It was a snowy day in Ottawa, but from my office window, I could make out a runner making his or her way along the path that runs along the Ottawa River on the Quebec side. For years I figured that, because the paths are not ploughed in Winter, the pathways would be impassable. I just never bothered to check it out. Since I had nothing in the training schedule for today (a rest day, actually), I declared that today would be the day where I run The Bridges in the middle of Winter.
I always start in front of West Block at Wellington and O'Connor and head west on Wellington, doing a clockwise loop. The sidewalks were in great shape - a little wet, but not sloppy. Once I crossed the Portage Bridge, I had trouble finding the entrance to the path on the Quebec side, so I just followed the footprints. "Follow the footprints" would be a theme for a later part of this run. As expected, the path was definitely snow covered and very uneven. I kept to a narrow single track that was more heavily trodden and less uneven than the snow on either side of it. I had to jump off the track once to give the right-of-way to a couple who were out for a walk and it was like running over slippery rocks. When I got close to the Museum of Civilization, the path had been cleared and it was smooth sailing up to and over the Alexandra Bridge. Once I left the sidewalk and started making my way down to the locks, it became very slippery and was pockmarked with frozen footprints, all under about 10cm of snow. Normally I blast down the hill, but not this time. I simply focused on keeping the rubber side down.
In late Autumn, Parks Canada opens all of the locks except for the highest one. I had to make my way uphill to this lock so that I could cross the Rideau Canal, and there was no single worn path for me to follow. The snow was deep-ish and wet and where there was no snow, there was ice. Again, I chose to follow the footprints. Within 10 metres up from the base of the hill, my feet were soaked and my ankles were covered in snow, and I was faced with a decision: I could choose to make my way up the ice-covered stairs beside the locks, or try to run up the snow-covered slope beside the stairs. I ended up doing a bit of both - two flights of stairs, two slopes. I nearly slid backwards when I ran up the slopes and I had to pull myself up by the railings on the stairs. Picture someone climbing the side of a mountain with ropes; that was me with the railings. By the time I made my way to the uppermost lock, I decided to just cross, head over to the NAC, and return to the office. I considered continuing along the river behind the Library of Parliament, following the same route as Monday, but I was starting to get concerned that I would be late for an afternoon meeting.
I will definitely do this again soon, especially now that I know what to expect. If any of you are considering trying this, I highly recommend doing so. I find in Winter that I run the same few tracks all of the time. It's good to get off the beaten path every once in a while.