running in the winter

For the past couple of years, late fall and winter have been a time to wind down from high spring and summer mileage.

The weather is colder and more treacherous, plus the days are just plain shorter, leaving me less motivated to head out after work and more comfortable watching reruns of The Office, covered with a blanket on a comfy chair.

I’m OK with the cycle of cutting back just as the leaves have left the trees and the sidewalks start getting coated with white stuff.

Two or three weekday runs at 5 a.m. plus a longer run on the weekend suffices. Until a woman you’re friends with mostly online suggests you get together for a run on a Sunday morning to talk about blogging and running.

Don’t mind if I do!

I snuck in two miles with el husbando who is already on his third week back with Couch to 5K and doing great, thankyouverymuch, before heading out to a new-to-me park in my hometown of Holt, just south of Lansing.

At the corner of Keller and Pine Tree roads, Valhalla Park is bigger than I expected at 45 acres with wooded paved trails, fields, a large pond and a small lake.

I was looking forward to the run, but a little nervous as sleet started hitting my windshield and after remembering that Barb is a much-faster runner than me.

was sucking wind a bit, but she graciously slowed down and even stopped a few times to let me walk off an intermittent and annoying side-stitch that I now suspect is a rib out of place. (Gonna have to go see Dr. Awesome for that.)

The flooded trail under the I-96 bridge meant we had to do a little off-roading.

We easily covered seven miles while talking about our families, backgrounds and running journeys. It’s been a while since I’ve gone running with someone I don’t know well, and the experience reminded me of why it’s such a good idea.

We got around the flooding, but I almost hit my head several times.

Barb was much better at this than me. Plus, she had those styling neon shoes!

Other than my painful side and the flooded trail, the run was uneventful, warmer than I expected and gratifying after getting to know yet another cool, accomplished woman.

We quickly headed to a coffee shop to talk about the boring side of blogging and warm up with some yummy drinks.

Still smiling afterward, but I suspect Barb never imagined she’d be running with someone dressed as a Q-tip.

After five years (FIVE!) as a runner, meeting other runners remains my favorite part of the sport. It’s a special tribe and one I’m forever grateful to belong to.

When was the last time you went for a run with someone you didn’t know well? Did you run together again? Do you have any tips for Barb as she starts her own blog? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

The weather.com app calls for 45 degrees and 70 percent chance of rain. I don’t like it. Let’s look online.

It says 45 degrees with a 35 percent chance of rain. A little better, but what does the newspaper weatherman say?

He’s calling for 46 degrees and 46 percent chance of rain.

Who’s right? At this point, what really matters is that it’s probably going to be raining, but since it won’t be too cold, I’d be willing to head out as long as I dress appropriately (read: wear a hat or visor to keep the rain off my face and a rain-resistant jacket).

Weather checking and fretting. That’s what the night before a run looks like in the fall and winter, leaving me on the fence on whether to suggest to my friends that we meet up for a run. I’m often the instigator, suggesting that we get together for three or four miles at 5 in the morning during the week or at 8 on weekends.

There have been a handful of times when I didn’t check and we all paid dearly. Rain, snow or even sleet. Frankly, I’m surprised any of them agree to run with me between November and March.

Runner friends who freeze together stay together.

Now I never text without checking the weather, sometimes over the course of a couple of hours and after checking several sites.

My extreme-weather tolerance is on the high side, but only when at least one friend agrees to join. That said, I’ve learned some lessons and have set some general rules:

  • Absolutely no running in single digits. Too miserable.
  • Check multiple sources before making a decision. Once in a while, one source is way off.
  • Always provide the forecast when suggesting a run during questionable weather. A few friends won’t run in the rain except for race day; others will want to meet earlier if it’s going to be warm.
  • Dress warm and remove items once I get warm. I am too miserable if I’m remotely cold.
  • Never run if it’s icy. I have heard one too many tales of serious injuries due to slipping on unseen ice, especially on bridges. That’s why man invented treadmills.

In the end, I may be what we jokingly call hardcore, but I also try to be thoughtful so that my friends will keep turning out. Because who wants to run in the rain by herself?

What are your rules when deciding when to run in questionable weather? Who makes the call if you run with others? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

Last year, I ran several half marathons and a full marathon with a big, audacious goal to run my first ultra marathon. I was pretty good about training, printing off plans for each race and scratching of each day’s activities.

Enter winter in the Michigan tundra when sleet, ice and wind can put a damper on any day’s plan to run outside. Oh, sure, I’ve been running on a regular basis, but I’ve not kept to any particular plan and I have certainly not made eating well and cross training a priority.

I may have just inhaled some pizza and chocolate, but with my Team Playmakers group runs having started this morning, it’s time for me to make SMART goals and to focus on my training.

Photo of an icy stretch of trail at Hawk Island Park in Lansing, Mich.

Glad to see my Team Playmakers friends this morning despite the icy conditions on the Hawk Island trails.

So here are my 2017 running goals (with the caveat that I am starting a new job next week and have no idea what my schedule will look like):

SPECIFIC: I will eat better, get enough rest and work on my cross training this year so that I can run Grand Rapids’ Gazelle Girl Half on April 23, Munising’s Grand Island (trail) Half on July 22, the Run Woodstock 50K on Sept. 9 and either the Detroit half or full marathon on Oct. 15. I’ll also need to find a full marathon to use as my longest run before the September 50K. Last year, (with YUGE support from my runner friends) I ran all the loops of the Lake Lansing Marathon Relay.

MEASURABLE and MEANINGFUL: I don’t have any new distance goals this year, but I do hope to do a better job of training for the races on my schedule. I am not one to run for PRs, but hope to improve my times on each of the races. Mostly, I want to finish strong and not feel like I’m going to die.

 

ATTAINABLE and REALISTIC: I will turn to my trusty Hal Higdon half marathon training plan, except that now that I’m not a newbie, I’ll be using the intermediate plan. I’ve done this before, and am confident I can do it again.

I will have to spend a bit more time looking ahead each week to make sure I make the time I need for both my runs and my cross training.

 

RELEVANT: This is a transition year for me, both in running and professionally. I’ve been running since 2012, so I am definitely not a new runner anymore, so all of my goal races are very do-able.

 

 

TIMELY: I am looking more at consistency than big achievements because I want to be realistic about a year when I’m not just starting a new job, but also completely switching careers (from communications/public relations to foundation management/fundraising).

Looking forward to more running, less ice.

How about you: What are your SMART goals for this year?

(You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

This may very well be a post about what not to do to stay warm when the mercury drops and your crazy runner friends tell you to bundle up and meet them for a five-mile run on a Saturday morning anyway. But I will share tips from runners more experienced than me.

As I write this two hours later, I am still chilled even as I sit in warm clothes and dry hair underneath a warm quilt (thanks, Mom!).

This is just the second winter I’ve (insanely) chosen to run outside. Most days, it’s fine. I know exactly what to wear, don it and head out without incident. Today was not one of those days.

I wore a Champion winter-weight, long-sleeve shirt, a thick Reebok hoodie, my awesome Skirt Sports Toasty Tights, SmartWool socks, a Buff, Brooks Ghost running shoes, Manzella Wind Stopper mittens with foot warmers (they’re smaller than hand warmers) and the Skirt Sports beanie that makes me look like a Q-Tip.

It was not enough.

My head and face were covered, so I didn’t risk frostbite. My hands were decently warm. My core was cool but not cold.

But my feet and my thighs were so cold, they hurt. Like burning kind of hurt. Not a good feeling, two miles from the relative warmth of my car. After we got back, I was shivering. I did stop at the local party store to get hot chocolate (and, ahem, a dozen donuts), but my hands were shaking and I was chilled to the bone. The hot beverage helped, but I was still freezing by the time I got home, stripped all of the wet clothes off and took the hottest shower I could stand.

Don’t let the smiles fool you. It was cccccold.

I asked for tips on staying warm immediately after a run on a trail and ultra running Facebook group I belong to and got the following tips:

  • Get out of the wet clothes (including a sweaty sports bra), dry off and put on warm, dry clothes. A couple of runners said there are products that cover you so you can change in the car. Must investigate.
  • Eat and drink something warm (brought in a Thermos) to give your body fuel and to warm yourself from the inside.
  • Use a plug-in car blanket.
  • Change into dry socks and put on warm, winter boots and a warm coat.
  • Turn on the seat warmers if you have them and blast the car heater.

I need to figure out a way to change out of the sweaty running clothes immediately after my run, but the idea of standing in either a portable toilet or a freezing bathroom at our local park causes me to pause. Or, I guess, I could not go out for a run when it’s so cold that my friend Janet’s eyelashes and hair froze.

It was so cold during our run today that my friend Janet’s eyelashes and hair froze.

What are your best freezing-temperatures-running tips? Leave them below.

(You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

If you’re like me and like to get a great deal on running gear either for your self or as gifts, here are a couple of options:

Skirt Sports (affiliate link): Why wait til Friday to shop? My favorite running gear is on sale for up to 70 percent off now with — bonus! — free shipping with your $40 or more order. I already ordered my favorite running skirt, the Happy Girl, in yet another pattern; this time in the very colorful Tantrum because it matches just about any of my race-shirts. I should note that it’s Skirt Sports’ longest skirt and has two pockets in the built-in shorties plus a zippered pocket on the back. I specifically bought this skirt to wear on our spring break cruise because I can wear it to go sight-seeing without having to bring a purse, then wear it on a run before I have to wash it.

The Happy Girl won’t be the only Skirt Sports gear I’ll bring on that trip. It’s the perfect double-duty option to save room when packing for a trip. Rolled up, it doesn’t take much room in my suitcase, it won’t wrinkle and I can hand-wash it and hang it up to dry to wear again. Consider Skirt Sports gear for your next vacation, or buy some for a loved one who likes to travel.

If you fall in love with something on the Skirt Sports site at full price, you can use my LCR20 discount code for 20 percent off. The Toasty Tights, for example, are on my short list for when I get some birthday or Christmas money to shop with. They have panels to prevent your thighs and butt-cheeks to keep you from getting frozen. These, too, have built-in pockets.

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Skirt Sports Toasty Tights.

Road IDI’m not affiliated with this company, but I would love to partner with them. I certainly talk about them a lot on my blog and with my friends because I don’t think any runner, biker or swimmer should ever leave home without wearing a Road ID.

Road ID already has an offer this week where you can get half off a Road ID with the purchase of one at full price, plus free shipping. I started out wearing their cheapest band, the Wrist ID Slim, and loved it, but took advantage of a sale and got the Wrist ID Elite because it can be adjusted, plus has a clip that lets me take it on and off much more easily.

My Road ID in black with the 26.2 badge.

My Road ID in black with the 26.2 charm.

And remember that you can get other ideas for gifts for your friends and family from last week’s Tuesdays on the Run link-up. As I do most weeks, I’m once again linking up with hosts MCM Mama RunsMy No Guilt Life and Marcia’s Healthy Slice. I can’t wait to see what deals the other runner bloggers share.

Happy shopping!

What are your best Black Friday deals? What’s on your short list of things you’d like to get for yourself or as gifts?