Friday, January 23, 2009

Rock and Ice Update #3: Cold enough for ya?

( Over the past few weeks we’ve had some pretty cold days in Eastern Ontario. When things dip into the -30C range, it sometimes can become a bit of a challenge to convince yourself to get out the door. While the thought of a warmer climate and running in shorts and t-shirt is appealing to a certain extent, I find myself hoping that we get another good cold stretch of weather to be able to fully prepare for Rock and Ice.

During the first year of the BHP Billiton Rock and Ice Ultra in 2007 temperatures dipped down to -40C. This made things extremely difficult for racers in an already very difficult race to begin with. Running up to 45km each day for six days was one thing, but trying to stay warm while sleeping in tents along the trail at night was quite another. Not optimal racing conditions for sure, but everyone was in the same boat and athletes persevered.

I ran the K-Rock three day race at Rock and Ice in 2008 and while there were times that weather conditions seemed very cold, it was nothing like the stories that I heard from the previous year. Even though we had deep and difficult snow conditions, I can’t help but think that we got off lucky. Lucky last year, but what do the Yellowknife Weather Gods have lined up for us in 2009? To be perfectly honest, thinking about it too much sometimes scares the hell out of me.
While I feel as though I learned a lot from being there last year, witnessing how cold it can be and talking to and observing other competitors, I am still trying to do everything possible to fully prepare myself for the worst possible conditions this year.

I was quite ill for three weeks recently, which limited the amount of training I could do, however this gave me a good opportunity to research further about the most appropriate type of gear I should be looking to use for a self-supported six day race in an extreme climate. My plan once again will be to focus on layering the most breathable clothing possible to prevent any moisture from building up inside my clothing. In the north, a little bit of overheating can be a very dangerous thing.

Since I haven’t really been able to fully duplicate what the conditions of the north could be for the race, I have taken to doing the best I can and running during the coldest parts of the day. I’ve also found that doing some unconventional training has helped to get me used to the colder temperatures. Aside from snowshoe running, my other wintertime passion is dogsledding. During the recent cold snap, I was out dogsledding on some very cold nights. While I didn’t get much of a workout by standing on the sled, I do feel as though I got some good cold weather acclimatization at -25C, and the wind chill created by being whisked through the trails by our team of enthusiastic huskies.

Dogsledding might not be the best way to train for Rock and Ice, but mentally in combination with all of the other training I’ve been doing, this has helped me to feel more at one with the north.

For more information on the BHP Billiton Rock and Ice Ultra, please visit . (Note: Rock and Ice Race Director Scott Smith has extended the early registration discount to March 1, so you can still sign up at the reduced rate.)


  1. We have heard you are a streaker so when the weather gets a little warm you could acclimatize by streaking.

  2. Ha, ha...who needs the weather to be warm for streaking? Better training in the cold ;-)

    Too bad our outdoor shower is frozen up though. For the record, my record for the coldest outdoor shower at our house is officially listed as -1C. Would have gone colder but the outdoor pipes freeze up. Need to fix that somehow.