This is a guest post by Ellen Duffey – if you find this useful, leave a comment and show her some love!
Frost on the ground. Icy windshield. I can see my breath.
Yep, looks like I’m on my way to a winter race.
Some people won’t run when it’s cold out, however I’d rather deal with chilly air than sweltering sun when I am exerting my body and trying to wring every last mile out of my legs; but to each their own.
The bottom line is, with the right gear, you can perform just as well in the cold as you can on summer day- it’s all about being prepared. Athletic gear has come a LONG way since long johns and baggy gray sweats and this allows us to expand our personal race seasons long after the first snow has fallen.
It may sounds silly, but when I’m prepping for a winter run I think about what I’m going to finish in—and the word Onion always comes to mind.
I have zero cold tolerance (almost got pulled out of Tough Mudder due to hypothermia) but when I am straight out road racing in the cold, I turn into a human torch and have finished a race called the Frosbite Run in tights and a sports bra. So layers are KEY. They may be peeled off as you go- got that, Onion?
Sweat is water and water gets cold…..FAST; so it is critical to wear a moisture wicking base layer… Under Armor has a great line out but for those of us who are budget conscious, Old Navy has gear out that works just as well. As much as we love natural fibers and cotton, for a good winter base layer we must turn to the synthetics because they can carry moisture away from the skin and dry in lightening time.. . this ain’t your grandmas’ polyester either- these fabrics are lightweight, warm and if yoru like me, as obnoxiously patterned as possible 🙂
For me; after my tights are on and my core are covered; everything else is disposable. I tend to shed my layers and most larger races will have a clean up crew gather items for donations to shelters. Last winter I also discovered the joy of sleeves – think of leg warmers but for arms : ) They can easily be rolled down if one gets overheated which is much easier than yanking a 2nd shirt overhead.
So I save my favorite New Balance jacket and reflective gloves for training and will race in a bleach splattered old sweatshirt and mismatched mittens because I know they are gone somewhere around mile 2. I do keep my ears covered with a band—I find that a hat makes my head too hot but cold ears can ruin the day; so a simple band to cover the tips of my ears also keeps the sweat out of my eyes and once I start to get warm, I find by simply pushing it up and exposing my ears to the wind for a bit helps me cool right down.
Now for my slower training runs, I will wear my windproof jacket and nifty mittens that fold over to reveal fingerless gloves; but I certainly don’t train at race pace.
Last but not least—footwear. I am a minimalist and run in Vibrams and have YET to lose my footing on ice and slush. I know others have bought metal teeth to wear over running shoes to prevent slipping and perhaps someone else can address that concern. My monkey toes do just fine and this year Vibram si debuting a fleece lined warmer model that may solve the cold toes problem (my only complaint)