Lessons learned from a habitual outdoor runner

Month: January 2019 Page 1 of 2

The January 2019 “Alberta Clipper”

Central Illinois isn’t the worst place to spend the winter as there are colder and snowier places in North America. This week an Alberta Clipper has made it’s way to our area, and without a doubt, it’s cold!

screenshot from 2019-01-30 07-32-54

The wind is painful on exposed skin, so I leave very little exposed while I’m out there. My gear did its job and protected me from the brutal weather. I did have a new first for me, my longest lash-cicles! Of course, I could see the ice hanging off the eyelashes, I just didn’t know how big they actually were so once I arrived home, I grabbed a phone to catch a selfie before they melted.


I kept my run confined within the residential areas to gain as many wind-blocks as possible. The route below is a bit more twisted, with several overlapping streets than my regular field-runs, but I am so grateful to be able to get out there and run!

screenshot from 2019-01-30 08-21-23

A few other notable things: Yes, my water bottle froze pretty quickly, my iPod Shuffle, which was in an inside pocket in my coat was covered in frost when I pulled it out at home. Apparently, the condensation was freezing inside the first layer of my coat. One of the clasps on my running belt snapped off. They are plastic, and I’ve had this belt for 5+ years. Still, it’s interesting how things deal (or not) with the cold.

I had 4-layers beneath the coat today. The outer layer was an old navy zip-collared v-neck sweatshirt. These are relatively thick and also had frost accumulations on it under my jacket when I got home. Below that was a 100% polyester short-sleeve. This layer was a moisture barrier from the condensation externally and the sweat internally. Layer three was just a cotton t-shirt and at the bottom was a sleeveless t-shirt.

I had my Clava over the head and face, then my IceArmor (by Thinsulate) mittens over my hands. I always add a scarf around the neck for additional warmth and ventilation control, plus as an emergency device in the event of some other equipment failure like a tear or seam split. Of course, the hood was on, holding in heat and blocking the wind.

In the end, I was glad to see I had around 8 1/4 miles in when I got home, an acceptable run, especially on such a cold day!

Sleet and head colds

screenshot from 2019-01-17 07-05-11Winter arrived with a bad attitude across Illinois shortly into January. It had been a mild winter through November and December.

We’re now getting those extremes of snow, white-outs, rain, ice, sleet, etc. Like it just can’t be cold and snowy, it has to be more mean spirited and keep us guessing.

For me, of course, means my morning runs are just a bit more complicated to dress for and route-adjust.

Today was sleet, but I think more rain than a snow mix which was way better than yesterday. There was ice on everything yesterday morning. It was so sorry out there that I actually had to cut my run short to 6.5 miles because I just couldn’t get traction plus the risks of falling and injury increased with each mile. I had an all-time worst 11:15 mile, would that be a personal-worst (PW)?

While I still had to be a bit reserved and cautious for hidden slick spots, I was able to get higher than 8 miles in at a 9:15 pace. Be thankful for the little things!

Interference comes not only the weather though, but there has also been a lot of sick people around which has impacted my airways too. I know many folks won’t exercise while dealing with cold-like symptoms and I’m not all that enthusiastic about it, but, I’m already feeling crumby, so I might as well work out too.

What I find interesting about running with a cold is that once I get to my running temperature and anaerobic┬ástate (usually about the 1-mile mark), I rarely have any airway restrictions and it even helps loosen some of the ‘gunk.’ I may go back to feeling puny later in the day, but I love how my run can provide its own form of medicine.

Snow down, fall down, slow down

screenshot from 2019-01-12 10-12-42The first significant snow of the season began overnight. In town, there were about 2-3 inches when I started the morning run. We knew it was coming so I knew I’d have to be mentally prepared for the conditions.

The plows had been through the town streets a few times since it began, so the roads had less standing inches but were messy and spotty where it was hard to determine what was an ice chunk or a soft snow pile. I decided to run into the wind and blowing snow as I started out so as to get a better vantage point of the weather out in the fields.

Just a few houses down from mine I hit a patch of ice beneath the plowed snow and down I went. While it only takes fractions of seconds to fall, I could hear the UGH! coming out of my mouth before I hit the ground. I landed primarily on the right-glute and right arm. Covered with snow and wondering what is going to hurt later, I get up in a slow trot and scan to see if everything is functional. Tender, but no broken things and no major complaints, I continue the trek east into the blowing snow.

The first mile facing the wind there were some vehicle tracks to follow through the unplowed county road, I decided to head south at the next option, again using the vehicle tracks as a break from the deeper snow. The mile ahead I could see a snow plow heading toward me, and I’m guessing the driver thought “what a nut-job” as we passed. At least that mile provided some options without a few inches of loose snow.

Sadly, the next mile was unplowed and even deeper with snow as the wind was creating drifts that were probably 6-8 inches deep in places, yet onward is the goal. Turning right toward the west the wind was at my back which was a nice relief from the snow hitting my face, but the snow was deeper! I did find an occasional vehicle track which dropped the depth back in the 2-3 inch range and was easier to drive forward, the other issue with snowy conditions like that is you cannot see the surface well as everything is definitionless white.

The first mile heading north was a better road as it was a higher road making the east side of it safer as the snow was being blown to the west side. The 2nd and 3rd miles north had been plowed and were easier to navigate while anticipating slippery surfaces.

My average mile time was 9:48 at the end of this which I didn’t think was bad considering the fall and the tight-n-short stride I had to use to be more cautious, plus running in the deeper snow requires a higher leg lift and slower pace.

Hey, it’s winter in the midwest, like-it or leave-it. I like variety, so this works for me and helps me appreciate the times when I have better surfaces to run on.

Frosty Country Roads

snowy pathway surrounded by bare tree

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

There was a thick frost settled on the roads this morning. It was one of those frosts where you could scrape it into small snowballs. This made the surface a bit slick of course, and the reduced traction always makes the run a challenge.

You’re trying to avoid slipping and falling, plus you are expending additional energy with each step. I usually change my running style to a shorter gait which slows me down but provides better footing.

It really was a beautiful morning though. The sky was clear and the sun was providing that “good morning” light. If you like to see the sunrise, you may understand, the winter sunrise is colorful and welcoming. It’s not a source of warmth yet, but it brings different hues and shadows before it gets higher in the sky. About 45 minutes into the run, the sun was starting to melt the frost on the east side of the north-south roads, and within the hour, the east-west roads were clearing wherever the sunlight could reach beyond the shadows. As a reminder of how fast the sun actually rises, objects like poles, signs, and trees leave their frosted shadow trails as the sun melts the frost around them.

My left knee was a complainer today, so I’ll give it some rest and see how it feels tomorrow, oh and the other annoyance was getting a small rock in the right shoe with about a mile and a half left. It’s too close to stop and spend the time to remove it, but annoying enough to make you want to. ­čÖé It was a nice 8+ mile run overall.

It’s a great day to be alive!


2018 Running Summary Data

This post simply contains the running data for 2018 from Garmin Connect.

Screenshot from 2019-01-02 09-43-55

Screenshot from 2019-01-02 10-26-04

Screenshot from 2019-01-02 09-45-37



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