Last night's run was pretty amazing, but I am tired today.
It was 9F when I started running, right about sunset. Luckily, the breeze had subsided to almost nothing, so the conditions were very comfortable. I deliberately headed north to start the run, so I'd be going into the little bit of wind while I was still fresh.
As the light from the sun faded, I pulled my flashlight out of my pocket, but I hardly used it at all. The skies were clear and the moon was high in the sky, giving me lots of light to run by. It reminded me of nights in Anchorage when I could run or snowshoe or XC ski without a flashlight. There, I was often able to go without a flashlight when it was cloudy. Downtown Anchorage is so bright that the lights from the city proper would reflect off the clouds and the snow, and everything would be bright miles away from downtown. Last night, it was the moon, but the effects were similar.
Last Thursday, I had done 6 miles by snowshoe on this same route and there had been a lot of fresh, unpacked snow to run through. I felt like I was doing an interval workout the whole way, and it took me 50 minutes to do the first 3 miles. Last night, I hit the same point in just under 40 minutes and I felt great. My plan was to run for 2 hours, and I got to the 4.5 mile mark right at one hour. It took me 67 minutes to come back, so I was out for 2:07 total - doing 9 miles.
A week ago, the concept of doing 26 miles on snowshoes next month in under 10 hours seemed impossible. After last night, it seems possible, but it's going to be work. Nine miles is the longest I've ever gone on snowshoes where I was running as much as I could. I've done more mileage in a day on snowshoes, but I was hiking the whole time. It's clear that trail conditions on race day will be a huge factor in how fast I can go.
I remember one day in Anchorage where I hiked on snowshoes for the entirety of our daylight - a little over 5 hours. Late in the hike that day, I was afraid of running out of daylight so I took a short-cut back to my car. I was crossing a "field" when I suddenly noticed that the surface of the "field" was amazingly uniform - dead flat with no plants sticking up anywhere. Suddenly, I realized that I was likely hiking directly over a lake and not a field and I kind of freaked out. I knew that it was probably safe (this was Alaska in winter, after all), but I was by myself, no one knew where I was, and I didn't know how thick the ice was. I turned around and carefully got back to the edge of the lake, where I found a worn path around. I barely got back to my car before dark, but I was just happy I hadn't disappeared forever into a remote lake.
Yesterday, I saw a pair of runners running on a path right on the edge of the ice of Lake Champlain. I was thinking that maybe I'd switch to running there on the return part of my run, and then I remembered my hike in Anchorage. I was alone, no one knew exactly where I was, and if the ice cracked, I'd be a goner. I stuck to the bike path.
After my run, I stopped at a great Chinese restaurant in Burlington - A Single Pebble - to get some dinner before I headed home. I was sitting at the bar, looking at the menu, when I realized my beard was still full of ice. Luckily, they didn't throw me out for looking like a vagrant. As always, dinner at this place was amazing.
I'm a bit sore and tired this morning, but I'll lift tonight and then do some short, fast running intervals. Then, skiing all weekend.
Life is good.