running in the winter

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?

 

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.

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?

 

As the temps start to drop here in the Michigan tundra, some of us tend to hibernate. Sure, we dig our winter gear out of the bottom of the closet or drawers and still make most of our runs outside. But there are days when it’s genuinely too cold or too icy for even the craziest most-dedicated of us to run outside.

So it’s a perfect time to pretend to be concerned with our cross training because it’s typically something we can do inside. And that’s the topic of today’s Tuesdays on the Run link-up hosted by runner bloggers MCM Mama RunsMy No Guilt Life and Marcia’s Healthy Slice: our cross-training plans for the next few months.

thatd-be-great

When I genuinely can’t run outside, I turn to:

  • Yoga. It’s typically too slow for my taste, but I do the Runner’s World Yoga for Runners videos by Rebecca Pacheco. They’re short (about half an hour long), relatively easy to do and work on most of our trouble spots. Oh, and they’re free.
  • Walking. When it’s just too icy to run outside, sometimes I bundle up in snow boots, snow pants, a heavy parka, hat, gloves and a scarf. Think Ralphie’s brother in A Christmas Story. Or the Michelin Man. When that’s not do-able, I turn to the used treadmill el husbando got for me last year and walk while I watch TV shows the rest of la familia just don’t like. Justified is a favorite. Timothy Olyphant. Swoon.
  • Videos. If I’m feeling remotely ambitious, I pop in a Jillian Michaels DVD and sweat for 30 minutes. This is another great, quick option for getting in some much-needed cross training without having to leave the house or taking too much time.

The list is short, but realistic. I used to practice my tae kwon do forms in the hopes someday I would get to go back to the dojang and take my black belt test. It’s not looking like I’ll be doing that anytime soon, but I may pull out that DVD this winter just for variety’s sake.

Thankfully, it’s still relatively mild (if cold) outside, so I won’t have to give up outdoor running quite yet. But when I do, I have a plan so that I can continue to be active in the months to come.

sore-muscles-are-coming

What’s your go-to activity for cross training? How good are you at doing cross training in the first place?

There is very little time to do anything but run when training for a long race. Four or five runs per week, including a three or four hour long run on Saturdays means less time for … (insert just about any activity here). Now that I’m not running quite as much, I finally feel like I have a bit more time.

So after listening to my running friends’ advice, I’ve decided to do a few things:

Cross training. Yoga’s not my favorite thing, but it is a necessary one. I’ve spent some time on my Gaiam mat with Rebecca Pacheco’s videos on the Runner’s World magazine site. I like that she focuses on moves specifically for runners. I also rode my bike with el husbando last week and we plan to do so again more often. Mental note: Need to buy a more-comfortable bike seat. (Yup, old-lady seat, here I come!)

Someone thought yoga looked like fun.

Someone thought yoga looked like fun.

Core work. I keep telling myself that I would dust off the Jillian Michaels DVDs I already have, but I haven’t quite yet. I did find a 30-day plank challenge you can do in your PJs. If the personal trainer who developed the videos can do them in her pajamas, then I figured I could give the thing a try. A thunderstorm kept me inside on the treadmill for a couple of miles tonight, so I did day one on the yoga mat and didn’t die. We’ll see what my bum shoulder thinks of this tomorrow.

Plan. I’ve been poking around one of my favorite Michigan runner blogger’s sites, looking for race reviews. So far, I know I want to do the Gazelle Girl Half, Grand Island Half, Two Hearted Trail Half and the Detroit International Half. I haven’t decided whether I’ll be doing another long race, but there’s talk among my runner friends of heading back to do another Run Woodstock event. (Translation: If they jump off a cliff … I’ll be signing up for the 50K with them again.)

One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I need a goal (or 12) to keep putting in the work. It’s been fun to have more time to do things like watch the Rome series with our favorite teenager, or to support my friends on their long runs because they needed company.

But I do know that I need to start signing up for some events to keep myself running through the winter months, even if I do look like the Michelin Man.

To that end, I’m considering doing at least a half marathon each month next year, including several on trails. What do y’all think? Do you have any Michigan races you think I should consider? Have you signed up for any 2017 races already?