I woke up this morning to the news that someone a few kilometres up the river had seen what he thought were bear tracks in the snow. Bears are, of course, supposed to be hibernating this time of year. I would too, if I were huge and had sharp claws and could therefore get away with sleeping for several months. But sometimes they do wake up if something disturbs them, and then they go looking for a new place to spend the rest of the winter.
With that in mind, I was happy I wouldn't be running alone in the woods today. I met up with the few of the AIK-members that had defied the -13 degrees cold and we headed west. We would be running in the forest again. I was happy. On our way to the snowmobile tracks we talked about skiing, mainly. It's a subject that's close to most people's hearts here in Skellefteå. The only topic that gets people talking more than skiing is the local hockey team.
In the forest, the track was covered by snow that had fallen over night. The trees surrounding it formed tunnels at places, with branches that were bending with the weight of snow. In the distance we could hear the roar of snowmobiles: there was a Swedish Championship in snowmobile jumping taking place not too far away. Yes, there is such a thing. No, I'm not making it up. We found a single track and followed it up the mountain. The uneven ground made us take small steps and keep a relatively low pace, so when we finally reached the top none of us were out of breath.
When we got back to the hockey arena and people started walking to their cars, I looked at my Garmin. I had to find another 5-6 kilometres. No problem. Back into the woods I went, following another single track that dog owners used, and came face to face with the bear.
Well, alright, it was just a squirrel. The stand-off didn't last long. By the time I had taken out my phone to snap its picture, it had decided that it had stared at me long enough and disappeared up a tree. I followed its example and ran on, with my fingers and my face freezing.
I left the woods and turned back towards town, and without of the protection of trees around me I was really starting to feel cold. Normally I don't like wearing too many layers when I run, because sweating makes running feel more difficult, but now I wished I had had an extra t-shirt on, or at least some arm warmers. When I finally got home and reluctantly peeled off my clothes, my stomach and arms were bright pink. I jumped into the shower and stayed there for a long while, probably a lot longer than is environmentally friendly. I couldn't understand why I felt so cold. There was no wind to speak of and the temperature wasn't that low. My theory is that I was starting to get tired and hungry. I'm taking some extra clothes with me on my next long run.