Running Lite on Ice

I confess jealousy at the Mediterranean and Tropical dwellers who can kick off shoes and run barefoot year round. By the time I am working on my Halloween costume, the temps are dropping and the rain is looking to become precious little snowflakes. It's nearly March and the possibility of a warming sufficient to run barefoot still appears like a far off dream similar to a McDonald's Number 4 Value Meal that makes you slim and sexy.

Yet, there are moments of winter running joy that you can appreciate even when wearing shoes. Such was last weekend when I took a winter campout excursion to do some ice fishing. The fishing was terrible. Nobody on the lake was catching anything. What a waste of 12 inches of thickness.

But I had brought my back pack and in them were my aquasocks. The sun was out, the new ice on top had melted into puddles everywhere. It would be wet, and I would have to do a lot of maneuvering, but I had changes of socks and my winter boots at our fishing site. I had thermals and shorts as my base layer and I was already feeling ready to shed outer layers. I missed my run the day before to get ready for the trip, what the hell.

It was a short run, under three miles (my longest is five miles). The new, but not yet melted ice crunched underneath me like I was running on a track of cornchips. The wind blew along the melted icewater and the blend of cold and my body heat balanced to a cold but sweat free run as I crossed the lake in my shorts and long johns. I oten tip-toed around large puddles and abandoned fishing holes. It was a cold weather Ragnar training event.

Fishermen did double takes and checked the content of their beers and this weird image of a person in thermal underwear moved into and then out of view of thier fishing sites. We were in a secluded area known mainly to the locals. A couple of sites cheered which wasn't a great compliment as they normally cheer at a fish caught and that just wasn't happening. They just needed something to celebrate.

Frozen lakes are not static. The ice contracts, expands, and becomes more movable as a unit as the day warms. You will hear pops and faint tremors. Sometimes a person drilling a fishing hole with a power auger will even put a fault line in the ice. It's still safe, or at least that's what ice fishermen tell one another during the day. I heard pops and rumbles as I ran. All the while I'm thinking, "I am running across a lake. I am running on water. Suck it, Floridians."

By the time I turned around to run back to my site, my feet were soaking wet. Warm blood pumped through and kept them usable. I am used to cold feet by now. I returned to my site smiling.

I have heard people say they would start running when they see a runner smiling. Those people lie. I was with them that day and I was grinning from ear to ear. It felt great.

My fishing buddies don't get it. I have always been a square peg amongst my fishing neighbors, so they didn't question me. They just smiled shook their heads and at the crazy guy. Perhaps I am, but when we left the place with no fish, I was the only one that felt like it wasn't a bust and they all had at least one story to tell. Win-Win.

Running on a frozen lake is definitely a version of running lite.


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