Running fun in sub-freezing temperatures!
Today is January 31st, 2020 and here in South Central Pennsylvania we are poised to get the first significant snowfall of this year. Friday was the coldest day of the year locally, and yesterday was not far off. Likewise today we are also experiencing sub-freezing temperatures as we prepare for the storm.
Saturday also marked the first live-in-person race of this new year. The HumBug Bustle 5K had been delayed from six weeks prior due to a state-wide prohibition against large gatherings in December and part of January. As a result several local races either were either rescheduled or became virtual runs.
It was great to be among the 216 committed runners who showed up to race in the 20°F (-6°C) cold. My amazing friend Bruce finished just seconds behind me.
Pretzel City Sports is a local race timing company owned and run by Ron and Helene Horn with the help of their talented and professional staff. They hold their own race events as well as the races of other running organizations such as the local Pagoda Pacers Athletic Club.
When I ran my first ever 5K race, BEAT BEETHOVEN back on April 28th, 2019 it was timed by Pretzel City Sports and just as they have been supporting me from day one, I support them by running in as many of their races as possible. Although I continue to express my gratitude to Ron and Helene because I personally feel I could not be where I am as a runner today without them, they continue to remind ME that I am the one who made the commitment and did the work. To quote Ron from an e-mail he sent me last year after I completed my first marathon:
“While we were glad to offer encouragement along the way, what you accomplished in that period is all about YOU! YOU ran the training runs. YOU ran thru the pain! YOU altered your diet to drop the pounds. YOU went out and did those long runs. Not us. We were honored to be “along for the ride” but it was YOUR ride and you’ve done a life-changing job at it.”
Words have POWER and I hold these words forever in my heart. Ron is absolutely correct. NO ONE can do the work of improving your life for you. YOU must do it yourself, and that requires perseverance and commitment. You will never know what you are capable of succeeding at until you have accomplished it. Once you have achieved your goals, you do not stop! You continue to set new and better goals and plans for the future. Then you ‘pay the universe back’ by providing the support and encouragement to others as they set forth on their own journeys of self-discovery. As the word of God says,’ iron sharpens iron’.
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. Proverbs 27:17
Yes, it was cold outside yesterday. A runner runs! This means running in all kinds of weather and temperatures. It is nice to have other runners out there with you, but sometimes you have to go it alone if you are maintaining your training, or if there is no race or fellow runners available. You must not stop training or you will lose the training effect and any progress you have made you will lose. In conditions too hazardous to run such as deep snow and ice, or temperatures significantly in the negative zone, your only option may be to run inside on a treadmill.
If you are able to run outside in the winter, there are several important tips that you should follow.
1 Run with a buddy. If there is an in-person race, sign up for it. If you have a friend who can run with you, set up a time and place to get together. If you MUST run alone, stick to manageable distances and established trails. Make sure you have your cell phone fully charged and with you. If your GPS watch or a running app on your phone allow for ‘live tracking’ set these features up so that your friends monitor your progress and can be notified and able find you in an emergency. You do not want to be lost alone in the woods in freezing temperatures. This can be a fatal mistake. I bit off more than I could chew on New Year’s Day because I am doing Run The Year, but I was on an established trail, being live-tracked, and came upon a fellow running who was able to pace with me back to the car when I was struggling the last few miles.
2. Always carry water and running fuel. Running burns calories, and your body will burn more calories in harsh temperatures as it struggles to maintain your core temp. Likewise, you must replace the water your body loses while running. You will sweat as you exert yourself, and you may also overheat depending on your clothing. You will lose body fluid in the form of water vapor in your breath while you breath. You may need to stop and urinate. Does a bear piss in the woods? Runners do as well. You need to replace lost fluid. You need to have some kind of running fuel to provide energy should you suddenly need it. I always run with a packet or two of Accel Gel (a glucose gel similar to GU Energy) from Pacific Health Labs in my running waist-bag. I keep post-run granola or cereal bars in my car. I mix CR-333 in a sport bottle or two for drinking while running, and also have a bottle of post run ReHab mixed up to drink as soon as I reach my car at the end of the run. CR-333 and Rehab are available from CarboRocket.com I swear all by their products. If you decide to give them a try, you can use my personal code TOTHEMAX to receive a 25% discount on your first order, or click this link: https://carborocket.com?sca_ref=283788.xst8wM5N56
3. Dress appropriately for the temperature. You will sweat while running and you will heat up, but you do not want to be drenched in sweat and overheated. You know your body comfort zone. As I said, it was sub-freezing yesterday for The HumBug Bustle 5K. There were people who ran wearing shorts. I was passed by a very fast female runner who was only wearing a sports bra. It’s possible for many advanced or physically fit runners to do a 5K in under 20 minutes. It takes me twice that on average. I’m a Clydesdale. The last ten people to run yesterday took more than fifty minutes to finish. You need to have a balance of heat loss and core-heat retention. You will lose most of your heat from your head and fingers.
So first and foremost, HAT AND GLOVES!
Wear an appropriate cold-weather hat, preferably with ear flaps that can be deployed if necessary. Wear premium runners gloves. A face buff can protect your face as well as warm the air you breath.
The fabrics closet to your skin should be moisture-wicking. After that a hoodie and cold weather windbreaker if necessary. Both should have a zip-up front that allows you to vent if needed. Remember you will heat up as you run. Dress as if it’s 20°F warmer than the ambient temperature, but don’t neglect the wind-chill factor or potential precipitation. You DO NOT want be outside in sub-freezing temperatures underdressed, being pelted by wind, snow and ice. EXPOSURE CAN KILL! As soon as you stop running, you will get cold.
Lastly keep a dry set of clothes in your car.
As soon as possible after your run, change into warm dry clothes. Your core body temperature drops as soon as you stop running. You will get cold very quickly especially in clothes wet with perspiration.
AND THEN THERE WAS COFFEE!
Reward yourself after your winter run with a nice hot cup of coffee, cocoa, or if you prefer, tea. Nothings takes off the edge of winter then having a nice hot drink after a long cold run. You can have your hot beverage of choice waiting for you in a thermos or hot mug your car, or stop for carryout on the way home.
If you have additional cold weather running tips and tricks, please leave a comment. If you are local to me, you can find me at these upcoming races:
As always, I wish you success and happiness!