Lessons learned from a habitual outdoor runner

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Learning to stay warm on a bike

I felt I had a pretty good handle on staying warm while running in the cold, but I’ve not got it down while riding the bike. Too hot, too cold, too drafty, too sweaty, cold fingers, cold toes, etc. And it’s not even that cold yet!

The toes are a repeat problem. I’ve yet to keep them warm a complete ride. I’ve tried different shoe and sock combinations with little success but I will keep on trying.

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!

Various December weather challenges

turned on clear light bulbs

Photo by Sindre Strøm on Pexels.com

This morning (12/28/18) it was 51 degrees at 4am, by the time I arrived home from the morning run, it was 36 with a windchill in the upper 20’s. Yesterday, it was in the ’40s, raining, with wind-gusts over 25 mph. We’re all over the board for the weather in December!

Yes, I know, it’s winter, get over it! I’m not complaining, I just have to find the right clothes to wear. I’m fortunate to have a space to manage my running “wardrobe” and make selections as each day brings its own variation.

I love it when my choice of “gear” actually aligns with the situation. In the windy-rainy scenario yesterday, it was warm enough as the standing air temp was around 45, yet it was raining, and the windchill was in the ’30s. I desire to be warm and dry around the head and torso as long as possible. The legs and feet just have to accept collateral impact and are not usually a problem if the upper body is well kept. How wet the feet get is a potential problem and has to be continuously monitored.

Screenshot from 2018-12-28 12-01-03

Moisture management – the rainy day in the ’40s presents the challenge of not getting too sweaty, needing to stay appropriately warm, and not let the cold wind and rain in. I selected a sleeveless cotton layer first, then a polyester short-sleeve, covered by a polyester long-sleeved shirt. Then externally with a St. Jude ballcap (reduces rain on face), UnderArmor gloves, and my Work n’ Sports Waterproof jacket. I was ready as I stepped into the blustery darkness.

8.8 miles later I arrived home with a comfortable torso and really wet feet and hands. The beautiful thing was that the external polyester shirt did a great job as a moisture barrier, the cotton shirt was wet from sweat, and the middle polyester layer was almost dry. This jacket has done a great job against the elements and has held up well with all the arm motion and activity.

Enjoy the outdoors and find ways to stay comfortable while facing the various elements.

Lead Leg Day

Lead – as in the metal! The… heavy… metal.

Most people use the term “leg day” as the day to work the legs. They were working alright!

Have you ever had a run where your legs are just heavy? It seems that each throw of the leg is a chore! This morning’s run was like that. Of course, I have to evaluate the reason why.

It rained overnight, so I wore an older pair of shoes expecting to get wet, I didn’t. Old shoes have less spring and support adding a little more stress and less comfort.

There was customer impacting systems problems at work that I woke up to… it was on my mind as the team started heading toward the issue.

The temps were in the hard-to-dress-for range. Where the standing temp is in the mid-’40s but the unpredictable wind-chill is in the mid-’30s. Oh, and don’t forget the probable chance of rain… which didn’t happen.

There were no stars or sunrise to look at, no planes tracking across the sky… just gloomy clouds.

I started out late due to the above-noted work issue and had an early meeting on my calendar forcing me to shorten the run for time sake. Grr.

Stress is a downer, a distraction, a burden. If you can shed it before the run, it may surprise you how much better things go. Yes, running does relieve some stress, but on days like this, not enough!

I know… poor, poor, little ‘ol me. Nah, I am blessed! I get to run each day, what a gift! I am just sharing how life can make running a little tougher. I still ran over 8 miles at a 9:08 pace which was way better than I assumed it would be while out there.

Have a blessed day!


Weather Tools by NWS

Thank you, National Weather Service, your tools are very beneficial for an outdoor runner!Screenshot from 2018-12-14 04-07-54

I often post the weather summary image to share what my run was dealing with outside that day, but there are several other tools I use to help determine what to wear and which route to take, plus how I may need to adjust based on forecast conditions.

Consider this chart data:

Screenshot from 2018-12-14 04-04-36

When I first saw this chart it was overwhelming and a bit confusing, now it’s like a breath of fresh air. Why? Because it tells a story. It’s like a psychic telling the present and future. While this data cannot be 100% accurate to my 10-mile radius, it certainly provides data with a greater than 80% probability.


Getting the 10,000-foot view (or more). I like these radar/satellite maps as they provide a perspective of what is happening around the area and what is coming. Place the map in a “loop,” and you get a sense for the direction of weather pattern travel.

I have two outdoor thermometers reporting the temps from the North and South sides of my home. I use these as a local cross-check to the online NWS reports. However, I live in a suburban area with houses around me, this can create a vast temperature and windchill variation versus the open fields when I get out of town. It’s all part of being prepared!



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