I had a plan. Wednesday night, I heard about the coming weather. Back to back snow storms. Eleven inches between Thursday and Saturday night. This was my chance for a long, snowy run. Years ago, a friend once accused me of Overuse of Superlatives Syndrome. With me, everything is either the best or it’s the worst. So keep that in mind when I say running in a snowstorm is my absolute favorite thing to do. But exaggeration aside, it really is pretty awesome.
Pretty much all of my running takes place on the Gettysburg National Military Park, a 522-acre national park that abuts my back yard. No, I don’t head out into the park that way, out my back door, but I used to. The woods behind my house are a thicket of poison ivy and invasive rose bushes, barely passable. But like any good runner with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I blazed a path. Read all about that HERE.
No, I run or drive the park roads to get to a trail head. The park is designed to be toured by car. In fact, when tourists arrive in town, they’re encouraged to stop by the visitor center to buy a map along with a CD that describes the battle and the monuments lining the park roads—well that’s how it used to work. I suppose now it all works through smart phones, but I’m sure it’s still monetized—it’s the park service after all. What the tourists don’t see is the ten-mile network of wooded hiking trails encircling the battlefield. This is where I like to run.
In Pennsylvania, it’s been wet year. On the NPR station broadcasted from Harrisburg, our state capital forty miles away, they keep calling this a record-breaking year… the wettest year on record. Superlative! I would stuff this one in the “worst” category. My running trails have been swamps. I took this in stride when the temperatures were warm—what’s a trail run without a little mud—but when the puddles are just above freezing, and they cover your entire foot, things can get uncomfortable. For the past month, I’ve been running the roads.
Here’s the plan I devised for my snowy run: Thursday night we expected three inches of snow. This is enough to cover those partially frozen puddles and create a sturdy base to run on. And then Saturday at noon our storm of eight more inches would start. I figured by two o’clock, I’d have five inches and a steady snowfall. Running would seem magical.
Thursday morning, while driving Sophie to school, I brought up my plan. Recently, she’s been getting into running. When she was in sixth grade, she joined the cross-country club. Forty middle-schoolers grinding out three-mile walk/runs a few times per week. This is when she figured out that she hates running. Or she did until last summer.
Over the past eighteen months, Sophie’s become a high school athlete. She played tennis and rugby last year, and she decided that some summer running would improve her performance. A couple of times each week, she’d pick her way through the brambles out back, trying to figure out where my path used to go, and then she’d link up with the hiking trails. Her runs are a little different than mine. She takes her phone with her and she listens to music as she runs. And when she sees something interesting or beautiful, she stops to take pictures. Sometimes she just hangs out on a rock and enjoys the scenery. Not really my approach, but she is a runner so I figured we could talk about it a little.
So I told Sophie my running plan. Right down to my solid three-inch base, the mid-afternoon start and my love of snow-running. I told her which trail I picked and why I thought it would be a good one. It was an educational talk. I learned that Sophie isn’t quite as interested in running as I am.
Thursday’s storm was a bust. We got an inch, maybe an inch and a half, and then the temperature went straight up to forty for the entire next day. When I woke up this morning, it was still way above freezing. My plan was falling apart. It was too warm to snow, and the stuff that fell on Thursday undoubtedly already melted. The trail would be even wetter. The puddles would probably be around thirty-three degrees. I decided on a road run instead.
Mid-day came and went and while it looked like a storm was upon us, nothing was falling. Because the temperature began to drop, I decided to hold off on my run until the precipitation began. Rain was a possibility, but snow was too, and running in icy rain is sort of fun too. But by two o’clock I was losing my day so I gave up the wait and headed out the door. During my run, a few flakes fell, and each time I saw one I thought “Here it comes” but it didn’t. The snow began at five o’clock. By then I was showered and snacked, drinking club soda with lime, cozy in a recliner, writing a story called But I had a Plan…