Sunday, March 1, 2015

My Frostbite Adventure

In two weeks, I will run the Los Angeles Marathon and on the 20th of April, I will have the privilege of participating in the granddaddy running event of them all, the Boston Marathon. Yet the date that’s circled on my calendar in bright red is March 28th. That’s when I’ll be in Yellowknife, NWT, Canada for the Frostbite 50.

The Frostbite 50 is a 50 km (31 mile) snowshoe-or-cross-country-ski-pick-your-poison scamper across the Canadian sub-arctic. The Los Angeles Marathon offers the fun of running through the city’s most iconic neighborhoods, and Boston is a high point in any runner’s life, but the Frostbite 50 delivers the unique opportunity to tramp along un-groomed trails on frozen lakes in pristine forest during the dead of winter. I’m told that during last year’s event wind-chill readings dipped to -40 (F or C, it’s the same at that point). What could be more fun?

I’m hoping for conditions slightly more mild than -40. If it’s that cold, I have no chance of finishing and will either be pulled off the course or become a cryonics experiment. (People commonly make the mistake of assuming that the “50” in “Frostbite 50” refers to distance. It’s actually the average number of digits lost by competitors.)

The Yellowknife Multisport Club, the Canadian organizers of the event, have done an admirable job in detailing what to expect from the Frostbite 50 and how to participate safely. The route will be marked with branches (because nothing sticks out more obviously in the middle of a forest than a tree branch) but they caution “it is possible that markers may be taken, buried, blown over, covered or otherwise made difficult or impossible to find.” I’m studying the route map with care.

“Mandatory equipment” includes a route map (check), fire starter, first aid kit, headlamp, emergency food, space blanket or bivvy bag, and a whistle. I have an image of myself stuffed into a bivvy bag, gnawing a space food stick and blowing on my son’s old Boy Scout warbler for all I’m worth.

Some 25,000 people are expected to take part in the Los Angeles Marathon. At Boston, the number of runners may top 35,000. As of this writing 17 souls have registered for the Frostbite 50. Fourteen are locals from Yellowknife, one from a hamlet down the road, one from sunny Ottawa, and one lunatic from Los Angeles who’s the odds on favorite to finish dead f***ing last.

I can’t wait.

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