Biting ice and burning sand
Running really is full of contrasts. Last Saturday, I went out for a morning run. Failed to look at the thermometer before I headed out, but since we’d had double blue digits in Oslo all week, I ran down the stairs from the 5th floor prepared. Sporting merino buff and gloves helped a bit, but -15°C is still pretty darn cold. It was only for an hour, down to Skøyen and back again, but when I returned home, I had icicles chaining my eyelashes to the buff and had sprouted a goatee of ice. I got frostbite on my cheeks during a particularly chilly day last winter, skiing in Serre Chevalier. This was despite wearing a merino buff up to my ears and ever since then, I try to cover my face when running in chills below -15°C. The condensation of my breath makes for some funny effects, though. People were staring at me on the home stretch, whether admiring my goatee or feeling sorry for a poor schmuck out running on a Saturday morning, I’ll never know.
This week, on the other hand, is spent on an island in the Caribbean, trying hard to squeeze in some beach-running inbetween sampling of the local rum. Coach Christian has thoughtfully reserved time for running in sand in our training programme, the better to get used to the sand of the Sahara. The only problem is that sand is kind of hard to come by in Oslo during the winter. It’s hard to come by during the summer as well, darn it! Snow in the forest has worked just fine until now, but it feels kind of out of place to prepare for a run in the Sahara in the snowy hills surrounding the Norwegian capital.
In the words of Joe Friel, “specificity is the most important principle of training”. What this means, is that in order to become a better swimmer, you need to do your laps in the pool. If you’re training for Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, you need to train in hilly terrain, piling up those vertical metres. And if you plan to run in the Sahara, you’d better try and place some of your runs on sand and most definitely train in heat approaching the temperatures that await you in Africa. Neither of which is easy to do in Scandinavia. But I’m digressing. Running on sand sounds a lot easier than it actually is. The beach is heavily tilted to the left towards the sea, meaning I’ll have a pretty lopsided gait.
My first morning out running left me panting for breath after only about 90 seconds. The sand was a lot softer than I’d anticipated, and I sank down 7-10 centimetres for every step I took in my Asics. Tough going, and I was embarrassingly quick in starting to walk instead of running. On the home stretch, I took off my shoes and ran barefoot, which was a lot easier but still missing the point since we probably wont be running barefoot in Morocco. Still, good training though. Yesterday morning went a lot better. I left my shoes in a little nook below the veranda of the beachside restaurant, and went running barefoot for this week’s long run of two hours. It’s an unbelievable feeling running barefoot on sand, having the salty Caribbean Sea lapping your feet at every stride, jumping over coconuts and avoiding the larger surfs. This morning, it was time to pay the bill… I haven’t had the soles of my feet hurt like this since we ran the Trail du Verdon last summer. I thought they’d fallen off my feet and that I was walking on exposed muscle. Keep your fingers crossed for tomorrow’s 90-minute run. We’ll see if they’ll keep it together. As you can see, intervals and other fancy training techniques have gone out the window this week, in order to focus on the sand. And oh, the core-training is still very much being done, even though I’ve missed a few days since New Year’s. Which brings me to another one of Mr Friel’s pearls of wisdom: “In training, zero is a big number. If you have a lot of them in your training log then you are giving away hard-earned fitness.” No. Days. Off.