Lessons learned from a habitual outdoor runner

Tag: wind

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!

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!



Running in high winds today



I adjusted the first mile through a residential area so I could reduce the wind and generate some internal heat. By the time I reached the open fields again, I was warm enough to head west into the belly of the beast! The windswept snow hitting my face was bitter, and the force of the wind was severe, but I told myself to go just one mile to another row of houses where the wind should be less. My gear was doing its job as the covered parts of my body were warm enough.

Run 2018-11-26The house-row runs north on the west side of the road about 1/2 of a mile, so I headed north with their protection. When I reached the end of the row and crossed the tracks, I faced the full frontal ferocity of that northwesterly wind. Quickly, I considered my options, alternatives, and other wind-breaks up ahead if I continued north. I had 1.5 miles to the next viable route and about a third of that had some windbreaks, onward to the north I went, and turning east was a notable and welcomed relief.

Besides the traffic and increasingly slick surface, the wind and snow were less of an issue heading east, and two miles later I was heading south and expecting it to get even more relaxed. I was wrong!

The wind was now behind, and on my right, it was more than just a little pushy. This was now like running down a hill for two full miles on a non-ideal surface. I thought to push my way into the wind was harsh and now this trying to stay upright was a new challenge for a different set of muscles. Yes, from the glutes down are feeling it.

The wind was gusting so strong that I had to consciously manage my right leg to keep it from banging into my left on the downstroke. It was a challenge, but sort of a fun one.


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