Despite the biggest snow year in my 18 years of living in Truckee, I’ve managed to put together a pretty ridiculous racing schedule – three 50 milers and one 100 miler over the next four and a half months. The only way I’ll survive that is to run no matter what winter brings. Sometimes it’s beautiful and fun and I love it, and other times it’s more… challenging. But the challenge brings a sense of adventure, and I’m hoping the combination of shoveling and slogging through miles of snow and ice is making me stronger.
Saturday morning, I chilled in a snowbank watching the clouds whiz by overhead, while Avian and our Airbnb guests sledded and the dogs played.
I knew the window of clear weather wasn’t going to last, but my only opportunity for a long run would be Sunday, right in the middle of the next big Winter Storm.
The forecast called for 1-2 feet above 7,000 feet by Sunday afternoon (with 10-18″ at lake-level, where we live), but consistent with the weather-forecasting lately, this turned out to be grossly underestimated.
Sunday morning, I rushed to clean the house after my guests checked out, watching the snow pile up outside the windows and thinking “maybe it will lighten up a little if I wait”.
It didn’t, and when it was time to either go for it or chicken out, I went to the garage and gave the treadmill a long, hard look… maybe I should stay inside? Nope, this was my only chance to get out so I was going to have to make the most of it.
I set out on the un-plowed roads, heading up Palisades towards Schaffers Mill. Almost immediately, the gusting winds and blowing snow made it a challenge to breathe. I had to stop several times during the first climb to cover my face and catch my breath. There is a short connection between my neighborhood (Ponderosa Palisades) and the streets of Schaffers Mill. I was happy to see a backcountry skier and 3 dogs had already broken trail.
Schaffers Mill and Martis Camp (where I was headed) are both gated communities, and their streets are usually better maintained (with less traffic) than the ones in my neighborhood.
One lane had been plowed on the streets in Schaffers Mill, but at the rate it was snowing, it was quickly filling in.
I continued on to Martis Camp, and enjoyed checking out the beautiful homes buried in snow.
About an hour in, the snow stopped and the sun almost came out. I thought the worst of it had passed.
The sun disappeared, the snow was back, the winds picked up, and white-out conditions resumed.
One of the great things about running in areas with lots of home construction taking place is the abundance of outhouses. It was time to find one, but I was faced with a recurring problem –
They were all buried.
At long last, I found shelter in a porta-potty that had been shoveled out.
My feet were starting to cramp up badly from the microspikes, so I had to remove them for a mile, march along the super icy roads until I couldn’t take it anymore, put the spikes back on, and do my best to make up the time. After 3 breaks from the spikes, they stopped hurting, and running with traction became fun again.
I’d only seen 3-4 cars during the first 3 hours (one of the other reasons I like running in gated communities), and most of the houses looked to be snowed-in. I pictured the Martis Camp residents cozy in their mansions drinking hot chocolate and watching it snow.
Turns out, they were skiing. After not seeing anyone outside since the skier in Schaffers Mill, I came across a very crowded ski lift line that takes residents from their neighborhood directly to Northstar. It made me feel better to see other people braving the elements.
During the run from the lift down to the gatehouse, I saw more cars (as in, 10 total), and even a snowplow here and there. It was a bit unnerving to not hear the cars coming behind me, due to the snow and winds (and my hat and hood) muffling all sounds. A kind woman actually stopped her car and called out to me as I was running “Are you OK??” It was hard not to laugh when I said “yes, I’m fine”.
Just after the gatehouse, I saw a warning sign about the Icy Roads – they were not joking.
It was time to head back to my neighborhood. All evidence that I had been through these parts earlier was now buried under the fresh powder.
The connector path back to my neighborhood was filled back in, and the sign marking the spot seemed appropriate:
It was comical to be trudging through this stuff, but at the same time scary, realizing that if I stepped off the somewhat beaten path (that still had 1-2 feet of fresh snow on top of it), I could easily fall in three or more feet of snow, and get stuck. Alone. In a blizzard.
Alas, I survived, and after 20.5 miles with 2200′ of climbing on snow-covered, icy roads, I rewarded myself with a beer in the hottub.
That evening, the snow continued, the Winter Storm Warning was extended overnight, the freeway closed, and the next day it was a snow day. Shocking, right?
After working from home all day Monday, I took a break to go for a shake-out run into town, to see how it looked after the latest hammering of snow.
The snow stopped by Tuesday morning, and I was greeted to spectacular sites on my early-morning run.
I hear we are in for a dry spell soon… I’ll believe it when I see it. Until then, I’m confident we will survive. And I’m definitely not letting a little snow get in the way of my running.