As noted yesterday, the weather reports called for extreme cold and heavy winds today and they were pretty much right on. When I headed out for my 20K run this morning, the ambient temperature was -12C and a bitterly cold ~50km/h wind was coming out of the north-west. With the wind-chill factored in, this worked out to the equivalent of nearly -30C. As such, I put on the warmest running clothes that I had and made sure to minimize the amount of exposed skin. While I have run in colder weather than this, those runs were of a much shorter duration (less than 30 minutes), so the nearly two hours that this session would take would make for new ground.
Compounding this was the fact that the roads and sidewalks were in relatively bad condition, so I had to very closely watch my footing to avoid ice and uneven surfaces. Given that the route that I've been using for the last two weeks had some steep descents (up to 12%), I figured that it was worth taking another path to make sure I remained safe. Further, this route is largely a north-south path, so that north wind would be a significant problem on the way back (which is also where the biggest hills are located).
As such, I elected to take an out-and-back route to a large mall to the south east of me. This meant that the bulk of the route (and the majority of the hills) would be done in the east-west direction to avoid dealing with a headwind. Further, as it is a more developed area it is better shielded from the elements and the sidewalks were likely in better condition. Finally, as the half-way point was a relatively large indoor mall it gave me the option of going inside to warm up without having to stop.
Either way, after getting suited up I headed out a little before noon. The sidewalks in my area were covered in snow, so I did the first segment of the run on the side of the road. Unfortunately, the roads weren't perfectly clear either so it took a good deal more effort than usual to maintain speed. As such, my first kilometer was run at a much slower than planned 5:07/km pace. Fortunately, my heart rate was in the right ballpark so this wasn't a huge issue.
The next portion of the route was along higher traffic roads, and was run with the wind at my back, so I was able to pick it up a little more. Kilometers two through four were done at an average pace of 4:45/km, which was actually a little faster than planned. At about the 2.5km mark I was up to temperature and was feeling quite comfortable, which helped to alleviate my concerns about the cold.
At this point I began traveling east and approached the first large hill of the route (1600m long, 4% grade). Unfortunately, the sidewalk along this portion was covered in a heavy coating of snow so it took a good deal of effort to maintain speed. Unlike the previous sections, however, the traffic along this road travels at much higher speeds (~80km/h) so I had no option but to stick with the sidewalk.
When I hit the hill, this started to become an issue as running up the grade combined with fighting with the snowcover increased my breathing rate. Normally this wouldn't be a problem at all, but as my face was covered with a neck warmer I had to fight a bit harder to get that air in (as the fabric got sucked into my mouth when I inhaled). Fortunately, my heart rate wasn't affected much by this so it was more of a discomfort than a practical impediment to my performance.
Once I managed to crest the hill, the snowcover remained an issue so my speeds continued to be slower than planned (~5:05/km). As this was a LSD run, however, my focus was on keeping my heart rate down so I didn't worry about it too much. Either way, I pushed on until I hit the second hill along the route (a highway overpass, ~600m/5%). Given the shorter duration of this hill, however, it didn't pose much of an issue.
At this point (~9.5K), I was approaching the mall and had to make a choice as to whether I wanted to head inside or not. While I was feeling relatively good temperature-wise, the neck warmer was still an issue so a chance to pull it off for a short period to allow my breathing to catch up was quite attractive. Naturally, the downside to this option was that as it is only a few weeks before Christmas navigating through mall crowds at speed was not going to be easy. Either way, I figured it was worth a shot so I headed in at the north-west entrance.
Once I cleared the doors, I took the face mask, hat and gloves off and continued heading south through the walkway. While there was a good deal of traffic to deal with (as you can see from my pace variability in the telemetry), it wasn't quite as bad as I was expecting. Naturally, I did go slower than outside (averaging a 5:16/km pace), but I did manage to get my breathing back under control and my sweat-logged clothing had a chance to dry out a bit. As I approached the eastern end of the mall, I put my stuff back on and headed back into the cold.
Since the sidewalk on the north side of the road appeared to be a little more clear than the south side I was using before I elected to switch sides for the return trip. There was still a good deal of snow on the ground, however it wasn't quite as bad so I was able to average a 4:59/km pace for kilometers twelve through fourteen. Breathing became an issue again, but I found a few ways to work around that so it wasn't quite as big an issue. When I got back to the first hill, I had to cross over to the southern side of the street again. Fortunately, the rise in this direction was much shorter (500m/4%) so it took a good deal less effort to work through it.
After another decent kilometer (4:58/km), I had to turn right and begin to head north to get back home. Unfortunately, this meant I was running directly into the cold wind that was at my back for the start. Fortunately, I only had two more kilometers left to go so I bunkered down and pushed my way through. I managed to maintain a 5:00/km pace for the 19th kilometer, and then opened up for the final stretch. The last kilometer was painful as I was in an open area with no cover, but I managed to push through a 4:42K nonetheless. Once I hit the 20km mark, I broke back to a walk to begin cooling down.
Once I got home, I did my stretches and then began stripping off all of my protective clothing. My jacket and neck warmer were pretty crunchy at this point, and my hat had a nice quarter-inch thick coating of ice around the brim. It certainly illustrated exactly how cold it was out there, but fortunately the gear did a relatively good job of keeping me in the right temperature range. The neck warmer was really the only problem for me, so I'll have to look into some alternative choices for scenarios such as this.
Either way, results are as follows:
Total Distance: 20.0km
Total Time: 1:49:01
Average Pace: 4:57/km
Average Heart Rate: 162bpm (71% HRR)