or freeze burns are simply not worth it.

I do however reserve the right to change my mind later this winter 🙂

Arctic trial run – round 2 (403K to go):

A long journey from previous post and the generous 20°C and sun of the White Mountains were exchanged to 3°C and heavy rain, I was back in Nuuk, the gorgeous snow from mid september washed completely away again, save for the more distant peaks.

Frozen puddles

Frozen puddles

First chance at dry weather I had an appointment with Mr. J and his dog about doing another round on the trails.

Weather was moist and windy, 3°C and clouds just high enough for the lowest and closest peak to be visible. Weather looked like we would easily make it up and back without running into rain or fog low hanging clouds.

The run itself was amazing, wet feet from the very beginning and all the way up and down.

Mr. J and his dog

Mr. J and his dog

A brisk pace on the trip until we hit the first real ascent, sweating like pigs and running steep and technical, but run-able off trial all up,  what an amazing time.

There is just something about running exposed rocks that I love. The need to read an plan the ascent making switchbacks to keep it run-able and constantly reading the terrain ahead while keeping the destination and direction in mind. Challenging and fun running, plus the steep running kicking your heart rate frequently into the +80% zone.

The strong wind and the just below 0°C temperature kept the stopover and photo break at the peak short and soon Mr. J lead us down in a very fast pace, challenging coordination and balance, while pushing the quads into the red zone. Gorgeous 🙂

A view to the cloud covered Sermitsiaq

A view to the cloud covered Sermitsiaq

Up came the relatively flat section of easier and rather wet trail to a slight incline to the place where we went our separate ways.

I did the funny rock and trail route back to central Nuuk, with a couple of steep inclines to squeeze the last bit out of my quads.

Nothing like reaching your doorstep with quads burning and feeling like you have gone all in and made it home still running 🙂

Me at the peak

Me at the peak

I was back in my Fivefinger Syridons this time, softer and thinner than the trail glove 2, but way more durable and with better traction and grip.

I have written very favourable about them before and they really are my favourite trail shoe. However, they do require strong feet when running highly technical and rough terrain.

The reason behind it is to be found in the construction of the shoe. While the soft mesh makes for ample protection from pretty much anything, they are at the same time so soft that it is the muscles and tendons in your feet that carries all of your weight every single step of the way. Once your feet start to wear out, you will be prone to some bumps and bruises on your feet.

I do not have the strength yet to wear them for more than up to say 20K. Longer than that and I the risk of getting hurt is too great for me, but they really are a wonderful tool and as I grow stronger they will be for longer distances as well.

Arctic off trail – why I love to run (438K to go):

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Why I love to run

It really is that simple, the picture above really spells out why I love to run and why off trail running in Greenland is an experience everybody trail (or road) runner should allow themselves at least once.

But I am getting a head of myself here, first run after my vacation in the Netherlands was actually a gorgeous 12K single trail on the gypsy trails just outside Copenhagen, arranged by a local runner and a great introduction to a very nice trail area hidden in plain sight 🙂

It was also the first test run of the Merrell trail glove 2, but I will get back to the shoe towards the end of this post.

Trail? what trail?

Trail? what trail?

The 18K off trail:

Pretty much the minute  I arrived back home in Nuuk snow started poring down and that in the city it self. Why on this Saturday in mid September we woke up to a landscape covered in bright white snow, and with more falling from the thick dark clouds.

I checked the weather and it promised better conditions around noon, a quick text exchange with another local off trail runner sealed a deal about a run to the lowest of the local peaks at 12.

Going up - serpentine  style

Going up – serpentine style

We set out on the first relatively flat and not too technical 5K to where the mountain really start to rise. conditions are normally easy off trail, but when everything is covered in anywhere from 10-20 cm of snow it is a whole different ballgame. you only see snow and have no clue whether it is pebbles, bigger rocks, a hole or a rock face that can be plain contoured or sloping below, Even better it is often a combination of it all.

From here we started uphill and the off trail grew from not too technical to 5K rather technical and quite strenuous uphill off trail.

Running straight lines were out of the question thus we laid a serpentine route creating a grade where we could keep a running like pace.

Mr J and dog leading the way

Mr J and dog leading the way

 

As we continued up the snow got deeper, but also more varied in depth as we ran into regular snow covered boulder fields. Requiring our full attention not to twist an ankle or a knee.

As we continued up, snow continued to get deeper in general, but also more varied in depth from one step to the next. one step might be knee deep, but the next only 10 cm or force you in to the hip. challenging and interest and we were both very grateful to reach the top and an energy gel break.

From here followed a VERY interesting 3K downhill run. plenty of slides and a great deal of care to be taken as we made our way down steep sections with loose rock covered in snow of unknown depth.

we were not moving our fastest here,  but it was quite taxing on both breath and thighs.

From here followed the 5K of relatively easy technical off trail home and it was great to be able to remove the trail gaiters and untie the shoes.

Overall it had been around 2,5 hours (breaks included) of the kind of running that is precisely why I love Greenland, rough, desolate, remote and challenging like hell, but above all fun 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Injury and back running again (538K to go):

Injury is never fun, especially not after having had your most optimistic run ever, none the less it is what happened 😦

I ran a relaxed 6K totally barefoot and at around 4K I stepped on a very pointy rock hidden in the gravel, providing a sharp hit directly to the inner joint of the 2nd metatarsal in my left foot. It did not stop me at first, but in the evening I could barely walk.

3 weeks without running followed – plenty of travel to make up for it though 🙂

Best part after 3 weeks without running, was on a moist and cloudy afternoon in Nuuk, to strap back into my running clothes ready for for a barefoot test run.

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Barefoot rock running

A gorgeous relaxed 6K, primarily on paved roads, but I managed to sneak in half a kilometre of very nice rock running.

Running completely barefoot in Greenland, a first for me and triggering quite a few odd glances. Minimalism is in its infantry here and only one person in Nuuk is running barefoot (me).

Best part was that I did not feel one bit of pain from my left foot where I was injured 🙂

Perhaps the most rewarding run I have ever had.

Temp_03

Barefoot decisions

A day later I was back on an Aircraft heading for Copenhagen and a gorgeous 10K.

The first 7K was an amazing stretch of paved paths. Flat as they were they made for some excellent running style practise (or focus I should say).

I really feel my running style is getting really dialled in and that I can run effortless and relaxed to an extend where all I feel as I add distance is that my muscles gets tired, but the style seems to be going through the same smooth cycle.

Forest road

Forest road

I met another minimalist runner on this trip, clearly still working on his form and with some work to do.

I think many runners will agree that we strive towards a nearly flatfoot stride, or barefoot stride, running too far up on your toes is only going to be a fast way towards injury.

Anyway, we chatted a bit and he gave some great advise on running routes in the area (I am not that well know in the area where I was running), before we parted ways and I broke left onto the last 3K of gravel roads and trail.

Wonderful light

Wonderful light

I quickly brushed off my feet and stepped into the seeyas and continued running.

For the first time I really felt the seeyas not being sturdy enough for the terrain, the gravel roads had so many stones just big enough to be borderline hurting my feet when running (even wearing the seeyas), strewn all over the place. I managed to fall into a rhythm none the less, but next time I am hitting the gravel roads here, it will be wearing the Spyridons in stead 🙂

The single trail bit was way better, here the seeyas were more than enough and it was a joy to run some forest single trail in Denmark. Thoroughly enjoyable to run with grass, trees and birds as the only thing surrounding me 🙂

Being ill, skin disease and other stuff (667,5K to go):

W024

Coming from 3 consecutive weeks of being almost back to my normal short weeks of 30-40K a week adn thun run head first into first a skin disease issue, the disease is a know issue, but it atacking my feet happens rarely and made me miss out on the opportunity to run barefoot while in Rome.

Add a case of the flu and high fever and I was out of business with no running and no workout at all for a week and a half. That just plain sucked, especiall as it hit right after having visited my running coach.

A visit that was both inspiring and deeply humiliating (in a good way I might add). It was a most welcome reminder to keep my running form compact and to run lighter. quite a wake up call to see one self on video after a while.

SOmething everybody needs to do regularly I think.

Anyway, Thursday I managed to Squeeze in an afternoon 10K in my wonderful Greenlandic surroundings, I truly love running the hilly sections and the fact that the only flat section is my own porch, my skin disease kept me from going completely barefoot, but just running again after a week and a half of being ill was absolutely amazing.

Pace was deliberately slow, but cadence and form seemed OK, still need to work a lot with posture and heel pull in particular, as that is where a few bugs have been sneaking into my running style.

Zoom forward today.

W025

I am back in Copenhagen and the weather has been absolutely fabulous for a couple of days. It is time for one of those super cosy partner runs, usually around 5K with my girlfriend. She is new to running, but putting in a massive effort and running together is something that really makes me feel very privileged.

As I came home from the gym, I looked at the soles of my feet, looked outside, looked at my soles, looked outside and though “Ohh, what the f***”, showed my Five fingers in the running drawstring bag and set off with no shoes at all. RUnning totally barefoot is something that one has to experience to believe and I would guess that most people will get truly addicted. At least I have become so in an instant. The tactile sensation of running totally barefoot is nothing short of amazing.

5 gorgeous and wonderful kilometres later we are back home. the still not completely healed skin on my soles had taken quite a beating. No blisters or wounds as such, but as the skin has still not fully recovered from the disease, it is more beaten up than five leisurely paced kilometresd would normally justify.

That said I was and still am high from running barefoot again.

Tomorrow I will continue my travels towards Madrid and Barcelona in Spain for 10 days and hopefully lots of barefoot running 🙂