Saturday, January 26, 2013

Winter Running in New England

New England is not for the faint of heart. What's that totally cliche saying? If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes. You laugh, but it's true. A couple of weeks ago it was 61 degrees. In January. Now? Try 15-but-feels-like-negative-2. That's more like it.

The weather here changes more often than Taylor Swift changes boyfriends. So go ahead and make that training schedule, but don't expect every long run to be without challenges from the elements, especially not during winter. I'm not making fun of you, because I do the same thing. Every Saturday during training has a long run, and every Wednesday I start biting my nails, checking to see what might be in store.

Today we had 10 miles (t-minus 4 weeks until the Hyannis Half) to pull off. The longest distance I've run since November. And this is what we had to work with:


So I layered up, dragged myself out the door, and tackled 10 very long miles along the Charles with Molly.

At least the view doesn't suck.

It was windy. It was freezing. My legs felt heavy and like they couldn't possibly move any faster than they were going. I felt slow, and tired and blah. I seriously contemplated who would be the closest option to come pick me up if I decided to call it quits.

But guess what, Sarah? You lived. Shocker.

Slower than our past few long runs but for today, I'll take it.

I'm far from an expert, but here's what I've learned about winter running in New England:

1. It's cold. Get over it.
I don't know anyone who says, "Oh look, it's 16 degrees, let's go for a run!". If you're one of those people, more power to you. I'm not. My reaction to heading out into this weather is, "Someone get me back to my couch and snuggie ASAP!". It's cold. You'll live. Your snuggie will be there when you get back. Just go.

2. It's 99% mental.
I'm a true believer in the idea that running is primarily a mental vs. physical challenge. Cold weather running is almost all a mental challenge. Getting yourself out the door and getting through a run is that much harder in cold weather because you have that many more mental excuses as to why you shouldn't or can't go. Don't let it get to your head.

3. Be smart and layer up.
I know I joke, but cold weather running is serious stuff. Don't be dumb and go unprepared. Both Runner's World and Active have written articles on layering suggestions. I tend to go with a fitted, moisture-wicking base layer and then build up from there depending on the temperature and wind chill.

This week has been Pro Compression marathon socks, regular socks, and Nike running leggings on the bottom. Under Armour compression mock, New Balance long sleeve (similar) and thick Asics half-zip on top. Under Armour gloves and headband (similar) as accessories.

Everyone is different. Test your apparel choices on shorter distance runs and see what works best for you.

4. Adjust your expectations.
Personally, I tend to run better when it's cooler. BUT, there is a difference between cooler and cold. I don't know what I'll get from myself in cold. Thursday night we did a 4.8 miler in 20 degrees with an average pace of 9:30. Today, our average pace for 10 miles was a 10:20. It could've been that 4 degree difference, it could've been the additional wind chill, it could've been the mental adjustment that comes with a long run. I don't know. What I do know is that I'm happy to have just completed 10 miles in the cold, because most people would simply opt out.

5. Have fun and be proud.
Running is a challenge. Add in cold weather elements and it becomes that much harder. It's not the end of the world and if you go, try to have fun with it (read: don't have the attitude that I clearly had today). It can be refreshing and invigorating to tackle a run in the cold. Plus, like I said above, most people would opt out. Be proud, give yourself a pat on the back, and brag to all of your friends about how badass you are.

For more winter running tips, I also liked this article by Active. 

What is your favorite piece of cold weather running advice?
What temperature do you consider "too cold" to run outside? 

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