Lessons learned from a habitual outdoor runner

Tag: safety

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 anaerobicĀ state (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.

New Years Day Run 2019

I had planned on just doing an 8-mile run… but a flooded road changed that plan.

Screenshot from 2019-01-02 09-12-24

It’s not a bad thing that I ran 11+ miles, I’m just glad I had the day off, and I had the time to do it!

The end of 2018 left us with at least 2-inches of rain in less than 24 hours, thus causing a lot of standing water and some flooded roads.

When I went out on the 1st I expected some water obstacles, I generally know which roads flood, so I was happy to see the roads in the first few miles had already drained back into the ditches. However, about 6-miles in there must have been some restricted drainage leaving a small river still flowing over the road between me and home.

I could have run through the overflow, but I’d rather not! Of course, there is the dangerĀ of how fast the water was moving, not really knowing how deep it was, plus I would have been soaked and still had about 2 miles to go.

I had the time, and there were options, they all involved several additional miles.

As I turned around to take an alternate route, churning the alternatives over in my mind and wondering if I was going to have to make other accommodations based on what might be ahead.

It was nice to see the other roads were clear on my first option and no other changes were necessary. It made the first day of the new year just a bit more exciting.

Southern Indiana: No straight roads

Screenshot from 2018-12-23 13-49-05

In Central Illinois the roads are grids, most of the property layout is in one-mile squares. Running in Southern Indiana, it’s hard to find a straight path! It begs the question: Did they just pave the old horse trails? Even US HWY 150 between Shoals and West Baden has so many twists you may need Dramamine. It could be fun on a motorcycle!

The map above is one of the routes I’ve established for my 8-9 mile daily run. It’s quiet and beautiful country through the woods, farms, cottages, and fields. Very little traffic and an occasional horse or Amish vehicle can be seen. Actually, the Amish wheels and horseshoes do make enough noise on the quiet country pavement to hear them coming about the same distance as a motorized vehicle.

If I have to identify a few obstacles, they would be dogs and hills, with dogs really being the obstacle, the hills are exercise-variety.

Being able to break from the daily routine routes is motivational. Regardless of straight grids, hills or country twists and turns, I am grateful to be able to experience the outdoors while running!

You don’t look like a runner




When you think of someone running outdoors, you may picture an image like the one above. Good looking slender people with nice looking clothes/gear and a smile on their face

Do you have to wear the cool gear to be a real runner?

While traveling last weekend, I had just returned to the hotel at the end of a 9-mile run in the snow (temp@24, w/c@15) and got some odd looks from two young runners just heading out. They were dressed in their “cool gear” and I… well… I’m a utilitarian (warm, dry, safe) and not all that interested in style over functionality.

I’m an early morning runner, and it’s usually dark when I start out, and it is lighter when I return. They looked at me with my flashlight, reflective vest, pepper spray, water bottle, running belt, hood was drawn up, an old pair of gloves, and insulated wind pants. Maybe they thought I was homeless?

I was about to tell them to be careful on the river path when they quickly exited toward the street for an in-town run. Good for them. It did make me wonder if I should get more of the fashionable gear.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried several of the well-known items from socks on up and have found some non-running gear that provided better results. When I speak of results, I mean warm torso, staying dry longer, no blisters or chaffing, comfortable after a few hours of movement, warm face, fingers, and toes, etc. Runner’s World has a neat little what-to-wear tool you may want to check out for some suggestions. This runner has posted her tips on a blog as well, very helpful.

Listen while you run, however…

The majority of the time I listen to business and educational podcasts while I run, some days I run in the silence of the outdoors.

Whatever you decide, always be sure you can stay in touch with the world around you. You should be able to hear the cars coming behind you or in front of you by at least a half-mile in fast-moving traffic.

For space savings and weather resilience, I use an iPod Shuffle with over the earbuds. The Shuffle is a simplistic audio player with no moving parts beyond the power, selection, and volume buttons. It has stayed in my pocket in some very wet and cold conditions without any damage. I doubt Apple would say it is waterproof, but it has dealt well so far.

If running in windy conditions pay attention to how much impact the wind noise is having on your audio clarity. Similarly when running in snow or ice where each step can increase the noise level.

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