Tuesday, April 2, 2013

running on the tundra

It's started to get warm enough lately that I have been able to go for a run out on the tundra.  My general rule of thumb is that if it's warmer than -30°C with the windchill, it's warm enough to run outside.  But it just feels so refreshing to be outside in the wilderness, working up a sweat while running on the ice, that I find myself pushing my own limits a little...what's -31°, -34°,  -39° but just a little bit colder, a little bit more of a challenge?

self portrait of me and my running gear

I had been warned that it's not easy running outside here - you tend to suck in big breaths of freezing cold air that feels like needles stabbing your lungs, or else you gotta deal with an itchy, smothering scarf that is too warm.  In the summer time, the dirt you kick up into the air adds an extra challenge to your breathing.  I also don't have the best shoes for running in the Arctic - you know, on ice.

To deal with the last problem, I bought these little rubber snow grabbers that fit over my running shoes that help grip the ice and snow, kind of like golf shoes:

Now I just have to figure out how to deal with a permanently runny nose.

Even with these bad boys, I tend to avoid the slippery icy roads and prefer to run on the frozen Arctic Ocean ice along the snowmobile tracks which offer a lot more crunchy traction. It's more scenic than running through town, anyway.

After having experienced running in both subsaharan Africa and the Arctic, I find that I much prefer running in the cold.  Also, these days I get some magnificent views while on my jogging routes.  My favourite route right now is to run along the coast line and then cut through Millionaire's Lane and trace the edge of the town along the tundra. It's about a 5 kilometre route, a neat little perimeter around town.

tundra...and a small cabin in the middle of it

cabins along the coast (and my finger in the corner)

I see some unique sights along the way too, so I let myself take a lot of breaks on my run to take photos.  Little girls in traditional Inuit coats training their new puppy to pull a sled.  Kite skiiers, letting their beautiful sails in the sky pull them toward the horizon.

if you look closely, the two black dots over the horizon are kite skiiers

On a clear day, I get a great view of Mount Pelly off in the distance.

Legend has it that Mount Pelly is the body of a giant that starved to death.  Can you see the lines that form his ribs?

Sometimes, I'll watch dogs wrestle with each other. The dogs up here in the Arctic are all tough, sturdy animals that can spend the night sleeping outside in the freezing cold. They are beautiful, magnificent creatures.  Sometimes they wander through the town without a leash and approach me.  My first instinct is to be a little scared, a throwback to the days I used to go running in the townships of Khomasdal in Namibia where there were hungry stray dogs that would bite your leg quicker than a blink, but these Arctic dogs just stop and stare at you, politely asking you if you have any meat, before running to the next thing of interest.

dog, watching me

hey buddy

The last time I went running on the ice, I discovered a new ice road.  I'm not sure where it leads, but it looked like it heads out straight into the middle of the Arctic Ocean.

It makes for a pretty invigorating yet peaceful run.  It's easy to zone out in the tundra, which means I can run for longer periods.  Sometimes I pretend I'm Atanarjuat the fast runner (except I'm not running naked and no one's trying to kill me).