Saturday, January 21, 2012

Plan B - Run Mineral Creek Route

Maybe you’ve heard that Valdez got a lot of snow recently.  In December and early January, nearly 250” of snow fell.  It really piled up around town, turning the city streets and driveways into tunnels with walls six feet high.  The snow didn’t just accumulate on the ground, of course, it also amassed on the rooftops of buildings.  The structural supports of sheds, houses, office complexes, schools, and public buildings strained under the weight heaped upon them by the storms.  And, unfortunately, some broke under the pressure – including the gym where I like to take my morning workouts.

Last week, the gym’s staff made the sad announcement that the facility would be closed until the structural problems could be repaired– possibly up to two months.  Without the treadmill, I had to come up with a Plan B for training.  I’d have to run outdoors.
Five pounds of gear needed to run safely and comfortably
outdoors in current Valdez conditions

The first day after the gym’s closure, the snow spigot finally turned off and steady winds turned the streets and sidewalks into a polished, city-wide ice rink.  Nonetheless, I was determined, so I set out at 5:45 a.m. on the mean streets of Valdez, layered up in five pounds of clothing, cleats, headlamp, and reflectors.  I had to be on my toes – alert to traffic hazards as early shift workers started backing out of their tunneled driveways, not expecting to see a runner bobbing down the sidewalk on a dark zero-degree morning.  After a few close calls, I decided I needed a better route if I was going to replace my treadmill workouts with road running.

The next morning, I drove over to the Mineral Creek cross-country ski trails, which wind up rolling hills to a bench where they then circle around a broad meadow. I pulled on my cleats, turned my headlamp on high beam, tucked my fleece gator under my ears and nose, and zipped up my three top layers.  It was freezing, but the air was calm, so I set out for my run.  I found the trail hard as concrete, and the ¼” spikes on my shoes hardly indented the surface, yet the traction was far better than the ice-glazed sidewalks of town.

Cleats like these help keep a runner on their feet even on severe ice.

Within fifteen minutes, I was running across the dark snow-encumbered meadow, my headlamp lighting the trail ahead.  Ursa Major tipped down at me from the clear sky and Cassiopeia’s “W” formation hung over the head of the v-shaped Mineral Creek canyon.  The 4,000’ high mountain walls that surround the meadow glowed with moonlight.  Not bad.  Even though my speed training is going to suffer while the gym’s roof and walls are getting repaired, the views up there in the valley, even through my fogged up glasses, beat the view I get from the treadmill.

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