Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Is Hibernation an Option?

It's winter in Minnesota. That sounds rather mundane, I suppose. But in Minnesota winter should always be written as WINTER, or perhaps WINTER-IN-YER-FACE.
Must. Find. Front. Door.
Earlier this week, I returned from a short family vacation in southern Florida. I took off from Fort Lauderdale, mildly sweaty in the 82 degree Fahrenheit temperature. I stepped out of the airport terminal in Minneapolis about 4 hours later into 15 degrees below zero F - for those of you who are counting, that's 97 degrees colder. 97. Did I mention NINETY-SEVEN?!

I did a couple of short runs in Florida, but I'm keeping my running miles to a bare minimum right now. That's partly because my left hip is continuing to bother me (I'm sure it's my old friend piriformis syndrome, but that's worth another post on another day). And partly because, well, it's WINTER-IN-YER-FACE in Minnesota. I heard on the radio today that people were ecstatic because the temperatures would be above zero today. Ecstatic + above zero should probably not occur in the same sentence.

So, I keep wondering if hibernation might actually be an option.
Or perhaps technology can offer a solution, so that our winter training program looks something like this:
Minnesota Runners Ideal Winter Training Regimen
How do you cope with cold weather running? I'm usually not that intimidated by cold snaps, but when the temps are below zero for weeks-on-end, I slowly lose motivation. Thank goodness I've got one of these torture devices in the basement. My cat looks at me funny when I'm whirling away on the thing, but it keeps me in shape (and possibly gives her something to cat-laugh about).

No, that's not really me, but that IS really my cat. She's convinced that I'm a complete idiot. 
Here are a few tips for running outdoors in the "polar vortex" winter weather:

1. Layers. This is old advice, but it's truly effective. Wicking layers against your skin, wind-stopping layers on the outside. You don't need to spend thousands of dollars on fancy stuff, but you do need to avoid cotton at all costs. And get some nylon shell mittens to put on over your running gloves.

2. Screw shoes. Don't read that incorrectly, it means "put hex head sheet metal screws into the soles of your running shoes". These really, really work. I ran a winter trail race once that was just sheer ice, and I beat at least a dozen younger, faster runners who were simply sliding all over the place. All I did was chug along with my screw shoes providing a firm grip. Here's an good post about how to do screw shoes.

3. Petroleum jelly. I lather this stuff on my lips, nostrils, eye lashes, eye lids, and any exposed skin. It protects against cold and wind burn, and it prevents your eyelashes from freezing together when you blink. Yes, that happens. Did I mention WINTER-IN-YER-FACE?

4. Lights. Winter running often means running in the dark. A headlamp is a must. I like the Petzl Tikka - fairly light, durable, and bright enough. I combine mine with rechargeable batteries and I'm good to go all winter long.

You probably have your own advice to share, go ahead and comment below. Good luck out there, stay warm and stay safe.