Trail running in the winter.

I am being reminded of the challenges of winter running. Glare ice under a thin layer of snow fluff that requires a short stride and careful steps. Snow packed into dirt, filling in the texture and making for slick descents. The curious duality of ice and goopy mud, side by side on narrow singletrack. Hand warmers shoved into my gloves to keep the backs of my hands from being stubbornly cold. It’s all just a little more work, a little more mentally taxing, and a little bit harder on the body.

I went running in the mountains last weekend, super luxurious middle-of-the-day running, with sunshine! There wasn’t much snow, but the temperature and the biting wind felt distinctly wintery. Layer management was tricky and distracting. I was overdressed and sweating when I was out of the wind, and barely comfortable the rest of the time.

I stopped to shake the blood into my fingers twice. Took off my gloves when I was suddenly overheating and then put them back on when my hands were going numb. I zipped and unzipped my jacket. Stuffed my headband into my pocket and pulled it out and back over my ears. For a sunny day there weren’t many people out. A few optimistic fat bikers, where skinny tires would have sufficed. Some dogs getting a walk.

I ran to the big tree and looped back up the hill. A gust of wind slid behind my sunglasses and instantly my eyes gushed water, blurring my vision and wetting my cheeks. My nose dripped constantly. Somehow I took a wrong turn on this very familiar trail, retraced my steps for a brief tailwind, then headed back into the wind that slowly lowered my core temperature as I ran downhill to the trailhead. It was a bit of a smackdown, really.

Of course, it was totally worth it. And the hot, hot shower when I got home was especially delicious.

It was 50 degrees this morning when I started my run, though a storm was brewing. Dust swirled in the beam of my headlamp and the clouds were so thick that I had to use the light much longer than usual. I tripped and also rolled an ankle on unseen rocks. When I stopped to re-tie my shoe I noticed that the trail was littered with the bodies of dead grasshoppers, for miles. Maybe they were tricked by the lack of snow? I know they were dead, but it felt downright melancholy to be smashing them as I ran. Two mountain bikers came down the trail, blinding me with their lights as they carefully avoided patches of ice. When it was finally light, I saw that the city had disappeared into a cloud of dust. The only other person out was a lady with a six pack of growly dogs that were vibing out Mack.

Someone told me that the coinciding of the solstice and mercury-in-retrograde is going to create some ferocious juju tomorrow, so perhaps I will sleep in.

Laurel Hunter

Laurel Hunter

Central Oregon, USA