Sitting back after the 5th running of my Ultra Crazy 50 training run during a rather harsh cold snap in North Carolina I am reminded of a few cold weather/winter running tips. 1. Dress to run and dress in layers, but don’t overdress. At the start of any cold weather run you want to feel slightly chilled. If you feel nice and toasty before you run a single step…imagine how hot you’ll be after 5-miles? Being as warm as a bug in the rug might sound and feel good, but once you start to sweat…and that sweat turns into damp clothes, you won’t feel so good when the chills set in.
2. Keep your hydration from freezing. For our 50-mile run we ran four 12.5-mile loops. Our loop had us out on the trails, away from running water for anywhere between two and two and half hours. This extended time in the elements had our hydration bladders and drinking tubes and hand-held bottles frozen solid. To remedy this:
A. Adding a little bit of oil, sugar or salt to your water will harmlessly lower its natural freezing point (I’ve heard alcohol does the same)
B. You can carry your hydration on the inside of your clothes or jackets next to your body
C. Take little sips more often to prevent the water from settling in the bladder or hose
D. Blow back into the tube after you drink to keep the path clear
3. Keep an eye on the trails/road. Umstead was snow covered and beautiful this Saturday but she was also dangerous. A snow-covered surface can hide a lot of hazards, ice, roots, rocks, pot holes etc. It is best to run with caution and an eye on the ground.
4. Bridges freeze first. The bridges that provided a wonderful backdrop for our mid-summer selfie was an iced covered hockey rink. When running in the winter beware, it just might be a good idea to walk. We had four bridges to cross over and each one was a bit slick.
5. Make your pit stops fast. If it’s the call of nature or time to resupply and refill your water bottle do it fast. It is surprising how quickly your body cools down when you’re not moving. Sure I was cool while running, 10 hours out in the elements will do that to you, but the only time I really felt “COLD” was while making our refueling pit stops.
The difference between running a race and “racing” a race can be boiled down to tactics. My book 26.2 Tips to run your best MARATHON (or any race for that matter) bridges the gap between training and racing.
6. Shoe Gaiters are not just for sand, rocks, stones and trail grime. Shoe gaiters are great for keeping snow out of your shoes. And if you must go off trail, try to keep your shoes dry, starting a long run with wet feet on a frigid day is a sure way to get on the sad panda super highway.
7. Have a sense of humor about the conditions. If you let the cold, the wind, and the pain get to you it’s going to be a very long day. Nothing makes the time go by faster than a smile and a good laugh. We had a good group who helped each keep their spirits up when things got tough. We never feed the trolls.
And finally, Embrace the pain…”if it was easy, anyone could do it.” It’s called an Ultra-Marathon, not so much for the distance but for the ULTRA-CRAZY people who do what we do.