As Old Man Winter makes his callous return, those of us who’d rather forgo an alternative winter sport must make the transition into cold-weather running. And it’s not always easy. Harsh climates can make it tough to get motivated for long hours of ultra training, but with the proper planning, gear and mindset, running in snow and icy conditions can actually be pretty amazing.
The first dump of heavy snow usually means mountain trails are officially closed, and our choices are limited to whatever remains runnable. Just make sure to head out prepared because we’ve all been there – a few miles into a long run with the realization that your hydration source is frozen solid and you’ve got no choice but to turn around. An easy way to prevent a frozen tube on a hydration vest or a water bottle from becoming an icicle, is to keep them covered. Wear the vest or bottle under your jacket, and keep the tube and/or nozzle covered to utilize body heat. Blowing air into the tube after a sip from your H2O vest will also keep it from freezing. Don’t’ forget to tuck gels and blocks in warm spots to prevent future fueling nightmares (just beware of chafing).
Slick surfaces can be a runner’s worst nightmare and while I’ve found that most of my trail shoes have powder-worthy tread, it never hurts to be overly cautious. Sheet metal screws drilled into the thicker points of a shoe’s sole will keep your feet from slipping sideways in most conditions. And when it comes to attire, plan on wearing multiple layers – socks included. Keeping your body warm and dry is essential when heading out for any run in the elements, especially if you’re planning on being out for hours. Investing in hand warmers – disposable or rechargeable – will keep your mittens toasty in the early morning freezing temps.
Once you’re out there, a mile can feel like five if the snow is deep. While pushing through a run, your body is also trying to stay warm – and burning calories doing both. Ease up on the intensity of your workout and enjoy the effort instead. The energy you put into winter workouts will pay off in the spring, so adjust accordingly to avoid injury. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the best running can be had while making early morning tracks in fresh powder, or during late night excursions under falling flakes (and stars).