Posted by: Karen | January 4, 2014


It’s time to confess. I did a silly thing back in October when the run streak was going well and long runs didn’t seem so hard as they do now in the winter. I signed up for Gord’s Frozen Ass 50k in February.

It seemed like a good idea at the time! I’ve had this race on my radar for a few years, but never felt in good enough condition to consider it. Apparently the day I signed up I was feeling invincible. At least it has kept my long runs on the calendar when I’d rather be watching the snow from my living room.

I have another confession: In late November I began feeling some twinges of a dreaded foot injury – plantar fasciitis. I think that’s what it is – I haven’t had it formally diagnosed yet. It was intermittent for a while, but after my last two December long runs (30 and 28 km just before Christmas), I limped through the holidays.

I rested and knitted. I iced and stretched. I backed off the daily streak to mostly 2 km, with the occasional stretch to 3 & 4ks on good days. On New Year’s Day I ran 9 km and loved it, but was hobbling visibly at work by Friday.

Today… TODAY I did not rest or run short to respect the injury. I convinced myself that my running muscles and fascia would adapt, and that the walking limp did not have to be a running problem. I can land differently when I run. I think it might have worked – the jury is still out on that.

Today I covered 35 km on my feet, outside, in 16-19*C along the Bow River. It was slow and not incredibly painful, except for at the 22.5 km point when my hands got too cold while fishing out an electrolyte capsule from my belt. The cold bit my hands so hard I cried out in pain and frustration, but the run went on, and the hands were a very effective distraction from worrying about my foot.

My running buddy and I had started at Home Road, with a “test distance”. We ran away for 5 km and returned, for a total of 10 km. This was my chance to bail out, if the injury became unbearable. At that checkpoint I still felt able, so we tackled a longer out-and-back – this time we would run away for 10 km and return (for 20 more), and if I still felt well we’d tack on an extra 5 km for a grand total of 35.

The riverside paths were mostly plowed from last night’s snowfall, and we waved thanks to plow operators as we ran. I waved to other runners along the path and greeted those I knew by name. I really like the new murals in the East Village near the Simmons building, and look forward to taking more time to admire them on a warmer day.

Upon nearing the turnaround point on the second distance (10k away), we boldly changed the plan and ran 2.5 km further, so we wouldn’t have to run that last 5k within reach of our vehicles. This was bold because there was a breeze picking up, and the temperature started to drop. I had my face mask and several layers, but I will be more careful about where I take off my mitts next time. I need to pack some more chemical hand warmers for the next cold run – those things are wonderful, but they take time to activate.

The second trip took us into Inglewood, where the hand-freezing incident happened. I stopped in at Fort Calgary to warm up on the way back. A nice lady at the desk, upon hearing I intended to run back to Home Road, told me that Home Road was so named because it used to have a crematorium there, and it was a final resting place. I thought morbid, fiery warm thoughts all the way back to Eau Claire, where we stopped in for me to warm up again. Once west of downtown I managed a pace that maintained warm hands, and the last 5 km were not as hard as the previous ones.

I did not stop my watch for rests or bathroom breaks, and it took me 5 hours 21 minutes (9 slow minutes per km). It was a hard run, but accomplishing it renewed my belief that I can conquer the 50k next month. Now, in the comfort of home, after a warm bath and good food, I still think I can.


  1. Nice job braving the cold on a long run! Those runs will only make you tougher 🙂

  2. You think you can? I know you can!

  3. You will do awesome! I want to do Frozen Ass one day too. I did Blackfoot Ultra last year. It was my first 50K. I was pretty slow because I lost the will to live on the second loop in the rain 🙂 (Two 25k loops). Mind over matter. All the pieces will come together 🙂

  4. Wow! I was scared reading that! Afraid it was not going to be a happy ending! I shouldn’t have worried! Congrats!!!!

  5. Karen, good work! We all know you can do it. Just be careful. If you can not do it this year there will be a next opportunity next time. Good luck and have fun on this journey!


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