I should host my own cable show . . . Ice Road Runners (Ice Road Truckers) . . . or maybe Man vs. Nature (Man vs. Food or Man vs. Wild.)
The need to run in the cold weather is the summation of three primary vector forces coming together as one. First, I love to run. Second, I hate the dreadmill or running indoors. And third, I live in central Pennsylvania, not far from the home of Punxsutawney Phil.
One might also argue that a little bit of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder or run-of-the-mill insanity plays a role here, but I’m not sure why people think those things about me.
Running in the winter presents a number of new challenges that our running brethren in Florida, Arizona and Texas do not need to worry about.
Perhaps first and foremost is the issue of traction. Running shoes meeting ice do not generally end in good results. There is no way to throw it into four wheel drive when you are only ever running on two wheels. And while the snow may look soft and fluffy, the ground beneath it is HARD. I have tried several traction devices over the years, one from North Face that you slip on–but they kept coming off!) and I tried screwing sheet metal screws into the bottom of an old pair of running shoes . . .
The problem with the latter, is that under most running conditions, I am not always on snow or ice. The removable cleats are better for running where you might go from road, to trail, to sidewalk and back to road at irregular intervals, with varying levels of ice, snow or no precipitation. Also, I always felt like I could feel the ends of the screws coming up at my feet–it might have been in my head, but I just didn’t like it.
My favorite to date is Kahtoola NANOspikes, which are removable, but seem to stay on my shoes better than the other product. I recommend these for the runner who must traverse icy conditions. I think I could jog laps on a skating rink with these on!
But in addition to traction, there is another issue of equal or greater importance . . . the temperature. It’s cold in winter. When I got up this morning, it was -2 degrees F. The wind was howling with chills estimated at -15 to -22 deg F . It was actually about 5 degrees at noon when I headed out, but the wind chill was still subzero.
The key to dressing in winter is LAYERS. I start with a Nike DriFit tank, followed by a Nike DriFit long sleeve. These are wicking shirts that allow moisture to wick away from your skin. The only thing worse than being cold is being cold AND WET. And even at zero degrees, if you are running, you will SWEAT. In fact, you will generate enough heat that you should dress as if the ambient temperature is about 20 degrees warmer than it really is. You should feel cold when you start, because you will warm-up as your muscles generate heat.
I next add an UnderArmour cold gear shirt which is heavier than the first two layers, but also wicking. And on top, I use either a Nike jacket or the pullover (a Pittsburgh Penguin pullover made by Antigua) you see in the following series . . .
Fortunately for you, there was no room for the final image in this running game of strip poker which I seemed to keep losing. At 5 degrees with subzero wind chills, I also wore three pair of gloves, a UA balaclava and a warm running hat also made by UA. There are different styles of balaclavas and this type can be pulled up over one’s mouth, but I am a mouth breather when I run, and I find it gets too wet and icy if I cover my mouth. Some people opt for a ski mask with eye holes, but it makes me feel like I am a bank robber running away from the scene of a crime if I wear something like that!
Layering also gives one the option of removing layers if the temperature rises or you simply overestimated how cold it would be. I actually felt warm at times (sun was out, and when the wind wasn’t blowing in my face!) My left eyelid froze to my cornea, but I microwaved some artificial tears when I got home and melted that baby off in no time! Please do not try this at home–I am a trained eye professional! (Ok, my cornea wasn’t really frozen–I made all that up, and please do not put hot drops in your eyes and never microwave your eyedrops!)
I do not wear any special socks, and in fact, I prefer thin wicking socks. I wore my regular socks and my feet were not cold, but that is me. If you suffer with cold feet, there are thermal socks you can invest in.
There is a certain satisfaction in overcoming the elements, like a mountain climber beating Everest or a rock climber successfully ascending (insert a challenging rock climbing mountain here.) I would much rather be running in Phoenix at 120 dry degrees, but that was not an option this morning.
And my nose will thaw out by spring. Which should come sometime in the next six months. I hope.